At the core of Sumo is stoicism. You never complain, criticise or boast. Whereas WWF is all about bragging and bullshit, sumo is about subtlety wrapped in extraordinary physical and mental strength. (If you’re not familiar with pro-wrestling, just compare the original Iron Chef with Iron Chef from any other country.)
There’s no better demonstration of this than during the NHK Interview with the winner at the end of a tournament:
NHK: Congratulations on a wonderful performance.
Winner: Thank you very much
NHK: You were very powerful, your techniques were superb and you broke every sumo record in the sumo record books since 1752. You must be ecstatic.
Winner: I just wanted do to my own sumo.
NHK: Your mother and father, their mothers and fathers and their mothers and fathers have been watching you every day. You must be very proud.
Winner: I wish to thank all of my fans for barracking for me. I just wanted do to my own sumo. Thank you very much.
I loved Terao (the Tetsujin “Iron Man” of sumo) with his no-nonsense limitless range of techniques, his long career from age 16 to 39 and his huge pectorial muscles. My other favourite was Tochiazuma, one of only 2 rikishi to win at all 6 divisions who was so close to becoming Yokozuna before suffering a minor stroke and heart attack. His tears of joy during his NHK interview in January 2002 were a concession to the emotion of being only the 6th shin-Ozeki (newly-promoted Ozeki) to win and 30 years after his father won the same tournament.
Takamisakari is cut from very different cloth, he is. He wears his heart on his sleeve while maintaining a certain dignity. His emotions are raw but the joy, pain, anger, passion, frustration, elation and ecstasy are directed to himself; not against his opponents or his fans. And his fans (well, everyone) love him so much. Watch almost any video of him on Youtube and the crowd’s love for him is obvious.
“Clown Prince” is not the most fitting moniker. Akebono gave him the nickname “Robocop” after his robotic moves (not like Peter Crouch), not for any lack of emotion.
This video shows the shikiri purification ceremony performed before each bout, but rarely seen unless you watch it live. The banners that circle the dohyo are sponsors for the bout adding kensho-kin money to go to the winner; the envelopes are shown on the gyoji’s [umpire’s] gunbai “war fan” at the end. At the last pass of the shikiri at about 2:20 in the video Takamisakari in the blue mawashi does his thing.
Takamisakari’s sponsors (the five striped banners) have two versions of a TV commercial featuring him: one where he wins the bout and one where he loses. What other sports-person can sell just as well when they lose?
A great character the likes of which may not be seen again.