How do sumoists live? - Georgian wrestler's exclusive interview- Part 2
09 November, 2018
How do sumoists live? - Georgian wrestler's exclusive interview- Part 2
Levan Tsaguria or Kokkai Futoshi is a former professional sumo wrestler from Georgia. He is the first Caucasian rikishi (professional sumo wrestler) to reach sumo's highest division, makuuchi. His highest rank was komusubi. In April 2018 he was appointed as the president of the Georgian Sumo Federation for four years.

Have a look at the other part of the exclusive interview with the sumo wrestler:

6. Japanese culture differs from Georgian culture – what was the main difference between them?

and Japanese cultures are quite similar in many ways. Both Japanese and Georgian people are courageous and hospitable. They are distinguished by their history and nice personality. It is very important in both cultures to respect children and the elderly. If you are not able to accept their traditions, it is better to give up sumo wrestling. The sport itself is a particular culture. I was lucky to be guided by the head of the sumo wrestling club and his wife. Their support helped me get used to the culture easier. That’s why the host country approved me. Meanwhile, I tried to keep my traditions and introduce them to the Japanese. What is more important is that I managed to get high results.
The first professional sumo wrestler from Georgia Levan Tsaguria

7. How did you find the local cuisine?

To be honest, it was really hard to get used to their diet. Japanese cuisine abounds with raw meals and it was not a common thing for me. At first, I had been eating only vegetables and fruits for 3-4 months. Then I realized, I would not be able to get results only through that. No one was interested in your preferences in the club. If you did not like anything about the diet, you could skip it and no one would worry about you. You had to be adjusted to the rules of the club. Step by step, I started to eat Japanese meals. One of their dishes was Chankonabe, famous Japanese stew. It includes fish, vegetables, meat, and tofu. But after the three Georgian sumo wrestlers,Teimuraz Jugheli (Gagamaru), Levan Gorgadze (Tochinoshin) and I gathered in Japan, we used to cook Georgian dishes. When I came back to Georgia and started to eat Georgian meals, I usually missed Japanese dishes.

8. The life of athletes is full of adventures. What kind of adventures have you experienced?

I have been fighting on the Dohyō for 11 years. The most memorable event took place in May 2003 when I moved to Dzurio Division, the second division of the elite group. That had radically changed my life. As for the unforgettable bouts of my life, it was the one with Asashōryū. He had been the unbeatable champion for a year and a half and it was me who beat him.
Georgian sumo wrestlers: Teimuraz Jugheli (Gagamaru) and Levan Tsaguria (Kokkai)

9. Wrestling or Sumo – which one is the most popular sport in Japan?

Both are very popular in Japan. Wrestling is considered as an Olympic sport, while Sumo is a totally different dimension. The latter is the inseparable part of Japanese history and culture. It is the most significant sport full of oldest Japanese traditions. Sumoists differ from other athletes even in appearance. They wear Japanese traditional topknot haircut Chonmage and Kimonos living like old Samurais. Their lifestyle is a big challenge and that’s why people highly respect sumoists. As the sport reflect Japanese history, it is more important to success in sumo than in other sports. During Basho tournaments, the halls for 15-20 000 guests are always crowded especially on weekends.

10. Levan Gorgadze won the Emperor Cup, what can you say about it?

Frankly speaking, the Emperor Cup equals to Olympic Cup. It is the success of entire Georgia. Levan has performed heroic work. His name has been put down in gold characters in the history of Sumo.

Read more: How do sumoists live? - Georgian wrestler's exclusive interview- Part 1

11. You have mentioned Asashōryū. How is it possible for such a legendary athlete to get into trouble?

I do not want to make any comment about it. He was going to quit the sport. No one knows who caused the conflict.

12. But if we look at the Japanese press, we can see that the number of scandals such as disagreements, drugs, biased bouts in sumo has increased and thus, the popularity of the sport has decreased.

A lot of things written in the press are either exaggerations or lies. But there should also be a grain of truth in them. Japanese people worry about negative things that take place in sumo. Even the government had to be involved in sumo the sport is the treasure of the country. The Federation of Sumo in Japan hired 17 members of the elite group several years ago. In some cases, the names of the sumoists were taken away from the history of sumo.
The Japanese ambassador in Georgia Tadaharu Uehara granting Levan Tsaguria an Honorary Grant for his contribution to Sumo Wrestling

13. Don't you think you have quitted the sport too early?

There is a high competition among sumoists - there are about 1000 athletes training in the sport. Only 70 of them belong to the elite group. If you suffer from injuries, you have to skip bouts and you are supposed to be reduced in rank. Due to my injuries, I had to part with the Dohyō. Those who watched my bouts, they would remember that I loved to directly crash my opponents and that affected my backbone, knee, and muscles. It was hard to recover all those injuries and that inhibited my success on the ring. I decided it was better to quit the sport with dignity. I believe I have done the best I could do in sumo. It is important that I am still in touch with the people whom I had met in Japan. I always try to introduce Georgian culture to Japanese people and to deepen the relationship between the two countries.

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Georgian Sumo wrestlers Tochinoshin and Gagamaru preparing for the next Basho

Georgian sumo wrestler Tochinoshin awarded with Medal of Honor in Japan

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