Sumo club at Waseda welcomes 100th anniversary

Waseda sumo club celebrates 100th anniversary

Tomoyuki Onidani (left): Captain of Waseda sumo club & 4th year student from School of Sport Sciences. Yukihiro Hashimoto (right): 2nd year student from the School of Sport Sciences

Founded in 1917, the sumo club at Waseda University welcomed its 100th anniversary this year. Among the ten-member club, second year student Yukihiro Hashimoto’s recent spectacular achievement in student sumo wrestling has made him a little star in the club. At present Hashimoto and his club members are working tirelessly towards winning the All Japan Inter-college Sumo Tournament in November.

Before the upcoming showdown, Waseda Weekly (the online magazine for Waseda students) decided to interview Hashimoto and Onidani, leader of the sumo club, to learn more about the members’ motivations, trainings and future goals.

Captain Onidani at a sumo competition held in August (photo by Waseda Sports Times)

Reasons for studying at Waseda University
Onidani: I’ve always wanted to excel both in the academics and sports since I was a junior high school student. For the same reason that made me decide to leave Koichi for a high school in Aichi prefecture after discussion with my supervisor in junior high school, I made up my mind to enter Waseda University. Waseda University School of Sport Sciences is a place where many sportsmen and athletics who aim to be number one nationally and globally gathered. I thought that such environment is perfect for people like me who want to excel in sports and thus decided to submit my application to Waseda.

Gathering of Waseda sumo club members

Hashimoto: A senior of mine whom I knew since I was grade three when I joined the sumo club at elementary school came to study at Waseda and joined the University’s sumo club. Partly because of his influence, I visited Waseda and the sumo club when I was still in high school and became fond of Waseda’s emphasis in the independence of mind. Similar to Onidani, I’ve also always wanted to shine in both the academics and sports and therefore decided that Waseda is the best place for me to achieve that.

Training at Waseda sumo club
Onidani: We have training six days a week, Tuesday through Sunday. Our training on weekdays usually begins at 7 p.m. and lasts for about two hours. On Tuesdays, we receive guidance from our trainer and on weekends, our supervisor will be the one overlooking our training. In all other days, we basically do our own training by ourselves. At Waseda, we have to constantly reflect on our performances and do self-evaluation about our training and progress, unlike in high school. Because our sumo club is small and only has ten members at present, we enjoy inclusive communication involving everyone without having to worry about vertical relationship.

Standing at 170cm tall, Captain Onidani is considered to be a smaller size sumo (pusher-thruster type) in sumo wrestling.

Hashimoto: All ten of us stay in the same dormitory and we enjoy each other’s companionship. Even during public or school holidays, we often go out together and have fun.

On recent sumo wrestling boom
Onidani: I feel that the recent sumo wrestling boom has resulted in more females getting interested in sumo. Not just has the audience crowd at tournaments got bigger, I’ve been seeing more females among the audience. Even the two managers of ours are female. Unfortunately, our club members haven’t seemed to be able to take advantage of this trend and get ourselves a girlfriend.

Year one juniors preparing meals for everyone after their usual training during summer vacation.

Hashimoto: I agree with Onidani. We are seeing a lot more female audience. I wish I could build a female fan club of my own.

Food consumption of sumo wrestlers
Onidani: The dormitory that we stay in provides meals for us. Although we can’t ask for additional servings of side dishes, we can certainly ask more servings of white rice. On average, we consume about two to three bowls of rice per meal. Unfortunately, the dormitory does not provide meals for us during long breaks such as the summer vacation. As such, the year one juniors who newly joined the club will be in-charge for preparing meals for every club member instead. Most of us did not have prior cooking experience and we all received awkward looks from our seniors at some point of time for preparing unusual dishes. Having said so, sometimes we may be lucky enough to have club members who hold cooking license. As for weekends, our female managers will prepare chankonabe (i.e. weight-gaining stew traditionally serve for sumo wrestlers) for us.

Hashimoto at the 44th Eastern Japan Individual Championship (photo by Waseda Sports Times)

On 100th anniversary of Waseda sumo club
Onidani: We enjoy very strong ties and relationships with alumni members of the sumo club. The younger alumni would visit us on our usual training, and the more senior ones would come and cheer for us at our tournaments. When we make our way to visit the Higashihifumi campus, the local residents would often compliment us for our big bodies. When we tell them that we are from Waseda University’s sumo club, they would shower us with words of encouragement and support. I think that all these strong ties and relationships that we enjoy are something that have been slowly building up to this year’s 100th anniversary celebration.

Hashimoto on his recent win at the 44th Eastern Japan Individual Championship (135kg category)
Hashimoto: I thought that the initial matchup was to my advantage and that if everything went well, I could make it to top 8. The challengers were strong but the matches went unexpectedly well and I eventually made it to top 8. At this point, I thought that all my efforts would be in vain if I did not stay strong mentally. It turned out that I was able to give my all, eventually winning the championship.

My win in the championship marked the first time Waseda sumo club won the Eastern Japan Individual Championship. Our supervisor once made it to top 3 and I have always thought of surpassing him. Even so, never had I imagined that I would come in first place.

Yukihiro Hashimoto

Future goals
Onidani: I’ll be graduating soon and that means that the upcoming All Japan Inter-college Sumo Tournament will be my last competition. Thus, I hope that we could win the first place in the team competition. As 2017 marks 100th year since the sumo club at Waseda was founded, there are high hopes and expectations from the alumni members. There is of course pressure on me but I would like to convert the pressure into strengths when the big days come.

Onidani (man in the middle of front row), Hashimoto (third man from left on back row) and club members.

Hashimoto: Same as Onidani, I also hope that we can win first place in the upcoming team category competition. Unlike Onidani, I receive less pressure because I’m still a second year student. Having said so, I will do my best and contribute what I can to boost the team morale. To tell the truth, it’ll be kind of sad after the upcoming tournament as half the current club members are made up of fourth year students who are leaving us very soon. As such, it gives us more reasons to want to win the tournament for future recruitment.

Tomoyuki Onidani (left)
Born in Kochi prefecture, Onidani started sumo at the age of five largely due to influence of his father who was also a sumo wrestler. When he entered high school, Onidani and his mother moved to Nagoya where they rented an apartment for three years throughout Onidani’s high school education. Onidani likes watching sports in general and will often attend and watch his friends’ games where he will cheer them on.

Yukihiro Hashimoto(right)
Born in Tokyo, Hashimoto started thinking seriously about being a sumo wrestler after winning the Wanpaku Sumo which is an amateur Sumo competition among elementary school students. Aside from being a full-time member of Waseda sumo club, he is also a committee member of various sports clubs.

*Unless otherwise stated, photos are taken by year five student Sasazu from School of Commerce.

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