Yosha Bunko

Tokyo nichinichi shinbun
   1874-11-22 (1874-12+)
Sumo wrestler swindled

Story in brief

The sumo grappler Koyanagi Tsunekichi, while in Takefushi in the province of Echizen for a sumo tournament during the last third of the 10th month this year [October 1874], was approached one night by a man who said he was an agent of Shimizu Isokichi, of the port of Sakai of the same province, who was one of Koyanagi's benefactors. The man told Koyanagi that he had received orders from Shimizu to attend to some business in Kyoto and Osaka, but had lost his bags enroute and wanted to borrow money to complete his business. As Koyanagi had received considerable favors from Shimizu, he immediately gave the man fifteen yen in gold, and the man thanked him and left. Later, when he came to Shimizu's sumo site, Koyanagi mentioned the matter, and a surprised Shimizu said he had never sent an agent to Kyoto and Osaka. (WW)


The red cartouche identifies Koyanagi by name.

Takefushi is now part of Echizen city in Fukui prefecture.

The port of Sakai (Sakai minato) is now the port of Mikuni (Mikuni minato) in Fukui prefecture. A traveler from Sakai would pass through Takefushi on the way to Kyoto or Osaka.


sumo grappler, sumo tournament, and sumo site reflect 角觝取 (sumautori > sumōtori), 角觝興行 (sumau kougiyau > sumōgyō) and 角觝場 (sumauba > sumōba).

角觝 means a "locking of horns" -- a metaphor for wrestling as a competition of strength. It is read "kakutei" in Sino-Japanese but is marked in the story to be read "sumau". 角力 (kakuryoku), meaning "horn strength" or a "comparison of strength", is also read "sumau". The usual graphic metaphor for "sumau" today is 相撲 -- which means a "mutual beating" or a "throwing of hands [and bodies] at each other".

"Sumau" reflects "sumafu" -- a Yamato verb meaning "battle" or "resist" so as not to lose. Both variations were reduced to "sumō" in speech that came to inform this present-day form.

The imperfect conjugation of the verb "sumu" (reside) is "suma-", which takes the dubitative aspect marker "-u" (< -fu), to become "sumau" or "sumō" -- meaning "will" or "would" reside. This enables a joke which begins: "How did so-and-so (name your favorite sumo wrestler) propose (to his fiancee or wife)?" -- and ends: "He said 'Issho ni sumō'" -- Let's live [wrestle] together.