TOKYO: The highly respected Kisenosato, the only “yokozuna” (big sumo champion) still active in Japan, announced Wednesday that he was putting an end to his career, a departure that many Japanese regret.
“I, Kisenosato, am retiring, thank you for your faithful support during my career,” he said in tears at a moving press conference under the crackling flashes.
The first native of Japan since 1998 to have reached the supreme rank of yokozuna, he chose to leave the dojo after enduring a humiliating series of three consecutive defeats at the New Year’s tournament.
“I only have words of thanks to those who supported me,” he said, his pain redoubling on his face when a journalist mentioned an injury that forced him to forfeit eight tournaments after to have earned his stripes of great champion.
To avoid retirement, it would have taken a good performance at the New Year’s tournament, but it did not come.
The exit of this giant of 32 years, become in 2017 yokozuna, a rank immensely respected, will leave alone at the top two Mongolians bearing the same title.
“I think he captivated many fans by being the first yokozuna of Japanese descent in 19 years, and his departure is unfortunate,” said government spokesman Yoshihide Suga at a daily press briefing. .
The most beloved discipline of the Japanese at the side of baseball, sumo, whose origins date back more than 2,000 years, is in the pure Japanese tradition with a Shinto background (set of Japanese beliefs).
This is also worth criticism on the rigidity of the rules justified by this ritual side. Women, for example, considered “impure”, are not allowed on the dojo, circular location of the fight considered a sacred place.
The inflexibility of the sumo world on this point had caused a scandal last year when women doctors and nurses had come to the dojo to help an elected official feeling uncomfortable during a speech at a tournament. The sumo association had to present “sincere apologies” for asking them to come down as soon as possible.
Other scandals have also shaken this environment, due to allegations of abuse, drug dealing, illegal gambling and links to organized crime.
In 2017, one of the greatest sumo champions, Harumafuji, had to end his career after assaulting a rival during a drunken night, a case that had a huge impact in the archipelago.