Kisenosato First Japanese Grand Champion Since 1998
Sumo is one of the most definitive pastimes in Japanese culture, but it has been years since one of their own has ascended to the sport’s peak. After over a decade watching foreign wrestlers dominate the sport, Japan now has reason to celebrate.
On Wednesday, Kisenosato received the title of yokozuna (grand champion) after winning his first Emperor’s Cup in the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament, which finished on Sunday. Kisenosato finished with a 14-1 record.
Japan was in a state of celebration following Kisenosato’s promotion by the Japan Sumo Association. According to The New York Times, banners were lifted in Kisenato’s hometown that read "Celebrate the victory".
The 385-lb Kisenosato is now the fourth active yokozuna in pro sumo wrestling. Mongolia boast the other three, representing the trend of non-Japanese wrestlers dominating the sport.
"I will devote myself and try not to disgrace the yokozuna name," the 30-year-old Kisenosato said.
The absence of Japanese champions has been a controversial topic in recent years. Sumo is the most popular spectator sport in Japan, but its reputation has been hurt by the overwhelming presence of foreign champions. The Japan Sumo Association has even put rules in place to limit this trend, restricting how many foreigners can be a part of the country’s training stables.
Whether Mongolians and other foreign nations will continue to boast the majority of elite sumo wrestlers, Japan can take pride in a champion once again.