“Thanks to everyone.” These were the first words of every victory interview with Taiho. Sugiyama, who pointed his microphone most often at this great yokozuna, 32 times the victor, misses Taiho’s characteristic humility and attitude of always confronting himself sternly. He relates how an “aesthetic of restraint”, free from arrogance in victory and graceful in defeat, is demanded of yokozuna, who are responsible for handing down this national sport. Of course, actions such as raising a clenched fist in victory are out of the question.


As a sports announcer, he devoted all his attention to his role in every setting, from the ring of the official tournament to the ringside, the changing rooms, and each sumo stable, ever since his first live radio coverage assignment, in Nagoya in February 1954. The announcer’s live broadcast is an unscripted “spoken representation.” With radio, in particular, the sensation of actually being on the spot is of paramount importance. The announcer must select his words in an instant and, while modulating his delivery, communicate them in a way that is easy to catch.


After entering Waseda University, he enthusiastically sought to join the broadcasting study group, aiming to realize his dream of becoming a live reporter, but was criticized for his Kokura dialect and lost heart. However, unable to abandon his dream, he worked hard to correct his accent and increase his standard Japanese vocabulary. He founded the announcement study group, becoming one of its first cohort of graduates and achieving his heart’s desire of joining the staff of NHK.


He began broadcasting on television in the late 1950s, the era of Tochinishiki and Wakanohana, bringing viewers many famous bouts. Even after leaving the network, he has made his way to the regular sumo tournaments six times a year without fail, watching the ring continuously for 65 years. He throws himself body and soul into the reporting of his beloved sumo.


Kunihiro Sugiyama

Born in 1930 in what was formerly Kokura City, Fukuoka Prefecture. He joined NHK in 1953, and was active as a sports sports announcer for live broadcasts. He is an affiliate of the Tokyo Sumo Reporters’ Club, Emeritus Director of the Nihon Fukushi University Lifelong Learning Center, and a visiting professor of the same university. His recent publications include “Devoted to the sumo ring: sumo wrestlers who remain in my heart” (Chunichi Shimbunsha).

Cooperation: Kurenai Yamada

Translation: Media Research, Inc.


This article originally appeared in “Shinsei” magazine, January 2018 issue, published by RINRI Institute of Ethics. Partially rewritten to update for this internet release.

Spirit and Spine

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