A Former Gyoji’s Calligraphy Contribution

Former top ranking gyoji Kimura Shonosuke (real name Yamazaki Toshihiro) offered reminders and encouragement in the fight against COVID-19 in the form of calligraphy.

At the request of Nikkan Sports, nine phrases were written and made available for use by the general public. They are reminders such as, “Let’s stay home,” and words of encouragement like, “We will not lose to Corona.”

Mr. Yamazaki, the 36th gyoji to bear the Kimura Shonosuke name, wrote these words in the bold, compact script known as sumoji, or negishi-ryu, which is used to fill the highly detailed rankings chart. “These are hard times,” he said, “if my writing can help just a little, that would be nice.”

Responding quickly to Nikkan Sports’ request for specific messages to be added to Yamazaki’s collection, “Stay home,” “We will not lose to Corona,” “Patience,” “Wash your hands,” and “World Peace” were written. A Japanese four character proverb, “Nin no Ichiji” was also among the writings. The meaning is roughly: To accomplish anything, endurance is key.

“During my life as a gyoji, I’ve become discouraged so many times,” Yamazaki said, opening up, “but the people around me have helped me to stand and go on. Now we have to get through this COVID-19 pandemic, and this is all I can do to help.”

“Going by what the governor of Tokyo said, I never go to the supermarket more than every three days, and I go when there are fewer people,” said Yamazaki, “I hate it. It’s so frustrating because we don’t know where coronavirus could be lurking. I really hope this all will be resolved soon.”

Born in Kagoshima Prefecture in 1948, Yamazaki Toshihiro mounted the dohyo for the first time in March of 1964, and reached the second highest referee rank in July, 2008. From 2011 to 2013 when he retired, he served as the top referee. He was well-known for his calligraphy skills and undertook the meticulous task of banzuke inscription for over seven years. Now, seven years after his retirement, his thick sumo script is still going strong.

On the subject of calligraphy and the banzuke, here is a video from sumo expert Chris Gould where he explains the details of the banzuke:

In other news…

After coming out of Osaka with a losing score (7-8), Ozeki Takakeisho is in danger of demotion going into the Summer tournament. March was the second time he has gotten himself into a kadoban situation, but it was the first time he has posted makekoshi as an Ozeki while fighting all 15 days of the basho.

Despite the virus related concerns Takakeisho expressed just last week, the young oshi-zumo specialist assured fans that he is practicing as if there is no question whether Natsu Basho will happen, and he is doing what he can, just like the rest of his colleagues.


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