With a total of 13 tournaments in the Sanyaku ranks, 10 special prizes, 4 kinboshi, and top division runner-up 5 times, Toyonoshima of Tokitsukaze-beya has decided to retire from wrestling but will stay in sumo as a coach. He will take on the name Izutsu, formerly held by Yokozuna Kakuryu’s late stablemaster.
Kajiwara Daiki (his real name) entered professional sumo straight out of high school in January 2002. He reached the Juryo division by May 2004, and September of the same year was his top division debut. Using his favored double inside grip, he managed to climb the ranks further. 3 years later he got his first taste of Sanyaku status. Although he never won a top division championship, Toyonoshima was runner-up a total of 5 times in his career, including in November 2010, after losing in a title deciding match against Hakuho.
In 2016, Toyonoshima suffered an Achilles tendon tear which sidelined him and caused a rapid fall back to the Makushita division. Two years later though, he was back to salaried level, which he maintained for 8 more tournaments before posting 11 losses at Juryo 11 in January of this year. Failing to make it back to Juryo after another demotion to Makushita in March, he decided it was time to retire.
“I think he’s done well to persevere through injury,” Toyonoshima’s stablemaster Tokitsukaze told reporters, “Toyonoshima had been saying himself that he wanted to hold on until January. I feel at his age this is the limit.”
Toyonoshima’s final career record is 703 wins, 641 losses, and 68 absences.
To prevent the spread of coronavirus, there was no press conference for this occasion, but (now) Izutsu-oyakata responded to questions over the phone:
What are your thoughts looking back at an 18 year career?
Toyonoshima: It has been a long time, but now that I’m done it seems short, like, ‘it’s already over…’
What has been your favorite memory?
I’ve thought about that, but there are so many it’s hard to pick. Fighting Hakuho in a playoff (Kyushu 2010), fighting ‘Giku’ (At Hatsu 2016, Kotoshogiku’s first top division championship, Toyonoshima handed him his only loss of the basho on day 13.) There are other memories, but those two stand out in my mind.
What about the timing of your decision to retire?
Honestly, I had decided in advance that if I had a losing record at Osaka, whether it was held normally or without fans, I was going to retire. I had told myself the same thing for the January tournament, but I talked to my family at the time and they convinced me to fight on for just one more basho. So when I lost in Osaka I thought, I’m done.
You had several injuries like the Achilles tear…
I got really frustrated, and if it weren’t for my family, I would have quit before this. I really owe it to my family. I don’t think 14-1 (his score at Kyushu 2010) would have happened without them. They were a great support during the lonely times. By myself it would have been bad. It was a good thing for me to experience both ends of the spectrum though.
How did it feel returning to salaried level after your injury?
When I returned it was a little different from before. Honestly, I thought I might be able to do better this time, but it was not as easy as I thought. When I faced Chiyotairyu on the final day of Nagoya 2019, having 7 wins, I thought I could grind out that final win but… (He ended the tournament at 7-8).
I don’t really have any, but if there was one thing, I wanted to fight Giku (Kotoshogiku) one more time. I really wanted to fight him at Nagoya 2019, ’cause there wont be any more hard fought battles against him from now on.
What type of mentor do you want to become?
I’ve been watching the coaches and trying to figure out how best to pass down knowledge. I want to keep giving the young wrestlers guidance until they can do it themselves. I think it’s important to work along side them and not neglect them, to see just how far they can go. I’m not the type to use reckless training methods. I want to tell my students, “I will push you hard but don’t give up.”