Sumo

Sumo 101: Nicknames

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

All sumo wrestlers have a shikona (ring name).

A few, like Endo or Takayasu, use their family name.

Most, however, have ring names with elements referring to their stable or place of origin.

Anyone with the prefix 琴 (Koto), for example, belongs to Sadogatake Stable or its spinoff, Naruto Stable.

The 隠岐 (Oki) in Okinoumi’s name comes from the Oki Islands, where he grew up.

Apart from shikona, some rikishi also manage to acquire nicknames.

“Demon of the Dohyo” was the moniker given to the first Wakanohana. It reflected the yokozuna’s ferocity in the ring, becoming so closely associated with him that it was used as the title of a 1956 movie about his life.

Wakanohana’s main rival, Tochinishiki, was known as ‘The Viper,” and the legendary yokozuna pair not only gave sumo a great rivalry but also perhaps the best combination of nicknames in its long history.

In more recent times, Chiyonofuji’s features, physique and intimidation factor saw him regularly referred to as “The Wolf.”

Nicknames aren’t just limited to yokozuna.

Ozeki Takanohana’s good looks, slim build and the fact that he was the (much) younger brother of a yokozuna earned him the title “Prince of Sumo.”

Kotonishiki, the only man ever to win two championships while ranked at maegashira, had a high-octane style that was frequently called “F1 Sumo.”

The diminutive-but-talented Mainoumi, who regularly downed far larger opponents using a variety of moves, had the “Department Store of Techniques” sobriquet.

Other wrestlers of the same era were given a variety of nicknames by television commentators in England when sumo was regularly broadcast on Channel 4, but none of those names were ever used in Japan.

Unfortunately for some rikishi, not all nicknames that stuck were cool or intimidating.

Daijuyama, for example, was called “Moomin” because of his resemblance to the cartoon character from Finland.