169 kg (373 lb)
Ozeki (March 1795)
Yae (m. ?–1825)
28 (Makuuchi, unofficial)
Tanikaze Kajinosuke, Futabayama Sadaji, Tachiyama Mineemon, Kitanoumi Toshimitsu, Kashiwado Tsuyoshi
February 11, 1825 (aged 58)
January 1767 (age 58), Tōmi, Nagano, Japan
Raiden Tamemmon The Hugest Man
Raiden Tameemon (雷電爲右衞門), born Seki Tarōkichi (January 1767 – February 11, 1825) is considered one of the greatest sumo wrestlers in history, although he was never promoted to yokozuna.
- Raiden Tamemmon The Hugest Man
- Early life
- Professional sumo career
- Retirement from sumo
- Unsolved riddle
- Top division record
Raiden was born to a farming family in a village in rural Shinano Province. He is said to have possessed great physical strength even in childhood. His father Hanemon, who enjoyed sumo as much as sake, allowed 14-year-old Raiden to attend sumo classes at Nagaze (today called Murokocho), the neighbouring village. When Raiden was 17, the Urakaze-beya stablemaster noticed him when he came through the area while on jungyō (regional tour) with his wrestlers. He was especially impressed with the young man's physique, which was extraordinary at the time. Young Raiden was 1.97 metres (6 ft 5.6 in) tall, which was three head lengths taller than most of his contemporaries. He also had matching long arms and large hands; a handprint at the Shofukuji temple near Okayama, which is said to be of Raiden's hand, measures 24 cm (9.4 in) from the wrist to the tip of the middle finger. When Raiden trained as a wrestler, he developed a weight of 169 kg (373 lb). When Urakaze Kazuki invited him to Edo and started training him, it turned out that Raiden possessed not only the body of a giant (by 18th-century Japanese standards), but also a talent for sumo wrestling. He was especially talented in oshi-sumo techniques and was able to move at a high speed considering his size. Soon Raiden left his stable and unofficially joined Isenoumi-beya, where yokozuna Tanikaze became his coach.
Professional sumo career
In 1789, the shikona (wrestler name) "Raiden," which means "Thunder bolt," appeared in the banzuke ranking, although Raiden did not have his debut until fall 1790. Raiden was ranked as a sekiwake, as was common practice then. He had the best record in the basho (tournament) without a defeat. After Tanikaze's death, Raiden was promoted to ōzeki in March 1795—a rank he retained for nearly 17 years. Between November 1793 and April 1800, Raiden finished with the best record in all tournaments he participated in, ahead of the other great fighters of his time, Tanikaze and Onogawa. After 1800, he remained dominant, and sumo officials even disallowed him to use his favourite techniques in order to keep his matches interesting. Of 35 tournaments he fought in during his career—there were only two basho a year at the time—Raiden had the best record in no fewer than 28. (His tournament championships are, however, regarded as unofficial by the Japan Sumo Association, as before the current yūshō system was established in 1909, there was no prize given for individual performances in tournaments.) In seven of those, he won without suffering a single defeat or draw. In total, he achieved 254 victories and only ten defeats, a winning percentage of 96.2, an all-time record. His longest winning streaks were eleven consecutive tournaments or 44 bouts.
Retirement from sumo
Finally, in spring 1811, Raiden retired from sumo at the age of 43. He became chairman of the sumo association of Izumo Province (in today's Shimane Prefecture), where his sponsor daimyō resided. In 1816, he moved to Edo and finished his diary Shokoku Sumo Hikae-cho ("journal of sumo in various regions"), which describes his time as an active wrestler since 1789.
After his death, he was buried in Akasaka in Edo. Two locks of his hair are buried in other graves which are located in his home village and in Matsue in Shimane.
When Raiden was still an active wrestler, his home village's residents built monuments honoring his parents. Raiden himself contributed a sake barrel made of stone in memory of his father. Since his death, Raiden appeared not only as subject of a number of statues, but also on postage stamps and beer labels.
Despite his dominance, he never was promoted to yokozuna, the highest title in sumo. The reason remains a mystery in the history of sumo.
According to Masahiko Nomi's theory, 19th Yoshida Oikaze granted yokozuna licences to only two wrestlers, Tanikaze and Onogawa, and did not intend to honour any in the future, but the 20th Yoshida Oikaze attempted to defeat the Gojo family, which wanted to promote Kashiwado and Tamagaki to yokozuna, by awarding a yokozuna licence to Ōnomatsu Midorinosuke later. Ōnomatsu was the first new yokozuna in 30 years.
Another theory suggested that the reason for this can be found in the family history of his sponsor, Daimyo Matsudaira Harusato, who was a descendant of Yūki Hideyasu, a son of Tokugawa Ieyasu. On the other hand, the Yoshida family, who held the privilege of awarding the yokozuna license, supported the Hosokawa clan, who had a history of supporting Ishida Mitsunari.
The yokozuna rank did not count as an official rank on the banzuke until the beginning of the 20th century. In spite of his never having been officially promoted, Raiden's name has been added as "peerless rikishi" in the yokozuna memorial monument at the Tomioka Hachiman Shrine, Tokyo, in 1900.
Top division record
*Championships for the best record in a tournament were not recognized or awarded before the 1909 summer tournament and the above unofficial championships are historically conferred. For more information see yūshō.