In Person: Hard to heart
Former sumo wrestler Konishiki is in great demand these
days, but his heart lies in his many charitable endeavors, he tells Chris
Konishiki can't believe how fast the last 20 years have gone by.
It was in 1982 that the Hawaiian began his journey in Japan's sumo
world, an odyssey that would take him to the sport's second highest
rank of ozeki before he retired in 1997 after 1,117 bouts, including 733
wins, in the top division. After retirement, his life became even more
hectic with numerous TV and commercial appearances, so that he is now
one of Japan's most recognizable personalities.
More importantly, the 38-year-old Konishiki, who goes by the Japanese
name of Yasokichi Shioda, is involved in a host of charitable activities,
not the least of which is Konishiki Kids, because he says it is a way
of remembering his roots. "If I hadn't gone into sumo, I
probably would have ended up on the wrong side of the tracks back home,"
says the 100 percent Samoan. "I was born and raised in Nanakuli,
a poor area in Oahu. Many people there live on welfare, and it's
a hard life, not the Hawaii you see on TV. I had one pair of shorts and
one shirt for the whole year, but it didn't really bother me because
we were as happy as anybody who had money. We learned to live off the
land with what nature provided us."
Recruited by fellow Hawaiian wrestler Jesse Kuhaulua (now stable owner
Oyakata Azumazeki), the former Salevaa Atisanoe came to Japan to wrestle
as Konishiki and quickly became immersed in the rigid world of sumo. But
he never forgot his value system. "There is no price you can put
on family and friends," he says, playing with his golden retriever
Maru as he talks. "I made up my mind to do something for my community
With the help of foreign companies, the Konishiki Foundation was established
in 1997. Each year since, the foundation has brought 35 underprivileged
children from Hawaii to Japan for cultural exchange. "The idea
is to give them more opportunities outside their own community and give
them hope to follow their dreams," he explains. "I learn
a lot from the kids, too. Their enthusiasm encourages me to try harder
to survive life's hardships."
Konishiki speaks so sincerely that it is not surprising he is in demand
as a spokesman for many worthy causes, among them children's and
environmental issues. "If the timing is right, I'll do anything
charitable," he says. "Working with kids is most important.
Common sense can't be taught in books."
In between his charity work, Konishiki is kept busy with TV and event
appearances, as well as commercials for products ranging from cars to
home appliances. "I like doing the ads, even if they use me in
funny ways. I won't go crazy and run naked, but I'll do
whatever they need to a point," he says. Work also takes him overseas
at least once a month.
Does he ever have any time to himself? "Sure, I go to the movies
all the time. I go in just before the movie starts and sometimes I might
spend the whole day in the theater, watching three movies," he
says. He also likes interacting with fans on his home page (www.konishiki.net).
Music is another favorite pastime for Konishiki, who has released two
CDs (kind of hip hop), with a third, Konishiki Simply, due out next month
to celebrate his 20 years in Japan. "It's a variety of Hawaiian
and adult contemporary music. It's a version of whom I am."
But sumo still piques Konishiki's interest. "I have no ties
to the sumo association, but I am close to my former stable. A lot of
us retired wrestlers go out and talk." The sport is clearly suffering
in popularity, which the former ozeki attributes to a lack of superstars,
competition from J League ,and the success of Japanese baseball stars
in the US who get more press nowadays. "But you know, sumo is really
popular overseas. I was in Turkey a couple of months ago, and they had
a sumo wrestler doing a Pepsi commercial. Foreign wrestlers are the best
thing that ever happened, and they shouldn't stop it. A lot of
Koreans, Mongolians and Taiwanese want to be sumo wrestlers." But
why not "white" guys? "They see it as two almost
naked guys prancing around. If they study the sport, see what it's
all about and look into its history, then they would see it as more of
a challenge," Konishiki says.
Konishiki's biggest challenge now is controlling his weight. During
his sumo days, he reached 296kg but has now slimmed down a bit by walking
and swimming, and he has monthly checkups. "I eat a lot of fish
and vegetables instead of my old King Kong-style diet of steak, rice,
steak, rice. I'm all right in Japan, but I pig out when I go to
Hawaii. I guess I have a choice between dying happy by eating everything
I like or taking it slow."
Photo credit: Chris Betros
|B u y i t o n l i n
The Spy Who Shagged Me [DVD]
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539: Sea worthy
Deep Blue director Andy Byatt breaks the surface after five years of filming
the ocean. Carlo Niederberger reports.
538: The public eye
Switch on a TV wide show and theres a good chance youll
see Dave Spector commenting on the news or debating panelists. Chris Betros
meets the TV junkie.
537: Casting a spell
Fans in Japan can't get enough of Harry Potter, whether it's movies, books,
merchandise or the stars themselves. Chris Betros catches some of the Hogwarts
gang in Tokyo.
536: Page turner
Longtime Tokyo entrepreneur Rick Roa has enough stories to fill a dozen
lifetimes, as his biographer found out. Chris Betros hears some of the juicy
535: Glitter twins
Will Matthew Bourne's latest reinterpretation of a classic strike a chord
in Japan? Lead dancers Scott Ambler and Richard Windsor tell Dan Grunebaum about
Play Without Words.
534: Character study
Puerto Rican star and Oscar winner Benicio Del Toro turns in another intense
performance in 21 Grams. Chris Betros reports.
533: The big freeze
Roland Emmerich and his team are chilling audiences with their ice age disaster
film The Day After Tomorrow. Chris Betros joins them out of the cold.
532: Hitting a Homer
At 40, Brad Pitt looks to be in pretty good shape after a tough shoot and
even tougher publicity schedule for Troy. Chris Betros reports.
531: Trade deficit
A new book by Robert Whiting looks at Japans latest quality export
to America: Ichiro and the boys. Rob Smaal catches up with the author.
530: Hey Jude
British actor Jude Law is very low-key about his sex-symbol status in Japan.
Chris Betros gets a close-up look.
529: Field goals
After three years as a San Francisco 49ers cheerleader, Ai Yasuda tells
Sachie Kanda the lessons she learned from the Gold Rush.
528: Voice of reason
Whether hes on InterFM or co-hosting the Japanese version of 60 Minutes,
veteran Japan resident Peter Barakan brings a mature view to the masses. Chris
Betros listens in.
527: Rock enroll
Comedian-rocker Jack Black is in fine form during a jaunt to promote School
of Rock. Chris Betros listens in.
526: Spoils of war
Director Anthony Minghella and Oscar-winner Renée Zellweger revisit
the Civil War in Cold Mountain. Chris Betros takes note.
525: Second acts
Dewi Sukarno wears many hats-social critic, TV personality and charity fundraiser.
Chris Betros visits the former first lady of Indonesia.
524: State of Grace
TV variety show presenter Hiroko Grace thrives in the hustle and bustle
of New York. Chris Betros finds out what shes been up to.
523: Manga mania
TokyoPop founder Stuart Levy has struck gold as the leading publisher of
Japanese manga in the US. Chris Betros finds out whats behind the boom.
522: Queen of hearts
Newly crowned Miss Nippon Yuriko Saga is ready to seize the day. Carlo Niederberger
meets the new belle of the ball.
521: Remember when
A beefed-up Ben Affleck says he wants to keep all his memories-unlike his
character in John Woo's thriller Paycheck. Chris Betros finds out why.
519: Bilingual beat
Red carpets at the Grammys, TV interviews and radio work keep Yuka Komaki
pretty busy. Chris Betros catches up with the globetrotting personality.
518: Full speed ahead
Australian director Peter Weir takes us back in time on an epic voyage in
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Chris Betros books his passage.
517: American dream
Switch-hitting shortstop Kazuo Matsui is set make a splash as the first
Japanese infielder to play in the Major Leagues. Rob Smaal reports on his big
516: Hail the hobbits
Accolades and awards are making it hard for Peter Jackson and his cast to
adjust to life after Lord of the Rings, reports Chris Betros.
515: In the name of love
Only 20, British actress Keira Knightley is already building an impressive
body of work, the latest being the romantic comedy Love Actually. Chris Betros
514: Horsing around
Tobey Maguire swaps his Spider-Man costume for a jockey's kit in the acclaimed
Depression-era drama Seabiscuit. Chris Betros reports.
513: Free bird
Actress-model Anna Umemiya juggles single parenthood, work and the tabloids.
Chris Betros asks how she does it.
512: Girl next door
Fame hasn't gone to Holly Valance's head, Chris Betros finds after meeting
the former Neighbours star and now Australian singing sensation.
511: Emotional baggage
Fumiko Ishioka uses an old suitcase from a young Auschwitz victim to teach
Japan's children about the Holocaust. Chris Betros hears more.
508: All that jazz
Filipino singer Charito is still winning fans after 20 years on the Tokyo
jazz scene. Chris Betros checks out her style.
507: Lord of the rings
Hollywood can't get enough Japanese horror movies to remake. Producer Takashige
Ichise loves it, Chris Betros learns.
506: Men of honor
Tom Cruise and Edward Zwick say we can all learn from the samurai code of
ethics. Chris Betros dusts off his armor for a few lessons.
505: A lofty goal
Ken Ohtaka swapped a top job at a securities company for mountain climbing
to raise money for charity. Chris Betros finds out why.
504: Gallo's humor
Vincent Gallo comes out swinging in defense of his controversial movie The
Brown Bunny. Chris Betros dodges a few punches.
503: Making J-Waves
Radio navigator, TV host, event MC and jewelry designer Chris Peppler has
a lot on his plate. Chris Betros finds out how he manages it all.
502: Glitter Ball
501: Crossing swords
Quentin Tarantino pays homage to Japan, strong women and anime with buckets
of blood in Kill Bill. Chris Betros lives to tell the tale.
500: Share the wealth
To commemorate our 500th issue, Metropolis is asking Halloween partygoers
to donate ¥500 to help two local children's charities. Chris Betros digs
499: In full bloom
Okinawan-American singer DAHLIA hits the big time, thanks to Japanese rock
icon Yoshiki and Expo 2005. Chris Betros meets the young talent.
498: Just for laughs
The Sushi Brothers have a joke for every occasion. Chris Betros meets the
497: Nobel mind
At 79, former US President Jimmy Carter is a busy man championing human
rights, world peace and public health, as Carlo Niederberger observes.
496: Broad strokes
Live performances and self-promotion are all part of being a painter in
today's world, artist Ponzi tells Krista Wilson.
495: Action figure
Angelina Jolie is busy these days, kicking butt as Lara Croft and standing
up for refugee children around the world as a UN representative. Chris Betros
494: Show and tell
Yuka Nukina brings the world to Japan on NHK's Weekend Japanology program.
Chris Betros tunes in.
493: Pasona non grata
Business maverick Yasuyuki Nambu's vision of a radically new Japanese society
doesn't endear him to bureaucrats, but Chris Betros is impressed.
492: Rain man
Author Barry Eisler takes to the mean streets of Tokyo with his second book
featuring Japanese-American assassin John Rain. Chris Betros digs deeper.
491: Golden boy
Kosuke Kitajima is the latest athlete to captivate Japan after smashing
two world records at the world swimming championships. Fred Varcoe hears about
his new life.
490: Murder, she wrote
Award-winning mystery author Natsuo Kirino proves herself a master of the
macabre in Out, her first novel to be translated into English. Chris Betros
reads between the lines.
489: Life or death
Acclaimed British director Alan Parker's latest film delves into the moral
debate surrounding the death penalty. Chris Betros listens in.
488: Work of art
Salma Hayek spent eight years bringing her passion for Mexican artist Frida
Kahlo to the big screen. Chris Betros hears the story.
487: A charmed life
Actress Uno Kanda's ultimate goal is to end up being a cute grandma. Chris
Betros asks how she intends to do it.
486: He's back
The Terminator returns after a 12-year hiatus as its star Arnold Schwarzenegger
ponders a career shift. Chris Betros reports.
485: Prime time
Thirty-something Tomoko Ogawa has found fame and career fulfillment behind
the TBS news desk. Chris Betros pays the anchorwoman a visit.
484: Screen test
Project Greenlight gives aspiring film directors a million bucks and a chance
to be the next Martin Scorsese. Chris Betros meets its first winner, Pete Jones.
483: Angel eyes
Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore thrill the faithful during their
visit to promote Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. Chris Betros joined the masses.
482: No holds barred
Top female pro wrestler Chigusa Nagayo has a growing legion of fans. Sachie
Kanda finds out why.
481: Top of the hill
While heading up designer Terence Conran's Roppongi Hills projects, architect
Richard Doone took time to get lost in Tokyo. Steve Trautlein reports.
480: Inside the Matrix
Six months of Matrix fever begins this weekend with The Matrix Reloaded.
Chris Betros hears what the stars have to say about it.
479: Universal themes
The Miss Universe final is just the beginning for Miyako Miyazaki, who wants
the world to see the beauty of Japanese culture. Chris Betros hears more.
478: On the ball
Japans national soccer head coach, Zico, has big plans for the team. Fred
Varcoe finds out whats on his mind.
477: That's a rap
Director Curtis Hanson gets a surprisingly good performance out of controversial
hip-hop superstar Eminem in 8 Mile. Chris Betros finds out how he did it.
476: Say the magic word
Popular magician Dave Letendre has a trick for every occasion, Chris Betros
475: Bully boy
Bad boy Brad Renfro takes on another tormented youth role in Larry Clarks
no-holds barred drama Bully. Chris Betros tries to figure him out.
474: Inventive mind
From the weird to the wonderful, Dr NakaMats has an invention for every
occasion. Chris Betros meets the genius.
473: The king of rock n role
Montreal entertainer Martin Fontaine brings The Elvis Story to Japan this
month. Sachie Kanda meets the star of the high-energy musical.
472: Inside out
Akiko Shimizu is on a mission: to give Japanese women the skills to make
the right choices in their lives. Chris Betros gets a few tips, too.
471: Dramatic intrigue
International star of stage and screen Mozaffar Shafeie gives Stephen Cotterill
the lowdown on Tokyos theater scene.
470: Guru of gore
Bizarre movie director David Cronenberg is the most normal person he knows.
You wouldnt think so from his films, though, Chris Betros observes.
469: Female bonding
Halle Berry and Rosamund Pike leave 007 shaken and stirred in Lee Tamahoris
Die Another Day. Chris Betros hears more.
468: Baby boom
Pint-sized BRAT has Japans pop culture in his sights. Chris Betros
talks to his creator, British illustrator John Shelley.
467: Good Lord
Actor Viggo Mortensen dismisses comparisons between Lord of the Rings and
the fight against terrorism. Chris Betros lends an ear.
466: Just for thrills
Edward Norton adds Red Dragon to his impressive list of credits. Chris Betros
465: As a Matt of fact
Matt Damon is happy to take on any role, even a sumo wrestler, if the project
464: First bass
Producer and bassist Bill Laswell hits the top without even trying, he tells
463: White lies
Aboriginal author Doris Pilkington and filmmaker Phillip Noyce lift the lid
on Australias Stolen Generation. Chris Betros reports.
462: Pottering about
Daniel Radcliffe is enjoying life in the spotlight as Harry Potter works his
magic at the box office. Chris Betros reports.
461: In Gere
Richard Gere speaks about getting old, being cool, infidelity and being an activist.
Chris Betros takes it all in.
460: Freedom of the press
Maverick newspaper publisher Kiyoharu Nakayama is taking on the big boys with
his free newspaper Tokyo Headline. Sachie Kanda reports.
457/458: A farewell to arms
Kathryn Bigelow and Harrison Ford lift the veil on a dramatic Soviet sub disaster
in K-19: The Widowmaker. Chris Betros goes below.
456: Leaders of the pack
It was mass adulation as Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese brought Gangs
of New York to Japan for the world premiere
454: Future tense
Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise warn about tomorrow's grim possibilities in
their mystery Minority Report
453: Keeping the Faith
Family is the driving force in country singer Faith Hill's life whether she's
making CDs or soundtracks
451: Watts the matter
Success has been a long time coming for The Ring star Naomi Watts, but it's
all part of a learning experience
450: Class action
Batman and 007 are out, Triple X is in, celluloid superhero Vin Diesel says
449: On the rise
A newly restructured Tower Records is setting the pace in Japan's retail music
448: Tomorrow the universe
Justine Pasek knows being Miss Universe will be tough, but having faith and
a sense of humor can go a long way
447: Cyber sisterhood
Entrepreneur Kaori Sasaki is spreading the message online that Japan's male-dominated
corporate world is under threat from an army of capable women
446: Hot rod heart
The Japan Grand Prix is somewhat of a homecoming for 2001 British Formula 3
Champion Takuma Sato
445: Raking it in
Hugh Grant is in peak form, basically playing himself as the stylish layabout
in About a Boy
444: Funny business
Japan is a joke to comedian Simon Bligh, who returns to perform with the Punchline
443: Cartoon Channel
An expert editor and diehard manga fan, Coamix head honcho Nobuhiko Horie
is going global with his Raijin Comics series
442: Killa' Milla
Milla Jovovich squeezes in a chat with Nicholas Coldicott about tough schedules,
superficiality and flesh-eating zombies
441: The show must go on
Japanese entertainers help to bring Broadway back to life with a charity gala
440: Hip hop pop
Japan's original turntablist tells Dan Grunebaum how music saved his life
439: The long road home
After tasting Hollywood success, Y Tu Mama Tambien director Alfonso Cuaron fled
LA for his native Mexico's "holy ground."
438: In the spirit
New Age music virtuoso Kitaro takes to the stage for his Silk Road tour
437: The Tomei express
Marisa Tomei's career is in full flight, Chris Betros observes, as the perky
actress alternates between the theater and cinema, her latest effort being In
436: Wells spoken
More than 100 years after HG Wells wrote "The Time Machine," his great-grandson
Simon directs the latest movie version
435: Stepping lively
Reva Rice and Kenya Osumi promise plenty of eroticism in the newest version
of the hit Broadway musical Fosse
434: Full plate
Tokyo architect Benjamin Warner is about to add another successful design to
his portfolio with a chain of delicatessens
433: Brunch break
TV personality Tamao Sato's goal in life is to make people happy
432: Heart beat
Justin Gardiner speaks with the versatile percussionist who took center stage
at the World Cup closing ceremony
431: Hard to heart
Former sumo wrestler Konishiki is in great demand these days, but his heart
lies in his many charitable endeavors
430: Calling the tunes
Shocking peers, maverick sensei Makoto Nishimura invites foreigners into the
cloistered world of the shamisen
429: What women want
Fantasy film Kate & Leopold's Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman debate the art of
428: The write stuff
Shodo meets suspense in Todd Shimoda's new novel, "The Fourth Treasure."
427: Will and testament
Will Smith takes on his biggest challenge yet in Michael Mann's biopic Ali
426: Foster care
Now a mother of two, Jodie Foster re-emerges in Panic Room, which deals with
the issue closest to her heartfamily
425: Pop rocks
Britney Spears is big business, but the 20-year-old pop singer sees it all as
just good fun
424: No shortcuts for Morgan Freeman
Fame was a long time coming for Morgan Freeman, who gives thanks to providence
423: Universal values
Mina Chiba is equally at home on the stage as Miss Universe Japan as she is
on a car racing circuit
422: Tsuzuki style
Kyoichi Tsuzuki, writer, editor and maverick designer, is Japan's great
chronicler of the strange and exotic
421: Arnie, get your gun
Action star Arnold Schwarzenegger explains why the Sept 11 terror attacks
won't change a thing in Hollywood
420: Plenty to Crowe about
Despite missing out on the Oscar for A Beautiful Mind, Russell Crowe is still
very much in the spotlight
419: Piano man
George Winston has made a career playing instrumental music inspired by the
418: War plane
Heroes often emerge out of the blood and guts of chaos, say filmmaker Ridley
Scott and his crew of Black Hawk Down
416: The sexplorers
Killing Me Softly director Chen Kiage and star Heather Graham talk titillation
415: Don't call us retro
Stereolab take tunes back to the future
414: Running "Rings" around the
The cast and crew of Lord of the Rings talk Oscar and samurai elves
412: Lynch pin
Composer Angelo Badalamenti on Mulholland Drive and working with its famed director
Architects Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham on the beauty of building in Tokyo
410: American Woman
Natalie Merchant on her life and music
409: There's nothing like a dame
Veterans Julie Andrews and Gary Marshall team up for the Princess Diaries
408: Caiya Kawasaki
has built her image on berating Japanese men, but it's all for a reason
407: The Skys the Limit
Vanilla Sky's Cruise, Cruz & Crowe on casual sex
art of elegance
Veteran designer Takeo Nishida
judge an ogre by its cover
Shrek producer Jeffrey Katzenberg
Crime and Punishment in suburbia director Rob Schmidt
401: Life's a party
400: In the Nic of time
Nicole Kidman high-kicks in Moulin Rouge
Memento's director Christopher Nolan
American alt rockers 311 take a special interest in Japan
397:Evolution of an ex-Filer
David Duchovny explains why he went from the X-Files to Evolution
396: Rock Warrior
Former Clash frontman Joe Strummer
395: 2001's absurd odyssey
The Coen brothers pay tribute to classic American cinema
Angelina Jolie kicks plenty of butt in Tomb Raider
up with the Jones
a man in a rush
Director Brett Ratner can't wait to film Rush Hour 3 in Tokyo
from the Madden crowd
Captain Corelli's Mandolin is more than a World War II love story ...
NHK morning news anchor Toko Takeuchi is an early bird with a passion ...
Artist, filmmaker, actor, model, Vincent Gallo
for the universe
softly and carry a big kick
Actor Steven Seagal
Italian mime Ennio Marchetto
385: A sight
for saur eyes
Jurassic Park III's Sam Neill
planet that went ape
Visionary filmmaker Tim Burton
The father of ambient music, Brian Eno
TV personality Mari Christine
Long-awaited Pearl Harbor comes to Japan
so close encounter
Director Steven Spielberg
Samantha Lang, director of The Monkey's Mask
Crocodile Dundee - Paul Hogan
British actress Charlotte Brittain
The Mummy Returns' Brendan Fraser
Independent movie auteur, Michael Di Jiacomo
American Short Shorts Film Festival organizer, Tetsuya Besho
Doug Wright, screenwriter of Quills
Sir Richard Branson, founder and chairman of the Virgin Group
call me babe
Bombshell Charlize Theron
American Psycho's Christian Bale
French actress Juliette Binoche
Nick Park and Peter Lord, the creators of Chicken Run
"Tony" Hopkins in a PR stupor
Meet the Parents' Ben Stiller
"Auteur" filmmaker Paul Cox
364: As the
Meg Ryan promotes her new movie
The down-low on J. Lo
in the hood
Actor Masaya Kato
Hollywood's queen of cool, Gwyneth Paltrow
that funky music
Catch up with Verbal from Japan's hip-hop group m-flo
358: A heartbreak
Hotel Splendide director Terence Gross
Star Jamie Bell
354: In a
New age musician, Kitaro
Jim Carrey as The Grinch
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