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Jean-Rémi Girard
translated by Denis Chaton
proofread by Todd Lambert

The golden era of Asashoryu
An Off-the-wall and Superfluous Column

Some symbols are very impressive. The Golden Mawashi is one of them. Once upon a time, the rule decreed that mawashi had to be dark blue or dark purple, such colors being considered as noble. But, during the 1957 Kyushu basho, maegashira 14 Tamanoumi Daizaburo, who was about to retire, wanted to go out in style, and changed his dark mawashi for a golden belt. The gods must have been very happy with this gesture; the wrestler won a zensho yusho, delayed his retirement and reached the rank of sekiwake.

Asashoryu in his golden mawashi

With the help of such superstitions, bright colored mawashi were adopted, bit by bit. The Golden Mawashi benediction struck once again with yokozuna Wajima, who won fourteen yusho - three of them without a single defeat – whilst wearing a golden mawashi.

Wajima held high his golden mawashi

In alchemy, gold is produced from lead. Both metals imply indeed a high degree of significance. Gold is the metal of kings, of prosperity and perfection, but it is also the metal of pride, idolatry, greed and overindulgence. Yokozuna Asashoryu craves without a doubt for overachievement and perfection, and his pride is more than evident. This year, if he happens to win all the tournaments, he will surpass Wajima's yusho count, sumo’s “man with the golden arms”. His domination has been so important (*complete?*) for a year now that he can allow himself to express it everywhere by girding himself with gold and effectively acting as an invincible immortal.

But, as always, a man who thinks he is immortal ends up being defeated and falling to the earth. And during this tournament, ozeki Tochiazuma crushed the god, though Asashoryu being a tough god, the ozeki needed to fight him twice and get little help from the spectators and referees. Ironically, gold itself may have betrayed the yokozuna, his belt apparently stretching more than usual.

Asashoryu falls against his nemesis, Tochiazuma

However, the Man with the Golden Mawashi impressed everyone, as his sumo seemed so supernatural during the twelve first days of the tournament. We only had eyes for him and, when the time comes to assess this tournament, he will still be the only one we will see. Many observers will have to use subterfuge to show a different image, other than his face and his victory. We had ourselves here at Le Monde du Sumo, a few months ago, decided to illustrate our cover with his tegata (handprint) rather than his charming mug. And I fear that this year, if we want to avoid an overdose, we may have to do the same sort of thing quite often. This is the genuine mark of an immortal champion. You end up showing their handprints, wives, children, or unhappy and upset opponents - because you can’t justify showing only them anymore, bright as gold, shining, almost shocking in their brilliance.

Asashoryu using his right hand at last to take his kensho

And never mind if Asashoryu was ultimately felled; he was totally right to appropriate for twelve days all the symbols relating to gold - it is even debatable whether these symbols sufficiently reflect his absolute hold on sumo at present. Will a diamond mawashi be the next step?!

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