By Shuji Miki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior WriterOzeki Goeido grabbed his elusive first title in the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament last month. The ozeki, whose real name is Gotaro Sawai and who hails from Neyagawa, Osaka Prefecture, finished the basho with a 15-0 record.
He became the first native Japanese to win the Emperor’s Cup with a perfect record since yokozuna Takanohana did it in the 1996 autumn tournament.
The last time a native of Osaka Prefecture won sumo’s top-division makuuchi title was in the 1930 summer tournament. That feat was accomplished by Yamanishiki (1898-1972).
Surprisingly, there is only one other native of Osaka Prefecture to have won a tournament. The third wrestler is Onishiki (1891-1941), who was the 26th yokozuna.
Onishiki, whose real name is Uichiro Hosokawa, was born in the city of Osaka. Upon entering the Dewanoumi stable, he bore a ring name that showed his affection for his home city. “Onishiki” comprises two kanji, the first of which represents the “O” of “Osaka.” The second is taken from the proverb “Kokyo e nishiki o kazaru,” meaning to gloriously return to one’s hometown.
Onishiki entered the makuuchi division in January 1915, and won promotion to the ozeki rank the following January. In that tournament, he faced yokozuna Tachiyama on the final day, with both having a 9-0 record (each basho lasted 10 days at that time). Onishiki beat the yokozuna to grab his first title, and was promoted to sumo’s top rank after the tournament.
In the makuuchi division, he won a remarkable 88 percent of his matches in 17 tournaments, posting 119 wins, 16 losses and three draws. He won five tournaments in his career.
Yamanishiki reached the makuuchi division in the tournament that served as Onishiki’s last. Yamanishiki, whose real name was Zenjiro Yamada and who also was born in Osaka city, was a famous wrestler in Kansai University’s sumo club.
Admiring the senior wrestler from the same city, Yamanishiki decided to withdraw from the university and join the same Dewanoumi stable. He was known for his powerful pushing after sharp jump-offs, and was called an “upsetter” for occasionally beating higher-ranked wrestlers.
The nickname was exemplified in his first title, which he won with an 11-0 record — each basho lasted 11 days at that time — as a No. 5 rank-and-file maegashira in the summer tournament in May 1930.
Yamanishiki, who rose to as high as the rank of sekiwake, posted 155 wins, 132 losses and four draws in his 28 tournaments in the makuuchi division.
It is an interesting coincidence that Goeido repeated the performances of those two other Osaka-native wrestlers by winning a first title with a perfect record. Goeido’s first tournament as an ozeki was the 2014 autumn tournament, but he suffered from injuries after promotion, including an avulsion fracture in his left shoulder.
If overcoming injuries to win a title with a perfect record shows that his mentality has changed, his chance of winning promotion to yokozuna after the Kyushu tournament in November would become higher.
The skilled wrestler, who belongs to the Sakaigawa stable, posesses such techniques as pulling and headlock throws in his repertoire, although his dexterity has also become his weakness.
Patience and aggressive forward moves will be the key in the Kyushu basho, just as he demonstrated in the autumn tournament.
“If this title becomes my highest point, people will start calling me the ‘incompetent ozeki’ again,” Goeido said at a press conference after the final bout of the tournament. “I know I need to start anew.”
Let’s hope the Osaka native’s determination is real.
— Miki is a sumo expert.
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