Jiji PressTOKYO (Jiji Press) — Former yokozuna Wajima, known for his signature left-arm throw and his rivalry with the late yokozuna Kitanoumi, died at a Tokyo hospital, it was learned Tuesday. He was 70.
Born Hiroshi Wajima in Nanao, Ishikawa Prefecture, Wajima performed brilliantly in student competitions when in high school and college. He made his professional debut in January 1970.
Wajima moved up the ladder of the sumo world quickly on the strength of his athletic prowess and good sense of wrestling. His powerful left-arm throw with an inside grip on the opponent’s mawashi was dubbed “the Golden Left.”
He was promoted to the highest rank of yokozuna soon after the May tournament in 1973.
Wajima was the first sumo wrestler to become yokozuna after engaging in the sport as a college student. He was also the first yokozuna to use his real name as his “shikona” ring name.
His rivalry with fellow yokozuna Kitanoumi was referred to as the “Rinko era” after a combination of the Chinese characters used in their ring names. Along with such wrestlers as Takanohana and Kaiketsu, the two yokozuna boosted the popularity of the sport.
He retired from sumo in 1981 with a 673-234 record that included 85 tournament absences.
Wajima’s record of taking home the Emperor’s Cup 14 times by winning bimonthly 15-day tournaments, is the seventh best in history.
After his retirement, he to succeeded the Hanakago stable, where he belonged as an active wrestler.
Because of a scandal stemming from financial trouble, Wajima quit the Japan Sumo Association in December 1985.