Mie Furuya, Premium Japan’s Official Sumo Columnist
January 25th 2016
January tournament finale: Kotoshogiku finally gets a title!
Kotoshogiku did it! He has become the first Japanese-born wrestler in ten years to win sumo’s top-division championship!
Kotoshogiku headed into the final day with just one loss from 14, closely trailed by both Hakuho and Toyonoshima with two losses apiece. The equation was simple. Win his final match, and Kotoshogiku would be crowned champion. Lose, and a win for either Hakuho or Toyonoshima would force a playoff.
Toyonoshima was up first, and blew his title chances with a thrust-out defeat at the hands of Tochiozan. Nevertheless, he had made a fantastic effort throughout the tournament and deservedly walked away with the Outstanding Performance Prize.
Then came the one we had all been waiting for: Kotoshogiku versus Goeido.
Look at the number of sponsored banners! Amazing!
Then came Kotoshogiku’s trademark pre-fight “chest-puffing” pose.
At the tachi-ai, Kotoshogiku latched onto Goeido’s belt with his left, hugged his opponent with his right, and launched into his signature “bouncing force-out” move. He then changed tack to win the match by a “thrust-over!”
And that was the moment at which he sealed his first-ever top-division championship!
The hall simply erupted!
After all, he had become the first home-grown fighter to capture the top-division crown since Tochiazuma in 2006 – almost exactly ten years to the day!
It was an almighty long wait!
The final match saw Hakuho face off against fellow Yokozuna Harumafuji.
These match-ups usually result in epic tussles, but on this occasion, Harumafuji sent Hakuho sprawling almost instantly with a deft overarm throw.
With the contest having been rendered a mere irrelevance after Kotoshogiku’s win, one wonders if Hakuho simply lost focus.
When you look at this photograph, it’s as if Harumafuji is asking Hakuho whether he is alright!
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the penultimate match which saw home favorite Kisenosato destroy Yokozuna Kakuryu with a fabulous force out! It was a shame that such heroic efforts had no bearing on the title race!
Here, Kotoshogiku can be seen walking back up the aisle to the East-side changing room, looking as if a thousand emotions were thronging on his heart.
And here he is placing his hands on his maiden Emperor’s Cup.
While Kotoshogiku fields questions in the winner’s interview, his sumo attendants look almost as happy as he is!
During his obligatory appearance on the NHK Sunday Sports TV show that evening, Kotoshogiku revealed that he soothes his mind by bedrock bathing and watching Studio Ghibli animations. He also impressed when referring to his family as his “bedrock of support.”
Three cheers for Champion Kotoshogiku!