THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
June 1, 2023 at 15:38 JST
New ozeki Kirishima, left, and his stablemaster, Michinoku, attend a news conference in Tokyo on May 31. (Pool)
Along with a promotion to ozeki, the second-highest rank in sumo, Kiribayama on May 31 also received a new ring name that his stablemaster wrestled under: "Kirishima."
The board of directors of the Japan Sumo Association (JSA) unanimously voted to recommend Kiribayama's promotion at an extraordinary meeting on May 31.
Later that day, a ceremony to inform the new Kirishima of his promotion was held at the Michinoku stable in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward.
When a messenger from the association told him of the JSA's recommendation, he expressed his resolve to work harder, saying, “To not disgrace the title of ozeki, I will train more than I have done in the past and will do my best.”
At a news conference after the ceremony, Kirishima also expressed the desire to become a yokozuna, the sport's highest rank.
He said, “I have come this far thanks to my training. To rise to a little higher stage, I just have to train more.”
Stablemaster Michinoku looked jubilant at the news conference.
“I’m happier than I was (when I was promoted to ozeki),” he said.
The stablemaster’s “gift” to Kirishima is his former ring name.
He suggested to Kiribayama that he use the name on the 14th day of the summer tournament, which was held in May, when his promotion to ozeki was becoming a strong possibility.
The stablemaster said that he was nervous when making the suggestion, thinking, “What if he turns it down?”
But Kiribayama gladly accepted it, looking grateful and humbled at the same time.
The stablemaster expressed his hopes for his new ozeki saying, “I hope he will rise further by taking over this name. I want him to exceed me soon.”
The 27-year-old will be the first new ozeki since Mitakeumi, who reached the rank after the New Year's tournament in 2022.
He will be the 12th ozeki from a foreign country and the sixth Mongolian to gain the position.
The last Mongolian who was promoted to ozeki was Terunofuji, who rose to the rank in 2015 and is now yokozuna. The other four Mongolians who became ozeki, Asashoryu, Hakuho, Harumafuji and Kakuryu, also all eventually won promotion to yokozuna.
Kirishima's promotion also breaks a rarity in that only one yokozuna and ozeki each competed in the New Year’s tournament earlier this year for the first time in 125 years.
This “one yokozuna, one ozeki” state has continued for three consecutive tournaments since but will not be the case anymore. Kirishima will join the formerly lone ozeki Takakeisho at the rank in the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament from July 9 to 23.
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