明けましておめでとうございます!!。 謹賀新年!

Akemashite-omedetou-gozaimasu is the phrase Japanese use to ring in the new year. It’s a mouthful so many of us foreigners just say, “Akeome.” While I just woke up in DC — and am technically about 40 minutes late with this post — it is already 2018 there.

謹賀新年 kinga shin’nen is a more formal, sophisticated phrase for the same thing. 四字熟語 (yoji jyuku-go) are four-character stock phrases and kinga shin’nen means welcome the new year. After 2017, hell yeah. Welcome 2018!

今年宜しくお願い致します。Kotoshi yoroshiku onegaitashimasu. (Roughly: “We will appreciate your support in the New Year.”)

謹賀新年!
Welcome 2018!

I am welcoming in the year of the dog with this Tosa Ken, The Yokozuna dog. In Kochi, close to the sea shore and a few minutes from the memorial to Sakamoto Ryoma, there’s a little tourist spot where they have a little dog dohyo.

If you check out my Twitter account, my avatar is a cartoon-styled version from a Mos-Burger calendar from a few years back. Another Japanese tradition is to hand out calendars. Just about every company floods you with calendars, and the Japanese Sumo Association is no different. However, it is bitter-sweet to look at last year’s NSK calendar. The year opened with three yokozuna and four ozeki. The pictures reflect the ranks from Aki 2016, so Takayasu was front and center for the picture featuring the east side of the lower sanyaku ranks and upper maegashira, Takanoiwa on the far right of the front row. I haven’t gotten the calendar for 2018, yet.

I especially want to thank Bruce, Herouth, Josh, Leonid, Liam, Thomas and Nicola! In 2017, you all – Team Tachiai – turned this little blog into a real sumo community by engaging hundreds of readers and it’s reflected in the amazing comments. Thank you readers (commenters and lurkers alike)! You keep me engaged in this sport and I really appreciate it. I am excited to see what happens this year!

Thank you!
-Andy

Who’s That Rikishi #11: Chiyonokuni Toshiki

Age: 27
Birth Name: Toshiki Sawada
Home Town: Iga, Japan
Stable: Kokonoe
Highest Rank: Maegashira 1

Chiyonokuni Toshiki was born the son of a Buddhist priest in the city of Iga, Mie Prefecture, Japan. As a child, he had a keen interest in martial arts and dreamed of becoming a professional rikishi. After graduating high school, Chiyonokuni entered Kokonoe Beya and began learning the art of sumo from former Dai Yokozuna turned Oyakata, Chiyonofuji. His first official tournament was the 2006 Nagoya Basho, where he recorded an impressive 6-1 record and secured a promotion to the Jonidan division. His Jonidan debut would have to wait, however, as an injury sidelined the young rikishi right before the Aki Basho, costing him his promotion. Returning to action in time for the 2006 Kyushu Basho, Chiyokuni won back his spot in Jonidan with another kachi-koshi and was well on his way to the Makushita division in mid-2007 when he was injured again and missed the Nagoya Basho. This would become something of a pattern for Chiyonokuni; getting ever so close to a promotion only to get hurt and have to start over again.

His fortunes changed in March of 2009 when Chiyonokuni returned from injury for the fourth time in his young career and took the Jonidan yusho. This victory marked the beginning of a hot streak for Chiyo, who quickly rose up through the ranks and established himself as a Makushita mainstay by March 2010. Following the match-fixing scandal, Chiyonokuni was elevated to the upper ranks of Makushita and eventually the Juryo division in early 2011, despite not posting spectacular records. Like many rikishi in his generation, he had become a benefactor of several top spots being vacated by rikishi involved in the scandal. One such disgraced rikishi was his fellow stablemate, Chiyohakuho. When asked about Chiyohakuho’s expulsion from the sport and his subsequent promotion as a result of the scandal, Chiyonokuni remarked that he didn’t know how to feel about the situation. Taking full advantage of the circumstances, the young man from Iga put together an impressive string of winning records that saw him break into the top Makuuchi division at the 2012 Hatsu Basho. His stay in the top division was short-lived, as a dislocated shoulder forced him to miss parts of Hatsu and Haru and all of the Natsu tournament. Chiyo returned to Juryo for the 2012 Nagoya Basho, where he took the yusho and soon won his way back to Makuuchi by November. Chiyonokuni spent the next two years in and out of the top division, until an injury at the 2014 Aki basho saw him withdraw from competition on day 8. This injury caused him to miss the following two tournaments, plummeting Chiyonokuni all the way back to the Sandanme division.

Unperturbed by this massive demotion, Chiyonokuni began his treck back to Makuuchi by taking the Sandanme division yusho with a perfect 7-0 record at the 2015 Haru Basho. This marked the beginning of an impressive comeback for the young rikishi, which culminated in his second Juryo championship in May of 2016 and a return to the Makuuchi division, where he has remained to this day. At the 2017 Natsu Basho, Choyonokuni debuted at a career-high rank of Maegashira 1. Despite picking up his first kinboshi victory over Yokozuna Kakuryu, the rest of the tournament was a disaster for Chiyo, and he finished with a dreadful 2-13 record. He bounced back from this poor performance with two consecutive kachi-koshi in July and September but failed to secure eight wins November. 2017 also marked a significant milestone in the life of Chiyonokuni, who married his longtime girlfriend Ai Hayashi, whom he met seven years prior. Chiyonokuni is primarily an oshi-zumo or “pusher-thruster” practitioner. Because of his relatively small size, he employs tsukiotoshi thrust downs and hatakikomi slap downs to take his larger opponents off their feet.


Chiyonokuni (left) vs. Kaisei (right), Aki basho, 2017.


Links:
http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Rikishi.aspx?r=6642
http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnSumoDataRikishi/profile/2938/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiyonokuni_Toshiki

From Four Yokozuna To None In A Year

There have been a number of times in history when four Yokozuna reigned together. The NSK is always proud to show pictures of four Yokozuna in full regalia standing in a row. But when looking closely, those idyllic pictures may reveal the cracks of impending doom.

four-yokozuna
From the top left: Chiyonofuji, Onokuni, Hokutoumi, Asahifuji

On senshuraku of the Nagoya basho, 1990, Ozeki Asahifuji faced Dai-Yokozuna Chiyonofuji. Chiyonofuji was 12-2. Asahifuji was 13-1. There was no one else in the yusho run. This was a decisive bout.

The Yusho went to Asahifuji. There is nothing unusual in an Ozeki beating a Yokozuna on senshuraku. But for Asahifuji, this was an extra special bout. It was his second consecutive yusho.

And though I don’t have access to press and media from the 1990s, you can all imagine what followed. The next day, the YDC convenes, and decides to recommend promoting the Ozeki to Yokozuna. Representatives of the NSK visit Oshima-beya, with the stablemaster and the okami-san (stablemaster’s wife) flanking the Ozeki, all dressed in the most formal mon-tsuki kimono, and the Ozeki accepting the new rank and vowing not to shame it. The whole heya gathers together to braid a rope. The shin-yokozuna spending the night learning his dance from a predecessor in his chosen style, and performs it for the first time at Meiji Jingu.

asahifuji-meiji-dohyo-iri
Asahifuji performing Dohyo-Iri at Meiji Jingu

We have seen all of this following Hatsu 2017. The only difference is that Asahifuji’s rope and dance were Shiranui-style, whereas Kisenosato’s are in Unryu-style.

And so, a new Yokozuna was born. 63rd Yokozuna Asahifuji was joining Dai-yokozuna Chiyonofuji, Yokozuna Hokutoumi, and Yokozuna Onokuni. A new four-Yokozuna era was celebrated.

It may come as no surprise to anybody here that this deciding yusho came with one of the three Yokozuna being kyujo. It’s pretty hard to win a yusho, let alone two consecutive ones, when you have three Yokozuna at peak performance. A fourth Yokozuna almost always comes on the back of injuries at the top of the banzuke. Onokuni, in this case, was absent from the tournament.

The Shin-Yokozuna made his debut in Aki 1990. For a new Yokozuna, it was a pretty solid performance, but this came with Onokuni still absent, joined by the dai-Yokozuna. With only two Yokozuna presiding, Yokozuna Hokutoumi grabbed the Yusho, defeating the Shin-Yokozuna on the last day.

Kyushu 1990 was the only tournament in which all four Yokozuna participated from day 1 to day 15. This was the kind of tournament fans love: all Yokozuna (except Hokutoumi with 9-6) and both Ozeki having a powerful performance with double figure standings.

In Hatsu 1991,  the tournament, which started with all four Yokozuna present, lost the Dai-Yokozuna after only two bouts. The three surviving Yokozuna had solid enough performances, but the Yusho went to Ozeki Kirishima. Chiyonofuji’s kyujo continued for the full length of the 1991 Haru basho, so this time there was not a single day in which four Yokozuna dohyo-iri were performed.

Things started rolling downhill faster from there. Natsu 1991 saw both Hokutoumi and Onokuni full kyujo. But the worse part was the attempted return of Chiyonofuji. The Dai-Yokozuna lost his first bout to the up-and-coming Maegashira 1 Takahanada (later Dai-Yokozuna Takanohana), and after losing on the third day to Komusubi Takatoriki, tearfully announced his retirement.

chiyonofuji-intai
Chiyonofuji announces his retirement

This meant the still-fresh Asahifuji was left all alone at the top in this tournament (and accordingly, won the yusho – in a playoff with Ozeki Konishiki). But it also meant that the “four Yokozuna era” was over in 5 tournaments.

In the next tournament, Nagoya 1991, the top of the banzuke was still suffering from the after-shock of the highly popular and admired Dai-Yokozuna. None of the remaining Yokozuna was performing well. Asahifuji finished with a dismal 8-7. Hokutoumi with an only slightly better 9-6. Yokozuna Onokuni tried to make a comeback, after his absence due to a skin infection in the previous tournament. But he lost four of his first eight bouts and decided to join Chiyonofuji and declare his own retirement.

onokuni-retirement
Onokuni announces his retirement

The yusho in this tournament, by the way, went to Maegashira #13 (!) Kotofuji, who impressively beat two Ozeki and the unfortunate Yokozuna Asahifuji, as well as Sekiwake Takatoriki. His only loss that tournament was to Takahanada, then Komusubi.

So then there were two… but once again Asahifuji found himself as the sole Yokozuna with Hokutoumi fully absent from Aki 1991. Asahifuji himself injured his shoulder and pulled out of the tournament on the sixth day. The Yusho once again fell in the hands of a Maegashira, this time M5, Kotonishiki. The banzuke was leaking Yokozuna, but the Ozeki seemed to shy away from the rope.

Asahifuji was kyujo from Kyushu 1991 as well, with pancreatic problems. Hokutoumi attempted a return but went tochuu-kyujo, again leaving the Fukuoka crowd without a single Yokozuna dohyo-iri. This time Ozeki Konishiki took the Yusho.

The hapless Asahifuji found himself the third of the four Yokozuna to retire, in Hatsu 1992. Only the ailing Hokutoumi was left to shoulder the duty, with Konishiki unable to follow up with a second Yusho (which went to, you guessed it, Takahanada at M2) or even a jun-yusho. Haru 1992 saw the last Yokozuna lose two bouts and go kyujo. Konishiki won his second yusho, but not consecutively.

Hokutoumi officially retired in Natsu 1992. The last of the four Yokozuna was down, only one year after the first of them retired. Within a year, Grand Sumo went from four yokozuna to no yokozuna at all.

🔷 – full participation; 🔹 – partial participation; ◆ – retirement
Chiyonofuji Hokutoumi Onokuni Asahifuji
Sep 1990 🔷 🔷
Nov 1990 🔷 🔷 🔷 🔷
Jan 1991 🔹 🔷 🔷 🔷
Mar 1991 🔷 🔷 🔷
May 1991 🔷
Jul 1991 🔷 🔷
Sep 1991 🔹
Nov 1991 🔹
Jan 1992
Mar 1992 🔹

It took five tournaments from that point for Ozeki Akebono to string together two consecutive Yusho. Of course, there was a little problem: he was not born in Japan. However, faced with a long period without any Yokozuna, the NSK decided that Hinkaku (the Yokozuna’s spirit of dignity) could, sometimes, also be discerned in people born outside of the Land of the Rising Sun. And so, following Hatsu 1993, for the first time, an American was wearing a rope and performing the dance at meiji jingu. That same Akebono would survive long enough to take part in another four Yokozuna era – also known as the Waka/Taka boom – but that’s a story for another time.


asahifuji-teaches
Many years later, Asahifuji, now Isegahama Oyakata, teaches a shin-yokozuna the Shiranui dance

Can we draw any conclusions from this story about the four Yokozuna era that ended just now with the Harumafuji retirement? As Leo Tolstoy said, “All happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. Every four Yokozuna era crumbles in a different way. Unlike that time, the Dai-Yokozuna was not the first to retire. And none of the four Yokozuna of the early 90s retired over a scandal. Hakuho is such a statistical anomaly he may yet live to see another roost of Ozeki and Yokozuna around him.

One thing to learn, though, is that it’s not easy for the Ozeki to fill in the gap when Yokozuna go under. The Ozeki themselves may belong to the same crumbling era. It is also not easy for up-and-comers to become Ozeki. Takanohana, who was the first punch in the one-two sequence that ended Chiyonofuji’s term, took a very long time to become the formidable Dai-Yokozuna he ended up being. And that bright meteor, Kotofuji, ended up with no further achievements after getting that Yusho. You need to be able to deliver a string of double-figure tournaments, be stable at that level, and not fall into the comfortable “Just get a kachi-koshi” mood when you are an Ozeki. The fact is that only 9 men were roped in the years that passed between the young Asahifuji’s promotion in 1990 and Kisenosato’s in 2017.

Breaking Down The Wall Of Kanji

Every time the new banzuke is published, we start seeing pictures of proud rikishi pointing out their position on what seems to be a big wall of Kanji.

abi-banzuke-shikoroyama
Abi, newly promoted to Makuuchi

That, of course, is the official “banzuke-hyo”, or “banzuke table”. Here in Tachiai we frequently use part of it to head banzuke-related posts. So, let’s break down that wall:

banzuke-hatsu-2018-small

Traditionally, Japanese is written top to bottom and right-to-left. This means that the Makuuchi entries – which are at the top of the banzuke – are written with the Yokozuna on the right and Maegashira 16-17 on the left.

[West is on the left of the Banzuke-hyo and the more prestigious East is on the right, as you’d expect from looking at a compass. When you see a banzuke written out in English, they’ll normally be swapped, with East on the left. –PinkMawashi]

At the top is the rank, followed by place of origin, and then full shikona (including first name). Here are the entries for Hakuho and Kisenosato, zoomed:

hakuho-in-banzuke

kisenosato-in-banzukeYokozuna entries have a width of about 2.8cm. Ozeki entries – 2.5 cm. Sekiwake and Komusubi – 2.1 cm. The remaining width of the frame is divided evenly into the number of maegashira on that side.

The names are always written justified top and bottom. The calligrapher tries to leave a slightly larger space between the “surname” and the “given name”. In the image above, you can see Kagayaki’s entry, fifth from the left. He has only one kanji in his surname (輝), and two kanji in his given name (大士), so it stands out, having more white space than the ones around it.

Curiously, everybody below san-yaku on the banzuke is Maegashira! In particular, you can see “Maegashira” as the rank for each Juryo member. For Makushita and below, there is the character “同” (“do” = “ditto”) written in the rank position. And that character itself is shortened for sandanme and below. In this context, the “maegashira” means “ahead of the mae-zumo and off-banzuke guys” [Maegashira (前頭) literally translates as “those ahead” –PinkMawashi].

The bottom frame, excluding Jonokuchi, consists of members of the NSK. The big boxes on the East and West are for toshiyori of various ranks. The smaller boxes are for other members, such as sewanin, coaches, yobidashi and tokoyama.

The leftmost two boxes on the bottom left contain formulae in old Japanese. The second from the left says “In addition to the rikishi in this banzuke there are ones who do maezumo”. The leftmost evokes a thousand years of blessing.

So what about the middle column? The biggest, most impressive characters on the print – 蒙御免 – merely mean “Approved”. This is a vestige from the Edo period, when every sumo performance had to get approval from the shogunate.

This is followed by the date, length and place of the basho. Below them, the list of gyoji. The title of that is “行司” (“gyoji”), but if you take a look closely, you’ll see that the word is written right-to-left – the same way sekitori names are written on their akeni (the traditional luggage box every sekitori gets).

okinoumi-akeni
Right to left: o-ki-noumi

This holds true for every title in the banzuke-hyo – shimpan, riji, shunin. Anything that’s written in a single row is written right-to-left.

After the gyoji come the shimpan. Finally, “Nihon sumo kyokai” with details about the NSK.

Outside the frame, on the bottom left, there’s the date of publication and “all rights reserved”. And this is actually what gets written first! After drawing the frames, the calligrapher – a gyoji – writes the whole thing generally in reverse order – from left to right, from bottom to top, starting with that humble copyright notice, and ending with the East Yokozuna 1.

January Banzuke Posted

banzuke2a

Moments ago, the Nihon Sumo Kyokai posted the New Year’s tournament ranking sheet. In a departure from some expectations, the banzuke features a single Komusubi and single Sekiwake rank, with Takakeisho and Onosho taking Komusubi and Mitakeumi and Tamawashi taking Sekiwake.

Terunofuji drops to Maegashira 10, which he shares with stable-mate Aminishiki. At the bottom end, the ranks extend down to Maegashira 17e, with a healthy crop of rikishi making the leap from Juryo, including Ryuden, Ishiura, and Sokokurai.

Ura Recovering From Knee Surgery

Ura-CartoonFor fans eager to hear news of Ura, we have some updates. News comes from a pair of tweets that report that on December 17th, Ura was discharged from the hospital where he underwent surgery to rebuild his damaged knee. The surgery reportedly took place on or around November 30th, and from the photo shown, it appears that quite a bit of work was done.

There is no word yet on how he is doing, or the condition of the knee. Fans should keep in mind that Ura will not be able to even begin sumo practice for a few months, if ever. Everyone who delighted in his twisty-turny, physics defying sumo hope that he takes the time needed to get healthy, regardless of any possible return to sumo.

Using US sports medicine guidelines, Ura should not even consider training until the 4th month after surgery, and return to competition no sooner than 6 months.  Given the rigors of sumo and the risks of re-injury unless his lower body is strong and solid, we may not see Ura return to the dohyo until late in 2018.

Banzuke Christmas Today!

Banzuke 2017

A reminder to sumo fans around the world, that once all the presents are opened, and that lovely Christmas meal is done, the Sumo Kyokai has one last gift for all of us – the New Years Banzuke. The crew at Tachiai are expecting it to appear mid-afternoon US time, and we will bring you our reactions later today. Our traditional day-of podcast may be delayed a few days due to Christmas.

Of course, you could always have an early peek at lksumo’s fantastic forecast from two weeks ago.

Legends of the Dohyo #6: Holy Grail

Futabayama Yusho
Futabayama, 1939

In January of 2015, Yokozuna Hakuho Sho made history when he won his thirty-third Emperors Cup, surpassing a record established by the legendary Yokozuna Taiho Koki over forty years prior. When he accepted his 32nd championship and drew even with Taiho one basho prior, Hakuho stated that the god of sumo had blessed his efforts on the dohyo. Blessed indeed, as he is one of only a select few to have ever amassed over thirty yusho, and even fewer have one to their name. It is the dream of all rikishi to one day win the yusho and lift the Emperors Cup, the holy grail of Japans national sport. Despite being the most prestigious, sought-after prize in all of sumo, the Emperor’s Cup simply did not exist for much of the sport’s history. Even the concept of the yusho, Japanese for victory, has only been a part of sumo for a third of its existence.

The evolution of the yusho we know today was long and gradual, and dates as far back as the seventeenth century. Before this time, many of the men who defined the pre-yusho era of sumo, such as Onogawa Kisaburo, Raiden Tameemon, and Inazuma Raigoro, received no official championships or recognition besides credit for having the best record of their respective basho. The first semblance of a yusho or prize in sumo is found in the Edo period, when onlookers rewarded their favorite rikishi for winning bouts by by throwing  gifts of money onto the dohyo. Over time, these gifts transformed into more organized prizes and trophies provided for each basho by private financiers and awarded to the rikishi with perfect records. However, as Hikiwake (draws), Azukari (Decisions too close to call), and absences were not considered loses during this period, the rikishi with the most wins was not always awarded the tournament prize. It was also common in this period for several rikishi with identical records to be declared the champion of a basho and receive rewards for their efforts, as playoffs would not be introduced until much later.

Around the turn of the century, in January of 1900, this old system underwent a major change when the Osaka Mainichi Shinbun newspaper company offered a kensho-mawashi as a prize for the rikishi with a perfect record or the fewest losses at the upcoming basho. This development would establish the concept of a singular champion for each basho. The first tournament to declare an official yusho champion was the 1909 summer basho, when Maegashira 7 Takamiyama Torinosuke defeated Ozeki Tachiyama Mineemon. While the system of an individual basho champion was begging to take form, there were still some key differences when compared to sumo today. The most significant of these differences was the protocol for breaking ties. There were no playoffs in sumo during this era, and in the case of two men having identical records, the yusho was awarded to the rikishi with the higher rank. Playoff rules would be incorporated into sumo in 1947 after several controversial decisions saw Higher ranked rikishi being chosen over men below them without consideration for the circumstances of the basho. One such controversy involved Ozeki Hitachiiwa Eitaro receiving the yusho over Meagashira Misugiiso Zenshichi, despite one of his wins coming by default.

The final piece of the modern yusho structure came in 1925 when Crown Prince Hirohito donated a trophy, called the Prince Regent’s Cup, to be awarded to the yusho winner of each basho. Upon Hirohito taking his place on the Chrysanthemum throne in 1926, the trophy was renamed the Emperors Cup, and has remained the physical embodiment of the yusho ever since. From humble beginnings of monetary gifts showered upon rikishi from the common folk, the concept of a yusho unfolded gradually, eventually evolving into a splendid trophy from the highest lord in all the land, the Emperor himself. The yusho has become a milestone achievement, a career-definer, and the holy grail that every rikishi strives for each and every day.

Update on Harumafuji Scandal: YDC, NSK special meetings and report.

Today has been a day full of news. The YDC held its special deliberation. The NSK board followed with its own, and as it turned out, Takanoiwa appeared from his genie’s lamp and testified to the crisis management committee.

rijikai

Background

 

Here is how things stood yesterday:

  • Harumafuji has handed in his resignation. He is no longer an employee of the NSK, but they do have to settle issues such as retirement money, retirement ceremony, etc.
  • Hakuho, and to a lesser degree Kakuryu, have been criticised for not stopping the violence in a timely fashion or preventing it from the start. Hakuho has also been criticised for his on and off-dohyo behavior in general. There was the matter of his matta protest, his yusho interview and “banzai”, and his style of sumo of late, frequently using harite and kachiage.
  • Takanohana has been waging a war against the NSK:
    • When he found out about the event, he did not report it to the NSK, only to the police.
    • He then refused to cooperate with the NSK’s crisis committee’s investigation, and allowed Takanoiwa to be interviewed only by the police. At first he said he will cooperate once the police investigation was over. Then once the prosecutor hands in a decision.
    • He also failed to produce a medical certificate for Takanoiwa’s absence from the fuyu Jungyo. The medical certificate for the basho was also questionable, as it seemed to have expired by the time the basho started.

Disciplinary measures as well as preventive measures were expected.

Takanoiwa makes an appearance

After the NSK crisis committee has already announced that they have “given up on interviewing Takanoiwa by the 20th” and that they will be handing in their report without his side being represented, and the NSK was hinting that they will be considering his punishment for the unsanctioned absence, Takanohana finally relented and released his deshi to speak to the committee on the night between the 19th and the 20th.

Here is Takanoiwa’s side of the story, as retold by the crisis committee representative in the press conference following today’s board meeting:

  • He only operated his smartphone after Hakuho’s lecture was over, and Hakuho and Harumafuji started talking about other things. He does not believe he did anything insulting or anything that justifies receiving an injury.
  • He felt demeaned by receiving a one-sided beating in front of other rikishi and the staff of his alma mater.
  • He only apologized to Harumafuji the next day because those same staff members advised him to do so. He himself did not feel it was merited.
  • Nevertheless, he says that he had no wish to see Harumafuji retire.
  • When asked why he lied to Takanohana at first and told him that he received his injury by falling down the stairs, he said that he didn’t want to cause an uproar, and that it was unmanly to tattle.

Further, Kagamiyama oyakata commented on Takanoiwa’s current state. Apparently, he is currently hospitalized, suffering from after-effects of the attack.

The YDC convenes, makes recommendations and deflects criticism

The YDC convened and discussed Yokozuna past and present:

  • Although Harumafuji already retired, they discussed the case as a precedent and decided that any such case in the future would merit an intai recommendation.
  • They recommended a severe reprimand to Hakuho and Kakuryu, for making light of their responsibility as Yokozuna to serve as examples, and to prevent any form of violence.
  • They also expressed a unanimous opinion that Takanohana’s behavior is unacceptable for an executive in any organization.
  • They also received many complaints about Hakuho’s “violent” style of fight these days, such as kachiage using a heavily bandaged elbow, or strong harite “for more than 10 bouts out of 15”. Adding that it was “not Yokozuna sumo, ugly, something we do not want to watch”.
  • When asked about their responsibility for the promotion of two Yokozuna who have retired due to scandal the head of the YDC responded that they have neither the ability nor the authority to conduct their own research into the candidates’ characters and have to ask the NSK members about that. Also, that they act on the request of the NSK.

The board convenes

Following the YDC’s meeting and recommendation, the board of the NSK also convened and made some decisions.

hakkaku
Hakkaku. Gave up three months’ salary.
  • For not having prevented the violence, being the most eminent NSK member present, Hakuho will be deducted his entire salary for the coming January, and half of his salary for February. This is estimated at ¥4,230,000.
  • Also for not having prevented the violence, Kakuryu will be deducted his entire salary for the coming January. This is estimated at ¥2,820,000.
  • There is a retirement sum awarded to retiring Oyakata, Yokozuna and Ozeki. Harumafuji will have some amount deducted from this retirement money, though the exact deduction has not been decided yet.
  • The head of the board, Hakkaku, decided to give up his own salary for the rest of his current stint. This means three months, until the next board elections. The sum is estimated at ¥1,448,000.
  • Isegahama oyakata has taken responsibility for the actions of his deshi, and handed in his own resignation from the board. He will therefore be demoted to yakuin-taigu-iin (executive member) instead of riji (director). (Note that he can be re-elected). Hakkaku added that Isegahama oyakata wished to resign already when Harumafuji resigned, but that he, as head of the board, asked him to postpone it until the investigation was over.
  • The board accepted the recommendation of the YDC to set a recommendation of retirement as the standard for any case of violence by rikishi at the top of the banzuke. They used the term “joi”, so this doesn’t apply only to Yokozuna.
  • The missing piece is Takanohana. The discussion of his part has been postponed to another meeting to be held on the 28th, together with the meeting of the board of trustees. “We will make a decision based on the explanation we will receive from Takanohana”, said Hakkaku.

Takanoiwa’s future

Kagamiyama oyakata said that in the board meeting, the board affirmed that they consider Takanoiwa as a victim of violence who should be protected by the NSK as a whole. He added that being kyujo from Kyushu puts Takanoiwa in Juryo on the next banzuke. However, should he need to continue his kyujo into Hatsu as well, considering the circumstances, allowances will be made as to his banzuke position.

takanoiwa
Takanoiwa. Will get to keep his silk mawashi.

Specifically, provided that he supplies the appropriate medical certificate this time, the NSK will not allow his banzuke position for Haru to drop below Juryo.

Preventive measures

All of the above are disciplinary measures. How is such an occurrence to be prevented in the future? Here are some of the suggestions brought up by the crisis committee as well as the board meeting:

  • Declare a “Day of violence prevention”, to make sure that this scandal is not soon forgotten as the Tokitsukaze scandal has been.
  • Create a code of conduct that will be taught and referred to in all pertinent cases.
  • The NSK board will form a violence prevention committee that will include independent experts, to hand in recommendation (one source says) by the 28th as well.

The story of October 25th, retold

In a comment to my previous post about the interim report, I said that I expect the story of what happened on the fateful day in Tottori to change again only once – on December 20th, when the final report is handed.

remote-control
Karaoke remote-control. May be used to zap away your career.

Truth be told, it did not change very drastically, but there are some interesting details surfacing. I’ll put parts that were not in the previous post in bold.

  • Dinner party. Present: Hakuho, Kakuryu, Harumafuji, Terunofuji, Takanoiwa, Ishiura, Ishiura’s father and other members of the Tottori Johoku high school, 13 people in total.
  • During the dinner party, which took about 3 hours, Hakuho took issue with something a friend of his told him that Takanoiwa said in September. Takanoiwa denied. Harumafuji defended him and Hakuho let the matter go. This whole exchange was in Mongolian, and the Japanese present did not know its contents.
  • The after party included most of those participating in the dinner party, at a lounge recommended by the high school staff. Beer was served in glasses, not in bottles. Hakuho lectured to Takanoiwa and Terunofuji about their daily conduct and that they should be thankful to their high school teachers. He also reproached Kakuryu for letting him do all the lecturing.
  • Takanoiwa, thinking that Hakuho has finished his lecture, started to play with his phone. Harumafuji saw that, got annoyed, and asked “Why are you playing with your phone when the dai-yokozuna is talking to you?”. This was apparently also in Mongolian. Takanoiwa first denied he was playing with it, then said “I got a LINE message”. Harumafuji asked “Is that important? Who is it from?”. Eventually Takanoiwa said “It’s from my girlfriend”.
  • Harumafuji hit him once, on the face.
  • Takanoiwa said “sorry”, but Harumafuji thought he was giving him a defiant stare. So he hit him on the head and face several times with his bare hands, asking “Why are you behaving like that? I was protecting you earlier! Are you trying to be smart with Yokozuna?“.
  • He picked up a bottle of Champagne and made as if he would beat Takanoiwa with it, but it slipped and fell without harming anybody.
  • Hakuho, watching Harumafuji, said aloud “Don’t use any objects”. As soon as Harumafuji started using the remote control, he stepped in to stop the beating and took Harumafuji outside the room.
  • Apparently it was several minutes from the beginning of the beating and its end, and over 10 but less than 20 slaps/punches delivered.
  • Harumafuji then returned to the room and demanded that Takanoiwa apologize, hitting him once or twice again with his bare hands. Takanoiwa said “I deeply apologize, I’ll be careful from now on”, so Harumafuji stopped.
  • Harumafuji also reprimanded kakuryu: “You are not guiding them properly”. Then he addressed Terunofuji: “You have no spirit when you do keiko. If you want to ask something, just talk to me!”. Terunofuji changed his sitting position to seiza and answered “We can’t say what we think. There is a wall between us”. Harumafuji retorted “You are the ones who created that wall!”, and proceeded to slap Terunofuji (lightly) once or twice. Terunofuji’s reply: “Thank you”.
  • Takanoiwa’s scalp was lacerated and bled. He also suffered an injury to his wrist.
  • When they left the lounge, Takanoiwa asked Ishiura “What did Harumafuji hit me with?”. Ishiura replied “I think with a beer bottle and remote control”. However, Ishiura did not see that with his own eyes.
  • Takanoiwa had his wound taken care of  the next day in a local infirmary, and initially told Takanohana that he fell down the stairs being drunk.

(Compiled from Nikkan Sports and Nikkei).

 

Final Jungyo Newsreel – December 17th

🌐 Location: Ginowan, Okinawa

Today was the second day at Ginowan, but the last day of the Jungyo. Today’s newsreel centers on bouts, bouts, bouts!

hakuho-takayasu
Hakuho vs. Takayasu

Before we sit back to enjoy our sumo, it should be mentioned that Kakuryu’s health took a turn for the worse in the past couple of days, as he developed an inflammation in his left foot (or leg – the word in Japanese is the same). He says that once everybody returns to Tokyo, he’ll be able to get care for it, but nevertheless, this is a source for worry. Remember, Kakuryu has to participate in Hatsu, and have a good showing. Having been kyujo from Aki with a problem in his right foot, in the preparations for Kyushu he got his lower back in trouble again, and was kyujo from Kyushu as well. He is running out of body parts to spare.

He did participate in today’s tournament, and did a dohyo iri-with a baby, but Hakuho was the one doing the tsuna-shime ceremony today.

tsuna-shime-enho

Those who followed the Jungyo reports diligently will notice that Enho has been promoted from “thread bearer” to “rope puller #5”, an important position that comes with white gloves!

OK, so let’s finish this Jungyo with a bit of sumo. As in the previous 3 days, the top 16 Makuuchi (which is basically Ichinojo and up on the Kyushu banzuke, deducting Harumafuji, Kisenosato and Chiyonokuni) competed in elimination format. Below that, the torikumi went the usual way.

The Makuuchi bouts started with Aminishiki vs. Yutakayama. Yutakayama won – and the audience let out a sigh. Poor Yutakayama! It’s not his fault that Aminishiki is the most popular rikishi in Japan!

No visuals from that torikumi, I’m sorry to say, but here is the Maru bout, Chiyomaru vs. Daishomaru:

Arawashi vs. Ikioi:

Now let’s move to the tournement part. Hakuho starts with Onosho:

…and makes short work of it. Onosho, where is your red mawashi?

Mitakeumi takes on Tochiozan:

Nexw was the battle of the Fujis – Hokutofuji vs. Terunofuji. No video for that, but Terunofuji wins. So did Goeido vs. Takakeisho. So the two top tadpoles were eliminated in the first round already.

Takayasu took on Chiyotairyu in the first round. Remember Takayasu took the title yesterday:

Sorry for the lack of Tachiai. Next was Ichinojo vs. Tamawashi. Ichinojo wins.

Now Yoshikaze vs. Shohozan:

And the end of the first round is Kakuryu vs. Kotoshogiku:

This, despite the left foot issue…

Next round. Hakuho vs. Mitakeumi:

No repeat of Nagoya basho… And also no video of the Terunofuji-Goeido bout. But Terunofuji won. Terunofuji actually able to beat both Hokutofuji and Goeido is great news. Please don’t let him find a new way to ruin his knees in January.

Next was Takayasu vs. Ichinojo.

I do wish Ichinojo would not give up so easily at the tawara. 🙁

To finish this second round, Kakuryu vs. Yoshikaze:

Yori-no-questions-about-it-kiri!

Semifinals. Hakuho wants to finish this Jungyo with a freaking yusho. Terunofuji hung on for about 20 seconds:

Takayasu got the other Yokozuna and won. No video.

And so we come to the final: Hakuho vs. Takayasu:

And here is a different angle with better video quality but poorer view:

Okinawa Jungyo day 2 - tournament brackets

Hakuho was, of course, delighted, and felt that he has tied up the Jungyo in a satisfactory way, giving the audience something to enjoy.

Now everybody has already landed back in Tokyo, having been absent since September. And this is the end of this newsreel series, see you in the next Jungyo!

 

Short Jungyo Newsreel – December 16th

🌐 Location: Ginowan, Okinawa

Today was the penultimate day of the Jungyo. Almost 3000 people came to the venue today to see some sumo action.

okinawa-basho-day-1

Among them, apparently, many gaijin enjoying a bit of Japanese tradition

gaijins-enjoying-sumo
Let me fix your hair, there are foreigners watching!

Daiamami seems to have found his alarm clock and now shows up to morning practice like a good boy:

daiamami-up-for-asa-geiko
Daiamami (left). Now let’s see you do some shiko.

Just as in Miyakojima, the top 16 rankers fought in elimination format. This time, the winner was Ozeki Takayasu, who has beaten Onosho by hikiotoshi.

Here is the NHK summary of the day: Shokkiri and some bouts. Notably, Ishiura being Ishiura. He is probably telling himself that’s a hassou-tobi. But we all know what that is:

But this short summary won’t be complete without the following little candy. Kiddie sumo. This rather cheeky kid is asked to pick his opponent. He picks… Aminishiki, no less, who is not on the dohyo and is rather surprised.

But fansa is fansa. And Uncle obliges.

Who needs Shokkiri when there’s Aminishiki around? 🙂

Tomorrow is the last day of the Jungyo!

Who’s That Rikishi #10: Asanoyama Hideki

Asanoyama WTR

Age: 23
Birth Name: Hiroki Ishibashi
Home Town: Toyama Prefecture, Japan
Stable: Takasago
Highest Rank: Maegashira 11

When it came to sports, sumo was not Asanoyama’s first choice. Instead, the young man from Toyama Prefecture practiced handball until entering junior high school. Joining his school’s sumo team, he nearly cut his career short after sustaining an elbow injury, and seriously considered quitting sumo. He persevered and went on to a successful High school career, eventually earning a scholarship to Kinki University where he entered the renowned sumo program that had produced top rikishi such as Takarafuji, and Tokushoryu. During his time studying at Kinki University, Asanoyama won seven college titles, putting him in the top four in All-Japan Sumo Championships. After graduating, Asanoyama joined Takasago beya where he trained under former Ozeki and fellow Kinki University graduate Asashio Taro IV. Having been a multiple time university champion, Asanoyama was allowed to skip the two lowest ranks and debut in the Sandanme division at the 2016 Haru basho. In his first tournament he scored a 5-2 kachi koshi, the first of many to come. He followed this excellent start with back to back 6-1 records and received a promotion to the Makushita division in September.

Much like his time in Sandanme, Asanoyama spent only three basho in Makushita, taking the divisions yusho at the 2017 Hatsu basho on rout to a Juryo promotion. Prior to this promotion, Toyoyama beya had lost both their Sekitori status, marking the first time the stable had been without a top division wrestler since 1878. With Asanoyama joining the Juryo division, he ensured his stable would have sekitori representation once more. Asanoyama’s first tournament in Juryo was one of great success; the young rikishi finished with a 10-5 record but lost the yusho in a playoff to the veteran Toyohibiki. He once again found himself in a playoff situation at the Nagoya basho, yet this time a loss to Daiamami would cost him the yusho. Despite losing the championship, his record would be enough to land him a spot in the top Makuuchi division for the 2017 Aki basho. His first top division outing began with mixed results, as he ended day 6 with three wins and three losses. When asked about his early performance, Asanoyama remarked that he felt cursed by the east side of the dohyo, as all his losses had come on that side. He overcame this curse, however, and went on to post five straight wins, remaining just one win behind the yusho leader until day 13. Finishing the tournament with a 10-5 record, Asanoyama received the fighting spirit special prize for his standout Makuuchi debut. At the following Kyushu basho, he failed to replicate the success he had in September and recorded his first career make koshi after winning only five of his fifteen bouts. Primarily a yotsu sumo specialist, Asanoyama relies on mawashi grappling techniques to win his matches. His most common kimarite is a yorikiri force out.


Daieisho (left) vs. Asanoyama (right), Aki basho, 2017.


Links:
http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Rikishi.aspx?r=12291
http://www.sumo.or.jp/EnSumoDataRikishi/profile/3682/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asanoyama_Hideki

Short Jungyo Newsreel – December 14-15

🌐 Location: Miyakojima, Okinawa

The second day of the Jungyo at Miyakojima continued pretty much the same as the first day.

venue
Venue filling up in the early afternoon

Hakuho still didn’t practice on the dohyo, and opted for practicing with low-rank partners in what was at first a quiet corner:

hakuho-practicing-off-dohyo

Ikioi joined the Jinku team again, once again singing the part dedicated to Yuho. He commented later “Yuho has always been kind to me and cared about my well-being. I put my soul into the song and I believe it has reached him in Heaven”.

ikioi-doing-jinku-again
Ikioi in the Jinku finale. Note the fan with the lyrics stuck in his mawashi.

Kakuryu did the tsuna-shime ceremony again. On his way back down the hana-michi, still wearing his rope, he high-fived a kid who stood on the sidelines with his hand extended (this used to be a Harumafuji specialty).

The main difference between yesterday and today was that Hakuho found motivation enough to want to win the Yusho on the second day. Remember, the top 16 rikishi were competing in elimination format.

Hakuho beat Onosho in the first bout. In the second, he defeated Tochiozan. In the semifinal, he met Terunofuji (back on the torikumi, apparently, and able to win two bouts!), and passed him as well. In the final bout, he faced Chiyotairyu – but lost, and the yusho slipped away.

“Aaagh… I wanted that yusho!” he lamented in the shitakubeya.

The day ended in dance again. Note Homarefuji dancing like a boss, hand motions and all:


Today (December 15th) the Jungyo was on hiatus again, as the rikishi took flights back north to the main island of Okinawa. The first plane that landed included Kakuryu and Takayasu, and a few other sekitori, and they ended up participating in a welcome party at the Naha airport, in the company of the lovely Miss Okinawa.

arrival

A while later Hakuho and Goeido arrived as well, and the two Yokozuna and two Ozeki, together with Kasugano oyakata, went to lay flowers at the Cemetery for the Fallen in the Battle of Okinawa in Itoman, and also had a moment of silence at the Cornerstone of Peace.

Tomorrow the Jungyo renews, for the final two days in Ginowan.

Jungyo Newsreel – December 13th

🌐 Location: Miyakojima, Okinawa

After freezing in Kitakyushu, the jungyo entourage boarded planes and headed down south to Okinawa. In fact, so much down south, that they were almost within waving distance to Taiwan. This means warm weather, and rikishi going around in Yukata.

Right off the plane, landing in Miyakojima airport on Dec. 12, Hakuho was doing the fansa rounds, sought after by both the passengers who shared his plane, and awaiting fans.

hakuho-at-airport
Both handfan and Yukata adorned with “Hakuho”

The press was there as well, to ask Hakuho for his comment about the death threat letter he received at Kitakyushu (He didn’t actually receive it personally. It was delivered to his contacts there, and they handed it to the Fukuoka Prefectural Police). He deferred his comment to the next day (the next day he said “The Kyokai is handling all communication about it”).

Other rikishi were also making use of the hiatus. Yutakayama and Toyonoshima visited a local hospital’s day care center for the elderly, together with Yutakayama’s tsukebito, Rikito.

toyonoshima-with-elderly
Toyonoshima receiving flowers and a hug

The locals were thrilled, and shot questions at the rikishi: “How much do you weigh?”, one of them asked Yutakayama. “Well, officially, 175kg. But lately I’ve been eating too much, I am about 180kg by now”.

Rikito is a member of the Jinku team, so he entertained the locals with some Jinku, and everybody around joined in the “haa-dosukoi-dosukoi” calls.

The jungyo event itself includes two days at Miyakojima, both “nighters” as the Japanese call events being held in evening time. This is also why this newsreel is posted late. Usually a Jungyo day starts in the morning with asa-geiko, but these “nighters” start in the afternoon and only make it to the media sites the next day. The format is also a bit different, though of course it includes the popular kiddie sumo, tsuna-shime, jinku and shokkiri.

Hakuho was looking less genki than usual. He settled for some keiko with low-rankers:

hakuho-practice

This downturn in his health may also explain why it was Kakuryu who did the tsuna-shime (rope tying) demonstration (which has been performed regularly by Hakuho on all previous days).

On the dohyo, Kakuryu took Daieisho for a full workout, including both san-ban (no information on content) and butsukari, which you can see here:

kakuryu-daieisho-butsukari

It seems to be a peculiarity of the Izutsu Yokozuna, that he doesn’t take his butsukari partners for a monkey-walk (that’s what I call that type of suri-ashi Daieisho is performing in the above image) while holding on to the back of their head. He just tells them to walk it and stands aside. He also does away with the korogari (the roll that follows a failure to push) many times, ordering them to try again instead.

The main change in the format was that the top 16 rankers (excepting kyujo rikishi) fought in elimination format rather than the usual rank-for-rank torikumi. Both Yokozuna and Both Ozeki were eliminated in the first round. The winner was Yoshikaze.

yoshikaze-pushes-mitakeumi
That’s a bout, not Shokkiri.

Those below the top 16 fought as usual, as you can see in this video (together with some drumming, babies galore, and the usual apology for Harumafuji’s behavior)

Aminishiki tries the Hakuho trick of harite right off the tachiai, and discovers that you need to be really, really fast to pull it off…

Here is another TV video, blissfully free of the scandal and full of interesting stuff (and bouts):

  • Tochinoshin in moshi-age (winner picks next partner)
  • Kakuryu vs. Daieisho in one of their san-ban.
  • Memorial corner for Yuho (see below)
  • A local amateur (well, a dan 3 judoka…) defeats Shodai
  • Kaisei vs. Chiyomaru
  • Ichinojo vs. Kotoshogiku
  • Yoshikaze vs. Mitakeumi
  • Everybody dances around the dohyo!

Despite his fatigue, Hakuho continued to service the flocking fans:

hakuho-fansa
Among the many duties of tsukebito: taking pictures of fans with The Boss

And now for the treat of the day. In September, the former Yuho, who hailed from Miyakojima, passed away. He continued as a sewanin (a non-toshiyori NSK employee) since his retirement. The NSK put up a commemorative exhibition for him at the Jungyo venue. In addition to that, a special verse in his memory was added to the sumo Jinku, performed by no other than Ikioi:

Remember that sekitori do not usually take part of the Jinku. Ikioi is the only one there in his own Kesho-Mawashi, and of course an oicho-mage. Never mind the fact that he towers above the rest. He reads the verse off the paper fan in his hand. Dosukoi!