One of the national sports of Japan, Sumo is known to most people as a Japanese wrestling. The sport has a history spanning (〜にわたって) many centuries. The origins of Sumo date back several centuries, when the sport was developed as a way of preserving (維持する) the ancient (古代の) traditions of Shinto (神道), a Japanese ethnic (民族の) religion.
Today, elements of the Shinto religion remain an integral (不可欠な) part of Sumo wrestling, while the sport’s greatest contenders (競技者) are elevated (昇進する、高める) to celebrity status. We take a look at the life and times of the biggest names in Sumo. Top-ranked sumo wrestlers earn huge amounts of money.
Contrary (〜に反して) to what you might think, top sumo wrestlers are considered very sexy by many women. And they often have beautiful wives or girlfriends. According to a rumor, attractive young women marry sumo wrestlers because they hope the wrestler’s obesity (肥満) will lead (つながる、導く) to an early death and the young women will inherit (相続する) their money. This rumor isn’t true though.
By the way, I believe that Sumo is the world’s fiercest (最も激しい) martial art. Who do you think is the most famous and popular and greatest sumo wrestler in its history?
Futabayama (1912 – 1968) was the 35th yokozuna (grand champion on sumo wrestler = Rikishi), from 1937 until 1945. He holds the all-time record for consecutive (連続的な) bouts (勝負) won, with a winning streak of 69 (69連勝で).
Many have called his record unbreakable and comparable with (〜と類似点がある、〜に匹敵する) Joe DiMaggio’s record 56-game hitting streak that still stands today in the Major Leagues (It’s a fact). Futabayama’s record was set (作られた) at a time when there were only two tournaments per year, as opposed to (〜と対照的に) six as is the case today.
🔴 Height : 180cm
🔵 Weight : 135kg
🔴 Yokozuna (横綱 : the 35th)
Born Kim Sin-Rak in South Korea, Rikidozan (1924 – 1963) moved to Japan to train to be a Sumo wrestler, making his debut in 1940. As a Korean wrestler in a traditionally Japanese sport, he faced a great deal of discrimination (多くの差別) throughout his career and would leave Sumo for professional wrestling (プロレス) in 1950.
He soon became Japan’s biggest wrestling star and is credit with (信用を得る) popularizing (大衆化すること) the sport of professional wrestling in Japan. He is known as ” the father of Puroresu ” (professional wrestling) in Japan. Tragically (悲劇的に), he was murdered (殺された) in a nightclub by a yakuza gangster in 1963.
🔴 Height : 176cm
🔵 Weight : 116kg
🔴 Sekiwake (関脇)
Taihō (1940 – 2013) is a legend in Japan. Considered by locals to be the greatest Sumo wrestler of all time, he achieved the rank of yokozuna (the highest in the sport) at the age of 21, the youngest ever at the time. He won six consecutive (連続) tournaments twice and had many exciting matches with his rival Kashiwado, another yokozuna.
Taihō and Futabayama share the record of eight perfect tournaments without a single loss. Taihō won 45 consecutive bouts in the autumn 1968 and spring 1969. He was a popular grand champion, especially amongst women and children. Hakuhō (the 69th yokozuna) regard Taihō as a mentor (師匠).
🔴 Height : 187cm
🔵 Weight : 153kg
🔴 Yokozuna (the 48th)
Weighing in at 120 kg (260 lb), Chiyonofuji (1955 – 2016) was considered light on his feet by Sumo standards. What he lacked in size, he made up for in (〜で補った) technique ; his dramatic throw moves and powerful left-hand grip – known to fans and commentators as his “death grip” – made him one of the most successful and entertaining wrestlers in the game.
After retiring, he went on to open his own Sumo stable (部屋), which he ran until his passing from pancreatic cancer (膵臓がん) in 2016. Chiyonofuji is one of best loved personalities in Japan and ranks with Taihō as one of the best sumo wrestlers ever. He is considered one of the greatest yokozuna of recent times. His nickname is “The Wolf” because of his muscles and toughness.
🔴 Height : 183cm
🔵 Weight : 126kg
🔴 Yokozuna (the 58th)
Born and raised in Hawaii, Konishiki (1963〜) ’s peak weight of 287 kg (633 lb) earned (もたらす) him the flattering (喜ばせる、お世辞の) nicknames “Meat Bomb” and “Dump Truck.” He is the all-time heaviest wrestler ever to have competed in Sumo. Though he never reached the rank of yokozuna, he went on to enjoy a successful career in entertainment and was featured in film, television, and radio.
He was the first non-Japanese-born wrestler to reach Ōzeki, the second-highest rank in the sport. During his career he won the top division championship on three occasions and came close to becoming the first foreign-born grand champion (yokozuna), prompting a debate as to whether a foreigner could have the necessary cultural understanding to be acceptable in sumo’s ultimate rank.
🔴 Height : 184cm
🔵 Weight : 287kg
🔴 Ōzeki (大関)
Mainoumi (1968〜), one of the smallest wrestlers to make the top ranks, once had a four-centimeter implant placed in his head so that he could meet the height requirement (条件) for wrestlers. Initially (最初は) rejected by the Sumo Association (協会) for failing to meet the height requirement, Mainoumi convinced (納得させた) a doctor to inject (注射する) silicone into his scalp (頭皮) in order to add a few extra centimeters. After the test, he had the implant removed.
The Sumo Association would go on to change the height restriction (規制) to prevent (防ぐ) other wrestlers from attempting to follow in his footsteps (彼の先例に習おうとするのを). Despite his relatively (相対的に、どちらかといえば) small stature (小柄), he became widely recognized for going up against contenders over twice his size. He weighed only 220 pounds and relied on (〜に頼る) speed. He once beat the yokozuna Akebono, who was about 2½ times Mainoumi’s size.
🔴 Height : 171cm
🔵 Weight : 96kg
🔴 Komusubi (小結)
Born and raised in Hawaii, Akebono (1969〜) had initially (最初は) planned on a career in hotel management until a family friend introduced him to a known and respected Sumo stable (部屋) owner. After joining the stable, Akebono quickly climbed the ranks to become the first non-Japanese-born wrestler to achieve the rank of yokozuna.
He was trained by pioneering Hawaiian sumo wrestler Takamiyama. One of the tallest and heaviest wrestlers ever, Akebono’s rivalry with the young Japanese hopefuls, Takanohana and Wakanohana, was a big factor in the increased popularity of sumo at tournament venues (会場、場所) and on TV in the early 1990s.
🔴 Height : 204cm
🔵 Weight : 233kg
🔴 Yokozuna (the 64th)
Takanohana (1972〜) comes from a line of Sumo wrestlers. Both his father and uncle were famous sumo champions (his father was an Ōzeki, his uncle was a yokozuna). His smaller but older brother by three years, Wakanohana, was also a yokozuna (the 66th). Takanohana’s father also fought under the name Takanohana. His uncle was named Wakanohana, the name taken by his brother. His mother was a beautiful actress.
Takanohana is regarded as one of the best sumo wrestlers of all time. He fought many memorable battles with Akebono and Musashimaru and another stars. Takanohona joined a stable run by his father and mother shortly after finishing junior high school (he never attended high school).
The media focused a great deal of attention on his battles and relationship with his brother. They were known as “Waka-Taka” and fought under their father in same stable. Fan enthusiasm (熱狂) and ticket sales were at their highest at the height of the Waka-Taka era.
Akebono says, “Takanohana gave sumo a new image. He propelled (推進させる) sumo into a new golden age. There will never be another wrestler like him. I was lucky to belong to the same generation.” I believe he was an outstanding (傑出した) yokozuna who deeply affected many people.
🔴 Height : 185cm
🔵 Weight : 161kg
🔴 Yokozuna (the 65th)
Takamisakari (1976〜) was one of the most popular wrestlers in the 2000s. Famous for his eccentric (常軌を逸した、風変わりな) personality and over-the-top (過度の) warm up routine, he has become something of a celebrity in the Sumo world. He carries the nickname “Robocop,” and his warm-ups more closely resemble (似ている) those of American professional wrestling than traditional Japanese Sumo.
He won fans with gritty (勇気のある) wrestling and his strange get-psyched (気合を入れる) routine which included self chest pounding, face slapping, stomping, muttering (呟く) incomprehensibly (理解できないほどに) and thrusting (力強く素早く押す) his fists (拳) downward (下に) while looking like a frog groping (手探りする) for air. He used to punch himself in the face.
🔴 Height : 188cm
🔵 Weight : 145kg
🔴 Komusubi (小結)
Asashōryū (1980〜) is a Mongolian former sumo wrestler. He became the first Mongolian to reach sumo’s highest rank (yokozuna) in 2003. In 2005, he became the first wrestler to win all six official tournaments in a single year. Over his entire career, he won 25 top division tournament championships, placing him fourth on the all-time list.
From 2004 until 2007, Asashōryū was sumo’s sole (たった一人の) yokozuna, and was criticized at times by the media and the Japan Sumo Association for not upholding (維持する) the standards of behaviour expected of a holder of such a prestigious (名声のある) rank.
He became the first yokozuna in history to be suspended (停職になった) from competition in August 2007 when he participated in a charity football match in his home country despite having withdrawn (取り消された) from a regional sumo tour claiming injury (怪我を主張して). After a career filled with a multitude (多数) of other controversies (論争), both on and off the dohyo (sumo wrestling ring), his career was cut short when he retired from sumo in 2010 after allegations (疑惑) that he assaulted (暴行する) a man outside a Tokyo nightclub.
🔴 Height : 184cm
🔵 Weight : 154kg
🔴 Yokozuna (the 68th)
Hakuhō (1985〜) is known for his strength in the ring and his ability to anticipate (予測する) his opponents’ moves. In 2007 at the age of 22 he became the second native of Mongolia, and the fourth non-Japanese overall (全体として), to be promoted to the highest rank in sumo, yokozuna. He broke the record for most wins in a calendar year, winning 86 out of 90 bouts in 2009 and repeated this feat with the same record again in 2010 when he established the second longest winning streak in sumo history.
He also holds the record for the most undefeated tournament championships at fifteen, which is seven more than any other sumo wrestler in history. He was the only active yokozuna from 2010, following the retirement of his rival and fellow Mongolian Asashōryū.In 2015, he broke Taihō‘s long-standing record by winning his 33rd top division championship, the most in the history of sumo.He holds the records for most wins in the top division, achieved in May 2016, and most career wins, achieved in 2017.
🔴 Height : 192cm
🔵 Weight : 158kg
🔴 Yokozuna (the 69th)
Japanese people are particularly fond of a couple of native-born former Yokozuna, or grand champion. In my opinion, the most famous one of all time is Chiyonofuji. He is a sentimental favorite of many people because of his smaller body habitus (体質) at about 6 feet tall and 280 pounds, but he was very quick and held the record for most tournament titles for many years. He has 31 championships.
Possibly another contender for the title of most famous sumo wrestler is Takanohana. He was extremely popular in his heyday (全盛), and I was fortunate (幸運) to catch their careers.
Konishiki is incredibly (非常に、信じられないほど) famous despite not reaching the highest rank and only winning three championships, mostly because at just over 6 feet tall he was a massive 633 pounds ! Born in American Samoa, Musashimaru was another huge guy at 6′3.5″ and 518 pounds, he was a load (重荷) in the ring. He has 12 championships.
Lastly (最後に), there are two very famous Mongolians, one who dominated (支配する) until his retirement and the other is the current most dominant (支配的な) wrestler.