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[Vintage Article, 1979] The injured brother who could not recover and the younger brother who followed his wishes (Tokio and Osamu Kido)

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This article was printed in the March 1979 issue of Monthly Puroresu. It concerns the Kido family, two of whom who became wrestlers: Tokio, whose brief career was shattered in a training accident, and Osamu, who would carry out his elder’s dream. However, it is framed as an interview with their father, Yoichiro.



Father and mother send their two sons to the mat world

The injured brother who could not recover and the younger brother who followed his wishes


Do you know the name of Tokio Kido, who was an aspiring professional wrestler? He was born in Kawasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture. He was 175 centimeters tall and weighed 82 kilograms (at the time of initiation). He held first dan in judo. In the spring of 1962, just before graduating from junior high school, the late Rikidozan took him under his wing, and he entered professional wrestling. In the following year, in February of 1963, he suffered a broken neck during practice, resulting in the loss of the lower half of his body. He spent the last 15 years of his short life in a wheelchair until his death on July 20, 1978, at the age of 30. He was the brother of Osamu Kido, a New Japan Pro-Wrestling hopeful.

Osamu had just started junior high school when Tokio realized that he would never return to good health. About six years later, in November of 43, Osamu joined Japan Pro Wrestling.

It may seem somewhat strange that his own brother, who had chosen to become a professional wrestler—the most dangerous profession according to the common sense of the world, and one that even life insurance solicitors were reluctant to consider—had fallen into the most dangerous case. And yet, his younger brother wanted to follow the path again, and his parents allowed him to do so. It may seem somewhat odd that the younger brother would wish to go back, and that his parents would allow him to do so. Yoichiro Kido, the father of Tokio and Osamu, said, "People will probably say, ‘Why did you allow such a reckless thing again?’”

Of all the active wrestlers in the Japanese mat world today, there are almost no examples of parents who have given their hands in approval of their sons' entry into the world of professional wrestling. There is no parent who does not care about their child's body. Mr. Yoichiro  and Mrs. Mume (deceased) were no exception. They accepted Osamu's wishes because they were "moved by Osamu's passion and love for his brother…”.

Yoichiro was not opposed to Tokio joining professional wrestling. In 1934, Yoichiro opened Kido Engineering in Shimonamiki, Kawasaki-ku, Kawasaki-shi, Kanagawa Prefecture, and was a rich man with four boys and two girls. When Tokio, the third son, expressed his desire to become a professional wrestler, Shinichi, the eldest son, and Yoshio, the second son, were already supporting Kido Corporation as Yoichiro's arms.

The eldest son was a man devoted to his work, but the second, third, and fourth sons were judo enthusiasts, and each of them had attained shodan (1st dan). Tokio, who attended the nearby Iida Dojo and obtained shodan in his second year of junior high school, had the biggest body of all his brothers. He was recommended by Master Iida to enter Kokushikan High School to participate in the National Athletic Meet, so he must have had the aptitude for it. However, at that time, professional wrestling was booming, and Rikidozan was the object of admiration among the brothers. Tokio's brothers backed up Tokio's wish by saying, "We will help the family business, so let Tokio go on to whatever he wants to do.” 

“A friend of mine was close to Rikidozan, and I approached him. He invited me to a match at the Taito Gymnasium in Asakusa, and I met Rikidozan.” In this way, Yoichiro personally paved the way for Tokio to enter professional wrestling. At this time, Rikidozan tested Tokio in the waiting room and said, "Well, this is a boy who looks like he will grow up..." He came up to Yoichiro in the audience and said, "I would like to take care of your boy.”

After returning home, Yoichiro consulted his wife, Mume, for the first time. Mume did not reject it outright, but she was still reluctant. However, four of the men in the family were in favor, and he himself was eager to go, so as Yoichiro recalls, she said, "If Tokio wants it so badly, I'm not against it. But please take care of yourself.”

Like most mothers, Mume did not want her precious son to be involved in a dangerous profession. 

With his parents' permission, Tokio bravely entered the Rikidozan Dojo, carrying a furoshiki wrapping cloth on his back, without even waiting for his junior high school graduation ceremony. It must have been unthinkable to the fifteen-year-old boy with his heart full of hope that ten months later, a dark fate awaited him.

“I will never forget it. It was the day after Setsubun in the 38th year (February 4, 1963). Tokio came home after taking the Setsubun vacation and returned to the camp early because he had to be at his chankoban the next day. The next day, the office of the Riki Sports Palace informed us that ‘Tokio had a concussion during practice and had to be hospitalized. We can't operate on him without the approval of his relatives, so please come here right away with your personal seal.’ I thought it was strange to have an operation for a concussion, but I rushed to the Palace and arrived at Keio Hospital around 3:00 p.m. after visiting several hospitals. When he was brought to the hospital by ambulance, they had to stop at one hospital after another because they were not equipped for surgery. When I arrived, Mr. Rikidozan was acting as a guarantor on behalf of Tokio’s parents, and the surgery had already begun.”

Tokio was injured in a sparring match at the Liqui-Palace underground dojo on the same day when he was hit by K's throwing technique. [Author’s note: according to a profile on the Showa Puroresu fanzine’s website, “K” is referring to Shinya Koshika, the future Great Kojika.] Tokio suffered a fracture of the seventh cervical vertebrae and spinal cord paralysis, which left him paraplegic.

“At that time, he still had hope for recovery, didn't he? He was always reading books on wrestling techniques and studying them, moving only his free upper body. He said, ‘f I ever get in the ring again, I'll never sleep with my feet facing Keio Hospital.’”

At that time, however, the doctor had declared that the disease was incurable. I can only imagine how the parents felt when they listened to their son's words of hope and encouraged him, knowing that it would not come true. However, neither Yoichiro nor Mume showed any tears or complained in front of Tokio.

Tokio spent his time alternately at home and in the hospital. He spent two years in a hospital in Tsuruhaya-ku, Yokohama City, and about five years in a national sanatorium in Odawara. Finally, he lived at a national sanatorium in Hadano. We tried everything we could think of, including massage. His parents' intention was that Tokio's body would be relieved and his mind would be comforted.

They bought a plot of land on the Miura Peninsula at the high point of Kurihama, where Tokyo Bay is visible, and built a new two-story house for Tokio, where he could go up and down freely in his wheelchair. Even though Tokio was a skilled builder, he had to pay for his own medical treatment and everything else. Tokio, who was only 16 years old and an aspiring professional wrestler, was not covered by workers' compensation because his parents were responsible for his health insurance. At the time he was hospitalized at Keio Hospital, Rikidozan said, "I will take care of the hospital bills," but Rikidozan died suddenly in December of that year.

Tokio's company, Nippon Pro-Wrestling Kogyo, became a separate company in 1965, and its structure was changed. At that time, Rikidozan's family gave Tokyo 500,000 yen and the athletes' association gave him 50,000 yen as sympathy money, which was interpreted as a severance package. The entire burden fell on Yoichiro's shoulders. However, Yoichiro did not find this unsatisfactory.

"There were people who were angry with me for my cold attitude, but I didn't think so. Rikidozan had passed away, and the company had changed managers, and I thought that in this world, the person who gets injured is the one who loses. I told him to take care of himself, but in the corner of my mind, I was still worried that he might not be able to die on the tatami. I began to think that it was a blessing in disguise that he made it home alive. As long as he was in such a state, it was only natural that his parents should take care of him. Well, perhaps it was a kind of resignation."

Yoichiro never complained to Mume. Mume never agreed with Tokio's decision to join professional wrestling, but she knew it would hurt Tokio's feelings if she complained about it. If either one of his parents had spoken a word of regret about the cold treatment in the mat world or lamented the misfortune of their beloved son, the wrestler Osamu Kido would not have been born today.

Tokio, who had been a cheerful character since childhood, regretted his lack of freedom, but his passion for professional wrestling never faded. After Osamu became a professional wrestler, Tokio would wait for his return and give him advice on various topics, and he always watched professional wrestling TV until a week before his death.

When a visitor to the hospital criticized him, he would say, "No, Mr. K did nothing wrong. It was all my carelessness." he would explain in a serious tone. Tokio's cheerfulness was a great help to Yoichiro, who said, "I was impressed by Tokio's sportsmanship, even though he was my own son.” 

The couple was also shocked by Osamu's desire to join professional wrestling.

Osamu had learned judo since elementary school under the influence of his older brothers, and had obtained shodan by the time he entered junior high school. However, he quit high school after one year, saying that he was not suited to study, and started working as a member of the Kido Corporation. His parents had no idea that he was secretly aiming to enter the professional wrestling business.

In November 1968, Osamu visited the office of Japan Pro Wrestling in Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo, by himself. He told Kokichi Endo and Kyushuzan, who were there, about his desire to join the organization. They were surprised to learn that he was Tokio's younger brother and said, "After what happened to your brother, there is no way your parents would allow it. Without your parents' approval, I can't allow you to enter the dojo.”

“I had just returned from my brother-in-law’s funeral. Osamu said, ‘I went to Nipro today.’ As you can imagine, I was surprised. So I immediately held a family meeting with all the family members, and Tokio was all for it. However, my wife and I gave it a lot of thought. Osamu said, ‘I've been working out for this day. The one person who would be more happy than anyone else for me to become a pro-wrestler is my brother Tokio. I want to do for him what he couldn't do for me.’ Osamu had always been a child who cared for his older brother, but when I saw that he was that devoted to him, I was discouraged from opposing him. In the end, though, it was my wife who came to the final decision. Osamu also thought that the biggest obstacle was his mother, but she finally said, ‘He has a firm intention, and as a parent, I am glad that he is thinking of my husband.’ She said, ‘Take care of yourself and do what you can for your brother,’ and with those words, Osamu's decision to enter the pro wrestling business was made.”

At the family meeting, the question of what the public would say if Osamu were to become a professional wrestler became an issue, but Mume-san said, "No matter what the public says, it is the parents and siblings who understand Osamu's feelings the most," and the family decided to work together as a whole to support Osamu.

Mume-san passed away from a stroke on September 16 last year, and Yoichiro-san said, "On the one hand, she was a quiet woman, but on the other hand, she was also a tough woman. During the three years I was in the army, she worked with her three children and said, ‘If it comes to a crisis, I will raise them well without a man.’”

Yoichiro was born in Murakami City, Niigata Prefecture in 1898. His family was a master carpenter for 250 years. Yoichiro also started his career as a craftsman at the age of 18. In snow country, there is no construction work during the winter. Yoichiro came to Tokyo every winter to work as a trainee, and while working in Kawasaki, he met Mume. Mume was born in Yaita City, Tochigi Prefecture in 1916, and worked as a weaver at a spinning factory in Kawasaki. They became acquainted because Yoichiro was staying at her aunt's house, and they moved in together in Higashida-cho, Kawasaki City. In 1934, one year later, they started their own business at the present location under the name of Kido Engineering.

It was in the spring of 1942, when the war situation was getting tense, that Yoichiro was called up and enlisted in the Maizuru Marine Corps. After training there, Yoichiro was assigned to the 5th Shinyo Corps of the Special Strike Force and was ordered to fight in the Leyte Gulf Operation in the Philippines. The Shinyo Corps was a human torpedo squadron with explosives placed at the end of a small boat made of plywood. However, Leyte fell to the onslaught of the U.S. forces just before the 5th Shinyo Squadron arrived, and the squadron remained at the suicide attack base on Hainan Island (now an island in Guangdong Province, China) in the Gulf of Tonkin, where the war ended. His rank at the end of the war was Petty Officer 2nd Class in the Navy. He was demobilized in March 1946.

From the chaotic period near the end of the war, when air raids were intense, to the postwar period, Mume worked at a nearby factory with her eldest daughter Mitsue, who was only two years old, on her back. She kept the house in order, and Osamu recalls her as a mother “with a big body and a big heart”. Mume's guts and Yoichiro's passion for his work seem to have been inherited by Osamu.

“After Osamu became a professional wrestler, most of the conversations between the brothers Tokio and Osamu were about wrestling. Tokio seemed to be frustrated by Osamu's progress. Tokio enjoyed giving him advice and giving him a pat on the back, and Osamu would always listen to what he had to say without protest. Seeing this, my wife and I used to tell each other, ‘Osamu must have chosen to become a professional wrestler to console his brother.’ It was a heartwarming experience.”

Yoichiro also feels a little frustrated by Osamu's character.

“Tokio was rather showy and a little bit on the clumsy side, but he was always smiling and cheerful, and everyone liked him. Osamu, on the other hand, was quiet and reserved. If he had continued as a wrestler, Tokio would have been bigger than Osamu. I often tell Osamu, ‘Since you are a professional wrestler, can't you be a little more flamboyant like a popular businessman?’ But all I get is, ‘It's my personality, I can't help it.’ Well, he is a neat and serious person, he never smokes, and I have never seen him drunk even when he drinks. He always keeps his room clean and tidy, never lets anyone else do his laundry, and on his days off he spends all day at home doing his laundry. I sometimes ask him to stop doing laundry and think about getting a wife, but he says, ‘I can get married anytime I want,’ but he has never brought a girlfriend home yet. Well, I'm waiting for him to say ‘I've made up my mind’ since it's already decided that I'm not going to find a wife for him. I think Tokio was better suited for professional wrestling.”

Yoichiro admits that his son is a hard-nosed person, but he is a little bit irritated with him. This may be an extravagant concern for a parent who is struggling with a flamboyant, playful, and easygoing son, but it is the way a parent should feel. Tokio's personality is in sharp contrast to Osamu's, and perhaps he is looking for the same traits in Osamu as he found in Tokio.

Since last year, Yoichiro has handed over the position of Kido Corporation to his eldest son, Shinichi. But he still goes to work every day. He feels better and eats better when he is working. Shinichi and his second son, Yoshio, own a house in the neighborhood, and their eldest daughter, Mitsue, is married and lives in Kawasaki City. They have six grandchildren. The oldest is in the sixth grade of elementary school. Although he can retire comfortably now, he still misses being away from his work.

2137507913_pg157pics.thumb.jpg.99fb7d5ab663ed7a3b7f474eb22057c0.jpg"The house in Kurihama that I built for Tokio is close to the sea, so I sometimes use it in the summer, but in the other seasons, I leave it unoccupied and nail it to the wall. The climate and the view are so nice that I intend to live here when I really retire, but that may be a long time from now."

The house in Shimonamiki is a three-story house. Yoichiro, Osamu, and their second daughter Akemi (23) live here now. The house used to be a two-story house, but Osamu has taken over the third floor at his request and used it as his room. However, Osamu is often on tour, so Yoichiro is alone with his youngest daughter for more than half of the year. Akemi also works at a company in Motosumiyoshi and takes care of her father's personal needs and meals.

If Yoichiro does not go to work, he is left alone in the large house during the daytime. He drinks one alcoholic beverage at most, and he gave up smoking about three years ago. It has been less than six months since Mume passed away, and Yoichiro, who has not yet become accustomed to living alone, finds the time when he is at work, which is also his only and best hobby, to be the most rewarding.

“Twice a day, in the morning and evening, he makes it a point to light a Buddhist altar lined with Mume's and Tokio's tablets and join hands with them. At night, when I get tired of watching TV, I pull out my photo albums. Photos of with Mume trips to Hawaii and Okinawa bring back happy memories. But when I look at the pictures of my son in his wheelchair, my vision becomes blurry.”

“It would be a complaint if I told you. He did not die of illness, but I can't help but cry because I feel sorry for Tokio, who died for fifteen years without being able to stand on his own feet and without having any youth. If that had not happened, he would be working hard with Mr. Hoshino (Kantaro) and Mr. Yamamoto (Kotetsu) nowadays... I think about it. Yamamoto-san still reminds me of how much fun he would have had if he had been there.”

Yoichiro's voice is full of mourning for his own child.

However, Osamu is now doing his best for Tokio. He spent five years training his body and entered professional wrestling to console his brother, whose future was cut short by a twist of fate.

Yoichiro watches Osamu's matches at ringside during the shows in Tokyo and Kanagawa. Sometimes he cheers loudly. At such times, Tokio's image of Osamu fighting in the ring sometimes comes back to him. I think, ‘Oh, Tokio is also watching over Osamu's fight.’”

In the Japanese mat world, a brother tag team has not yet been born. If Tokio had been in good health, the Kido brothers would have been the first such team. But Yoichiro is watching. He is watching the heroic figure of Tokio and Osamu's phantom tag team, fighting in the ring!

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