The Pride of Yokozuna: A Proper Review

Sorry for the short notice and the brief little write-up about the documentary a few minutes ago. Casa Andy has a flurry of unanticipated (and unwanted) activity this Saturday morning. Anyway, there will be several other opportunities to watch the documentary. There are multiple broadcast times. Hopefully they will make it available as a video-on-demand. If they do not, it will be rebroadcast on Sunday and Monday. But it is difficult to write more than a cursory write-up when I hadn’t seen it. Now that I have seen it, I have one opinion: watch it. It’s a great documentary.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/tv/documentary/20211219/4001407/

The interview provides insight into his mindset at pivotal times, not just for his own career but at multiple critical points in the history of the sport. The rise of Kisenosato, the yaocho scandal, the baseball gambling scandal, etc. And they make a nice effort to tie so many moments and pivotal bouts to Nagoya throughout the years.

It was interesting to hear other former Yokozuna, Kitanofuji and Kisenosato, struggle to define “Hinkaku,” that quality of the Yokozuna that is never defined but somehow they must live up to.

He definitely puts paid to my theory about that infamous penultimate bout against Shodai. Herouth had already reported this but he lined up at the tawara due to his lack of confidence in his knee. Since we frequently give Shodai a bit of gruff about his upright tachiai, my romantic ideals had created this rebuke which clearly did not exist. Out of concern for his knee and his own doubts about beating Shodai, he opted to totally avoid the tachiai.

But the most poignant parts were the interviews with the man himself, and with his trainer. His trainer had kept detailed notes on Hakuho’s mindset and things that he had said. Key among those things are the importance of the fans’ sentiment. At so many points the fans were with him, cheering him on. But sometimes, they hope for others to rise. Is it a betrayal to the fans to win, if the fans want him to lose? He beat Kisenosato and Terunofuji when they clearly would have loved to see his opponent win. It seems the documentary really dives into how he lives to serve the fans. His achievement, therefore, would serve to disappoint them.

“What is sumo? What is a Yokozuna?”

What is Hinkaku?

Regardless of the answers we may have, Hakuho makes it clear that his answer is, “winning.” (Not in the Charlie Sheen sense of the term.) His recruits will surely do quite a bit of winning from now on but he will certainly serve as a great booster for the sport of sumo in his new role with the Association.

16 thoughts on “The Pride of Yokozuna: A Proper Review

    • I wonder if I could make a “Japan-time-to-local time” conversion widget on the site that would use your IP address to convert automatically. I’ll look into it. Seems to be fans all over.

      • Thanks again Andy. WHAT A GREAT DOCUMENTARY! I couldn’t stop watching even for a second.
        If possible, it would be good to keep video on site for other sumo fans forever.
        For some odd reasons I never was Hakuho’s fan (100% respect him!) and now have no question on his yokozuna’s way.
        I live in Canada for a long time and can understand his feelings to be an immigrant. In his case he was in quite hostile environment for years. It is very sad :( I hoped it wasn’t that bad.
        I really think he will be a great coach and sumo will thrive because of him!
        Paul

      • When I look at the NHK site listing, it sometimes gives me the local time, others the JTC time. Probably tied into the cookies in my web browser. For now, the documentary is on demand for one year, which is great! Now if we could get NHK World to offer the “Dosukoi” episodes…

  1. Thanks for the heads-up. Watched it and saved.
    NHK can do good work and this will require an additional viewing

  2. This is a wonderful documentary film. I was thinking that the on-demand release would come later but, no, it is already available for viewing.

    Defining hinkaku, defining Yokozuna sumo, having to offer up apologies on behalf of all of sumo, never being able to shake the not being Japanese (even though, of course, Hakuho now has Japanese citizenship), showing film of him as a boy in Mongolia, then as a skinny kid entering sumo…I truly enjoyed film.

    Thanks so much for the heads up and the link.

  3. It was a very strange feeling seeing Hakuho so emotionally vulnerable. Uncomfortable. But his successes mean even more knowing he also had to fight against his own insecurity. He’s the GOAT but clearly that came with a huge price tag. The same can be said for most rikishi I think, but the pressure on a Yokozuna seems to be significantly more intense.

    I would like to see another video focusing on the things he has done to promote sumo, such as the Hakuho Cup, which I have missed and can’t wait to watch again.

  4. Beautiful documentary.
    Kind of heartbreaking at moments, very sweet when he interacts with his family, and then his mentality which is impressive in terms of determination.
    Kitanofuji and Kisenosato confirm my impression of being solid amazing guys, and everytime I´m disappointed in sumo I will look for these guys to be around.
    Thank you for linking it and for the review!

  5. This was great. My wife and I decided to just watch the first fifteen minutes before bed last night… but couldn’t stop watching!

    This retrospective was also interesting, complementing the film.

  6. I watched it a bit late;) Great documentary, but I couldn’t help but feeling that 50 minutes were way too short. His little daughter was really cute.

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