Support group formed for sculptor of Russia-bound sumo great statue

A volunteer group was formed Wednesday in a small northeastern Japan town to support local sculptor Toshio Kamada, who is working to create a bronze statue of the late sumo great Taiho to be erected in his birthplace in Russia.

Taiho, whose real name was Koki Naya, won a record 32 tournaments during his career between 1956 and 1971, and died of heart disease in January 2013 at the age of 72. Born in Poronaysk on the Russian island of Sakhalin to a Japanese mother and a Ukrainian father, the future yokozuna was raised in Hokkaido.

Kamada asked the mayor of Poronaysk if he could be the sculptor when he learned of the city's plan to erect the statue, and the sculptor plans to complete the 2.3-meter-high statue this summer.

"We plan to seek donations from the whole prefecture," said Hiroto Takahashi, who heads the village of Ogata in Akita Prefecture, at the inaugural meeting of the volunteer group.

The group aims to raise 8 million yen, the total costs required until the statue is sent to Russia.