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Rijicho

Featured rikishi - Tochisakae

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In 1998 when I was in Japan, I went to Dewanoumi beya for asageiko. There was one guy who had just made it to Makushita lead who was pummeling everyone there-He was on degeiko, from Kasugano beya. He didn't rest for a minute and was throwing around guys like Tochinonada and Kushimaumi. I asked the guy next to me who he was. "Okamoto-san", he answered. It was Okamoto-Tochinoiwa. That basho he was 5-2 and was promoted to Juryo, only to be injured the following Basho (didn't even enter), and was plagued for quite a while with injuries that eventually dropped him to Sandanme. In September 1999 he won the Sandanme yusho and climbed back up. Tochisakae (he changed to this shikona after he dropped from Juryo) quickly climbed back up to where he is, amidst recurring injuries and occasional Juryo visits.. He is famous for withdrawing and returning to the basho in progress.

That keiko I watched was 6 years ago, but his strength still sticks in my mind. Today, he may seem a bit greyish, but I always root for him.

Actually, he was never MK in Juryo when he participated, and rarely was MK under Maegashira 10 when he was healthy, the exception being last Basho when he was a bad 5-10 at M13.

Nice hair too.

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Tochisakae Atsushi - Kasugano Beya

(Real name: Atsushi Okamoto)

Born: June 27, 1974 (a moon child like me ) (Praying...)

Height: 185cm Weight: 155 kg

From: Saga-gun, Saga Prefecture

(Actually this is a Kyokai version, as far as I know he was born and grew up in Nakano-ward in Tokyo. In fact he participated in kids sumo tournaments representing the Nakano-ward, there is even a picture of him and Kouji Hanada (Yokozuna Takanohana) taken together at one of the tournaments.)

Dohyo debut: Januray 1993

Juryo debut: March 1998

Makuuchi debut: September 2000

Shikona: Okamoto-Tochinoiwa-Okamoto-Tochinoiwa-Tochisakae

Favorite technique: Tsuki, oshi.

Tochisakae is my favorite rikishi. I admire his courage and will to continue despite so much obstacles that have lesser men to throw in a towel and say I've done my best.

Not Tochisakae. His tenacity to stick to what he has started, overcoming whatever difficulties lay ahead of him is legendary.

Of course I like him for another reason. When I first saw him long before he became a sekitori, I thought here was a man from the moon of Endor, Ewok of Star Wars fame. He is definitely a great Ewok warrior.

And another thing is I am pretty certain he is the only sekitori who has a Maple Leafs Hockey jersey. I gave it to him last year. Through his older brother who is a network engineer for a major bank, Tochisakae arranged to get us Masu seats just behind the Sunakaburi section. For the jersey, I got his tegata and few other goodies.

Since Atsushi Okamoto was a little kid, he was big. He started taking Kendo lessons when he was a Grade 3 student at Yamato Elementary School. He entered a Nakano-ward Sumo Tournament and placed third when he was in Grade 4. He strictly focused on taking sumo lessons after finding he could no longer fit into his Kendo gear as he was getting too big.

At the time there was no kids sumo dojo in Nakano, he went to practice at Fujishima Beya, Futagoyama Beya and Dewanoumi Beya several times a month. While he was a student at Nakano Fourth Middle School, he trained at Nihon University Sumo Club Dojo where he met someone who eventually introduced him to go to Saitama Sakae High School, a well known sports high school. At the Sakae he became the High School Yokozuna in 1992.

When he went to file an application for university entrance exam, he heard about Ozumo and decided to join Ozumo. Through his uncle who also had a talk with him after his Middle School graduation, he joined Kasugano Beya. He became the first High School Yokozuna in Ozumo history to join Ozumo right after the graduation from high school rather than going to an university.

As expected he progressed through the ranks rather impressively winning Jonidan, Sandanme and Makushita Yushos. People expected great things from him.

But the path was never that smooth. An illness struck him a year or so after he joined and a grave consequence followed. Just prior to the September 1994, he had a surgery for empyema. Due to an error during the surgery, he suffered an aftereffect from anesthesia. He became paralyzed in the right half of his body. He could not even walk straight and had even hard time standing up.

Other men may have quit then and pursued a gentler life. Not Tochisakae. He never got down on himself. He never blamed anyone. He never cursed his fate. He kept his spirits up every day to get treated, so he could rehabilitate himself and recover fully. And he did.

Then in 1998 he was promoted to Juryo twice but never able to stay in the rank again due to a variety of injuries. This time he fell all the way down to Sandanme. But by this time everyone knew this was Tochisakae and they had faith in him that he would crawl up again and become a sekitori once again. And just as everyone expected he did. Then in the September 2000, he was finally promoted to Makuuchi.

Tochisakae learned to live with his illness and injuries throughout his career. This has not changed after his promotion to Makkuchi. He had a broken heel bones in the 2001 Nagoya and had a kosho kyujo the next basho. Two straight bashos in 2002, he suffered from a severe case of phlegmon (severe skin rashes resulting from an infection) and went on kyujo.

In the 2002 Nagoya, he went on kyujo but only after three days, he came back and finished with 9 wins and 3 losses and 3 kyujos. He was not as fortunate the next basho as he finished with 2 wins 9 losses and four kyujos. Despite a strain in his left leg joint, he completed the following basho with six wins and nine losses.

Tochisakae also suffers from a sleep disorder which makes him stop breathing while asleep. He attachs himself to a device that supplies oxygen to him while he sleeps.

Every time I see him on the dohyo, I see what he is off the dohyo. Quiet and in a very unassuming manner, simply putting his head down and moving forward towards his target. He does not pull a cheap shot. He does not resort to some finicky moves.

He just pushes and he just moves forward. He has persevered and endured while overcoming all kinds of trials. He faced his lows straight on, never complaining never bitching about his predicament. He just stood up and kept on pushing till he achieved his goal. I aspire to be a man Tochisakae is.

Edited by Jonosuke

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(Applauding...) Thanks guys! Tochisakae has always been a kind of dull and inconspicuous rikishi to me (apart from his shoulder lump). These stories finally shed some light on the man behind the shikona and surely help to cheer for the featured rikishi - great thread!

My own first impression of Tochisakae? Well, it took me quite some time to tell him apart from fellow newcomer Tokitsuumi (even more with the right shoulder not visible...)

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I liked 'Sakae ever since I saw him (I have a soft spot for glass-wearing rikishi, excepting the Robo), and started admiring him since I heard of that terrible illness of his. To fight through it all... (Applauding...)

Anyway, since that I wonder if he was always cross-eyed, or is it a consequence of the illness?

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This interview took place prior to his Makuuchi debut at the 2000 Aki Basho.  

I wrote most of this information (obtained elsewhere) in my other post but this one is from his mother's point of view with more detail to what I wrote previously.

A Tochisakae Story as told by his mother Katsuyo Okamoto

----------------------------------------------------------------------

It's recorded that he is from Saga Prefecture but he was actually born and raised in Tokyo. We moved several times but until Atsushi (Tochisakae) joined the heya, we've only lived in Nakono-ward.

The reason the place was recorded as Saga Prefecture was because both my husband and I were from Saga and Atsushi himself really loved the place. He and his brother used to go there often since they were kids and they really enjoyed the place. We still have many relatives there so every Kyushu Basho we get all uncles and aunts come over to see and cheer for him.

When he was born, he weighed 4,100 grams. My neighbors used to look at my tummy and told me I had a twin. His other brothers were normal size (older brother Shuichi, 32 years old, younger brother Hideki, 24 years old). Atsushi got bigger than his older brother so instead of him getting his older brother's clothes, it was the other way around with us, as his older brother used to get Atsushi's. It was like, first, my second son and then go to my oldest.

When he was in Grade 6, his foot size was already 28 cm. He used to forget things a lot those days and whenever he forgot to take a pair of shoes he needed to wear inside the school, his teacher used to lend them to him but they were too small for him. (laughs)

Perhaps because he was so large, he used to eat a lot. He was more into quantity than quality. (laughs) He used to eat others' leftovers all the time . His older brother had a small appetite so he'd wait till he finished and asked if he could eat it as well.

He was a funny kid and very gentle. He used to be good at mimicking and get people to laugh. He was good at almost any sports he tried. Before he started sumo, he could run fast as well. Until he was around Grade 4, he was not that heavy. He used to take Kendo lessons at his school from Grade 3 to 6.

He started taking sumo seriously when he placed the third in a Nakano-ward Sumo Tournament. Then he entered an All Japan tournament but he got beaten in the first round. He entered several more All Japan tournaments but he usually came home losing in his first or second round. "I am coming to see you compete on my day off so can't you just win one for me," my husband used to complain. (laughs)

Once he started sumo, he started getting wide as well. It sort of happened naturally as he wasn't trying to put weight especially. I guess after a hard training, he got more appetite and ate more. I remember when he was in the third year of middle school (Grade 9), he used to drink 3 liters of milk every day. He couldn't fit into his kendo gear when he got to Grade 5 so he just focused his attention more on sumo.

Back then there was no sumo training dojo for kids in Nakano-ward so he used to go to Fujishima Beya several times a month to learn sumo techniques from the oyakata (current Futagoyama oyakata) and their rikishis. They let him eat their chanko and use their bath as well. He was able to train at the old Futagoyama Beya in Asagaya and Dewanoumi Beya as well so he was able to gain all kinds of valuable experience in his youth.

He started getting stronger once he started training at the Nihon University Sumo Club. He was able to train with the student rikishis who later went on to join Ozumo like Kushimaumi san (current Tagonoura oyakata), Hamanoshima san (current Onoe oyakata) and Mainoumi san as well as the late Daishoufu san. He trained there from Grade 6 to 9.

He went to Saitama Sakae High School. Kushima san (Kushimaumi) and Sakae's Sumo Club Manager Michinori Yamada were in the same year at Nihon University. Mr. Yamada esepcially took care of Atsushi well and when he went to work at Saitama Sakae, Atsushi said he wanted to go to Sakae and join him. He never thought of anywhere else to go at that time. At the high school, Dewadaira san (now retired) joined in the same year while Hayateumi san was one year junior.

He joined Ozumo in January of his graduation year. Up to that time he was considering to go to a university. On that morning he left home to pick up an application for the entrance examination. When he came home, he told us, "I decided to turn pro rather than going to an university." I suspect he has been hearing about turning professional from people connected to Ozumo.

A younger brother of my husband knew someone at Kasugano Beya well and when Atushi was graduating from middle school, he was asked to join them. So if he was to turn pro then we decided it might as well be with Kasugano Beya.

I believe Atsushi himself decided that he would be joining Ozumo since he was in the middle school. His High School sumo coach also trained him so that he could turn pro when he graduated. And my husband and I did not especially object him joining Ozumo either.

Once he joined, he progressed rather smoothly but after his Makushita Yusho (July 1994), he had problems with empyema treatment and that left him with severe side effects. He lost almost all of the muscles in his right side of body but he said he did not want to go on kyujo and kept competing. We were starting to lose hope that this was it, he started recovering. He got better with acupuncture treatment. If he has not met this acupuncture specialist, I believe he would not have recovered enough to get back competing.

I was so happy to see him getting eight straight wins in the Nagoya Basho (2000). His banzuke should go up next basho. I just want to him to watch out for illness and injuries. When he made Juryo debut, he got injured and went on kyujo. When he returned to Juryo (November 1998), he separated his calf muscles and missed the whole basho.

At that time he came back home to stay with us for a month but it must have been really difficult. When eveyone else was competing, he alone was sitting at home, not doing anything. I never ever want him to go through that kind of experince again.

Edited by Jonosuke

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Is Tochisakae likely to do well in Kyushu? It's uncertain whether he will stay in Makuuchi or go down to Juryo...

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The "before fighting" guy is for sure Tokitsuumi.

But maybe his opponent it this bout was Tochisakae :-)

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Interesting thing is that Jakusotsu wrote in his post on this thread that he had a hard time distinguishing between Tochisakae and Tokitsuumi..

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Interesting thing is that Jakusotsu wrote in his post on this thread that he had a hard time distinguishing between Tochisakae and Tokitsuumi..

Could be the hair :-) It's almost like they call each other every morning and ask "How are you gonna wear your hair today? OK! Me too!!" ;-)

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Tochisakae has beautiful Torikuchi of Sumo similar to Tochiazuma.

Tachiai, hits with the head keenly with a low posture, and starts a waging-war partner's body.

Then, it comes out in front at a stretch by Ottsuke or Morohazu.

When it does not advance at a stretch before, or when a waging-war partner has the far large body, it lets out Inashi and Tsukiotoshi from a quick motion.

On the other hand, since he rushed honestly with the low posture each time, he became the victim of Hennka frequently.

Moreover, since he progressed before at a stretch, without holding Mawashi, when losing, he was based on Hiki or Hataki in many cases.

Mawashi is held shallowly, without depending only on Ottsuke, and if it moves forward (it naturally does not rest the middle), I think that I can win to a slight degree.

My having stated so far is related with Sumo when his condition is good.

how to win recently and how to lose -- him -- original -- then -- there is nothing .

He is left on the repeated injury and the unwilling situation sick therefore for a long period of time.

Moreover, the day of Senshuraku of last basho has also newly hurt his wrist.

Since his Sumo is too honest, when the condition of confidence is bad, I think that he also needs to let out Hiki or Htaki and to keep a status.

Since he has speed, if the thing to the extent that he keeps a status even if as his condition is bad is easy, I will imagine.

I want to see the wen of his shoulder rise proudly again. :-)

Edited by Susanoo

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Tochisakae has beautiful Torikuchi of Sumo

Well he seems quite straight forward mainly of hazu oshi and THAT is beautiful to me, too. Hazu oshi without much ottsuke is a sure beaufitul sumo. My perception of Tochazuma's sumo is more like mainly of ottuke, hence not as beautiful to me. But look which is stronger...

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When Tochisakae came into makuuchi he was really given a hataki-treatment in his second basho. Day after day he lost by slapdowns in his debut against mid and higher makuuchi rikishi. He won his first bout on day 5 and achieved 8-7 at the end losing 6 bout with hatakikomi. Strangely he has not been especially prone to hatakikomi since that basho.

Tochisakae also won many fans over with his humble comments during one of his come-backs from kyujo in the middle of a basho when he said "I know I am not the most popular rikishi but as so many high ranked rikishi have dropped out, I felt I needed to come back so spectators get to see as much sumo as possible".

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On Kasugano Beya home page, in their rikishi's introduction there are brief comments included from their tsukebito and rikishi. What others, especially those they spend their days together, say about them can be illuminating.

This is what a Tochisakae's tsukebito says:

"He is a sekitori we could respect in a variety of ways but we feel especially the fact that he has suffered such serious injuries time and time again and each time he has made a great comeback, is an enourmous achievement."

Deep inside that quiet demeanor lives a fierce will to persevere and firm "never say die" spirit.

There is something endearing about Tochisakae and his humbleness.

While all the other rikishis say their goal is to either get to Sanyaku and/or Kachikoshi, this is what Tochisakae says in his comment box:

"My goal (from now on) is to remain as an active rikishi by even one day longer without getting sick or suffering injuries as I possibly could."

This is a kind of comment which can come only from those who went through so much and are so thankful that they are still able to compete on the dohyo and make a living. I am sure Tochisakae too has a dream of making it to Sanyaku one day just like all the other sekitoris but he knows more than anyone that his rikishi life could come to an end any moment as it almost did several times in his career.

Not everyone is Asashoryu or Kisenosato but regardless how they rank on the banzuke, each has his own story to tell. Each in his own way puts his own stamp on the dohyo for all of us sumo fans to enjoy and experience the joy.

Edited by Jonosuke

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i was thinking that we might need to update the "featured rikishi" topics once in a while if something important happens to them ...

Tochisakae for example came back from an injury that didn't allow him to participate in Hatsu Basho 2005 as a Makuuchi rikishi and sent him in lower Juryo.

He came back though with an 11-4 in Haru and 12-3 in Natsu which gave him the Yusho and he is coming back in Makuuchi with style and better omens for the future.

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I do agree- Updating rikishi threads is a good idea.

I like to see him facing upper rankers with his focused Oshi.

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