Thursday, April 2, 2020

Japan draws parallels between sumo and rugby

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At the entrance of Futabayama Sadaji Museum, Usa, mid-October. Adrien Pécout / The World

Outside the museum, a stele with the imprint of a (large) hand. It's not God's. But that of a sacred person, in the middle of sumo: Futabayama Sadaji (1912-1968). A local glory in the rural community of Usa, on the southern island of Kyushu. A national figure, in reality: a yokozuna the highest rank of his sport, which he kept between 1937 and 1945.

"He still has the record of winning straight, and therefore the respect of all wrestlers and spectators"says the curator of the museum dedicated to his life, Toshiyuki Akiyoshi. More precisely, 69 fights won continuously. Small glasses, half-open hooded jacket, the man dares the parallel: "If the rugbymen were to sumo, I think they would have good results! In both sports, you need a powerful body. And you have to know how to push … "

Before the Copupe of Rugby World, The Japan Times did the opposite reasoning. The English-language daily was already wondering whether other Japanese would eventually emulate Ryo Yamamura's career: first, sumo as an amateur wrestler, then rugby, to the point of joining the national team (2001-2007). ). "Given the dramatic increase in the size and power of rugby players since the advent of the professional era, the two sports have more in common today than in the past," the newspaper said.

This is perhaps why representatives of the French Rugby Federation (FFR) had programmed during their stay, according to our information, two visits to a structure specializing in sumo, October 10 and 11, in Tokyo. Just as they had planned a meeting with representatives of Japanese judo, another national sport.

At the entrance of Futabayama Sadaji Museum, Usa.
At the entrance of Futabayama Sadaji Museum, Usa. Adrien Pécout / The World

Place apart

But back to Usa, where the small museum to the glory of Futabayama Sadaji allows to better understand the place apart from sumo in the country. "Everyone respects the sport, but without necessarily practicing it. Many young people in Japan seem embarrassed to wear the outfit to practice it, believes Toshiyuki Akiyoshi.

At his side, Kouzou Yokomitsu takes out a mobile phone. The head of cultural and sports events in the city shows a children's tournament competing in T-shirt, rather than shirtless with the usual belt, this mawashi what are the biggest. The biggest, one could say as well, looking at a frieze of photos on a wall: the pictures show the body evolution of Futabayama Sadaji, and its increase in volume, also frozen by a statue at the entrance to the room. 'exposure.

"Everyone could not do it! "according to Mr. Akiyoshi. Who adds: "During his childhood, Futabayama Sadaji had a much less solid physique. When he began to be famous, some people in Usa could boast of saying, "In the past, I've already taken over!"

No rugby club

Outside the museum, another small building: the reconstruction of a cottage. The one where the wrestler grew up. Father carrier for fishing boats, mother housewife. "Many Japanese from modest backgrounds have also practiced sumo because this sport has allowed them to earn a lot of money", continues the head of the museum, who himself has never felt the need and the desire to go there.

The curator turns around. He spontaneously evokes a certain "Chirac-san", the former French president, who died in September, is known for his passion for sumo. Before adding that Futabayma Sadaji wanted to draw inspiration from a wooden cock, without knowing that it was a French symbol. "He wanted to know how to stay motionless to impress … unlike the moving haka of New Zealand! "

In Usa, with less than 60,000 inhabitants, you can practice sumo, football or baseball all year long. But no rugby club in the corner. "During the World Cup, we still offered a touch rugby initiation"explains Kouzou Yokomitsu, who is mainly highlighting a badge of the Olympic Games 2020. Event planned in Tokyo, nearly a thousand kilometers away. But the municipality is still hopeful to host the Mongolian taekwondo national team in preparation camp.

Sumo Arena in Usa, where university tournaments take place.
Sumo Arena in Usa, where university tournaments take place. Adrien Pécout

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