Chiyonofuji Mitsugu
Sumo wrestler
Chiyonofuji Mitsugu
, born June 1, 1955, as Mitsugu Akimoto in Hokkaidō, Japan, is a former champion sumo wrestler and the 58th yokozuna of the sport. He is now the stable master of Kokonoe stable. Chiyonofuji was one of the greatest yokozuna of recent times, winning 31 tournament championships, second only to Taihō. He was particularly remarkable for his longevity in sumo's top rank, which he held for a period of ten years from 1981 to 1991.
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  • 2016
    Age 60
    Having reportedly told associates that the cancer had spread to his heart and lungs, he had been hospitalized since the fourth day of the Nagoya tournament in 2016.
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    He chose not to run for a board position in the 2016 elections, citing a lack of support.
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  • 2015
    Age 59
    On May 31, 2015, he marked his 60th birthday by performing the kanreki dohyō-iri at the Ryōgoku Kokugikan, becoming the tenth former yokozuna to do so.
    More Details Hide Details Two active yokozuna were his attendants, with Hakuhō the tachimochi and Harumafuji acting as tsuyuharai. Kokonoe underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer in July of 2015, and was noticeably weak when speaking to reporters at the Aki basho in September of that year.
  • 2012
    Age 56
    He returned in the January 2012 elections as the Operations director (the second most senior position in the Association's hierarchy), but was unseated two years later.
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  • 2008
    Age 52
    In February 2008, he joined the board of directors of the Japan Sumo Association, where he was responsible for organising the regional tours or jungyō, but he had to resign in April 2011 after his wrestler Chiyohakuhō admitted involvement in match-fixing and retired from sumo.
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  • 1991
    Age 35
    Following his retirement from the ring in May 1991, Chiyonofuji inherited the elder name of Jinmaku; then in 1992 he purchased the Kokonoe stable from Kitanofuji and the two exchanged their elder names (Jinmaku and Kokonoe).
    More Details Hide Details The purchase price of the stable was reported as being around 50 million yen, below the market rate for a stable. Under his leadership, the stable produced several top wrestlers including former ōzeki Chiyotaikai, former komusubi Chiyotenzan and former maegashira Chiyohakuhō. As of March 2016, Kokonoe stable is one of the most successful stables in sumo in terms of quantity of sekitori, with two men (Chiyotairyū and Chiyootori) in the top division and four (Chiyomaru, Chiyonokuni, Chiyoshoma and Chiyo-o) in jūryō. He also served for some years as a ringside judge (shinpan).
    In the opening tournament of 1991, Chiyonofuji surpassed Kitanoumi's record of 804 top division wins but injured himself on the second day and had to withdraw.
    More Details Hide Details He returned in May, but he lost on the opening day of the tournament to the 18-year-old rising star and future Yokozuna Takanohana Koji (then known as Takahanada). It was estimated that half of the Japanese population watched the match on TV. Coincidentally, Takahanada's father, Takanohana Kenshi, had retired in 1981 shortly after losing to Chiyonofuji. Chiyonofuji beat Itai on the next day, but this was to be his final win. After losing another match with Takatōriki on the third day, Chiyonofuji announced his own retirement, a few weeks short of his 36th birthday. In September 1989 while Chiyonofuji was still active, the Japan Sumo Association decided to proffer the special status of ichidai-toshiyori (one-generation sumo-elder using his ring name as his elder name) to him, but he declined it because he intended to inherit another elder name.
    He finally retired in May 1991, just short of his thirty-sixth birthday.
    More Details Hide Details This is in contrast to most recent yokozuna who have tended to retire around 30. During his 21-year professional career Chiyonofuji set records for most career victories (1045) and most wins in the top makuuchi division (807), earning an entry in the Guinness World Records. Both of these records were later broken by Kaiō Hiroyuki. He won the Kyushu tournament, one of the six annual honbasho, a record eight consecutive years from 1981 until 1988, and also set the record for the longest postwar run of consecutive wins (53 bouts in 1988). That record stood for 22 years until Hakuhō broke it with his 54th straight win in September 2010. In a sport where weight is often regarded as vital, Chiyonofuji was quite light at around. He relied on superior technique and muscle to defeat opponents. He was the lightest yokozuna since Tochinoumi in the 1960s. Upon his retirement he became an elder of the Japan Sumo Association and became the Kokonoe-oyakata the following year.
  • 1990
    Age 34
    In March 1990, he secured his 1000th win.
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  • 1989
    Age 33
    In September 1989 Chiyonofuji surpassed Ōshio's record of 964 career wins and became the first sumo wrestler to receive the People's Honour Award from the Japanese Prime Minister.
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    In July 1989 he took his 28th championship in a playoff from his stablemate Hokutoumi, marking the first time ever that two yokozuna from the same stable had met in competition.
    More Details Hide Details Shortly before the tournament began he had lost his youngest daughter Ai to sudden infant death syndrome.
  • 1988
    Age 32
    In 1988, he went on a winning streak of 53 bouts, the third longest in sumo history second to current yokozuna Hakuhō's 63, and Futabayama's all-time record of 69.
    More Details Hide Details The sequence began on the 7th day of the May 1988 tournament and continued through the July and September 1988 tournaments, ending only on the final day of the November 1988 tournament when he was defeated by Ōnokuni. Had he won that bout, he would have been the first wrestler ever to win three consecutive tournaments with 15-0 records. Nonetheless, his winning run was the best ever in the postwar period, surpassing the 45 bouts won by Taihō in 1968 and 1969.
  • 1986
    Age 30
    In 1986 he won five out of the six tournaments held, the first time this had been done since Kitanoumi in 1978.
    More Details Hide Details Despite being older and lighter than nearly all his opponents, he dominated the sport throughout the 1980s.
  • 1985
    Age 29
    But Kitanoumi retired in January 1985, with the aging Takanosato following a year later, and Chiyonofuji resumed his dominance.
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  • 1983
    Age 27
    He was restricted to just one championship in the nine tournaments held from May 1983 to September 1984.
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  • 1982
    Age 26
    As his rival Kitanoumi went into a long slump, Chiyonofuji dominated sumo in 1982, winning four of the six tournaments.
    More Details Hide Details However, over the next two years, another yokozuna Takanosato, emerged to challenge him, and he also suffered a number of injury problems.
  • 1981
    Age 25
    He was to win the Kyushu tournament eight consecutive years from 1981 to 1988, a record dominance of any of the six honbasho.
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    Also as an ōzeki he scored well in the following three tournaments to July 1981, where he again defeated Kitanoumi and won his second title.
    More Details Hide Details After this victory, he was promoted to yokozuna, the 58th in sumo history. Chiyonofuji had to pull out of his first tournament as a Yokozuna with an injury, but he returned to win the championship in November, defeating Asashio in a playoff. He later said that this victory was the foundation upon which he built his subsequent success as a yokozuna.
    As a sekiwake, he scored 11–4 in November, and in January 1981 he scored 14–1, losing only one regular match to dominating yokozuna Kitanoumi, and then defeated him in the subsequent playoff to win a top makuuchi division title for the first time.
    More Details Hide Details This earned him promotion to ōzeki, the second-highest rank. While making these speedy rises, he also got technique prizes in three consecutive tournaments to that in January, where he also received an outstanding performance prize (Shukun-shō).
  • 1980
    Age 24
    Showing much more consistency, he earned three kinboshi (i.e. defeated yokozuna in three regular matches) in total in March and July 1980 tournaments, where he also got technique prizes (Ginō-shō).
    More Details Hide Details He fought again as a komusubi in May and September tournaments, in the latter of which he won 10 matches in the top division for the first time. He reached sekiwake (the third-highest rank), and stayed at this rank for only two tournament.
  • 1979
    Age 23
    In 1979, due to his shoulder trouble, Chiyonofuji briefly fell to the second division, but he soon came back to the top division.
    More Details Hide Details Encouraged by his stablemaster, he began to rely not only on throwing techniques, which increased the risk of reinjuring his shoulders, but also on gaining ground quickly and forcing out his opponents.
  • 1978
    Age 22
    He finally won promotion back to the top division in January 1978.
    More Details Hide Details After he got a fighting spirit prize (Kantō-shō) in May, he reached komusubi (the fourth-highest rank) for the first time. During his early top division career he was often compared with another lightweight wrestler who was popular with sumo fans, Takanohana I. Takanohana had first come across Chiyonofuji whilst on a regional tour and encouraged him to give sumo a try. Later, he also advised Chiyonofuji to give up smoking, which helped him put on some extra weight.
  • 1974
    Age 18
    He reached the second highest jūryō division in November 1974, and was promoted to the top makuuchi division in September 1975.
    More Details Hide Details However, he lasted for only one tournament before being demoted again, and recurring shoulder dislocation injuries led to him falling back to the unsalaried ranks.
  • 1971
    Age 15
    A 32nd tournament title would have tied the record set by Taihō in 1971, but his 31st championship in November 1990 proved to be his last.
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  • 1970
    Age 14
    Chiyonofuji began his career in September 1970.
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  • 1955
    Born on June 1, 1955.
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