isn't at his optimum weight. He needs a little more. Thirty or 40 pounds, to
300." He went on to say that training in his stable included more than
wrestling, stamping and pounding. Running on the beach and up stairs was also
done, and in Tokyo, weight lifting. "Men gain power more quickly with
modern methods than with just shiko or teppo." What was more, the Hanakago
stable was one of the few that fed its wrestlers milk.
"We have fan
clubs, supporters' groups in every prefecture. They watch for strong prospects.
When they find one, we get in touch with the boy. It is hard convincing.
Sometimes the parents agree but the boy doesn't. There is more freedom than
there used to be. One problem is all young boys want to go to college [a
pursuit impossible to mix with the total sumo of the stable]."
graduated from Tokyo's Nihon University before he went to professional sumo. He
is the first college graduate yokozuna. Might this be the wave of the
changing. This will help. But Wajima is a special man." By this, said
Matsuo-san, Hanakago meant that though Wajima made it by waiting until he was
21 to join the stable, less gifted men could not.
What are the
criteria for elevation to yokozuna? Hanakago said a matter of being able to win
tournaments consistently and of having the right character. Had there ever been
a winning wrestler whose character was not approved? "No," he said.
"All of our yokozuna have had good character. They could not have won if
they had not."
hoped that the conversation so far had warmed the oyakata. "Do you
know," they asked, "if there is much betting on sumo?"
Hanakago gave a
low, spitting, gurgling exclamation, which Matsuo-san softly translated as,
"He doesn't know."
said the stable master, was its place in Japanese tradition. "Sumo has
never been considered separately from the lives of Japanese people. Any boy,
when old enough to walk, will do sumo, especially on the futon when the beds
are put down on the floor at night. It is perfectly natural for us."
Hanakago left to
oversee practice. Wajima still had not arrived in his white, 10-million-yen
Continental Mark IV. An apprentice came by, speaking of having caught a couple
of snakes, from which, when eaten, would come more stamina. He led the way
inside the hotel, upstairs, through a maze of identical passages and finally
into a cold room. Open windows gave a view of the sea and coastal apartments,
docks and refineries. A color TV was on, teaching flower arrangement.