Original article by Thierry Perran
translated by George Redlinger
proofread by Barbara Ann Klein
Danpatsushiki for the Ozeki Tochiazuma: ciao to the artist!
The moving farewell to an “Edokko”
Tochiazuma and the singer Matsutouya Yumi (source: Sponichi)
On February 2, 2008, Ozeki Tochiazuma put a definitive end to his career as a wrestler by having the greatest pride of the wrestler, his oicho-mage, cut. He had surprised all his fans with his abrupt retirement following a sudden elevation in blood pressure which had caused internal bleeding and complications with his heart. Although a life threatening diagnosis was averted, the aftereffects on his heart will remain with him for the rest of his life. And so, following the example of the former Yokozuna Takanohana, Tochiazuma lost no time lowering his body mass, and it was a trimmed down Tochiazuma that made his last appearance.
Like the Yokozuna brothers Wakanohana III and Takanohana, both present at the ceremony, Ozeki Tochiazuma is an Edokko, born in Tokyo, something rather rare among the wrestlers at the top of the ranks. This detail is important because, independent of his exceptional talent, Tochiazuma is supported by one of the most powerful associations of supporters managing one of the biggest fan-clubs in all of Japan. In order to organize a dignified final celebration of this Yokozuna-caliber Ozeki, the Nihon Sumo Kyokai gave itself a margin of operation of no less than eight months, so that no detail was left unattended in this enormous event. Nevertheless, if it took place only a day earlier, the buses full of supporters wouldn't have been able to gather at Kokugikan because of a tremendous snow storm.
The Kokugikan packed to the rafters
Asashoryu ready to do battle (source: Sponichi)
Escaping the bad winter weather, the fans in Tokyo completely filled the 10,000 seats of the Kokugikan. In fact, the demand had vastly exceeded the capacity of the Kokugikan. In these times of sumo's lower popularity, it was a notable achievement, reflecting how much Tochiazuma's courageous attitude on the dohyo touched the hearts of the people.
Asashoryu comforting his true nemesis (source: Jiji Press)
Tochiazuma also commanded respect among his opponents. With a reputation as a master of ottsuke, the Ozeki had manhandled numerous arms which had ventured near his mawashi. The Yokozuna Asashoryu had always had a lot of trouble with this atypical sumo combining power and technical finesse, and for a long time had a negative record against the Ozeki, resulting in a mutual respect between these two competitors.
The tears of the warrior
Tochiazuma and Maeda Nobuteru (source: Hochi)
To enliven this memorable afternoon, Tochiazuma invited his closest friends to take a snip at his hair. And thus, 313 chosen ones passed, from one to another, the pair of scissors which cut the oicho-mage of Tochiazuma. The singer Maeda Nobuteru, of the group Tube, arrived to sing his heart out on the dohyo, evoking heavy memories for Tochiazuma.
The start of a new hairdo (source: Sanspo)
For many wrestlers, the danpatsu-shiki is a form of torture since memories, good as well as bad, come back to the surface. Even for those who, like Tochiazuma, are as tough as leather, it is not easy to hold back one's emotions and tears are usually pouring down in streams. The Kokugikan held its breath when Tamanoi Oyakata, the father of Ozeki Tochiazuma, applied the scissors to make the final cut of the oicho-mage. A 13-year career, dotted with yusho in each of the six divisions, came to an end.
Tamanoi Oyakata cutting the mage of his son (source: Yomiuri)
It's not easy to follow in the steps of one's father and to deal with the pressure to excel from an early age. Tochiazuma was able to stand up to the task, thanks to his exceptional mental qualities as a champion. Independent of his unique technique, he knew how to mentally accept challenges that even his doctors considered difficult. In this way, he was a source of considerable inspiration from which, in turn, he received much support from the public.
Tochiazuma leaving his hand print
From here on, Tochiazuma will devote himself entirely to the training of wrestlers of the Tamanoi beya, which he will inherit in 2009 upon the retirement of his father. To the future Tamanoi Oyakata, we send our best wishes for the raising of wrestlers who will leave their mark in history, following the example of their master!
Sources: Sponichi, Sanspo, Hochi