HAKUHO, HARUMAFUJI AND OTHER MONGOLIAN SUMO WRESTLERS

MONGOLIAN SUMO WRESTLERS

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Asashoryu, Kyokushuson and Kyokutenho
As of February 2005, 37 of the 61 foreign wrestlers in sumo were Mongolians, up from 31 of 51 foreign wrestlers in January 2003. Mongolia has long wrestling tradition, and has its own style of wrestling, which is one that country’s most popular sports. Top level Mongolian wrestlers include Asashoryu (see below), Hakuho (see below), Kyokutenho and Kyokushuson. Kyokoshuson, Kyokutenho and Asashoryu have spent so much time in Japan they speak Japanese to each other and only speak Mongolian when they want to make comments about the Japanese wrestlers.

Kyokoshuson was the first Mongolian sumo wrestler to have success. He came to Japan in 1992. “My father saw an ad on television recruiting people for sumo,” he told the Asahi Shimbun, “I had no experience in sumo, nor had I ever studied Japanese. But I had seen Japan on television---the neon lights in the big cities---which made me eager to come here.”

Kyokoshuson lasted more than 10 years in the top division, pulled off a number of upsets and was known for his tricky techniques. He was forced to retire from sumo in 2006 because of his ties with yakuza gangsters with the Sumiyoshi-kai gang and his involvement in finding investors for a gold mine in Mongolia. In July 2007, three gangsters were arrested for extorting money and goods from Kyokoshuzan. The gangsters were reportedly behind the unmanned truck was that crashed into the Oshima stable of which Kyokushuzan was a member.

Sumo wrestling has become a popular television sport in Mongolia.

Michinori Yamada, a coach at Saitama Sakae high school told Time, “You look at the Mongolians who come up today, and they have the hungry, strong bodies of kids who grow up doing hard labor on the farms. Japanese families used to send their boys to sumo stables to make sure they got enough food, Now, Japanese kids eat what they want, they go to college, and they don’t want to work so hard.”

Websites and Resources

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Hakuho, on the left
Links in this Website: SPORTS IN JAPAN (Click Sports, Recreation, Pets ) Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; SUMO RULES AND BASICS Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; SUMO HISTORY Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; SUMO SCANDALS Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; SUMO WRESTLERS AND SUMO LIFESTYLE Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; FAMOUS SUMO WRESTLERS Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; FAMOUS AMERICAN AND FOREIGN SUMO WRESTLERS Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; MONGOLIAN SUMO WRESTLERS Factsanddetails.com/Japan

Good Websites and Sources: Nihon Sumo Kyokai (Japan Sumo Association) official site sumo.or ; Sumo Fan Magazine sumofanmag.com ; Sumo Reference sumodb.sumogames.com ; Sumo Talk sumotalk.com ; Sumo Forum sumoforum.net ; Sumo Information Archives banzuke.com ; Masamirike’s Sumo Site accesscom.com/~abe/sumo ; Sumo FAQs scgroup.com/sumo ; Sumo Page http://cyranos.ch/sumo-e.htm ; Szumo. Hu, a Hungarian English language sumo site szumo.hu ; Books : The Big Book of Sumo by Mina Hall; Takamiyama: The World of Sumo by Takamiyama (Kodansha, 1973); Sumo by Andy Adams and Clyde Newton (Hamlyn, 1989); Sumo Wrestling by Bill Gutman (Capstone, 1995).

Sumo Photos, Images and Pictures Good Photos at Japan-Photo Archive japan-photo.de ; Interesting Collection of Old and Recent Photos of Wrestlers in Competition and in Everyday Life sumoforum.net ; Sumo Ukiyo-e banzuke.com/art ; Sumo Ukiyo-e Images (Japanese-language Site) sumo-nishikie.jp ; Info Sumo, a French-Language site with Good Fairly Recent Photos info-sumo.net ; Generic Stock Photos and Images fotosearch.com/photos-images/sumo ; Fan View Pictures nicolas.delerue.org ;Images from a Promotion Event karatethejapaneseway.com ; Sumo Practice phototravels.net/japan ; Wrestlers Goofing Around gol.com/users/pbw/sumo ; Traveler Pictures from a Tokyo Tournament viator.com/tours/Tokyo/Tokyo-Sumo ;

Sumo Wrestlers : Goo Sumo Page /sumo.goo.ne.jp/eng/ozumo_meikan ;Wikipedia List of Mongolian Sumo Wrestlers Wikipedia ; Wikipedia article on Asashoryu Wikipedia ; Wikipedia List of American Sumo Wrestlers Wikipedia ; Site on British sumo sumo.org.uk ; A Site About American sumo wrestlers sumoeastandwest.com

In Japan, Tickets for Events, a Sumo Museum and Sumo Shop in Tokyo Nihon Sumo Kyokai, 1-3-28 Yokozuna, Sumida-ku, Tokyo 130, Japan (81-3-2623, fax: 81-3-2623-5300) . Sumo ticketssumo.or tickets; Sumo Museum site sumo.or.jp ; JNTO article JNTO . Ryogoku Takahashi Company (4-31-15 Ryogoku, Sumida-ku, Tokyo) is a small shop that specializes is sumo wrestling souvenirs. Located near the Kokugikan national sports arena, it sells bed-and bath accessories, cushion covers, chopstick holders, key chains, golf balls, pajamas, kitchen aprons, woodblock prints, and small plastic banks---all featuring sumo wrestling scenes or likenesses of famous wrestlers.

Hakuho

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Hakuho
Hakuho, another Mongolian wrestler whose real name is Munkhbat Davaajarga, was promoted to yokozuna in May 2007 after the winning two bashos in a row. He is the 69th yokozuna over all and the first to be named one since Asashoryu was named one in 2003. At 22 years and 2 months he was the third youngest yokozuna ever and broke Asashoryu’s 21-tournament reign as the sole yokozuna.

Hakuho’s was born in March 1985. His father was a top-ranked wrestler in Mongolia and a silver medalist in freestyle wrestling at the Olympics in Mexico City in 1968. Hakuho means “white phoenix.” Many Mongolians and Japanese think Hakuho is better than Asashoryu. He is certainly bigger.

Hakuho made his sumo debut in March 2001 and his juryo debut in January 2004. In March of the same year he won the juryo tittle and won promotion to the top makuchi division. On his makuchi debut he went 12-1 and won the Fighting Spirit award, He rose quickly through komosubi and sekiwake and, after being sidelined for a while by injury, was promoted to ozeki after going 13-2 in a basho in March 2006.

Hakuho is 192 centimeters tall and weighs 156 kilograms . He is a patient wrestler who depends on his size and strength to get an advantage. He likes to go for a left-hand belt grip to push his opponents out. Hakuho is regarded as the strongest wrestler in sumo but his record is somewhat diminished by the fact that most of his titles came when Asashoryu wasn’t present.

Hakuho thus far has avoided the controversy that surrounds Asashoryu. He has played his role of yokozuna well. He has been self-effacing and deferring to stablemaster who is said to have few compunctions about chewing Hakuho out when he steps out of line. However, in May 2009, he Hakuho and Asashoryu were given stiff warnings for playing golf with several other Mongolian wrestlers two days before the start of a tournament.

Hakuho Victories in 2007

Hakuho won his second straight title, third overall, in May 2007 with unbeaten run in the Nagoya basho, putting in a performance that earned him a promotion to yokozuna. He beat Asashoryu in the final match. Describing the bout James Hardy wrote in the Daily Yomiuri, “Asashoryu again blasted out of the blocks with both arms firing, but Hakuho countered with some thrusts of his own...When they clinched, it was the yokozuna who got a left-hand belt grip first. Hakuho again countered with a double-belt grip, but Asa matched that and it turned into a matter of strength. Hakuho lifted Asashoryu, but the yokozuna threw his down his hips and refused to be moved until the ozeki yanked him down into the dirt.”

Hakuho won his forth title in September in 2007. It was his first win as yokozuna, Asashoryu was not present. Hakuho won his fifth title in November 2007 despite a last day loss. Asashoryu was not present again and Chiyotaikai withdrew on the last day with an injury despite being in a position that he could challenge Hakuho. The victory meant that Hakuho won 5 out of 6 bashos in 2007.

Hakuho Victories in 2008 and 2009

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Hakuho
Hakuho won his fifth title in January 2008, defeating Asashoryu on the last day in a memorable battle. Both wrestlers were 13-1 going into the final day. It was the third straight win for Hakuho, but the first a while in a basho in which Asashoryu was present. Afterwards Hakuho said, “I had wanted to fight [Asashoryu] for a long time. I had a lots of confidence before the bout...He still has the better record [in head-head meeting] but I think I am getting stronger.” On celebrating after the victory, he said, “I stayed up so late I didn’t know what time it was. The sake tasted like it was made by the gods.”

Describing the action in the bout James Hardy wrote in the Daily Yomiuri, “Hakuho was always on the attack, but as with everyone who faced Asashoryu, had trouble turning that into victory...A double-handed belt grip gave Hakuho a chance to force Asa ro the bales, but Asa has the same grip on Hakuho’s belt and fought back, returning the contest to the middle of the ring...Hakuho attacked again, forcing Asa into Asa’s side of the ring, Asa’s response was to lift his younger compatriot into the air, but it was an empty gesture. When Hakuho touched down, he started a left-hand, overarm throw that seemed to happened in slow motion before Asashoryu somersaulted in defeat.”

At the basho in May 2008, Asashoryu slammed Hakuho to the floor for a win and then proceeded to push his opponent and give him a quick slap to the face, Hakuho responded by pushing his shoulder into Asashoryu chest. The two wrestlers then glared at one another and stared each other down. Such behavior is considered beneath yokozuna. For their antics Asashoryu and Hakuho were given strong warnings and told by the Yokozuna Deliberation Council their actions were of “poor taste and embarrassing” and got a personal dressing don from the head of the Japan Sumo Association. Former yokozuna Chiyonofuji said, “It was disgusting for yokozuna ro show such an attitude after a bout.”

Hakuho won his 7th title in July 2008 with a perfect 15-0 record in Nagoya with two days to spare. It was his fifth straight win. Asashoryu dropped out because on injury on the fifth day after two losses. He won his 8th title in September 2008, taking five of the previous seven bashos. He wrapped up the tile on the second t last day and had a 14-1 record overall. . Asashoryu dropped out in mid tournament, with a 4-4 record, citing problems with his elbow. Before the tournament Hakuho’s wife gave birth to their second child---a boy

Hakuho won his 9th basho in Osaka in March 2008. He and Asa shoryu were undefeated the first week of the tournament but then sa Asashoryu lost once in the second a week and seemed to lose his focus and lost again. Hakuho was undefeated in that tournament. He won 33 bouts---fifth on the all-tie list---until he was defeated by Kotooshu in May 2009.

In July 2009, Hakuho won the Nagoya basho with a 14-1 record. It was his third victory of the year and his 11th overall.

In November 2009, Hakuho won the final basho of the season in Kyushu with an undefeated 15-0 record. It was his forth victory of the year and his 12th overall. During the year he set a record for the most wins with 86. In the Kyushu, Asashoryu began the tournament with 11 victories and then collapsed towards the end, losing his last four bouts.

Hakuho’s record of 86 victories beat 84 by Asashoryu in 2005. Hakuho went undefeated at 15-0 three times in 2009 and lost only four bouts during the whole year.

See Decline of Sumo

Hakuho’s Tournament Wins in 2010

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Hakuho
Hakuho earned 2,111 prize money envelopes in 2010. His total earnings were about $2.5 million in 2010, about $600,000 more than he earned in 2009. Kaio was the second highest earner, winning about $650,000. On Asashoryu’s retirement, Hakuho said, “My heart feels empty...People have said I’m the most delighted with Asashoryu’s retirement, but that’s not true.”

Hakuho won his 500th bout in the elite makuuchi division in May 2011. At that juncture on his career his record since his debut in the 2004 summer meet was 500-99, with a winning percentage 83 percent of his bouts. In the previous 100 bouts he had a 96 percent winning percentage.

In March 2010, Hakuho won the 2010 spring tournament in Osaka with a perfect 15-0 record. It was the first tournament after Asashoryu’s retirement. In May 2010, Hakuho won the summer tournament in Tokyo with a perfect 15-0 record. He wore a gold mawashi at the tournament and won the event with two days to spare as no one presented a serious threat to his dominance

Hakuho won the 2010 summer tournament in Nagoya with a perfect 15-0 record and became the first wrestler to win three bashos in a row with a 15-0 record. No Emperor’s Cup was given because of the baseball gambling scandal. Instead he received a hand-written letter from the Emperor offering Hakuho his congratulations.

In September 2010, Hakuho won the 2010 Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo with a perfect 15-0 record. It was the first tournament after the canceled Nagoya basho. Hakuho was allowed to claim the Emperor’s Cup this time. It was his 16th. With a victory on the final day he extending his winning streak to 62 and became the first man since the incorporation of the six-tournament season to go four straight meets undefeated. He also matched Taiho and Futabayama for first place with eight undefeated titles on the all-time list for that record.

In November 2010, Hakuho won the 2010 Grand Sumo Tournament in Kyushu with a 14-1 record. It was his fifth straight Emperor’s Cup and 18th overall. In that tournament Hakuho’s winning streak was brought to a halt at 63 by the wrestler Kisenosato leaving Hakuho just six shy of Futabayama’s all-time record. He had to wait until the last day to claim the cup, defeating Toyonoshima in a final-day play-off as both finished the regular tournament with 14-1 records.

Hakuho’s Winning Streak

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Futabayama in the 1930s
In September 2010, Hakuho extended his winning streak to 54 making him second on the all-time list for consecutive wins. With his 53nd victory he tied Chiyanofuji on the all-time list, and then surpassed him with his 54th victory. He won his straight bouts in between December 2009 and September 2010. Hakuho’s next goal was to break the all time consecutive win mark of 69 set by Futabayama in 1936 to 1939. With his 45th victory Hakuho he tied Taiho for third on the all-time list for consecutive wins, and then surpassed him with his 46th victory.

In November 2010, at 2010 Grand Sumo Tournament in Kyushu, Hakuho’s winning streak was brought to a halt at 63 by the wrestler Kisenosato leaving Hakuho just six shy of Futabayama’s all-time record. On the end of Hakuho’s streak, Kyodo reported: “Hakuho saw his record-chasing streak end at 63 bouts after a stunning defeat to Kisenosato... Having gone undefeated the past four tournaments, Hakuho was widely expected to match and surpass Futabayama’s record of 69...But Kisenosato had other ideas in the day’s finale at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.” [Source: Kyodo, November 22, 2010]

“Hakuho got a slow jump at the face-off and never really recovered as Kisenosato (1-1) charged forward in a relentless effort before shoving the yokozuna over the edge as the crowd went into a frenzy...The normally cool-under-fire Hakuho had obviously lost his composure as he tried in vain to thwart the attack with a throwing technique and inner leg trip before he was sent packing.” [Ibid]

“Normally I would fall into a bad stance against him when I tried to keep my distance and attack from the right. This time I waited to get a right-handed outside grip. I was on full throttle and didn’t know if I could win until the end,” Kisenosato told Kyodo news after the match. “When my name was called as the winner I finally knew I had won, but it still hasn’t sunk in yet.” [Ibid]

“I left an opening in my sumo today and couldn’t grab the momentum,” said Hakuho, who shook his head in disbelief after tumbling into the ringside seats. “I had 63 wins and I really wanted to keep the streak going. But I guess I got a little complacent. It’s too bad but that’s how it goes,” he said.

Japan Sumo Association Chairman Hanaregoma told Kyodo news. “Hakuho let him control the bout. But I have to take my hat off to Kisenosato, who wasn’t afraid of a fight. I still have to say that 63 straight wins is simply magnificent. I’m even more convinced now how amazing 69 straight wins is.” Hakuho lost to Kisenosato again in the next tournament, the New Year basho in January 2011.

Hakuho in 2011

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Hakuho
In January 2011, Hakuho won the 2011 New Year Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo with a 14-1 record. It was his sixth straight Emperor’s Cup---only two other wrestlers, Taiho and Asashoryu, achieved that feat---and 18th overall. Hakuho’s one loss was at the hands of Kisenosato who beat him in the previous basho, ending his wining streak at 63.

In May 2011, Hakuho won the 2011 May Technical Examination Tournament (a halfway official event held in lieu of the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo because of the match-fixing scandal) with a 13-2 record after losing on the last day after already clinching the title to veteran Kaio. He also lost to fellow Mongolian Harumafuji. The tournament win gave Hakuho his seventh straight title and 19th overall.

Hakuho failed to win an unprecedented eighth consecutive title when Harumafuji won the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament in Nagoya in July 2011. Hakuho lost twice in the basho, including the final-day bout against Harumafuji.

Hakuho often plays a waiting game, he has the size and strength to fend off any attacks and used countermoves to defeat his opponent. Using this startegy he is less liley to make mistakes and be tripped up with a trick move from an opponent.

Hakuho won his 20th tournament when he won the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo in September 2011. Hakuho lost twice in the basho, but sealed his victory with a win in the final-day bout against Harumafuji. Kotoshogiku, who was promoted to ozeki after the tournament, was in the running until the final day when he lost to Baruto, finishing 12-3.

John Gunning wrote in the Daily Yomiuri in September 2011, “Hakuho has lost eight times in four tournaments this year--equaling his total losses of the last 12 tournaments before 2011.While still head and shoulders above the rank and filers, niggling injuries, particularly one to his right elbow, have the yokozuna looking human against top-tier opposition. That should make tournaments more competitive for the foreseeable future.

Hakuho Captures His 21st and 22nd Career Emperor's Cup

In November 2011, undefeated yokozuna Hakuho captured his 21st career Emperor's Cup with two days to spare, defeating with Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu in convincing fashion on the 13th day of the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament. Scott Adams wrote in Kocosports.com: The lone Mongolian yokozuna secured his second consecutive title by a gulf of three defeats while the grand champion improved to an unblemished 13-0 mark. [Source: Scott Adams, Kocosports.com November 28, 2011]

Five wrestlers had started with mathematical shots of staying in the title race before Hakuho's match against Kotooshu. Both ozeki debutant Kotoshogiku and sekiwake Kisenosato suffered fatal fourth defeats, while the yokozuna decided it outright with a well-timed throw of Kotooshu in the day's final bout at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.Hakuho, who needs one more championship trophy to match Takanohana for career titles, had to struggle when Kotooshu (8-5) got him locked by the neck at the ring's center but the yokozuna wriggled free, dumping his opponent with an underarm throw. It is Hakuho's fifth consecutive time to win the Kyushu Basho. [Ibid]

In March 2012, Kyodo reported: “Hakuho pulled off an improbable comeback in Houdini-esque fashion, rallying from behind and beating yokozuna destroyer Kakuryu in a playoff to win the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament. The yokozuna got his chance for a rematch against countryman Kakuryu after the sekiwake was sent to a second defeat at the hands of Goeido, forcing a playoff when Hakuho disposed of ozeki Baruto in the final bout of regulation to leave both men with 13-2 marks. [Source: Kyodo, March 26, 2012]

Hakuho, who had lost to Kakuryu earlier in the tournament, for the second time in as many meets, tasted the sweetest revenge in the end to win his 22nd career title, tying him with former yokozuna Takanohana for fifth on the all-time list. "To be honest, I didn't think it would come this far," said Hakuho, who rebounded from one win behind. "I now realize how difficult it is to wins 22 titles, which gives me a newfound respect for yokozuna Takanohana. I feel honored that I could match him."

The lone Mongolian yokozuna latched his left hand onto Kakuryu's mawashi and tried to dump his opponent over the ridge in a frontal assault, only for Kakuryu to retaliate as he teetered on the ropes in a counterattack at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium. Hakuho moved around his opponent while executing a deft inner leg sweep to topple Kakuryu with an overarm throw to thunderous applause from a packed house in Osaka. "This is my first championship like this. It was exhausting. When you're chasing in the title race, there's nothing you can do but hope, so I just focused solely on my bouts," Hakuho continued. It was the first time that a wrestler came from behind to win a tournament on the final day since former yokozuna Asashoryu achieved the feat at the 2004 Summer Basho, except for cases in which wrestlers involved in playoffs met each other in regulation bouts. [Ibid]

Hakuho Win his 23rd Emperor's Cup in November 2012

In November 2012, the Asahi Shimbun reported: “Hakuho closed out the year with a big win over new rival Harumafuji at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament that wraps up his 23rd Emperor's Cup title. And by emerging victorious in the first all-yokozuna final in nearly three years, Hakuho established him once again as the man to beat going into 2013. [Source: AJW, Asahi Shimbun, November 25, 2012]

In the final bout of the year, Harumafuji came out hard in hopes of regaining some face after suffering four consecutive upsets that had already eliminated him from the title race. But unable to budge his Mongolian nemesis in a grappling style, Harumafuji tried to change his arm position and Hakuho used the opening to flip him to the dirt. Hakuho had just one loss, to Kotooshu on Nov. 21. Harumafuji won the last two tournaments, after Kyokutenho took the title. So Hakuho was especially happy to be back in the spotlight. "It's been awhile since I have won the title,'' he said before thanking his fans in Mongolia in his native language. "I never gave up hope that this day would come again.''

It was a tough 15 days for Harumafuji, who ends with a 9-6 record and is apparently nursing a sore ankle, not to mention cuts and bruises across his shoulders. His homestretch meltdown was certainly a letdown coming after his two perfect tournaments before Kyushu. But he has a lot of time ahead of him--barring any major physical problems--and displayed a good deal of fire earlier on. [Ibid]

Harumafuji

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Hakuho in a rare loss,
to Harumafuji
The Mongolian wrestler previously known as Ama was promoted to ozeki in November 2008 after marking up 35 wins in three straight tournaments. To mark the promotion he changed his sumo name from Ama (“Safe” or “Cheap” Horse) to Harumafuji (‘sun Horse, Plentiful Warrior”).

Harumafuji’s promotion brought the total of foreign wrestlers in the top two divisions to four for the first time ever with the Mongolians, Hakuho and Asashoryu, as yokozunas and Harumafuji and the Bulgarian Kotooshu as ozekis, There are only three Japanese in the top two ranks: Chiyitaikai, Kaoi and Kotomitsuki, all ozekis.

Harumafuji was very small when he entered the makuuchi division in November 2007, weighing only 113 kilograms. In the basho that propelled Harumafuji to ozeki ranking he went 13-2 and beat Hakuho and was in the running for the championship until the very end when he lost in a run-off to Hakuho. Harumafuji went 10-5 in July and 12-3 in September 2008, after which there was talk of him being promoted to ozeki.

Harumafuji won the spring basho in thrilling fashion in May 2009. With three days to go both Harumafujiu and Hakuho were undefeated but on that day Hakuho beat Harumafuji, bringing him to the ground with an uncharacteristic leg sweep. With two days to go it looked as Hakuho, undefeated at the at the time, was a shoo in for another tournament win. But on the second to last day Hakuho was surprisingly defeated by Bulgarian Kotooshu and Harumafuji defeated Asashoru. On the last day both Harumafuji and Hakuho won, setting up a playoff between the two wrestlers after the regulation basho was over..

Describing Harumafiji’s win in the playoff James Hardy wrote in the Daily Yomiuri, Harumafuji “got a deep outside grip on the back of Hakuho’s belt, kept the yokozuna away from his own belt and spun him around. ...Harumafuji stayed well out of leg-sweeping range, and using Hakuho’s knee as a pivot, heaved te yokozuna toward the dirt. Hakuho stayed on his feet, but touched down with his hand to take the loss.”

In August 2010, a weekly magazine published a photograph of ozeki Harumafuji playing golf with a senior gangster.

Harumafuji Wins Second Tournament

Harumafuji won his second championship title when he won the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament in July 2011. The Mongolian ozeki won 14 bouts including an impressive win on the second-t-last day against yokozuna and fellow Mongolian Hakuho. Kyodo reported, “In the day's finale, Harumafuji got a razor-sharp jump at the face-off to get his left hand on Hakuho's mawashi and held on for dear life before reaching deep into his energy reserves to send the grand champion backpedaling out at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium.” Harumafuji’s perfect record was spoiled by a final-day loss to Kisenosato.

"I feel great. I really wrestled the sumo of my life. I had to use all my power, " said Harumafuji, who won his first title since beating Hakuho in a playoff at the 2009 summer basho."I've had many troubles and injuries since becoming ozeki but I kept training and got support from a lot of people. I plan to do my best in tomorrow's bout as well," he said.

There was some talk of a yokozuna promotion for Harumafuji. But that quickly ended in the subsequent Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo in September 2011, when he lost three of his first five bouts ans struggled to get an 8-7 record.

Harumafuji Win 2012 Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament

Ozeki Harumafuji won the first final-day showdown between an unbeaten ozeki and yokozuna--and the first duel of unbeaten wrestlers on the final day in 29 years--by pushing Mongolian compatriot Hakuho out of the ring at the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament in July 2012. [Source: Asahi Shimbun, July 22, 2012]

The Asahi Shimbun reported: “The win gives Harumafuji his third championship title and ends one of the most exciting 15-day rivalries in recent memory. Harumafuji won his first tournament three years ago and his second last year. Hakuho had been aiming for his 23rd title, and if he had won on July 22 that also would have been his ninth perfect finish, a summit that no one has ever reached before. [Ibid]

Though evenly matched at the face-off, Harumafuji got inside first and took a hold on Hakuho's belt with both hands. Hakuho never quite recovered from that, as Harumafuji bulled forward and thrust him over the edge with a surge of victorious gusto. "I put everything I had into the match,'' Harumafuji said, as his family looked on from the spectator seats. "I owe my win to my fans and all the people who have supported me.''

The last time that two unbeaten wrestlers had squared off to decide the title 29 years ago was between two yokozuna and this was the first such showdown between a yokozuna and an ozeki. Seeing the excitement the wrestlers were creating as they kept piling on the wins, sumo officials deliberately put off their showdown, which could have been fought as early as July 20. [Ibid]

Harumafuji Wins Second Tournament in a Row

Mark Buckton wrote on Japan Times Online: “The 2012 Aki Basho will forever be remembered as the tournament at which ozeki Harumafuji, winner of the previous Nagoya Basho with a perfect 15-0 record, mirrored his performance in July and guaranteed his promotion to the rank of yokozuna. In what was perhaps one of the most dominant displays of sumo by an ozeki since the ascent of Hakuho five years ago, or perhaps Takanohana back in 1994, the 28-year-old Mongolian has certainly earned his place atop the roughly 650 men now in sumo, but questions must be asked about how long he will stay there. [Source: Mark Buckton, Japan Times Online, September 27, 2012]

Proceedings in the early part of the Aki Basho, though, were slightly marred by the withdrawal on Day 6 of three ozeki: Kotooshu, Baruto, and Kotoshogiku. They all claimed injury, meaning they could no longer continue, although this should have little or no bearing on the eventual decision to promote Harumafuji. Four days later, on Day 10, Hakuho fell for the first time to rank-and-filer Tochiozan, who was collecting his first grand-champion scalp. With the remaining ozeki duo of Kakuryu (11-4) and Kisenosato (10-5) both already out of the running by Day 10, the loss made it necessary for Hakuho to switch to a game of catch-up. [Ibid]

Staying unbeaten, the current yokozuna had to beat the 14-0 Harumafuji on the final day in a packed Kokugikan to at least force a play-off, but after a classic bout that lasted almost two minutes, Hakoho was overcome by an underarm throw. Both men hit the dirt in quick succession, but Hakuho went down first. Harumafuji picked himself up, walked back to his side of the dohyo and took the last-ever bow he will take to an opponent as an ozeki. [Ibid]

Harumafuji Promoted to Yokozuna

In September 2012, Harumafuji officially became the 70th yokozuna in the 255 years since the sport's first official ranking sheet was released to hold the title after the Japan Sumo Association finalized the promotion of the Mongolian wrestler during its executive committee meeting. JSA executives rubber-stamped the promotion after the 28-year-old wrestler secured back-to-back tournament titles with his victory at the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament last week at Ryogoku Kokugikan. [Source: Kyodo, September 27, 2012]

"I accept this humbly," Harumafuji said. "With the awareness of what it means to be a yokozuna, I will devote my body and soul to the way of sumo. Because I am who I am, all I can do is give my all in my own way. I want to get the most out of each and every day. I am full of gratitude. My desire to put forth a greater effort has gotten stronger. These past two days have been like a dream."

Harumafuji, whose real name is Davaanyam Byambadorj, became the first yokozuna since compatriot Hakuho was promoted after the summer basho in May 2007. Hakuho has been wrestling as the lone yokozuna in the premier makuuchi division since Asashoryu retired in February 2010 after assaulting a man outside a Tokyo nightclub. A relative lightweight known for his speed, particularly at the tachi-ai, or initial charge, Harumafuji is the fifth foreign-born yokozuna, following in the footsteps of Akebono from Hawaii, Samoan-born Musashimaru, Asashoryu and Hakuho. [Ibid]

A native of Ulan Bator, Harumafuji underlined his yokozuna credentials after clinching his fourth career title with a perfect 15-0 record that included an epic final-day win over Hakuho. He had set up his third bid for promotion to yokozuna by also going unbeaten en route to the Nagoya title in July. [Ibid]

Mark Buckton wrote on Japan Times Online, “As there is no demotion from the rank of yokozuna, and less than stellar performances are rewarded only by talk of when an incumbent should retire, some are already linking the promotion of a 28-year-old to either early, forced retirement or a period of great success. The former would not be unlike the brief 18-month spell at the top enjoyed by his own, then 30-year-old, stablemaster Asahifuji in 1990, the latter similar to almost 30 championships achieved after Chiyonofuji was promoted in 1881 when he was approaching 27. [Source: Mark Buckton, Japan Times Online, September 27, 2012]

Kyokutenho Oldest to Win First Sumo Title

No. 7 maegashira Kyokutenho clinched his first championship by beating No. 4 Tochiozan in a playoff at the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan. Jiji Press reported: “The Mongolia-born Kyokutenho became the oldest wrestler to win his first sumo title at 37 years and 8 months. It was also the first time in 11 years a maegashira wrestler has won a tournament since Kotomitsuki took the title at the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament in 2001. [Source: Jiji-Daily Yomiuri, May 21, 2012]

Kyokutenho finished the 15-day tournament at 12-3 after a victory over sekiwake Goeido earlier in the day, and entered the playoff against Tochiozan, who won against ozeki Kotooshu by forfeit. It took 121 tournaments for Kyokutenho to win a title--he appeared in his first match at the spring sumo tournament in 1992. Kyokutenho became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 2005. The championship makes him the fourth Mongolia-born wrestler and the 10th foreign-born wrestler to win. [Ibid]

Ozeki Kisenosato (11-4) failed to qualify for the playoff after being beaten by fellow ozeki Baruto. Yokozuna Hakuho suffered his fifth loss, falling to ozeki Harumafuji. [Ibid]

Image Sources: Sumo Forum, Info-sumo.net, Japan-Photo.de

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2009 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated January 2013

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