Two Items: YDC Keiko Soken + Hakkaku-Oyakata Kanreki Dohyo-iri

We’re just about one week out from the start of the Aki basho in Tokyo but two big events of note were held at Kokugikan. First up was the open practice hosted by the Yokozuna Deliberation Council. The pressure is on for the sekitori, mostly, to impress the committee and the public. Second was a special dohyo-iri featuring former Yokozuna Hokutoumi, current Hakkaku-Oyakata.

Sept. 2023 Keiko Sōken

Open Practice

This was the first time since the start of the global pandemic that the Yokozuna Deliberation Council’s practice session was open to the public. At this event, the public sure let its presence be known with one spectator admonishing the sekitori on the dohyo for blocking their view. The dutiful wrestlers squatted or climbed off the dohyo to allow the spectators to see. Ever more helpful and accessible to online viewers, the Kyokai has posted a great video of the action on their YouTube channel and I’ve embedded the video below for your convenience.

The video opens with a sparring style called “mōshi-ai.” Here they take turns facing the winner of the previous bout. They’re rather aggressive as they jostle for the winner’s attention. While I’d be in the back, politely raising my hand, “ooo, ooo, Pick me, Sir! Pick me!” others are not as patient and bum-rush the victor, shoving their hand in his face… or just outright grabbing his head. I can never tell how the decision got made but it seems to be clear to just about everyone on the dohyo.

An exception to the rotation is when the Ozeki or Yokozuna appears. Ura won a good bout against Gonoyama where he was able to get in behind the youngster, but ceded his spot with the arrival of Ozeki Kirishima. The dohyo maintenance crew steps in to give the Ozeki a fresh fighting surface. Salt comes out of nowhere. Attentive tsukebito, show up, equipped with towels and water. The action heats up. It’s their show. The recuperating Terunofuji did not participate in the moshi-ai or bouts, though he did lend his chest for butsukari.

Just before the Kirishima/Wakamotoharu bout, Takakeisho climbed up onto the edge of the dohyo. When that bout ended, Kirishima picked Daieisho but when he clocked his fellow Ozeki, crouching at the side, he checked to see if Takakeisho wanted to step in, instead. Takakeisho deferred to Daieisho but stepped in for the next bout. With Hoshoryu joining them on top of the dohyo, most of the hiramaku wrestlers step down and the sanyaku (plus Onosho?) remain at the top of the surface. The Hoshoryu/Kirishima rivalry took precedence for quite a while as they fought each other over and over, not yielding to the eager bystanders. At one point, Nishikigi tries to get in there to take on Kirishima but, hilariously, Hoshoryu boxed him out. Status is everything.

The bouts themselves are pretty intense for practice and seem to give a real glimpse of the readiness of the wrestler. At one point, Kirishima defeated both Hoshoryu and a napping Takakeisho at the same time. Poor Takakeisho. He fought well, but did seem tentative. I’m eager to see how he performs on opening day, next weekend.

When Terunofuji arrived, in a gleaming white mawashi, the action shifted to butsukari. Kirishima got the privilege of working out with Terunofuji to start. A few wrestlers were still on the dohyo and Terunofuji shooed them away. “This is my dohyo now.” Kirishima was plainly gassed from his earlier bouts and was rather too slow to get up. “Hurry up! You’re slow!” Terunofuji repeatedly implored to Kirishima, lifting him by the knot of his mawashi. When Terunofuji finished with Kirishima, they climbed off the dohyo and let the others work out. Terunofuji remarked that Kirishima is the closest to becoming Yokozuna. Near the end of the video, we see Nishikigi nursing a possible pulled muscle in his right leg. He still has a week to prepare so I hope that will be enough.

Hokutoumi Kanreki Dohyo-iri

Hokutoumi Kanreki Dohyo-iri

Turning 60 years old is a significant milestone in Japan (as well as some other Asian countries), commonly associated with red decorations and clothes. For former Yokozuna, they get dolled up in their old Yokozuna kit and perform a special dohyo-iri, except they use a special red tsuna instead of white.

Former Yokozuna Hokutoumi is now Hakkaku-oyakata, chairman (rijicho) of the Japan Sumo Association. As the head of his own heya, he has ushered along several top rikishi, including Hokutofuji and Okinoumi. Both served as his attendants for his dohyo-iri, as you will hopefully see in the video on the left.

Twitter embeds have been a bit weird lately, so let me know if it stops working and I’ll dig up another source. This one has the entire dohyo-iri, so I hope it works.

19 thoughts on “Two Items: YDC Keiko Soken + Hakkaku-Oyakata Kanreki Dohyo-iri

  1. Thanks Andy!

    Daiesho, have you been giving that broken rib the rest it needs to properly heal? Given the “I’ll risk a punctured lung to have a chance at Ozeki” decision last basho, I have my doubts.

  2. I was surprise to learn the very day this was done that Hokutoumi (Hakkaku Oyakata) was having his Kanreki Dohyo-iri. I feel that this when under radar for months when it should have been more hyped than that. Kanreki are so rare ! (To my opinion !)

    I took the liberty to do a little research. And it might interest some….

    Currently, there is another former Yokozuna who is eligible for a Kanreki Dohyo-iri.
    Yokozuna Onokuni Yasushi. (The 62th Yokozuna)

    But based on what Wikipedia is saying, there seem to be no plan right now for holding one for him. Beside reaching the 60 years old of age milestone, i don’t know if there are other prerequisite.

    Not all Yokozuna seem to be receiving the honor of doing such ceremony. (When then ever can. A lot of them recently seem to have died before even reaching the required age. T_T )

    If Yokozuna Onokuni isn’t going to have one, the next in line will be Yokozuna Akebono Taro (the 64th) in SIX years. Then again, i don’t know if staying in the sumo association is a prerequisite for having a Kanreki Dohyo-iri.

    After that, in 8 years, it will be the turn for the warm and friendly Yokozuna Wakanohana Masaru (the 66th), start guess of AbemaTV. Which i am pretty sure peoples will want to see him doing that special ceremony.

    • It’s just so strange to think of Akebono being close to his kanreki celebration. It hit me when Konishiki turned 60 this summer.

  3. With that apparent calf muscle injury, I’m afraid Nishikigi’s stay in the sanyaku may be a short one. Asanoyama’s toe injury also seems worrying.

    • Depends on how bad that pull is. He was able to walk. My son pulled his calf a couple of weeks ago and wasn’t walking. It took about a week to get to where he could run. I have hopes that proper rest and treatment could heal a mild strain for Nishikigi.

  4. Kirishima looked really good to me in the practice bouts – solid, slightly bigger (he has gained weight), but still agile and highly responsive. A relief for this Kirishima fan.

    I hear both sides with regards to Terunofuji’s “support” for Kirishima at the end – torturous bullying from the angry, threatened alpha male vs an honour to be singled out in this way – and I still don’t know what to think. There’s a sense of subjugation, humiliation, and hierarchy to Sumo culture which this liberal Western nonconformist just can’t stomach.

    • I was surprised how quickly Kirishima was exhausted. He might learn to pace himself. I think Hoshoryu would have faired better because he didn’t push as hard in the moshiai.

      • In the open practice bouts…

        Kirishima won 13 and lost 4 (he had a favourable 4/3 result against Takakeisho and 3/1 against Hoshoryu). Takakeisho went 6/6 and Hoshoryu 7/7.

        That’s a lot of work for Kirishima. Should he have been less exhausted by the time a fresh Terunofuji stepped up to roast him? I have no idea.

  5. I don’t think any of the next five yokozuna to turn 60 will be doing the ceremony at the kokugikan. Wakanohana, Takanohana and Asashoryu are no longer linked to the JSA, so although they could perform a kanreki dohyo-iri, it would have to be at another venue. Akebono is also not in the JSA but even if he was he is far too sick to do it. Musashimaru is the only possibility, but, like Onokuni, is unlikely to be up to it physically.

    So that means that the next likely candidate would be Hakuho, in 2045. I just hope I will still be around to see it!

    • Oh! I didn’t know you had to be still in the JSA to be able to hold your Kanreki Dohyo-iri at the Kokugikan. Well, that mean it’ll be a really really long time then before we see the next one over there.

      You think Musashimaru won’t be albe to do it due to health condition ?
      I didn’t know he was sick. So was Onokuni. That would explain why they still didn’t hold one for him yet. (And maybe never will.)

      • Hakuho ruled so long by himself and four of the biggest predecessors are out of the sport: Akebono, Takanohana, Wakanohana, Asashoryu.

  6. Good morning, Can any of you confirm if Hakuoho is out due to shoulder surgery? Saw this news and the speculation is that he’ll be out 6 months (3 basho) and will drop all the way down to Makushita.

    • According to Chris Sumo, Hakuoho has had shoulder surgery and definitely will be out for September. It sounds like he prefers to get that shoulder healthy again rather than rushing back to action.

    • He did have surgery. He is out for Aki. I am working on a write-up. I have not seen a definitive return date but speculation is that he’s out for the rest of 2023, at least.

  7. In watching the mōshi-ai video above, I found it interesting that starting at about 18 minutes in, after Kirishima and Horshoryu faced off, that Kirishima kept throwing glances at Horshoryu even while facing Takakeisho.

    I think these 2 know they are the class of the banzuke and will be duking it out for years to come.

  8. I saw this late but Thank You Andy for posting this – I appreciate it because I don’t twitter or facebook, and yes, the video worked great!

    I sure hope Asanoyama and Nishikigi are able to fight – looks “ify” for both.

    On a side note to Andy: I watched some of the Congressional hearings regarding A.I. and I sure wish you had been the one to testify and show the great demonstration that you show us here so easily and eloquently – I think even Congress could understand!

    Thanks again and sorry for the late post – can’t wait for the Basho to start!


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