Jungyo Newsreel – Day 1, Ise Shrine

Preface and apology

Some of the readers may know that I’m currently on vacation in Tokyo. I thought that from Japan, I would be able to post better, high quality matter. As it turns out, it’s very difficult to post anything larger than a tweet when all you have is a tablet and a smartphone. Well, today I finally got myself to Akihabara and got an external keyboard for my tablet, so I’m ready to brave posting again, but I still can’t promise these jungyo posts will be up to par – or even that I’ll be able to post them daily. I’ll do what I can.

The Jungyo actually started on April 1st. So I’m sorry about the delay. Let’s start!

🌐 Location: Ise Shrine, Mie Prefecture

The Ise Shrine is Japan’s holiest and most ancient shrine – the main shrine of the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu. The visit to Ise Shrine was not just your regular jungyo visit, intended to entertain the residents of small towns and let them share in the national sport. It’s a “Honozumo” event – sumo bouts that take place inside the precincts of a shrine. Sumo originated as an entertainment for the gods, and Honozumo events bring it back to its origins.

12 sekitori are absent from the Jungyo. This includes Kisenosato who – unsurprisingly – still has that problem in his left chest. It also includes every sekitori from the Takanohana stable, except for Takagenji. Takanoiwa’s medical certificate indicates mental stress.

That same Takagenji stood a long time at the edge of the dohyo. The sekitori were doing moshi-ai, where the winner of a bout stays on the dohyo and chooses his next opponent. Nobody chose Takagenji and he looked pretty frustrated.

Takagenji is used to having his twin around during jungyo.

While the rest of the rikishi were practicing, the Yokozuna performed a ceremonial dohyo-iri. This is much like the one performed in the beginning of every year at the Meiji shrine, with a few differences. First, at Meiji it is performed right in front of the main Shrine building. At Ise, the grand shrine is actually off-limits to anybody but high priests.

Second point, the Meiji shrine yard is hard cement. Here, the Yokozuna had to do their dance in the sand. Hakuho had a really hard time doing the seriagari (the part where he gradually rises):

Kakuryu managed it slightly better:

As I said on Twitter, I’m pretty sure there were a couple of tsukebito that night who were muttering curses under their breath as they were trying to clean all the sand out of the fringes of the two Yokozuna’s kesho-mawashi.

Ah, you did notice that Hakuho is back and beaming, didn’t you? He was in a very good mood the whole day, and said that he was really eager to get back on the dohyo. When asked about the condition of his big toes, he said “so-so”, but was still wearing that big smile when he did.

The torikumi that day was in the form of an elimination tournament. Here is a demonstration of the kimarite known as “kekaeshi”. It’s a minor trip, usually accompanied by a pull that causes the rival to lose his balance.

Hakuho in a magnanimous mood, helping Chiyotairyu up. The final and deciding bout of the day was this:

That boy in the front row? He is not going to forget this visit to the shrine. And a very genki Hakuho takes the yusho for the day.

Note that dohyo, by the way. It’s not your regular beer-crate jungyo dohyo. It’s an old permanent dohyo. Many of those are scattered around Japan, in school yards and shrines. Not as pretty or straight as the one in the honbasho venues, but one where you really feel the Earth under your feet.

15 thoughts on “Jungyo Newsreel – Day 1, Ise Shrine

  1. Love the picture at the head of the article. Hakuho looks like someone who has just returned to work after 2 weeks in Florida. Keisei on the other hand…

    • The picture comes after this exchange.

      Kaisei: How are your toes?
      Hakuho: They hurt like heck, but at least I can still see them. How about you?

    • It was actually Kakuryu who went golfing for a few days before the jungyo. The reporters said he was tanned. I can’t see that, though.

      • hehehe, only someone as fair skinned as me can see the ‘tan’ ! LOL in my world ‘tan’ just means next shade of white hehehehe… thank heavens he doesn’t burn like i do!

  2. Beautiful! I wish that last video was just a little longer to see the kid’s reaction. He seemed thrilled.

  3. I heard todays‘ Jungyo was a bit scandalous. With a woman (gasp!) in the dohyo. But ultimately it was deemed to be ok, as she saved the life of a bigwig.

  4. This is awesome – thanks for posting the cool in-person catch up. I won’t be able to do justice to this but I am looking forward to bookending the coverage on the 27th!

  5. Thanks for sharing this! And if I may, could I ask a question about tsuna? I’ve noticed that there are a couple of styles, but I haven’t been able to find out anything online about the differences between the two. Is one for the East and the other the West? Or does it have to do with the style of dohyo-iri the yokozuna performs? (I’m fairly new to sumo, but trying to learn all I can!) Thanks!

    • Maybe this is worthy of a separate post, with pictures and all. But here is the short version:

      There are two styles of rope, and indeed they match the style of the dohyo-iri.

      The more common Unryu style is tied in the shape of a single loop parallel to the yokozuna’s back. This matches the dance style in which, during the seri-agari, the Yokozuna holds his left hend on his waist while raising the right one. Kakuryu performs the Unryu style, and if you look at the video above you’ll see his rise and may also catch a glimpse of the loop at his back. Kisenosato also wears and performs the Unryu style.

      The less common style is the Shiranui style. The rope is tied in two loops, a bit like a butterfly knot, but the loops are set perpendicular to the yokozuna’s back. The matching dance style involves a seri-agari with both hands raised upwards. Hakuho performs the Shiranui style, so take a look at the video to see the difference. Harumafuji used to do Shiranui as well, and it was the first time in history in which two Yokozuna active at the same time performed this style. They both
      learned it from the same master – Isegahama oyakata, the former Yokozuna Asahifuji, who did the Shiranui style in his active days. Kakuryu learned the dance from Takanohana, who was known for his great performance of the Unryu style in his day.

      This also answers your other question – not the East and the West, but an individual style each Yokozuna selects when he takes on the rope. The Yokozuna keeps his style throughout his career as a Yokozuna. By the way, you can’t tie a Shiranui rope in Unryu style or vice versa. The Unryu rope is asymmetrical – has one side which is much longer than the other. That side is used to form the loop.

      • Thank you so much for your very edifying answer! And if you ever felt moved to expand upon this in a post of its own, that would be super interesting. One of the things I come to love about sumo is the symbolism, and how so many aspects of the sport are rooted in both Shinto as well as the Japanese culture as a whole. Learning about even minor details like the styles of tsuna enhances the entire experience greatly, in my opinion. The depth and richness of sumo, as both sport and lifestyle, isn’t really comparable to anything I can think of in the Western world and it is the most delightful rabbit hole to tumble down. I’m so happy to have found Tachiai, and all the fantastic commentary each of the contributors provide. Many thanks again!!


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