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The Grand Ol' Sumotori
Kotonowaka is the Grand Old Man of sumo. He was born on May 15, 1968 which, at the age of 37, made him the oldest active sumotori at the time. There have been other sumotori who have been hanging on into their mid-thirties, but they have tended to slip down through the ranks as age took its toll. Not so Kotonowaka.

Kotonowaka's real name is Mitsuya Kamatani. He was born in Yamagata in Japan, and entered sumo in March 1984 at the age of 16. He did not take the shikona, or ring name, Kotonowaka (may be translated into "Harp of Youth") from the beginning. His first shikona was Imano and the second was Kotoimano. Many wrestlers change their shikona as they advance through the ranks, but once they reach juryo,2 they usually keep the shikona they have chosen.

It took Kotonowaka 6 years to reach juryo (July 1990), but once there, he raced through it to makuuchi in just two basho (tournaments). In November 1990 he was promoted to maegashira1.

He spent the next 8 years in the maegashira ranks, almost but never quite making it to the upper part: the sanyaku. Until 1998, that is, when had turned 30 - an age at which most wrestlers begin to think about retirement. Suddenly Kotonowaka's sumo came together and he became a real challenge for the higher ranked wrestlers. He was promoted to komusubi in July, and sekiwake in November the same year.

Kotonowaka is a tall man - 191cm - with a wrestling style that is neither defensive nor offensive. He often seems to "take his cue" from his opponents, countering what they do. This does not make his sumo terribly exiting to watch, nor very decisive, and pretty early in his career he was given the nick-name "Mr. Ippun" ("Mr. One Minute"), meaning his bouts took a long time (a sumo bout lasts an average 5 to 10 seconds).

Kotonowaka never really made it in the sanyaku. In the May tournament, 1999, he was back to be a maegashira, but the fact that he has stayed a maegashira ever since, proves that his sumo is consistent. He may not be a breathtakingly brilliant wrestler, but he is stable and strong, and he delivers when necessary. This has kept him in the upper half of makuuchi for 15 years. Not a bad achievement at all.

Kotonowaka has won the following special prizes:
  • 2 Shukunsho (Outstanding Performance Award)
  • 5 Kantosho (Fighting Spirit Prize)
  • 8 Kinboshi (for when a maegashira defeats a yokozuna)

Kotonowaka is married to the daughter of Sadogatake oyakata, head of Sadogatake beya (sumo training school). When his father-in-law retired Kotonowaka also retired (on day 13 of Kyushu Basho (November tournament) 2005) to assume his duties as master of Sadogatake Beya, taking the name Sadogatake Terumasa.

  1. The makuuchi is the top division of sumo. It contains the ranks of maegashira, komusubi, sekiwake, ozeki, and yokozuna. The latter four are also called sanyaku.
  2. Juryo is the division below makuuchi.

My sources are www.scgroup.com/sumo and www.sumo.or.jp/eng

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