Raiden Tameemon, also known as Seki Tarokichi, was a Japanese sumo wrestler who lived in the late 18th and early 19th century. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest rikishi (sumo wrestlers) of all time, although he never achieved the highest rank of yokozuna (grand champion). He holds the record for the best top division win ratio of all time, with 254 wins and only 10 losses. He was also known for his extraordinary physique, standing at 197 cm (6 ft 5.6 in) and weighing 169 kg (373 lb), which was much larger than most of his contemporaries. He was nicknamed “thunder bolt” for his powerful and fast style of sumo.
A Life of Strength and Struggle
Raiden was born in January 1767 in a village in Shinano Province (present-day Nagano Prefecture). He had a rare condition called extramuscular bone tightening, which caused his muscles to grow out of control and break his bones whenever he moved. He overcame this condition by developing 100 seals on his body to restrain his muscles. He also had a passion for sumo since childhood, and joined a sumo stable in Edo (present-day Tokyo) when he was 17 years old.
He made his professional debut in November 1790, and quickly rose to the rank of sekiwake (the third highest rank). He was trained by the legendary yokozuna Tanikaze, who became his mentor and friend. He was promoted to ozeki (the second highest rank) in March 1795, and remained at that rank for nearly 17 years. He dominated the sumo scene, winning 28 tournaments out of 35, and defeating other great wrestlers such as Tanikaze and Onogawa. He was especially skilled in oshi-sumo (pushing and thrusting) techniques, and was able to move with agility and speed despite his size.
However, Raiden also faced many challenges and hardships in his career. He was never promoted to yokozuna, despite his achievements, because he lacked the dignity and grace that the sumo authorities expected from a grand champion. He was also restricted from using some of his favorite techniques, such as the morozashi (double inside grip), because they were considered too dangerous or unfair. He also suffered from injuries, illnesses, and personal tragedies, such as the death of his mentor Tanikaze in 1795, and the eruption of Mount Asama in 1783, which caused a famine in his hometown. He retired from sumo in February 1811, at the age of 44.
A Mysterious and Controversial Death
The exact cause of Raiden’s death is unknown, but some speculate that it was related to his muscular condition, or that he contracted a disease during a sumo tour. He died on February 11, 1825, at the age of 58, in Edo. He was buried at the Shofukuji temple in Okayama, where his handprint is preserved as a relic. His grave is also located at the temple, and is visited by many sumo fans and admirers.
However, there is also a controversial theory that Raiden was assassinated by the Tokugawa shogunate, the feudal government that ruled Japan at the time. According to this theory, Raiden was involved in a plot to overthrow the shogunate and restore the power of the emperor, along with other influential figures such as Sakamoto Ryoma, a samurai and revolutionary leader. The theory claims that Raiden was poisoned by the shogunate’s agents, and that his death was covered up as a natural one. This theory is based on some historical evidence, such as Raiden’s connection to Ryoma, his involvement in the Sonno Joi movement (a political slogan that advocated for the expulsion of foreigners and the restoration of the emperor), and his suspicious death certificate, which was issued by a doctor who was loyal to the shogunate. However, this theory is also disputed by many historians and sumo experts, who argue that there is no conclusive proof that Raiden was involved in any political conspiracy, and that his death was most likely due to natural causes.
A Legacy of Inspiration and Innovation
Raiden’s death was a huge loss for the sumo world, but his legacy lives on in the history and culture of Japan. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest rikishi of all time, and his record of 254 wins and 10 losses is still unmatched. He is also considered as a pioneer and innovator of sumo, who introduced new techniques and strategies that influenced the development of the sport. He is also admired for his courage, perseverance, and generosity, as he overcame his physical condition, faced many adversities, and supported his hometown and other causes.
Raiden is honored and remembered in various ways, such as statues, monuments, books, movies, and manga. He is also featured in the popular manga and anime series Shuumatsu no Valkyrie: Record of Ragnarok, where he represents humanity in a battle against the gods. He is also the inspiration for many sumo wrestlers and fans, who aspire to emulate his strength and spirit.
Raiden Tameemon was a sumo legend who left a lasting impact on the world. He was a thunder bolt that shook the earth and the heavens with his power and passion.