Hakuho – Onosho Butsukari


Found in the depths of YouTube, some kindly fan shot a rather excellent butsukari session during the jungyo sumo PR tour last week. It appears to show Yokozuna Hakuho in an extended butsukari session with rising star Onosho.

Onosho has turned in back to back 10-5 records in his first two tournaments in Makuuchi, and it’s clear he is a young man driven to succeed. If you have the patience to watch the whole thing, Hakuho is really working him to exhaustion (the point of butsukari). At the end, its awesome to see Onosho rally and really push with renewed vigor.

Note as Onosho reaches exhaustion and wants to give up, Hakuho first taunts him, then gets the crowd to cheer him on.

For those not used to sumo training, this interaction may seem odd or even somewhat like hazing, which it is not. I also note that Hakuho really seeks out the hard-charging young rikishi who are working to make the best of their sumo career, and works them hard.

Nagoya Follow Up #2 – Hakuho’s Record Run


Hakuho-Meter

The team at Tachiai anticipated that Nagoya would be the basho where Hakuho finally broke the all time win record, surpassing first Chiyonofuji and then Kaio, to add yet another record to his name. On his way to racking up his 39th yusho, he was only defeated on day 11 when he was surprised by future Ozeki Mitakeumi.

His “go-ahead” victory came against Takayasu on day 13, and it was “The Boss” side-stepping the shin-Ozeki’s tachiai that put him in control. Some sumo fans were outraged that he would use essentially a henka to win his record setting match, but I think it is perfectly in keeping with Hakuho’s approach to sumo. He uses everything at his disposal to win every time he can. He does so with power, and uncanny speed.

For those that want to review the match, it’s at the end of Jason’s day 13 highlights on YouTube

Sadly, because of his loss, Hakuho cannot even begin to consider an assault on a record fans know he lusts for – the all time consecutive win streak owned (possibly forever) by the god of sumo, Futabayama.

Hakuho’s fans (and they are legion) are justifyibly jubilant, and many have proclaimed that he is once again unassailable. Sadly, Hakuho is all too human, and has put a very fine image forward that hides the fact that having been the top man in one of the world’s brutal combat sports, his body is one big injury away from retirement.

Tachiai notes with some worry that Hakuho withdrew from the summer jungyo to rest up a nagging knee injury he has been nursing since before Nagoya. We continue to hope that he will get his wish to be front and center at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics opening ceremonies, performing a dohyo-iri on a grand scale in front of the whole world.

One Year On – My Why of Tachiai


Bruce-Kokugikan

This week marks 1 year since Andy was kind enough to let me start posting to Tachiai. Andy created the site, and posted news and comments about the sumo world when he could. But with a career and family, he was limited.

I started 2016 as a frustrated fan. I had become aware of sumo during my time in Japan in the mid 1980’s, but as I frequently state – Sumo is a production for Japanese people people living in Japan (this has not really changed). My chances to connect with and follow sumo were few and far between, and so I did not take more than a passing interest.

This changed when I learned that I could stream NHK via my Apple TV, and began watching the tournament highlight shows nightly. Suddenly given access to some level of sumo, I was thrilled and soaked up as much as I could. I suspect that I was not the only person to undergo this evolution, as sumo’s global following seems to be increasing month over month.

With access to media and information, sumo has potential to have a global following. I have believed this since the 1980s, and that’s why I took Andy’s generous offer to help write for the site and ran with it. In the past year, we have added several more contributors, each of whom have brought wonderful and engaging content to the site.

Our readership continues to grow month over month, with a distinct basho / non-basho pace – I owe this to the idea that the nascent global sumo fan base is hungry for more news and media to support their interest in sumo. Together, the Tachiai team has grown this site beyond anything I could have anticipated. As one of a handful of english language sumo web site, we occupy a strange but quite enjoyable niche.

In the past year, I have managed to attend a basho in Tokyo, meet a number of wonderful people in and around the sumo business, and help a growing number of fans connect with and enjoy sumo. With Aki around the corner, I am excited to start my second year of contributing to the site, and looking forward to helping grow the global sumo fan base.

Thank you to Andy for letting me write for Tachiai, thanks to the fans for reading the site, and thanks most of all to my dear wife for helping me indulge my love of sumo.

Oh yeah – My first post to Tachiai here

Yokozuna Kisenosato Resumes Training


Kise-Jungyo-Aug-15

Word from the summer jugyo that Yokozuna Kisenosato resumed some sumo keiko (training) during the tour’s stop in Aomori Prefecture. The Yokozuna was seen engaging in butsukari with former sekitori Takagenji, which would indicate that Kisenosato now feels strong and healthy enough to resume practice.

Of course this sparked a great deal of discussion in the sumo fan world, with many fans taking exception with a declaration that “Kisenosato’s Recovery Is Complete” drawing great skepticism. An article from Yahoo Japan points out, the chances that all of his various injuries are repaired enough for him to compete are a long shot. The article even quotes someone from a Tokyo hospital that frequently treats sumotori, who cautions that Kisenosato has been urged by the YDC to not participate in Aki, and to ensure that his health is excellent and his damage to his chest and foot are completely healed before he resumes competition.

「3月場所で左上腕と左胸の筋肉を損傷したが、とっくに治っているそうですよ。左足も表向きは『左足関節靱帯損傷』となっているが、いくら負け越しが許されない横綱といっても『負け越しそうなんで休みます』とは言えない。ケガを大袈裟に発表して途中休場するのは、昔から多くの横綱がよくやってきたことです。稀勢の里はこれまでケガについては具体的なことは明言していないが、これは周囲に口止めされているからのようです。ケガが完治しているなら、成績が振るわないのは実力ということになってしまいますからね」

As for myself, I suspect Kisenosato joined the jungyo to re-assure the fans, and to test out his recovery and readiness for Aki prior to making some manner of go/no-go call within 2 weeks. While the entire sumo world wants to see Kisenosato back on the dohyo, we are all looking for him to return strong, powerful and ready to challenge Hakuho for dominance in the ring.

Nagoya Follow Up – Rise Of The New Maegashira


Onosho

There were many interesting themes that unfolded during the Nagoya basho, but as we cited prior to the start of the tournament, the rise of a new, young class of Maegashira will likely impact the sport for years to come. I sometimes joking refer to this group as the “Angry Tadpoles”, given that most of them seem to have a common, tadpole-like, body shape. Whatever their form, their function has been to upset the slowly evolving status quo in sumo’s upper division to an extent not seen for several years.

Nagoya was the first time we saw this group ranked at Maegashira 6 and above, and with the multiple kyujo in the Yokozuna and Ozeki corps, many of them were pulled into bouts with the San’yaku for the first time in their careers. Broadly, none of them triumphed, but none of them really embarrassed themselves too badly. Let’s review

Takakeisho – In only his 4th basho in Makuuchi, Takakeisho found himself ranked Maegashira 1. Of course he was going to get his head pounded in by the big guns, this was his “welcome to the big leagues” ceremony. He has had 4 lower division yusho in his short sumo career. He ended Nagoya 5-10, which actually is not bad for a first Maegashira 1 birth. His matches included a really unusual bout with Hakuho, and defeating Kotoshogiku and Mitakeumi. As IKSumo predicted, I am sure he will take a dive down the banzuke for Aki, and that’s quite alright. This guy is going to be back, as long as he can stay healthy.

Hokutofuji – His string of kachi-koshi tournaments notched one higher again, as the man who seems to prevail no matter what did it yet again. This rikishi is quite impressive, and I would expect he will make a valid campaign for his first San’yaku slot by this time in 2018. His wins in Nagoya included: Takayasu, Kakuryu (his first kinboshi), Terunofuji, Yoshikaze and Tamawashi. Of his 8 wins, 5 were San-yaku. But he also lost to hapless Ikioi who only managed to get 4 wins. He has room to improve, but as many others have noted – he has a classic Ozeki air about him already. Some bloggers have even mistaken him for Kaio.

Ura – The crowd goes wild for Ura. Sadly he got banged up in Nagoya and probably needs to rest well south of the joi threat line for at least one basho. During the summer jungyo he is restricted to light duty, and like Kisenosato has not been taking scrimmage matches with the other sekitori. Ura went into Nagoya with many detractors citing his sumo “gimmicks” that got him wins by less than expected means. In Nagoya Ura showed a new dimension to his sumo (along with his tricks) and faced many opponents in a more direct and yotsu-zumō style moves. If he can recover from his knee injuries, he should be quite an influential force in sumo.

Kagayaki – He had a hard make-koshi at the end of Nagoya. His most interesting win was against Ura on day 3, which surprised the fans, and Ura as well. As he is not yet a “famous” rikishi, he is likely to get a stiff demotion to mid or lower Maegashira with his 5-10 record, but I expect him to battle back by the Hatsu basho to the upper third. I would not be surprised to see him continuing his pace of slow, steady improvements.

Onosho – Two tournaments in Makuuchi, two 10-5 record. At Nagoya he was a respectable Maegashira 6, and IKSumo’s forecast puts him at or around Maegashira 3 for Aki. If he does indeed hold that rank (or higher), we will get to see how he fares against a wide swath of San’yaku in September. Onosho shows amazing poise, confidence and ring-sense at a fairly young age, and may in fact be a dominant rikishi in some future post-Hakuho era.

Summer Jungyo Hightlight Reel


Shamelessly stolen from a twitter post, because I could not find it on YouTube. Some highlights of the kinds of things going on during the summer jungyo, including shokkiri (aka you can’t do that in sumo), Kisenosato toting a baby to the dohyo for his dohyo-iri, and Goeido taking a practice match from Harumafuji. Oh yeah, and Onosho!

Remaining August Jungyo Schedule


Hakkiyoi KITTE Sumo event in Japan Post building

The sumotori are still out on their PR tour of central, and soon, northern Japan. The summer tour is important as it brings sumo to the fans, and has done a great job of boosting the appeal of sumo across Japan.

With the Aki basho kicking off on September 10th (count down in the sidebar on the right), there are only a few stops left on the summer tour. This includes

Today – August 14th: Off
August 15th – 20th: Aomori & Hokkaido
August 21st – 22nd: Break & return to Tokyo
August 23rd – 24th: Tokyo, Odaiba mini tournament
August 24th & 25th: Kanagawa & Saitama
August 27th – KITTE exhibition in Tokyo / Banzuke Day

The KITTE exhibition is held in a the JP tower in Marunouchi, Tokyo. Just a note – some really fantastic Okonomiyaki is available nearby. It also happens on the day that the banzuke is published for the upcoming Aki basho.

Never fear sumo fans, the next basho is only 4 weeks away!