Sumo

Sumo 101: 'Dragons'

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

There are many ways of classifying rikishi and discussing those groups’ various merits.

Who are the best yokozuna or ozeki of all time for example? Which stable has been most dominant in history? Name your top ten Mongolians.

The possibilities are numerous.

In the early 2000s, one particular grouping got a lot of attention— the “Dragons.”

Japan has several systems for marking time and one of those is the Chinese zodiac, where each year in a 12-year cycle is named after a particular creature.

1976 was the Year of the Dragon and it produced a bumper crop of sumo wrestlers.

They were so promising, that in 2001 BBM Sumo Magazine produced a special eight-card golden foil insert set to go along with that year’s regular collection.

At that point only one of the members had won a title, but three would go on to become ozeki and win championships and others were mainstays in the upper ranks for years.

Two of those ozeki, Chiyotaikai and Tochiazuma lifted the Emperor’s Cup on three occasions and are now stablemasters — Kokonoe and Tamanoi respectively.

The third man in the group to reach sumo’s second highest rank, Kotomitsuki, also won a title but his career came to an inglorious end when he was kicked out of the sport in a baseball gambling scandal.

Another dragon, Wakanosato, spent the best part of five years camped in the sanyaku (sekiwake and komusubi) ranks, and is also a stablemaster now, while Kinkaiyama, a 76er who never made it past maegashira 6, is head of the Japan Sumo Association PR Department.

None of the dragons ever made it to sumo’s top rank of yokozuna but given that they had to contend first with the latter part of the Takanohana/Musashimaru era and then Asashoryu and early Hakuho, that’s hardly surprising.