Mongolian yokozuna (grand champion) of professional sumo Harumafuji D.Byambadorj announced his retirement from sumo over scandals of assault on a fellow Mongolian wrestler, Takanoiwa A.Baasandorj, last December.
Sumo fans are astounded by the yokozuna’s retirement and believe that he doesn’t have to retire to take responsibility for the scandal the incident caused. Harumafuji made his debut as a professional sumo wrestler in Japan in 2001 and was promoted to yokozuna in 2012.
He won 712 matches during his time in the makuuchi (top) division, the sixth highest number of victories.
Reflecting on his 17-year career in sumo, Harumafuji said, “I really love sumo. The way of sumo is not simply to be strong, but through sumo… I wanted to inspire the people and give them courage and hope.”
The following is an interview with Ts.Myagmarsuren, wife of State Elephant, police colonel R.Davaanyam and mother of yokozuna Harumafuji Byambadorj, State Falcon Lkhagvadorj, silver medalist of Deaflympics in judo and freestyle wrestling Baasandorj. Ts.Myagmarsuren said that she usually lives in Japan and would like to skip the topic about her son’s (Byambadorj) retirement.
You said you usually live in Japan. I’d like to start asking about what kind of business you came for this time?
Yes, I live in Japan with my son Byambaa’s (D.Byambadorj) family. However, I usually come back to Mongolia during Naadam festival; I came for the preparation of Tsagaan Sar (lunar new year) and to visit my two other sons’ families this time. When I come here, I miss Byambaa’s family, and I miss my two elder sons’ families when I go to Japan. But, in these (technologically advanced) days, it is much easier due to the possibilities to keep in touch with all my children. Mongolians who live in Japan including our relatives, wrestlers and sumos visit me during Tsagaan Sar in Japan. This time, I’d like to take a steamed lamb rump to Japan. But I am not sure if it is allowed at the customs. Tsagaan sar is my favorite festival and I celebrate it watching Mongolian wrestling on TV and talking to my children and grandchildren through the internet as if we are celebrating together.
I guess there are a lot of differences between living in Japan and Mongolia, such as climate, tradition, and lifestyle. What was the most difficult thing to get accustomed to?
I’ve been living in Japan since 2007. My husband passed away in 2006 and my father also passed away in the following year. It brought me so much sadness. And after a while, Byambaa called me and said, “I want to live with you mother, come to Japan”. After arriving in Japan, I became preoccupied with different tasks, which really helped me.
The sudden loss of your husband must have been so grieving, I think.
Yes, indeed. It is hard to talk about it even now. I don’t know why, but it feels like he is alive and would come to us.
I am so pleased with the fact that he is still remembered and respected by Mongolians as if he were alive. I feel relaxed when I see my sons who are keeping up their father’s good reputation. Also, I appreciate Dagvaa (Asashoryu D.Dagvadorj, the 68th professional sumo grand champion) for everything he has done for my family. He has been always there for us whatever happens.
After my husband’s death, I haven’t attended any Naadam. When I get closer to the stadium, I feel anxious, all the memories of when my husband used to wrestle come to my mind.
But I consider myself very fortunate that I saw my husband and my son take part in Naadam’s wrestling tournament together.
Which year’s Naadam was the one you and your family liked the most?
To be honest, I haven’t gone to the stadium to root for [my husband] during the peak time of his career. My father used to say, “Going to the training and tournament with your husband is not a good thing for a wrestler’s fortune. A wife should stay at home.” We started attending Naadam festival together when he started aging.
Did you use to root for Harumafuji at the sumo hall?
No. Of course, I respect my son’s path. I mostly watch it on TV, same as I used to do with my husband. Only when there is no doubt that he’ll win, I and my daughter-in-law attend in order to be ready for the family photo after the award ceremony. Not only I but also other wives and mothers of Mongolian sumo don’t watch the tournament at the sumo palace. When I go to any country, it seems like their customs are based on ours, and I think Mongolian traditions and customs are great.
Mongolians still remember and love your husband, who had talent in both wrestling and poetry. Could you talk about how you first met?
We met while we were working as a volunteer at the Bornuur state farm when we were students. He was Province Lion (folk wrestling title) at that time, but I didn’t even know that he was a wrestler. While I and my friends were complaining about too little meat in the lunch, he laughed at us and said, “Hey, the girl with two braids, you can ask for more meat if you are hungry.” After we came back to the university, he called me saying, “Hey, the girl with two braids, there is a vacant seat here,” when I entered the lecture hall. I couldn’t sit next to him because I was so embarrassed. Two of his friends, LBadarch and Z.Duvchin, used to bring his letters to me.
There are both ups and downs in life. Was it hard to discover that your oldest son had lost hearing in his ears? Is there any possibility that it can be cured?
It happened because of the irresponsibility of doctors. But I am glad that my son is still alive. I don’t give up on life. I don’t like to think and say that I am suffering. Though I was spoiled by the love of my parents, I try to be patient and disciplined.
Harumafuji seems like he inherited both the talent for wrestling and poetry, more than his siblings. What do you think about it?
Yes, you are right. Byambaa is also very good at painting. My husband was a kind-hearted man. I think my father-in-law educated my husband very well that it even influenced my children’s education.
Were you comforted by Byambaa’s phone calls and letters when his wrestling was not broadcast on TV during his earlier years in sumo?
He used to call very few times because he was not allowed to make phone calls and write letters. I learned few sentences in Japanese, such as “Can I talk to Byambadorj”, “Can you pass the phone please”.
I started trying to endure it since my mother scolded me when I was crying. My son always said that he can do it.
How many times did you think about stopping him from becoming a sumo?
Oh, so many times. It was so sad to see him training. I couldn’t even see the whole training.
What did your husband say at that time?
He said nothing but kept crying.
Davaanyam couldn’t see his son become a grand champion. What was on your mind at that time?
I watched that tournament at the sumo palace because he qualified to win on the previous day. I wished that my husband was still alive on that beautiful day. I was crying during the whole award ceremony. He also said, “My mother is a living god for me”. I am really proud of my three sons.
Harumafuji retired at the peak of his career. There are many people who have different opinions on it. What’s your opinion on it?
I can say that my son didn’t do anything wrong. He just happened to become the victim of those who are at fault. My wise son sacrificed himself for the reputation of Mongolians and Mongolia. But I let everyone have their opinion. Time shows the truth. We saw how Mongolians and Japanese love my son.
Some Mongolian sumos choose to become a Japanese citizen to stay in the sumo world, while some of them return home? How about Harumafuji?
He’ll definitely come back to Mongolia. It is always nice to be in your own country which welcomes you. When he finishes the things he must do in Japan, he’ll head back. It might be next year or in 2020. He always gives hand to those in need. This time, he is going to invest in the education field of Mongolia.