Rikishi who are famous for something other than results in the ring usually achieve that status through some notable aspect of their personality.
But whether it’s a comedian-like demeanor or exaggerated gestures before fights, wrestlers normally have just one trait for which they are known.
Not so for Kitazakura.
The 49-year-old, who is currently head of Shikihide stable, is remarkable for several reasons.
While active, he was known for throwing huge handfuls of salt high in the air before each bout as well as actively trying to get opponents to engage before the allotted preparation time was up.
Kitazakura needed 13 years to make it to the top division — fourth-slowest all-time — but he was remarkably durable, missing just one tournament in his 23-year career.
Outside the ring, he was just as interesting.
Kitazakura is almost certainly the only sumo wrestler in history to have held a beadwork exhibition and workshop in the Kokugikan.
The Hiroshima native is an accomplished bead artist and has created numerous intricate works of art. Some are sumo themed, like a miniature keshō-mawashi (ceremonial apron), but the majority are pink and kawaii.
As a sumo elder, Kitazakura oversees arguably the most unique stable in the sport.
Shikihide Beya is well known for its collection of small rikishi battling away with little success in the lower reaches of the sport.
Omote, the highest-ranked wrestler in the stable, weighs just 67 kg, while the No. 2 man Baraki is a mere 164 cm tall.
Seventeen of the 18 rikishi in Shikihide have thus far failed to make it past the sandanme division, while 14 have been stuck in the bottom two divisions their entire career.
The former Kitazakura essentially has an open-door recruitment policy where anyone, no matter how unsuited to sumo, can become a rikishi.
The stable’s most famous rikishi, Hattorizakura, has won just three of a career 180 bouts so far.
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