Heya Peek -
Text and Photos by Chris Gould
healthy for a man of 43. His hair is thick and retains a natural dark
colour, and he suffers not from the comic limp that besets several
former sumotori of his generation. His rapid descent of the stairs and
subsequent march to his zabuton is emblematic of the positive
Gould reports from the home of sumo’s fastest rising star and sees a
sumo legend revelling in the role of youthful stablemaster.
Shikoroyama-beya is the latest addition to the burgeoning heya community in Tokyo’s Kiyosumi district. Its newly-constructed bright red-bricked walls and shiny green doors can be found a mere two minutes from Kiyosumi-Shirakawa metro station, and about 100 metres from two prestigious heya associated with great yokozuna: Kitanoumi and Otake (formerly Taiho).
On consecutive mornings during the Hatsu 2007 basho, Shikoroyama-beya allowed two things to stand out. One was its tolerance towards visitors, especially my own gaijin breed. Although the main heya doors were locked at 7am, no advance reservation was needed to view asa-geiko. So long as a deshi heard your polite knocks or – in my case – spotted you nervously peeking around the wrong door, you were guaranteed to be invited in.
Shikoroyama’s second notable characteristic concerned something more tangible: weights. The heya’s weight-training quarters, situated on the first floor, were clearly visible from the roadside, the curtains proudly drawn back for the benefit of passers by. Upon entering the practice area, it was immediately clear that the obsession with weights had spread to the
The newly-constructed Shikoroyama-beya
|building’s ground floor too. Of the five heya that I
visited, Shikoroyama was the only one that never tidied its weights
away after keiko. They were there, nestling to the right of the main
entrance from dawn ‘til dusk, forever in the minds of the deshi who
were clearly expected to use them.
The perennial presence of such heavy metallic objects can be attributed to Shikoroyama Oyakata. In a past-life as the lightweight sekiwake Terao, he remained more reliant on weightlifting than most to survive in sumo’s top division. He is understandably keen that the recruits under his jurisdiction, and especially the lighter ones, embrace weight-training as actively as he did himself. By all accounts, his deshi have noted the message.
that comes with metamorphosing from clapped-out
sumotori into relatively youthful oyakata. Revelling in his new lease
of life, he obviously cares passionately about his troops and is yet to
contract the mysterious disease that causes an oyakata to observe
training sessions less intently during a tournament.
The deshi visibly appreciate, and fear, the amounts of attention forthcoming from their oyakata, and have consequently been instilled with a commendable work ethic. Whereas in some heya, several deshi can be observed standing around sharing accounts of their most memorable bouts until the oyakata’s sandals can be heard, the likeable Shikoroyama boys set down to serious business at the stroke of 7am, even in their