Or: How a little contest can become a very important fixture in your Sumo life.

But let's start from the beginning: At the end of 2000 the internet contained only few information about Sumo, even if you knew Japanese. The average Western fan did know that there are more divisions that Makuuchi and Juryo, but had no idea how to get just the results of them, let alone more background data. So one brave man wrote a little script that could translate the Kana on the Japanese pages into Roman letters.

Now everyone could follow the success of rikishi in Makushita, Sandanme, Jonidan and Jonokuchi. Soon there was created the Adopt-a-Jonidan-Rikishi Contest. Who would pick the fastest riser to the Makuuchi division? We took the fifth division, as Jonokuchi rikishi are too prone to retire. The "official" game part ended with the announcement of the Aki Basho 2006 banzuke; Hochiyama was promoted to M14w.

Virtually no one knew anything about the youngsters, and I must admit: Me, too. At that point I didn't know what great guys he is, but adopted him because he was in my favourite Futagoyama-beya (now Takanohana-beya) and had a really smooth shikona: It roughly translates to "bellflower". He has it since his first step onto the dohyo in 1992, and hopefully he won't change it! I hereby proudly present:

     Suzunohana Kazunori
Real Name: Suzuki Kazunori
Birthdate: 1976 October 22
Birthplace: Kanagawa-ken
Hgt./Wgt.: 187cm / 122.5kg
Heya: Fujishima > Futagoyama > Takanohana
Career Record: 319-354-20
(final record)
Highest Rank: Sandanme 93 East
First Basho: Haru Basho 1992
Last Basho: Aki Basho 2008

Soon after we had picked a rikishi, the question came up whether the rikishi would read the encouraging letters and whether they would like to be adopted by us at all. Katrina Watts wrote the following to the Sumo Mailing List:

Don't be disappointed. Most of the sumo guys, including the makuuchi rikishi,
don't answer their mail -- even in Japanese. That's not to say they don't
appreciate getting it.

When I was at the jungyo earlier this month I was talking to Suzunohana
(Futagoyamabeya), who is someone's adopted rikishi. I asked him if he'd received
any unexplained letters from "adoptive parents" and he said not. When I explained
to him about the ML and the adopt a rikishi system he was very interested and
beaming with pride at being among the chosen. He said he'd have to work harder so
as not to disappoint his adoptive parents. His friend, Wakakinryu (Oshiogawabeya),
was quite envious and very disappointed to get a negative answer to his question,
"Is there an adopt a makushita rikishi scheme too?"

What a great start for my parentage! My first letter to him seemingly hadn't arrived. But the following ones would! He sometimes even answers with a little present like a banzuke or the Takanohana-beya Inauguration Booklet.

The story ended on 2008 Aug 17, when he finally retired after doing Sumo for 16 years. Good luck for your future, Suzunohana-san!