Toughest man in Japan bursts into tears

Sumo champion: Tokushoryu is 33 years old and weighs more than an average black bear. © Getty

Last week, a top sumo wrestler burst into tears of joy and relief when he won the famous Emperor’s Cup. It sparked a debate about whether athletes should try harder to hide their feelings.

What’s happening

Tokushoryu didn’t fancy his chances either against the top-ranked wrestlers in Tokyo.

An underdog from the lowest division, he caused the biggest upset in two decades, beating the greatest living sumo experts to lift the Emperor’s Cup.

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“I feel like I’m walking on clouds,” he said. The tears rolled down his face and Japan fell in love with its new champion.

According to research, the Japanese are among the least likely to cry. Hiding your emotions is a virtue in traditional society.

Sumo wrestling developed over 1,000 years and is an important part of national identity. Immersed in ritual, the game resists change.

Salt is still scattered to purify the ground from evil, and women are not allowed to enter the ring.

What enchanted the Japanese about Tokushoryu was his openness. “He was so emotional,” a fan said. “One moment he was laughing, the next he was crying.”

It reminds fans that athletes are not gods or machines – but humans

So, perhaps tears are good for sport?

Some say…

No. Sport is not a place for an exhibition of feeling. Fans want to be entertained by courage, honour and endurance – not by breaking down in public. Professional athletes control their emotions and are rewarded with trophies, huge salaries, and the worship of their fans.

Others think…

Yes. How boring sport would be if no one ever showed emotion! We love sport because we share in the journey and trials of the athletes. We follow their exploits, their failures and successes. We feel their tragedy and their joy. And given the colossal amount of pressure they are under, we should encourage them not to bottle it up.

You Decide

  1. Is crying a sign of strength?


  1. Draw a picture showing your favourite sports star in the act of celebrating a victory.

Some People Say...

“Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.”

Bill Shankly (1913-1981), former manager of Liverpool

What do you think?

Word Watch

A professional sumo wrestler from Nara, Japan.
Japan’s capital and the world’s most crowded city.
An ancient form of Japanese wrestling.
Emperor’s Cup
The most important sumo wrestling championship in Japan.
National identity
What helps to make your country special and different from all others.


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