Newly minted Emperor’s Cup winner Tochinoshin will return to the city where his career started when the burly Georgian and roughly 650 other wrestlers decamp to Osaka for the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament. Running from March 11th to 25th at Edion Arena in Namba, the event sees the first European champion mount the dohyo (ring) since Baruto in 2008.
16-year-old Levan Gorgadze, with almost zero sumo experience, won the bronze medal at the 2004 World Junior Sumo Championships in Sakai. That’s a feat that looks even more impressive in retrospect given the other three medalists that day were future ozeki Goeido, Makuuchi stalwart Kaisei, and Hungarian Mausutoo (highest rank makushita 16). A year later, Gorgadze did even better, taking silver in both the heavyweight and team competitions.
In October of that year, he was back in Osaka again, carrying the Georgian flag for the opening ceremony at the senior World Championships and looking for a chance to join a pro stable.
Nihon University Sumo Club agreed to let the future Tochinoshin lodge with them temporarily, and just before time ran out on his visa, Kasugano beya took him in on a trial basis. Right after starting training there, however, his grandmother was killed and his father seriously injured in an accident in Georgia. Rushing home Gorgadze wanted to give up his sumo ambitions but was persuaded by his father to return to Japan and follow his dreams. A tumultuous 12 years followed filled with highs and lows.
In 2009 in the wake of the Russo-Georgian War, Gorgadze had to return for military duty in his homeland. The normal year and a half requirement though was shortened to a month, and he was back in time for the next tournament.
Twice Tochinoshin almost quit the sport. The first time was when his stablemaster beat him with a golf club after he broke curfew and went out in street clothes. The second was after a serious knee injury forced him out for eight months and dropped him far down the rankings.
The Georgian though is famous for his perseverance and diligence, and he stuck with sumo through all the trials and tribulations. Even after finally getting his reward though he isn’t taking time off from his duties and obligations to go home and see a three-month-old daughter he has yet to meet.
Tochinoshin, however, is on every channel and front page in his home country and the Georgian President, Prime Minister, and Ambassador to Japan have all posted numerous messages of congratulations on social media.
Tochinoshin is one of sumo’s good guys and is sure to get a rousing reception from Kansai fans in March as they welcome him back to his sumo ‘home.’
Tickets can be bought online at
Chair seats range in price from ¥2,100 to ¥9,800
Box seats range in price from ¥9,500 to ¥11,700
A limited number of unreserved seats are available each morning at the gate. They usually go on sale at 8am and are gone in 20 minutes.