Sōkokurai Eikichi (born 9 January 1984 as Enhetubuxin) is a professional sumo wrestler from Inner Mongolia, China. He is the only Chinese national to reach the top makuuchi division. Sōkokurai is of Mongolian descent. He made his professional debut in 2003 and was promoted to the top division in September, 2010. In April 2011 he was ordered to retire by the Japan Sumo Association after being found guilty of involvement in match-fixing. Refusing to do so, he was dismissed. However, in March 2013 his dismissal was nullified by the Tokyo District Court and after the Sumo Association decided not to appeal the decision he reappeared on the banzuke in July 2013 at the Nagoya Basho, ranked as a maegashira #15, the rank he was at when he was expelled. His highest rank to date of maegashira 2 was achieved in March 2017. He has won one special prize for Technique and one gold star for beating a yokozuna.
He was born to a livestock farmer and as a child tended farm animals in a yurt. From the age of seven, he began participating in Mongolian wrestling, and at the age of 16 he won the national championship in this sport. He then joined a national wrestling school where at 84 kilograms he achieved 8th in the national junior rankings. He was scouted in April 2003 by the former Oyutaka, head of Arashio stable, who was visiting China in search of new recruits. He came to Japan as to join this stable in June of the same year, and made his debut in the September tournament.
In the very next tournament in November 2003, he won the jonokuchi championship. However he was forced to sit out the following January 2004 tournament due to a broken arm. He returned in the next tournament and achieved a perfect 7-0 record in the jonidan division, losing the division championship to lower ranked veteran Kenō. He reached the third highest makushita division in one year after his debut. He began to struggle however, and spent the next three moving up and down the ranks of the sandanme and makushita divisions. A relative lightweight, he was often forced out rather easily by his heavier opponents. He had trouble adjusting to Japanese life at first, especially the diet. He was known to put yogurt on his rice to make it more palatable. His fortunes began to take a turn starting in May 2007 where took the sandanme championship. After another year of mediocre performances, which were exacerbated by a duodenal ulcer, he managed a 6-1 record in the July 2008 tournament and vied for the makushita championship in which he was eliminated in a seven-man playoff.
Following a 2-5 record in the last tournament of 2008, he began an uninterrupted string of tournaments in which he achieved a majority of wins, and in November 2009 he was promoted to the second highest jūryō division. He was only the second wrestler registered as Chinese to be promoted to sekitori status, following the wrestler Kiyonohana 36 years earlier. However, Kiyonohana was actually born and raised in Ōsaka and only listed his birthplace as Fujian out of respect for his ancestry, which makes Sōkokurai the first true Chinese national to achieve a jūryō rank. After four tournaments in jūryō he made his debut in makuuchi in September 2010. Though his recent record had been worthy of promotion, his debut in makuuchi was somewhat earlier and at a higher rank than it normally would have been due to the recent demotions of several upper ranked wrestlers because of gambling allegations, so he had to prove he deserved his promotion. He took a strong step in this direction, by securing a majority of wins on the final day of the tournament, and gaining his eleventh consecutive kachi-koshi.
In April 2011 he was ordered to retire by the Japan Sumo Association after an investigation concluded he had been involved in fixing the result of matches. Sōkokurai and Mongolian rikishi Hoshikaze were not originally in the main group of 23 wrestlers who were found guilty, but subsequent investigations concluded that they had indeed been involved. Both wrestlers protested their innocence and refused to comply and hand in their retirement papers, and sources from Arashio stable made it clear Sōkokurai was prepared to go to court if he was thrown out of sumo. He was supported by his stablemaster, who said "I believe Sōkokurai and I have just got to let him do as he wants now." On April 14 both Sōkokurai and Hoshikaze were dismissed by the Sumo Association. Sōkokurai was still entitled to collect his retirement money, believed to have been around 5.3 million yen.
In June 2011 Sōkokurai and the Sumo Association reached a deal by which he would be paid the equivalent of a makuuchi wrestler's salary for the next year. However, he still filed a suit demanding his reinstatement to sumo, and continued to live and occasionally train at Arashio stable. In 2012, Sōkokurai was working as a chicken farmer in Fukuoka, but he returned to full training with the help of some former supporters.
In March 2013 he won his court case against the Sumo Association, after the Tokyo District Court ruled his dismissal was invalid because the testimony of ex-wrestler Kasuganishiki was questionable. Sōkokurai's lawyer urged the Sumo Association to reinstate him as quickly as possible, and following a meeting on April 3 with the Sumo Association's head Kitanoumi, it was announced that the Sumo Association would not appeal the ruling and that Sōkokurai would appear on the July banzuke at maegashira 15, giving him time to return to full fitness. Sokokurai told reporters ahead of the Nagoya tournament that he could not bear to watch sumo on TV during his absence and had had trouble sleeping at night, but he was now in good condition and would "go all out."
In his return tournament, he managed a 6-9 record but this was not enough for him to avoid relegation to the second division. After four tournaments in jūryō culminating in an 11-4 record at jūryō 9 in March 2014 he gained repromotion to the top division. He maintained his makuuchi status and in May 2015 a new high of maegashira 7 but after being forced to withdraw from the tournament through injury he dropped back to jūryō. A 9-6 record in July saw him return to makuuchi for the September tournament, and a run of three consecutive winning records in the top division for the first time saw him reach his highest rank to date of maegashira 4 in the March 2016 tournament. After four consecutive losing records saw him fall to maegashira 14, he responding by winning his first five matches in the November 2016 tournament, eventually finishing on 9-6. In January 2017, wrestling at maegashira 10 he produced a career-best performance: wins over Mitakeumi, Takayasu and Takanoiwa in the last three days saw him finish runner-up to Kisenosato with a 12-3 record. His performance saw him being awarded the special prize for Technique. At 33 he was one of the oldest first-time award winners.
Sōkokurai managed to increase his weight by about 40 kg (88 lb) since joining professional sumo and was around 130 kg (290 lb) as of 2010. He is primarily a yotsu sumo wrestler, preferring to fight at close quarters rather than push or thrust. He uses a migi-yotsu (right hand inside, left hand outside) grip on his opponent's mawashi. He is fond of throws, both overarm (uwatenage) and underarm (shitatenage). However, his most common winning kimarite is yori-kiri (force out).