Sumo

Kotozakura had limited run as yokozuna but successful tenure as stablemaster

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

Quick question.

Of the top of your head, can you name the only yokozuna James Bond has seen fight live?

In the 1967 movie “You Only Live Twice,” 007 walked through a door in a Ginza back alley and magically transported himself into the Kuramae Kokugikan, where he received tickets from one yokozuna (Sadanoyama) while two others (Taiho and Kashiwado) stood watching.

None of the men were seen in action, however.

The only bout Bond — played by Sean Connery — watched in full before leaving was between Fujinishiki and Kotozakura.

The latter man was already a makuuchi division veteran but would need six more years to make it to sumo’s top rank.

Kotozakura’s promotion at age 32 made him the oldest man to become yokozuna in the modern era.

Given his age, it’s no surprise he managed only 98 bouts in the ring — with a single championship at the rank — before retiring just over a year after receiving the white rope.

Kotozakura used the Shiranui style of ring-entering ceremony which, before its adoption by yokozuna Hakuho, had gained an unlucky reputation as there were few successful grand champions using it.

After retirement, Kotozakura took over Sadogatake stable and had a successful 31-year-long run as a stablemaster, raising four rikishi who would become ozeki (Kotokaze, Kotomitsuki, Kotooshu and Kotoshogiku) as well as many other top division wrestlers.

Kotonowaka (the current incumbent and father of the top-division rookie with the same name) is the son-in-law of the former Kotozakura. He took over the stable in 2005 when the previous stablemaster reached the mandatory retirement age.

Kotozakura battled illness later in life. He suffered from diabetes and also lost a leg as a result. He was also unable to perform his kanreki ring-entering ceremony upon turning 60 but did receive a red yokozuna rope.

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