The Jungyo is nearly over. In a few hours, the last event – after a few days of hiatus – is going to take place at Tokyo’s KITTE mall, to be shortly followed by the banzuke announcement and all that come with them.
I’ll keep on writing a few Jungyo reports as my time allows, though, because the basho is still a long way away, and because some of you like reading them, it seems. But I can’t in honesty call them “Newsreels” anymore, because, well, the news are a bit old.
Today I’ll cover the two events that took place on August 14 and 15 at Aomori prefecture. These are days 16 and 17 of the Jungyo. The events at Aomori marked a departure of the Juryo rikishi – with the exception of Kyokutaisei and Ichiyamamoto, who are Hokkaido men and expected in the Hokkaido events. Also, Takagenji, the upper-ranking Taka Twin, has joined the Jungyo after being kyujo for its first part, just as his twin brother in Juryo has left it.
🌐 Location: Aomori, Aomori Prefecture
A drummer welcomes us at the entrance to the Maeda arena in Aomori.
If you’re wondering about that sign behind him, it reads “Yakuza and their associates will be refused entry”. This is part of the NSK’s on-going effort since 2011 to disassociate itself from the underworld, which once used to be seen regularly in the high-cost seats. The ban may not be fool-proof, though (how do you tell who a “Yakuza associate” is anyway?).
Let’s go inside. We have pixies shaking hands!
But neither Enho nor Terutsuyoshi are local boys. The real local boys are Takarafuji, Onosho, Aminishiki… ah…
Let’s go back in time to July 7th, which is the date in Japan when they celebrate Tanabata. This year, too, Tanabata coincided with the beginning of Nagoya basho. In the rikishi-kai meeting before the basho, the sekitori were asked, again, to write their wishes for the coming year on pieces of paper, which were then hanged in the lobby of the Dolphins Arena where the Nagoya basho takes place.
Aminishiki was still an active rikishi then, and wrote a Tanabata wish like everybody else:
Suits, of course, are not an item worn by active rikishi. At the time I took this as a hint that he was planning to retire sometime before the next Tanabata. However, this was tempting fate just a tad too much. By the end of the Nagoya basho, a re-injured Aminishiki was, unfortunately, getting measured for his first suit.
The newly made Ajigawa oyakata is no longer part of the Jungyo. But like Araiso oyakata, née Kisenosato, who showed up for the Jungyo events at Ibaraki, Ajigawa came in as a special guest for the Aomori events.
And it has to be admitted, those Tanabata kami did fully grant him his wish.
Here he is again, signing his autograph on a… well…
So let’s go inside and see what the rikishi are up to. Let’s start a bit with the lower ranks. Remember I mentioned that Takagenji joined the Jungyo just as his twin left it? That meant he brought a tsukebito with him – Takakento. And Takakento has a very good friend in the Jungyo – Kotoozutsu from Sadogatake beya (not sure if he is Kotoeko’s or Kotoyuki’s tsukebito).
Those two, together with Taichiyama, also from Chiganoura beya, are so close they call themselves brothers. Kotoozutsu – nicknamed Koto-Cannon – posts about his two “big brothers” all the time. Even the fans call them “first brother”, “second brother” etc., in the same way as the three (true) brothers Onami.
Let’s see what the sekitori are doing other than shaking hands. We have Meisei crab-walking:
Meisei, BTW, has been suffering from over-fatigue during the Jungyo. He was trying to practice as much as possible, but eventually Kakuryu told him to stop after two minutes of kawaigari during one of the events: “No matter how much you overwork yourself, it will not improve your practice. Get some rest”. I hope he followed the Yokozuna’s advice, because that fatigue was showing in the basho already.
We have Hakuho working with a rubber strap:
Not bad, for someone who had a muscle in his right arm 70% torn only a few months back.
On the dohyo, local boy onosho is engaging Asanoyama:
The other local… well, not exacly a boy, Takarafuji:
I think those were Kotoyuki and Ryuden.
At this late stage of the Jungyo, the Yokozuna start ramping up their practice. Kakuryu took Shodai, his favorite practice toy, for a spin:
With practice over, it’s time for the aforesaid Kakuryu to show people how a white rope is tied. At the end he shows off the result to all four sides of the dohyo:
This is one of those rare photos in which Kakuryu looks like an actual Yokozuna – which he totally is, he just has a hard time turning off the Cute Generator.
Next comes the Makuuchi dohyo-iri, with the guys at the back, mainly Mitakeumi and Asanoyama, goofing around:
Here is a summary video of the event, including Aminishiki’s speech (“Thank you for your support. I will keep on working hard, please keep supporting me” etc.), Enho’s bout with Kotoeko, local boy Onosho vs. Ichinojo, and a bit of Hakuho vs. Kakuryu.
My pin-up boy for this event is Kagayaki:
Trivia: that personalized towel he is holding carries not his shikona, but rather his real name, Tatsu Ryoya (達綾哉).
We now proceed to the next Aomori event.
🌐 Location: Itayanagi, North Tsugaru, Aomori
Our new location is in the Tsugaru area of Aomori. And if you haven’t already, I recommend watching NHK World’s “Tsugaru: Amateur Sumo, Indomitable Tradition“, which will give you a perspective on why this area gave us so many fine wrestlers like Takarafuji, Aminishiki, Onosho, and before them, Takamisakari, Mainoumi, and of course, Asahifuji.
This area is also known for its apples. Apples? What do apples have to do with Sumo?
Well, not much. But the event today took place at the Tsugaru Apple Market in Itayanagi.
On cursory look, this official NSK photo may give the impression that this is a normal venue, though a little bit industrial in its decor. Surely, there has to be some air-conditioning there in the middle of August.
It’s just a freaking open shed. Nothing but corrugated iron roofs and heat-inviting gates.
Ask yourself: are there showers in an apple market?
Well, the organizers won’t leave the rikishi unwashed, of course. To this end, they had a local onsen reserved for the rikishi. Though I’m pretty sure not all of them would fit in:
I bit of a Japanese culture review. You are supposed to go into the onsen (or sento) bath only when you are thoroughly clean. This is what the white stool and the pink bucket (and mirror) are there for. You sit on the stool, wash yourself with the bucket (and your personal scrubbing implements), check that all soap and dirt have been washed, and only then you immerse yourself in the water. In modern, well equipped onsen and sento, there would be a whole wall with shower heads, stools, stacks of buckets, amenities, and decent mirrors. This little onsen in the middle of nowhere probably doesn’t serve that many. Let alone over 100 rikishi. And there is not a shower head in sight.
I’m hoping that this is just, er, one of many baths and that the missing shower heads are behind the camera. Though the mirror hanging from the column doesn’t make me too optimistic.
Onosho is from the actual North Tsugaru. Even more popular today than yesterday!
And Takarafuji is from the same town, so he too enjoys the glory:
Ajigawa is here, too, though he is merely from West Tsugaru:
Though he might be a little less happy about that suit today.
But the real local boy of the day is actually Furiwake oyakata, the former Takamisakari, AKA Robocop. He is from the actual town of Itayanagi!
So let’s take a look at what the rikishi are doing. And to continue from the previous event, the two not-really-brothers, Koto-Cannon and Takakento, are always together. On the dohyo:
And off it:
Are any sekitori doing any workout? Well, there is Tamawashi, who is stretching his legs. He has a pretty comfy barre:
A little more serious, Tochinoshin, who joined the Jungyo three days earlier, is doing some shiko:
Kakuryu is doing the same on the dohyo:
See what I told you about him forgetting to turn off the Cute Generator?
Takarafuji is giving Onosho some butsukari, so the spectators enjoy two locals for the price of one:
Onosho vs. Takarafuji, followed by Onosho vs. Daieisho:
Nice leg technique from Onosho there. Takarafuji didn’t see it coming!
Other Makuuchi practice bouts:
Now, in the Aomori event above we have seen Kakuryu practicing on-dohyo with Shodai. Hakuho is also ramping up his intensity, and he’s doing it with Kotoeko.
No yori-kiris in this one. Kotoeko nearly had the Yokozuna for a moment there, but Hakuho… is Hakuho. Still.
Takarafuji must have been the first to get a good soak in the mini-onsen, because it was his duty today to get his hair done in public:
Since there are two tokoyama there, I’m assuming that the other side is Onosho. So he, too, must have enjoyed the onsen while it was still clear.
It’s time for the bouts, which I’m sorry to say I have none to show. There is, however, well, not a wardrobe malfunction. Rather, a stationary malfunction?
Kotoshogiku’s tsukebito is this nice guy called Kotomanabe. He also has a good voice so he is a member of the Jinku team:
He posts an angry tweet, showing this photo of his beloved master:
As it turns out, enthusiastic fans swarm towards the popular Kotoshogiku after his bout asking for autographs. In the push-and-shove, one of their magic markers hits the former Ozeki. Kotomanabe is outraged. “While Giku-zeki says it’s fine, I don’t think it’s fine. Hold your markers with the tips pointed at yourselves, please!”. Kotomanabe continues to point out in a second tweet that a similar thing happened with Amakaze’s kesho-mawashi last year (I still remember the tweetstorm), and predicts that next time it could mark the actual shimekomi. That would be a real problem because, if any of you forgot, a Kotoshogiku can be washed – though he might want to wait for a town with a better onsen to do that – but a shimekomi (the silk mawashi) is never ever washed.
Sumo twitter goes in flames after this, with people competing in suggestions as to the proper procedure. “Have your marker capped all times except the very last moment”, etc. The Japanese being Japanese, they come up with a technological solution pretty quickly:
So next time you go to a Jungyo event, please remember your autograph etiquette!
We finish up with, instead of one pin-up, a three-pack: