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Oonokuni Discussion

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I am a big fan of Oonokuni’s sumo but I seem to have a hard time finding information about him. What footage I have seen seems to be almost entirely of his bouts with Chiyonofuji with the exception of a few others. Does anybody have any stories of him or more original information than what would be found in your basic wiki search etc.?

Also, I hear from many that he was a “failed” Yokozuna, but what was the reason behind this? Excess weight? Injuries?

If Oonokuni were in his prime today, how well does he do against the current crop of Makuuchi?

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I have seen Shibatayama oyakata at the Kokugikan a couple of times. He’s still an imposing figure, but somewhat hobbled by injuries or maybe just age, he lumbers around with a walking cane. Hope I can meet him one day when tournaments resume. No real stories from me, but someone posted a great one recently about an encounter with him in a deserted hanamichi after a much needed victory which saw him blanched, with bluish lips, and very much relieved to be able to answer those who said he was a weak Yokozuna.

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15 minutes ago, Chanko Thief said:

I am a big fan of Oonokuni’s sumo ....I hear from many that he was a “failed” Yokozuna, but what was the reason behind this? Excess weight? Injuries?

Check wiki.

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According to his wiki he has written a cake cookbook and his autobiography. I have been looking to purchase both (preferably in English, but Japanese would be just fine) for several years now but haven’t been able to locate copies. Does anybody know how/where I can acquire these books?

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His cake/ cookbook is on Amazon.com in Japanese

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When a man makes ozeki at 22 and earns yokozuna promotion at 24, you would expect more than one subsequent yusho. The injuries did for him and he was more or less finished as a top-level force by the time he turned 27. I would say "disappointing" is a kinder adjective than "failed".

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7 hours ago, Gaijingai said:

His cake/ cookbook is on Amazon.com in Japanese

If you could kindly provide a link I would be very grateful. I have tried every search I can think of.

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41 minutes ago, WAKATAKE said:

First yokozuna to complete a whole basho and go make-koshi

http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Rikishi_basho.aspx?r=1350&b=198909

Also at the time sat out an unprecedented 4 straight basho until Takanohana easily eclipsed that.

He’s taken a lot of flak in sumo commentary for that, but I kind of respect his decision to stick it out. Many Yokozuna would drop out after that first four days or when they failed to convert 7 wins into 8 two days in a row. That he turned up on day 5 and day 14 shows a lot of character in my book.

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5 hours ago, Eikokurai said:

He’s taken a lot of flak in sumo commentary for that, but I kind of respect his decision to stick it out. Many Yokozuna would drop out after that first four days or when they failed to convert 7 wins into 8 two days in a row. That he turned up on day 5 and day 14 shows a lot of character in my book.

I agree. Perseverance and fortitude should trump "upholding the dignity of the rank"  (which really means "preserving the mystique") in my book.

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2 hours ago, since_94 said:

I agree. Perseverance and fortitude should trump "upholding the dignity of the rank"  (which really means "preserving the mystique") in my book.

I completely agree as well. Very admirable in my eyes.

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What would you all say were his greatest assets/weaknesses when he was actively wrestling?

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3 hours ago, Chanko Thief said:

What would you all say were his greatest assets/weaknesses when he was actively wrestling?

Biggest weakness: an insatiable sweet tooth.

His nickname is "Sweets Oyakata"

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21 hours ago, Tigerboy1966 said:

When a man makes ozeki at 22 and earns yokozuna promotion at 24, you would expect more than one subsequent yusho. The injuries did for him and he was more or less finished as a top-level force by the time he turned 27. I would say "disappointing" is a kinder adjective than "failed".

I think disappointing is an apt word for his career. He moved steadily up the banzuke, regularly taking 4 or 5 steps forward and then one back when he reached a new personal high. This shows he was able to adapt and learn and bounce back when exposed to a new level of competition - all very promising things. He was a sanyaku rikishi before he was 21, had a 6-9 makekoshi in his first basho at Komusubi but then bounce back in Kyushu 1983 by defeating three Yokozuna on his way to a 10-5 record and a return to sanyaku. Quite rightly he won the Outstanding Performance Prize and that takes real ability and mental application. 

For the couple of years that he was an Ozeki, there were often 4 Ozeki (sometimes 5) and anywhere from 1-3 Yokozuna. Onokuni had a habit of losing on Days 14 and 15 and never quite being in the hunt for the yusho. He then went on a tear from Natsu basho 1987 of 15-0, 12-3 and 13-2 to secure his Yokozuna promotion, collecting his first Emperor Cup along the way. He was 25 for his first tournament as a Yokozuna.

He had nearly 4 years as a Yokozuna (23 basho) but sat out or didn't finish 9 of the basho. He had the 7-8 makekoshi as well. Obviously the injuries played a major part in this decline at such a young age His overall record as a Yokozuna (155-79-111) equates to an average of two wins for every loss (absences aside), which is equivalent to a 10-5 basho average. That is more what is expected of an ozeki, not a Yokozuna

I think that is what is really makes him "disappointing" when his career is looked back at. He was a moderate ozeki amongst a group of them at the time. He had a short period of exceptional results that got him to Yokozuna but then could really only deliver at an ozeki level when he is supposed to be the pinnacle of the sport. What doesn't help is that the other Yokozuna at this time, Chiyonofuji and Hokutoumi, were regularly winning the tournaments.

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How do you all see a prime Oonokuni doing against the current Makuuchi wrestlers? Does he still make Yokozuna? If so, do you expect more success from him in this modern era?

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20 minutes ago, Chanko Thief said:

How do you all see a prime Oonokuni doing against the current Makuuchi wrestlers?

My guess is that he would have made Y a year or so earlier than he actually did and that he would have picked up two or three additional yusho. I'm basing this purely on the quality of the opposition: looking at the banzuke from 1985 to 1990 I would say that Onokuni faced a tougher schedule than he would do if he stepped out of the time machine in 2020.

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Really excellent analysis from Sasanishiki above

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I don't think any rikishi who reaches yokozuna can be regarded as having failed, but the career ending injury was certainly disappointing. Onokuni knew he was finished as a top ranker and his 7:8 at Aki 1988 was a clear demonstration of that fact. He tried to resign but the NSK wouldn't accept it. He would have had a far better looking (if much shorter) record as a yokozuna if they had.

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50 minutes ago, RabidJohn said:

.... He tried to resign but the NSK wouldn't accept it.

I remember reading that in an old issue of sumo world magazine. It would have been a much better ending if the NSK would have accepted his resignation. 

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