Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dot Sumo

I ran into Mr. Ikibuchi Yomomato at the Blarney Stone in Field's Corner. We were both nursing a Guinness and, as people in Dorchester do when they sit next to each other in a bar, we struck up a conversation. Mr. Yomomato is a slight, reserved man in his late fifties who moved here last year from his native Japan.

"There are big boys here," Mr. Yomomato said, "They look like they have the coal in their bellies to make good rikishi." He was using the Japanese word for sumo wrestlers. He would know. Before he retired and moved to Dorchester he made his living as a professional sumo trainer. With a connoisseur's eye he has been measuring the local talent and thinking about starting up a city-wide sumo league. As he says, the raw material is here. We split a plate of nachos and continued discussing Dorchester's sumo potential.

I observed, "It's not just big boys we have in Dorchester. There are plenty of big girls who can hold their own in a dohyo (as the ring is called)." Mr. Yomomato shook his head, "Female rikishi? No. That's not traditional. It isn't done."

I pointed out to my fellow citizen that we were sitting in Dorchester, a part of Boston where norms of propriety are often stretched as much as pants' waistbands. "Have you ever watched some of the Dorchester women keep their men in line?" I asked. "When push comes to shove it's always the women who win the day." Mr. Yomomato conceded that he had witnessed this same phenomenon.

"Lady rikishi," he said with a look of wonder, "In America, anything is possible." I added my two cents of correction by saying, "In America, anything is possible. In Dorchester, everything is probable."

With our pint glasses and nacho plate empty Mr. Yomomato and I shook hands as we parted company. I advised him to contact the Dorchester branch of the YMCA about starting up a sumo program. He said it sounded like a good place to begin. With all the private karate studios around the Dot, we both agree there is room for a sumo studio.

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