Obituary: Kashiwado

In the last few years, the noble Japanese art of sumo, the national sport par excellence, has become increasingly popular in the West. When the Japanese first heard that Western audiences were going to witness sumo bouts, they were incredulous - just as they were when the first drama troupes of kibuki and noh left for America and Europe. To their great surprise, Westerners were able to appreciate these native displays of artistic and sporting techniques that in Japan were regarded as understandable "only by a Japanese".

I well remember when the first sumo troupe visited Paris, and performed there to very appreciative audiences that included many Japanese. Of course, the whole atmosphere of ritual and feudal authority associated with a true sumo arena was lacking. But some of the ceremonial was observed, with the entrance of the sumotori in the ring, wearing their brilliantly hued heavy aprons under the hanging curtained roof. It is always an impressive sight, a procession of pon- derous gravity. On that occasion, my favourite sumotori, Kirishima, who was fairly slender compared with some of the heavyweights like Konishiki, was dubbed "the Alain Delon of Japan", which I thought was not much of a compliment for that beautiful athlete.

Like many of the best wrestlers, Kashiwado came from one of the northern provinces, Yamagata. His family name was Togashi, and he first appeared in the Bumo ring in 1954, from the Ise no Umi stable. He had endured the severe hardships of apprenticeship and worked hard every day to improve his physique and his fighting spirit that was to make him one of the very beat sumo wrestlers in the history of the sport.

In 1958, he made the first step upwards in the pyramidal structure of sumo status when his name first appeared on the banzuke or list of wrestlers appearing in the basho or contest. He made such good progress, he was elevated in 1960 to the rank of ozeki, and won fight after fight until in October 1961 he acceded to the lofty position of Zokozuna or Grand Champion, a meteoric rise such as has rarely been seen in such a demanding sport with its carefully graded hierarchies and venerable traditions.

For the sport of sumo dates back to almost mythological times, and was mentioned in the Nihon Shoki or "Chronicle of Japan" 's 30 volumes, completed in 720 AD. It is therefore a great achievement to reach the rank of Grand Champion. In the same year, Kashiwado's great rival, Taiho, was also elevated to Grand Champion, and their legendary bouts gave rise to the name hakuho, describing the period in which their fame and popularity grow by leaps and bounds, and thus helped to improve the standing of the sport.

Kashiwado in his long career won 599 times, lost 240 bouts. While he was Grand Champion, he had 407 wins and 107 losses. Altogether, as Zokozuna he won five basho. He retired from the ring, in the middle of a match, during the 1969 July basho, before a shocked but deeply moved audience, many of them in tears.

He then set up his own sumo stable, the Kagamiyama-beya, in Tokyo's Edogawa Ward. He also served as a director of the Japan Sumo Association, heading its referee committee until 1994.

James Kirkup

Togashi Tsuyoshi ("Kashiwado"), sumo wrestler: born Yamagata, Japan 1938; married (two daughters); died Tokyo 8 December 1996.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants