The inescapable, critical skill we sumo fans need to enhance our appreciation and enjoyment of the sport is the ability to read Japanese. Even if your language skills are basic, it will open the world to you so that you can read about your favorite wrestlers, go to tournaments, and further appreciate the sumo “community,” perhaps even joining some of the official fan clubs. You can also get a lot more out of the Japanese Sumo Association’s website. While it is a great English language resource in its own right, many of the news releases are only available in Japanese and Google Translate is CRAP at translating Japanese, especially when it comes to sumo terms and shikona of lower-ranked wrestlers.
I’ve had it a bit lucky. I studied Japanese in college, lived and worked in Japan for a year, married a Japanese wife who speaks Japanese at home with the kids (who love to wrestle in the living room). It’s still very difficult for me to read an entire article quickly, and accurately, so it may be a surprise that the aim of this series of articles is not to teach you Japanese. It’s to teach it to myself. If you all learn some along the way, awesome.
The great thing about newspapers is that they basically cram the point of the article in the headline or first paragraph of the article. The rest is background and extra information. So, I’m setting a rather low bar: let’s learn how to read headlines and, eventually, first paragraphs of articles.
Today’s headline comes from the Nikkei. Nikkei is the nickname for The Nihon Keizai Shimbun, which is one of those big, trusted, formal media outlets that you learn about when first trying to learn Japanese in school. It’s one of the biggest news outlets in Japan. They actually own the English language Financial Times, as of 2015. So, today’s headline:
Throw this into Google Translate and you get a word sausage: “A rare village, pleased with a dramatic victory, not declaring a fault location.” Most of you will recognize the first four characters straight away. （稀勢の里）That’s not “a rare village,” that’s our champion, Kisenosato. The observant may even recognize another shikona in there. The second character, when used by itself, is Ikioi (勢).
The next section has another important sumo word, highlighted in blue: yusho (championship). The word before it, gekiteki, means dramatic. The part after it is ni yoriko bi which means he is happy with.
The last phrase is a bit harder and is what I will get context for by reading the article. The words mean, “without speaking of the accident.” I think the accident they’re referring to is his big injury but I will need to read the article to find out if what I think that means is what they really meant. Or, it could mean he “didn’t talk about any faults.” I think the former but maybe the latter. See, this is why I need to study Japanese.