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Onokuni Yasushi - 大乃国 康 (born October 9, 1962) is a former Japanese professional sumo wrestler from Memuro, Hokkaido. He made his debut in March 1978 and last wrestled for Hanaregoma stable. He reached the makuuchi division in March 1983 and has 7 special prizes, 4 kinboshi and 2 top division championships. He was the 62nd yokozuna and he retired in July 1991.

Early Life[]

Aoki was born in Memuro, Hokkaido, to a livestock farmer. He helped out with his parent's farm from an early age and because of this, he was naturally strong. He practiced judo in junior high school and achieved success at regional tournaments. After a sumo tournament in the area, he was recruited to Hanakago stable by Kaiketsu Masateru and fought his first bout in March 1978, aged 15.

Career[]

Early Career[]

He took on the shikona, or ring name, of Onokuni (大ノ国) in the July 1978 tournament. When Kaiketsu set up his Hanaregoma stable in 1981, he took Onokuni with him. Onokuni only weighed 83 kg (183 Ib) at the time of his professional debut and was considered undersized. As he rose up the rankings, his weight steadily increased. He was promoted to sandanme in July 1979 and makushita in January 1981. In January 1982, he posted a 4-3 record at the top of makushita and was promoted to juryo in the following March 1982 tournament.

Juryo Career[]

At the time of his juryo debut, Onokuni was only 19 and he was the youngest sekitori. He only managed five wins in his juryo debut and was demoted back down to makushita. He returned to juryo in November 1982 and posted a strong 10-5 record. In the following January 1983 tournament, he won the yusho with an 11-4 record and was promoted to makuuchi.

Makuuchi Career[]

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Onokuni celebrates his zensho-yusho (c. 1987)

Onokuni made his makuuchi debut in March 1983. He made his san'yaku debut at komusubi just three tournaments later. In November 1983, ranked as maegashira 3, he won his first special prize and three gold stars by defeating all three yokozuna (Kitanoumi, Chiyonofuji and Takanosato). This earned him promotion to sekiwake. In March 1984, he changed the spelling of his ring name to 大乃国. In the tournament that month, he defeated three yokozuna and three ozeki and won special prizes for Fighting Spirit and Outstanding Performance. Onokuni was runner-up in the July 1985 tournament, recording 12 wins against 3 losses, enough to secure promotion to ozeki.

Ozeki Career[]

He was runner-up again in his ozeki debut, scoring 12–3 once more. His performance over the next few tournaments was good but not spectacular, until he won his first tournament in May 1987 with a perfect record of 15 wins and no losses, becoming the first man other than Chiyonofuji to win a top division yusho in the new Ryogoku Kokugikan. After two runner-up performances in the next two tournaments, in September of that year he was promoted to yokozuna, sumo's highest rank. His three tournament record of 40 wins and just five losses tied with Wakanohana II as the best produced by a candidate for yokozuna promotion in the six tournaments per year era (post 1958).

Yokozuna Career[]

Onokuni's first tournament as yokozuna finished with a disappointing 8–7 score, but in March 1988 he beat yokozuna Hokutoumi in a play-off to achieve his second tournament championship. However, the Kokonoe stable yokozuna Chiyonofuji and Hokutoumi were to prove dominant over the next few tournaments and he never won another tournament. He scored a famous victory over Chiyonofuji on the last day of the November 1988 tournament, however, ending Chiyonofuji's 53-bout winning streak in what turned out to be the last sumo match of the Showa period.

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Onokuni performs the yokozuna dohyo-iri (c. 1989)

From 1989 he began to suffer from sleep apnea. He gained weight, peaking at 210 kg (463 lbs) in May 1989, and began to suffer leg problems. He lost some weight through a combination of training and diet, but this weakened him and he never fully recovered. He missed most of the July tournament due to a knee injury, then in September he became the first yokozuna ever to have make-koshi, or turn in a losing score of just 7 wins out of 15 bouts. He did the only thing expected of him – he offered to resign – but was told by the Japan Sumo Association to soldier on. In his comeback tournament in January 1990, Onokuni scraped by with 8 wins but suffered a serious ankle injury and missed the next four tournaments, an unprecedented absence for a yokozuna.

He finally returned to the ring in November 1990, and scored ten wins, defeating Chiyonofuji on the final day. In March 1991 he was runner-up for the seventh and final time in his career, finishing one win behind Hokutoumi on 12–3. His final day defeat to Kirishima handed the yusho to Hokutoumi and robbed him of the chance of a play-off (which Hokutoumi admitted he would almost certainly have lost as he was injured in his bout the previous day). Onokuni missed the following tournament in May due to a fever resulting from a skin infection, and upon his return in July he was defeated four times in the first eight days. He announced his retirement from sumo at the age of just 28 after being beaten by Akinoshima on day 8, leaving a disappointing record of just one yusho and two runner-up performances in his 23 tournaments at yokozuna rank. He never managed to obtain the highest rank on the banzuke of east yokozuna in any of those tournaments. Discounting the special circumstances of Futahaguro's departure from sumo he was the second youngest yokozuna to retire, after Tochinoumi.

Retirement from Sumo[]

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Shibatayama Oyakata (c. 2018)

Onokuni has remained in the sumo world as an oyakata, or elder, and opened his own training stable, Shibatayama-beya in 1999. In March 2008 the stable produced its first sekitori, Daiyubu, but he spent only one tournament in juryo and retired suddenly in June 2010 after falling out with his stablemaster. Daiyubu filed a lawsuit in September claiming that he was slapped and punched, and his topknot was cut off against his will. Shibatayama was questioned by police over the alleged incidents. The case was eventually settled out of court. In March 2016 Shibatayama and one of his wrestlers, Komanokuni, were ordered by the Tokyo District Court to pay 32.4 million yen (287,500 USD) in compensation to another former wrestler who the court ruled had faced "daily abuse" since joining in 2008 and had to undergo four surgeries for a detached retina, eventually losing sight in the eye in 2013. Shibatayama appealed the ruling, and in November 2016 a court-mediated confidential settlement was reached.

In 2013 his old stable closed when Hanaregoma-oyakata reached the mandatory retirement age, and their wrestlers transferred to Shibatayama stable. As of January 2020 the stable has one sekitori, Sakigake. He was elected to the board of directors of the Sumo Association in 2018 and has the role of head of the public relations department.

In 2022, Shibatayama-oyakata reached 60 years of age, and was elegible to perform a kanreki dokyo-iri. However, due to having movement problems, as he seens constantly walking with a stick, it is unlikely he will be able to perform the ceremony.

Personal Life[]

He has been married since 1989.

He has a reputation as a baker of cakes, and often appears on baking shows on television. He published a book 62nd Yokozuna Onokuni's National Sweets Tour (第62代横綱大乃国の全国スイーツ巡業). He baked a cake to celebrate Daiyubu's promotion to juryo.

His autobiography, titled Winning Even When You Lose, was published in 2008.

Fighting Style[]

Onokuni's Fighting Style

Onokuni defeats Hokutoumi by yoritaoshi (frontal crush down)

Onokuni's favored grip on his opponent's mawashi was migi-yotsu, a left hand outside and right hand inside position. His most common winning kimarite was yorikiri, which accounted for nearly half his victories at sekitori level. He was also fond of uwatenage, or overarm throw. He had a somewhat defensive style, preferring to wait for his opportunity rather than take the initiative right from the beginning of a bout.

Record[]

Division Results[]

  • Total: 560-319-113/876 (81 basho)
  • Makuuchi: 426-228-111/651 (51 basho)
  • Juryo: 26-19/45 (3 basho)
  • Makushita: 39-24/63 (9 basho)
  • Sandanme: 38-32/70 (10 basho)
  • Jonidan: 27-13-2/40 (6 basho)
  • Jonokuchi: 4-3/7 (1 basho)

Championships[]

  • 2 Makuuchi Championships
    • 1st (May 1987)
    • 2nd (March 1988)
  • 1 Juryo Championship (January 1983)

Achievements[]

  • Special Prizes: Outstanding Performance Prize (5), Fighting Spirit Prize (2)
  • Kinboshi: 4: (2) Takanosato, (1) Chiyonofuji, (1) Kitanoumi

Shikona History[]

  • Aoki Yasushi (1978.03 - 1978.05)
  • Onokuni Yasushi (1978.07 - 1991.07)

Gallery[]

See Also[]

Sources[]

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