Let's Hear From You!
What Made You A Fan?
by Kevin P. Murphy
In addition to the traditions and culture, the rigid hierarchy appeals to me. I have the luxury of knowing that I will probably never have to survive the keiko (training) a young apprentice rikishi must endure to be accepted into the sumo ranks. Be that as it may, I carry a profound respect for the young men who sacrifice their youth and all its spoils for the greater good of their common rikishi, their heya, and their stable masters. I am unaware of the odds of any given rikishi becoming yokozuna, but I do believe each man has a far better chance of toiling in the lower ranks, fighting tournament to tournament as a tsukebito (lower-ranking apprentice), nursing injury and heartache, than he does reaching the sumo pinnacle of yokozuna.
Part of sumo’s allure is that it has no weight class besides the requirement that a potential rikishi weigh at least 75 kg. Imagine a heavyweight boxer in his prime having a slug fest with a fly weight at his peak. The outcome could prove to be deadly! Sumo, on the other hand, allows such matches and has never, to my knowledge, experienced a rikishi death in the ring Granted sumo seldom lasts longer than one minute, and most rikishi lack endurance; but to watch a 264 kg man (Hawaiian-born Konishiki) mix it up with an opponent less than half his size (Aomori-born Mainoumi) is an event worth watching.
Each issue of SFM, We’ll ask one of you
to tell us something about you and sumo.
Think you have something readers would like to know?
Write our letters section!
My first sumo experience occurred during the Kyushu basho of
1992. I was a young United Sates Air Force Airman on his first
assignment in beautiful Aomori Prefecture on Misawa Air Base when,
after a twelve hour shift, I turned on the television to be surprised
by two very large men tossing one another about on a circle of
dirt. Needless to say, my curiosity got the best of me. Not
only did I watch every bout for the remainder of the fall 1992
tournament in Kyushu, but I continue to watch every tournament from
How does one become become a sumo fan? For me, the fascination with the sport began the day I first witnessed my first bout. I remember it as if it was yesterday: the match that is responsible for drawing me in way back in the early winter of ‘92 on that tired day was between the soon-to-be yokozuna giant Akebono (first American-born grand champion), and at that time, the next great Japanese hope, Takanohana. Lucky for me, I became a fan of sumo at a time when a great rivalry was in its
|early stages. Perhaps it was the drama
of anticipating the daily finale between Takanohana and Akebono
throughout most of the 1990s that fueled the flames of my curiosity for
sumo, but I like to believe it was and continues to be the rich
traditions and mysterious culture of sumo that exist today.
Living in Japan for over six years allowed me to watch and study the sport up close. After my military service in Misawa, I moved south to Kanagawa prefecture and in somewhat close proximity to the Ryogoku Kokugikan, where three of the six yearly tournaments are held. While living in Kanagawa, I took numerous trips to watch sumo in person at the Kokugikan, and sat in every possible level of seat, including my personal favorite, the sunakaburi. Here you may experience the unfortunate luck of feeling how much one of these super-sized athletes weigh. Most fans, however, escape serious injury from a falling rikishi by moving at just the right time before a chanko nabe-filled wrestler lands in their