by Joe Kuroda
|Hitachiyama Taniemon) was so passionate about Bunjiro joining his heya that Bunjiro finally relented and quit the school.
Unlike many other boys who joined a sumo beya, Bunjiro had never really performed heavy physical labor so he was not as strong as the other recruits. Initially Bunjiro crumbled easily at the tachiai after getting hit by new recruits much smaller than himself but soon he learned to use his large frame to his advantage. He used to wrap his long arms around their body and squeeze them before throwing them out by kote-nage. He also learned to use saba-ori, by putting his upper body weight on top of them until his opponent’s knees gave up. The move was extremely dangerous, as smaller opponents could have easily broken their back. In no time he became one of the most feared opponents to be matched against during a basho or in training sessions.
At the 1925 January basho he was finally promoted to makuuchi. It took him eight long years to make the highest division since starting out as Dewagatake at the 1917 May basho but once in makuuchi he quickly climbed up the banzuke. Within three basho he was promoted to sekiwake at the 1926 January basho.
The following 1926 May basho, he defeated ozeki Tachihikari by abisetaoshi at the dohyo edge on Day 4. Tachihikari was pressed down by Dewagatake’s full upper body weight with so much force
the courtyard of Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine in Tokyo’s Koto-ward stands the
well-known Yokozuna Memorial monument erected by the 12th yokozuna
Jinmaku Kyugoro (1829-1903). Jinmaku etched all known yokozuna
names from Akashi Shiganosuke to his time and currently it has the
names up to the 45th yokozuna Wakanohana Kanji (there is also a new
stone starting with the 46th yokozuna the third Asashio Taro).
There are other monuments surrounding the yokozuna stone – an Ozeki monument, a Tegata monument and then there is a Giant Rikishi monument. On the monument, legendary tall rikishi names are etched. One is Shakadake Kumouemon (1749-1775) who stood 226 cm tall. Another was Ikezuki Geitazaemon (1828-1850), who was reputed to be 230 cm tall (give or take several centimeters).
Among a group of giant rikishi over 200 cm tall, there is the name of one Showa Era (1926-1989) rikishi commemorated. His name is Dewagatake Bunjiro; a man who stood 206 cm tall and weighed 200 kg at one time. In Japan at the time there was no one as tall and as heavy as Dewagatake and his size eventually determined his fate. Fortunately for Ozumo
came along just at the time when the popularity of Ozumo was at an all
time low. He became its savior as this gentle giant caught the
imagination of the public throughout Japan. But unfortunately for
Dewagatake, he had no choice but to follow a path laid out for him by
others. He was a giant but too gentle to be truly successful in
combative sports such as sumo.
Bunjiro Sato was born in what is now Kaminoyama City, Yamagata Prefecture on December 20, 1902 (some attribute his birth year to be 1901). As a child he was sent as an apprentice to various places but he was always sent back home as he was considered to be too tall to be of any use. He was finally taken in by a brain surgeon, Kiichi Saito, who operated a hospital in Tokyo. Kiichi also adopted a well-known poet, Mokichi Saito, who went on to inherit the hospital.
Bunjiro excelled in academic work at the exclusive Aoyama Gakuin Middle School and he had a dream of becoming a pediatrician and working for his adopted father. By this time Bunjiro was already over 180 cm tall and weighed 100 kg. As one can easily imagine he was soon discovered by the sumo world. Indeed the then Dewanoumi oyakata (the 19th yokozuna