The Sumo Scene / New Ozeki Kotonowaka to Retain Name for 1 Tourney to Honor Father

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Kotonowaka, left, and stablemaster Sadogatake, his father and mentor, hold a press conference at the Sadogatake stable in Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, after a promotion ceremony on Jan. 31.

The Spring Grand Tournament, scheduled to start Sunday, will welcome a new ozeki — Kotonowaka, 26.

His late maternal grandfather is former yokozuna Kotozakura and his father is former sekiwake Kotonowaka, now stablemaster Sadogatake. It will be exciting to see how the young ozeki, who comes from a line of sumo wrestlers, will perform in Osaka.

However, it is surprising that he only plans to use his current name Kotonowaka as an ozeki for just the spring tournament. After his promotion in January, Kotonowaka made an unusual announcement, saying that he would take on his grandfather’s name of Kotozakura starting at the Summer tournament in May after working hard as an ozeki under his current name for one tournament.

It had already been decided that he would inherit his grandfather’s name once he was promoted to ozeki, the second-highest rank in professional sumo. His grandfather, who died in 2007, promised to give his grandson his name when Kotonowaka achieved the ozeki rank.

Many fans have been looking forward to the “return of Kotozakura,” who was called a “fierce bull” and became a yokozuna because of his aggressive style.

Yet, the young wrestler also felt incredibly grateful to his father, who had trained him, strengthened him and helped him get to this point, so his desire to use his father’s name as an ozeki grew.

“I’m very happy to hear you say that,” his father said with tears in his eyes, after hearing his son’s desire.

It is common for sumo wrestlers to change their names when they reach a milestone in their career such as achieving the juryo rank, making their makuuchi division debut and being promoted to ozeki or yokozuna. A wrestler changing his name while maintaining the same rank is rare in the sumo world, but this kind of filial piety is also very touching. If Kotonowaka wins the Emperor’s Cup — something his father could not do — it would be even more emotional.

The new ozeki has a good reason to do well in the Spring tournament.

— Kamimura is a sumo expert.