Earlier this year, Herouth shared with us the Tanabata festival – where rikishi participated in the ritual of writing down one’s wishes to be hung from a bamboo. While the festival usually takes place on or around July 7, the rikishi largely wrote their wishes for what was then the upcoming campaign (and in many cases for life in general: my two personal favourites being Ishiura’s desire to create more children and Chiyotairyu’s “I need money” plea).
I’ve been fortunate to have some amazing experiences in sumo this year – from Golden Week to the Jungyo, meeting the legendary Konishiki and conducting some fun interviews for the site. As we head into the final honbasho of 2018, I’d like to share some of my wishes for the upcoming tournament. The Kyusho basho in Fukuoka will complete my “set” of all four honbasho locations. I think it’s fair to say it’s also – at least for westerners – probably the more obscure and difficult location to reach, owing to its distance from most major entry ports to Japan.
Reception for Local Heroes
There’s no question that sumo fans have their favourites, and the likes of Mitakeumi and Endo notably have massive cheering sections most days of each basho. Watching the Kyushu basho in past years on TV however, I’ve noticed that the locals from that part of the country – who aren’t all typically fan favourites – tend to get a fantastic reception in their “home” tournament. Of course, Yoshikaze’s head-first “berzerker” style is beloved by sumo fans worldwide, but I’m looking forward to experiencing first hand how the local crowd will receive #BigGuns Shohozan and Kotoshogiku. While it’s probably too much to wish for the famous back-belly bend from the former Ozeki, he’s not getting any younger and this may be one of the last chances (if not the last) to see him close to his hometown crowd.
It’s impossible to talk about sumo culture without talking about food culture. In Tokyo, you can get anything you want, most anytime that you want it. In Nagoya, for me, well, it’s all about the katsu. Osaka is the nation’s kitchen and incredible delights of okonomiyaki, takoyaki, and shockingly, the best bowl of ramen I’ve ever had are within 3 minutes of sumo’s Kansai venue. But Fukuoka has a unique experience I’m looking to enjoy, which are the “Yatai” food stalls which line the city. Each stall has around 5 or 6 indoor seats and gets built up every day before being taken down every night, with vast ranges in the types of cuisine on offer. NHK World did a good piece on these Yatai which I highly recommend, as it has helped open my eyes to what promises to be a delicious local flavour I can add to my sumo experience.
As we touched on in this week’s Tachiai podcast (audio here, video here), I’m looking for some big results in Kyushu: An Ozeki yusho challenge. The return of low ranked Maegashira snaffling sansho special prizes. Storming returns to form from the local rikishi. Abi to continue to discover his potential for greatness if he can harness the reach of those long arms to go with his superstar personality and dexterity. Ishiura to henka Tokushoryu in the Juryo playoff and Tomokaze to join Enho, Wakatakakage and Mitoryu in the 2018 class of new sekitori to consolidate their status as the next class of top professionals.
But most of all, I’m looking forward to the experience of just being there. As many of our readers – and Bruce, from his last minute jaunt to Aki – can attest, there is nothing like the atmosphere and excitement of live sumo, and a day out at the arena with thousands of your newest, bento-box munching, shikona-laden-towel waving, chanko-devouring friends. Hakkeyoi!