Monthly Archives: November 2008

Mao’s Humiliation in Moscow, 1949

From: The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War, by David Halberstam (Hyperion, 2007), pp. 352-354:

IN DECEMBER 1949, Mao finally made his trip to Moscow. Harrison Salisbury, of the New York Times, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting from Moscow in those days, remembered the shroud of silence that Stalin had already placed in the preceding months over the news of Mao’s coming victory. There was virtually no mention of it in the controlled press; “a snippet on the back page of Pravda, or a few paragraphs inside Izvestia. The word ‘China’ hardly appeared.” Now, with Mao on his way to Moscow, there was more open evidence of the cold Soviet shoulder. Stalin’s seventieth birthday was self-evidently a great moment of celebration in the Communist world and an occasion not to be shared with any other event or person. On December 6, Mao set out by train for the Soviet capital. The war was barely over and he was fearful of attacks by Nationalist dissidents. He traveled in an armored car, with sentries posted every hundred meters along the tracks. In Shenyang, the largest city in the northeast, Mao disembarked and checked to see if there were posters of him. There were very few, it turned out, and a great many of Stalin—the work of Gao Gang, whom Mao saw as a pro-Soviet dissident. Mao was furious and ordered that the car carrying gifts for Stalin from Gao be uncoupled from the train and the gifts returned to him.

Mao’s arrival in Moscow on December 16 was an edgy one. He was treated not as the leader of a great revolution bringing into the Communist orbit one of the world’s great nations but rather, as the historian Adam Ulam has written, ”as if he were, say, the head of the Bulgarian party.” V. M. Molotov and Nikolai Bulganin, both senior politburo members, came to the station to meet him. Mao had laid out a handsome luncheon buffet. He asked the two Soviet leaders to have a drink with him. They refused—based on protocol, Molotov said. They also refused to sit and share the food. Then Mao asked them to accompany him to the residence where he was scheduled to stay. Again they refused. There was no major celebration or festive party for him. It was as if Mao was now to learn his place in Stalin’s constellation, the real Communist universe; if he was a fraternal brother, then he should know that there would always be one Communist brother who was so much bigger than all the others. One of Khrushchev’s aides told his boss that someone named “Matsadoon” was in town. “Who?” the perplexed Khrushchev asked. “You know that Chinaman,” the aide answered. That was how they saw him: that Chinaman. And that was how they treated him. The main reception for the Chinese delegation was held not in the Main Hall of the Kremlin but in the old Metropole Hotel, “the usual place for entertaining visiting minor capitalist dignitaries,” in Ulam’s words.

Things did not get better after the first reception. For days on end Mao was isolated, waiting for Stalin to arrange meetings. No one else could meet with him until Stalin had, and Stalin was taking his time. When Mao first arrived in Moscow, he announced that China looked forward to a partnership with Russia, but he emphasized as well that he wanted to be treated as an equal. Instead he was being taught a lesson each day. He had become, in Ulam’s words, ”as much captive as guest.” As such, he shouted at the walls, convinced that Stalin had bugged the house: “I am here to do more than eat and shit.” He hated Russian food. At one point Kovalev, his contact man, dropped by to visit him. Mao pointed outside at Moscow and said, “Bad, bad!” What did he mean by that? Kovalev asked. Mao said he was angry at the Kremlin. Kovalev insisted he had no right to criticize “the Boss,” and that he, Kovalev, would now have to make a report.

When Stalin finally met Mao, they proved to have a remarkable mutual instinct for misunderstanding. “Why didn’t you seize Shanghai?” Stalin asked, for the Chinese had taken their time before entering the city. “Why should we have?” Mao answered. “If we’d captured the city, we would have had to take on the responsibility for feeding the six million inhabitants.” Stalin, already fearing that Mao favored peasants over workers, was appalled. Here was proof of it, workers in a city left to suffer.

The trip to Moscow was in all ways a disaster, and Mao would have along memory for the way he had been treated. In economic and military aid, he got very little from his negotiations on that first trip—a paltry $300 million in Soviet arms over five years, or $60 million a year. To make matters worse, there were also some Chinese territorial concessions that had to be thrown in. The lack of Russian generosity staggered the Chinese. “Like taking meat from the mouth of a tiger,” Mao would say years later. For Mao, very much aware of the scale of his great triumph at home and what it meant in terms of history, the treatment by the Soviets had essentially been a humiliation, but one he had been forced to accept without complaint. “It is no wonder that Mao conceived, if he had not nurtured it before, an abiding hatred of the Soviet Union,” Adam Ulam wrote.


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Wordcatcher Tales: Begum, Jhampan

I never read much Kipling as a kid, and some of the vocabulary of British India that I have encountered in Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Emperor, by Alex von Tunzelmann (Picador, 2008) is new to me. Here are two such novelties.

The royal tour ground on, zigzagging up through the belly of India and stopping in Bangalore, Mysore, Hyderabad and Indore. By 4 February [1922], it had reached Bhopal, where Dickie [Mountbatten] and David [Windsor] were the guests of the only woman ruler in Asia, the Nawab Sultan Jaban Begum. The Begum was an ardent Muslim and usually ruled from behind a purdah screen. The rare sight of her tiny figure, swathed in a blue burka, next to the white-uniformed Prince of Wales gave the tour’s photographers some of their best opportunities. But it was an image more connected to the past than to the future. [p. 70]

Bhopal seems to have had a number of enlightened female nawabs. Begum is the feminine of Turkic Beg (or Bey) which turns up in many names from former parts of the Ottoman and Mughal empires—Izetbegovic, for example.

The British continued to come to Simla, sometimes for eight months of each year, with the European ladies and gentlemen carried up in the local jhampan sedan chairs. They were followed by hundreds of coolies, who had been press-ganged from their surrounding farms into the service of Her Majesty’s government, lugging dispatch boxes, carefully packed crockery, musical instruments, trunks full of theatrical costumes for amateur dramatics at the Gaiety Theatre, crates of tea and dried provisions, faithful spaniels in traveling boxes, rolled-up rugs, aspidistras, card tables, favorite armchairs, baskets of linen and tons upon tons of files; all the paraphernalia of the raj literally borne on the shoulders of one long caravan of miserable, sweating Indian peasants. Eventually, in 1891, a narrow-gauge railway was opened, weaving in and out of 103 tunnels up from the plains at Kalka—a journey which still took at least six hours. The British never questioned whether all this was worth it. Gandhi may have criticized the administration’s annual repair to Simla for being “government working from the 500th floor,” but that was exactly the point. [pp. 193-194]

This word turns up under jompon in Hobson-Jobson (via Google books), which cites a 1716 source that defines a jampan as a “palankin”; an 1849 source that defines a jhappan as a “kind of arm chair with a canopy and curtains”; and an 1879 source that specifically mentions its use in Simla:

The gondola of Simla is the jampan or jampot аs it is sometimes called on the same linguistic principle … as that which converts asparagus into sparrow grass … Every lady on the hills keeps her jampan and jampanees just as in the plains she keeps her carriage and footmen — Letter in Time Aug. 17

That’s the wonderful Hobson-Jobson: A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases, and of Kindred Terms, Etymological, Historical, Geographical and Discursive by Henry Yule, Arthur Coke Burnell, William Crooke (J. Murray, 1903), digitized from a printed original at the University of California.

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Filed under anglosphere, Britain, India, Islam, labor, language, Pakistan, South Asia, Turkey

Mountbatten’s Best Matchmaking

From Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Emperor, by Alex von Tunzelmann (Picador, 2008), pp. 156-158, 162:

Since he had returned from Southeast Asia Mountbatten had engaged himself almost full time in a project worthy of the Order of the Red Rose. In one of the most daring bloodless coups ever attempted, he would install the House of Mountbatten on the British throne—the same throne which, only thirty years before, had ordered his father’s ruin. Mountbatten’s involvement in the marriage between his nephew, Philippos Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, and the king’s daughter, Princess Elizabeth, can hardly be overstated. He introduced the couple, engineered meetings between them and went to great lengths in grooming Philip to become a consort.

Philip’s credentials for marrying the world’s most eligible woman were tenuous. His father was a playboy who had disappeared into the champagne bars of the Cote d’Azur; his mother, abandoned, had gone mad and become a nun; his sisters had all married Nazis; he himself was only a naval lieutenant, and a penniless one at that. He had been a prince of Greece before a coup ousted his family, but the revolution had left him poor and nameless. He met Princess Elizabeth for the first time on 22 July 1939, when the royal family visited the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth under the proud supervision of Dickie Mountbatten. Philip was eighteen years old; Elizabeth was thirteen and playing with a clockwork train. Their eyes met over lemonade and ginger biscuits, and Philip was among the cadets invited to lunch on the royal yacht. There he impressed the princesses by being able to jump high and eat an abnormal quantity of shrimp, though not simultaneously. When the time came for the yacht to sail, the cadets followed in rowboats and motorboats for a while; Elizabeth watched the tall, blond, strikingly handsome Philip row his little boat farther than anyone else.

Less than eighteen months after the smitten Princess Elizabeth had watched her handsome quasi prince rowing after the royal yacht, the Conservative MP Chips Channon spent a few days in Athens. He met Philip at a cocktail party and, during the course of extensive gossiping, established that “he is to be our Prince Consort, and that is why he is serving in our Navy.” At this stage the prospect seemed improbable. The Greek royals were impoverished, shabby and foreign. It was Dickie who organized a campaign to fashion young Philip into an eligible naval hero. The most important factor in this transformation would be to secure for him British nationality. For some reason, no one—not even the genealogically preoccupied Mountbatten—remembered the 1705 Act of Naturalization of the Most Excellent Princess Sophia, Electress and Duchess Dowager of Hanover, and the Issue of Her Body. As a descendant of Sophia, Philip had been British since birth. Unaware of this, Mountbatten embarked upon a frenetic two-and-a-half-year campaign. On 23 August 1944, he flew from Southeast Asia Command to Cairo, near Philip’s station at Alexandria, to “sound out” Philip and the king of Greece about whether the former could assume British nationality. He told the British high commissioner, incredibly, that the British king had ordered his secret mission, on the grounds that Philip could “be an additional asset to the British Royal Family and a great help to them in carrying out their royal functions.” In fact, the king had already warned Mountbatten off: “I have been thinking the matter over since our talk and I have come to the conclusion that we are going too fast,” he had written to him two weeks before. Soundings were taken; they were, apparently, satisfactory; Mountbatten was on the plane back to Karachi that same afternoon.

In October 1945, the matter of Philip’s naturalization came before the cabinet. Attlee postponed any further discussion owing to the undesirability of aligning the British government with the Greek royalist cause. But by then the teenage Princess Elizabeth was playing “People Will Say We’re in Love” from the musical Oklahoma! nonstop on her gramophone; and Philip had been seen helping her with a fur wrap at the wedding of Mountbatten’s daughter Patricia. Mountbatten moved quickly, making personal appointments with the king, the prime minister and the foreign secretary, while expending considerable effort in enlightening his media contacts about Philip’s gallantry. “Please, I beg of you, not too much advice in an affair of the heart,” Philip wrote to his uncle, “or I shall be forced to do the wooing by proxy.”…

On the evening of 18 March 1947, Dickie and Edwina [Mountbatten] held a farewell reception at the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall. It was a double celebration for them. That very morning, Mountbatten had secured a great victory, signaled by an announcement of the superfluous naturalization of Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, RN, in the London Gazette. He had planned to call his nephew “HRH Prince Philip.” Philip preferred to start again as a commoner, but it is hard to imagine that Dickie had nothing to do with his choice of surname. “Most people think that Dickie’s my father anyway,” Philip later acknowledged. With Philip’s engagement to the heiress presumptive soon to be announced, the House of Mountbatten was now right at the front of the line for the British throne.

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Truman: The WYSIWYG President

From: The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War, by David Halberstam (Hyperion, 2007), pp. 203-205:

Truman was an easy man to underestimate. He lacked one of the great strengths of the Roosevelt persona: to a nation accustomed to a presidential voice that had been warm, confident, aristocratic, and altogether seductive, Truman’s voice was a distinct disappointment, flat and tinny, with little emotional intimacy. His speeches were uninspiring—blunt and oddly without nuance. Some advisers suggested that Truman try to speak more like Roosevelt, and make his speeches more conversational, but he was shrewd enough to know that that was the wrong path, that he could not emulate the great master. All he could do was be himself and hope that the American people would not judge him for what he was not. He was aware that the comparisons with Roosevelt would be unfavorable at first, and they were. In the beginning, he was an easy target for political jokes, and there was often a cruel edge to them. “To err is Truman,” said the acid-tongued Martha Taft, wife of Robert Taft, a key Republican senator. “I’m just mild about Harry” went another. A favorite of the moment, wrote the columnist Doris Fleeson, was “I wonder what Truman would do if he were alive.” “Poor Harry Truman. And poor people of the United States,” wrote Richard Strout, in The New Republic.

Truman became president when he was sixty years old. He was a late bloomer of acceptable but not overweening ambition. His people were farmers and he had done his share of farming as a boy, and in 1948 he had delighted Midwest crowds—his support there was one of the keys to his surprise victory—by telling them that he could seed a 160-acre wheat field “without leaving a skip.” He had plowed the old-fashioned way, he added—four Missouri mules, not one of these fancy tractors. In his senior year of high school, through no fault of their own, the Trumans’ farm had failed and all chance of a college education for Harry had disappeared. He tried for West Point, his one shot at a free education, but was turned down because of his poor eyesight. (He was blind as a mole, he noted later in life.) His one entrepreneurial attempt, to run a haberdashery shop, lasted a mere three years and ended in failure. He spent much of his time trying to prove to his ever dubious mother-in-law, who came from one of Independence’s first families, that he was worthy of the hand of her daughter, that Bess Wallace had not married down. Here success eluded him; he proved better at making the case for his intrinsic value to millions of fellow Americans than to Madge Gates Wallace. He arrived in the Senate in 1934, in his fiftieth year, relatively late in life, as the sparklingly honest representative of the unusually corrupt political machine of Boss Tom Pendergast. It was as if his special assignment within the Pendergast organization had always been to bring it some degree of honor and legitimacy. He was a small-town man with small-town virtues. For much of his life, he wore a triple-band gold Mason’s ring and a small lapel button that showed he had served in World War I. He was comfortable in the world of small-town lodges, and was a member of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Moose, and the Elks.

But a life filled with a curious blend of disappointments and relatively few successes (at least on the scale of most men who attain the presidency) had created its own set of strengths. “I liked what I saw. He was direct, unpretentious, clear thinking and forceful,” General Omar Bradley wrote after their first meetings. He was not much given to self-deception and there was little artifice to him. He was hardworking, and always well prepared. He did not waste other people’s time, nor did he want them to waste his. In contrast to Roosevelt (who loved to play games with people even when he didn’t need to), Truman was comparatively simple and significantly less manipulative. What you saw, by and large, was what you got. George Marshall had always been uneasy with Roosevelt and some of the games he played with his top advisers. There had been one unfortunate moment when the president had tried verbal intimacy with Marshall, a man who thought the more formal the relationship with a politician, the straighter it was likely to be. Roosevelt called him by his first name, the first step in what was clearly to be a process of seduction. He immediately understood his own mistake by the coolness it generated. It was General or General Marshall thereafter, not George. Marshall for that reason clearly preferred Truman. There were fewer political land mines around.

In the Senate Truman had been all too aware of his own limitations. A great many of his colleagues were better educated, wealthier, and more successful; they knew worlds of privilege and sophistication he could only guess at. As one of his high school friends, Charlie Ross, later a star reporter for the St. Louis Post Dispatch and eventually his press secretary, said of him, “He came to the Senate, I believe, with a definite inferiority complex. He was a better man than he knew.” America, at the time he assumed the presidency, was changing rapidly, becoming infinitely more meritocratic, driven by powerful egalitarian forces let loose by World War II and new political benefits that went with them, like the GI Bill, which allowed anyone who had been in the military to go to college. Truman, by contrast, was a product of a far less egalitarian America, which had existed at the turn of the century, one where talented men and women did not always attain careers that reflected their abilities and their ambition.

I am afraid we are now back to being a far less egalitarian America, at least by this measure. It has been two decades (1988–2008) since we had anyone but an Ivy Leaguer as president—and we just elected another one.

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‘Quit India’ vs. the Muslim League

From Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Emperor, by Alex von Tunzelmann (Picador, 2008), pp. 127-128:

IN JUNE 1942, [American journalist] Louis Fischer spent a week at Gandhi’s ashram and observed the preparations for a new campaign under the slogan “Quit India.” The slogan was not only catchy but accurate: the British administration was to be harried, disobeyed and besieged until it simply upped and left, war or no war, economy or no economy, responsibility or no responsibility. The Quit India resolution, passed by Congress on 8 August 1942, announced that Congress would “no longer [be] justified in holding the nation back from endeavouring to assert its will” against the British administration, and sanctioned “a mass struggle on nonviolent lines under the inevitable leadership of Gandhiji.” The struggle would only begin at Gandhi’s word; but this was a call for treason as far as the British were concerned. The first arrests were made in the early hours of the morning of 9 August.

Over the following days, India exploded in violent uprisings, described by the viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, as the “most serious since that of 1857.” There were Quit India hartals across the country, which turned into riots. The police and the army fought back, often brutally, leaving an official civilian death toll of 1,028; bazaar gossip put the total at 25,000. Effectively, Congress had given the raj an excuse to imprison hundreds of its leaders, including Gandhi himself and Nehru—who, according to his sister, was almost thankful for it, so uncomfortable had he felt opposing the war effort. The resolution could never have succeeded. Britain could not evacuate India in the middle of the Second World War, with Japan looming on its eastern front. But the empty space created in politics by the Congress leaders being in prison gave the Muslim League its chance to rush in.

According to Jinnah, it was not in the interest of the Muslims for the British to abandon them in a potentially hostile swamp of Hinduism. The logical position of the League was actually to keep the British in India—at least for as long as it took to convince them of the case for Pakistan, and perhaps indefinitely. The effect of Gandhi’s Quit India misstep, and the League’s hugely successful campaign during the 1940s, can be seen from the election statistics. In the general election of 1945–46, the Muslim League would win about 75 percent of all Muslim votes. In every previous election, its share of the Muslim vote had hovered around 4.6 percent. During the war years, Gandhi and Congress handed Jinnah a sixteenfold increase in his support. Quit India damaged the chances of a united India at least as much as any single act of the British administration ever had.

Linlithgow wrote to Churchill, admitting that he was concealing the severity and the extent of the violence from the world. But the Americans found out and sent their own mediators to Delhi. The Americans’ “zeal in teaching us our business is in inverse ratio to their understanding of even the most elementary of problems,” Linlithgow complained to the secretary of state for India, Leopold Amery. It would be bad if the Americans came, he averred; it would be worse still if they tried to talk to Gandhi or Nehru. He pleaded with Amery “to arrest at least for a time this flow of well meaning sentimentalists.” But the flow of Americans continued, and Indians delighted to see them spoiling official occasions for the British by wearing the wrong clothes, disregarding procedure and cheerfully ignoring distinctions of rank.


Filed under Britain, democracy, India, Japan, nationalism, Pakistan, religion, U.S., war

Mohammad Ali Jinnah: Too much a toff for Yorkshire

From Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Emperor, by Alex von Tunzelmann (Picador, 2008), pp. 94-95:

Jinnah was a successful barrister, born in Karachi and called to the bar at Lincoln’s Inn. Tall and slender, he hardly ate, and smoked fifty Craven A cigarettes a day! He was often described as looking cadaverous, but this description does no justice to his dynamism. With his smooth coiffure and glittering stare he looked more like a cobra than a corpse. The photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White described at length “the Oxford-educated Jinnah” with his “razor-sharp mind and hypnotic, smoldering eyes.” Jinnah had not, in fact, been educated at Oxford; he had attended a madrassa in Karachi and a local mission school. But it was easy to believe that this urbane gentleman, described by the New York Times as “undoubtedly one of the best dressed men in the British Empire,” his public speaking rich with quotations from Shakespeare, was part of the British elite.

Jinnah had begun his political career in Congress. He made himself a figurehead for Hindu-Muslim unity and was acclaimed as such by Hindu Congress luminaries. He had joined the Muslim League in 1913, confident that he could act as abridge between the political parties. But it was the emergence of Gandhi as the spiritual leader of Congress in 1920 that began to push Jinnah out. “I will have nothing to do with this pseudo-religious approach to politics,” Jinnah had said, rejecting the call for satyagraha. “I part company with the Congress and Gandhi. I do not believe in working up mob hysteria. Politics is a gentleman’s game.” But politics is rarely gentlemanly, and as if to prove it there was a profound and deadly clash of personality between Jinnah and the other English gentleman of Congress, Jawaharlal Nehru. Like his compatriot and friend, the poet Muhammad Iqbal, Jinnah disdained “the atheistic socialism of Jawaharlal.” “We do not want any flag excepting the League flag of the Crescent and Star,” he would declare. “Islam is our guide and the complete code of our life.”

Despite his position as one of the key figures in the rise of twentieth-century Islam, Jinnah was no fundamentalist. His Islam was liberal, moderate and tolerant. It was said that he could recite none of the Koran, rarely went to a mosque and spoke little Urdu. Much has been made of his reluctance to don Muslim outfits, his fondness for I whiskey and his rumored willingness to eat ham sandwiches. In fact, he never pretended to be anything other than a progressive Muslim, influenced by the intellectual and economic aspects of European culture as well as by the teachings of Muhammad. The game he played was carefully considered: here was a Muslim who understood the British sufficiently to parley on equal terms, but asserted his Islamic identity strongly enough that he could never be seen to grovel. His refusal of a knighthood was significant; so, too, was his demurral in the face of Muslim attempts to call him “Maulana” Jinnah, denoting a religious teacher. Some historians go so far as to describe him as a “bad” Muslim, revealing more about their own ideas of what a Muslim should be than about Jinnah’s faith. In any case, the Muslim League suffered from no shortage of good Muslims. What it had lacked was a good politician. And Jinnah was without question one of the most brilliant politicians of his day.

Jinnah had married Rattanbai “Ruttie” Petit, the daughter of a prominent Parsi banker, when he was forty-two and she just eighteen. Rebellious and beautiful, Ruttie had been a close friend of Jawaharlal Nehru’s sister Nan Pandit; she was closer still, indeed almost passionately so, to Padmaja Naidu, who would later become Jawahar’s lover. The deeply personal and incestuous nature of Indian politics is plain from these relationships. Jinnah’s marriage was not an easy one. After the birth of their daughter, Dina, he and Ruttie separated. Ruttie died on her thirtieth birthday in 1929, following a long affliction with a digestive disorder. Jinnah was devastated at her death and moved to London with Dina. He took a large house in Hampstead, was chauffeured around in a Bentley, played billiards, lunched at Simpson’s and went to the theater. He considered standing for parliament in the Labour interest but was rejected by a Yorkshire constituency, allegedly with the verdict that it would not be represented by “a toff like that.” His sister Fatima gave up a career as a dentist to become, in effect, his hostess, though that title belies her full significance. Fatima Jinnah was a woman of intelligence and drive, and was influential in her brother’s move toward Islamic nationalism.

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Sumo’s No-throw Zabutons

This year’s Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament is at the halfway point, and Kyushu-based blogger Ampontan explained after the first day how the Japan Sumo Association has reconfigured the zabuton (lit. ‘seat futon’) in the box seats in order to discourage fans from throwing their seat cushions when some lower-ranking rikishi upsets a yokozuna. Since the yokozuna fight last, cushion-throwing opportunities tend to come at the very end of a long day of sitting.

The new, difficult-to-throw zabuton made their debut at the Kyushu tournament at Fukuoka City’s Fukuoka Kokusai Center on Sunday the 9th. The space in the box seat areas have been expanded, and instead of having four individual square zabuton for each of the patrons in the box, they will be provided with double zabuton sets. These consist of two rectangular cushions measuring 125 centimeters (49 inches) by 50 centimeters and attached by a cord. A fan would have to be seriously upset to get one of those things airborne.

The reactions to the new cushions have been mixed. One member of a local Kyushu group with ringside seats (called suna kaburi in Japanese, or “covered with sand”) said, “I’ve been hit by flying zabuton before, and it didn’t hurt. But some people who have been hit said that it hurt a lot, so I’m glad they’re doing something about it.”

In contrast, one woman in her 20s from Fukuoka City who plans to attend the tournament said she was disappointed that she wouldn’t be able to see any flying zabuton because she thought it represented the real sumo atmosphere. A housewife in her 50s said she thought it was a bit frightening because people might decide to throw something else instead of the zabuton. (Are not those views representative of the classic difference between youth and age?)

The first day must have been frustrating for would-be launchers of zabuton torpedoes because the lower-ranking veteran Aminishiki gave the live audience a perfect opportunity by defeating reigning champion Hakuho.

After Day 8, however, Hakuho remains tied for the lead, at 7-1, with Miyabiyama, another lower-ranking veteran who is currently the heaviest rikishi in the top division, tipping the scales at 179 kg, just 2 kg more than the giant Estonian Baruto.

Among the fresh foreigner faces in the top level this time around are: the Mongolian Koryu, the Russian Aran, and the Georgian Tochinoshin. There are now eight Mongolians in the top division, and six more in the Juryo rankings, along with two Georgians, one Bulgarian, one Estonian, one Korean, and one Russian.

Now if they could just prevent the wrestlers from throwing matches …

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