Jasper Kenneth Arboladura Terai, who competes under the sumo name “Kotokuzan” is half-Japanese and half-Filipino. He was born in Makati and raised in Santa Rosa, Laguna by his grandmother, Malod, while his mother, Catherine, worked in Japan.
When he was just a boy, he watched sumo matches on TV in the Philippines, and dreamed to become a sumo wrestler when he grow up.
He never got to know his biological father. Adopted by his stepfather, Yasunori, he moved to Japan when he was 11. Catherine said, “Kenneth is such a good son. He is a very loving brother to his younger sisters Sakura and Momoka, his cousins, aunts, uncles and most especially his grandma.”
Yasunori encouraged Kenneth to enter the world of sumo and took him to Arashio Beya (training stable for sumo wrestlers).
For two days, Kenneth stayed with the rikishi (wrestlers), watching them practice and observing their daily life. “I decided I wanted to join them. They were so kind,” he said. And after finishing junior high school, that’s what he did.
At 5’10” and weighing just 90 kilos at age 15, he trained with literally bigger-built 21-year-olds and above; making him the ‘bunso’ of the group. [youngest]
Matches were tough, and back then, he had a lot of ‘bulking up’ to do, Kenneth said. But increasing body mass didn’t become much of a problem because he loves eating, especially his mother’s home-cooked meals like tinola, nilaga, adobo, and most of all, his favorite, sinigang.
Eight years since he entered the stable, Kenneth, now 23, weighs 156 kilos and is a lot massive and stronger than he was. At his recent tournament in Nagoya, he won six out of his seven matches; bringing pride to his stable.
And his secret weapon? “Bago ako lumaban, laging Filipino food ang kinakain ko.” [Before tournaments, I always eat Filipino food.]
But being the good person he is, Kenneth shares his mother’s cooking to his co-wrestlers/rikishi. Catherine would cook up a lot before tournaments; making sure Kenneth and the other wrestlers of the stable have plenty of Filipino food to enjoy. “They really like adobo and nilaga too,” Kenneth said.
Even Sokokurai, their superstar, the strongest wrestler of Arashio Stable, is a fan of sinigang. “They like it especially in the winter. They say the soup keeps their body warm,” Catherine said.
But for Kenneth, the best thing about being a sumo wrestler has nothing to do with food.
There is so much more to being a sumo wrestler than enjoying calorie-laden meals. Discipline, he said, was the bigger challenge. Mornings started early with intense practice. The wrestlers then would shower, eat, sleep, clean the stable, and do a lot of chores.
A sumo wrestler can make a good living, Kenneth said; depending on how good he is. Kenneth said that the stronger you are, the more you can earn.
Right now, Kenneth holds the rank of makushita, the third highest division in the complex ranking system of the sumo world. He is determined to move up the ranks. Higher-ranking rikishi’s are fond of Kenneth because he is a very good boy and respectful said Catherine.
“I hope he becomes as successful as (click link) Takayasu and Mitakeumi. Their mothers are Filipino, too.”
Watch Jasper Kenneth Arboladura Terai a.k.a. “kotokuzan” in action:
(action begins at 1:40)
One of his most challenging matches: