Jungyo Newsreel – Days 15 and 16

Day 15

return-of-the-satonofuji-2
Ohisashiburi, Yumi-chan

🌐 Location: Takasaki, Gunma prefecture

Kiddie sumo – Abi purifies a scalp:

abi-purifies-boys-head

Trust Abi to be more childish than his child rival.

Shodai had to go kyujo due to an inflammation. This meant Kakuryu was a tachimochi short. So, for the first time in his life, Yutakayama bore the sword for the Yokozuna dohyo-iri.

yutakayama-the-tachimochi

In his bout with Tochinoshin, Mitakeumi had a wardrobe malfunction:

You can see the two in a mawashi-matta. Explanation to newcomers: if a mawashi knot comes undone and reveals the wrestler’s family jewels, he loses immediately by disqualification. For this reason, if the gyoji or someone around the ring spots an undone knot, the gyoji calls a “mawashi-matta”, signals the rikishi to freeze, ties back the naughty knot, then slaps the backs of both rikishi to signal them to continue from the same position.

The only bout I have is actually Takayasu vs. Goeido, but I warn you in advance that you probably want to silence your speakers. This was shot by a very enthusiastic Philipino patriot who seems bent on embarrassing Takayasu very loudly:

The Gunma prefecture locals who came to watch this day’s event got a rare treat – they got to see Satonofuji perform the yumitori-shiki again. Satonofuji is a Gunma native.

Satonofuji also got many requests for photographs and autographs from his enthusiastic neighbors.

Day 16

 

three-yokozuna-backs
Unryu, Shiranui, Unryu

🌐 Location: Yasukuni shrine, Tokyo

Today’s honozumo event (a sumo event performed in the precincts of a shrine) marked the rikishi’s return to Tokyo after a very long while – those who participate in the Jungyo have been on the road since before the Haru basho.

Here come the entire Makuuchi – gathering at the main yard for a purification ceremony.

It’s really hard to have an elegant walk in a kesho-mawashi, isn’t it? Myogiryu manages it quite well, though.

This event marked the return of Hakuho to the Jungyo. The Yokozuna reported to the NSK board and expressed his appreciation for receiving permission to participate in his father’s funeral.

I’m not really sure what that new adornment to his right ankle is supposed to mean.

The main event took place at an outdoors, permanent dohyo by the side of the shrine. As usual, they started with some keiko. Enho got lots of wedgies practice.

enho-wedgie

Especially from this guy:

Looks like despite his recent kyujo, Terunofuji is gaining some of his physical strength back. Aminishiki, by the way, is still MIA.

Kakuryu performed his dohyo-iri accompanied by a mini-yokozuna with a perfect little Unryu-style rope. The little tyke was none other than Kakuryu’s own son. Pay attention to Nishikigi-mama.

Please excuse the quality. The video shows the dohyo-iri of all three Yokozuna. I think both Hakuho and Kisenosato improved their shiko recently.

This has been Kisenosato’s first dohyo-iri at Yasukuni shrine.

This time I have several bouts to show you.

A few seconds of Enho vs. Akiseyama:

I guess all that practice pays.

Here – with a couple of glitches – is the Ichinojo-Tochinoshin bout, followed by the san-yaku soroi-bumi (synchronized shiko stomps – though the west side is a little disappointing):

Here is the Kisenosato-Goeido bout. What is Goeido doing there, exactly?

And here is the full Hakuho vs. Kakuryu bout.

Note how Hakuho, fresh off the dohyo, immediately switches to fansa mode.

Natsu Banzuke Crystal Ball

I started writing these prediction posts exactly a year ago, so this will be my seventh banzuke forecast for Tachiai. The accuracy has varied from basho to basho, though I think it’s fair to say that the forecasts give a very good idea of roughly where each rikishi will land—in most cases, within one rank or closer.

Upper San’yaku

Y1

Kakuryu

Hakuho

Y2

Kisenosato

O1

Takayasu

Goeido

No changes here from the Haru banzuke.

Lower San’yaku

S

Tochinoshin

Ichinojo

K

Endo

Mitakeumi

With his 7-8 record, Mitakeumi will lose his Sekiwake rank, but should only fall to Komusubi. Tochinoshin moves over to the East side, while Ichinojo moves up to Sekiwake. Endo finally gets his San’yaku promotion, and is a sufficiently strong candidate with his 9-6 record at M1e that I have him on the East side, although the banzuke committee could certainly switch him and Mitakeumi.

Upper Maegashira

M1

Tamawashi

Kaisei

M2

Abi

Shohozan

M3

Daieisho

Yutakayama

M4

Chiyoshoma

Ikioi

M5

Shodai

Kotoshogiku

What’s certain is that there will be a lot of turnover in this area of the banzuke, as with the exception of Shohozan, everyone in the M2-M5 ranks checked in with a losing record, and only Shodai limited his losses to 8. Many in the ranks immediately below this group also did not distinguish themselves, meaning that we have to reach far down the banzuke for viable promotion candidates. Exactly how this will play out is much less certain, as there are many possible scenarios, and the considerations going into them are complex.

Let’s start with the easy part. Both Tamawashi and Kaisei did well enough to earn promotions to San’yaku, but since there are no open slots for them, they will have to be content with the top maegashira rank. Abi and Shohozan are the only plausible candidates for M2, although their ordering is uncertain. Abi will jump 5 ranks, and will join the joi in only his third top-division basho after earning 10-5 records in the first two. Similarly, Daieisho is the only plausible candidate for M3e. He will also jump 5 ranks, matching his highest career rank.

From here, things get complicated. The next best numerical score belongs to Shodai, but he can’t take the M3w slot due to his make-koshi record at M4w. The best he could do would be to remain at his current rank, though it’s more likely he gets a minimal demotion to M5e. Kotoshogiku could technically  be only demoted from M3e to M3w, but given his 6-9 record, this seems overly generous, and he should really be ranked below Shodai. The next best candidate for M3e is none other than Yutakayama, whose 10-5 record could vault him 8 ranks up the banzuke, all the way from M11.

If we put Shodai and M5e and Kotoshogiku right below him at M5w, who fills the M4 slots? The choice is between the next two strong kachi-koshi records, which belong to Chiyoshoma (9-6 at M10) and Ikioi (11-4 at M14), and the other two high-rankers due for big demotions, Komusubi Chiyotairyu (4-11) and M2 Takarafuji (5-10). My forecast favors the guys moving up the banzuke over those moving down. If the banzuke committee agrees, six out of the ten rikishi in this group would be moving up at least 5 ranks!

Mid-Maegashira

M6

Chiyotairyu

Takarafuji

M7

Chiyomaru

Ryuden

M8

Yoshikaze

Hokutofuji

M9

Kagayaki

Daishomaru

M10

Okinoumi

Daiamami

M11

Chiyonokuni

Takakeisho

At Natsu, this area of the banzuke will serve primarily as the landing zone for higher-ranked rikishi who achieved make-koshi records ranging from just below .500 (Yoshikaze, Kagayaki, Okinoumi, Chiyonokuni) to horrific (hello, Chiyotairyu and Takakeisho). The only bright spots are Ryuden, who moves up from M9 with a minimal kachi-koshi, and the Oitekaze stablemates Daishomaru and Daiamami, who vault up and out of the demotion danger zone with their 9-6 and 10-5 records.

Lower Maegashira

M12

Asanoyama

Arawashi

M13

Ishiura

Sadanoumi

M14

Takekaze

Tochiozan

M15

Aoiyama

Kyokutaisei

M16

Aminishiki

Kotoeko

M17

Gagamaru


The bottom of the banzuke is complicated by the fact that there are 6 Makuuchi rikishi who earned demotions by the usual criteria (in order from most to least deserving of demotion: Hedenoumi, Kotoyuki, Sokokurai, Onosho/Nishikigi, and Myogiryu), but only 3 Juryo rikishi who clearly earned promotion: Sadanoumi, Takekaze, and Kyokutaisei. Aminishiki is borderline, and the next two best candidates, Kotoeko (10-5 at J8) and Gagamaru (8-7 at J5), are ranked too low to be normally considered for promotion with those records. Obviously, the numbers moving up and down have to match. What to do?

My initial inclination was to demote Nishikigi in favor of Aminishiki, and save Onosho (who was kyujo) and Myogiryu. Over on the sumo forum, Asashosakari suggested that they could instead demote Onosho and save both Nishikigi and Myogiryu. The solution I’m currently favoring, given how poor their records were, is that both Nishikigi and Myogiryu will be demoted, as will Onosho. I’m guessing that the banzuke committee will be more likely to promote kachi-koshi Juryo rikishi with insufficiently strong records (after all, this has happened in the past) than to keep in the top division rikishi who failed to defend their places there. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see this play out in any number of ways. We’ll find out on April 26th!

 

Jungyo Newsreel – Catching up at Kanagawa

Hello again, Jungyo enthusiasts. I have strayed off the trail after day 6. Let’s try to do some catching up and join the sekitori again at Kanagawa, where they have been spending days 13 and 14.

So what happened during that interval?

Little girls can no longer participate in kiddie sumo

Despite public outcry, the NSK is asking each hosting town not to send little girls to the kiddie sumo events of the Jungyo. The reason given “Safety first”. When various outlets pointed out that boys and girls are equally susceptible to injury on the dohyo, the answer was “We don’t want to risk girls sustaining permanent injuries to the face”.

Hakuho’s father passed away

On April 9th, Hakuho’s father, Mönkhbat, the former Olympic medalist in wrestling, and the equivalent of Dai-Yokozuna in Mongolian Wrestling, passed away at the age of 76 of liver cancer.

Hakuho fully participated in the event in Ina, Nagano prefecture, but asked for – and received – a leave of absence to attend his father’s funeral in Mongolia starting from April 11th. He will re-join the Jungyo for the Honozumo event at Yasukuni shrine on April 16th.

hakuho-funeral

The late Mönkhbat has been a national hero in Mongolia, and his funeral drew much attention and included military escort.

hakuho-funeral-son

Hakuho has always been very strongly connected to his father and looked up to him. When the father was diagnosed with liver cancer, Hakuho had him flown to Japan for treatment, then back to the comfort of his own home in Mongolia. Of course, even the best modern medical intervention has its limitations.

Kisenosato joins the Jungyo

Kisenosato announced that he will re-join the Jungyo. His return was planned for the 13th, but he joined one day earlier – may be to avoid Friday the 13th, or maybe to cover up for Hakuho’s absence.

kisenosato-tsuna-shime

In the couple of days he’s been participating he has been showing mixed results. I’d warn you against developing high hopes hearing reports that he wins his Jungyo bouts. We’ve been here before – Kisenosato managing to win bouts and elimination tournaments in Jungyo, getting breathless coverage from the press, then hitting a wall in honbasho. That injury is not going away any time soon.

Terunofuji and Aminishiki absent

I reported in my Day 6 coverage that Terunofuji was absent from the torikumi. The next day he was joined by his stablemate, Aminishiki. Terunofuji was reportedly back on duty today (April 14th) at the Fujisawa event, but Aminishiki is still out.

Birthdays

Goeido had a birthday on April  6th – day 6 of the Jungyo – and is now 32. The following day, Ichinojo celebrated his 25th birthday.

ichinojo-25

Today, although he is never again going to be on any Jungyo, many sumo fans celebrated Harumafuji’s 34th birthday.


So let’s now proceed to the daily coverage.

Day 13

🌐 Location: Kawasaki, Kanagawa prefecture

Here is Chiyomaru’s version of kiddie sumo:

Ahaha… poor kids.

Tochinoshin offered his chest for some butsukari to Tobizaru and Takanosho. Bigger men have failed to move the Georgian Cliff:

Things look a little different when it’s reverse butsukari (the higher ranking guy is the pusher). You just let the Wookiee win:

Endo is getting a lot of high-rank attention this Jungyo. Apparently that’s because he is going to make san-yaku in the Natsu basho. Previously he got juiced by Takayasu. This time, Kakuryu invited him to san-ban (practice form in which the same two wrestlers go through full bouts repeatedly until the higher ranking one calls it off).

kakuryu-vs-endo

This one consisted of 13 bouts, all won by the Yokozuna. Rather than counting wins, the Yokozuna concentrated on adjusting his own movement and building up his body.

After practice, the Yokozuna was seen having a talk with Endo. It turned out that they were exchanging injury-related experience.

Kakuryu’s finger injury lingers on. He seems able to use his grip, but says that after applying sudden force, when he lets go of the opponent’s mawashi, the pain hits. “But it’s not preventing me from doing sumo”.

Kisenosato engaged Meisei from Juryo for a 9-bout sanban, and won them all. Also watch for the bout vs. Kakuryu at the musubi-no-ichiban. Just remember my warning above.

Day 14

🌐 Location: Fujisawa, Kanagawa prefecture

Help, a group of fierce robbers has taken to the streets of Fujisawa!

fierce-robbers

(A word of advice to Kyokushuho: your highwayman career is going to be very short if you wear kimono with your name (and those of current and former stable mates) splashed all over it).

The spectators got to enjoy double bills, both in the oicho construction performance:

And in the tsuna-shime performance, where the two Yokozuna present showed off their ropes. I think this was originally planned to include Hakuho, which would have given the spectators both Shiranui and Unryu style rope tying, but unfortunately Hakuho is in Mongolia, and so they got a double Unryu.

The top 16 members of Makuuchi participated in an elimination tournament. So here is Kisenosato vs. Tamawashi:

Kisenosato vs. Shodai (who has beaten Tochinoshin in the first round):

Kisenosato vs. Kaisei:

And finally, the final, Kisenosato vs. Takayasu. When playing in elimination format, the restriction against matching rikishi from the same stable does not apply:

Kisenosato wins today’s yusho.

A Biking Tour of Aichi

This NHK World video features a biking tour around Aichi prefecture. Nagoya is the largest city in Aichi prefecture, so it is very important to sumo fans as the home of the July Honbasho. As the video shows, Aichi is also important to the production of “Tai”, sea bream, that wonderful red fish we associate with yusho, promotion, and celebration. Anyway, if anyone out there is planning a trip to Nagoya to see the tournament, chances are you’ll be looking for other stuff to do off-hours or on days that you aren’t able to manage tickets, so this video may give a few ideas.

Bike Around Aichi

Another important feature of this video is its focus on “craft”, monozukuri 物作り…literally “making stuff.” The concept is central to Japanese industry and life. We’ve seen that with the recent video Herouth pointed out that showed (among other things) how sumo wrestlers’ combs are made. I’ve been particularly interested in it lately, playing around with making whisky. My favorite part is malting barley. The smell of germinating barley is nice. In this video, there’s a factory making hamanatto…in a woman’s house. It’s so awesome.

As I find things like this around sumo venues, I’ll try to bring them to your attention so you find things to enrich any trips you make to Japan. I’d like to help others avoid “Lost in Translation” syndrome, having experienced it myself when I first moved there.

John Gunning – Sumo’s Women Problem

japantimes-logo

Noted sumo commentator and friend of Tachiai, John Gunning, bravely wrote another knock-out piece for the Japan Times.  This time, he took on the sumo tradition of barring women from the dohyo.  For sumo fans that somehow missed it, at an early jungyo stop in Maizuru, the town’s mayor collapsed while delivering the opening remarks from the dohyo. In the rush to render aid, two female medical professionals mounted the dohyo and began CPR. In an unfortunate mistake, the venue’s announcer began to admonish the women to leave the dohyo at once. As a result, the Japanese public responded with outrage, and hours later the story went world-wide.

First of all we have to ask what the purpose of the rule is. Women are not barred from the sport completely. They compete in amateur tournaments and play a large role in the management of professional sumo stables. The proscription is solely Shinto related and can be seen in other places “sacred” to the religion such as on Mount Omine in Nara.

I encourage our followers to read this well-thought-out piece of commentary.

Due to prior problems with comments on this subject, there will be no comments accepted on this post.

Ones to Watch: Haru 18 Wrap-up

EDION Arena Osaka Lower Division Match

Tachiai readers please forgive me, as I was so pre-occupied trying to get folks to Osaka so that I forgot to wrap-up a few loose-ends of our Ones to Watch coverage! So let’s dig into it.

As usual let’s start with some high level stats on how our picks performed. At Kyushu we managed 17 kachi-koshi against 3 make-koshi, but slipped to a 12-8 record at Hatsu. How did we do at Haru?

Continue reading

DirecTV Picks Up TVJapan

Directv banner

My biggest gripe about my video provider is that there was no way to get any Japanese language programming, not even NHK World, across its satellite beam. Now word comes to me that they are carrying TVJapan. Sure, it’s a ton of crazy stuff in Japanese every day. But the solid gold nugget in the $25/month fee is the honbasho coverage it will bring every day for two solid weeks.

Expensive? You bet! Extravagant? You bet! Crazy? Indeed!  But for a sumo lover like me, it’s a tempting scenario.  If you want to check it out yourself, take a look here: DirecTV TV Japan

Natsu Basho Sells Out

Natsu 2018 Sell Out

Tickets went on sale for May’s Natsu basho at the Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo. Reports from the Sumo Association are that the entire 15 day event has sold out, except for tickets reserved for “day of” sales to ardent sumo fans who wake up and get in line at 5:00 AM.

Public interest in sumo seems to continue to be strong, in spite of the brief outcry over the Maizuru tour stop, where a pair of female medical professionals were admonished for mounting the dohyo to render medical aid to the mayor, after he collapsed during his welcoming remarks.

For readers of Tachiai who were able to score tickets, events at the Kokugikan are quite enjoyable, and offer a vastly different experience from watching the matches on video.

Winds of Change – 1 Year Ago In Sumo

It’s Sunday, maybe you have some free time and you are a sumo fan. I have been missing some of my favorites, who have faded from the top division. So I am going to share this 22 minute long example of just how much sumo has changed since Osaka last year.

Sumo is always evolving, but this was in fact a monumental turning point for the sport it seems.  A year later we can see recognize the seeds of change in this video.  The triumph, the defeat, the raw emotion

Jungyo Newsreel – Days 5 and 6

sanyaku-soroi-bumi-himeji
san-yaku soroi-bumi

Day 5

🌐 Location: Himeji, Hyogo prefecture

3800 people came to view the event in Himeji. The main objects of interest were, of course, the Hyogo local boys – Myogiryu, who comes from Takasago, some 10km from himeji; Terutsuyoshi, from a nearby island; and the young jonidan Teraowaka, of Shikoroyama beya.

Myogiryu was the object of a demonstration of oicho-mage construction, while Terutsuyoshi played with the kids:

terutsuyoshi-himeji-kiddie

Those kids are almost Terutsuyoshi’s size…

The jinku team members in their borrowed kesho-mawashi basked in the adoration of the spectators.

jinku-team-having-fun
The hills are alive with the sound of music

Of all the bouts, the only one I have anything about is the musubi-no-ichiban. I don’t know the result, but since Hakuho is closer to the ring, I guess it was his win:

hakuho-vs-kakuryu-himeji

Day 6

🌐 Location: Takarazuka, Hyogo prefecture

3150 people came to view the jungyo event in Takarazuka.

As in every Jungyo event, there was a speech by the mayor. However, this time, the mayor happened to be female. This means the speech was not delivered from the dohyo:

Tomoko Nakagawa, mayor of Takarazuka

The mayor addressed the issue in her speech: “Not being able to deliver my speech from the dohyo is frustrating and painful”. She later held a press conference, in which she said she was insulted by the salt thrown after the incident in Maizuru (Note: salt is thrown on the dohyo whenever a serious injury occurs on it. It’s also thrown as a marker of separation between events and even thrown if practice seems somewhat subdued. The claim that it was thrown because of the women is false). She also added that she will write to the NSK and ask them to treat men and women equally, whether it’s on or off the dohyo, implying that if women have to give speeches from the side of the dohyo, men should have to do the same.

The mayor’s speech got a mixed reaction – applause on the one hand, jeers on the other (mostly by male spectators). The discussion is becoming heated. While everybody agrees that women should be allowed when life is at stake, there are many – men and women – who think that breaking away from this tradition or even asking for it to be broken is not warranted.

On to actual sumo.

Tobizaru worked hard enough to get his hair in zanbara again:

Ichinojo practiced his kaiju mode, grabbing kids and eating them. OK, maybe not eating. But certainly giving them atomic wedgies.

By the way, there were over 30 local kids, starting from those little “play with the big mountain” toddlers and through to serious wanpaku sumo practitioners. Ichinojo was not alone on that dohyo – there were Kaisei, Ryuden, Chiyoshoma as well.

Takayasu decided to invite the ever-popular Endo for butsukari. Takayasu does butsukari with all his heart. So Endo ended up looking like this:

Takayasu showing his love and compassion

By this time, Hakuho was on the dohyo as well, doing his shiko and waiting his turn after the Ozeki. He revived Endo by pouring some water on him (it’s common practice for a third party to do that, especially high rankers):

Hakuho bastes the roast

You can’t really see endo and Takayasu in this video, but pay attention to Hakuho. He is priming the audience for applause, and when Endo finally manages to push Takayasu out, the Yokozuna gives the signal:

Then Hakuho himself started training on the dohyo. He did reverse butsukari (that’s when the lower ranked man offers his chest to the higher ranked one) with Ishiura.

Note the tsukebito waiting at the side of the dohyo for the incoming sliding sekitori:

As you can see, at this point Takayasu is on the sidelines, continuing to practice with his tsukebito. Here he tries to sharpen his leaning skills:

Tsukebito are busy people…

In sadder news, Terunofuji has gone kyujo. He was on the bout program. In Jungyo, they don’t do the fusensho thing – the Jungyo is intended to entertain the audience. Terutsuyoshi filled in for him, meaning that Terutsuyoshi did two bouts this day.

Musubi-no-ichiban:

Jungyo Newsreel – Days 2 through 4

Before I fall into too much of a backlog, here is a selection of events from the days 2 through 4. If you’re dying to read about the scandal of day 4, jump right ahead. Just remember, we’re here for the sumo, not for the sensation.

Nobori flags for a Jungyo event. Hakuho, Kisenosato, Takayasu, Goeido.

Day 2

🌐 Location: Nakatsugawa, Gifu prefecture

About 3000 people came to watch the event at Nakatsugawa. There were handshakes and fansa (Japanese shortcut for “Fan Service”).

The center of attention was Mitakeumi. Although he is not from Nakatsugawa or even from Gifu, he hails from the close-by Agematsu in the adjacent Nagano prefecture. So the locals were rooting for him.

Practices around the dohyo also included a komusubi doing stretches:

Ichinojo, and Ichinojo’s thighs, stretching

Day 3

🌐 Location: Sakai, Osaka prefecture

In this Jungyo tour, the shokkiri team consists of Kotoryusei and Kotorikuzan from Sadogatake. Every different shokkiri team changes the details of the shokkiri routine a bit and makes it its own. Notable elements – Gyoji very much a part of the show, and Kotoryusei doing the Kotoshogiku stretch. I guess he got permission from his senior heya mate.

Hakuho performed his dohyo-iri with a toddler:

You can almost hear the “there, there” (or “yosh-yosh” in Japanese). The toddler is the son of the leader of Japanese pop group ET-King, the late Itokin, who died in January of lung cancer at the age of 38. Hakuho promised him he’ll put his boy on the dohyo and this was the fulfillment of that promise.

Takayasu is aiming for the yusho in the next basho. He said that he doesn’t get enough practice, and accordingly, invited Abi, Shodai and Mitakeumi for san-ban – a series of bouts between the same rikishi – in which he won 11 of the 12 bouts. He followed that with butsukari-geiko for Mitakeumi, who himself aims to re-establish himself at the sekiwake position which he is certainly going to lose in the coming basho. Mitakeumi said Takayasu “was heavy”, but was thankful for the exercise.

As always in Osaka, Goeido is king, and participates in the kiddie sumo, something Ozeki only do if they choose.

Here is a rather shaky video of the musubi-no-ichiban, Hakuho vs. Kakuryu:

Day 4

🌐 Location: Maizuru, Kyoto prefecture

Jungyo tours are usually done by invitation from the town being visited. The town’s mayor usually opens the festivities with a speech. It so happened that the mayor of Maizuru (“Dancing Crane” – it could make a good shikona), who is 67 years old, suddenly dropped in the middle of his speech with his hands shaking.

A number of people, including yobidashi and people from the audience gathered around him, when a medical professional – first said to be a doctor, later a nurse – who clearly had experience in CPR climbed up the dohyo and gave the man a heart massage. She happened to be a woman. Women are not allowed on the dohyo, but the men on the dohyo gave way and let her do her thing. Another similar professional joined her. More people gathered, including a few other women, when the PA started calling “Ladies, please leave the dohyo”.

The additional women who came confusedly left the scene. The original professional stayed until the paramedics arrived. There is a fully staffed and ready ambulance in every Jungyo event, and the paramedics came in rather quickly. By this time a female usher was tugging at the lady professional to get off the dohyo. She only left when the paramedics took over.

The PA is always handled by a gyoji. His part usually comes down to announcements such as “On the west, Maegashira Kaisei, from Brasil, Tomozuna beya. On the east, Maegashira Takarafuji, from Aomori, Isegahama beya”, and “The kimarite is yori-kiri, Kaisei performs a yori-kiri and wins”. The standard formulae are always the same, occasionally peppered by kensho messages, requests from the audience not to throw zabuton and safety procedures.

The gyoji with the mike, shocked and confused by the emergency situation on the dohyo, for which he did not have a manual, reverted to first principles, and did what he knows best: stick to tradition. Unfortunately, this was the wrong choice, further complicated by being made in an age in which everything is being captured and uploaded within seconds.

Twitter basically burst into flames. “How can you put tradition ahead of human life?” was the main theme. Some, of course, blamed the NSK as a whole for this, as if this was done by official sanction. The situation reached such proportions that the chairman of the NSK, Hakkaku, had to issue a written press statement back in Tokyo. He said that the gyoji’s response was an inappropriate response when human life was at stake. He apologized to the women involved and thanked them for coming to the mayor’s rescue.

The next day the new Jungyo master, Kasugano – who, I believe, was in the restroom when the whole thing happened – also made a statement. He said that this was an unforeseen occurrence, and that since it may also happen during honbasho, the NSK will have to come up with a procedure for dealing with it.

So next time, the gyoji will have it in his manual.

The mayor, by the way, was diagnosed with a haemorrhage from a cranial blood vessel. So in fact the CPR was not pertinent to his situation. He is currently stable, and will need a month of hospitalization to fully recover.

Unfortunately, this event overshadowed the rest of the day. I could not find any photos of wrestlers or bouts. If any turn up, I’ll be sure to include them here.

Another Embarrassing Sumo Incident

Maizuru

Frankly, I did not want to report this story at all, as it’s a demonstration of stupidity. But now that it has gone global and is busy giving sumo yet another black eye, it’s unavoidable.

During the spring Jungyo tour’s stop in Maizuru, the mayor of the town was on the dohyo speaking and collapsed. Many people rushed to the dohyo to help, including medical professionals that were present to enjoy a day of sumo. They applied CPR and first aid techniques to sustain the mayor until he could be transported to the hospital. The Mayor is going to be ok, it seems. The quick work and skillful application of medicine saved the day. That’s the good part of the story. Now the stupid.

Several of the highly trained medical professionals were women. Did they care that the dohyo is supposed to be a sacred place were women were not allowed? Hell no! These were dedicated healers. A fellow human was in peril, and they were going to go save him. So far, only slightly stupid. Oh, but then one of the younger gyoji took to the PA system and directed the women to leave the dohyo. Not once, but several times. Of course, it was captured on video, of course it was posted to social media.

Sumo loves to be a sport of unchanging and unyielding tradition. As a westerner my perspective is not the Japanese perspective. As I mention at least once per basho, most of us in the west are outsiders to this land, this culture and this sport. But at some point, common sense had to have kicked in. Look here, Sumo Association of Japan, if you want to make sure no women doctors or nurses try to rescue the hurt and injured from your sacred space, you are going to need a set of medical folks who are on call.

Chairman Hakkaku rightfully apologized later, stating “It was an inappropriate response in a life-threatening situation,”. Damn straight Hakkaku. Furthermore, it was an unforced error and loss of face for a great sport that has been greatly degraded over the past year. For the chairman to try and pass this off on the inexperience of the young gyoji is inexcusable.

The only clear winners here are the mayor of Maizuru, who lived to see another sunrise, and Takanohana, who through a majestic stroke of luck is no longer the biggest asshole in sumo for a few days.

Again, I am an outsider, but I am going to guess that my favorite sport is going to suffer a well-deserved set back in the people’s hearts from this pointless insult.

Video at this link

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Jungyo Newsreel – Day 1, Ise Shrine

Preface and apology

Some of the readers may know that I’m currently on vacation in Tokyo. I thought that from Japan, I would be able to post better, high quality matter. As it turns out, it’s very difficult to post anything larger than a tweet when all you have is a tablet and a smartphone. Well, today I finally got myself to Akihabara and got an external keyboard for my tablet, so I’m ready to brave posting again, but I still can’t promise these jungyo posts will be up to par – or even that I’ll be able to post them daily. I’ll do what I can.

The Jungyo actually started on April 1st. So I’m sorry about the delay. Let’s start!

🌐 Location: Ise Shrine, Mie Prefecture

The Ise Shrine is Japan’s holiest and most ancient shrine – the main shrine of the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu. The visit to Ise Shrine was not just your regular jungyo visit, intended to entertain the residents of small towns and let them share in the national sport. It’s a “Honozumo” event – sumo bouts that take place inside the precincts of a shrine. Sumo originated as an entertainment for the gods, and Honozumo events bring it back to its origins.

12 sekitori are absent from the Jungyo. This includes Kisenosato who – unsurprisingly – still has that problem in his left chest. It also includes every sekitori from the Takanohana stable, except for Takagenji. Takanoiwa’s medical certificate indicates mental stress.

That same Takagenji stood a long time at the edge of the dohyo. The sekitori were doing moshi-ai, where the winner of a bout stays on the dohyo and chooses his next opponent. Nobody chose Takagenji and he looked pretty frustrated.

Takagenji is used to having his twin around during jungyo.

While the rest of the rikishi were practicing, the Yokozuna performed a ceremonial dohyo-iri. This is much like the one performed in the beginning of every year at the Meiji shrine, with a few differences. First, at Meiji it is performed right in front of the main Shrine building. At Ise, the grand shrine is actually off-limits to anybody but high priests.

Second point, the Meiji shrine yard is hard cement. Here, the Yokozuna had to do their dance in the sand. Hakuho had a really hard time doing the seriagari (the part where he gradually rises):

Kakuryu managed it slightly better:

As I said on Twitter, I’m pretty sure there were a couple of tsukebito that night who were muttering curses under their breath as they were trying to clean all the sand out of the fringes of the two Yokozuna’s kesho-mawashi.

Ah, you did notice that Hakuho is back and beaming, didn’t you? He was in a very good mood the whole day, and said that he was really eager to get back on the dohyo. When asked about the condition of his big toes, he said “so-so”, but was still wearing that big smile when he did.

The torikumi that day was in the form of an elimination tournament. Here is a demonstration of the kimarite known as “kekaeshi”. It’s a minor trip, usually accompanied by a pull that causes the rival to lose his balance.

Hakuho in a magnanimous mood, helping Chiyotairyu up. The final and deciding bout of the day was this:

That boy in the front row? He is not going to forget this visit to the shrine. And a very genki Hakuho takes the yusho for the day.

Note that dohyo, by the way. It’s not your regular beer-crate jungyo dohyo. It’s an old permanent dohyo. Many of those are scattered around Japan, in school yards and shrines. Not as pretty or straight as the one in the honbasho venues, but one where you really feel the Earth under your feet.

Japan Times – Kakuryu Feature

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Noted sumo commentator and NHK media figure John Gunning has another excellent article in the Japan Times, taking a close look at Yokozuna Kakuryu, the Osaka basho, and some insightful discussion on sumo’s near-term future. An excerpt below, but go to the Japan Times and read the whole thing.

The quality of the sumo is not reflective of the quality of the man, however, as Kakuryu is both widely respected and admired by people inside the sport. A self-starter without any personal experience in, or family connection to Mongolian wrestling, Kakuryu originally wanted to be a basketball player but decided to try sumo after seeing countrymen Kyokushuzan and Kyokutenho on television.

A letter outlining that desire, translated into Japanese by a friend, impressed Izutsu oyakata (sumo elder) enough for him to give the then 16 year old a shot.

Of special interest to myself is his discussion of the conclusion of the current Yokozuna dynasty. As many fans, the only rikishi who could step up to constantly hold a Yokozuna slot is recent Ozeki Takayasu.

It is likely that if Takayasu were to take the rope now, he would struggle. But it would relieve the pressure on his senpai, Kisenosato. Kisenosato may in fact be beyond repair physically, and his retirement would be a blow to a sport already embroiled in negative press. A Takayasu yusho would allow everyone to move past the scandals and negative coverage. But of course, this would require Takayasu to actually win the cup. With Hakuho likely back in Tokyo, and Kakuryu eager to defend his yusho, a Natsu tournament win would seem a tough goal to reach.