Championships 24 (Makuuchi)
Height 1.79 m
Retired January 1985
Makuuchi rank Yokozuna
|Role Sumo Wrestler|
Debut January 1967
Name Kitanoumi Toshimitsu
Children Jun Hokuto
|Born Toshimitsu Obata
May 16, 1953
Hokkaido, Japan (1953-05-16) |
Weight 169 kg (373 lb; 26.6 st)
Died November 20, 2015, Fukuoka, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan
Stable Mihogaseki stable (1967–1985)
Similar People Chiyonofuji Mitsugu, Wajima Hiroshi, Kitanofuji Katsuaki, Takanohana Koji, Taiho Koki
Highest rank Yokozuna (July 1974)
sumo grand champion kitanoumi toshimitsu
Toshimitsu Obata (小畑 敏満, Obata Toshimitsu, May 16, 1953 – November 20, 2015) known as Kitanoumi Toshimitsu (北の湖敏満), was a sumo wrestler. He was the dominant yokozuna in sumo during the 1970s. Kitanoumi was promoted to yokozuna at the age 21, becoming the youngest ever to achieve sumo's top rank, and he remained a yokozuna for a record 63 tournaments. He won 24 tournament championships during his career and was one of a series of truly great yokozuna who came from Hokkaidō, the northernmost main island of Japan. At the time of his death he still held the record for most bouts won as a yokozuna (670). Following his retirement in 1985 he established the Kitanoumi stable. He was chairman of the Japan Sumo Association from 2002 until 2008, and from 2012 until his death.
Born in Sōbetsu, Usu District, Kitanoumi began his professional career in January 1967 at 13, whilst still in middle school. He joined Mihogaseki stable, and was promoted to sumo's second highest jūryō division in May 1971 and the top makuuchi division a year later. He won his first top division yūshō or tournament championship in January 1974 and was promoted to ōzeki immediately afterwards. He secured promotion to yokozuna just three tournaments after that. At 21 years 2 months, he was the youngest ever yokozuna, beating the previous record held by Taihō by one month.
Kitanoumi was the most successful wrestler in sumo for the rest of the 1970s. His dominance meant that he was not that popular with the general public. When he was defeated by underdog Takanohana in a playoff for the championship in September 1975, the audience threw so many zabuton—or cushions—into the ring in delight, that Kitanoumi said he could "hardly see the ceiling". He was also notoriously monosyllabic when being interviewed by reporters. His best year was 1978, when he won 5 of the 6 tournaments and won 82 out of a possible 90 bouts, a record that stood until 2005. His chief rival during these years was Wajima, but Kitanoumi was much more consistent. He was heavy at 169 kg, was extremely strong and had excellent balance. He was also remarkably injury free and rarely missed a tournament. From July 1973 until September 1981 he chalked up fifty consecutive kachi-koshi, or tournament records of at least 8 wins out of 15, which is a record for the top division.
By the beginning of the 1980s he had a new rival, Chiyonofuji, who earned promotion to ōzeki and then yokozuna by defeating him in decisive matches in January and July 1981. In November 1981 Kitanoumi withdrew from a tournament for the first time. After that his record was patchy, with many absences. His 24th and final title came in May 1984, with a perfect 15–0 record. This was seen by many as a fitting end to a great career and he wanted to retire after that tournament, but was persuaded by the Sumo Association to carry on until the opening of the new Ryōgoku Kokugikan stadium in January 1985. Three days into the tournament, without winning a match, he announced his retirement. He had been ranked as a yokozuna on the banzuke in 63 tournaments, which remains the most in history. During his career he had won 951 matches, the most in history at the time (he was overtaken by Ōshio in 1987). Of those victories, 804 came in the top division (a record broken by Chiyonofuji in 1991), and 670 of those came at the yokozuna rank.
Kitanoumi was honoured for his great achievements by being offered membership of the Japan Sumo Association without having to purchase a share (ichidai toshiyori). He was the second rikishi after Taihō to be given this honour. As a result, he was able to keep his sumo name after retirement. He opened up his own training stable, Kitanoumi-beya, taking several wrestlers from Mihogaseki stable who had already been under his wing. Kitanoumi stable is one of the largest in sumo, and has produced a handful of top division wrestlers over the years, such as maegashira Ganyū, Kitazakura and Kitataiki. He also inherited Russian wrestler Hakurozan, who joined the stable in 2006.
In 2002 Kitanoumi became head of the Sumo Association. He was the first chairman under the age of 50 in half a century, and his appointment was widely welcomed; however, he came under pressure after a series of scandals hit sumo. These included the behaviour of yokozuna Asashōryū, who was suspended for two tournaments in 2007 but then allowed to return to Mongolia, the death of junior wrestler Tokitaizan at Tokitsukaze stable, and the dismissal of several top wrestlers for using cannabis. When it became clear in September 2008 that one of them was his own wrestler Hakurozan, whom he had previously backed, Kitanoumi resigned his post, apologizing for "the trouble I have caused to the Sumo Association and to fans". He remained on the board of directors, in charge of running the Osaka tournament, but had to resign from that position in April 2011 after another of his wrestlers, Kiyoseumi, was found guilty of match-fixing and forced to retire from sumo. After Hanaregoma stepped down in February 2012, Kitanoumi returned to the role of chairman, the first person to head the association twice.
Kitanoumi died of colorectal cancer and multiple organ failure on the evening of November 20, 2015. He was in Fukuoka for the Kyushu tournament and was taken to hospital for anemia in the morning, after which his condition deteriorated. A memorial service was held on December 22 at the Ryōgoku Kokugikan.
Kitanoumi's favourite kimarite or techniques were hidari-yotsu (a right hand outside, left hand inside grip on the opponent's mawashi), yorikiri (force out) and uwatenage (overarm throw).