and intestine and other entrails I cannot translate."
it's done. I think I can handle that."
heartened. "You know, the best thing, really, for stamina is to eat a live
frog. Especially for hangover. If you have worked for three days without sleep
and eat a live frog, you will feel strong again...."
Basho in the
At 11 in the
morning, when the lowest ranks compete, it is cold in the arena. The stands and
boxes are no more than one-eighth filled. The referees are boys themselves.
They wear no sandals or tabis. Their kimonos end at midcalf. Their untrained
voices are much lower than those of the upper-division screechers, and their
manner ritually unpolished.
wrestlers, a cross section of body types, wear dark canvas mawashi and their
little silk fringes are limp, unstarched. When squatting, they part them like
damp reeds. At this humble rank, wrestlers throw no salt, and engage in only
cursory ritual, so there is more actual wrestling, four times as many matches
per hour. One pair flies from the dohyo and bowls over an inattentive judge,
upending him backwards off his pillow, skirts flying. He rises, beaming, both
red-faced wrestlers bowing, arranging his folds.
There are pitiful
mismatches, the corpulent bearing the little ones to earth, but once two agile
165-pounders meet in a rousing struggle. Through whirling moves and
countermoves is glimpsed what the Westerner conceives as the near-potential of
human capacity in this mode of sport. He stands and applauds to excess, drawing
eyes. After the match he finds himself wistful, realizing that if those fine
athletes achieve their cherished rank, they will have forced themselves into
fatness and probably early death.
After 10 days of
the tournament the only undefeated wrestler was Yokozuna Wajima. With 15
straight wins in the previous basho in Tokyo, he was on a streak of 25, a
record for active sumotori (the alltime record of 69 consecutive wins was set
by Yokozuna Futabayama between 1936 and 1939). Wajima has become such a hero
that the Japanese syndicate who purchased a $600,000 racehorse in the U.S. last
July named the colt for the wrestler.
the gaijin returned to Hanakago's stable, seeking audience. On a brilliant
morning the first blasts of winter were sweeping in from the Sea of Japan, from
Korea and Siberia. Hanakago, unperturbed in a bathrobe, was strolling in a
clinker-filled vacant lot next to the stable's hotel. Wajima had not yet
arrived, he said, but as he was in a good mood, Hanakago would answer the