SUMO ABC (81) / Futabayama’s family upholds his spirit through Fukuoka temple

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo

Futabayama’s grandchildren Masaharu, right, and Tsuguyo, left, chant a sutra at the 50th memorial service of Futabayama’s death, at Zenshoji temple in Arakawa Ward, Tokyo, on Dec. 16, 2017.

By Shuji Miki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior WriterAs I wrote in the previous column (June 27), Futabayama, a great yokozuna of the Showa era (1926-1989) whose real name is Sadaji Akiyoshi, built the Myoon Kyokai temple in 1965 for his dead daughter in Chikushino, Fukuoka Prefecture. The temple has been passed down to his family members and the current chief priest is his grandson.

In December 1968, just three years after the temple was built, Futabayama, who was serving as the Japan Sumo Association’s chief under the name Tokitsukaze, passed away. Futabayama’s wife, Sumiko, was concerned that the temple was becoming dilapidated, so in 1975 she ordered her eldest son, Tsuneharu, a trading company employee in Tokyo, to become a priest and take over the temple. The next year, Tsuneharu quit the company and moved to Fukuoka with his wife, Hiromi, now 72, and their two daughters.

Twelve years after his relocation, Tsuneharu suddenly died in 1988. Hiromi then thought about closing the temple and going back to Tokyo, but she abandoned the idea and decided to stay in Fukuoka. She thought that the temple left by Futabayama is the property and “spirit” of her father-in-law.

“Futabayama’s achievements and honor belong to the JSA, but the spirit of our father must be upheld by us,” she said.

When she held a family meeting and gave her decision, her second daughter, Tsuguyo, a high school freshman at the time, said, “I will keep the temple until Masaharu [her younger brother] reaches adulthood.”

Tsuguyo, now 45, obtained a qualification to become a priest at a university and took the name high priestess Yosho. She maintained the temple for 20 years.

Masaharu, 37, dreamed of becoming a musician but also received training to become a priest. He took over the temple from his sister in August 2016 and is called priest Shoji Akiyoshi.

On the anniversary of the death of Futabayama on Dec. 16 last year, the 50th memorial service was held at Zenshoji temple, the Futabayama family temple in Arakawa Ward, Tokyo. Tsuguyo and Masaharu chanted a sutra.

Having upheld the “spirit of the Akiyoshi family,” a smiling Hiromi said, “one part of my role has came to an end.”

— Miki is a sumo expert.

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