OGATA, AKITA PREF. – A bronze statue of the late sumo great Taiho will be donated to his birthplace on the Russian island Sakhalin at the initiative of supporters here.
The 2.27-meter-high statue, which weighs 260 kg, was unveiled at a ceremony on Friday.
Local sculptor Toshio Kamada offered to make the statue after learning that the Sakhalin city of Poronaysk would set it up at the site of Taiho’s old home.
“I worked on it as an initiative for grassroots cultural exchanges between Russia and Japan,” said Kamada, a 69-year-old fan of Taiho. “It it, I was able to express Taiho’s strength, gentleness and dignity.”
The mother and the wife of Taiho, whose real name was Koki Naya, are from Akita Prefecture.
“We had started preparations to go to Sakhalin when his health became too bad for traveling,” recalled Taiho’s 66-year-old wife, Yoshiko. “I’m glad he (the statue) will now go over there.”
After being displayed in Ogata until the middle of July, the statue will be transported to Poronaysk and unveiled at a ceremony there on Aug. 16. The sculptor plans to attend the event.
Taiho’s statue will cost about ¥8 million, including transportation expenses. A local group of volunteers in Akita has been soliciting contributions.
Born in 1940 in Poronaysk, then under Japanese administration, Taiho came to Hokkaido as World War II intensified.
After making his professional sumo debut in 1956, Taiho rose through the ranks to become yokozuna in 1961, at age 21. During his career, he won the Emperor’s Cup 32 times, still an all-time record, earning him the reputation as the great yokozuna of the Showa period (1926-1989).
Taiho died of heart disease in January 2013 at the age of 72. After leaving Sakhalin, he never returned for a visit.