Welcome to Part 3 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.
Click here for Part 1 and click here for Part 2 of our conversation, if you are catching up. The third part of our series incorporates some of Moti’s stories from keiko, thoughts on future stars, and fun with sumo. The interview took place during this year’s Natsu basho and has been edited for clarity and length [edited to add: this post was edited further on August 17 due to a complaint regarding some of the video content]. This segment features some strong opinions, which are of course the subject’s own.
Tachiai: Obviously you use your Japanese language skills to bring us a lot of information. And particularly, you have got some really interesting scoops from the interview room…
Moti Dichne: laughs
Do you have any of those videos coming up? I think there are some people who want to know who else came to Ichinojo’s bar mitzvah….
I always watch all the interviews, and I know which interview can go like that. Most of the interviews lately are very straightforward. I have to be in the zone, you know? It doesn’t happen very easily! I’ll tell you something. I estimate 70% of people think those videos are real. I’ve been having complaints, like “why did Ichinojo jump the line in the supermarket?!”
It’s all music, it’s all the sound. There are a lot of words that sound a bit like English. I enjoy it a lot. When people enjoy it, that’s great. I haven’t done it in a long time, I don’t know why.
You seem to have your favourites that you’ll go after.
In the old times, they used to show a close-up of the monoii because [the video] was the Kyokai’s feed, not NHK. My best work is the rapport between the shimpan. One time, one of the shimpan, Chiyotaikai’s slipper fell off, and so I have Chiyonofuji saying “see? I told you not to buy cheap shoes! Where did you buy these shoes anyway!?” It looks like he’s saying it! And Chiyotaikai says, “What do you want? it was a sale!”
I can’t do that anymore because I can’t see [the monoii], it’s very far on the NHK feed, and I don’t know what they’re saying. Listen, that humour is part of me. I can’t help it. Sometimes, I have “font day.” I have all kinds of nonsense that annoys people. I don’t give a shit. I love it! It makes it more entertaining.
You have to find the joy in it, right?
Humour is always arguable, but at least I make it my thing. Maybe not all the information is there, but it’s the personal touch. People like to feel part of the running gags. They say, “oh yeah, the guy without the neck!” And people correct me, they go: “there was a tsuppari against the guy without a neck and you didn’t say anything!”
“OK, I’ll file that away for next time.”
The problem is at my age I don’t remember what I filed!
We both obviously love Ikioi, and I discovered you like Abi as well. Is it the guys that have the high energy now, that come to the top division, who you find entertaining?
I don’t know about other people, but I have seen a lot of behind the scenes videos. Abi looks like the perfect prankster. He’s always pranking. That’s it! I don’t care about anything else. It’s not the norm. I like the pranksters!
They’re good characters.
Good characters! And they’re different. Abi looks serious when he’s on the dohyo, but that’s life. He looks like a really light hearted, nice guy. The sumo’s very, very shallow, that [two hand attack] is all he does.
The funny thing is, my daughter called me Abi way before he came up. Because abba in Hebrew is dad. And “Abi” is like “daddy.” Suddenly, this guy called Abi comes up! And he came up with Abiko, so there were two Abis: Abi and Abiko, who’s now Tsurugisho. But that’s why I like Abi, that’s why I like Ikioi. You can tell that it’s more than sumo to them.
It’s true, because I think it can also be a really hard, sometimes joyless, lifestyle.
Exactly! Exactly to the point. These guys can find their five minutes of joy. We know the life. We’re not passing fans, we know what things they go through. I’ve been to keiko.
I saw Asashoryu in 2000. I went to Wakamatsu-beya, and I have never ever seen such a thing, not before and not after. He was head-butting everyone around. Everyone was scared to enter the dohyo! And the Makuuchi guys were whistling and looking around [trying not to be noticed]. They didn’t dare get in! So I asked the oyakata, “please, allow me to take a picture with him.” He says “oh… Makushita.” You know, Makushita, they’re trash. And I said, “But please, I came all the way from Israel, please let me take a picture.”
The oyakata said, “Why?” I said, “Because he’s the next yokozuna.”
And I wrote that on the mailing list, as proof. I said, “I just saw a guy, he was in Makushita, he is the next Yokozuna.” I’ve never seen anything like that. And I have the picture! I spoke with him, and he was very intelligent. He knew everything about Israel and Palestine, and he asked questions. The oyakata allowed me to speak, otherwise I couldn’t. [The Makushita guys] to them, they are nothing, you cannot talk to them.
The funny thing is if you go now to keiko, you might be more likely to end up taking a photo with the guys near the bottom end of the banzuke!
I got Takanohana, I got Wakanohana, I got everybody. I just walked up, it’s the Israeli cheekiness. People say “no, don’t go…” What’s going to happen? They might say, “No, go away.”
During that era, I went to Kokugikan, and I was with Doreen Simmons, who just died, and she knew everybody. I totally respected that she knew everyone. She got me in everywhere – except Futagoyama, which was out in Chiba somewhere. A friend took me there. That was an incredible experience, to see Takanohana and Wakanohana training. No-nonsense training. It’s not like, “I’m the Yokozuna, and I’m going to watch.”
[When] Takanohana came into the room, I swear to God there was an electric shock in the whole room. I felt it, I was thrown back! It was the presence, and he is gigantic. You never know this! I always thought Terao was a small guy. Terao is tall! I met him also.
I got Takanohana in his prime. I walked up right after the keiko and said, “can I take a picture with you?” He said, “you stay here, I’m going to do an interview and then I’m coming back and we’re taking pictures.” There was a huge staff of TV [people]. And he said, “don’t you want to shake my hand?” Takanohana! I was at Futagoyama-beya when it was Takanohana, Wakanohana, and all these [top division] guys. I was sitting there, and it was really cool.
You obviously identified Asashoryu in that moment. Who now, if you’re looking outside the two divisions, are you super excited about?
It’s not such a stretch. Of course, Hoshoryu and Naya. I had a lot of faith in Shoji at Musashigawa-beya. But, something happened along the way. I don’t know if he’s stuck. I’ll see him tomorrow, I’ll talk to him and see what happened.
He hit the wall really badly, 5 or 6 basho stuck in the same place. He was coming up really, really [well], and he was looking good, I was watching his bouts and I spotted something in him.
Other than that, there’s a guy now coming in, who started from Sandanme who’s supposed to be really, really [good], Shiraishi. Listen, the last two guys who started from Sandanme to come up [to the top division] were Yutakayama and Asanoyama. I think Asanoyama, by the way, is going to have a fantastic basho this basho. (edited to add: this was said by Kintamayama at the very start of the tournament before Asanoyama won his fairly unprecedented, debut yusho)
Yeah? He’s looked pretty good so far.
I have a feeling that he was injured for the last few bashos. He looks much better now, and Yutakayama will be back up for sure. It’s gotta be an injury.
What do you think about Hakuho as a recruiter? He brought along the two small guys – Enho and Ishiura – and they got up to the top division, and now he’s got this enormous guy, Toma.
There’s no question about it, the results speak for themselves. There’s nothing you can argue about. It’s not semantics. We’re not guessing. He’s got two midgets in the first division! Not in Juryo, not in Makushita… in the first division! We’ll have to see how Enho does, because Ishiura was lucky and should have been demoted. It will be interesting to see if Enho can make it – I personally don’t believe he’ll make it. It’s like Takanoyama… I think he’s too small. But, who knows?
That’s the debate: will he be Takanoyama or will he be Mainoumi?
He could have one or two good basho, but the real test will be the third [Makuuchi] basho. When the guys catch on to you and they know what you’re not supposed to do, that’s it.
It also happened with Ishiura.
Yeah, yeah. But still, he’s still around!
He’s physically pretty decent. With Enho, when you shut down his mobility, you shut him down.
And he’s had an injury which everyone knows about, it’s not a secret. With his shoulder, I think in [the old days] he would have been kyujo.
Listen, there was the kosho system. [That] was really cool, until the Ozeki were very weak. The truth is it’s all Musoyama’s fault, today’s Fujishima-oyakata. He was the one misusing [the system] in a very, very obvious way. Don’t let anyone else tell you anything else because it’s bullshit. He was going 0-3 and suddenly making up an injury and getting out.
They’re going to lose prime wrestlers [because of] this shit! Look at Ura. He also came back too early! 2 seconds later he got injured again.
And also the jungyo. There used to be 7 or 8 jungyo [dates per tour], now they have 25 or 26. There’s no way anyone can recuperate – no way!
The exciting new stars don’t only put butts in seats, but they also sell so much merch.
[The Association] is killing the chicken that lays the golden egg. Why!? They have got to find a way [to deal with injuries]. I’m pretty sure someone has come up with a way that’s not kosho, something in the middle. It’s crazy. Maybe when [rikishi] go kyujo, don’t drop them [all the way] back, drop them a little less. Don’t treat it as a 0-15, because that’s not fair, it’s an injury. Treat it as a 5-10, 4-11. It’s not that complicated to do that. It’s not rewriting the rules. There are no rules that say it has to be a 0-15. That’s not written anywhere.
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.
[This post has been edited to reflect Kintamayama’s own updates to his comments regarding his meeting with Asashoryu, correcting the year and stable.]