The History of Hawai‘i From Our Files: The Success of Maui-Born Sumo Wrestler Jesse Kuhaulua in 1970
For 133 years HONOLULU Magazine has kept its readers and advertisers at the vanguard of fashion, insight and fun. Starting out as Paradise of the Pacific in 1888 with a commission from King Kalākaua, we’re the oldest continually publishing magazine west of the Mississippi. Here is a look into our archives.
The success of Maui-born sumo wrestler Jesse Kuhaulua in Japan prompted writer Tom Kaser to research his early story for “My Son the Sumo Wrestler: Jesse Kuhaulua’s Mother—and Coaches—Tell How ‘A Good Maui Boy’ Became Da Kine Japan Scrapper.”
It traces how Kuhaulua, then only 26, had gone from a shy easygoing Baldwin High School football player to a high-ranking sumo wrestler in Japan known as Takamiyama. After Kuhaulua retired from the ring in 1984, he served as a sumo stablemaster in Japan for more than 20 years. As Takamiyama, Kuhaulua set records for longevity and made his mark as the first non-Japanese wrestler to reach the sumo rank of sekiwake.
Other Hawai‘i men also triumphed in the ring in later years, including Konishiki (Saleva‘a Atisanoe) and Akebono (Chad Rowan), two men who became, respectively, the first foreigners to reach the even-higher ranks of ozeki and yokozuna; as well as Musashimaru (Fiamalu Penitani), who became the second foreign-born yokozuna.
The HONOLULU article reveals that when Kuhaulua first moved to Japan, the young wrestler became so homesick one night that he spent hours riding around Tokyo on a train and might have hopped a plane home if one of his sponsors had not hidden his passport. All four men still return to the Islands and have retained their sumo star status.
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Read more stories by Robbie Dingeman