Yesterday, last day of the Nagoya sumo tournament was a real thriller: after the defeat of ozeki Kotoshogiku by sekiwake Goeido, everyone held their breath for the bout between yokozuna Hakuho and Harumafuji. If Hakuho lost to Harumafuji, him, Kotoshogiku and Goeido would tie with 12 victories and 3 defeats and they’d have to fight each other in extra bouts for the tournament.
But Hakuho didn’t lose to Harumafuji –he won and with the bout he also won his 30th tournament. And even though the world of sumo, like all professional sports, is full of numbers, this number has special significance because it puts Hakuho in a special category: before him there have been only two wrestlers who managed to reach (and exceed) 30 tournaments; even more so they are both legends of post-war sumo: Taiho and Chiyonofuji.
I have to admit that when I first saw Hakuho I wasn’t that impressed, perhaps because he was the new yokozuna and he was standing opposite, also Mongolian, Asasoryu without a doubt one of the most talented wrestlers of recent years. But Asasoryu retired prematurely after a series of incidents while Hakuho continued keeping a low profile and exhibiting a steadiness that reveals his seriousness in both his training and his aims for the future. And if all goes well, he has (at his 29 years) enough potential to surpass Taiho and Chiyonofuji and become the best wrestler of contemporary sumo.
(For a bigger version of this picture both in color and black and white, check my "Japan Arekore" set on Flickr)