When I saw the headline, I had wished Mitakeumi’s fat stacks would be getting fatter. Instead, they’re charging sponsors like Dr. Takasu a bit more and the winning wrestlers will see a bit more off the dohyo.
Trump isn’t the first head of state to watch a sumo tournament, nor the first president to hand over a trophy in the ring, but the excessive security presence, and over-the-top restrictions put in place on the day, were illustrative both of the outsized importance of his office and the extreme emotions the man himself generates.
Any visit to sumo by a member of the Imperial family necessitates increased security, but nothing approaching the level of controls and checks at the Kokugikan last Sunday had ever been implemented.
Much has been made of the fact that sumo fans were those most negatively affected by the president’s presence.
As well as a reduction in the amount of available regular tickets, the number of same-day unreserved seats was cut in half, with the result that only those who had started queuing by 10 p.m. the night before were able to get in.
For fans that did attend, there were a number of differences too.
Cans and plastic bottles were banned, while any liquids in soft containers had to be sampled in front of security to prove that they weren’t dangerous substances.
Fans had to walk through metal detectors and have their bags searched on the way in, all the while being watched by the police and members of the U.S. Secret Service.
Facilities and services normally available at the venue were also curtailed or severely restricted.
One thing that John touches on briefly in his article is the monstrous logistic problems the President’s visit created. Specifically the heightened security protocol forced people to wait in an unthinkably long queue in hot and humid conditions while their bags were checked and they passed through a metal detector. Most Japanese folks can take summer weather, but the fans at the Kokugikan do tend to skew towards the elderly side of life, and it’s never good to put the older crowd in the heat. Some specifics (culled from our live blog):
Here is a photo of the security line, stretching from the station, to Edo-Tokyo museum, then back and through the front gates. Crazy!
Another image of the cursed line to get into the Kokugikan. This is especially tough as its a hot and humid day today, and some of the more aged sumo fans might be in dire shape standing in line for hours.
I get that a presidential visit requires a level of security, but in hind sight it really does seem over the top. Perhaps if President Trump returns to a future Natsu basho, as he has mentioned, they will dial back the security somewhat.
Lower division sumo bouts are perfect prime-time viewing for those of us sumo fans living in exile in the Eastern US. Obviously, we miss out on most of the stars unless we take a nap through makushita and wake up at 3 to 4am for makuuchi. In the lower ranks, many of the wrestlers have yet to pack on the skills and girth necessary to climb up the ranks but there are some fantastic bouts with great finishing moves. This izori from Kaishu was one of my favorite bouts from the whole tournament.
Kaishu is a Musashigawa beya stablemate of Musashikuni and Wakaichiro. All of the coaches’ and wrestlers’ profiles are available on the Musashigawa homepage. He joined back in 2016 at the age of 18. Ladies, his blood type is B. https://musashigawa.com/rikishi-urakata/rikishi_kaisyu
He has three years of championship-caliber judo training in high school. If I’m getting my time frames right his High School, Shutoku, won the national judo title while he was there. With that experience under his belt, he’s come in with a strong grappling background. This was his first izori victory at Natsu 2019 but he’s already got a rather impressive slate of kimarite, including two ashitori wins and the zubuneri seen below, when he was fighting under the name Kobayashi. He’s young — but those guns, dude.
Now, for a statistic that blew me away when I saw it. For all of the 1107 wrestlers featured in the Tachiai Kimarite dashboard, which includes all active wrestlers plus those who retired after 2013, the median wrestler has won with 16 kimarite. Kaishu has already won by using 24distinct kimarite. That puts him near the 90th percentile and he’s only been in sumo for 3 years. Granted, Aminishiki has nearly doubled that tally. But that’s Aminishiki. By the way, the data in the dashboard has been updated with data from Natsu 2019.
For those fans with an interest in Japanese history, his current shikona, 海舟, is a nod to Katsu Kaishu. He also changed the character used for his first name, from 倫太郎 to 麟太郎, which was a name used by Katsu Kaishu, father of the Japanese Navy. When the West pressured Japan to open themselves to commerce in the 1850s, Kaishu pushed to establish a strong navy and to staff it with people based on capability rather than lineage. He commanded the ship which brought the first Japanese delegation to the US before playing a pivotal role in the Meiji Restoration.
He also likes mangoes. OK, I admit, that’s non sequitur. I just had to throw that in there because I had an amazing mango yesterday and his profile actually does say his favorite food is mango. In more Musashigawa fun facts, the stable will be participating in a beach clean up this Saturday at Enoshima’s Benten Bridge. If you’re in Japan, and in the area of Enoshima, this may be a great reason to go to the beach! There’s a great little train, too, the Enoden that you can take down there from Kamakura.
Unfortunately, he’s been on a bit of a slide after peaking near the top of Sandanme. He had a winless hatsu and will be back in Jonidan in Nagoya because he finished with a 3-4 makekoshi record. One of those pivotal losses, though, came at the hands of Shiraishi who won the Sandanme yusho in his debut tournament from below Sandanme 100. He skipped Go — mae-zumo, jonokuchi, and Jonidan — based on his amateur pedigree from Toyo University. Without that tough match up, one wonders if he’d have been able to secure his kachi-koshi.
The promotions from Makushita have been announced, and as predicted, it’s Ms2e Kotokamatani (who is changing his shikona to Kotonowaka upon reaching sekitori status), Ms2w Takanofuji, Ms3e Ichiyamamoto, Ms3w Kizakiumi, and Ms4e Ryuko. With the exception of Takanofuji, these are all Juryo debuts.
Although the corresponding demotions are not announced, we can tell from the records that going from heaven to hell are Chiyonokuni, Hakuyozan, Churanoumi, Irodori, and Seiro. The first two missed the Natsu basho with injuries, while for the latter three, the demotions are an immediate reversal of their promotions after the previous tournament. We’ll see if the latest batch of Juryo newcomers can fare better and stick in the second division.