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The Sumo scene/experience prepares a new ‘coach’ to guide young wrestlers on an arduous journey

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kotoeko, left, now known as sumo elder Oguruma, poses with stablemaster Sadogatake at a press conference to announce Kotoeko’s retirement on May 19.

Last month’s Summer Grand Sumo Tournament marked the end of the active career of 32-year-old Kotoeko, a wrestler who had spent some time in the top makuuchi division but ended up in the third makushita division.

Pursuing a second career after retirement, he adopted the name Oguruma as a sumo elder affiliated with the Sadogatake stable.

Such a link between a sumo elder and a stable is not rare. While the stable master serves as the ‘manager’ in overall charge of the stable, the affiliated sumo elder fulfills a role similar to that of a ‘coach’. He performs such important duties as directing training and acting as a bridge between young wrestlers and the stable master.

Accompanied by stablemaster Sadogatake (former sekiwake Kotonowaka), the soon-to-be Oguruma announced his retirement at a press conference during the summer tournament, where he expressed his desire to become a guide for the next generation.

“I want to pass on what I have learned to young wrestlers,” he said, “I have lived a life focused on sumo 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and I want to give advice.”

A stable master is incredibly busy, as he has to scout new wrestlers, manage the stable’s affairs, deal with fans and fulfill functions within the Japan Sumo Association. The role imposed on the affiliated sumo elder is surprisingly large.

Unlike a stable master, who lives under the same roof as the wrestlers, many sumo elders live elsewhere and commute to the stable for training.

Although they cannot see everything that happens, many stay after training to eat chankonabe stew with the wrestlers and become a sounding board for their problems, even in their private lives, when the stable master is not there. Most are still around the same age as the wrestlers, which makes the wrestlers feel safer opening up to them.

It took Kotoeko almost eight years after his debut to finally gain promotion to the second-tier, salaried jury division, so he is well acquainted with the rigors of life in the lower ranks.

“Every young wrestler in our stable loved Kotoeko,” said stablemaster Sadogatake. “I’m sure he will guide them well.”

And there is no doubt that he will be a good sumo elder who will be sympathetic to the pain of others.

— Kamimura is a sumo expert.

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