Mention the name “Taihō” to any Japanese over the age of sixty and watch as he or she reflects on the glory days. There was a time when every child in Japan was obsessed with Kyojin, Taihō, and tamagoyaki (“Yomiuri Giants, Taihō, and a grilled egg omelette”).
Taihō was hands-down the greatest yokozuna ever, winning a record 32 yusho with nearly ten years as yokozuna. The little known secret in Japan was that Taihō was born to a Ukranian father and Japanese mother on this island of Sakhalin (Japanese territory at the time), though he always listed his home town in Hokkaido, which is where he and his mother moved after the war.
Earlier this week, Taihō was honored by the President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, by receiving the Order of Merit III for his “personal contribution into strengthening international image of Ukraine and the Ukrainian-Japanese humanitarian relations,” as announced by the Ukrainian presidential press service.
Taihō is now 70 years old and often constrained to a wheelchair, though he is known to still attend days of sumo at Ryogoku, and provide commentary on current rikishi. Incidentally, the 鵬 “hō” from “Hakuhō” comes from the “hō” in Taihō, meaning “phoenix.”