Congressman Faleomavaega announced that he was invited to speak at the opening ceremony of the Cherry Blossom Festival and welcomed special guest, Musashimaru. Musashimaru is only one of two Americans ever to achieve sumo’s highest rank of yokozuna (grand champion). Born in American Samoa and raised in Hawaii, Musashimaru’s birth name is Fiamalu Penitani.
“In professional sumo wrestling, Musashimaru holds the record of 55 consecutive tournament wins,” the Congressman said. “He made his debut in 1989 and is considered to be one of the great Sumo wrestlers of all time. At his heaviest, he weighed 537 pounds.”
“Known as the ‘Moose,’ Musashimaru moved to Japan at age 18 at a time when sumo wrestling was opening up to foreign athletes and when Konishiki, a fellow Samoan, was a very popular Ozeki( champion). For both of these Samoans, breaking into sumo wrestling was very difficult. Even Japanese athletes have a hard time and the language barrier itself makes it extremely difficult for outsiders to be accepted.”
“Although it was believed that no foreigner would ever achieve the title of Grand Champion, Musashimaru finally did the unbelievable in 1999 becoming only the second American and the first Samoan ever to become a Grand Champion.”
“The first grand champion was Native Hawaiian, Chad Rowan, who wrestled under the name of Akebono and became the first foreign Yokozuna. Being a Yokozuna, or grand champion, is like being the heavyweight boxing champion of the world.”
“Another Hawaiian, Jesse Kuhaulua, wrestled under the name of Takamiyama and trained Konishiki and Akebono. I believe these four Polynesians were successful in breaking into the highest levels of this ancient Japanese sport because Polynesians share similar cultural values,” Faleomavaega said.
“In Japan, there is a code known as bushido which means that you do or die and there is no giving up once you undertake a task. This is very similar to the Samoan ritual of the tatau. Once a Samoan begins the process of being tattooed, there is a cultural expectation that you must complete this process or lose respect among your peers and the community.”
“Given our cultural similarities, we should take pride in the achievements of Musashimaru, Konishiki, Takamiyama and Akebono. I commend each of them for their accomplishments and I thank the sponsors of the national Cherry Blossom festival for inviting me to speak at the opening ceremony.”
“Three other guests, including former Congressman William Fenzel (Chairman of the Japan-America Society of Washington, DC), Minister Katakami from the Embassy of Japan, and Mayor Miyashita, were invited to speak at the opening ceremony of the Cherry Blossom Festival and I am honored that I was able to represent American Samoa and welcome Musashimaru to our Nation’s capital.”
“The Ambassador of Japan also invited me to attend a special reception at his residence which was held in honor of Musashimaru and I am pleased that I was also able to represent American Samoa at this event. Again, I commend Musashimaru for his outstanding accomplishments and I wish him well as he retires from a sport in which he achieved so much,” the Congressman concluded.