We leave Toyama prefecture, and move Northeast to Niigata prefecture. So yesterday our man was Asanoyama. Today, it’s Yutakayama’s turn in the limelight.
Gagamaru continues off the torikumi, and this day he is also joined by Shimanoumi, who was supposed to be on, but is replaced by Meisei. Our list of sekitori in working order is shrinking fast. But on to happier stories.
🌐 Location: Itoigawa, Niigata prefecture
So let’s start in the evening before the event, when the rikishi get to town after a very long bus ride. And they need a stiff drink. Which Abi and Irodori are having in the company of an old aquaintance.
Both Abi and Irodori used to belong to “Team Kakuryu”, which once consisted almost entirely of Shikoroyama beya rikishi. This ended when Shikoroyama seceded from the Tokitsukaze ichimon.
Looking at this photo, you can’t but feel sorry that internal NSK politics prevented the Izutsu beya rikishi from being absorbed into Shikoroyama beya, where they belong.
The photo was taken by Teraoumi, by the way, who was also on that same “Team Kakuryu”.
OK, we can now move to the next day, as the Yokozuna and his former teammates work their way through the inevitable hangover. First, let’s see who is in charge of organizing this event at Itoigawa. Apparently, you can blame everything on this guy:
The venue opens at 8AM sharp:
That’s a mighty line there.
The sekitori also arrive at about the same time:
Ugh, this is not exactly the right weather to go around wearing nothing but a mawashi.
For some reason, Mitakeumi arrives not in the bus but in a taxi. This is usually something reserved for Yokozuna/Ozeki, who are often invited to local sponsors’ houses or local onsen etc., rather than staying in the same hotels or hostels as the rest of the rikishi.
I’m guessing as a Yusho winner he got a similar invite. Maybe from someone in the close by Nagano prefecture, which is his home turf.
Moving into the venue, the following video shows us a bird’s-eye view of what we usually see in individual photos: The low-ranking rikishi are practicing on the dohyo, while the sekitori start warming up around it, in the hana-michi and other approaches, and around the walls.
Some of the sekitori are outside shaking hands, though, especially our local boy, Yutakayama:
So let’s see if we can pick up some practicing rikishi. We have Daieisho and Kotonowaka, and Daieisho is actually practicing sumo here, and what’s more, yotsu.
We have Goeido doing resistance training, and not with a makeshift rubber tube either, but a proper tool… when he gets completely photobombed by Hakuho:
Hakuho has an uncanny talent for spotting lenses pointed at him.
Endo has been exercising for quite a while, and now wipes himself up.
Just so you know the extent of Endo’s fandom, the translation of that tweet is… “I wish I was that towel”. 😳
At another corner, Shohozan and Abi are… not really practicing.
Damn millennials! (I’ve always wanted to say that. Imagine a throaty grandma voice).
Now let’s go back to “Team Kakuryu”. The text on this official NSK tweet says “Kakuryu exercising with the help of his tsukebito, Hokutokawa”.
What I actually see here is Hokutokawa exercising with the help of his Yokozuna, Kakuryu… That’s how Team Kakuryu works, apparently.
Practice continues through its usual stages – moshi-ai for the lower ranks, some butsukari, moshi-ai for Juryo, butsukari, moshi-ai for the makuuchi rikishi, and then the Yokozuna/Ozeki choose their practice. Hakuho decided to give Yutakayama, the local boy, some kawaigari today. You wouldn’t know it by this video, but this turned into quite an episode.
You see, Yutakayama stopped the kawaigari on his own initiative. That’s… just not done. Admittedly, Hakuho
tormented pampered him for more than seven minutes, which is quite an impressive length for a kawaigari. The yokozuna kept going “mō itcho” – “one more round”. And usually, the lower ranking wrestler should just do it until he dies, or at least wishes he did. So Yutakayama just shook his head in refusal. Hakuho: “This was the first time I’ve ever heard ‘I don’t wanna’. I was so surprised I started laughing”. So he just did the final roll and the kawaigari ended. “It’s not acceptable to decide for yourself when you’re done. If you are not thankful for what you get, you will not become strong”, continued the Yokozuna, who was also annoyed because kawaigari is his way to entertain the local crowd with the local star. After keiko was done, he saw Yutakayama near the toilets, and asked him “Don’t you want to become strong?”, so Yutakayama just said “Yes, I do”. Yutakayama, when asked, said something a bit cryptic: “Although in butsukari with a Yokozuna you do the pushing, you feel like you’re being attacked. It was a feeling like there is nobody there in the world of Sumo”. (Nikkan Sports – yes, this made mainstream news)
One wonders what consequences this act of defiance is going to have. Will there be consequences for Yutakayama? Will more rikishi start to rebel against the laws of kawaigari? One thing I have already seen, and that’s the Hakuho haters on social media suddenly becoming Yutakayama supporters.
Practice is over, and we go for a quick tour backstage. You know that Yokozuna/Ozeki have their own shitaku-beya or at least a sectioned-off portion in the common shitaku-beya. Also, they have their own showers. But it turns out, so does the tate-gyoji. Here is the Inosuke room:
The original label above the door is “Broadcasting room”. So I’m guessing the 60 years old Inosuke was enjoying the noise-proof walls.
It’s lunch time. And I’m sure the rikishi get something or other to eat. But outside the venue, there’s yakitori! Also, there’s heavy rain.
Kizakiumi apparently really, really loves yakitori.
At around this time the low-ranking bouts take place, and as it turns out, Yutakayama is not the only local boy. Jonidan rikishi Oba is promoted to Sandanme for the occasion, and faces Yoshii. It’s a bit unusual to see two wrestlers in zanbara in the Sandanme bouts in Jungyo:
Oba, who is from the actual city of Itoigawa, is on the Jungyo by special permission, as he is not yet 20 years old. He starts with some high-pace tsuppari, and then slips into a grapple, and he seems to know his way around the mawashi. This guy has only been in sumo three tournaments, kachi-koshi in all three. Although Jungyo bouts are not exactly an indicator, I think I’ll keep an eye on the boy.
Another local boy – though not from Itoigawa itself – is Oki, from Shikoroyama beya, whom we have seen in Makushita during the basho. In honor of his birth place he gets to do a Juryo bout today and wears an oicho mage for the first time:
But before the Juryo bouts begin, there is a drumming demonstration. And just look at Ichiyamamoto, next to the nervous Oki, demonstrate his mad air-drumming skillz:
Then it’s time for the Makuuchi dohyo-iri. And you know what that means: goofs!
Tamawashi (you knew that name would come up, right?) is asking Hidenoumi, who just finished his bout, for a hug.
At this point, Tamawashi doesn’t actually need to do anything to scare Hidenoumi. It’s just knowing Tamawashi has his hands on his skin that makes Hidenoumi shout out “I’m scared! I’m scared!” and disengage.
Out at the entrance, somebody is offering Yutakayama a local bun. Now, the script says that Yutakayama should gush over anything local as if he ate it in his mom’s kitchen every morning when he was a wee boy. In fact, any Japanese offered food should burst out with “wow, how tasty!” as soon as he the first piece hits his taste buds.
But Yutakayama is not in the mood for social mores today, apparently.
He eventually gets to the “yes, it’s tasty”, but…
Abi and Ryuden are waiting for their dohyo-iri comfortably sitting at the PA desk. Abi tries reading the PA gyoji’s text out loud.
Now Abi knows that he chose right when he decided to be a rikishi rather than a gyoji.
We have one bout today, courtesy of the NSK Twitter account. Of course, it’s Yutakayama vs. Myogiryu. Care to place some bets?
And so, the day is done. Out from the shower, we have one Yusho winner responding to fans in a rather fetching get-up:
Are those Crocs flip-flops?
Hakuho, on the other hand, seems to be trying to go incognito:
Power tip, Yokozuna: if you want to be unrecognizable, don’t go with a monogrammed towel. 😆
(Yeah, you don’t see “Hakuho” there, but how many other rikishi have the given name “Sho”?)
And so, we bid the rikishi goodbye as they leave Itoigawa and head to the next destination. Just look at the number of buses. The Jungyo is quite an operation:
But of course, we can’t do without a pin-up boy. So today, the not-to-be-gyoji Abi!