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Sports Year
Sports Year
  1. Baseball and US-Japan Relations
  2. Major League Baseball’s Japanese Players
  3. Sumo, the Hawaiian-American Connection
  4. Japanese Martial Arts in the United States
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Sumo wrestlers train in Hawaii.
Photo Courtesy of Czech Sumo Union,
Sumo, the Hawaiian-American Connection
Sumo, with its origins in the ancient rituals of Shinto, is the national sport of Japan, but that doesn’t mean only Japanese citizens participate in it. In fact, over the last forty years, there has been a proud tradition of American sumo champions in the national Ozumō tournaments in Japan. All were from the state of Hawaii. The first Hawaiian to enter into the ring as a professional wrestler was Jesse Kuhaulua, known by his professional name of Takamiyama, who started wrestling in 1964. Following his retirement in 1984, the next Hawaii-born wrestler was the giant Konishiki, born Salevaa Atisanoe. Konishiki was the heaviest wrestler ever, weighing over 600 pounds. Others followed, including Chad Rowan, a towering 6’8” man weighing in at 520 pounds known by the professional name Akebono. Akebono retired in 2001, but not before he became the first foreign-born wrestler to achieve the highest rank in sumo of yokozuna, or grand champion. After Rowan retired, Fiamalu Penitani, or Musashimaru, was the only Hawaii sumo wrestler left. He was the second foreign-born wrestler to reach the rank of yokozuna. When Musashimaru retired in 2003, it was the first time since 1964 that Hawaii sumo wrestlers were not competing in the sport.
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