As Hakuho Sho makes his way through a crowd and into a private room, heads turn as restaurant patrons stare in bewilderment. Dragging his flip-flops, the combination of his size, flowing kimono, topknot and determined face hint at many untold tales of perseverance and triumph. Reporters, photographers and onlookers alike quickly clear a path, and rightfully so.
A colossal 340-pound heavyweight from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, Sho is in town as one of the star attractions, along with local movie legend Eric Tsang, at the opening of one of Causeway Bay’s newest Japanese restaurants. At the age of 22, Sho achieved the position of yokozuna, the highest possible rank for a sumo wrestler, and has broken records throughout his career. In 2009 he smashed the record for the highest number of sumo victories in a year, winning an incredible 86 out of 90 bouts. In 2010 he maintained that consistency, rewriting the record books yet again.
Speaking to us before the restaurant’s opening ceremony, the champ touches briefly upon his short stay in Hong Kong and, in surprisingly gentle and pronounced tones, talks of the secret to his success. When asked about his regular routine, Sho will only reveal: “It is most important to master the basics of sumo first, which is why I still practice the basics each and every morning.” He mentions how he was originally inspired by fellow yokozunas when he starting out. Most of all, however, he was encouraged by his parents to fulfill his potential and become the best. “My father received a medal in the Olympics,” Sho tells us, “and I wanted to be as strong as him.”
This isn’t Sho’s first time in Hong Kong. “It’s been five years since my last visit,” he says. “It’s quite a nice place and I’ve been around the city a few times and want to come back again soon.” On this visit, however, he’s been keen to see which Hong Kong restaurants offer meals fit for a sumo wrestler. Sho emphasizes: “I make sure I get the right amount of meals every day, though I also watch my health.” Not that that is difficult for this particular yokozuna. While he was receiving intensive training back in Japan, the Japanese government ensured he was provided the freshest ingredients to help his quest to become the world’s greatest sumo wrestler. But Hong Kong food compares favourably, says Sho, who smiles as he says, “Eric took me out for a Chinese banquet last night. It was very good, especially the shark fin soup.” Tsang, sitting next to Sho throughout the interview, smiles and mentions how happy Sho was following the meal.
A thorough professional, Sho speaks about the sweat involved in maintaining his position at the top of sumo and briefly hints at retirement. “It seems normal to everyone,” he begins, “but it is actually quite hard to maintain my habits in order to keep my rank and stay strong.” Sho adds: “Since there is nothing higher than the rank of yokozuna, I plan to retire in a few years.”
We catch up with Tsang after the ceremony and he surprises us by mentioning plans to put Sho in collaborations with other celebrities following the sumo’s retirement. Tsang says: “Hakuho wishes to become a movie actor… He told me ‘if I can become a movie actor, I want to act with Jackie Chan in my first film’. So yesterday, I phoned Jackie and told him that Hakuho Sho wants to work with you! Maybe us three will be in a movie together." Let’s hope it’ll be a good one!