The Life Of The “Jap”

Rochester Democrat And Chronicle – August 18, 1891

A Biography of Matsada Sarakachi the Wrestler.

He Was Well Known Here

Having Wrestled in Rochester Theaters Many Times While Connected With Various Athletic Combinations – Ups and Downs of His Life.

Matsada Sorakichi, the wrestler, better known as the “Jap,” who died in New York on Sunday, was well known in Rochester, having wrestled here many times.  His last appearance was with the Turner Gaisty Girls Company at the Bijou Theater.  Then he wrestled with Hugh Leonard, the match being for $100 a side and exciting great interest.  Leonard won in two falls.

The following sketch of his life is from yesterday’s New York Times: “Matsada Korgaree Sorakichi, the Japanese wrestler, familiarly known as “the Jap,” is dead.  For many weeks he had been ill, and for a month his friends know that he could not recover, for he had consumption, which wasted his powerful body until it was a mere skeleton.  When, some time ago, he was told by his countrymen who attended him at 297 West Twenty-fifth street, that he would die, he refused to believe it, and with a grim determination said that he would get well again.  But he was not in training for a wrestling bout of that sort, and after lying unconscious for some hours he died Saturday afternoon at 4 o’clock.

“He was destitute, and his wife, with whom he had so often and seriously quarreled, had deserted him.  Nishinomly, a fellow countryman, cared for him.  He will be buried at Woodlawn Cemetery this afternoon; the funeral services are to be held at 624 Sixth Avenue.  The services will be simple and in charge of a few of the Japanese living in the city, some of whom had never seen or known him until he came to the club house in West Twenty-fifth street, where a number of them live and where he died.

Sorakichi had a career full of ups and downs during his eight years in America.  He came here in 1883.  In his own country he had been a juggler and an athlete, and on his arrival here he made his debut in a saloon in the Bowery, where he amused the crowd with his feats of strength.  His first wrestling match of consequence was with Carl Abs, “the German giant.”  It was in April 1884, at Greco-Roman style, and after a long bout the match was declared a draw.  Subsequently, in the same year, the two men met again, and this time Abs won a fall.

“In August of that year Sorakichi was matched against James Quigley, the champion wrestler of the New York Police Department.  The Jap was declared the winner, as Quigley refused to wrestle after having started the bout.  In June, 1885, a match was made between Duncan C. Ross, of Cleveland, and Sorakichi, and in this the little “Mikado wrestler,” as Ross called him, was clearly overmatched, for the Cleveland man tossed him about almost at will.  Sorakichi subsequently met in Buffalo, “Jack” Gallagher, the champion of Western New York, and won a bout from him.  One match which attracted much attention was between the Japanese and Earnest Roeber, then known as “the Adonis of the Bowery.”  It took place in the Germania Assembly rooms, and after a long tussle was declared a draw.”

“In 1886, Sorakichi met Evan Lewis in Chicago, and it was by the tactics he employed in this match that Lewis won for himself the name of “the strangler.”  Lewis was too much for the Jap and, handled him so roughly that, among other injuries, Sorakichi’s leg was broken.  After this Sorakichi wrestled in many cities, meeting Lewis, “Jack” Carkeek, Cannon, and other well known wrestlers.  Catch-as-catch-can was his best hold.  He was too short for Greco-Roman style.  Some of the Japanese now in the city who had heard of him before he came to this country said that in Japan he took low rank as a wrestler, being rated no better than a third-class man.

Sorakichi was 32 years old.  In February, 1885, he married an American woman, Ella B. Lodge by name.  She was a working girl of Quaker descent, who came to New York from Philadelphia.  After coming to New York and leading a bohemian life for some time, she inherited some property, and was on the flood tide of prosperity when she married Sorakichi.  The wedding was an event in the social life of the Bowery resorts.  The ceremony took place at the Church of the Holy Communion and the event was celebrated in the fine style by the friends of the contracting parties.  Both had more than money enough for their immediate wants, and they spent it lavishly.  Two weeks after the marriage domestic troubles began, and from that time until recently they continued.  A few weeks after their marriage, on the wife’s complaint, Sorakichi, was before a police justice to answer the charge of having threatened to take her life.  The story was repeated again and again in later years.  Their funds were exhausted and at times they separated only to make up and start their life together again.

“The woman had not been to see her husband during his illness, and his friends said yesterday that they did not know where she was.  Sorakichi had not been well for two or three years.  His friends think that he never fully recovered from the effects of his bout with Lewis, but it was only three months ago that he did his last wrestling.  In Philadelphia, on a proposition to meet all comers, he had a bout with “Farmer” Burns, in which he suffered seriously, and from that time he began to lose his flash and strength, and nothing he could do with the means at his command could restore them.  He will be buried as an American citizen by friends from his native country and his old acquaintances in sporting circles, where he was always popular.”

When Sorakichi was last in Rochester he was a frequent visitor to the DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE office.  He would come in after the performance was over, and talk at great length of what he intended to do when he had saved up enough money.  He could talk fairly good English and was his ambition to get enough money to go back to Japan, and establish a gymnasium there, and teach his country men the American styles of wrestling.  He was at that time suffering from what he said was bronchitis, but what was no doubt the first stages of the disease which killed him.  In his matches with Leonard, it was evident that he was not the man that he formerly had been.  His wind was broken, but for all that nobody thought that he would die of consumption within six months.

One response to “The Life Of The “Jap”

  1. mindlikeemptyspace

    Very interesting article, thank you for this.

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