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HOME  > Past issues  > 2015 December 9 - 15  > War deprived sumo wrestlers of their future
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2015 December 9 - 15 [PEACE]

War deprived sumo wrestlers of their future

December 12, 2015
Sumo is a Japanese style sport of wrestling. It is very popular and its matches (torikumi) are broadcast live every day while a Grand Sumo Tournament (basho) is taking place. During the Pacific War (1941-1945), however, many sumo wrestlers (rikishi), referees (gyoji), beckoners (yobidashi), and hairdressers (tokoyama) were mobilized in the war. Akahata on December 12 carried a column titled, “War deprived sumo wrestlers of their future.” The excerpts of the column are as follows:

The government has almost no idea of how many sumo wrestlers were forced to go to battlefields and how many of them were killed. Their whereabouts during and after the war still remain unknown because where they were dispatched was confidential.

A wrestler whose ring name (shikona) was Yoshibayama became popular in the third highest division (maku-shita) because of his good looks. He won the championship in this division in May 1942. As a result, he was promoted to the second highest rank division (jyuryo). However, during a regional tour after this tournament, he was called up for military service. He had to take part in several battles in China. After the war, he was promoted to a grand champion (yokozuna) of the top division (maku-uchi) but could not perform well due to the gunshot wounds he had received on the battlefield.

Another wrestler, Toyonishiki, was a Japanese American born in Colorado in the United States. He was a promising wrestler. However, as soon as the war broke out, the Special Political Police suspected him of being a spy because he was from America and kept him under surveillance. In 1944, he successfully entered into the top division which he had long dreamt of and scored a winning record in the May tournament of that year. However, soon after his dream came true, Toyonishiki was drafted as well. Fortunately he was able to return to Japan but he never returned to the ring (dohyo) again.

The Imperial government organized an official sumo tournament even near the end of the war as a way to gain support for the war. It raised a banner reading, “Mobilize our national sprit!” in the sumo hall.

Grand sumo has a history deeply affected by the war. Only by moving forward to achieving a peaceful world can sumo and all other sports develop to promote international peace.
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