White (Black?) Phoenix Sighting


Saturday morning I caught a train before 7am (津新町駅から) and got myself into Tokyo before 10am. From Nagoya to Tokyo takes about an hour and 45 minutes by Shinkansen, but Nagoya is just over an hour from here. My main reason for going to Tokyo was to meet Robert, but first I had the chance to meet someone more famous.

I met up with Robert’s friend at their home and we went to Narita airport (成田空港) to pick him up. While waiting for his flight from Seoul to clear customs, we observed a peculiar string of events. One camera crew ran in, then another, and another. I know that Robert is well-known and well-liked in Mie prefecture (三重県), but his arrival was fairly secret and Tokyo is a long way away. The last flight to clear was from Mongolia, so we guessed it must have something to do with Asashoryu (朝青龍), one of the strongest sumo wrestlers ever.

He fled the country without notice, skipped out on some job responsibilities, and has been the source of news ever since. His stable pulled a doctor forward, who states that the wrestler is suffering from some kind of debilitating stress. This didn’t go over well when cameras caught him playing soccer with kids in his native Mongolia. I went to most aggressive camera crew and asked them if Asashoryu was returning to Japan. They replied that there was a connection there. I went back to my waiting spot to see what would happen.

Hakuhou came walking out with his new wife and baby. Hakuhou (白鵬) is one of the current Yokozuna (横綱) sumo wrestlers (力士). Yokozuna is the highest rank. Hakuhou gets translated as White Phoenix usually, my dictionaries never actually give the bird an English name, so I think it is not what we traditionally think of as a phoenix. It appeared in the 荘子逍遥遊 legend. When a great leader died this bird was born. Often we can see this bird and a dragon on a lot of Chinese art. Hakuhou was wearing a long black kimono with a red circle representing the sun. Negative space in the sun left an image of a large black bird. It was very striking. The rest of the weekend I called him Kokuhou (黒鵬), or Black Phoenix. I kept a close, but respectful distance, not wanting to harass the famous. However, the cameras paid little attention to this champion.

Someone else came out and was swarmed by the cameramen and reporters. He moved quickly through the airport with this hive of activity around him. We are going on the assumption that he was some kind of doctor or manager returning from a visit to Asashoryu. What a shame that controversy trumps championship.


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