Takanohana The Beauty of Sumo
Text by Kateigaho Staff / Photography by Yoshihiro Tachiki
A Momentary Contest
Yes, sumo is a national sport of Japan, but that doesn't mean it is only for native Japanese. At present, sumo has two non-Japanese yokozuna (grand
champions, the strongest of sumo wrestlers). And among the promising makushita (second tier) wrestlers, non-Japanese nationals have shown overpowering
strength, capturing championships one after another. "I want to communicate the appeal of sumo to future generations of all races and nationalities," says
Takanohana. To him sumo's appeal is not merely competitionit is "traditional beauty."
Fifteen years after entering the sumo world at age 15, Takanohanawho set numerous records as one of the sport's youngest and strongest grand championsretired
from wrestling in 2003. He now pours his efforts into training young wrestlers.
"There is a concentrated beauty in those moments in the ring," he says. "The bout is an open match irrespective of weight. With every cell of the body
and mind primed, two bodies clash, and winner and loser are decidedsometimes in mere seconds. Sumo is unrivalled among sports for the brevity of its
matches. The Japanese find beauty not in the winning or losing itself; for them it is the embodiment of committing one's everything, body and soul, in that
moment. So it has been since the Edo Period. The wrestlers bow to their partners before and after each bout in a show of gratitude."
This beauty is fostered by each generation and conveyed to the next. Sumo as a living traditional sport continues to captivate spectators.
"Just once, watch sumo from a cultural perspective," Takanohana urges. "Focus not on the results of the matches, but rather on the hearts of the wrestlers as
they fight. You are bound to feel the irresistible attraction."
Takanohana is a sumo "elder" (a former wrestler in charge
of training a stable of wrestlers). He will be the next oyakata (stablemaster)
of the Futagoyama stable. The second son of the present Futogoyama oyakata,
he entered his father's stable in February, 1988, at the age of 15, together with
his elder brother, and debuted in the spring tournament of that year. He subsequently
set records as the youngest wrestler in history to achieve numerous feats: makushita
(second tier) championship, makuuchi (top division) debut, first kinboshi
(victory against a grand champion), and a championship won with a perfect record.
He assumed the name Takanohana in 1992 upon becoming sumo's 65th grand champion.
He reached 600 wins by the New Year's 2000 tournament, after which he was plagued
by repeated injuries and poor health. After winning two more championships, he
retired from wrestling having reached the limits of his physical strength. His
makuuchi division career record: 701 wins, 216 losses, 210 absences, 22