Saturday, February 9, 2013

March 13 - 15, 1954 The Sumo Tournament

Van Harbin, 3rd from left with Sinobuyama, the Sumo wrestler

"People crowd into the gymnasium to see Sumo wrestling when the contests begin.  Sumo is a national sport of Japan.  It is a sport which has been popular for several hundred years and many old customs are still observed.  A Shinto priest performs a ceremony in the ring to start the match and the wrestlers still wear their hair long and done into a knot on top of their heads.

A wrestler is disgraced if he breaks training and gets his topknot cut off. The Sumo wrestler tries to push his opponent out of the ring or tries to make him lose his balance so he touches the ground.  Size is important, so Sumo wrestlers are the biggest, strongest, and fattest men in Japan."

( Dragon-fly Land:  Japan, by Bonnie Belshe, 1955.)

Diary Entry:  Mar. 13, 1954

"Cold today.  Fixed B's lunch & he went with Van Harbin to see Sumo tournament.  Bob has a cough so stayed home from school.  Invited to Brays to see dolls set up but Teele children came just as we were ready to go."

Diary Entry:  Mar. 14, 1954

"Bob still has a cough.  We stayed in all day & wrote letters.  Children had a card and letter from Mrs. Cline.  Yamada-san brought Bob's kimono. Letter to Eve."

Diary Entry:  Mar. 15, 1954

"Open house.  6 children here to play all morning.  B had E.S.S. here too.  After lunch Rachel Stubbs & I walked to Nigawa."

NOTES:  A helpful reader has told me that the first slide is "flip-flopped", and has identified the wrestler as  Sinobuyama (1925-1977), a well-known Sumo wrestler during the 1950s.

Van Harbin (1907-1982) was a missionary neighbor, having arrived in Japan in 1934.  He was first a teacher in the middle school section associated with the Hiroshima Higher Normal School and was in Hiroshima, Frasier Institute until 1939.  He also served in Tokyo and Hawaii. He and his wife, Winnie, served the remainder of the war years in New York City in a church near Times Square that ran a club for American military who were headed overseas.  They returned to Japan in 1948 and stayed at Kwansei Gakuin until 1972. 

Source:  A Biographical Dictionary of Methodist Missionaries to Japan:  1873-1993, edited by John W. Krummel.


  1. Such a fascinating lige your family lived. Ann, no wonder your paitings refect your soul as well...always be well, Ann.hugs!

    1. Thanks for your visit and thoughtful comments, Mary. I appreciate it a lot!

  2. Thanks for the trip back in time! Things look much the same in sumo, except today's contestants, I think would out weigh them by quite a bit! ;-)

    1. Hello Oshi! You are very welcome and I'm glad you enjoyed your visit. I'm certain that you are correct about today's sumo. I bet they are bigger, heavier and much stronger now!


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