Sunday, May 13, 2007

Atisanoe still living busy life

By Mina Hall
Special to The Advertiser

"One more time," Saleva'a Atisanoe, better known in Japan as former sumo star Konishiki, demanded.


Since retiring from the sport six years ago, the Nanakuli native has never been busier.

On this day, he is directing Sonny Ching's halau members as they rehearse in the ring at the Kokugikan sumo arena in preparation for Musashimaru's retirement ceremony, which was held Saturday.

Atisanoe is concerned that with only six men in the ring, it looks too bare.

"I think we need more," he said.

Nearby, casually spread out in a box seat made for four people is Fiamalu Penitani, yokozuna Musashimaru.

"No, it's fine," he said. "Gotta respect the ring."

Penitani knows that this is the first time that hula is being permitted on the sacred dohyo. He doesn't want to push things.

"Don't worry about it," Atisanoe said to the retiring yokozuna.

"You always say that," responded Penitani.

"I'm the only artistic one here," Atisanoe said. "I'm very visual. Maru (Penitani) just doesn't want to get a scolding (from sumo executives)."

When the dancers finish their powerful routine, Penitani is the first to applaud. Atisanoe yells out, "Poly (Polynesian) power!" while shaking his fist, clearly pleased with the results.

Later that night, however, after much contemplation, Penitani goes against Atisanoe's direction and decides to have the dancers perform in the aisles instead of in the ring.

It's all in a day's work for Atisanoe.

His company, KP Productions, organized and produced Penitani's retirement ceremony.

He has had personal experience in this type of ceremony (his own retirement in the same ring took place six years ago), and wanted to help make Penitani's retirement memorable.

On this day, however, Atisanoe barely made it in time for the rehearsal. He had spent 13 hours in a car, stuck in traffic due to a typhoon, trying to return to Tokyo.

"We weren't going forward, and we couldn't get off," he said. "It took us over two hours just to go a mile."

Yet with only a couple of hours sleep, he was directing the retirement show.

Life after sumo for Atisanoe is good.

*Company has new digs *

His company recently moved to a three-story office building in Ryogoku, just behind the Kokugikan arena where he wrestled for more than 15 years.

Some might wonder why his company would need three stories to manage the career of just one person.

Always one to look for new opportunities, his building also houses the
Ke'Olu Hawaiian Center.

There, the unofficial ambassador to Hawai'i is the producer of a school that offers classes in hula, 'ukulele and slack- key guitar. Clients can also relax while getting a lomi Hawaiian healing massage.

To keep track of all of this, Atisanoe has an entire management team that includes his wife of nine months, Chie.

The 28-year-old former receptionist is friendly, energetic and shares a love for the Islands with her husband.

"He's more busy now than when he was an active wrestler," she said.

*Keeping busy *

Tune in to any television channel in Tokyo and you will likely see one of his many commercials.

He has endorsed a number of companies, including Sanyo, Suntory Whisky, Lawson's convenience stores and the Hawai'i Visitors Bureau.

Weekdays, he has the star of an early morning kids program, and regularly makes guest appearances on other television specials.

He also opened a restaurant in Suidobashi called "Unbalanced," which is located next to the Tokyo Dome.

The menu includes Japanese and Hawaiian food.

Atisanoe lights up when the subject turns to food.

Even though he's been out of sumo for years, he's still at a hefty undisclosed weight.

"He's on again and off again with his diet," Chie said. "He tries to work out (he made a training area in the garage of his office), but his schedule is so busy."

The restaurant also has a karaoke bar where a few times a month he makes

On top of all that, he continues to participate in various charity activities and sponsors his program "Konishiki Kids" where each year he brings groups of youngsters from Hawai'i to Japan for a live cultural experience.

"I'm always working," Atisanoe said.

Does he ever have time to get away?

"Not often enough," Chie said.

*Soft spot for home *

When he does, the place that he longs to go to is home and his newly built house on the beach, just minutes from where he grew up.

"That is his dream," Chie said while pointing to a picture on the wall of the house.

"He loves to be home, and he loves the house. Everything is custom built big."

And nothing could be big enough for the larger-than-life Konishiki.

Mina Hall, who wrote "The Big Book of Sumo," played tennis for the University of Hawai'i from 1987 to 1992.

Posted on: Tuesday, October 5, 2004

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