Crime and Punishment – Board Meeting Summary

Yesterday, the NSK board convened. After a couple of meetings in which the newly elected board was set up and various toshiyori were assigned duties, it was finally time to deliberate the penalties of various trouble makers.

Takayoshitoshi and Takanohana

Takayoshitoshi and Takanohana

As you may recall, in the middle of the basho, shin-juryo Takayoshitoshi decided to beat up his tsukebito in front of many witnesses, and was pulled out of the basho as a result. His punishment for the deed is a suspension for one basho. He will not do the spring jungyo and will forfeit the Natsu basho. He is allowed to practice at his heya.

This of course implies a sharp drop in rank. Maybe even as far as sandanme.

The stablemaster of every trouble rikishi also has to bear punishment for his part in raising and guiding his deshi improperly. However, in Takanohana’s case, there was more – he has continued his games with the NSK and played hooky from the arena. He wasn’t around when the twin did the deed, and he should have.

There was a faction in the NSK – allegedly the Nishonoseki ichimon – which called for him to be suspended from all activities this time. This would have prevented him from actually guiding his deshi, and may have required fostering them temporarily to other heya in his ichimon. However, the Takanohana ichimon begged for a lighter sentence, and eventually the board decided on yet another demotion. He now has the lowest possible rank for a member of the NSK: toshiyori.

The Minezaki scandal

We haven’t mentioned this story in a post so I need to fill you in. A short time before the Takayoshitoshi story broke, it was announced that a rikishi from Minezaki beya has beaten up a junior on four separate occasions, some of them after the Harumafuji scandal. The junior rikishi retired as a result, but the story only came to the knowledge of the stablemaster from a letter sent by the former rikishi’s father. He promptly reported it to the NSK and they announced it publically after verifying it with the parties involved.

The names of the parties have not been revealed by the Japanese press, but only one rikishi retired from that heya recently: Kaigo. As for the assailant, a single rikishi from Minezaki beya pulled out of the tournament following the publication: Arawashi’s tsukebito, Hikarugenji. Connect the dots.

And his punishment was decided yesterday as well. He, too, will be suspended from one basho. Again, a drop in rank is implied. Hikarugenji was sandanme 25 in the Haru basho.

Minezaki oyakata was docked 10% of his salary for the next two months.

The Osunaarashi wrap-up

At the time of the announcement of the Osunaarashi scandal, his stablemaster served as a trustee. This means that he was not considered a member of the NSK and could not be punished (though through some regulation gymnastics, he could still keep his heya…)

However, in yesterday’s meeting he was docked 10% of his salary by his own request. At the same opportunity, he also declared that he will not be holding a danpatsu-shiki (ceremonial cutting of top-knot) for Osunaarashi. Indeed, the former rikishi is already shorn.

Commentary

The punishments seem extremely light. Yet another demotion for Takanohana, after he clearly didn’t repent following the previous one and indeed said he does not accept nor understand it? It remains to be seen if the former dai-yokozuna will quit his attention-seeking behavior and start on a more constructive path.

As for the two violent rikishi, what message does that send to parents who send their kids to professional sumo? “Nothing has changed. Your kid may well be beaten up if a senior doesn’t like the way he makes the chanko. There is no incentive for the seniors to keep their hands in their obi.” After Hakkaku declared that stopping violence in sumo is the top item on his agenda, I would have expected a more severe punishment.

An old Jewish saying goes: “He who is kind to the cruel ends up being cruel to the kind”.

Booking Your Trip to Experience Sumo in Osaka

EDION Arena Osaka Exterior
The EDION Arena in Osaka

Wherever you are around the world, you’re probably fortunate enough to catch at least a few of the day’s sumo highlights from NHK World. But as many of us here at Tachiai have been fortunate enough to experience, there is no comparing the highlights (or even the extended live broadcast) to actually being in the arena. But sometimes, just planning the trip is unbelievably exhausting! So I put together, as part of a new series on Tachiai, a walkthrough to cover the essentials of planning your trip.

Each of Grand Sumo’s four tournament cities provides a unique and interesting experience. Today I’m going to tell you, in painstakingly explicit detail, how I put my trip together to Experience Sumo at the EDION Arena in Osaka. If you have more questions, please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments section below – your questions will help other Tachiai readers experience sumo as well! Click through to read more after the jump… Continue reading

Promotions to Juryo announced

Today, the banzuke meeting took place. The full banzuke will not be published until shortly before the next basho, but as usual, promotions to Juryo are announced ahead of time, to allow new promotees to get ready with their paraphernalia.

Wakatakakage with Arashio oyakata

Newcomers to Juryo:

  • Wakatakakage, Arashio beya
  • Hakuyozan, Takadagawa beya

Returning:

  • Asabenkei, Takasago beya

Wakatakakage hails from Fukushima, and in his promotion interview, he vowed to do his best for the sake of the Fukushima residents who suffered in the great Tohoku disaster. He says he got a kimono and obi from the previous Fukushima “representative”, Sotairyu, who retired in Hatsu 2018, symbolically continuing in his footsteps.

Hakuyozan, when asked about his goal as Sekitori, said he wanted to reach the same rank as his stablemaster, Takadagawa oyakata [That is to say, Sekiwake. –PinkMawashi].

Hakuyozan

The stablemaster himself laughed and said he was aiming too low. Eventually they agreed that he should follow in the steps of Yokozuna Kashiwado, who hailed from Yamagata, Hakuyozan’s home.

With three promoted, three will be demoted. The demoted rikishi have not been announced, but obviously two of them are Enho and Takayoshitoshi. The third one will probably be Amakaze. If, like myself, you are wondering why ranked J7 he will be demoted rather than one of the low rankers with a make koshi (e.g. Tobizaru at J13), well, Amakaze had a very poor performance (3-12), and I’m told he was scheduled on senshuraku against Asabenkei, specifically to determine whether they should trade places. Amakaze lost, Asabenkei got the promotion, thus Amakaze goes.

Congratulations to the new (and returning) sekitori, and personally, if indeed Amakaze is the unlucky ex-sekitori, I hope to see both him and Enho back in their Kesho-mawashi soon.

Haru Jungyo!

With Haru Basho now in the rear view, time for Jungyo! The Iki Thump tour officially kicks off on April 1 at the Jingyu Kaikan in Ujinakanokiricho. No, I did not just step on my keyboard but thanks for asking.

So, for those of you unable to get your fill of sumo during the last fortnight in Osaka, there are still opportunities to watch your favorite wrestlers in action…maybe. There have also been a lot of injuries, including those to Nelly, I mean, Ikioi so we do hope they get a chance to recover. For those on the path to recovery – Onosho? Ura? – I wonder if this may be a nice way to ease back into the routine, though with Ura now in the depths of Makushita, I doubt it. But wouldn’t that be a way to keep the sport in the headlines and off the “other sports” tabs on Japanese news sites? A full list of dates is available on the Sumo Kyokai website.

LocationDateVenueLatLong
伊勢神宮奉納April 1, 2018三重県伊勢市宇治中之切町15234.462801,136.7185575
中津川市April 2, 2018岐阜県東美濃ふれあいセンター中津川市茄子川1683-79735.4579753,137.4655545
堺市April 3, 2018大阪府 堺市金岡公園体育館 堺市北区長曽根町1179-1834.570691,135.506387
舞鶴市April 4, 2018京都府舞鶴文化公園体育館舞鶴市上安久420番地35.4550923,135.3378189
姫路市April 5, 2018兵庫県 姫路市立中央体育館 姫路市西延末9034.8212194,134.6699379
宝塚市April 6, 2018兵庫県 宝塚市立スポーツセンター総合体育館 宝塚市小浜1-1-1134.8022502,135.3606516
刈谷市April 7, 2018愛知県 ウィングアリーナ刈谷 愛知県刈谷市築地町荒田1番地35.0193854,137.0078769
静岡市April 8, 2018静岡県 草薙総合運動場体育館(このはなアリーナ) 静岡市駿河区栗原19-134.9883592,138.4245477
掛川市April 9, 2018静岡県 東遠カルチャーパーク総合体育館 掛川市大池225034.7854244,137.9991479
伊那市April 10, 2018長野県 伊那市民体育館メインアリーナ 伊那市西町5834-835.839454,137.9414958
東御市April 11, 2018長野県 東御中央公園第一体育館 東御市鞍掛177-236.3623777,138.3453912
草加市April 12, 2018埼玉県 草加市スポーツ健康都市記念体育館 草加市瀬崎6丁目31-135.8126413,139.8168489
川崎市April 13, 2018神奈川県 川崎市とどろきアリーナ 川崎市中原区等々力1−335.5873118,139.6453032
藤沢市April 14, 2018神奈川県 秋葉台文化体育館 藤沢市遠藤2000-135.3887615,139.4420105
高崎市April 15, 2018群馬県 高崎アリーナ 高崎市下和田町4丁目1-1836.3160485,139.0106099
靖國神社奉納April 16, 2018東京都 靖國神社相撲場 東京都千代田区九段北3-1-135.6945115,139.7405352
柏市April 18, 2018千葉県 柏市中央体育館 柏市柏下73柏市民文化会館横35.8675563,139.9833309
柏市April 19, 2018千葉県 柏市中央体育館 柏市柏下73柏市民文化会館横35.8675563,139.9833309
町田市April 20, 2018東京都 町田市立総合体育館 町田市南成瀬5-1235.5359736,139.4770061
八王子市April 21, 2018東京都 エスフォルタアリーナ八王子 八王子市狭間町1453-135.6397614,139.2903041
青梅市April 22, 2018東京都 青梅市立総合体育館 青梅市河辺町4丁目16-135.7807013,139.2821679
取手市April 24, 2018茨城県 取手グリーンスポーツセンター 取手市野々井1299番地35.9191301,140.024319
笠間市April 25, 2018茨城県 笠間市民体育館 笠間市石井2068-136.3853014,140.2442122
越谷市April 27, 2018埼玉県 越谷市総合体育館 越谷市増林2丁目3335.9026965,139.8114681

Haru Wrap-up and Predictions for Natsu

The Haru basho is in the books, and while the final day was filled with exciting bouts, the results did not make it easy on your humble prognosticator. Both the Sanyaku picture and the Makuuchi/Juryo exchange scenarios are quite muddy.

The Sanyaku

In the upper ranks, Kakuryu has solidified his standing as Yokozuna 1e with his fourth yusho. We hope that he is even more recovered from his injuries for Natsu, and that he is joined by at least one if not both of the other Yokozuna. Reports say that Hakuho is participating in the spring jungyo and that his toes are much improved. No word on Kisenosato. Both Ozeki got their kachi-koshi and so don’t have to worry about their rank in Natsu. There’s some talk about Takayasu being on a Yokozuna run with consecutive 12-3 jun-yusho, but I don’t buy it.

The Sekiwake ranks are also clear. After today’s bout between the two, Tochinoshin will move over to the S1e slot vacated by Mitakeumi, while Ichinojo will take over Tochinoshin’s current slot. With his 10-5 record following his 14-1 yusho at Hatsu, Tochinoshin is now on a legitimate Ozeki run, and will need at least ten wins at Natsu to claim sumo’s second-highest rank.

Komusubi is where things get complicated. There are four rikishi who each deserve to hold one of the two slots: Sekiwake Mitakeumi (7-8), M1e Endo and M1w Tamawashi, both 9-6, and M6 Kaisei, 12-3. In recent years, a 7-8 record at Sekiwake has guaranteed a demotion to no lower than Komusubi. An M1e with a 9-6 record has never missed out on promotion, and neither has an M6 with a 12-3 record (although there are fewer instances of the latter). An M1w with a 9-6 record missed out once—none other than Tochinoshin after the 2015 Natsu basho, under similar circumstances. I think this will play out as Endo making his Sanyaku debut at K1e, Mitakeumi falling to K1w (although they could easily switch sides), Tamawashi getting a hard-luck minimal promotion to M1e, and Kaisei rising to M1w. Tamawashi can’t jump over Endo with the same record, and none of the records are strong enough to force the creation of an extra Komusubi slot. It’s possible, but seems highly unlikely, that Kaisei would get the Komusubi slot over Endo.

The New Joi

Apart from the two strong M1 performances, the upper maegashira ranks returned to being the meat grinder, with only Shohozan earning a winning record. This should elevate him to M2, where he will be joined by Abi, who more than held his own at M7 in his second ever top-division tournament. Beyond that, it’s hard to find worthy candidates for the M3-M5 ranks. Daieisho and Yutakayama will be making big moves up the banzuke into the joi-jin, with Daieisho likely equaling and Yutakayama far exceeding their previous highest ranks. Chiyoshoma and Ikioi are the other candidates to move up into this range, while Shodai, Kotoshogiku, Chiyotairyu, and Takarafuji have claims to having their demotions not drop them below M5.

The Bottom of the Banzuke

Hanging on to spots in the M13-M17 range, and fighting again for survival at Natsu: Ishiura, Tochiozan, Aoiyama. Definitely demoted to Juryo: Hidenoumi, Kotoyuki, Sokokurai, Nishikigi (whose luck has finally run out after 5 basho in Makuuchi, always ranked M13 or lower, and never performing better than 8-7). The spots vacated by this quartet will be taken by Sadanoumi, Takekaze, Kyokutaisei, and Aminishiki. Yes, Uncle Sumo is back, and joined by the other elder statesman, Takekaze, both returning after one-tournament visits to Juryo. Sadanoumi returns after 3 basho away, and does it in style as the Juryo champ, while Kyokutaisei makes his long-awaited Makuuchi debut after narrowly missing promotion last time.

There are two other rikishi whose records would normally get them demoted. One is Myogiryu, who struggled to a 6-9 record at M15w and lost to two Juryo rikishi, including Aminishiki on senshuraku. The other is Onosho, who was kyujo (0-0-15) at M5w, which has always resulted in demotion since the kosho seido system was abolished. However, there’s a dearth of additional promotion candidates in Juryo. With several contenders near the top of the Juryo banzuke dropping to 7-8 on the last day, you’d have to reach all the way down to J8 Kotoeko (10-5) or way over-promote J5 Gagamaru (8-7), so Myogiryu and Onosho might dodge the bullet.