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SUMO ABC (53) / A stable where notable rikishi were steeped in sumo’s fundamentals

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo

Takanosato is hoisted by junior wrestlers when his promotion to yokozuna was assured after winning at the Nagoya basho in July 1983.

By Shuji Miki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior WriterThe Tagonoura stable has captured the nation’s attention. After the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament in January, Kisenosato, from the stable, became the first Japan-born yokozuna in 19 years, while Takayasu pushed his way up to ozeki at the Summer tournament in May.

Both wrestlers entered the sumo world at the age of 15 right after graduating from junior high school, working their way up the ranks with encouragement from a mentor they will never forget — late stablemaster Naruto, who had been the 59th yokozuna Takanosato.

After retiring from being an active rikishi, Takanosato opened the Naruto stable in Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, in February 1989. He raised seven wrestlers who rose to the second-tier juryo division or higher, represented by Kisenosato and Takayasu. However, Naruto died of acute respiratory failure at the age of just 59 right before the Kyushu basho in November 2011. He did not experience the proud moment when his apprentice Kisenosato was promoted to ozeki after the tournament. It was Naruto’s dream that Kisenosato, who had been promoted to the juryo division at the age of 17 years and 9 months — the second-youngest wrestler in history to earn the rank — move up to ozeki and yokozuna.

Takanosato had captured four titles in his career. He was particularly good against legendary yokozuna Chiyonofuji, with whom he had a record of 16-12, including eight straight wins. Takanosato was known as an intelligent theorist. It is a well-known story that he studied Chiyonofuji’s fighting styles by watching videotapes over and over until the tapes wore out. His master was Wakanohana I, who bore the ring nickname “Devil of the Dohyo.” As stablemaster Naruto, he trained Kisenosato and Takayasu with austere exercises inherited from his master, and his instruction to hammer in the basics of sumo has led to the success of his apprentices today. Meanwhile, Naruto had encouraged them to read and watch movies to “broaden their life experiences.”

After Naruto died, his pupil Takanotsuru, a former makuuchi rikishi, succeeded him as stablemaster. However, he did not succeed to the name “Naruto” because of a quarrel in the stable over him attaining this elder name, or toshiyori meiseki. He thus assumed the new name of “Tagonoura” to teach younger rikishi in the stable, and the wrestlers in the former Naruto stable started anew as those from the Tagonoura stable at the end of 2012. Former ozeki Kotooshu succeeded to the Naruto title and opened his own Naruto stable in April.

— Miki is a sumo expert.

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