Tachiai Interviews Kintamayama, Part 2: “You have a responsibility to your viewers to show everything.”

Kintamayama at Kokugikan
Kotokintamayama? Photo courtesy of Moti Dichne

Welcome to Part 2 of Tachiai’s conversation with Moti Dichne, aka Kintamayama. Moti is well known in the online sumo community for his tireless coverage of all things sumo through his newsletter, his presence on SumoForum, and of course, his exhaustive YouTube channel.

If you missed Part 1 of our conversation, click here to catch up. The second part of our series incorporates some of Moti’s thoughts on the current state of sumo coverage, and who he’d like to bring onto his channel. As with Part 1, the interview has been edited only for clarity and length. This segment features some strong language and opinions, which are of course the subject’s own.

Tachiai: One of the great moments from your channel in the last few years was your Konishiki interview. That was an amazing moment, and one of the things that was very interesting was when you drew out the revelation that Konishiki felt Hakuho wouldn’t have been dominant in another era –

Moti Dichne: He didn’t say “wouldn’t have been dominant.” He said he would barely make Ozeki! 

And he also correctly predicted Kisenosato as the next Japanese Yokozuna.

He said he was the only one. And when he said that, I said, “Are you sure about what you said? You’re OK with me broadcasting this?” 

But Kisenosato still had to actually do it. You had that moment, but who from the sumo world, now or in the past, would you like to feature on the channel, like the interview that you had with Konishiki?

That’s an excellent question. Well, Taiho is dead, so I won’t be able to do that. Chiyonofuji is dead. I guess… Kisenosato (Araiso oyakata).

You know, something really weird happened. The guy [Kisenosato] could hardly speak. When they said they were going to make him an NHK commentator, I said, “This guy has blocks in his mouth.” He’s like Moses!

And suddenly, he’s become this articulate speaker, and very, very deep. The things he says, he’s always right – very nice observations. I said, “What! This is Kisenosato?!”

Look at all of his interviews from when he made Yokozuna, or when he made Ozeki. You can’t understand a word he’s saying – and I know Japanese pretty well. And it’s not like [the interviews are] right after the basho, he’s out in front of the stable! Suddenly, it’s like he has a load off his back, he’s a different person, he has a different face! He’s not grouchy, and he has a lot to say. He says it without being asked, which is even more astounding.

I remember what Takanohana used to do. They used to have to drag all of the stuff out of him. They would ask him three times until he would say yes or no. Now, Kisenosato’s not Kitanofuji, that’s for sure. But Kitanofuji, there’s only one.

Kitanofuji has also had 40 years to hone his punditry.

I like Kitanofuji, because he says things that no one dares to say.

I think that’s what sumo needs.

Of course! The NSK gets offended at every word. Hakuho asks [the fans] to clap three times, they call him in. “Why did you do that? Bye. Here’s your punishment.” “Thank you very much.” What are they trying to do? They’re trying to break him. Hakuho, the guy who broke all the records, which pisses them off, for sure. They can’t do anything about it, but [he has] TEN more [yusho] than the great Japanese Taiho – who was half Russian.

It’s interesting. One thing that we talk about a lot on Tachiai is that there are a lot of people that don’t realise that the Sumo Association is not 100 people who all think the same thing. There are different personalities.

It’s also different generations. 

Yeah, and politics. And navigating that as a sumo fan is that next challenge after you start to understand the sport. 

It’s almost impossible. It’s a different mentality [in Japan]. And if you don’t understand it, you don’t know what’s going on.

That’s why many fans say “Why don’t they do this? Why don’t they lower the dohyo?” Nonsense. I keep writing [that] the injuries from falling off the dohyo are 0.4%. All the injuries occur on the dohyo but not from falling down. Almost none. They learn during the keiko [how to fall], it’s part of training!

That’s another misunderstanding, people who come from [a background of] American sports trying to change the rules, you know? The Kyokai has a lot to change, but… let’s leave the rules.

You’ve said a number of times, “I’ll stop posting recaps when NHK starts covering every bout.” Through what you’ve posted, it would appear you’ve brought thousands of fans to sumo.

For sure. I know, and I keep all the thank you notes. I have them all kept.

As you have been doing what you’ve been doing, and seeing the development of the Abema and NHK and the hunger from the fans, how have you received NHK’s recent development? Where do you think they are in the path to provide the best sumo coverage?

They are by far in a better place. They have NHK World doing live shows 3 or 4 times a basho? Come on, anybody can watch it, for free! That’s incredible.

The only thing I never understand is, even on the Japanese side, they do the digest and they always leave out 4 or 5 bouts. That’s disrespectful. And it’s not that there’s no time. I do it in [a] 15 minute video. They have 24 minutes. So, cut off one of the fucking replays, you know? Show the Daishohos. Show the Daiamamis.

There are guys that I don’t give a shit about, but you’re showing the sport. You’re calling it a digest. Sumo is not a ten minute bout, it’s a three second bout. Altogether, these bouts that [NHK is] cutting out, [total] maybe one minute.

It drives me nuts. If you’re doing a digest, do it. In the USA, in baseball, you’ve got many more games, and the shows show every game. You cannot disrespect the wrestlers. You’re NHK, you have the rights. It’s not like you’re some pirate station where the guy shows only who he likes. You have a responsibility to your viewers to show everything. And that got me doing it. Because it kills me, today – that they still don’t show all the bouts!

As a fan, or as someone who’s even just getting into it, how do you even understand the story of a Terutsuyoshi, or a Daishoho, if you don’t know what’s happened?

It’s unfair, it’s unfair. Period. That’s all I can say. Someone like Nishikigi’s bouts [are] boring to me too, but show it! Sometimes it’s a great bout! Or there’s a great story behind it, you know?

Beyond that, do you think there are more things they can do?

Yeah, they can do 15 days [of live coverage]. But they won’t, because they can’t shoot themselves in the legs. But listen, what they’re doing now is incredible, and it’s still not enough.

Also, it’s only Makuuchi, and it’s not even the whole of Makuuchi. Still, beggars can’t be choosers. For anyone who is not into YouTube, or they’re older, [they] can have NHK World, on cable, on their [device], and it’s free. That’s better than nothing.

I would do every single one of the [live broadcasts] with Murray [Johnson] and [John] Gunning! They are the best, fantastic. I never used to listen to the English people, they drove me crazy with mispronunciation. But Murray I always liked. Together with John, it’s so nice, it has great pace, it’s very informative, there’s great humour. 

They work well together.

They have a good rapport! I would watch that, without question. Very informative. First of all, John has experience. He did sumo, he knows what he’s talking about. He’s a busy person, he does all kinds of stuff with rugby, and he still has time [to keep up with sumo]. Listen, I know him, since he was just getting started. He is an incredibly nice guy. An amazing guy.

Find out more from Kintamayama and subscribe to his mailing list at dichne.com, and keep an eye out for the next parts of our conversation, which will run soon on Tachiai.

23 thoughts on “Tachiai Interviews Kintamayama, Part 2: “You have a responsibility to your viewers to show everything.”

  1. When I watch Abema Digest my take is it goes like this: they show the San’kyu bouts first but then they show the entire Makuuchi (including San’kyu), no edits at all. However, the last time they show it before that day’s basho, they only show the San’kyu. It is curious and takes some patience, but I’ve seen it many times and they never leave out bouts when they show the entire Makuuchi.

    • That’s a good shout re: Abema digest, thank you. I know that some folks outside Japan have had issues accessing Abema content lately.

      For avoidance of doubt (I may not have been clear enough in the edit), Kintamayama was referring to the NHK digests.

      • Right. I meant to add that Abema is better for me in this respect. And I must say these interviews are just great! Tachiai is the absolute best source in English for sumo news and stories of interest. Many thanks!

        • That’s what I figured, just wanted to clarify for the benefit of others. Many thanks for the kind words – I hope you enjoy the rest of this series!

        • The only problem with Abema and NHK (not NHK World) is that they are available locally only, unless you are VPN savvy, so for a large part of the sumo fan community, they are non-existent, s great as they may be.

  2. Quote: “You have a responsibility to your viewers to show everything. And that got me doing it. Because it kills me, today – that they still don’t show all the bouts!”

    Yes, Yes!! Thank you!!!

    That is the primary reason I watch every Kintamayama show, even on days where I’ve seen NHK first.

    Kintamayama manages to include every bout, plus key slow mo, and do it all in less time that it takes NHK.

    • Thanks for reading George! He is incredibly fast, it’s true. In fairness to NHK they do need to recut the play by play audio and fit it into a tv schedule, but that doesn’t diminish how fast and committed Kintamayama is to the edit. More parts to our chat will be coming soon!

      • The NHK digest is broadcast 6 hours (!!) after the day’s bouts, more than enough time to cut and edit
        the material and to make a decent Beef Stroganoff as well.. They Shirley can do it in 23.

  3. NHK is great but I don’t understand why they have to show that extremely long introduction every day (and repeats of the same old sumopedia tracks). They could include two or three of the matches they leave out if they would just cut that down. I understand that they are trying to help new viewers, but have some consideration for the rest of us. Imagine if, every time you watched a baseball game, you had to sit through a short history of the game and an explanation of the rules.

    • This is a really good point, and I don’t disagree. If nothing else, maybe they could just tighten it up a bit. They have done a great job drawing attention to their online communities (especially Facebook) and the NHK website, and they could perhaps drive more traffic that way to debut new content, while making the intro and outros a bit shorter. One thing I will say however is that it’s amazing how many folks show up at Kokugikan not knowing any of the rules or background, so I do think it’s good that they include something at the start of the show for potential new viewers. It is cool that you only need to see the show once to understand the gist of what’s going on. Like many folks, I actually got into sumo through watching on NHK.

      An easy win, of course, would be to make one day a week a 50 minute digest like some of NHK World’s other cultural content (to still allow for the 10 minute news segment at the top of the hour), that also contains deeper content like Sumopedia.

    • Keep in mind that the English-language digest version shown on NHK World is entirely reliant on what NHK proper produces as the Japanese-language original. (Which is shown at silly o’clock, 2.30am or so.) Sumopedia and the intro are just filler to pad out the available material to fill NHK World’s half-hour timeslot for the show. They (NHK World) just don’t have the footage to add the missing bouts.

      Side note: Back when Eurosport showed their own version of the digests 15+ years ago, they actually compressed three days worth into a 60-minute block each (including commercials), showing a basho that way back to back for five nights, so on the contrary those were even more cut down from the original 23-odd minutes available.

      • Back in the Akebono days, ESPN condensed a whole basho into 30 minutes…and then put it on late at night. Thank you, Larry Biel for introducing me to sumo!

        • Ah, yes…that is correct, Andy. And that’s what got me trying to find anything and EVERYTHING on Sumo way back in late 2002. ESPN would have, maybe, back-to-back programs like this…which made up an hour. This was so long ago, that I don’t remember how many condensed shows ESPN did like that…but I think it was discontinued…in 2006? I forget. But by this time, I was getting my Sumo “fix” via the Web.

          But keep up the great work, Josh! This is why this site is so POPULAR. You guys and gal (is Herouth the ONLY lady? Hey, I’m just asking!) are doing some really innovative things!

      • Actually this is a fairly interesting talking point, as it was something I got into directly with Murray when we spoke, around the same time as this chat. We’ll run that after we finish this series. Based on that conversation, I wouldn’t say it’s a case of “not having the footage,” but how they are navigating the increased demand while trying to also make the “digest” show more in-depth and informative for new fans is an evolving and interesting challenge. I won’t go too much further into “spoiler” territory though, before we post that content.

    • FYI sometimes they do cut out the ‘History of Sumo’ brief once the basho gets going, although I did not notice this happening during the last basho.

      • Typically as i understand it they rotate the intros on a day-by-day basis with the “rules” intro usually on odd days and the “history” intro on even days

      • Tachiai should start their YouTube videos with the “Livin like Kings” – Konishiki video (or part of it) as their intro .. lol. Pump up the Sumo !!

  4. I see the NHK digests as being very newbie-friendly – they’re how I got into sumo after all. They explain all the terminology quite well, and there’s enough there to hook new viewers in. In that sense, they serve their purpose fine, imo.

  5. My fantasy is to see all of Makuuchi AND at least a digest of Juryo. I’m not holding my breath though, but I think watching the rising stars would generate interest.

    I don’t think any bout is boring; there are often surprises and even if there aren’t, they don’t last long enough to get boring. Show them all!


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