Former Ozeki Dejima Takeharu was a popular and successful sumo wrestler known for his aggressive style of obstinately pushing forward. His sumo technique was summed up in the phrase “Forward! Forward! Dejima!” He currently raises younger wrestlers as Stable Master Onaruto (Fujishima Beya) and serves as a judge at sumo tournaments. A familiar figure from television, Onaruto was enrolled on the teacher-training course while studying in the Department of Law at the Chuo University Faculty of Law. While at university, he was constantly busy with classes, teacher-training course (social studies for junior high school and high school), and sumo training and tournaments.
How did Onaruto wear three hats in university?
In this edition, Hakumon Chuo student reporter Rika Isaka (4th-year student at the Faculty of Law) interviews Onaruto.
The desire to teach
“I viewed teaching as my future career,” says Onaruto. “Japan was in a recession when I was a student and it started becoming difficult to find employment. Also, joining a corporate sumo team was no longer an option for sumo wrestlers. My parents wanted me to return to my hometown and work there. A career in teaching made that possible.”
“I thought that becoming a professional sumo wrestler would be intimidating and tough. I wasn’t confident that I could have a successful professional career. On the other hand, I was interested in teaching because I had good relationships with and respected my teachers since I was very young.”
Balancing university classes and teacher-training course
“At the Faculty of Law, normal classes and the teacher-training course are completely different,” explains Onaruto. “Conversely, at the Faculty of Letters, there are some teaching courses which overlap with normal classes. I didn’t know that at the time. Afterwards, I sometimes wished that I had enrolled in the Faculty of Letters.”
“I had a really busy schedule. I remember one of my teachers in the teacher-training course was really interesting. There were other teachers who talked about topics completely unrelated to the course material. I wondered how some of the courses were related to a career in teaching. Classes were usually really long. I had trouble attending classes which lasted longer than an hour. I was exhausted from the demanding sumo training and started to skip class. I even spent time thinking about how to gain credits without attending class. That’s a horrible thing to do as a student, isn’t it?”
Far right: Stable Master Fujishima (formerly Ozeki Musoyama) instructs young sumo wrestlers
“Many of the wrestlers in the sumo club were enrolled in the teacher-training course,” recalls Onaruto. “I am still friends with one wrestler who was in the same grade and now teaches at a high school. He was a student of the Faculty of Commerce. You might think that since we had so much in common, we helped motivate each other in our studies. However, that wasn’t the case. Many people assume that a teaching certification is easy to obtain as long as you attend class and enroll in the teaching-training course. After struggling through my first, second and third years, I finally reached my limit before the first term examinations in my fourth year. It became impossible to continue wearing three different hats. I wasn’t the smartest student, so I still had a lot of credits remaining. Also, it was necessary to retake many university classes and classes in the teacher-training course. I felt that this was impossible and prioritized graduation. In the end, I dropped out of the teacher-training course. It might seem impressive to wear three hats. However, it’s probably best to stumble somewhere along the way. There is a surprising amount of animosity towards people who are too perfect.”
Focused on graduating in 4 years
――Did you agonize over your decision to quit?
“No, because my first priority was to graduate,” explains Onaruto. “I wanted to graduate in 4 years. My parents expected me to do so and I didn’t want to burden them any further. I didn’t want to be known as the person who took an extra year to graduate. Although a university diploma has absolutely no relationship to professional sumo, I was determined to graduate. I was thinking of more than myself. If I failed to graduate, it would make it difficult for the Chuo University Sumo Club to recruit high school students. I didn’t want parents to think that sumo wrestlers in our club failed to graduate on time. After all, that kind of negative information circulates quickly.”
Recognizing the greatness of Chuo after graduation
“While attending university, I didn’t think much about being enrolled in the Department of Law at the Chuo University Faculty of Law. However, I was surprised after graduating. Although I have traveled to many places, there was also someone who was a Chuo alumnus ready to cheer me on. University is truly a wonderful place and the camaraderie is a true treasure. My classmates include lawyers, bank employees, railway company employees, company executives and teachers. Some of my classmates are still studying to become lawyers. Speaking of Chuo alumni, Sawamura pitched a winning game yesterday, didn’t he?
“It seems that Sawamura has learned a lot about pitching during the past year and a half. Without a doubt, professional baseball is completely different from the college game. Even the bottom of the batting order is filled with outstanding players. In sports and in life, it’s best to get a firm footing and solid ground from which to launch yourself to greater things.”
≪Yomiuri Giants pitcher Hirokazu Sawamura is also a Chuo University alumnus≫
On August 28th, Sawamura won the game by blanking the Hanshin Tigers at Tokyo Dome for the first time in one year and 2 months. It was his second victory this season since July 6th. Sawamura graduated from Chuo University in 2011.
Effort is Rewarded
“When I speak in front of children, I always tell them that they will be rewarded as much as the effort they make. I tell them about the importance of having a dream and growing it like a tree. The best fertilizer for a “dream tree” is their effort. A dream tree is fragile and quick to wilt. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small tree or a big tree—the point is simply to continually make an effort and develop that dream.”
“Today’s children are raised in a very strict environment. Indeed, we live in a very strict era. When I talk to teachers, they tell me that children are forced to conform to a certain image. Individuality is discouraged. Everyone is expected to act as a group and get along together. That’s why it’s a shock for young people to enter a working society in which not everyone is so friendly. In particular, elite students need to have their pride beaten down in order to advance. In the past, children were subject to great hardship and pain. Children grew while overcoming such pain. Truly, undergoing pain and difficulty is part of growing stronger and learning to persevere.”
People are cultivated by their environment
“I was blessed with good teachers. I simply respected them and followed their instruction. I never excelled at English because I didn’t get along with my English teacher. During my adolescence, I decided that I disliked English due to a trivial incident. Teachers greatly affected me. I wonder what would have happened if I had attended a different school. It’s scary to think about how my life might have turned out.”
“It may appear that I climbed rapidly through the sumo ranks and had a smooth career. In truth, I overcame a lot of difficulties. During training, I did things that no one else ever attempted. I changed my way of thinking.”
“When I entered the world of professional sumo, I decided to forget about my sumo career at university. I realized that what I had learned wouldn’t be useful in the world of professional sumo. I was in a completely different environment. Sometimes, you have to get your hands dirty in order to get things done. Young people should endure hardship in order to reach their goals. Then they can remember how to get things done without getting their hands dirty. There are some things which are worth enduring hardship for.”
Sumo is muscle memory
Stable Master Onaruto and student reporter Isaka (right)
“Sumo wrestlers don’t ‘learn’ to wrestle. We remember. Through daily training, we develop muscle memory. Using your brain to think is much too slow. Personally, I have experienced several matches in which butting heads during the initial charge gave me a concussion. Even while being unconscious, I continued to do sumo. I won the match but don’t remember anything about it. That’s what you call muscle memory! Of course, such training is quite different from the learning environment at school.”
Provided by Hakumon Chuo, Autumn 2014 Edition, No. 238
*The Autumn 2014 Edition contains a more in-depth interview with Stable Master Onaruto.
*An article on Stable Master Onaruto was also published in the article “Sweat is Rewarded” in the Hakumon Chuo, Spring 2010 Edition, No. 216.