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Public invited to meet sumo legend today

  • Courtesy image

Jesse Kuhaulua is a living legend in Japan and Hawaii because of his participation and contribution to the sport of sumo wrestling.

The famed sumo wrestler (known as Takamiyama in Japan) will be at a free meet and greet at 3 p.m. today at the Hawaii Japanese Center, 751 Kanoelehua Ave. in Hilo.

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His appearance is part of the ongoing Gannenmono celebrations commemorating the 150th anniversary of the first arrival of Japanese immigrants in Hawaii.

Kuhaulua, who was born and raised on Maui, left the islands in 1964 to pursue a career as a sumo wrestler in Japan.

His initial intention was to enter the world of sumo to strengthen his legs for the sport of football (he was an all-state tackle during his years in high school).

Enduring hardships he faced as a pioneer in sumo, his career as a sumo wrestler lasted 19 years.

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Wrestling professionally under the name Takamiyama (“high lofty mountain”), he was the first foreigner in sumo history to win a tournament championship when he captured the title in the 1972 Sumo Tournament in Nagoya, Japan.

When he retired from sumo in May 1984, Kuhaulua held nearly every all-time individual sumo record of endurance, or the “iron-man” category.