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The 58th Yokozuna

The son of a fisherman, Akimoto Mitsugu was born on June 21, 1955. While working the nets on his father's boat off the shores of Hokkaido, he didn't dream of becoming one of the greatest Sumo-wrestlers in modern history. But in the end, that's just what he became.

He took up sumo in 1970 at the age of 15, and took the shikona (ring name) Chiyonofuji. He got off to a rough start, as he was fairly skinny and not very strong. He wrecked his left shoulder during those first years, by throwing opponents twice his own size - but he persevered, devoting himself to training, training, and then some (he stayed on when his fellow rikishi left to take a nap after training, doing hundreds of push-ups to strengthen his shoulder). His hard work paid off as his shoulder got stronger and in 1974 he debuted in the Juryo division. After less than a year as Juryo he made it to the Makuuchi division.
Chiyonofuji was still struggling with his left shoulder, sometimes dislocating it in bouts, but in March 1981 his persistence paid off: he was promoted to Ozeki, and in July the same year he was promoted to Yokozuna.

Chiyonofuji was - and is - 183 cms tall, and during most of his career he kept his weight at around 127 kgs. He made up for the lack of mass by being exceptionally strong and technically close to perfection. Despite his shoulder problems, one of his favourite kimarite was Uwatenage, which is a throwing technique. Indeed, he won his 1000th bout with a picture-perfect sukuinage (a beltless throw). In the dohyo he never showed emotions; as a matter of fact he was nick-named "The Wolf" for his piercing and intimidating stare which, alledgedly, could unnerve most, but outside the dohyo he was both charming and openly sensitive.

In 1989 Chiyonofuji was awarded the National Medal of Honour for winning 986 bouts, and he went on to win a breathtaking total of 1045 bouts in his career!

Through the years, Chiyonofuji won quite a few of the special prizes :

  • 31 Emperor's Cup (for winning 31 tournaments)
  • 1 Shukun-sho (Outstanding Performance Prize)
  • 1 Kanto-sho (Fighting Spirit Prize)
  • 5 Gino-sho (Technique Prize)
  • 5 Kinboshi (Gold Star, for when a maegashira defeats a yokozuna)

Chiyonofuji retired in 1991. He was offered a free share in the Nihon Sumo Kyokai (Japan Sumo Association), but politely declined, preferring to buy his share as is wont. He has had considerable success as a trainer: present Ozeki Chiyotaikai is one of the pupils (deshi) of Chiyonofuji, Kokonoe beya.

My sources are scattered all over the web, but I have a preference for http://www.sumo.or.jp/eng/index.html.
For a really entertaining article, check out "For the love of sumo" here

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