The 9th Annual Hakuho Cup

On February 11th, the 9th annual Hakuho Cup event took place at the Ryogoku Kokugikan.

The Hakuho Cup is an annual children sumo event taking place under the auspices of Yokozuna Hakuho. For more details about the event and its history, refer to last year’s report.

This year, again, about 1200 children from 8 countries and regions (Japan, Mongolia, USA, China, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan and Hong-Kong).

Delegates from the 8 countries and regions sworn in by a Japanese representative

Although this event is not hosted or sponsored by the NSK, many NSK employees (read: active rikishi and oyakata) took part in it. The event included both team competitions and individual competitions. While delegates from the various countries and regions outside Japan generally formed teams based on their country of origin, and thus wrestled with the name of their country marked on their mawashi, the large Japanese cohort was made of various teams training together – some of which were associated with rikishi. Here, for example, is Team Aminishiki:

These boys are all from Aomori, Aminishiki’s home prefecture.

Rikishi participation did not end just at leading teams. Many sekitori served as shimpan during the competition:

Also attended: Mitakeumi, Abi, Tobizaru, Ishiura (of course), Toyonoshima, as well as Kotoshogiku and Yoshikaze and more. The highest ranking visitor was Yokozuna Kakuryu, who seemed to enjoy himself very much indeed:

Oyakata ranged from the recently retired Oshiogawa (Takekaze) and Sanoyama (Satoyama), through Tomozuna oyakata, Hakuho’s own Miyagino oyakata, to Futagoyama oyakata (Miyabiyama). The latter had a personal interest in the competition, as his own son participated. Last year, his son won two bouts. This year, the proud father reports, he won three.

Hakuho also hoped his own 10 years old son, Mahato, will win one bout more than he did last year. But alas, he was taken down in his first match by a smaller kid.

Mahato, in his mawashi marked “Hakuho”. Of course he belonged to Team Hakuho.

During lunch break, Hakuho had what the Japanese call “Talk show” (an on-stage, or in this case, on-dohyo, live interview), and this time, the “surprise” guest was former Ozeki Konishiki.

Hakuho asked Konishiki who were the opponents he found most difficult to fight. Konishiki listed Akinoshima, Chiyonofuji and Kotokaze.

Speaking of lunch, an 11-hour event with thousands of children requires a lot of food. Hakuho took care to complement the meal with an order of 1000 pieces of cake, which immensely cheered the children up.

The children competed in teams as well as individual matches. Among all the bouts, at times taking place on three separate dohyos, one in particular drew much attention. Take a look at this wonderful match:

Motomura hangs in there

It’s interesting to see Hakuho in the background. At first he plays around with his phone, and then as the match progresses he lets go of it and watches the bout with rapt attention. Marvelous sumo, which I’ve seen described on the net as “A mix of Enho, Satoyama and Ura”.

Motomura, of Team Kotoshogiku, the David in this David-and-Goliath match, also won the technique prize for this bout. Yes, the Hakuho Cup also includes special prizes. While the yusho trophies are handed by Hakuho himself, the special prizes were handed by sekitori:

Motomura looks quite overwhelmed there. I also find Ishiura’s expression, when he realizes he is the tallest man on the dohyo, rather entertaining.

Here is the summary video of the event – where you can catch Mahato’s failed bout, a different angle of Motomura’s bout, and many smiles and tears:

And if you have 11 hours to spare, here is the full event, which was streamed live on YouTube.

(If anybody is wondering, SANKYO, the sponsor, is a manufacturer of pachinko machines).

21 thoughts on “The 9th Annual Hakuho Cup

  1. A fantastic event, seems lots of fun for the kids! Not sure about the wisdom of having Sankyo as the sponsor, get them hooked early I suppose 😕

  2. Now that “kiddie sumo” is, for the foreseeable future, gone from the regional tours, this is the one chance to see all this cuteness! It’s also nice to see such genuine smiles on so many faces. Here’s hoping we see Motomura in the pro ranks someday! Lots of tenacity for such a little guy!

    • Ah, yes, those shoes. I was wondering about them myself. As far as I can gather, they seem to be provided to all the shimpan. Now, amateur sumo shimpan usually wear suits (and the gyoji a white western outfit). And with the suits, they wear proper, laced shoes. So if there is a monoii and they need to go on the dohyo for a kyogi, they would need to start unlacing and removing their shoes and get dirt on their socks. So instead, they are given large overshoes they can walk on the dohyo with.

      In Grand Sumo competitions, the shimpan wear formal Kimono, and are thus wearing tabi. This allows them to go on the dohyo wearing zori (split-toe sandals), so no need for overshoes. They sit with just their tabi on, and when they need, they slip into their zori and mount the dohyo. Each shimpan has two pairs of zori next to him – I believe one is for getting in and out of the arena, and the other is for mounting the dohyo.

      So Enho, wearing traditional Japanese wear, looks a bit ridiculous with those overshoes (which technically he didn’t even need to wear – he could have stayed in his tabi – but perhaps his feet were cold).

  3. Yay Motomura! I kind of feel for Hakuho’s son – that would be a lot to live up to.

    Reading this got me curious about the whole process by which young would-be rikishi (when they’re old enough and pass the physical etc.) get connected with stables. Are they in some available pool and then they have to hope some stable invites them? What if two or more stables are courting the same hot prospect? How and when does it all get arranged? And is it illegal for a wrestler to change stables, or just frowned upon and not done? Is there a limit to how many wrestlers are in the lowest division?

    • Well, it’s a little bit complicated.

      There are sumo programs in various universities, as well as middle and high schools. Those are well-known to any oyakata, and they keep their eye on them – though mainly on the strong ones who make the inter-high competitions and the like. Just a couple of days ago Futagoyama oyakata boasted in his Twitter that he managed to get the one deshi he most wanted of this year’s high-school crop. We’ll be seeing him this Haru in maezumo.

      Then there is the heya’s koen-kai and other dedicated fans. They keep their eyes open, and if they see any likely boy – even one that is not in sumo but in wrestling, judo, or anything else really, they will let the oyakata know. This is why there are a lot of rikishi from Aomori in Isegahama beya. Isegahama oyakata is from Aomori, and thus many of his supporters are from Aomori, which means they scout up kids near home and let him know. That’s how he got Denpoya, who had his first ranked basho in Hatsu and did well.

      Recruiting is a real problem – any stablemaster will tell you they are desperate for deshi. Shikihide beya regularly tweets recruitment ads, where they say that anybody who loves sumo, no matter the experience, is welcome to join, subject to the NSK rules (age, weight, height and health), and I have seen one of these recently from Chiganoura beya as well, if I recall correctly. Some rikishi who answer fan questions in social media also plug their heya to anybody who expresses interest.

      The candidate will usually end up coming to the heya and spending a few days there, to see if the lifestyle suits them: they sleep with everybody in the common bedroom, get up in time for keiko, take part in the chores and chanko-ban, and eat chanko. And if all goes well for both sides, and in case of a minor, his guardians agree, then he’ll join that heya and undergo the NSK exams before the next basho.

      Once the rikishi joins a heya, it’s for life (well, for the rest of his career). The only way he’ll be able to switch to a different heya is if his original one closes down, as happened in Takanohana beya. And even then, it’s not his choice which heya to join. You don’t like your heya or get abused? Hand in your retirement paperwork. That’s the only option.

      While the number of rikishi in Makuuchi, Juryo, Makushita and Sandanme is fixed, the number in Jonokuchi and Jonidan is not fixed, and recently the proportion between them has been kept at 3:1 (that is, there are about three times more rikishi in Jonidan than there are in Jonokuchi), though the ratio is not fixed, either (if there are currently 250 rikishi who are supposed to be in Jonokuchi and Jonidan, and 150 came from maezumo, they wouldn’t place 50 newbies in Jonidan just to keep the ratio).

      • Great info as always. I’m thinking they’re going to need to make the lifestyle more appealing and otherwise sweeten the incentives if they’re to solve the recruitment problem.

        • He, too, complained about how hard it is to recruit these days. They got a new recruit last year and he evaporated within a few months. I have a strong suspicion that Izutsu oyakata suffers from some sort of cognitive issues, and can’t really hold together a heya. Kakuryu more or less fends for himself, and that’s it. It’s not the only mini-heya, by the way. What about Kataonami, which is Tamawashi plus two?

          • The even weirder thing about Kataonami is that they also have three oyakata!!! If one of the youngsters quits, the coaches will outnumber the rikishi!

    • I meant to say ” Jizō “.

      Amusingly, i believe Jizō is revered as a god protecting childrens in Japan. (Not too knoledgeable about Japan’s mythology.)
      Which that picture of Aminishiki astonishingly seem to inspire.
      What strange coincidence!

  4. 1) For a big guy I have always kind of liked Konishiki’s style

    2) Big fan of Enho & Terutsuyoshi as shimpan, as it is one step closer to the hilarious vision of an Abi, as head shimpan, with the mic, reversing the gyoji’s decision and then finishing the announcement with わら!

    3) If only we could get Kotoshogiku himself doing that kind of sumo! 😂

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