Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Musashimaru decides to 'ganbatte,' open his own stable

By Ferd Lewis

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 16, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 06:44 a.m. HST, Jan 16, 2013

Musashimaru performed his last ring ceremony during his retirement ceremony on Oct. 2, 2004.

Even for someone who is 6 feet, 3 inches and 320 pounds, what Fiamalu Penitani embarks upon in the next stage of his sumo career is considered a big step.

The former Waianae High football player, who gained fame and fortune as grand champion Musashimaru, will become the second foreign-born sumotori to open his own stable in Japan's centuries-old national sport and plans a Hawaii presence.

"I can't wait to get going," Penitani said by phone following a training session at the Fujishima stable in Tokyo, where he coaches.

The 41-year-old Penitani, who competed for the Musashigawa stable from 1989 until 2003, will take over the rights to the Musashigawa name Feb. 4 when the current owner, the former Mienoumi, retires.

"It is a very big move and a prestigious (stable name)," said Jesse Kuhaulua, who, as Azumazeki, became the first foreign-born stable operator in 1986. Kuhaulua, who coached Akebono (Hawaii's Chad Rowan), retired in 2009 after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65.

Penitani, who followed Akebono as the second foreign yokozuna in 1999, said he will lease and renovate another stable property on the outskirts of the Ryogoku sumo district to house and train his understudies. Penitani and his wife will live on the top floor of the three-story building, with the sumotori on the second floor. The bottom floor will be for training. He said he hopes to have the stable operating by summer.

Penitani said he has already recruited three prospects, "and I need to get one more before I get started."

They include a nephew, Fiamalu "Mamu" Penitani, a 2011 Waianae High graduate. The nephew, who is 6-3 and 308 pounds, was an offensive lineman for the Seariders. He has been training in Japan for about six months.

Musashimaru debuted in 1989 amid the so-called "Hawaii boom," during which more than 20 sumotori from the islands competed in Japan. There have not been any active sumotori from Hawaii since 2003 and the ruling Japan Sumo Association now has a cap on foreigners, with one permitted per stable.

Originally upon retirement Penitani, like other eligible sumotori from Hawaii — Akebono, Konishiki (Salevaa Atisanoe) and Yamato (George Kalima) — had little interest in opening his own stable. But, in time, he said, "I began to think that since I'm going to live here, I might as well try it."

Penitani said he talked to Kuhaulua about stable ownership "and he told me, ‘Ganbatte (go for it)!' "

Musashigawa-beya 4-27-1 Higashi-Nippori Arakawa-ku, Tokyo