Rikishi Work Hard For Their Fans

With the banzuke release, many media outlets have posted familiar shots of promoted sekitori standing outside their stables duly pointing out their shikona. Endo’s sanyaku debut features prominently. Somewhat less prominent is the work rikishi perform inside their stable walls, fulfilling obligations to their fans. Social media is great because we get more insight into this side of the stable life.

Stories from Meisei, Kiribayama, and Toyonoshima‘s Instagram feeds have given us glimpses, over the past 24 hours, of the “administrative” workload they and their stablemates share. The fat stack of banzuke below (Toyonoshima) are painstakingly folded by hand, sorted, and mailed to the stable’s supporters. Somehow, I doubt they are allowed to invest in a folding machine.

Natsu Banzuke – Some more commentary

The results for Haru can be seen here, and the newly-released banzuke here.

The San’yaku and Joi

As said in Bruce’s post, Tochinoshin is looking at the last leg of an Ozeki run (ten wins should be enough), and Takayasu could – in theory – be considered for Yokozuna with a particularly strong Yusho (and would finally have to take a shikona). These two are both very popular wrestlers in the English-speaking sumo community, so I’d expect all eyes to be on them for the first part of the tournament.

Mitakeumi got off very lightly. Not only did he luck out of having to face Yokozuna Kakuryu in March (he got Hokutofuji instead, and pulled out a win where an additional loss would almost certainly have resulted in him being demoted out of San’yaku altogether), the banzuke committee decided to let him keep the East side which gives him an edge in re-promotion.

Whether the torikumi will shake out in his favour is a question of which San’yaku show up. If everyone starts the basho, Mitakeumi gets treated to a day one bout against Hakuho. But if someone (probably Kisenosato) goes kyujo from the beginning, there will be not be enough combinations to have two intra-san’yaku bouts every day, and Mitakeumi’s first match will probably be against M3w Yutakayama. Regardless, his fellow Komusubi (and San’yaku newcomer) Endo gets to start off with the top-ranked Yokozuna. This is a career-high rank for Endo, and I for one wish him the absolute best. He had a difficult year clawing his way back up the banzuke following an ankle injury, and his efforts very much deserve the prestigious rank he now holds.

It’s a good bet that at least one of the Yokozuna will either not start the tournament or will drop out early, so the Joi – the group of upper-Maegashira who have to face San’yaku opponents – goes down to M4w Shodai. Most of these rikishi have been here before and frequently put in strong performances at their rank, but two stand out as likely to have a rough time of it: Daieisho was over-promoted from M8w to M3e with a 9-6 record. His previous visit to upper Maegashira, in Natsu 2017, was a 4-11 catastrophe in which he didn’t manage to beat a single San’yaku opponent. Yutakayama is at a career-high rank of M3w, leaping from M11w with a 10-5 record that would normally only get him to around M6. This is only his fourteenth ever Honbasho, and this time last year, he was getting pasted 4-11 at M16 before regrouping in Juryo. We’re all familiar with seeing a young rikishi go on a tear up the banzuke before hitting the San’yaku and bouncing off, and I fully expect it to happen again here.

Kaisei‘s impressive 12-3 Jun-yusho earned him one of the famously tough M1 spots. After a disastrous late 2016-early 2017 saw him slide back down into Juryo, he seems to have regained what made him great. It would not surprise me to see him regain his career-high Sekiwake rank later this year, but at the moment the top ranks have no shortage of very big and very strong rikishi, and Kaisei has never done well against the contingent of Yokozuna and Ozeki (of his five ever wins over Ozeki, one was against the ghost of Terunofuji and one against a fading Baruto. The other three were all against Goeido, which doesn’t necessarily mean anything but is somewhat amusing).

Abi‘s presence at M2w has been remarked upon. I don’t expect it to go very well for him, personally. The top ranks will know exactly what to look out for and will punish that over-commitment problem of his with a quick hatakikomi, just as they did with Onosho last year.

Mid-Maegashira

Kotoshogiku is just outside the likely joi. He may be a long way from his former Ozeki self, but I expect him to put in a good tournament at this rank. He won’t be facing the San’yaku who are familiar with his straightforward but effective sumo, and will instead get to employ the belly-bump on a group of mid-rankers who don’t know how to deal with it.

Also narrowly outside the joi: Ikioi! He put in a stellar effort last basho despite being obviously in considerable discomfort, turning in an 11-4 record, and while his final day loss may have caused him to miss out on a special prize, the nine-rank promotion is probably welcome compensation. Avoiding a battering from the San’yaku might well work out in his favour where a 12-3 would have almost certainly seen him in the joi.

Chiyoshoma really seemed to find his sumo in the second half of Haru, and his 9-6 record has left him at the M6e spot. I’m really hoping he can be just as strong – and as entertaining – at the start of this basho as he was at the end of the last!

Hokutofuji is one of those who hit the Joi and bounced off. Hopefully he’ll be able to arrest his slide down the banzuke at M9e. He has no shortage of talent but he’s had a rough time of it in the last couple of bashos. I’m looking forward to seeing him challenging the upper ranks again.

Takakeisho‘s unfortunate and injury-affected record dropped him to M10w. Takakeisho is far more than a mid-Maegashira talent, and if he is free from injury, there’s a good chance he will simply demolish all around him.

Arawashi‘s shambolic 2-13 record sees him drop to M12e, where I’m actually quite happy to see him. His judo-like throws don’t seem to work too well on the most experienced guys at the top of the banzuke, but in the middle, he’s a very entertaining wildcard.

Aoiyama goes up a slightly silly four ranks from a bare-minimum kachi-koshi, but we’ve already seen he can do just fine at higher ranks.

The Juryo-Makuuchi promotion line

The Tachiai.org team noticed that lower Makuuchi had a lot of demotion candidates while upper Juryo was short on people to promote into their vacated spaces. Since the sizes of the upper two divisions are fixed, this led to some tough decisions for the banzuke committee.

Those we thought were likely demotion candidates:

  • Hidenoumi, 3-12 from M16w.
  • Myogiryu, 6-9 from M15w. (Spared at M16w)
  • Sokokurai, 5-7-3 from M15e.
  • Nishikigi, 5-10 from M14w. (Spared at a skin-of-his-teeth M17e)
  • Kotoyuki, 1-13-1 M12w .
  • Onosho, held the respectable rank of M5w but was Kyujo all tournament.

Sokokurai and Onosho fell to the J1 spots, which really feels like Sokokurai got off very lightly, and gives me hope to see them both back in Makuuchi sooner rather than later. Sometimes it feels like Nishikigi is attached to the bottom of Makuuchi with duct tape, but it seems very unlikely that the banzuke committee will let him get away with another make-koshi this time.

The hard-working promotees:

  • Kyokutaisei, from J1e to M15w with 8-7, his first time ranked in Makuuchi. Let’s see if he can make it last!
  • Takekaze, from J1w to M14w with 9-6. A long way from his career-high rank of Sekiwake, but at the age of 38 he’s the second-oldest rikishi still competing above sandanme.
  • …and here’s the oldest. Aminishiki, Uncle Sumo, Isegahama-beya’s lone victorious Sekitori, most likely rikishi to be described as “wily”, oldest rikishi ever to return to Makuuchi from Juryo… and now he’s done it a second time. From J2e to M16w with an 8-7 record, and while I don’t exactly expect him to do great things, he should be very happy to be back in the top division.
  • A third veteran, Sadanoumi, took the Juryo Yusho with an 11-4 record from J4e, and has been rewarded with a jump to M14e. He’s a good deal younger than Takekaze and Aminishiki, though, and he may well be hoping to start climbing back towards his career-high M1 rank.

Natsu Banzuke Prediction Postmortem

Natsu 2018 Banzuke

Well, the May tournament rankings are out. As usual, my forecast got a lot right, and some things wrong.

The Hits

I got the composition of the Sanyaku right on the money, and missed only which side the two Komusubi would be ranked on, which was always a tossup (Mitakeumi got the more prestigious East side, although I’m sure Endo is content with finally making it into the named ranks). Similarly, the only discrepancy in the M1-M3 ranks is the side switch between Shohozan and Abi at M2. Tamawashi moves to one rung away from a Sanyaku return, and Kaisei, Abi, Daieisho, and Yutakayama get well-deserved big promotions. It will be interesting to see how Abi and Yutakayama fare in their first tournament in the joi (and Daieisho in his second; his first, exactly a year ago, also at M3e, ended in a 4-11 record).

In total, I predicted 16 of the 42 slots on the banzuke exactly, and for a further 13, I had the rikishi at the correct rank, but on the wrong side. An additional 5 misses were by half a rank (e.g., I had Shodai at M5e, while the official ranking has him at M4w), and 3 were off by one full rank. That accounts for 37 of the 42 slots.

The Misses

In the Haru banzuke, the rikishi who finished at 7-8 in the previous tournament were dropped to a lower numerical rank. My predictions followed that pattern, but the banzuke committee allowed 7-8 Shodai to keep his M4w rank, and merely moved Kagayaki from M8e to M8w, while Yoshikaze, Okinoumi, Chiyonokuni and Ishiura all dropped in rank; hard to see the consistency there.

I knew the M4-M6 area of the banzuke would be difficult to forecast, and so it proved. In addition to keeping Shodai at M4w, which resulted in a lower rank for Ikioi, the committee also switched my rankings of Chiyoshoma (M10e, 9-6) and Chiyotairyu (Ke, 4-11). This resulted in two of my two-rank misses. The other came when the committee moved Aoiyama all the way from M17e to M13w, although he only went 8-7. Perhaps they were giving him credit for his “loss” to Myogiryu on Day 5?

The other big misses came at the bottom of the banzuke. I changed my mind multiple times on the promotion/demotion scenarios. To recap, there were six Makuuchi rikishi who deserved to be demoted, yet only three Juryo men clearly earned promotion. Beyond the obvious three, the banzuke committee opted to demote Onosho, who was kyujo for the whole tournament, yet kept in Makuuchi both Myogiryu and Nishikigi with records that had always resulted in demotion in previous tournaments. The beneficiary of Onosho’s trip to Juryo? Uncle sumo, Aminishiki.

Three rikishi benefiting the most from banzuke luck: Chiyotairyu, Takakeisho, Aoiyama. No rikishi really have a big complaint.

 

Natsu Banzuke – Bruce’s Comments

Mole Boss vs Dia Yokozuna

The Tachiai team will gather for their banzuke podcast next weekend, but with the Banzuke just published, it’s time for some comments and remarks. If you are looking for lksumo giving himself a hard time over his estimates, he will likely publish those soon.

Yokozuna / Ozeki – no surprises here, Kakuryu remains at 1 East. Although Kisenosato has been participating in Jungyo, and making competition noises, it’s far from certain that he will actually compete in Natsu. Takayasu is starting to dream of trying for the rope himself, but this basho will likely feature Hakuho in the roster. Not that the dai-yokozuna is unbeatable, but Takayasu needs to dominate across the board to make a play for the yusho.

In the lower San’yaku is where the excitement starts. We have Ozeki hopeful Tochinoshin taking the Sekiwake 1 East slot, with our favorite boulder Ichinojo taking West. Tochinoshin continues to look very strong, incredibly focused and driven to excel. With Hakuho back in action, the challenge to reach double digits again will be significantly increased. Mitakeumi drops down to Komusubi East, with Endo making his San’yaku debut at Komusubi West. It’s been a long, hard road for Endo, and I am sure that he is savoring this achievement.

Kaisei rocketed up the banzuke to grab Maegashira 1 West, from 6 East last tournament. There were some who speculated that his impressive 12-3 Jun-Yusho should put him in the San’yaku, but there was a pack of over-achievers in Osaka, and the Brazilian is forced to settle for M1. This is further evidenced by Tamawashi only moving from West to East, even though he produced a 9-6 record.

In the Freshmen, Abi continues to over-accomplish. He is now firmly in the Joi at Maegashira 2, with fellow Freshman Yutakayama taking Maegashira 3. Ryuden rises a respectable 4 slots to 7 East, while Asanoyama is settling for a mild promotion at 12 West, thanks to another cohort of solid performance in the lower end of the banzuke in March.

The Oitekaze brute squad is further represented by Daieisho at 3 East, thanks to his 9-6 in March from 8 West. Can someone please get the Oitekaze chanko recipe? I feel it could have wonderful benefits for the infirm and the aged (starting with me!). Daiamami picks up 11 East after 10-5 from 16 East in March.

The tadpoles are licking their wounds to be certain, now. With Mitakeumi out of Sekiwake, Takakeisho down to 10 West, and the fighting red mawashi of Onosho dropped down to Juryo without so much as a “すみません” (Sumimasen). Is Takakeisho a Maegashira 10 rikishi? Ha! No, no and hell no. Is Onosho a Juryo riksihi? Lower division folks, make sure you are taped up when you face the red terror. The tadpoles are down, but not out.

But speaking of large objects, everyone’s favorite spheroid, Chiyomaru, dropped to 7 East while his stable-mate Chiyotairyu took the Koumusubi express back down the banzuke to 4 East.

But let’s not end hungry! Down at the lower rungs of the banzuke, there are some happy faces. Kyokutaisei makes his debut in the top division. He joins returning faces Sadanoumi, Takekaze and… UNCLE SUMO! Yes, Aminishiki returns like that favorite pair of jeans you though were too beat up to wear. Nope, still plenty of life, but enjoy them while you can.

I would be remiss if I did not comment that much farther down the banzuke, our favorite Texan, Wakaichiro, finds himself back in Jonidan at 14 East. This is certainly a disappointment to him, but we encourage him to recall he always fights better in Tokyo. Give ’em hell!

Ryogoku Festival & Golden Week

 

Shikoroyama-beya chanko
“Team Shikoroyama” serves chanko at the street fair in Ryogoku

We have a busy week ahead of us in sumo, as the banzuke is revealed on Monday here in Tokyo, and the Yokozuna Deliberation Committee will host their upcoming soken on Thursday at Kokugikan. Coinciding with all of this is the holiday period here in Japan known as the Golden Week. This weekend in Ryogoku, a street fair was conducted, and our friends at Inside Sport Japan alerted us that rikishi would be serving chankonabe at food stalls in the area:

I went to drop in on the action today, and met up with Tachiai instagram contributor Nicola. As part of the festivities, the Kokugikan was open to the public, meaning that members of the community could check out the incredible sumo museum as well as buy sumo merchandise normally only available at a honbasho. The Sumo Association mascots were also on hand to take pictures with children (and Tachiai contributors).

Sumo Merch at Kokugikan
Sumo merchandise in the Kokugikan (photo credit: @nicolaah)

Members of Tatsunami-beya were on hand selling chanko for ¥500 on the grounds of Kokugikan, so we had a seat there and indulged in a tasty dish which was not too different from the variety typically served during a Tokyo basho. Down the street in the main part of the street fair, Shikoroyama-beya (some members of whom were dressed in very cool “Team Shikoroyama” t-shirts) were also selling their brand of chanko. Unfortunately, I was sated from the first bowl and did not indulge. I hope Tachiai-favorite Abi does not hold this against us!

Chanko at Kokugikan
Chanko served up by members of Tatsunami-beya at Kokugikan (photo credit: @nicolaah)

Plenty of rikishi were out in the street. Nicola spotted a few members of Michinoku-beya, and that unique smell of binzuke was almost impossible to escape.

Much like the jungyo event I experienced earlier in the week, the street fair events were very family friendly, with plenty of activities for children (and Tachiai contributors) including balloon animals, games, and dance and drum performances. Much credit should go to both the local community and the sumo community for putting together a great event!

Golden Week street fair Ryogoku
The festival was very well attended and featured numerous food and activity vendors.

Banzuke Weekend!

Macacon Of Victory

The Tachiai crew is eagerly looking forward to the arrival of the Natsu banzuke, in a little less than 24 hours. Our master prognosticator, lksumo, has already rendered his forecast, and we eagerly await to see if the banzuke committee took the easy road and just copy / pasted his predictions.

We will deviate form the normal format this time, as we will conduct our Banzuke Podcast next weekend, rather than tomorrow night. But we will be posting to the blog with reckless abandon as soon as we can. If you are in Tokyo, keep an eye out for our roving reporter Josh. If you find him and buy him at least 1 beer, you could win a pre-release Tachiai sumo-fan t-shirt!

Stay tuned to Tachiai! It’s time to shift sumo fandom into high gear!

Enjoy Hawaiian BBQ with Konishiki

Konishiki's Hawaiian BBQ Stand

Earlier this month, Andy tipped off readers via the Tachiai twitter account that sumo legend Konishiki would be hosting a stall at the BB (“Beer & BBQ”) Fest, which takes place from now until May 6 in Odaiba:

The festival is taking place out on Symbol Promenade Park in Odaiba, and I decided to head out there today to check it out. Getting there took about 15 minutes from Shimbashi station in central Tokyo on the unique Yurikamome line (a must-ride for transit enthusiasts, owing to its looping track that goes out over the Rainbow Bridge).

There are three festival areas running concurrently during Golden Week on Odaiba: an Oktoberfest, a large section of the BB Fest that is dedicated to Japanese-style BBQ vendors, and then a section of the BB Fest on the eastern part of the island featuring international BBQ food and craft beer. Konishiki’s Hawaiian BBQ is located in the latter area.

Konishiki's Hawaiian BBQ Menu
Konishiki’s Hawaiian BBQ menu board

As for the menu, Konishiki offered a couple selections: a meat plate (featuring BBQ pork, spare ribs and chicken) and then a combo platter which contained all of the meat items plus rice, slaw and the classic Hawaiian macaroni and egg salad. Obviously, I opted for the latter choice:

Konishiki's Hawaiian BBQ Plate
Konishiki serves up a meat lover’s Hawaiian BBQ paradise, replete with Mac Salad

Konishiki has long been one of the most flavorful names in sumo, and puts out a dish to match. All of the meat selections were very succulent, very moist and well coated in the right amount of marinade and sauce. The macaroni salad was delicious as well. I opted to wash it all down with a bottle of water from Konishiki’s stand owing to the hot weather, but there were a number of craft beer vendors also in the park and Konishiki’s BBQ would surely make a great pairing for many of them. When he says he knows how to have a good time cooking up Hawaiian BBQ, he’s not joking.

Konishiki has also provided a video that takes you behind the grill, in promotion of the event (in Japanese):

The event also has plenty of other food vendors offering BBQ from a variety of regions and countries. I was too full from Konishiki’s Ozeki-sized platter to take in any of the others, however a man at the Texas BBQ stand was offering free samples which were also delicious. Hopefully, up and coming Texan sumotori Wakaichiro can make it out to the festival to get a taste of home!

BB Fest International Vendors
Other vendors in the international portion of the festival included Spanish, Jamaican and Texan BBQ.

As for the man himself, Konishiki, he was off to the side of the stand, relaxing under a tent near the festival stage with family and friends. A number of his fans ambled up from time-to-time throughout the afternoon to request photos, which he graciously provided. I was able to get a few moments to chat with the man to let him know just how good the BBQ was, and ask if he had any words for Tachiai readers.

Konishiki says he wants everyone to come on down to Odaiba, and adds: “Bring your hungry on, and bring your thirsty on!”

Konishiki’s Hawaiian BBQ is located at the BB Fest on Odaiba in Symbol Promenade Park, located just off the Odaiba-Kaihin-Koen station on the Yurikamome line, and the Tokyo Teleport station on the Rinkai line. The festival runs through May 6 during the Golden Week. For more info, check out bbfest.jp

Additionally, for those readers who will be in Tokyo during the upcoming Natsu basho, Konishiki will be appearing at the Island Music Festival in Symbol Promenade Park on May 18 and 19. For more information, check out islandmusicfestival.jp

Georgian Wine Review (Part 2)

For a review, and a look into the disjointed way Andy’s mind works:

My wife also bought a Georgian Red Wine the other day along with the sparkling wine we had the other day. (See Post 1) Tonight, we are having the red. I enjoy it. It’s not too dry. I’m not a big fan of Cabernet Sauvignons. Granted, we’re not having it with steak but I asked for pork kimchi. My wife was not pleased with my choice of dinner but I got hooked on buta kimchi when I used to live in Hodogaya.

Tsinandali, home of Georgian Poet Alexander Chavchavadze

This particular wine was from the Teliani Valley winery. This was $12.99 and will be a regular in our house. Not too tart, or green, or too dry…my wife says the word is “balanced.” I smell a bit of black pepper. And while I wouldn’t advise eating it with kimchi, the cheddar cheese that my wife picked out was really nice. Both the wine and the cheese were smooth. The wine comes from grapes grown at the Tsinandali estate, pictured. This Mukuzani wine is apparently an international award winning wine. For 13 bucks?

I’ve got to visit Georgia. And that’s not because there was some big fancy neo-conservative pow-wow along the beach. It seems like a beautiful country. It’s perhaps fitting that Tochinoshin is doing so well, the round, Georgian script reminds me of Mongolian. I should probably start learning both languages. If I could read Georgian, then I’d be able to read the rest of the wine bottle.

My fond memories of buta kimchi come from this izakaya below, “Yume.” It’s about half a block from the Hodogaya JR train station, I believe along the infamous Tokaido where I used to watch the awesome customized Japanese long haul semi trucks. I hope Yume still there because my bottle of shochu should still be on the wall. I think it’s bottle #4 and should be about half full. Downstairs is a little bar with maybe 6 seats. It wasn’t until I’d been there a dozen times that I learned there’s an upstairs with tables with hibachi grills.

Yume

When I came home from Japan, I learned that the sushi chef at the new Japanese restaurant in my parent’s home town was from…Hodogaya. Then when I moved to DC and started working for FRA, we had an intern from JR. His wife was from Hodogaya and was living there when I was there. I just have a feeling there’s some Murakami portal to a different world there in humdrum Hodogaya. 懐かしい。

*Wow, I put this together quickly before dinner last night and didn’t have time to edit. Geez…what a disjointed mess. I did some editing but left the bit about Yume at the end because I miss that place.

A Day Out at the Koshigaya Gymnasium: Spring Jungyo Finale

Koshigaya Gymnasium - Exterior
The Koshigaya Gymnasium

It’s been a month since the conclusion of the Haru basho, and if you’re like me, you probably really miss sumo right now. If you’re like me, you’re also in Japan for the next month and will be looking to cover some unique events for Tachiai. So, with that in mind, I headed up to Koshigaya today for the final date of the spring Jungyo tour. This is my first time covering Jungyo for the site, and I will do my best to do justice to the work of the mighty Herouth!

Getting to Koshigaya

From my base near Shimbashi Station in Tokyo, it took about an hour, two trains and around ¥600 to reach the town of Koshigaya in Saitama prefecture. Koshigaya Station is your typical Japanese suburban train station with a decent amount of amenities, and it was very handy that the station had a 7-11 ATM that supports international cards, as I didn’t have much cash on hand for food and/or souvenirs.

From the station, it’s about a 3km/35-40 minute walk to the Gymnasium (which is part of a sports complex in the town), and the alternative options are bus and taxi. I didn’t see any buses and there was one taxi nearby, so I grabbed that at the price of an additional ¥1450. Both the driver and I had a very limited grasp of each others’ languages, but I showed him where I wanted to go on the map and off we went.

The Venue

IMG_2738-2036166217-1524823409462.jpg

The entrance to the Gymnasium was very festive, despite some scaffolding in front of the venue as you can see in the photo at the top of this post. There were a number of food stalls set up out front, and also some rikishi walking around (most prominently, in more ways than one, Chiyootori).

It is safe to say I have never been at a place in Japan where people were so happy to see me, at every stall. They were incredibly surprised to see a foreigner in their town (I saw, at most, 3 or 4 others in the venue), and everyone wanted to be very welcoming to me. An older gentleman at a noodle stall asked where I live, and when I told him that I live in Los Angeles, he was extremely excited to share that he spent time in Chicago in his younger days. He assumed I must have friends in Koshigaya and when I told him I was just visiting to come see the sumo, he shook my hand in surprise multiple times and very enthusiastically thanked me for supporting the town and his stall.

At the door, you receive a sheet with the day’s torikumi and a plastic bag for your shoes. Fortunately, our friends at BuySumoTickets.com alerted me when I purchased my ticket that everyone must remove shoes inside the venue and switch into your own slippers. If I hadn’t brought a pair with me, I probably would have been OK just wearing socks, as I saw a handful of people doing (the restrooms, if you’re interested, had a space outside for switching from your slippers into special provided shoes for the toilets). The whole floor inside the entry of the venue was covered with tarp. At the entry, it was quite easy to make this costume change, but the large group of (mostly elderly) fans exiting the arena at the end of the day led to quite a bit of a bottleneck.

The food and merch stands inside the venue had good, if limited selections. The best option at jungyo seems to be to take advantage of the numerous local vendors outside. I grabbed a box of karaage inside the venue which was tasty, if a bit fattier and greasier than you’ll usually find at the Kokugikan.

The Gymnasium layout consists entirely of floor seats on the main dohyo level, and a couple of sections of arena seats in the upper level. I had an Arena “A” seat, of which there were two rows up against the balcony wall in front of the corridor, so I had a view unimpeded by pedestrians.

The crowd on hand consisted mostly of the extremes of very young children and very elderly folks. There were a lot of grandparents on hand with their grandchildren. A very large group of school kids wearing yellow bucket hats filled out the room for the sekitori bouts. In all, the venue and events provide a great day for families and in the local community to connect with sumo, and I found that being there in person was an interesting counterpoint to how jungyo is often discussed: “that endless injury-causing tour that everyone complains about.”

The Events

I arrived just in time to see Hakuho engaging Ryuden for butsukari. Hakuho was playing up the crowd, who loved every appearance he made throughout the day. It was clear that his presence just electrifies the room, and this was made even more clear given that we were in a smaller, local gymnasium.

Kiddie sumo came up next, with a group of very eager kids pairing up to take on the three local Saitama-born rikishi Hokutofuji, Daieisho and Abi, as well as Endo and Ryuden. Endo led off, after which Hokutofuji and Ryuden took several rounds. Abi, who was unquestionably the star of the day, played up the local crowd by interfering with Hokutofuji and Ryuden’s bouts, coming up behind and helping the kids push/pull the big rikishi out. Ryuden looked absolutely exhausted and was still covered in dirt from the Hakuho treatment he had received moments earlier, but he still managed to give a pair of kids the helicopter treatment, grabbing one each by the mawashi and spinning them around in the air!

Finally, Daieisho and Abi got their turns to loud applause from the crowd. With Abi, the kids took the logical approach: trying to lift up those huge legs! And of course, shiko-wizard Abi took this as an opportunity to show off just how high he could raise his leg (answer: well over the head of a small child).

Abi with fans. Jungyo Koshigaya 27 April 2018
Local hero Abi: taking pictures and signing autographs for fans

There was a bit of a lull after the butsukari and kiddie sumo finished. While the jungyo events follow a different cadence to the relentless progression of a day at a honbasho, it’s still a long day, and plenty of folks were taking naps in the upstairs part of the venue while the sandanme and makushita wrestlers were having their bouts.

The shokkiri team of Sadogatake-beya’s Kotoryusei and Kotorikuzan definitely brought the comedy to their portion of the day’s events, and I’ve added the first 5 minutes of their performance here:

The performance was a real welcome moment to get everyone in good mood and ready to enjoy the stars as they prepared to mount the dohyo for their proper bouts. The only sad part of the shokkiri was that the crowd didn’t seem to recognise Kotoryusei’s impression of Kotoshogiku doing his famous belly bend. Is it possible that now that the former Ozeki has stopped doing his famous pre-match routine, some memory-challenged fans simply forgot it?

The Bouts

Touching on just one bout outside of the top two divisions, I will say that the Chiyootori comeback tour is looking good. He appeared mostly unbandaged apart from one foot, and created a thunderous tachiai that I actually felt in the second row of the upper deck, as it reverberated in the entire gymnasium. I suppose that is one benefit of the odd acoustic differences between a gymnasium and a proper arena like the Kokugikan.

Juryo

Enho easily dealt with Akua but came away with a bloodied face for his troubles. Here’s the video:

Terutsuyoshi deployed his heaping salt throw and had a decent start against Akiseyama as he worked to lock up his arms. But, when he shifted to get a mawashi grip, the big man took advantage and got two hands around the smaller rikishi, picking him up by the back of the mawashi and carrying him out spectacularly.

Billy no-mates Takagenji, the lone sekitori representative of his more isolationist stable at the jungyo, posted a good yorikiri win over a thoroughly exhausted Daishoho, after a prolonged grapple in the center of the dohyo. If Takagenji can continue that form, then he should have a good tournament at Natsu.

Tsurugisho is middling at the moment, but he absorbed Kotoeko‘s tachiai in an almighty clash and tossed him aside, laying waste to the notion that the Sadogatake man might be ready for a big promotion that it’s possible he will get this weekend.

Terunofuji beat Gagamaru, who showed up without any strapping, so I assumed he’d be in good health and genki. You wouldn’t have known that to be the case, as Gagamaru appeared to be so confused at the tachiai that he must have thought he was Shodai. He just stood up and took two blasts from Terunofuji, who promptly switched to plan B, turned the Georgian around and pushed him out. This was not really a match that will tell us much about either guy, and Terunofuji, who received a hearty applause in the dohyo-iri and then entering and exiting the arena floor, appeared a little disappointed in the level of opposition.

Kyokutaisei, who usually has an expression like someone ate his chanko, had a grin on his face all day, both in the dohyo-iri and before his match with Takekaze. It looked like Takekaze might get the better of him, but after a good grapple, the soon-to-be shin-makuuchi man pushed out his elder colleague.

Makuuchi

A number of infants made the makuuchi dohyo-iri and one man holding an infant was Saitama prefecture’s Abi who received an almighty ovation during the ring entering ceremony for the east rikishi of the top division. On the west, Tochinoshin seemed to receive the largest round of applause. I didn’t think there would be a louder cheer than we got for Hakuho‘s dohyo-iri, but the place exploded when Kisenosato walked in the room.

Asanoyama meant business and led with what appeared to be a Takayasu-style shoulder blast before leading Nishikigi to the bales and out.

Chiyoshoma vs Ishiura is a battle I want to see every basho. The Tottori protein spokesman and GQ model drew a nice round of applause, and this match also had a handful of sponsors. As for what happened, regular readers won’t need to guess: Even at jungyo, Ishiura tried a henka. He nearly pulled it off, as the Kokonoe man ran right through. Up against the bales, Chiyoshoma managed three times to pull the smaller rikishi up with his legs dangling horizontally in the air, but all of those protein shakes are working for the muscular man from Miyagino-beya, and Ishiura managed to put him over the the line. Then he threw a cool party on Instagram Live tonight, featuring Daishomaru, Terutsuyoshi and a very reluctant Akiseyama.

David Gray was a pop singer with a good run of success in the 2000s, and on stage, he became known for how his head would wobble from side to side when he played guitar. Ryuden has an oddly-similar pre-match demeanor, and suffered a fairly straightforward yorikiri loss to Yutakayama, whose technical ability has improved tremendously. Mawashi-watchers will note that Ryuden has switched from black to a new wine-colored mawashi.

Daieisho got a good round of applause from the locals as he mounted the dohyo. Okinoumi had him going backwards, but Daieisho turned the veteran around and got a yorikiri win for his troubles. Again, it’s tough to take a lot from this match, and I’ll just say it was probably not a match he would have won in a honbasho that wasn’t taking place in a gymnasium in his home prefecture against a perma-injured opponent.

Chiyonokuni is now sporting a blue mawashi. Not a vibrant Kotoshogi-blue but more of a soft Shodai blue. I don’t know what Kagayaki was doing engaging him in a high octane slapfest but Chiyonokuni loves a good handbags-at-ten-paces kind of encounter and ushered his opponent back and out.

Yoshikaze didn’t look great, and Hokutofuji grabbed him one-handed by the belt, pulled him around and shoved him out. I thought the winning technique was going to be called an okuridashi, but, perhaps charitably for the elder, losing rikishi, it was ruled uwatedashinage.

Kaisei v Chiyomaru: these guys are big enough to bring a small gymnasium down with a thunderous tachiai. The announcer gave Kaisei’s shusshin as Sao Paolo rather than Brazil, which I hadn’t heard before, and thought was cool. Chiyomaru dropped the pretense he has sometimes flirted with of trying to be a mawashi guy, and relentlessly thrusted Kaisei out. Chiyomaru reminded me of a smaller, rounder Aoiyama in this match. Kaisei (who has been giving great face lately) walked away toothily grimacing and clutching his stinging chest.

Kotoshogiku and Takarafuji engaged in a battle of the vets. Takarafuji is always technically very sound, but this time he was clinical as well: he wrapped up his man, and escorted him out. Takarafuji has also switched to a soft matte blue mawashi from his previous wine blend.

Big Guns Shohozan took on Tamawashi, who also has given up his signature teal mawashi for the very in-vogue soft matte blue. This was a street fight that I wish I caught on video. Both men bounced off each other and then stood a few paces apart, seemingly egging the other to bring it on. Shohozan threw a right hook which Tamawashi ducked, then both men traded attempts at a roundhouse and missed before Tamawashi just shoved Shohozan into the crowd. This was another matchup I hope to see again soon.

Endo was wearing a dark purple mawashi, and took on local man Abi, who got an enormous applause. Endo got the better of the tachiai and moved Abi back, but of course the local hero danced his long limbs out of danger and recovered to put Endo away. Abi exited to huge cheers from the crowd. Watch the match:

Ichinojo smacked into Chiyotairyu in the matchup of the two current komusubi, and had him out within seconds.

I’m not sure where the version of Mitakeumi we saw today has been. He charged into Tochinoshin, moving him back. But then, Tochinoshin lifts him off his feet, and as his feet are wiggling in the air, you think: “oh no, he’s going to get embarrassed again.” But he recovers, turns the Georgian and lifts the Hatsu yusho winner off his feet and out.

Goeido beat Kisenosato in a lengthy match where it looked like he was going to snap the Yokozuna’s left arm in half probably 2 or 3 times. It was clear even in an exhibition contest that Kisenosato has very limited ability to do much with that injured left side. Let’s cut to the VT:

In the musubi-no-ichiban, Hakuho has a good match against a Kakuryu who fought hard. Kakuryu moves Hakuho back, but this crowd is here to see The Boss win and he delivers them the victory. As Kakuryu moves to pin him back, Hakuho lifts up his fellow Mongolian yokozuna in the air, spins and deposits him out of the ring.

After the event ended, there were long lines on hand for buses and taxis in a suburban town which perhaps wasn’t used to holding large events. There didn’t appear to be enough buses or taxis, but the bus seemed my best bet to get back to the train station. In spite of the wait, the elderly crowd was very good-natured, and a nice old gentleman waiting next to me gave me a wrapped seat cushion from the event as a gift.

I can’t say enough about how friendly and warm and welcoming everyone in the Koshigaya community was, and I strongly recommend checking out a jungyo event if you ever get the chance.

Georgian Wine Review (Part 1)

 

Georgian Sparkling Wine

Yes, it’s been a while since Tochinoshin won his yusho but I finally have an opportunity to write about Georgian wine. You see, here in Montgomery County, MD, we have weird alcohol laws. Our town was actually dry for a long time after prohibition and even now there are strict laws that limit the sale of alcohol. My wife was in DC the other day and picked up a Georgian sparkling wine and a Georgian red wine.

Dinner

 

I’m no oenophile so I’m not going to talk about fancy tasting notes. I did pick up a bit of a yeast-like smell that I often smell with sparkling wine and champagne. My wife is a certified wine expert in Japan and her only issue with it was that the bubbles were not quite as active as she likes, particularly the next day. I must say, it was not flat and seemed pretty active to me. But today it is noticeably less “bubbly” than other second-day sparkling wines I’ve had. Anyway, I liked it. It tastes good and only cost $11 for the bottle.

She also bought a red wine so I’ll post about that in the next few days after we drink it. But tonight we had gorgonzola pasta with our bubbly.

Takayasu Injured but Will Gamberize

As reported by Herouth, Takayasu was injured in some san-ban with Tochinoshin during Jungyo. He wants to continue through the last bit of the tour. I hope the issue does not hamper his ability to compete in May. The longer he gamberizes with the unease in his back the worse the odds of any magic next month with, especially with Hakuho likely back.

As some have noted, with the Jun-Yusho there are whispers of a Yokozuna run if he wins the next tournament. Those whispers will likely be shushed now. Ultimately, such a decision would be up to the Yokozuna Deliberation Council but it is certainly premature given his nagging health issues since his ozeki promotion. Yes, he did get a jun-yusho…which he shared with Kaisei, and with Hakuho and Kisenosato watching from their respective couches. And despite the jun-yusho, he was never actually in contention for the yusho as he lost his first two bouts to Endo and Ichinojo, then Day 12 versus Chiyomaru. Kakuryu’s jun-yusho was a 14-1 playoff loss to Hakuho, after beating him once on sen-shuraku to force the playoff.

Hakuho Out With Sore Throat, Fever

As reported by Herouth, Hakuho is absent from Jungyo due to illness. The tour is in Tokyo until the 22nd. On the 24th they head out of town to Ibaraki and then close out the Jungyo in Saitama on the 27th.

Jungyo Newsreel – Days 15 and 16

Day 15

return-of-the-satonofuji-2
Ohisashiburi, Yumi-chan

🌐 Location: Takasaki, Gunma prefecture

Kiddie sumo – Abi purifies a scalp:

abi-purifies-boys-head

Trust Abi to be more childish than his child rival.

Shodai had to go kyujo due to an inflammation. This meant Kakuryu was a tachimochi short. So, for the first time in his life, Yutakayama bore the sword for the Yokozuna dohyo-iri.

yutakayama-the-tachimochi

In his bout with Tochinoshin, Mitakeumi had a wardrobe malfunction:

You can see the two in a mawashi-matta. Explanation to newcomers: if a mawashi knot comes undone and reveals the wrestler’s family jewels, he loses immediately by disqualification. For this reason, if the gyoji or someone around the ring spots an undone knot, the gyoji calls a “mawashi-matta”, signals the rikishi to freeze, ties back the naughty knot, then slaps the backs of both rikishi to signal them to continue from the same position.

The only bout I have is actually Takayasu vs. Goeido, but I warn you in advance that you probably want to silence your speakers. This was shot by a very enthusiastic Philipino patriot who seems bent on embarrassing Takayasu very loudly:

The Gunma prefecture locals who came to watch this day’s event got a rare treat – they got to see Satonofuji perform the yumitori-shiki again. Satonofuji is a Gunma native.

Satonofuji also got many requests for photographs and autographs from his enthusiastic neighbors.

Day 16

 

three-yokozuna-backs
Unryu, Shiranui, Unryu

🌐 Location: Yasukuni shrine, Tokyo

Today’s honozumo event (a sumo event performed in the precincts of a shrine) marked the rikishi’s return to Tokyo after a very long while – those who participate in the Jungyo have been on the road since before the Haru basho.

Here come the entire Makuuchi – gathering at the main yard for a purification ceremony.

It’s really hard to have an elegant walk in a kesho-mawashi, isn’t it? Myogiryu manages it quite well, though.

This event marked the return of Hakuho to the Jungyo. The Yokozuna reported to the NSK board and expressed his appreciation for receiving permission to participate in his father’s funeral.

I’m not really sure what that new adornment to his right ankle is supposed to mean.

The main event took place at an outdoors, permanent dohyo by the side of the shrine. As usual, they started with some keiko. Enho got lots of wedgies practice.

enho-wedgie

Especially from this guy:

Looks like despite his recent kyujo, Terunofuji is gaining some of his physical strength back. Aminishiki, by the way, is still MIA.

Kakuryu performed his dohyo-iri accompanied by a mini-yokozuna with a perfect little Unryu-style rope. The little tyke was none other than Kakuryu’s own son. Pay attention to Nishikigi-mama.

Please excuse the quality. The video shows the dohyo-iri of all three Yokozuna. I think both Hakuho and Kisenosato improved their shiko recently.

This has been Kisenosato’s first dohyo-iri at Yasukuni shrine.

This time I have several bouts to show you.

A few seconds of Enho vs. Akiseyama:

I guess all that practice pays.

Here – with a couple of glitches – is the Ichinojo-Tochinoshin bout, followed by the san-yaku soroi-bumi (synchronized shiko stomps – though the west side is a little disappointing):

Here is the Kisenosato-Goeido bout. What is Goeido doing there, exactly?

And here is the full Hakuho vs. Kakuryu bout.

Note how Hakuho, fresh off the dohyo, immediately switches to fansa mode.

Natsu Banzuke Crystal Ball

I started writing these prediction posts exactly a year ago, so this will be my seventh banzuke forecast for Tachiai. The accuracy has varied from basho to basho, though I think it’s fair to say that the forecasts give a very good idea of roughly where each rikishi will land—in most cases, within one rank or closer.

Upper San’yaku

Y1

Kakuryu

Hakuho

Y2

Kisenosato

O1

Takayasu

Goeido

No changes here from the Haru banzuke.

Lower San’yaku

S

Tochinoshin

Ichinojo

K

Endo

Mitakeumi

With his 7-8 record, Mitakeumi will lose his Sekiwake rank, but should only fall to Komusubi. Tochinoshin moves over to the East side, while Ichinojo moves up to Sekiwake. Endo finally gets his San’yaku promotion, and is a sufficiently strong candidate with his 9-6 record at M1e that I have him on the East side, although the banzuke committee could certainly switch him and Mitakeumi.

Upper Maegashira

M1

Tamawashi

Kaisei

M2

Abi

Shohozan

M3

Daieisho

Yutakayama

M4

Chiyoshoma

Ikioi

M5

Shodai

Kotoshogiku

What’s certain is that there will be a lot of turnover in this area of the banzuke, as with the exception of Shohozan, everyone in the M2-M5 ranks checked in with a losing record, and only Shodai limited his losses to 8. Many in the ranks immediately below this group also did not distinguish themselves, meaning that we have to reach far down the banzuke for viable promotion candidates. Exactly how this will play out is much less certain, as there are many possible scenarios, and the considerations going into them are complex.

Let’s start with the easy part. Both Tamawashi and Kaisei did well enough to earn promotions to San’yaku, but since there are no open slots for them, they will have to be content with the top maegashira rank. Abi and Shohozan are the only plausible candidates for M2, although their ordering is uncertain. Abi will jump 5 ranks, and will join the joi in only his third top-division basho after earning 10-5 records in the first two. Similarly, Daieisho is the only plausible candidate for M3e. He will also jump 5 ranks, matching his highest career rank.

From here, things get complicated. The next best numerical score belongs to Shodai, but he can’t take the M3w slot due to his make-koshi record at M4w. The best he could do would be to remain at his current rank, though it’s more likely he gets a minimal demotion to M5e. Kotoshogiku could technically  be only demoted from M3e to M3w, but given his 6-9 record, this seems overly generous, and he should really be ranked below Shodai. The next best candidate for M3e is none other than Yutakayama, whose 10-5 record could vault him 8 ranks up the banzuke, all the way from M11.

If we put Shodai and M5e and Kotoshogiku right below him at M5w, who fills the M4 slots? The choice is between the next two strong kachi-koshi records, which belong to Chiyoshoma (9-6 at M10) and Ikioi (11-4 at M14), and the other two high-rankers due for big demotions, Komusubi Chiyotairyu (4-11) and M2 Takarafuji (5-10). My forecast favors the guys moving up the banzuke over those moving down. If the banzuke committee agrees, six out of the ten rikishi in this group would be moving up at least 5 ranks!

Mid-Maegashira

M6

Chiyotairyu

Takarafuji

M7

Chiyomaru

Ryuden

M8

Yoshikaze

Hokutofuji

M9

Kagayaki

Daishomaru

M10

Okinoumi

Daiamami

M11

Chiyonokuni

Takakeisho

At Natsu, this area of the banzuke will serve primarily as the landing zone for higher-ranked rikishi who achieved make-koshi records ranging from just below .500 (Yoshikaze, Kagayaki, Okinoumi, Chiyonokuni) to horrific (hello, Chiyotairyu and Takakeisho). The only bright spots are Ryuden, who moves up from M9 with a minimal kachi-koshi, and the Oitekaze stablemates Daishomaru and Daiamami, who vault up and out of the demotion danger zone with their 9-6 and 10-5 records.

Lower Maegashira

M12

Asanoyama

Arawashi

M13

Ishiura

Sadanoumi

M14

Takekaze

Tochiozan

M15

Aoiyama

Kyokutaisei

M16

Aminishiki

Kotoeko

M17

Gagamaru


The bottom of the banzuke is complicated by the fact that there are 6 Makuuchi rikishi who earned demotions by the usual criteria (in order from most to least deserving of demotion: Hedenoumi, Kotoyuki, Sokokurai, Onosho/Nishikigi, and Myogiryu), but only 3 Juryo rikishi who clearly earned promotion: Sadanoumi, Takekaze, and Kyokutaisei. Aminishiki is borderline, and the next two best candidates, Kotoeko (10-5 at J8) and Gagamaru (8-7 at J5), are ranked too low to be normally considered for promotion with those records. Obviously, the numbers moving up and down have to match. What to do?

My initial inclination was to demote Nishikigi in favor of Aminishiki, and save Onosho (who was kyujo) and Myogiryu. Over on the sumo forum, Asashosakari suggested that they could instead demote Onosho and save both Nishikigi and Myogiryu. The solution I’m currently favoring, given how poor their records were, is that both Nishikigi and Myogiryu will be demoted, as will Onosho. I’m guessing that the banzuke committee will be more likely to promote kachi-koshi Juryo rikishi with insufficiently strong records (after all, this has happened in the past) than to keep in the top division rikishi who failed to defend their places there. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see this play out in any number of ways. We’ll find out on April 26th!