Aminishiki Ryūji (born October 3, 1978 as Ryūji Suginomori) is a Japanese sumo wrestler. He made his professional debut in 1997 and reached the top makuuchi division in 2000. He has earned eleven special prizes and won eight kinboshi or gold stars for defeating yokozuna during his career, which is twice as many as any other active wrestler. He has twice been runner-up in a tournament. The highest rank he has reached is sekiwake. He is in the all-time top ten for a number of sumo records, including most top division wins, most top division appearances and most tournaments ranked in the top division. He wrestles for Isegahama stable.
Aminishiki was born in Fukaura, Nishitsugaru District, Aomori Prefecture. He had an extensive sumo pedigree and background. His grandfather was a wrestler for Dewanoumi stable in the past, and his older brother was Asōfuji who would proceed him joining Ajigawa stable (later renamed Isegahama). Both joined this stable because their father, an innkeeper and fisherman was the cousin of the stable's owner, the former Asahifuji. In his younger years, he was also inspired by the wrestler Kaihō who was five years his senior and went to the same primary, junior and senior high school as he did. He excelled at sumo in ability and determination from very early on, and by the time he joined his stable he was already known as a wrestler with possibly greater potential than his older brother.
He made his professional debut in January 1997. He reached the second highest jūryō division after three years in January 2000. He made the top makuuchi division just three tournaments later in July 2000. He won his first special prize in his debut top division tournament, for Fighting Spirit. In January 2003, he scored his first win over a yokozuna by defeating Takanohana, who announced his retirement the next day. He was a runner-up in the May 2003 tournament. In 2004, he briefly fell to jūryō after suffering an injury in the July tournament.
Aminishiki has won the prestigious ginō-shō or Technique Prize on six occasions, and has also earned eight kinboshi or gold stars for defeating yokozuna. Having come close on a number of occasions, Aminishiki finally made his san'yaku debut in November 2006, having chalked up an impressive 11-4 runner-up record at maegashira 3 rank the previous September. He fell short with 6 wins at komusubi, but remained in the upper maegashira ranks. In July 2007, he returned to komusubi and scored 8–7, winning his second successive shukun-shō, or Outstanding Performance Award. This earned him promotion to sekiwake for September 2007. It took him 43 top division tournaments to reach sumo's third highest rank, the fourth slowest rise ever.
He won his first eight bouts in his sekiwake debut, leading the race for the championship, although he faltered in the second week and finished with a 10–5 record. In the November 2007 tournament he won his last three bouts to preserve his sekiwake rank with an 8–7 score. In January 2008, however, he could win only five matches and fell back to the maegashira ranks. In March 2008 he defeated yokozuna Hakuhō having injured his right knee the day before the match in a loss to Asashōryū. In May 2008 he scored an impressive ten wins and was the only man to defeat Kotoōshū, the winner of the tournament, which secured him his third Outstanding Performance Prize.
Aminishiki returned to the sekiwake rank in January 2009 after winning his fourth Outstanding Performance Prize at komusubi in November 2008. However, he was still wearing a brace on his right knee when he faced yokozuna Asashōryū on Day Eight. Asashōryū shoved him out of the ring, at which point Aminishiki winced, collapsed and grasped his right knee. He forfeited the next day's bout against Kyokutenhō, and pulled out of the tournament altogether after doctors pronounced he would require at least two weeks to heal.
Falling back to the maegashira ranks for the March tournament, he produced a 9–6 score on his return. He earned his seventh kinboshi, and fourth from Asashōryū, during the May 2009 tournament. In July 2009 he scored eleven wins and won his fourth Technique Prize, guaranteeing him a return to san'yaku. In September he was ranked at komusubi but just failed to secure his kachi-koshi, falling to Kakuryū on the final day to finish 7-8. A strong performance in the January 2010 tournament saw him win eleven bouts and pick up his fifth Technique Prize. He returned to the komusubi ranking in March, and to sekiwake in May. Dropping to the maegashira ranks for July, he was forced to withdraw after injuring his right knee yet again in a win over Tochinoshin on Day 12. His withdrawal drew much attention in Japan because it meant on that day foreigners outnumbered native born Japanese in the top division for the first time ever (17 to 16). He remained an upper maegashira, and held on to the maegashira 3 rank in July 2011, despite only scoring 7-8 in the previous tournament, due to the larger number of forced retirements from the top two division in the wake of a match-fixing scandal – his brother amongst them.
In March 2012 he returned to the rank of sekiwake for the first time in ten tournaments, and although he fell just short of kachi-koshi with a 7–8 record, he remained in the san'yaku ranks at komusubi in May. On Day 1 he defeated Hakuhō for the fourth time, handing the yokozuna his first opening day defeat since November 2008 – and Aminishiki was the wrestler who beat him on that occasion as well. Aminishiki also beat ōzeki Baruto, Kotoōshū and Kakuryū in the opening five days, but was defeated on the final day to fall to a 7–8 record and missed out on his fifth Outstanding Performance Prize. He returned to komusubi in July 2014 and won his sixth Technique Prize in September, which was his eleventh special prize overall, and first since 2010. Following the retirement of Kyokutenhō in July 2015, Aminishiki has made more appearances in the top division than any other active wrestler, and is fifth on the all-time list.
He defeated yokozuna Kakuryū on the third day of the January 2016 tournament, his eighth kinboshi and first since 2009. At 37 years and 3 months he is the fifth oldest wrestler to earn a kinboshi. He has defeated every yokozuna he has faced at least once. In May 2016 he competed in his 93rd top division tournament, equal fourth on the all-time list, but he tore his left Achilles tendon on the second day and had to withdraw. He missed the Nagoya tournament in July, which meant he dropped to the jūryō division in September for the first time since 2004. He has continued to compete despite falling to jūryō, with 8–7 records in the September and November 2016 tournaments.
He is the owner of the Ajigawa toshiyori kabu or elder stock, indicating he intends to stay in sumo as a coach upon his retirement.
Aminishiki prefers to work on the mawashi rather than push his opponents, and specialises in throwing and tripping techniques. He is one of the few current wrestlers to employ soto-gake, or outer leg trip, and has won with it 18 times in his career. His most common throw, and third most used move overall, is uwate-nage, or outer arm throw. However, his two most common winning techniques are the straightforward yori-kiri or force out, and oshi-dashi, or push out. His favoured grip on the mawashi at the beginning of his career was the unusual mae-mawashi, a double-handed grip on the front of the mawashi at the opponent's stomach area. However, he has more recently favoured a migi-yotsu grip, with his left hand outside and right hand inside his opponent's arms.
Aminishiki is also known for employing henka, or sidestepping, to wrongfoot his opponents at the tachi-ai or initial charge. His victory over Hakuhō in March 2008 was achieved in this manner.
Aminishiki's older brother Asōfuji was also a sumo wrestler. He made his debut three years before Aminishiki in 1994 but he spent only two tournaments in the top division, retiring in 2011 after having been found guilty of match-fixing.
Their stablemaster, former yokozuna Asahifuji, comes from the same area of Japan and is a cousin of their father.