|BIG IN JAPAN
Known to his fans as the
"Eternal Typhoon," "Go-for-broke Kid" and the "Tom Jones of
sumo," Terao is undoubtedly one of the most popular sumo wrestlers ever. Even when
you can' clearly see the slight-by sumo standards-figure from the cheap seats at the back
of the stadium, you know by the screaming applause of adoring female fans Terao, clad only
in his burgundy mawashi belt, has entered the ring. Terao-whose real name is
Yoshifumi Fukuzono-entered sumo in July 1979, rather unusually, taking the maiden name of
his recently deceased mother as his shikona (fighting name). This was an
admirable tribute, with the added benefit that "Terao" doesn't have a specific
translation, unlike Akebono (Dawn) or Wakanohana. (Young Flower.)
Weighing a mere 114kg (257lb) he is the third lightest wrestler, but standing 186cm
(6'0") tall, means he has one of the more attractive physiques in the sport, although
he claims to hanker after a body like Musashimaru; solid, with a low center of gravity.
Because he doesn't have much weight to throw around, Terao resorts to techniques that
involve nimbly dodging his opponent in the hope he can catch him off balance. Using the hatakikomi
move, grabbing anything - arms, shoulders, neck - he trys to pull them down. In an effort
to prevent the rival grabbing his belt and literally lifting him out of the dohyo
(ring), Terao is renowned for his flailing-arm, windmill impressions, officially known as
the tsuppari slapping, thrusting technique, an approach which often pays off. Not
only has he beaten such formidable opponents as Chiyotaikai, Musoyama and Takanonami, but
also the massive Hawaiian, Musashimaru, whose body he covets. Over the years, Terao has
been awarded a number of prizes by the JSA (Japan Sumo Association) three times for
"Fighting Spirit" and "Outstanding Performance" and once for
But his Tsuppari style has also resulted in severe wrist damage, and in 1994, x-rays
revealed his bodily weapons are comparable to a 70-year-old's. As a consequence his wrists
are always bandaged, even for daily practice: push-ups, eye-watering splits and squats
with a rookie sitting on his shoulders.
Paradoxically, Terao claims not to like sumo and is quoted as saying "It's just a
job; a way to earn a living."
Yet at 37, he is the oldest sumo wrestler with the longest professional fighting career.
He modestly attributes his longevity to the constant influx of enthusiastic youngsters
into his training stable, Izutsu Beya, and still intends to remain active as long
And who can say how much longer that will be? Certainly his numerous, ardent fans hope it
will be for another 22 years, but then what? Possibly he will become an Oyakata -
training stable master or coach - like his father and older brother, or work in his
restaurant, surprisingly called "Terao Chanko," which is adorned with
family sumo pictures and currently run by another older brother, also a former wrestler.
But one thing is certain; he would like to get married. And don't think only Japanese
women need apply. He told a Sumo World reporter: "As long as she's a nice
woman, I don't mind what nationality she is." But in all likelihood Mrs Eternal
Typhoon will probably be a gorgeous Japanese TV announcer, model or flight attendant, like
most of the other sumo wives.