Tachiai Blogging From Natsu

Natsu 2017 Tickets-2

It’s My Lucky Day – I Have Tickets

It’s been broadly reported that the tickets to the May sumo tournament in Tokyo evaporated before they went on sale. So finding a way to be in person for the basho was a tall order. Thanks to the folks a buysumotickets.com, I have managed to score 6 tickets during the first week of the basho.

I have wanted to see sumo in person for some time, and I feel incredibly lucky that I am actually able to go. I promise to pay homage to the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, too!

As you might expect, I will be all over reporting the first week, and may post various live photos and other things from the Kokugikan. We will also likely be helping out Jason’s All Sumo Channel by supplying prizes (from the Kokugkikan sumo trinket stores) for his basho guessing contest.

With the banzuke only 10 days away, Tachiai’s coverage will soon ramp up in to cover all of the action.

Guess the Natsu Banzuke 2.0

In my previous guest post, I made predictions for the Natsu banzuke right after the conclusion of the Haru basho. With the release of the official Natsu banzuke only 10 days away, I thought I’d update my predictions, based partly on the feedback I received from Tachiai readers. In addition to pointing out the inherent unpredictability of the banzuke due to subjective NSK committee decisions, commenters noted that the committee tends to favor higher-ranked rikishi over lower-ranked ones to a greater extent than my predictions did. With that in mind, here is a second attempt at the Natsu banzuke.

Rank East West
K Mitakeumi Yoshikaze (3)
M1 Chiyonokuni (3) Endo (4)
M2 Okinoumi (3) Chiyoshoma (4)
M3 Daieisho (4) Takanoiwa (5)
M4 Takarafuji (4) Aoiyama (5)
M5 Takekaze (6) Ikioi (6)
M6 Tochiozan (5) Hokutofuji (6)
M7 Shodai (7) Takakeisho (6)
M8 Shohozan (8) Sokokurai (9)
M9 Ichinojo (10) Ura (11)
M10 Kagayaki (10) Arawashi (13)
M11 Tochinoshin (11) Kotoyuki (14)
M12 Ishiura (12) Tokushoryu (14)
M13 Toyohibiki (14) Onosho (15)
M14 Daishomaru (14) Chiyotairyu (16)
M15 Kaisei (17) Oyanagi (17)
M16 Osunaarashi (18)

I rank-ordered the rikishi by a score based on their rank in the previous basho and their win-loss record. This score, given in parentheses, roughly corresponds to the rank the wrestler “deserves,” (i.e. 3 = M3), though of course the actual rank is affected by the ranks of others and the need to fill all the slots. So for instance, this time around, even though nobody below Mitakeumi had a score above 3, the KW, M1 and M2 slots still needed to be filled.

I then generally simply filled in the ranks from K1W to M16E in this order, with ties broken in favor of higher rank at Haru. The main consistent departure from this order is that those with make-koshi must drop a rank; this affected Takarafuji, Kagayaki, Tochinoshin, Ishiura, and Daishomaru, who otherwise might have been placed a rank or two higher. Takanoiwa, Ura, Arawashi, Kotoyuki, and Onosho benefited by being ranked a bit higher as a result of this rule.

I’ve indicated other deviations from this rank order by italics. I gave the nod to Endo over Okinoumi for M1W given Endo’s popularity and higher rank. I placed Tochiozan at M6 instead of M5 so that Takekaze and Ikioi, who had identical Haru performances at the same rank, would remain at the same rank. And I brought Osunaarashi back to makuuchi in favor of Myogiryu, who drops to Juryo, along with Sadanoumi, Kyokushuho, Nishikigi, and Chiyoo.

Differences in rank from my previous prediction are in color, red for higher and blue for lower; bold indicates differences of more than one step in rank. These predictions are more sensitive to assumptions about how rikishi with identical or very similar scores are ranked relative to each other, and therefore have lower confidence.

Have at it with your own predictions! I might try to compile how we did after the banzuke is released.

Female Sumo

どすこい、京の相撲ガール 全国初の創部から丸2年

Because of today’s headline, I will unveil the Tachiai Hiragana Guide. One could think of hiragana as the Japanese alphabet, except that it’s not an alphabet. It’s easier than an alphabet because it’s purely phonetic. No letters that sounds like other letters and nothing changes when combined with others. No diphthongs.
These are the only sounds in the Japanese syllabary. Everything comes from these sounds. There are a few tricks which I will point out but hiragana is covered in Japanese 101 and it should just take a week. Take two columns per day and you’re golden. I’ll talk briefly about the “dots” below. They change the pronunciation to the appropriate hard sound: so k becomes g, s becomes z, t becomes d, and h becomes b. H becomes P if there’s a little circle like degrees (°).



Today’s article starts with sumo related hiragana. Dosukoi is a sumo word and is also the name of the French blog run by Yohann. It’s one of those things that doesn’t have a translation; it’s just a sumo-related exclamation. I wanted to draw particular attention to this article because it shines a light on a topic close to me: sumo and women. We also see “dots,” kind of look like double-quotation marks, that changes TO into DO.
April is when the new school year starts in Japan. For these students in Kyoto, they’re starting another year as the female sumo club at their high school in Kyoto.
My daughter loves sumo. She’s four, wrestles her older brother (8), and she is brilliant. She’s super aggressive so sometimes I feel sorry for my son because he has to hold back since he’s about 1.5 times her size. So, naturally, I’d love to encourage her. Right now, the only real option around here will be judo, if I can find a good dojo around here. Another option is MMA and getting her into an octagon…but no. I’m not going to let either of my kids go that route. If they want to try physical sports, fine, but I don’t want them developing CTE or eating tons of creative like a former roommate of mine.


Anyway, back to the article. The first kanji is the first character of Kyoto and you should quickly recognize “sumo.” The next little bit will introduce us to katakana which is an alternative writing system for the same sounds that you get in hiragana. It’s just that if you see something written in katakana, it usually means it’s a foreign loan word. In this case, we’ve got ga-ru (ガール) or Japanese pronunciation of “gal.” Again, we see “dots” next to the katakana KA that turns it into GA.
The katakana KA looks like the hiragana KA but unfortunately not all of the katakana are so similar to their hiragana counterparts, as we see with RU (ル) which bears little resemblance to the hiragana version (る). Don’t try to learn both at the same time. Get hiragana down cold, then move on to katakana. I’m a little surprised that they would use the term ga-ru in the headline. It’s quite informal.


Nationwide, this is the first division of its kind and they are starting their third year of the program. The first two kanji, zenkoku (全国), means nationwide. You should recognize the third kanji by now from several of our lessons, hatsu, “begin/start”. The circle looking thing afterward is the hiragana “no.” You also saw it in the first part: 京の. I’m not going to get into the meaning of these particles much, yet, I really just want people to recognize the hiragana first. Next is the kanji for when they established the club. Don’t worry about this kanji: (創). But, remember this kanji: (部). It’s pronounced BU and it’s used in this case as club but it can also be used in an office setting as a division or section. It’s pretty common. In this case, SOBU refers to the group that started this club. (丸) Maru means circle, but when used with a time frame like two years, ni nen, 丸2年 means two complete years. The two years were able to go through the entire cycle. Hiragana (から) “kara” means from, so “from the club’s establishment, two complete years.”

Odaiba Basho 8/23-8/24

As we’ve covered in recent articles, it’s pretty hard to get tickets to a sumo tournament. This has been made even tougher, obviously, with the promotion of Kisenosato and the rise of several native Japanese wrestlers after a long period of flagging interest within Japan itself. This will have ticket prices for the six annual hon-basho (main tournaments) at very high prices, available mostly through middlemen. So, those of us sumo fans who cannot shell out much for a tournament, there is hope in the form of the promotional tours (Jungyo).

Odaiba Tournament Promotion


One such tour was just announced. As the headline reads, August will see the first Odaiba Basho! Odaiba is a big development built from re-claimed land in Tokyo bay that contains a large convention center, mall and restaurants and is scheduled to host several events during the 2020 Olymipic games. There’s a light rail line, the Yorikamome, that takes people out there and it’s accessible by car via Rainbow Bridge. I’ve watched summer fireworks over Rainbow Bridge which is pretty spectacular. Those fireworks are a major reason to brave the heat and go to Japan in the summer. I will keep a lookout for scheduling to find out when those will be this summer.


August: Just to reinforce our temporal lesson from a few days ago, this means August but if you add (間) and make it 8月間, then it means something lasted 8 months or it took 8 months to do something.


“First Tour…will be held”: So much of this headline is at a basic level of sumo Japanese. You should recognize “hatsu” from “hatsubasho,” the first tournament of each year held in January. You should also recognize Jungyo. The only real new vocabulary in this entire headline is “kaisai” (開催). Many headlines don’t put the full form of the verb, especially verbs like “suru.” But here we would imply the passive form of the verb, “kaisai sareru,” or will be held.


“ODAIBA Sumo Basho”: Often, Odaiba is written out like this in the roman alphabet because it’s a tourist center. They want tourists to go there, especially for the many conventions. The kanji was what started off the headline (お台場). With the hiragana de, we get “At Odaiba.”

General tickets go on sale June 4. The specific venue for the sumo tournament is supposed to hold 4500 people. There’s mention of a priority lottery on April 23, so I will research for more details.


Kochi is Tochiozan’s “shusshin” (出身). This was a post that I wrote a couple of years ago to commemorate a win Tochiozan had over Terunofuji. I thought I’d repost it since I have actually been to Kochi.

Tachiai (立合い)

Walking Along Shimanto-gawa Walking Along Shimanto-gawa

In light of Tochiozan’s upset of Terunofuji, I thought I would put in a quick plug for Kochi, his home prefecture. I have not been to his actual home town but I visited Kochi city with my family and a friend and we took the Anpanman train to Shimanto-gawa (Shimanto river). It’s an amazing place. The people we met were really friendly. Kochi is the source for a lot of yuzu and is famous for a particular fish dish called katsuo no tataki. We ate it at a really good restaurant, and we were invited to the house of a friend of a friend for dinner so we had it there, too. I’m no connoisseur of fish but it was good – I can tell salmon from tuna (raw or cooked) but when it comes to white fish, I’m lost. Aji might as well be catfish…

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Asanoyama: The Pride of Toyama Prefecture

Takasago beya, despite its legacy of big named stars, has fallen on hard times. To start 2017, the stable which produced Asashoryu and the American ozeki Konishiki had no active sekitori. According to the article, this was the first time since the 11th year of the Meiji era (1868) that Takasago beya did not have an active sekitori. Asanoyama’s promotion for the March tournament brought the stable back into the elite divisions. He will climb quickly into makuuchi on the back of his 10-5 record, just missing out on the Juryo yusho, losing a three-way playoff which included Osunaarashi and yusho-winner, Toyohibiki.
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Mitakeumi & The Sekiwake Squad Face Down 1972

This man has some more winning to do.

I’ve focused quite a bit on mathematics in my first couple of posts, so I wanted to formulate a minor Natsu banzuke prediction in this post based more on history. As I detailed in looking at the shift in first week results, much of the change we’re seeing has come down to those at the Sekiwake rank punching above their weight. And much of the debate around the new banzuke seems to be focused on how many such ranked rikishi we may see as we prepare for the next tournament in Tokyo.

So let’s go back 45 years and look at an interesting turn of results that led the banzuke to shift from the standard 2 Sekiwake up to an incredible 5:
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