Somewhere in the United States, an old friend of mine from the JET Programme may be tearing up a bit.
You see, when we were meeting each other almost weekly up in the mountains of Gunma some 25 years ago, I found out that he was a huge fan of sumo legend Chiyonofuji（千代の富）. In fact, one time we were watching a biographical documentary on the yokozuna and near the end, my friend was actually tearing up something awful since he was so touched by the rise of the Wolf which was Chiyonofuji's nickname. The Grand Champion actually finished his active career during our time as teachers on the programme. His time was from September 1970 to May 1991, and during that era, he won 31 tournament championships which was second only to the mighty Taiho. Plus, he had also held the record of consecutive winning bouts at 53 until still-active Hakuho took the record at 54 back in 2010. Even a casual fan like myself was well aware that the Wolf was special in that he was a relatively small wrestler at just 6 ft tall and 280 lb (1.8 metres and 127 kg) but he looked like a tightly-coiled powerhouse and was able to take out much larger rivals with as much brain as brawn.
This morning, when I woke up I caught the shocking news on NHK that Chiyonofuji had just passed away at the too-young age of 61 from the ravages of pancreatic cancer. I know that retired sumo wrestlers have their health issues but I never thought that anything could take him down like that.
Anyways in honour to Chiyonofuji, I decided to put up an enka ballad which fits the yokozuna titled "Byakuya no Ohkami" (Wolf Under The Midnight Sun). Takeshi Kitayama（北山たけし）sang this as one of his singles from July 2013, and it was written by Shinichi Tsuji（つじ伸一）and composed by Saburo Kitajima（北島三郎）under his pen name of Joji Hara（原譲二）. And as would be the case for a Kitajima-penned tune, it is a manly enka sung with gusto by Kitayama about being that fellow with a dream to pursue relentlessly until finally caught and realized. There are those powerful strings and guitar in there but at the very beginning, there is a clarion call by the lone trumpet which must have been a riff off the score of a samurai drama. Truly lone wolf stuff.
As I said, the lyrics by Tsuji seem tailor-made for Chiyonofuji's hunt for greatness up the sumo rankings to achieve the ultimate title of yokozuna. Unfortunately, "Byakuya no Ohkami" wasn't quite as successful in its quest to hit the top of the charts, only getting as high as No. 20. Still, I thought it was quite the right song to put up for the legend. I'm sure the next couple of sports broadcasts will be going over the life and times of the Wolf.
To quote an ending line from an old Hollywood movie: "So long, champ!"
from Shinji Fukumasa