Tachiai 忘年会チャレンジ

Long ago, in an 英会話 far away, your correspondent was a terrified, socially awkward foreigner in 日吉. I was plopped into a classroom with virtually no training in the middle of October 2003. After a few fits and starts, I was able to grasp the gist of the our school’s methodology: keep the students entertained and help them learn something. There were amazing days and quite a few challenging ones. In this context, when December rolled around I was introduced to the wonderful Japanese custom of the Bonenkai.

Japan has many New Year customs which this blog will highlight with several posts in the coming weeks. Do not worry, their relevance to sumo will be apparent. In this post, I will highlight the Bonenkai. A literal translation of the kanji is “forget the year gathering”. Unlike the many customs, like setsubun, which are family oriented, the Bonenkai is different because it is oriented toward business and friends. This is more similar to “the company Christmas party” in the West. Many businesses will be closed for the first week of the new year so these parties are generally held before that break.

So, for a business person in Japan, December can be a super busy month. Often there will be a Bonenkai with your section or division, then there will be another one with clients, others with friends. This party is generally an alcohol fueled gathering at a local izakaya where colleagues and friends will celebrate the end of the last year. At an izakaya there are no photocopiers, though, so our grand tradition of getting drunk and photocopying our butts is sorely missed. Instead, many izakaya have a karaoke machine which lend themselves to my horrible renditions of 90s grunge classics.

While the name may demonstrate the reason for the party, these gatherings are not dismal affairs. Rather than dwelling on the challenges of the past year, colleagues and friends focus on appreciation for their support and look forward to the new year.

So, with December upon us, I urge Tachiai readers to go out and have your own Bonenkai where we can put this horrible 2017 behind us. Yes, we were blessed with a new Yokozuna and Ozeki only to quickly lose both to the disabled list. We quickly lost two ozeki and our electrifying youngster, Ura, went down to injury. Adding in the fallout from the fight in Tottori, we can see the reasons for our Bonenkai. If you have your own Bonenkai, take pictures and if you share them on Twitter, I’ll retweet and like them.

Rather than dwell on these past challenges, we raise a glass (with a few “Banzai!”) to Hakuho’s 40th, the resurgence of Uncle Sumo (Aminishiki), the continued growth of young talents from Asanoyama to Enho to Wakaichiro, and the comebacks of Endo and Okinoumi. Who will make the next Ozeki run? Takakeisho, Onosho, Tamawashi, Hokutofuji, or other?

28 thoughts on “Tachiai 忘年会チャレンジ

  1. The fall of Ura, competing with an already wrecked knee, remains incredibly sad. What an unbelievable loss for the sport. He should have been getting that healed.

    I personally think all four are theoretically capable of Ozeki runs.

    In some ways, Takakeisho has been the unsung hero of 2017, not stealing the headlines despite some enormous kachi koshi, even with injuries.

    When Onosho looks confident, he looks supreme, but will need to adjust his balance.

    Hokotofuji could still have a full set of kachi koshi if he had not participated with injuries. He is an all rounder and perhaps the rikishi with the greatest potential.

    As for Tamawashi, I often forget he isn’t higher ranked, because when he’s on the dohyo, he often looks like he could beat most of the guys out there. Definite performs more energetically than his age might suggest.

    • You know, I wish either Tamawashi or Ichinojo would make Ozeki in the near future, if only to be shoved down the throats of all those little racists who are hoping to get clear of all three Mongolian Yokozuna soon.

      (Feeling enhanced after being exposed to oozing heaps of yaocho accusations against Hakuho and Harumafuji in the back alleys of twitter in the past couple of days, including charts that show their –
      and Kakuryu’s – “connections to Yakuza” and whatnot. Blech).

      • It would be awfully satisfying if the current crop of top Mongolians were swept away only to be replaced by Ichinojo, Tamawashi, Chiyoshoma (I’m not kidding! He is a great talent) and Mitoryu. The problem with Tamawashi is that I would like to believe that a newly-promoted ozeki has at least some hopes of making the final step, and Tam at 36 or 37 (?) has a ceiling. Ichinojo on the other hand is capable of anything.

    • That is pure delight. The third rikishi — was that Tochinoshin, Aoiyama? — whoever it was, bless him for being a good sport. I wouldn’t have dared the attempt in my native language, let alone my second or third or […]. And who might that be in the back row of Hakuko’s segment?

        • Aha! (I am awful with faces, but did think the gentleman looked more Georgian than Bulgarian.) Missed in the Makuuchi ranks, that one is. Thankyou Coreyyanofsky!

      • I think Hakuho had his “Team Hakuho” behind him. That his, his group of rope-tying tsukebito. Note they are all in black mawashi, so not sekitori.

        I also think he looks kind of nervous. He is not used to being eclipsed by Kakuryu…

    • I have watched the Hakkeyoi video many times in the past and every time I am mystified by Kisenosato’s lugubrious expression!

      • It’s a known fact that Kisenosato hates singing. But indeed he looks as if he thinks the whole idea stinks. And he didn’t even have “hinkaku” to maintain then.

        • I suspect that Kisenosato is very reserved and introverted unless he’s around people he knows and trusts. I also noticed his reluctance to appear in this video and I’m assuming it’s because they stuck him in front of the group.

    • If I was competing on a karaoke show, I think I’d take Ikioi and Terunofuji as my back up singers (the latter is much better at singing pop songs than old-fashioned stuff like this). And whoever is doing jazz hands in the back of Hakuho as the backup-dancer. :)

      Gagamaru and Hakuho have so little rhythm and pitch it’s hilarious.

  2. Thank you Andy; to you as well. A hearty “BANZAI!” to seeing this year out the door, and to good health and success to all who participate in this marvelous sport we love.

  3. I have watched the Hakkeyoi video many times in the past and every time I am mystified by Kisenosato’s lugubrious expression!


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