Spotlight On … Taihō Kōki.

Spotlight On … Taihō Kōki.

Written by Victoria Green.

We are trying to raise £5,000 on JustGiving to open our museum to the public. To read more about our fundraising campaign, please visit our page here.

This week, we were lucky enough to have representatives from Tatsuno Leather, Japan visit our museum. The Archaeological Leather Group hosted a seminar entitled The Enigma of Japanese Leather, focusing on ‘white’ leather. It was attended by three representatives from the Tatsuno Leather company, looking to forge relationships with other leather organisations in the west. In celebration of their visit, this week’s Spotlight blog looks at one of our Japanese artefacts. A tobacco pouch, which once belonged to one of Japan’s biggest sumo wrestling stars.

Taihō Kōki was born Ivan Boryshko to a Ukranian father and a Japanese mother, on the island of Karafuto. His father was a member of the White Guard who had fled the Red Army during the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. At the end of WWII, the Soviets occupied Karafuto and his father was arrested. Taihō and his mother were then sent to Hokkaido, where he was raised to become a legend.

Taihō, ‘the cannon’ was one of the strongest, tallest and greatest post-war sumo wrestlers. He was the youngest ever sumo wrestler to become a yokozuna at that time, earning the accolade at just 21 years old. He won a record 32 honbasho (sumo tournaments) between 1960 and 1971. This record remained unbroken until 2014. Taihō’s rapid rise was compounded by the fact that he was only half Japanese, and weighed around 300lbs, a meagre weight for a sumo wrestler. He was an incredibly popular sports personality, and his life-long rivalry with Kashiwado dominated the world of sumo.

The piece in question is Taihō’s tobacco pouch. It was sold at auction on April 18th 1928, and was later bought by the Museum of Leathercraft at the sale of the collection of F. N. Smith. The pouch is made of heavy, cross-grain leather, most likely goatskin. Originally the purse was coloured brown, though it now appears black. There is a catch where the upper plate connects, featuring the image of a cannon, iron mounted and inlaid with brass. The pouch is lined with red leather, and came with a cryptic note reading, ‘November 17th 1900’. After a successful spring at the wrestling championships in Yokohama, Taihō’s patrons gifted him this tobacco pouch.

In an interview in 2010, Taihō commented on the adulation he had received throughout his career; “I am not a genius. I achieved my status only through my efforts.” Words we live by here at the National Leather Collection.

In an interview in 2010, Taihō commented on the adulation he had received throughout his career; “I am not a genius. I achieved my status only through my efforts.” Words we live by here at the National Leather Collection.

This tobacco pouch is just one example of the countless treasures in the National Leather Collection! To learn more about the collection, visit our homepage. All support is greatly appreciated, so please visit our support page to find out how you can get involved.

We are trying to raise £5,000 on JustGiving to open our museum to the public. To read more about our fundraising campaign, please visit our page here.