Sumo Ring Name Kotozakura Returns after 50 Years; Ozeki Kotonowaka Makes Change After Fulfilling Promise to Famous Grandfather

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Newly renamed ozeki Kotozakura holds up a nameplate with the new moniker in Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, on Tuesday.

For the first time in 50 years, the heralded name of Kotozakura is appearing on the ranking list for a grand sumo tournament.

Ozeki Kotonowaka has taken the name of his famous grandfather and yokozuna Kotozakura for this month’s Summer tournament, with the new characters boldly filling the ozeki slot on the west side of the rankings released on Tuesday.

“It’s an odd feeling,” Kotozakura said at a press conference while clad in a pink kimono, a homage to the “sakura” in his new name. “I’m determined to go ahead with the notion that this is my sumo name.”

When Kotozakura was in elementary school, his grandfather set the condition that he could take the name if he reached the rank of ozeki.

“I’m glad I could fulfill the criteria,” Kotozakura said. “Regardless of the name, I want to catch up to my grand predecessor,” a reference to reaching the top rank of yokozuna.

The original Kotozakura was the previous Sadogatake stablemaster, and his son, the former sekiwake Kotonowaka and the new Kotozakura’s father, is the current stablemaster.

In other ranking news for the Summer tourney that starts May 12 at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan, Onosato got promoted to komusubi, reaching the sanyaku – the three ranks below yokozuna – in just his sixth tournament since turning pro, the second fastest pace since the Showa era.

The 23-year-old’s hair has finally grown long enough to be tied in a top knot, which he sported at a press conference. “I’m happy I reached my goal of making it [into the sanyaku] at an early stage of my career,” Onosato said.

Two wrestlers will be making their debuts in the uppermost makuuchi division. Tokihayate, at maegashira No. 15, is the first debutant from Miyagi Prefecture in 27 years, while Mongolian No. 14 maegashira Oshoma is the first out of the Naruto stable established in 2017.