While Azumazeki-Beya had been open for only two years, Takasago-Beya was steeped in sumo history. Of the fifty-odd sumo-beya [sumo stables] currently housing rikishi [professional sumo wrestlers] in various parts of the surrounding neighborhood, Takasago ranked fifth in years of operation, dating back to 1878—by no means the beginning of sumo, but an age when the sport began to take on its present structure. In addition to Azumazeki-Beya, Takasago spawned Takadagawa-Beya, Nakamura-Beya, Wakamatsu-Beya, and Kokonoe-Beya. Takasago Oyakata had risen to yokozuna [grand champion] back in 1959, competing as Asashio [one of my childhood favorites—J.]. The fifth Takasago Oyakata, he had taken over in 1971 when the previous Takasago Oyakata, who had also risen to yokozuna competing as Maedayama, died. The line of oyakata stretched back to Takasago Uragoro, who oversaw two yokozuna and three ozeki [champions] of his own. Over the years, nearly one-tenth of the yokozuna promoted since the inception of the rank in the mid-nineteenth century (six of sixty-two, by this time) stomped their first shiko [raise one leg, stomp it, squat] into the Takasago-Beya keikoba [practice room]. If American Major League Baseball were a hundred years older (and if baseball players shared this unforgiving, monastic lifestyle), Takasago-Beya might be comparable to Yankee Stadium.
Takasago-Beya was perhaps more notable in a Brooklyn Dodger way than in a way befitting Yankee pinstripes. In addition to Taylor [Wylie], John [Feleunga], Konishiki [Saleva’a Atisano’e], and Nankairyu, Chad [Rowan] saw two other foreigners in the room, members of Takasago-Beya. While other sumo-beya had recruited rikishi from Brazil and Argentina, and would later look to Mongolia, the only foreigners yet to have really impacted the national sport were limited to this room. Twenty-four years earlier on a demonstration tour to Hawai‘i, the fourth Takasago Oyakata had taken a chance on Jesse Kuhaulua, the beginning of Hawai‘i’s connection with Japan’s national sport. Kuhaulua had trained and competed for more than twenty years at Takasago-Beya as Takamiyama. He now presided over asa-geiko [morning practice] next to the present Takasago Oyakata, on nearly equal terms, as Azumazeki Oyakata.
In looking for links for this post, I came across an interview with Hawai‘i-raised amateur sumotori Kena Heffernan, Yale ’96, Sumo cum laude.