Mitoizumi, The Salt Shaker

One of my favorites in sumo was Mitoizumi, who for his version of the salt-tossing ritual was known to his fans as The Salt Shaker. I was reminded of his style recently while reading David Benjamin’s deliciously irreverent Sumo: A Thinking Fan’s Guide to Japan’s National Sport.

“No discussion of salt-pitching, however, is adequate without a description of Mitoizumi’s routine. It was from his salt-pitching extravagance that he earned our affectionate nickname, ‘The Asshole.’ In all but his final pitch, Mitoizumi’s delivery was less than desultory. He picked up barely a pinch of salt, then flipped it carelessly aside, with no wrist-English.

“All this diffidence was — as everyone in the arena knew — a tease. Mitoizumi came out for his final pitch like Evel Knievel hitting the wall of fire. He would typically empty the entire saltbox into his paw, spin toward the dohyo, swing back his pitching arm and launch the whole four-pound handful, ten meters into the air, in a slo-pitch softball underhand that created a cloudburst of salt that seasoned spectators as far as five deep in the box seats.

“Mitoizumi’s act trampled every standard of athletic forbearance and daily rankled the Sumo Association. He received, in return, a joyful round of oohs, ahs, and giggles from the middle-aged ladies in the audience, very few of whom have ever had an orgasm or seen Wayne Newton Live.”

Benjamin’s book, which I would rank up with The Downhill Lie, Carl Hiaasen’s great take on golf, is available at

Knowing When to Stop and When to Begin

“There is a tendency when you really begin to learn something about a thing not to want to write about it but rather to keep on learning about it always and at no time, unless you are very egotistical, which, of course, accounts for many books, will you be able to say: now I know all about this and will write about it.”

— Ernest Hemingway in Death in the Afternoon (1932)


“The divine took his seat at the breakfast-table, and began to compose his spirits by the gentle sedative of a large cup of tea, the demulcent of a well-buttered muffin, and the tonic of a small lobster.”

— The Reverend Doctor Folliott breaks his fast in Crotchet Castle (1831) by Thomas Love Peacock, an author who was a guilty pleasure of Virginia Woolf, to whom I am indebted


“It’s important that nobody gets mad at you for screwing up. We know screwups are an essential part of making something good. That’s why our goal is to screw up as fast as possible.”

— Lee Unkrich, director of Toy Story 3, quoted in “Animating a Blockbuster: Inside Pixar’s Creative Magic” by Jonah Lehrer, Wired, June 2010


“Is life always this hard? Or just when you’re a kid?”


— Leon, played by Jean Reno, answers 12-year-old Mathilda, played by Natalie Portman, in Luc Besson’s Leon: The Professional (1994)


“Home is where the people you love are. You can live anywhere, so don’t be afraid of change. This is just the place that we live. It’s a really nice place. We’re very privileged, we don’t take it for granted. But if we lived in the apartment I grew up in — which was like half a bedroom, above my aunt’s house — that felt like home too. It’s not the space you’re in, it’s who you are in that space and who you’re with.”

— Michelle Obama, speaking to her daughters Malia and Sasha about living in the White House, from “Mrs. Obama’s Washington” by David Michaelis in Conde Nast Traveler, May 2010