Minanogawa Tozo (1903-1971) - The 34th Yokozuna
by Joe Kuroda
|of his own Takasago-beya. However,
Akutsugawa’s plan was to be ill-fated: in 1923, the Tokyo area was hit
by a major earthquake and Fujigane’s building burned to the ground.
Akutsugawa was then forced to ask his own shisho to take Tomojiro in as
a new recruit, though the oyakata was miffed at having been spurned the
Tomojiro made his dohyo debut at the May 1924 basho. His shikona, Minanogawa （男女ノ川), came from a poem describing his home in Tsukuba. The Minano (男女) kanji characters represent Man and Woman.
Tomojiro finished his debut basho with 4 wins and 2 losses, and followed that up with two 5 -2 basho. Initially, his sumo style was simply to use his height to push his opponent out of the dohyo. At the January 1926 basho, he won all six of his bouts and took the sandanme yusho. He was 22, 188cm (6’2”), and weighed 130kg (287 lbs). Two basho later, he was promoted to juryo east 8, just six basho after his dohyo debut.
Even though Tomojiro had a 5-1 winning record in his juryo debut, his opponents soon started to outmaneuver him after closely studying his oshi-zumo
The 34th yokozuna Minanogawa Tozo was born Tomojiro (note: his name can be
read Kyojiro as well) Sakata in what is now known as Tsukuba City,
Ibaraki Prefecture on September 17, 1903. Today Tsukuba has
become a modern metropolis with an active cultural and academic life,
about an hour away from downtown Tokyo by train, but when Tomojiro was
born, the city was just a hinterland, sparsely populated by poor
farmers and merchants.
Isokichi, Tomojiro’s father was killed in the Russo-Japanese War when Tomojiro was only two. Tomojiro helped his mother, Shimo, by working as a roof installer with his grandfather and his older brother. This physically demanding labour may have helped him grow big and strong. By the age of 15, he was already 182cm (5”10”) tall, far larger than other boys his age, and he soon became well known in the region.
Around this time, Takasago-beya’s makuuchi rikishi Akutsugawa (Takaichiro) happened to visit a nearby hot
||spring, and upon hearing about this large boy,
decided to personally assess him. He was not disappointed: barely 170cm
(5’6”) in height, he found a youth to whom he needed to raise his head
in order to talk to him. Tomojiro was already active in local youth
sumo tournaments and was very eager to hear Ozumo stories from a real
makuuchi rikishi. But seeing Tomojiro’s excitement, Akutsugawa
realized that it was best not to encourage the boy needlessly, and told
him how difficult sumo life truly was - not something to be taken
On the contrary, Tomojiro was never discouraged by Akutsugawa’s horror stories and was firmly convinced that, because of his size, sumo would be much easier for him. After their fourth meeting, Akutsugawa finally relented and took Tomojiro in as his disciple. Since Akutsugawa was still an active rikishi and not a heya-owning oyakata, he decided to send Tomojiro to his friend, Fujigane oyakata (former komusubi Wakaminato) instead