SUMO ABC (54) / History-making yokozuna Kisenosato has name carved in 20-ton stone

Pool photo / The Yomiuri Shimbun

Kisenosato poses as he chisels his name into a stone monument bearing the names of successive yokozuna during a ceremony at Tomioka Hachimangu shrine in Koto Ward, Tokyo, in early June.

By Shuji Miki Yomiuri Shimbun Senior WriterThe wrestling name of Kisenosato Yutaka, who became the 72nd yokozuna, has recently been inscribed on a stone monument at Tomioka Hachimangu shrine in Koto Ward, Tokyo.

The monument, called the Yokozuna Rikishi-hi, is formed of a huge, 20-ton stone measuring 3½ meters high and 3 meters wide. It was erected in 1900.

Kisenosato put the finishing touch on his name with a chisel. “It’s a great honor,” he said. “I feel invigorated.” He then performed his Unryu-style ring-entering ritual, showing his powerful moves.

This ceremony is held every time there is a new yokozuna. Kisenosato is the first Japanese-born yokozuna in 19 years, and about 3,000 sumo fans gathered at the shrine.

“Your name has been inscribed in history,” a reporter said. Kisenosato candidly replied: “I can’t think deeply about this right now. I may feel differently if I see this inscription 10 or 20 years from now. But I still don’t feel like this is real.”

It is said that the stone monument was created after the retirement of Edo period (1603-1867) wrestler Jinmaku Kyugoro (1829-1903), the 12th yokozuna. People associated with him consulted the Yoshida-Tsukasa family in Kumamoto, which invented the yokozuna system and issued yokozuna license certificates, and the monument was erected to commemorate successive yokozuna.

Another monument stands in the shrine precincts. It bears the names of yokozuna who have recorded 50 or more consecutive victories.

In historical order, they are Tanikaze, the fourth yokozuna who earned 63 victories in a row; Umegatani, the 15th, who recorded 58 victories in a row; Tachiyama, the 22nd, who recorded 56 victories in a row; Futabayama, the 35th, who recorded 69 victories in a row; and Chiyonofuji, the 58th, who recorded 53 victories in a row. Last of all is Hakuho, the 69th yokozuna, who is still wrestling and recorded 63 victories in a row.

On the second day of the 2010 Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament, Hakuho recorded his 63rd consecutive victory. He was expected to possibly tie with Futabayama or break the record.

It was Kisenosato, the then top-ranked maegashira, who halted Hakuho’s winning streak at 63.

Hakuho’s remark at the time was very impressive: “This is what it means to lose.”

Two grand sumo tournaments have been held since Kisenosato’s promotion to yokozuna, yet there has been no opportunity to see a yokozuna-vs-yokozuna battle between him and Hakuho.

There are many sumo fans who hope for a heated match between Hakuho and Kisenosato at the next Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament, which starts on July 9 at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium.

— Miki is a sumo expert.

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