[sumo] Kyokutenzan's dampatsu (and nostalgia)

Doreen Simmons jz8d-smmn at asahi-net.or.jp
Sun Dec 16 05:37:44 EST 2007

Got back an hour or so ago from Kyokutenzan's retirement haircut and 
party. The event was sponsored by Oshima-beya. Since Tenzan was never a 
sekitori, he does not qualify for renting the arena and having the 
ceremony on the dohyo, so the event was held in the big hall in the 
basement (under the entrance hall). Everybody you'd expect was there. 
Very many of the Mongolian rikishi of all levels, regardless of heya; 
naturally, everybody from the present Oshima, and of course, his 
contempraries Kyokushuzan (back on a visit from Mongolia and looking 
very much fitter than the last time I saw him), and Kyokutenho.

There were also some interesting people I'd forgotten had a connection. 
Tatsunami oyakata was there --  he had been an Oshima rikishi when he 
wooed and won the daughter of the then Tatsunami. He had brought his 
two Mongolians, Mokonami and Daionami. We chatted a bit while people 
were coming in and milling around; we had met years ago. One of my best 
commissions was to go to the Nagoya basho  when he was very much an 
up-and-comer. With a photographer, I was  taken by taxi to the heya's 
temporary quarters to do an interview with him for a Nagoya-based 
magazine.  After keiko finished, and before the interview, which was 
conducted while he was having his hair dressed, he took a bath. (As 
heya-gashira he got into the bath first.)  I  took advantage of this to 
skip out into the street at the back with my own camera and get some 
photos of Kyokushuzan and Kyokutenho, whom I already knew, of course.

Another sekitori  I photographed on that day was Kyokudozan, who was, 
and still is, drop-dead gorgeous. Not long after, he startled the sumo 
world by quitting and going into politics. He got elected and served a 
term in the Japanese Diet, and later went to the Osaka area, still in 
local politics and also starting up in business. All these years later, 
Kyokudozan was  at Tenzan's  party today, keeping very busy chatting 
with loads of people and having his picture taken with them. His 
younger brother is still with the heya -- Juryo-kaku gyoji Kimura 
Hisayuki; he was in charge of the actual haircutting (and later, 
changed back into a black pinstripe suit,  was having his knees 
massaged -- he had stood behind the retiree almost unmoving for well 
over an hour). The two brothers, retired rikishi and current gyoji, are 
both extremely attractive men, though not carbon copies.

Back to today's event. Hakuho came pretty early, with his wife. I've 
seen many photos of her, but was amazed to see what a really beautiful 
woman she is -- face a little thin, which doesn't always photograph 
well, but good bones, perfect skin, and large lustrous dark eyes. She 
was also socially at ease and very pleasant to talk to.  Not long 
after, in came Asashoryu,  very affable all round. When I got within 
range I bowed and said cautiously "Ohishiburi de gozaimasu" "It's been 
a while (since we met)" and got a warm smile and "Hisashiburi desu ne" 
(the same thing but without the rather feminine honorifics). I smiled 
back and moved on. It is important on these occasions to greet people 
but not to overdo it.

After a few reasonably short speeches, the haircutting began and at the 
same time people started eating and drinking. As the event was not 
being held on the dohyo women as well as men could step up on the dais 
and take a tiny snip with the gold-plated scissors. There were an awful 
lot of people, company presidents and the like, who had sent in 
postcards (pledging extra money, I assume; that kind of postcard wasn't 
included in the announcement I got) and the NHK announcer MC-ing had a 
thick wad of the cards threaded onto a big ring and was reading names 
four or five at a time. Tenzan had warned the hairdresser to come at 
about three to tidy his hair up, but  it was about twenty to four 
before the line finally dried up. (She's my hairdresser too, and I took 
her by the hand and led her in to watch a while.) When the fat cats had 
finished, general attendees were encouraged to take a snip too, and 
finally all his extended  family (he has an awful lot of beautiful 
sisters and aunts as well) each came up, with an interpreter telling 
the NHK man the relationship -- he didn't attempt the names!  Last of 
all, Oshima oyakata removed the entire topknot and Tenzan finally went 
off into a dressing room where the hairdresser -- I go to the same one 
-- had a very hard time dealing with the results of a great deal of 
inexpert snipping. When he returned, he looked all right from the 
front, but the back of his hair looked decidedly moth-eaten. (I checked 
with her afterwards and he's going in again tomorrow for her to try 

Finally Oshima oyakata read from a prepared speech, recalling the story 
of how five of his six Mongolian recruits, the very first in sumo 
history,  ran away and took refuge in the Mongolian embassy -- only 
Tenzan remained and went with him to try to persuade them to come back 
and tough it out. Two did: Kyokushuzan and Kyokutenho, both of whom 
became much more successful than Tenzan.

Tenzan's wife, half-German, half-Mongolian, who grew up in Germany and 
is  bilingual, is already back home in Berlin. Of the other three 
foreigners at the party, two were Germans; a young man taking pictures, 
and a businessman who knows the wife well. She is very bright and has 
good connections; he believes Tenzan will do well.

That's all I can manage for now. Any questions?

Doreen Simmons
  jz8d-smmn at asahi-net.or.jp

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