I guess I first got interested in sumo when
I was growing up in Hawaii. Of course, the first foreign wrestler to make it big over here
was from Hawaii, and then when I started working as a sportscaster at a TV station back
home, the Hawaiian wrestlers would stop by whenever they were in town. So, yeah, sumo'
been part of my life for quite some time now.
The job at NHK came about because my contract at the station where I was working came up
and wasn't going to be renewed and at about the same time I found out that there was an
opening over here in sport. I'd been to Japan prior to that and met the bosses at NHK and
they had said that if I was interested I should get in contact, so I gave them a call.
They didn't promise me anything as far as a job went, so I actually came here as a student
enrolled at Waseda University, and I was thinking that in the worst case scenario I would
be here for 10 months and if things didn't pan out after that I could go back to Hawaii.
But as it turns out everything worked out almost ideally.
I get to meet the wrestlers from time to time, and I always remember this time I was
talking to Musashimaru at an exhibition tournament and we were waiting in a hallway before
his match when he bumped into me by accident, not like a full on bump, his elbow just
grazed me, but it nearly knocked me over. These guys may look fat but if you see them up
close there's a lot of muscle there. Some of them are a little soft, but the others,
especially the top guys are really all muscle. I used to meet American footballers back
home and they were big, but they just don't compare to sumo wrestlers. I mean these guys
are larger than life.
When I first came here I couldn't speak a word of Japanese and that made it tough as it
isn't obvious that I am a foreigner, so people would always speak to me in Japanese and
they would be a bit shocked when I responded in English. It was the first time in my life
that I've been complimented on my English. It kind of motivated me to go out and study the
I really like living here, but when people find out I'm from Hawaii, which is such a
beautiful place, they say: "Why do you do it?" Well, I guess I miss the weather
and the climate, but you know, Tokyo has a lot more opportunities for me career-wise, and
I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that the money is really good and is one of the things
that keeps me here. It's not just the money though. Being a Japanese American I'm probably
a little more interested in learning about the language and culture and getting to know
the people than the average person.
I think the only time I feel myself getting a little edgy is at train stations, especially
in the mornings. You know, you get out and see this mass of people moving towards you and
you think to yourself that you'd better pick a route through pretty quickly or you're
going to get yourself knocked over. That's when it really sort of bugs me. But luckily I
have a work schedule that doesn't fit into the nine to five thing so I don't have to deal
with that every day. If I did it would probably drive me mad. I think that that must be
the hardest part of the day for most people...not work itself, but getting there.
For the moment I have no intention of leaving, I can see myself staying here for ten
years. I think it just gets better as time goes on, as you learn more about the language
and find out more about the place. I'm very happy.
Ross Mihara spoke to Richard James.
Do you know an interesting person in Tokyo? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org