To be honest, around the time I wrote my last essay about Atamifuji, he was slowing down his force of rising the tournament ranking list. He barely made it to Juryo, and although he did not continue to have great results, he was blessed with good luck and was able to pass Juryo in 4 tournaments and entered Makuuchi.
Although it was not unexpected, Atamifuji hit a big wall at his first tournament in Makunouchi, losing by a wide margin with 4 wins and 11 losses. Atamifuji did not appear to know on the ring what he was doing. Even though he fell to Juryo in the next tournament, he continued to suffer a loss and was forced to take a break for the second half of the tournament, perhaps due to his physical condition.
I watched him anxious to see how far he would fall, but in the next tournament he barely managed to stay with 8 wins. However, that was the bottom and from there, a rapid advance began. In the next tournament, Atamifuji racked up a number of wins, resulting in 13 wins and 2 losses. As it happened, two other promising young players who were in Juryo both good records of 14 wins and 1 loss and played in the championship match, Atamifuji missed out on the championship. However, the only loss of Gonoyama, the tournament champion, was against Atamifuji. In that tournament, Atamifuji left a strong impression on me that he had changed.
In the next tournament, he was promoted to the first rank in the West Juryo and was expected to win the Juryo championship and return to Makuuchi. Althogh he got mere eleven wins, he strongly won the match on the last day of the tournament and blew his opponent out of the ring in the championship match to win the Juryo championship. And that momentum continued even after he returned to Makuuchi.
In the autumn tournament, Atamifuji steadily racked up wins in the Makuuchi Division, and in the latter half of the tournament, he started competing against top wrestlers in the Makuuchi Division. Then, on the 11th day, in his first fight against San-yaku rank wrestlers, he threw away Komusubi Tobizaru with a powerful left-handed throw, surprising everyone who watched. With this first mighty victory, Atamifuji not only became a hero of the place, but also a popular figure throughout Japan.
After the win over Tobizaru, Atamifuji led the championship front with 10 wins and 1 loss and with a two-win difference. For the final four days, Atamifuji was assigned to fight against four ex-tournament champions, among them one Ozeki and one former Ozeki, and barely won one match but lost three others. Still, his performance was good enough to participate in the play off against Ozeki Takakeisho. The Ozeki seemed to be intimidated by the young powerful wrestler. He avoided the Atamifuji's powerful charge, shifted to the side and slapped the young wrestler to the ground. It was an unusual strategy for an Ozek fighting against a much lower rank wrestler.
Atamifuji thus lost the victory. However, there were many comments critical of Ozeki Takakeisho even from within the sumo world. One common comment was that Atamifuji had become stronger while he had fallen to Juryo, and that this had made Takakeisho flinch. Atamifuji belongs to the Isegahama stable, which is famous for its tough training and has former yokozuna Asahifuji as its master, and has many sekitori under current yokozuna Terunofuji. The consensus of sumo experts is that Atami Fuji, who trains there, is currently the most trained sumo wrestler.
Originally, many fans were attracted to the expressions that clearly showed the joy of winning, as well as the honest and cute facial expressions that changed from moment to moment. Adding strength to his friendly personality, Atamifuji's popularity has recently exploded. According to reports, Atamifuji entered the sumo world with a healthy determination to earn a decent income and help his mother and younger sister, as his mother made tremenous efforts to raise children in a single-parent household. This is a story that will tickle the tear ducts of people.
Atamifuji has rapidly moved up the steps of the sumo world hierarchy, and further success is expected. Even though he has remarkably become stronger, there are concerns as to whether he still has the strength to win at the top of the makuuchi ranks. When we look at Atamifuji's efforts since his Juryo days, we find some wrestlers that Atamifuji is not good at. Looking at the opponents Atamifuji has lost in a row, four in a row against Hiradoumi and three in a row against Shimazuumi, Kitanowaka and Tsurugisho. He also wrestled against Hokuseiho twice, losing both times. Let me look at his four losses in the fall tournament. In all cases, Atamifuji lost in the tachiai stomp and ended up breaking the dohyo.
Naturally, I'm sure he's conscious of this as he trains hard, so I'm rooting for him and hoping for good and even better results when he comes to the next tournament.