The professional wrestler Rikidōzan as a site of memory

Lee Thompson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Rikidōzan was a former sumo wrestler who introduced American professional wrestling to the Japanese public in the 1950s. He has been called the "ethnic hero" of Japan. In his most famous performances Rikidōzan evoked the vivid memory of the recent war and Japan's defeat and ensuing occupation. He gave the enactment a new twist, however, by defeating his foreign opponents. But memory is neither uncontested nor static. Even during Rikidōzan's lifetime, the Asahi Newspaper discontinued coverage of his matches, and other groups opposed their broadcast because of their violent content. After his Korean origins were "revealed" in the 1980s, the memory of Rikidōzan has shifted. He has gone from being the ethnic hero of Japan, to an ethnically Korean hero, to an international figure who transcends nationality and ethnicity, and finally to an international figure whose ethnicity is once more unproblematic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)532-541
Number of pages10
JournalSport in Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011 May

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies


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