Sumo: Mitakeumi wins January 2022 basho, kicks off chaotic post-Hakuho era

Mitakeumi (right) during his bout against Daieisho on Jan. 16, 2022.
Mitakeumi (right) during his bout against Daieisho on Jan. 16, 2022. (photo by Yuan-Kwan Chan / Meniscus Magazine)

What does a post-Hakuho world look like?  In a word: chaos.

Ever since the greatest sumo wrestler of all time exited the dohyo for good following his resounding victory at the July 2021 basho in Nagoya, the question was who would become the heir apparent to the Mongolian Yokozuna, who won more Makuuchi (top division) championships than any other wrestler in history.  (For the record: 45 titles.)  Terunofuji, Hakuho’s countryman and currently the lone Yokozuna, has been battling knee trouble and the aftermath of related surgery on both legs.  But what the year 2022 going into this season has proven, there really is no heir apparent with every basho up for grabs.

Mitakeumi was one wrestler who had already tasted success going into the Tokyo January 2022 tournament at Ryogoku Kokugikan, with two previous championships in the Makuuchi division in Nagoya (2018) and Tokyo (September 2019).  He has a great story: after reaching the Yokozuna ranks at the collegiate/university level and graduating with a bachelor’s degree in law from Toyo University, he was all set to quit wrestling and accept a government job in the Wakayama prefecture.

Oginohana, 11th generation stable master at Dewanoumi stable, had other ideas.  His stable was in trouble due to a lack of high-ranking wrestlers and, noting Mitakeumi’s talent, begged the young wrestler not to join the government ranks and instead turn professional.  The rest was history, and with his third Makuuchi title, Mitakeumi notched a 13-2 bout record and reached his highest-ever rank of Ozeki, just one step away from Yokozuna honors.

Unfortunately, Mitakeumi’s reign as an Ozeki didn’t last long, with patchy results for the rest of the year and into a 2023, prompting a swift demotion to Maegashira #3 as of the most recent basho in March.  But the half-Filipino, half-Japanese wrestler remains a fan favorite at basho across Japan, and time will tell if the 30-year-old will rise again.

Photos: Makuuchi division wrestler introductions
all photos by Yuan-Kwan Chan / Meniscus Magazine

Videos: 2022 January Grand Sumo Tournament, Ryogoku Kokugikan, Tokyo