With the passing of Tochinoumi on Jan. 29 there are now just 15 surviving active or retired yokozuna.

Sumo’s highest rank has few, if any, parallels in other sports. Perhaps the closest comparison would be an NFL quarterback finding himself inducted into the Hall of Fame while still active, but even then, no football player (or indeed any athlete) is expected to be the living embodiment of their game in quite the same way a yokozuna is for sumo.

The summit of Japan’s national sport is rarefied air. Reaching it takes outstanding performances against the very best opponents, while staying on the mountaintop requires dignity and decorum both inside and outside the ring.