In days 1-4, we have been traveling around the coast of the Sea Of Japan. Today, we cross the island of honshu eastwards, almost all the way to the ocean side, to the Tochigi prefecture.
🌐 Location: Otawara, Tochigi prefecture
When the organizers negotiated this event, they were probably imagining the local heros – the Taka Twins – to be the main attraction and the joy of the prefecture as a whole, both coming in as sekitori.
They probably didn’t imagine that a scandal would again throw a spanner into the works. Instead of twins, they had to settle for one twin, who is also somewhat involved in the scandal.
Takagenji, of course, is extremely popular all around Japan, and certainly in the Tochigi and Ibaraki area, and he received all the accolades of a home boy. Only it appears the tone was lowered somewhat.
However, there are other home boys as well, albeit not sekitori. In fact, there are two rikishi who hail from the very city of Otawara! One is the 16 years old Kotakiyama, a Sandanme rikishi from Futagoyama beya.
To be here today, he had to be specifically requested by the sponsors, and receive permission from his stablemaster, as no under-age low-ranking rikishi are supposed to take part in the Jungyo.
Another local rikishi, who may be more familiar to the Tachiai readership, also needed a special request. Not because he is too young – he is 30 years old – but because the Jungyo usually does not include Jonokuchi wrestlers. I give you Urutora (“Ultra”) from Shikihide beya:
And as you can see, he was putting his best effort into the morning practice, to the delight of the savvy locals.
The day before the event, those local organizers made sure the dohyo was ready for action:
This work is almost always done by a local team, but you can see there is one person in an NSK shirt in the bottom right corner, which I assume is a yobidashi, ensuring that the tawara is laid out correctly.
On the actual day of the event, a long line stretches outside the venue.
Yobidashi Hiromasa is doing the drumming, behind him the now-familiar sign saying “Members of the Yakuza will be refused entrance”.
Kotoshogiku is outside, doing the duty which, in previous Jungyo tours, he shared with his good buddy Toyonoshima, who, alas, is kyujo from this tour: Taking photos with the fans.
Inside the venue, we have handshakes:
Tokushoryu and the local boy, Takagenji, are doing the shaking. As does Sokokurai.
The sign behind him says… you guessed it… “Yakuza will not be allowed” (or “be forgiven” – it’s the same verb). The writing is too small for me to tell if the phone number at the bottom is intended for people who want to report suspected Yakuza, or perhaps for Yakuza members who want to reform themselves, just so they can be admitted into a sumo event.
Let’s go inside and watch our sekitori do their morning exercise. We have Enho stretching:
He needs his arms in tip-top shape, because he needs to do a lot of those lately:
It wouldn’t do to drop a kid because your range of motion was not extensive enough, would it?
Not only sekitori are exercising. Here we have Nishiiwa oyakata overseeing two low-rankers in their morning exercise.
Those are Sekizuka, from Tagonoura beya, and Yamenosato, from his own heya. Why are there rikishi from heya which have no sekitori present? Because oyakata – especially heya owners – also have tsukebito.
Back to stretching – here is a Yokozuna pancake for you:
Very impressive, for a 34 years old. I note, however, that just like in his dohyo-iri, he can’t seem to be able to stretch his arms properly – not just the injured one.
Near the dohyo, a Yokozuna and a (still nominally) Ozeki are competing at push-ups:
Can’t quite decide who won.
On the dohyo, another local boy (although not from the actual town) is Dewanojo, Mitakeumi’s tsukebito. He is given his butsukari (or kawaigari, I can’t tell from a still image) by Chiyomaru rather than Mitakeumi himself. I guess sekiwake don’t do this for Sandanme rikishi.
As practice progresses through the sekitori moshi-ai, we should expect Takagenji, a local boy who is ranked in Makuuchi, to receive kawaigari from one of the highest ranking men. In this case [checks notes], um, Ryuden.
Practice done (sorry, today I have absolutely zero sumo videos). It’s lunch time! Yutakayama and Ichiyamamoto head outside, of course, because there’s hot chanko nabe and yakitori!
Yutakayama looks much happier than he was in his own home prefecture.
That Yakitori was not the only thing around. Apparently cows were also on the menu:
Not sure whether I’d prefer Australian Black Angus or Wagyu, mind you.
“But Herouth, where are our goofs? No bouts, fine, but no goofs?”
OK, let’s try the Makuuchi dohyo-iri. On the way to the dohyo:
Abi ensures we have Meisei’s greeting on record, and Enho ensures that Yutakayama’s full moon does not include the place where the sun doesn’t shine.
On the way back, they seem to be a bit more goofy:
Daieisho and Tamawashi, Sitting in a tree
K-I-S-S-I... OK, maybe not, but definitely holding hands.
And that’s it for today. Here is your pin-up: Shohozan!