Asashoryu and the New Year’s Basho

Meijijingu, January 2003: Asashoryu becomes the 68th yokozuna

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Now that Asashoryu has retired, there’s a lot that could be said, but video would say it better — particularly regarding his great rivalry with Hakuho.  I will try to find some.  For now this will have to suffice.  In the end, memories are all we carry with us.  These are the only goods that we truly own in life.  Here are a handful of mine.

The Answer is Yes

  • I always liked the Mongolians —  their variety of technique and their intensity.  Asa was still a teenager when he faced Musashimaru, reigning 520-pound yokozuna.  At the start of the match Asa missed everything and fell forward.  He ended up with his head stuck under Musashimaru’s shoulder.  Musashimaru grabbed Asa’s belt and began driving Asa back toward the edge.  Suddenly, Asa planted his left foot, slipped his head out and twisted.  Musashimaru was clearly on his way out, but Asa added an extra push to speed the exit.  He turned and stuck out his chest.  You could see at that moment he had answered a question all young athletes ask themselves:  Can I really be as good as I dream? The answer clearly was Yes.

The Importance of the Senshuraku

  • My wife and I hadn’t married yet when we went to the senshuraku of the 2003 Hatsu-basho (the last day of the New Year’s tournament).  Sumo wasn’t popular then, so it was easy for us to buy front row seats in the best section of the upper deck a few days before.  Asa won that day and the tournament, his second consecutive, earning him promotion to yokozuna.  We waited outside the Kokugikan and cheered as his champion motorcade drove away.  A few days later, almost exactly seven years before the day he retired, I was there at Meijijingu when he performed the dohyo-iri ceremony to become yokozuna.  It was a bright morning, the sun reflecting off the white paving stones of the shrine.  Takamisakari and Toki were his attendants.  I was on the right side, standing directly behind his father.  Nearby by were Takasago, Kitanoumi, and Chiyonofuji.  I suppose that emotionally tied me to Asa and the New Year’s basho. Every year after that, my wife and I have purchased masuseki, box seats, for the senshuraku of the New Year’s tournament.  Every year, that is, except 2005 when our son arrived on that senshuraku.  After that, we would have a little birthday party with friends  at the tournament and then afterward go to Kirishima’s chanko nabe place.  Great times.  These seats will be available next year.  I really wish Hakuho and Harumafuji well, but I won’t be there to cheer them on.  I’m finished with sumo.

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