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John Gunning
For John Gunning's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
Onosato (right) defeats Terunofuji at the Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo on May 12. While nothing in sumo is guaranteed, it seems almost inevitable that Onosato is destined for the top of the sport's pyramid.
SUMO
May 15, 2024
Was Onosato's defeat of Terunofuji an era-defining bout?
It would be premature to dismiss Onosato’s win as the product of circumstance, or downplay its significance.
Onosato (right) defeats Abi during their bout at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in Osaka in March.
SUMO
May 10, 2024
Onosato in position to use Summer Basho as springboard to stardom
The race for glory in the upcoming meet appears destined to be led by two men who have yet to win the Emperor’s Cup.
Seigo Saito with his father, Kabutoyama Oyakata, at Isenoumi stable in Tokyo in December 2022
SUMO / Inside Sumo
May 8, 2024
Wakaikari out to etch his family's place into sumo's history books
The 19-year-old from Tokyo is ranked near the top of the third tier for the upcoming summer tournament.
Kotonowaka (left) competes at the Spring Basho in Osaka in March. The grandson of former yokozuna Kotozakura has decided to take on the legend's ring name.
SUMO / INSIDE SUMO
May 2, 2024
Love of family behind return of historic sumo ring name
The tenure of ozeki Kotonowaka lasted just one tournament, with the wrestler changing from his father’s ring name to that of his late grandfather.
Wrestlers prepare for the start of a bout at the 2023 Sumo World Championships in Tokyo. Starting this month, placing one hand on the clay first is no longer allowed.
SUMO / INSIDE SUMO
Apr 24, 2024
For amateur sumo, a fresh start offers hope against time-wasting and gamesmanship
Among the measures is an emphasis on wrestlers putting both hands down at the same time, with punishments including disqualification for noncompliance.
The heights Akebono reached in sumo helped pave the way for future foreign-born yokozuna Asashoryu and Hakuho.
SUMO
Apr 15, 2024
Akebono's human side eclipsed his incredible sumo achievements
Talk to anyone personally acquainted with recently deceased former yokozuna Akebono and almost immediately the words “generous” and “kind” will arise.
Despite Japan’s strict anti-scalping laws, tickets for premium seats to sumo tournaments are being offered at massive markups on resale sites.
SUMO / INSIDE SUMO
Apr 10, 2024
Scarcity of tickets leaves foreign sumo fans out in the cold
Almost as soon as general ticket sales began on Saturday for the upcoming May Grand Sumo Tournament, the entire meet was sold-out.
Hakuoho (right) shoves out Aoiyama during the Nagoya Basho in July last year. The promising young wrestler is now part of Terunofuji's Isegahama stable after the Miyagino stable was forced to close following a bullying scandal.
SUMO / INSIDE SUMO
Apr 3, 2024
With absorption of Miyagino stable, Isegahama looks to be building sumo super team
Whether it’s Real Madrid’s famous Galacticos or the 2024 Dodgers, few things in sport divides opinion among fans more than the creation of a super team.
Takerufuji receives the Emperor's Cup at Edion Arena Osaka on Sunday.
SUMO / Inside Sumo
Mar 26, 2024
Takerufuji’s triumph is one for the ages
The Isegahama stable rookie arguably achieved one of most surprising sporting victories of all time.
With 56 of his first 66 career wins coming via sumo’s two most fundamental techniques (namely frontal push out and frontal force out), Takerufuji utilizes a straight-ahead traditional style that is sure to endear him to purists.
SUMO / INSIDE SUMO
Mar 21, 2024
Red-hot rookie Takerufuji off to historic start in Osaka tourney
In remaining unbeaten over the meet’s first 11 days, Takerufuji equaled all-time great Taiho’s record for the best-ever start for a debutant.
Kirishima (behind) gets thrown down against Ura on Tuesday. The newly promoted ozeki's 0-3 start in Osaka has been one of the big disappointments of the tournament so far.
SUMO / INSIDE SUMO
Mar 13, 2024
Scandal and poor starts have sumo in a rut in Osaka
While the meet has had a rocky first few days, one of the sport's most promising young wrestlers is proving to be a beacon of light on the horizon.
Yokozuna Terunofuji will be aiming for his 10th Emperor’s Cup at the Spring Basho in Osaka.
SUMO
Mar 8, 2024
Terunofuji remains in driver's seat as new title hopefuls gather strength
The ascension of three new ozeki since July appears to have brought a measure of stability to sumo.
On the amateur circuit, domestic tournaments such as the Dream Girls Cup, which took place in Tokyo last month, have generated significant publicity for youth sumo.
SUMO / INSIDE SUMO
Mar 6, 2024
Sumo's popularity is booming. The recruitment of new pros is not.
Sumo is not immune to the labor shortages plaguing the rest of aging Japan.
Former yokozuna Hakuho apologizes for the bullying caused by his protege Hokuseiho (right), outside the Miyagino stable in Tokyo on Friday.
SUMO / INSIDE SUMO
Feb 28, 2024
How a rethink of supervision at stables could curtail bullying in sumo
Incidents of bullying and harassment of younger wrestlers by their seniors continue to erupt with regularity, causing major issues for the world of sumo.
Corey Morrison (back center) and Siggy Sauer (front, center) at Asakayama stable. While pathways into ōzumo have become more streamlined in recent years, stables are still remarkably willing to let amateurs show up and train with the superstars of the sport.
SUMO / INSIDE SUMO
Feb 21, 2024
Texan newcomer helps dispel the myth that sumo is a closed world
While pathways into sumo have become more streamlined in recent years, stables are still remarkably willing to let amateurs show up and train superstars.
Elementary, junior high and high school girls represented 76 different sumo clubs from across the nation on Sunday at the Dream Girls Cup, with the tournament also given a slight international flavor by the inclusion of one athlete from the United States and one from Brazil.
SUMO / INSIDE SUMO
Feb 15, 2024
All-time great Hakuho hopes to help girls realize their sumo dreams
The inaugural Dream Girls Cup saw 76 sumo clubs from across the nation gather in Tokyo for an event that Hakuho hopes will spur big dreams.
Kubota Spears players watch the Chiefs perform the haka during a Cross Border Rugby game on Saturday at Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium in Tokyo.
MORE SPORTS / Rugby
Feb 13, 2024
Cross Border Rugby sets stage for exciting possibilities
Many of those involved saw the nascent venture as an important stepping stone towards greater international collaboration.
Onosato (top) battles Tamawashi during the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament last month in Tokyo.
SUMO / INSIDE SUMO
Feb 7, 2024
In the world of sumo, a mock draft reflects the sport's generational shift
Here's a look at who might go No. 1 overall if sumo's stables conducted a North American-style draft.
Terunofuji (left) defeats Kirishima at the Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo on Saturday.
SUMO / Inside Sumo
Jan 31, 2024
Ninth title puts Terunofuji on cusp of joining all-time greats
His most recent victory puts him ahead — in terms of silverware won — of all but eight wrestlers to have made their debut in the past 65 years.
Terunofuji (back) knows what it’s like to overcome setbacks, having won two of his eight titles after middling starts to a tournament.
SUMO
Jan 24, 2024
Big names set up thrilling finale for January sumo meet
Terunofuji would appear to be the favorite as sumo's first tournament of 2024 reaches the homestretch, but a host of contenders means it could come down to the final day.

Longform

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