Japan's giant sumo wrestlers lack the mean streak needed to repel the flood of foreigners who have dominated the roly-poly sport in recent years, according to the country's first homegrown champion in a decade.
Kotoshogiku, who last month ended an excruciating wait for a Japanese-born winner, said Tuesday it was no accident that Mongolians had taken over Japan's ancient sport over the past decade and a half.
"All the Japanese wrestlers want to win championships," the 32-year-old told a news conference.
"We eat the same meat and vegetables as them," he added. "But sumo is about winning. Maybe we Japanese are too set in our ways, maybe we lack the greed to win at all costs."
The foreign invasion began in earnest with Hawaiian behemoth Konishiki, who was nicknamed the "Dump Truck" and tipped the scales at a whopping 285 kilograms, and other hulking Pacific islanders in the 1990s.
But the subsequent rise of the Mongolians, led by the brilliant but temperamental Asashoryu and latterly by Hakuho, who has racked up a record 35 Emperor's Cup victories since 2006, has tormented sumo traditionalists in the absence of a serious Japanese challenge.
Japan has been without a homegrown yokozuna, or grand champion, since Takanohana retired in 2003 while three Mongolians currently occupy sumo's elite rank, with Harumafuji having won seven titles and Kakuryu two.
But Kotoshogiku, who stands 1.80 meters and weighs a meaty 180 kilos, beat all three in January and believes his victory, though unexpected, was no flash in the pan.
Many inside the cloistered world of sumo, which historians agree dates back some 2,000 years, will hope Kotoshogiku's emergence ushers in a new era after years of damaging scandals, including allegations of gambling and drug abuse, bout-fixing and underworld links.
source by japantoday