[sumo] Doreen Simmons Obit in the Telegraph

Jeffrey Anderson jpaitv at gmail.com
Thu May 10 20:02:31 EDT 2018


Nice pictures and old news video, but I had to sign up for a free Telegraph
account to get this. I will post the link in case you can see it without
having to sign up, but in case you can't, here is the text of the article,
too.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/obituaries/2018/05/10/doreen-simmons-voice-sumo-wrestling-obituary/

Gaijingai

Doreen Simmons, who has died aged 85, studied Theology and Classics at
Cambridge, but went on to become a cult figure in Japan as the English
voice of sumo wrestling, for which she was awarded the Order of the Rising
Sun – the country’s highest honour not reserved for royalty or politicians
– in 2017.

Doreen Simmons saw her first sumo tournament on television during a
three-month visit to Japan in 1968 and was captivated by the pageantry and
ritual associated with the sport.

“My first attraction was things like the throwing of salt, which I
recognised straight away as a purification,” she recalled in an interview
with The Australian. “I also enjoyed, right from the beginning, the
colourful gyoji [referees] and their ritualised calls and poses, and the
calm Buddha-like faces of the men waiting their turn.”

Sumo’s history stretches back about 1,500 years, with roots in a religious
ritual conducted in Shinto shrines along with prayers for abundant
harvests. Its practitioners regard it as a way of life. The sumo world is
strictly hierarchical and governed by elaborate rules and traditions.
Wrestlers belong to one of around 50 heya (stables), and salaries and
status depend on rank.

All new sumo wrestlers start out working in the kitchen, and the secret to
their massive size – the heaviest wrestler today can weigh more than 40
stone – is their typical daily diet of 20,000 calories – eight times the
recommended daily intake for an active male, coupled with periods of sleep
after eating.

Only those in the top five classes can marry, though tradition forbids
women from entering the wrestling ring on the ground that their presence
would defile a sacred space. Women are also not allowed to live in the heya
unless they are the wife or daughters of the master of the heya.

Matches start with purifying rituals in which the wrestlers – their long,
oiled hair done up in stylised knots – rinse their mouths with water and
toss salt in the air. Opponents can spend several minutes squaring off,
squatting, scowling and stamping, but most sumo bouts are over in seconds.
A wrestler wins by forcing his opponent out of the ring or making him touch
the ground with any part of his body but the soles of his feet.

In 1973 Doreen Simmons secured a teaching post at the International
Language Centre in Jinbocho, Tokyo, and moved permanently to Japan, her
sights set on becoming a sumo expert. She later joined the staff of Tokyo’s
Foreign Press Centre, editing translations of Japanese government press
releases.

In her efforts to get close to the sumo world she moved into the Ryogoku
suburb of the capital, where the sumo heya are located and where she spent
much of her spare time exploring the sport’s layers and mysteries,
immersing herself in its records and in the lives of the wrestlers.

>From 1983 she wrote a bi-monthly sumo column for Kansai Time Out, and from
1987 became a regular contributor to Sumo World, an English-language
magazine published in Tokyo, in which she explained the secrets and rituals
of the sport – from the life of the rikishi (wrestler) himself to that of
minor figures such as the tokoyama (hairdresser) who oil-combs a wrestler’s
hair into a topknot.

Her devotion to the sport gained Doreen Simmons admission into a rare
circle for a non-Japanese – as a financial sponsor of a heya – and in 1992
she became a “play-by-play man” commentator on sumo for the national public
broadcaster NHK television. Her specialist knowledge gave her the edge over
other commentators when NHK started live commentaries in English.

For the next 25 years she helped sumo fans around the world distinguish a
kainahineri (two-handed arm twist take-down) from a tsuridashi (grabbing an
opponent by his loin cloth and lifting him out of the ring), teaching them
to understand that when the winner is crouching on his heels and swinging
his hands, he is thanking three Shinto gods of creation.

Despite her years of study, Doreen Simmons hesitated to call herself an
expert. “The attraction of sumo to the person looking at it for the first
time is that you can understand pretty much what is going on,” she said.
“But there is so much else that … I can honestly say I haven’t stopped
learning.”

Doreen Simmons was born in Nottingham on May 29 1932 and attended Mundella
Grammar School, where she was an enthusiastic member of the choir. As a
teenager she was mad on cricket and on Saturdays went down to Trent Bridge
as often as she could with a home-made scorecard and notebook – later
taking a similar approach to sumo.

After taking her degree at Girton College, Cambridge, she trained as a
Latin and Greek teacher at Hughes Hall. In the early 1960s she was
appointed to a staff position at a British Army school in Singapore. It was
during her time there that she made her first visit to Japan.

After a stint teaching Classics back in England, during which time she
tried out for the pilot programme of the BBC’s Mastermind and was a
contestant in the first series, coming second in her heat, she returned to
the country that was to become her new home.

A stalwart of the Tokyo ex-pat community for more than 40 years, Doreen
Simmons was known for her independent-mindedness – and for her unquenchable
thirst for adventure. An enthusiastic amateur singer and “novelty
percussionist”, she performed the bodhran (the Irish drum) regularly at
Irish pubs around Tokyo and sang with her local church choir and the
British Embassy choir.

A keen actress with various amateur groups, her roles over the years
included a soccer hooligan, a drunken Irish tinker, a dying rhinoceros and
a transvestite geisha. She also supplied the voice of Miss Marple on an
Agatha Christie tape.

Travels took her to the Antarctic, the Middle East, Iceland and Australia,
where she went bungee jumping at the age of 68. She celebrated her 71st
birthday digging foundations for homes in Mongolia (where she acquired her
first tattoo) and her 84th birthday attending a special ceremony at which
the wrestler Kyokutenho had his long hair cut off to symbolise his
retirement from sumo.

Doreen Simmons became a member of the Asiatic Society of Japan in 1980,
later serving on the ASJ Council and as its assistant correspondence
secretary, and undertaking the computerisation of its Bulletin.

As well as her main job at the Foreign Press Centre, she worked at Japan’s
House of Councillors and House of Representatives, as well as the National
Diet Library, checking English-language materials.

*Doreen Simmons, born May 29 1932, died April 23 2018*






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Sumo’s history stretches back about 1,500 years, with roots in a religious
ritual conducted in Shinto shrines along with prayers for abundant
harvests. Its practitioners regard it as a way of life. The sumo world is
strictly hierarchical and governed by elaborate rules and traditions.
Wrestlers belong to one of around 50 heya (stables), and salaries and
status depend on rank.

All new sumo wrestlers start out working in the kitchen, and the


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