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Godango

Mount Rushmore of Ozumo: Celebrating Legends

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Posted (edited)

While we await Natsu, I thought it might be fun for us forum members to embark on a journey to create our very own individual Mount Rushmore of Ozumo. Now, for those unfamiliar with the concept, Mount Rushmore is a monumental sculpture in the United States featuring the heads of four U.S. presidents, symbolising the nation's growth and development. Similarly, our Mount Rushmores of Ozumo will honour four figures who have left an indelible mark on the world of sumo wrestling.

Before we delve into our selections, let's establish some ground rules. This isn't a competition to determine the greatest sumo wrestler of all time. Instead, it's an opportunity for each of us to share the names of four individuals whom we hold in special reverence, whether it's for their remarkable performances on the dohyo, their contributions off the dohyo, or even their impact as gyoji, administrators etc.

Remember, this is entirely subjective. Your choices are yours alone, and there's no right or wrong answer. This thread is a space for shared appreciation and celebration of sumo's legends.

So, who would you choose to carve onto your Mount Rushmore of Ozumo, and why? Take a moment to reflect on the individuals who have left an enduring legacy in the world of sumo, and let's honour their contributions together. 

Edited by Godango
To clarify -- we're all naming our individual Mount Rushmore, not coming up with one collectively.
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Posted (edited)

Let me get the ball rolling with the obvious first choice for a legend like no other. One who's performance will never be equaled: 

Hattorizakura

Edited by Kaninoyama
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As for my own Mount Rushmore -- I'm actually finding this very difficult which is why I thought it could be a fun topic. But here's where I am currently at; and I will acknowledge/disclaim that I am going to allow myself to come back and revise/be influenced by others. So on to it (in no particular order)

Hakuho
With his record-breaking success, longevity and and dominance, I think it's impossible to exclude Hakuho. While his oyakata career is off to a shaky start, his rikishi days were extraordinary, not to mention his ambassadorship and impact to future generations via the Hakuho Cup. 

Akebono
The first foreign-born Yokozuna is quite possibly why a lot of foreigners, including many of us on this forum, became fans in the first-place. He broke cultural barriers and paved the way for the rise in foreign participation and success that we see continue to this day. 

Raiden
That unrivalled win ratio and the mystique surrounding Raiden represent that almost mythological side to sumo (particularly its history) that captured my imagination as a child and continue to this day.

Taiho
What seals the deal with Taiho for me is his cultural impact in Japan during the period post-WWII. Obviously his career achievements speak for themselves, and his legacy continues to this day via Oho and his other grandsons. 

I need to elaborate and think longer on this. I will likely revise it. But I wanted to pst something since I introduced the topic.

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11 minutes ago, Kaninoyama said:

Let me get the ball rolling with the obvious first choice for a legend like no other, and who's performance will never be equaled: 

Hattorizakura

Ha!

But also, re-reading my post I absolutely made it sound like we would be creating a collective Mount Rushmore, but the intention was we would each post our own.

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Hakuho (sumo GOAT) and Akebono (my favourite yokozuna, pinnacle oshi blaster, first foreign yokozuna) would be on mine too. Now for the others ..... :-S

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12 minutes ago, Tsuchinoninjin said:

Kehaya, Maruyama, Jinmaku, and Tsunenohana 

Any particular reasons why they hold special significance to you? 

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Posted (edited)

My real list, based only on the sumo I have personally watched over the years.

Takanohana

Along with brother, ushered in the Waka/Taka boom that reignited sumo’s popularity, as well as my own interest in sumo.

Akebono/Musashimaru

Combine them into one. Memorial to the brief but exciting Hawaiian rikishi era. 

Kotoshogiku

Broke through for the first win by Japanese-born rikishi following 10 years of Mongolian/foreign/Hakuho dominance, paving the way for others to follow.

Kisenosato

Broke through as first Japanese-born Yokozuna in over a decade. 

 

Honorable mention: 

Hakuho (GOAT); Asashoryu (first great Mongolian); Harumafuji (personal favorite).

Edited by Kaninoyama
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My list would begin after WWII (er, Dai Tō-A Sensō).  I can't get a feel for how to compare Sumo before and after this time.

1) Taiho (HD 1956)

2) Chiyonofuji (HD 1970)

3) Akebono (HD 1988)

4) Hakuho (HD 2001)

Just as the four men on Mt. Rushmore are all Presidents, these men should all be Yokozuna.

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Chiyonifuji , Konishiki , Akebono , Hakuho

Started watching in the 80s with Chiyonofuji then the Islanders started to dominate, time away from sumo and return during Hakuhos swan song.

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Posted (edited)

If you'll let me explore the topic a little, I find Mt Rushmore a difficult comparison for athletes. Ultimately the people depicted there are administrators / leaders who held the highest office in that particular country. Interestingly, sumo as a competition does have a highest office - yokozuna - and they can be considered leaders and administrators of the country in their own right - but it's a clumsy comparison still. Which means we can think of any number of ways to even approach the issue of who should actually be on such a monument.

I think that if you're making it about the performance of any wrestler on the dohyo (indeed if that is even a factor in your decision) then necessarily you are picking from a list of the most impactful yokozuna. Other wrestlers can be mentioned for their cultural importance of some kind, or for off-dohyo activities and their disposition rather than their prowess in bouts. Ultimately I think most sumo fans would come up with a list where each finalist makes their own criteria - hakuho for his wins, chiyonofuji for his cultural impact, futabayama for the beacon he was during WW2.... but I think if you want to have a "Mt Rushmore" it should probably necessarily be about presenting representative figures of different pivotal times in history, like the original monument is. 

Washington is the founder, representative of the visionaries, Jefferson is the early shepherd, representative (to my understanding) of the kind of governance the states held prior to the civil war build-up (partially because he / his politics were the major controlling force over a whole lot of decades there, is my read on it), Lincoln is representative of the union and the new direction of the USA after the civil war, and Roosevelt is representative of the new paradigm and how that country had come to operate in the decades that followed. Maybe representing some degree of hope for the future. When the monument was built in the 30s, that was pretty clearly a pick of one man for each generation that oversaw a massive shift in the country's direction. If the monument was created 30-50 years later and without favouritism, they'd have probably needed to put FDR on there as well just because of how much WW2 changed the US. We do also have to consider that the conception of that monument is nearly 100 years old. If we take the same timeframe, only Raiden out of the names mentioned so far is even eligible (other than @Tsuchinoninjin's unexplained thoughts?). Anyway, take all that as just my own read on history and what I'm attempting to draw parallels with in the sumo world.

So if we apply this framework to sumo, we need to pick a founding moment and a representative founder, we need to have someone who represents the early days and really made the sport what it was then, someone who steered the sport through civil war and became the unifier, and someone who helped the sport grow in a different direction and branch out in other ways / escape the stagnation of the past. Furthermore all 4 men should be from different time periods.

I think picking the "founding moment" and founder is probably the most difficult question. Obviously people inhabited the US prior to Washington's rule, it was just a major change in the way the place operated and the power structures that were. Change in sumo appears to be more gradual in hindsight but other than just reaching back as far as possible and selecting someone from barely-recorded history, we have a few moments I'd think to pick. If you're intending on picking yokozuna, then the moment that yokozuna-hood comes to be is one option. Another is when it becomes assignable by the association and not a special distinction for ozeki liked by a particular family or two. Otherwise you could focus on the distinction between Edo sumo and post-Meiji-restoration sumo, or the distinction between the Osaka-Tokyo rift days and the following unified JSA, or you could take post-WW2 sumo as the beginning of the modern sumo we truly know and start from there. I don't think taking any later point than that makes sense as a parallel to 'foundation'.

However, you still have the question of whether we're even picking wrestlers or if it makes more sense to have actual administrators front-of-mind for the direct comparison to presidents. I personally think that particular oyakata must surely be a more apt comparison, but I'm well aware that's not exactly what most others will have in mind and I don't have a good enough historical knowledge of oyakata to bring forth the names that should be mentioned. So I'll stick with wrestlers.

 

So after all that build-up, I think the most apt "starting point" for the modern sumo watcher is to consider it a fresh slate post-WW2. That means considering Futabayama and the like as part of a different set entirely, and ineligible for our Mt Rushmore comparison. Knowing very little about the guy (pretty sure he was denied yokozuna in 1949 for being "too young") I'd probably pick Chiyonoyama as my Washington for this comparison. We're obviously not going to have someone who commanded actual armies or was a visionary/political beacon for the future during their tenure as a wrestler, but I'd argue someone who broke the mould to that degree and largely dominated sumo over its (post-WW2) formative period is a good candidate for this position. I think if you're following along with the same restrictions I've just self-imposed but you aren't picking Chiyonoyama here, you probably pick Taiho. I'm not particularly comfortable with calling him a "founder" of post-WW2 sumo, but certainly in terms of popularity he fits in hindsight. Instead, I'd offer Tochinishiki as a good pick on equal footing with Chiyonoyama. Again, in Mt Rushmore we only have to contend with one man holding the office of President at a time while in sumo we have multiple Yokozuna to pick the 'representative' from. Tangentially, if you're also considering the off-dohyo impact then Chiyonoyama is effectively responsible for Kokonoe's legacy beginning while Tochinishiki maintained the largest portion of Kasugano's current impressive run with sekitori presence and became the longest-serving chairman after Taiho retired.

Of course the reason why I don't want Taiho as my Washington is because I want him as my Jefferson. Culturally emblematic for his generation and the one that followed. There's a couple other reasons I'd compare the two but I don't want politics here. Taiho was the guiding force for sumo during his time in the ring and the record shows.

Moving on to Lincoln - what is modern sumo's (first?) civil war and who was the victor? There's a couple ways we can approach this and I'd be tempted to have Takanohana in there if we're considering the oyakata stuff but as we're keeping it to the ring, I think I have to take Akebono. Again I bring up the importance of recognising just how much time has passed - you could have Chiyonofuji winning a metaphorical war against the new generation of sumo's detractors and re-popularising the sport, but in hindsight despite his continuing name relevance in Japan that was largely a flash-in-the-pan and the continuing dominance of foreigners at the highest rank of Japan's ancient national sport is the new paradigm established by Akebono's breakthrough. I don't mean to pass judgement on that with anything I've written here, merely to say that the presence of Akebono on that list of Yokozuna fundamentally changed sumo going forward in a parallel to Lincoln's actions.

Which brings us to the next major shift. In Rushmore's case, there's 35 years between Abe and Teddy's presidential terms to establish another change of direction and close to 30 years from that for the sculptor to establish that story on Rushmore's face. We don't have the luxury of so much hindsight in this sumo timeline just yet (which might simply indicate I chose the wrong starting point?). In any case, Mongolia continues to be the new paradigm while we await our FDR and WW2 shift. You've only really got two choices (if you pick that as your defining feature of New Sumo), Asashoryu who really solidly established this paradigm or Hakuho who fundamentally imprinted it on sumo forever - but I think in comparing to Roosevelt the former is a much better choice. 

 

Anyway, all that to say Chiyonoyama, Taiho, Akebono, Asashoryu.

Edited by Yarimotsu
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1 hour ago, Yarimotsu said:

Anyway, all that to say Chiyonoyama, Taiho, Akebono, Asashoryu.

I'm only limiting your quote to its final sentence to save padding this comment, but I want to sincerely thank you for the entirety of your post. That was exactly the kind of thing I was hoping to see, and it's brilliant getting an insight into another fans perspective and appreciation on the sport. Fantastic stuff. 

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I'm gonna treat the creation of the ichidai toshiyori system as essentially sumo's "building Mount Rushmore" moment, and not consider anybody active after that. Therefore:

Tanikaze, Hitachiyama, Futabayama, Taiho.

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Posted (edited)

I'll start this by saying that I've (only) been a fan since March 2020. When COVID lockdowns started, the Youtube algorithm decided to show me sumo videos for some reason and I discovered that I loved it. I've been hooked ever since, and it's become my #1 sport over football (soccer), which has gotten somewhat stale after 20+ years of being a fan. 

So my opinion isn't as informed as many forum members that have followed the sport for decades and necessarily have a much broader and deeper perspective. That said, in these four years I've read a lot about sumo, watched a lot of videos (including many in black and white), and like all new fans when they're first getting into something I've done this thought exercise many times in my mind.

My very safe and uncontroversial list is Hakuho, Taiho, Chiyonofuji, Raiden.

The 3 winningest Yokozuna, and the last spot for the platonic ideal of the sumo wrestler with his legendary 96% win rate that never has and never will be replicated. I think it makes for a nice balance between the three very tangible champions of modern times and the still real but quasi mythical figure from sumo's distant past.

I thought about including Asashoryu over Chiyonofuji but decided against it. He's my personal favorite and he has a strong claim based on his skill and his numbers, as well as his unparalleled charisma and his significance as the first Mongolian Yokozuna that ushered in the era of Mongolian dominance over the sport, but I think the circumstances of his retirement invalidate him for selection. If he were a president, he would have been impeached, which imo means he can't be on Mount Rushmore as much as I personally love him. 

Edited by Leoben
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Hitachiyama

For there is no other single figure in the sport's history with such an extreme impact on its popularity, culture, the recruitment of rikishi, the recreation of rikishi - and in a tragically short span of time. There is too much which must be said about Hitachiyama to allow extended elaboration here.

Taihou

Sumo's fulcrum in the second half of the 20th century and a keystone of Shouwa. His career is the origin point of shinpan video review and ichidai toshiyori, and a great many still consider him to be the strongest yokozuna.

Hakuhou

It is hard to imagine a future in which Hakuhou will not be the most significant rikishi of at least the first half of the 21st century. The precise effects of his legacy of record-smashing and  arrogance are yet hazy, but it is safe to assume they will be substantial.

Sakai Tadamasa

Sakai's works remain to this day the most important sources of critical, accurate sumo history and lore to those without a lifetime to spend on trawling historical archives. His Nihon Sumoushi practically defined the boundaries of the field.

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Futabayama

His consecutive win streak record is still being chased almost 100 years later.  Arguably the greatest in the first half of the 20th Century.

Taiho

Set the benchmark for greatness.  The greatest in the second half of the 20th Century.

Takamiyama

The first foreigner to win the cup set the stage for the waves of foreign rikishi who still have a great influence.

Andy Adams

Single handedly responsible for introducing me and countless others to sumo through his Sumo World magazine. 

 

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Apologies for my previous short response, I’m in some far flung locale jumping through several VPNs that sometime culminate at a desktop tucked away in the corner of some LDK in Nagoya. However, it’s a bad excuse because even when the government spook got up on the wrong side of bed and is routing most of my packets into the circular file, somehow  sumoforum always comes through to the point I’ve started using it as a de facto litmus test to see if I have internet at all.

Anyway, I totally agree with @Yarimotsu and that there is a grave misunderstanding of what Mt Rushmore represents. It is not simply a hall of fame for those that flourish within the system,  but for those who themselves molded, set precedent, and put constraints on the system. Guys like Hakuho, Takanohana, Asashoryu, and so on were always caged by the system and therefore have no business being anywhere near sumo’s Mt. Rushmore. I know this is essentially friendly banter but assigning Hakuho to sumo’s Mt. Rushmore is objectively wrong and completely unthinkable. It would be like adding some House member that served during a recent second term president like Clinton or Bush to Mt. Rushmore just because they sponsored the most bills that became laws in the history of the system. They only ever got that much done thanks to those who established the process before them.

My list is hastily thrown together because Japan is terrible at digitizing sources that are older than 10 years old, usually when I do serious reading about sumo I use the Asian studies library at university of Michigan to get books sent there. But not this time!

So, I don’t have especially strong arguments for my selections.

Kehaya, this could also be Nomi as kind of the starting point of sumo. Before then, a void, afterwards, sumo. I chose Kehaya because this represents a kind of honor in defeat, that the point of sumo is not win or lose. I guess Kehaya would be the first to disagree. However this could also be western sources over mysticising Japanese beliefs as they sometimes do. It would be nice to read a japanese source for japanese to get a better bearing on the reality of the situation.

Maruyama for establishing the mold of prototypical dai-Yokozuna. Although the systems to recognize this were not yet in place at the time, this established what a great wrestler could mean while being real enough to not be subject to overly revisionist history due to lack of primary sources.

Jinmaku, while taking a big step to recognize Yokozuna as an assigned, current rank, really ushered in the start of changes that would culminate in the modern era in 1958 by showing things could be consciously decided on purpose. For sure he benefitted from support of the system and a sympathetic government but he took conscious advantage of that. What followed was a tumultuous era which a lot of good things happened and a lot of bad things happened. I’d list them all but I’m typing on an iPad now. I seriously doubt that most of us would truly enjoy watching sumo during the post jinmaku- prewar era. Typically all the good decisions were claimed by committee, and individuals were only named when they did something negative so it’s difficult to find anyone to add to the mountain until…

Tsunenohana. I really want to read more about this guy. Really the first ‘inside’ guy as chairman. Had the tall task of dealing with the Americans from a really weak position. The modern era didn’t officially start until he stepped down, so I don’t know what he is truly responsible for but probably unfairly blamed for a lot of the issues then. If anyone could point me to any available digital sources it’d be appreciated.

Some things changed after 1958, but the paint was pretty dry by the 60s so I don’t see any room for anyone after that to get added to the mountain. 

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Futabayama, Taiho, Chiyonofuji, Hakuho

 

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20 hours ago, Jakusotsu said:

It's much easier to build the Mt. Rushmore of this Forum:

@Akinomaki @Asashosakari @Kintamayama @Yubinhaad

(alphabetical order, active members only, including @Katooshu if you go a deeper shade of purple)

You left out @Fay who has done so much to help build the photo database for unsalaried rikishi

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, Tsuchinoninjin said:

Jinmaku, while taking a big step to recognize Yokozuna as an assigned, current rank, really ushered in the start of changes that would culminate in the modern era in 1958 by showing things could be consciously decided on purpose. For sure he benefitted from support of the system and a sympathetic government but he took conscious advantage of that. What followed was a tumultuous era which a lot of good things happened and a lot of bad things happened. I’d list them all but I’m typing on an iPad now. I seriously doubt that most of us would truly enjoy watching sumo during the post jinmaku- prewar era. Typically all the good decisions were claimed by committee, and individuals were only named when they did something negative so it’s difficult to find anyone to add to the mountain until…

But Jinmaku didn't even have much to do with Tokyo-zumo after his active career, and very little of the stuff he accomplished in Osaka actually stood the test of time. Most of the early "making professional sumo look like a modern sport" developments happened under the watch of the first Takasago-oyakata in Tokyo in the 1880s/90s, with the first Umegatani additionally credited for getting the first Kokugikan built to give sumo a permanent home. By the time all of that was happening, Osaka-zumo was just the poor relation that happened to be along for the ride.

And the idea that Jinmaku was chiefly responsible for making yokozuna a proper rank is...not one I've ever heard before. He certainly put a renewed focus on yokozuna with his historical research and the monument, but it's news to me that he was instrumental in the change from ceremonial status to rank. He was long gone from any official role in the administration of sumo by that point in time anyway. And I strongly disagree with the wider point that that development is what kickstarted sumo's modernization, too. That honour goes to the 1880s decision to turn the rankings and thus the competition as a whole into a meritocratic endeavour rather than one dominated by seniority and patronage. Without that, I doubt there would have been any interest for official "yokozuna > ozeki" recognition to begin with.

Edited by Asashosakari
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On 02/04/2024 at 12:45, Jakusotsu said:

It's much easier to build the Mt. Rushmore of this Forum:

@Akinomaki @Asashosakari @Kintamayama @Yubinhaad

(alphabetical order, active members only, including @Katooshu if you go a deeper shade of purple)

What about @Orion

She's no longer active, strictly speaking, but so what? She was a giant.

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Doreen's contributions to the SML dwarfed those she made here, I think that kind of colours long-timers' impression of what her internet "home" was.

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