When the May Grand Sumo Tournament gets under way May 6 at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan, Hakuho, the grand yokozuna of the Heisei Era, will be aiming for his 23rd tournament victory. That feat would give him the fifth highest number of tournament wins, surpassing former yokozuna Takanohana.
Sumo fans will also see a first for the sport: six ozeki, the most in modern sumo history, fighting in the same tournament.
Since six tournaments a year came into play in 1958, nine ozeki have been promoted to yokozuna after fighting in "five-ozeki" eras. Taiho and Kashiwado were the first two in 1961, with Mongolians Asashoryu and Hakuho being the latest editions. All four were in their early 20s when they were promoted to grand champion.
In the five-ozeki periods, ozeki often had to battle one another to secure wins and eventual promotion. A seemingly tough road, but many who did it did not see the all-ozeki bouts as a disadvantage.
“When I fought other ozeki, I was able to feel safe because I knew I could fight them boldly head on,” said retired yokozuna Hokutoumi, who went from ozeki to yokozuna after just five tournaments in the late 1980s. Now known as Stablemaster Hakkaku, Hokutoumi said his only fear was when battling lower-ranked wrestlers who were unpredictable in the face-off, compared with the more experienced ozeki.
“Once an ozeki match began, I had a 50-50 chance of winning," he said. "If we fought a sumo based on thrusting, I had a 75-percent chance of winning.”
He said he owed a lot of his success from training hard every day with stablemate Chiyonofuji, a yokozuna who was practically unbeatable.
Nowadays, it's the big Mongolian Hakuho who looks unbeatable.
When asked which ozeki he thought would gain promotion to yokozuna, Hakuho nonchalantly said: “Those who become yokozuna will. Those who won’t, won’t.”
Now that Hakuho has been the lone yokozuna for more than two years, he has recently been challenging ozeki to get promoted to yokozuna. When the number of ozeki reached six with the promotion of Kakuryu, Hakuho commented, “I want to tell the ozeki to think about the struggles they’ll face after becoming a yokozuna rather than about struggles as an ozeki.”
Stablemaster Hakkaku said that an ozeki has to be selfish in order to win promotion to yokozuna.
“You have to continue training even if your bus is about to leave for another town," he said. "Leave a drinking party early at your own will. You have to take the path you believe in."
- « Prev
- Next »