• Sumo

The Sumo Scene / Ex-Sekiwake Terao, a Man of Hard Work, Dies Too Young

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Terao, front left, looks at a banzuke ranking list with his brother Sakahoko, right, and his father, who was then the Izutsu stablemaster, in Osaka Prefecture.

My deepest apologies for kicking off the new year with a story that makes hearts heavy, but many fans were saddened to learn of the passing of stablemaster Shikoroyama — the former sekiwake Terao — in December at the youthful age of 60.

He was a popular wrestler who grew up in a wonderful sumo family. His father and mentor was former sekiwake Tsurugamine, who subsequently became stablemaster Izutsu after a career during which he picked up 10 technical awards, the most for a rikishi in the sport’s history.

Terao rose to the rank of sekitori, which indicates wrestlers in the salaried juryo division and above, alongside his two older siblings — former juryo Kakureizan and former sekiwake Sakahoko — a trio known as the “three Izutsu brothers.”

Sakahoko and Terao, in particular, attracted public attention as they spent time simultaneously in the third-highest rank of sekiwake.

Terao gained popularity, especially among women, because of his good looks combined with a muscular and well-proportioned physique.

His fast and aggressive thrusting style of sumo was a perfect fit for his image of being earnest and passionate.

The clear-cut contrast between the two brothers also drew interest. Sakahoko came with the image of being somewhat of a bad boy in the sense that he tended to bring an unrelenting, rough-and-tumble physical aspect to his sumo by getting inside on his opponent and then latching onto the belt with both hands.

The ring name Terao was taken from the maiden name of his mother, who died young before he started sumo. So he is said to have attached great importance to the name.

Terao weighed only 85 kilograms when he entered the sport, so he reportedly had a hard time building up his body at his stable. It took him five years from his first professional bout until he earned promotion to the juryo rank.

Upon the bump up in the rankings, he changed his ring name to Genjiyama, which is associated with the Izutsu stable and was also the name once used by the 30th yokozuna Nishinoumi. However, he resurrected the ring name Terao after losing his debut juryo tournament. He used the name from that time until he retired.

Terao remained active as a sekitori until he was 39, earning him the nickname “Iron Man.” He was a man of hard work who was dedicated to training and greatly cared about maintaining his physical condition.

Following his retirement, he founded his Shikoroyama stable and helped develop rikishi such as former komusubi Homasho and up-and-comer Abi.

Like he had during his active career, Terao adopted training methods that focused on basic movements, such as shiko and suriashi, to develop individuality among his apprentices.

I remember him often saying, “Hard work doesn’t let you down,” when asked about his philosophy.

The sumo world has lost such a great talent.

— Kamimura is a sumo expert.