15 Jul Sumo great Taiho given statue tribute on island of birth

Fans of custom bronze sculptures everywhere will be intrigued to read that the latest legend to be commemorated in statue form somewhere in the world is the late sumo wrestler Taiho. A 260kg, 2.27-meter-high statue by Japanese sculptor Toshio Kamada has already been unveiled, and will be gifted to the Russian island, Sakhalin, on which Taiho was born.

Kamada expressed an interest in making the statue after hearing of the Sakhalin city of Poronaysk’s interest in having it positioned on the site of Taiho’s former residence. The 69 year old sculptor, an admirer of Taiho, commented: “I  worked on it as an initiative for grassroots cultural exchanges between Russia and Japan. I was able to express Taiho’s strength, gentleness and dignity.”

Taiho’s real name was Koki Naya, and he had links to Akita Prefecture in Japan through his mother and wife. His 66 year old wife, Yoshiko, recalled: “We had started preparations to go to Sakhalin when his health became too bad for traveling. I’m glad he (the statue) will now go over there.”

The statue will be displayed in Ogata until mid-July, followed by its transportation to Poronaysk, where it will be unveiled at a ceremony attended by the sculptor on August 16th. The cost of the Taiho statue will be around ¥8 million ($78,961), including transportation expenses, contributions having been solicited by a local volunteer group in Akita.

Taiho was born in 1940 in Poronaysk, which was then under Japanese control. With the intensification of the Second World War, Taiho made the decision to come to Hokkaido, and never again visited Sakhalin.

He made his professional debut in 1956, and by the age of 21, in 1961, had become yokozuna. His career saw him win what is still an all-time record 32 Emperor’s Cups, and he came to be known as the Showa period’s (1926-1989) great yokozuna.

In January 2013, Taiho died of heart disease, at the age of 72. An obituary in the British Guardian newspaper described him as “the greatest sumo wrestler of the second half of the 20th century, and arguably the greatest of all time” – words that we are not inclined to disagree with as makers of custom bronze sculptures here at Big Statues.

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