Today was an interesting day in the lower divisions. Here are some stories (guided, I admit, mostly by what can be found by the way of videos, which is not much this basho):
First and foremost, it was Hattorizakura’s birthday today. He is now officially an adult by Japanese law. And he engaged in today’s bout like an adult:
This is the true meaning of gambarization. Too bad it didn’t work out. The rival, Houn, BTW, has only ever won against one person. Hattorizakura, of course.
Shunba, who is known to many of us as Terunofuji’s fatherly tsukebito, and who now serves as Takarafuji’s tsukebito, has lost some weight and seems to have gained some energy together with that. He is now kachi-koshi, and has a good chance of making it back to Sandanme next basho. Unfortunately, I found no shareable footage of this bout.
How are our three princes faring?
First, let’s look at Naya, Taiho’s grandson (and Takatoriki’s son, which is a fact the press likes to gloss over). Most of the bouts he engaged in looked one-sided, but today he met his high-school rival, Kototebakari.
Ah, apparently Naya stretches diligently. That didn’t look like a comfortable pose down at the edge of the dohyo. This loss probably denies him the Sandanme Yusho.
The second prince is, of course, Asashoryu’s nephew, Hoshoryu. He already dropped one bout on day 1. I’d say that was ring rust for sure, because he has been looking quite formidable since. Here he is against Tochikodai:
Kachi-koshi. The prince continues his ascent.
The third prince is the heir to the kingdom of Kotooshu, Torakio of Naruto beya. He has had a very strong basho so far – much better than his previous three. Unlike Naya and Hoshoryu, he still maintains the possibility for a yusho with this bout:
But wait, what was that at the end there? He seemed rather aggressive as he pulled his arm away Hokutoshu’s arm lock. Let’s look at this from a different angle (the following video has a glitch, but it’s time stamped to the replay of this bout which is fine):
Ahem. That’s not how a rikishi is supposed to behave. And his stable noticed.
Good day, everybody. Here are the results for day 9:
Torakio wins, 5-0
Kawamura wins, 3-2
Some allowance may be made for the fact that Torakio has little dohyo experience. And yet his behaviour at the end of today’s match lacked respect towards his rival. He shall be strictly disciplined.
“When you win, don’t gloat. When you lose, don’t sulk”. “Start with a bow, end with a bow”. Fundamentals first.
In addition, it seems that Torakio once again ends a bout with some level of injury. Let’s hope that he learns manners and keeps up the good sumo.
Tomisakae from Isegahama – known mostly for his agile backflips, his charming smile, and a shikona that stands out in a heya fulls of Terus and Fujis – has recorded five straight wins for the first time in his sumo careers. He seems to be bursting with genki:
If he does find himself with a surprising Makushita Yusho (which mathematically he is in the race for), he will find himself next basho in the Makushita purgatory – the zone separating heaven from hell. That will be a whole different story.
Enho is currently in that same purgatory, and his chances of making it back to sekitori heaven have improved with Murata dropping out of the basho after an injury. Of course, for this you have to have a kachi-koshi. And the schedulers were not merciful today, sending him to a Juryo bout against a rival 26 cm taller than him – Kizenryu, the purgatory yo-yo, who has spent no less than 9 basho in Juryo, but none consecutively.
Yo-yo or not, 26 cm, let alone the near 50kg weight difference, are something to be reckoned with. So let’s take a look at one of the best bouts of the day:
At first, Kizenryu denies Enho access to his mawashi. Enho takes a step back and then attacks again, this time finding his favorite mae-mitsu grip. Then he changes his grip to the back of Kizenryu’s mawashi. Kizenryu manages to get a grip on the pesky little mosquito’s mawashi. Enho tries a throw, realizes he doesn’t have the right hold, lets go of the mawashi with his right hand and grabs the leg. Within seconds – the end. Worth watching again from another angle:
This Ashitori got Enho first place in the kanto-seishin, the crowd favorite ranking, for the Juryo division – despite the fact that he is not in Juryo at all… yet!
Alas, my personal Jurya favorites have all been losing today:
Aminishiki is doing well for his age and condition, and managed to tie Taiho’s record of career wins (8th place, 872 wins) yesterday, but not to pass him today. Still has 5 days in which to get 2 wins for a kachi-koshi.
Terutsuyoshi was trying for straightforward sumo against Chiyonoo, but it didn’t work out for him:
Another favorite of mine is Chiyonoumi, the newcomer to the Juryo division. He is not doing badly for a beginner, with 5 wins in 9 days, but today he didn’t get one of them:
Takanoiwa seems to be heading for the Juryo Yusho. He has made his kachi-koshi already, at a record speed for himself as a sekitori. That is, this is the first time in his sekitori career he has only one loss in 9 days.
Good survival skills, there! Whether or not he wins the Yusho, we are almost certain to see him back in Makuuchi next basho (well, unless he happens to be in the same place as a Yokozuna and a Karaoke remote control again).
Akiseyama, the local Aichi boy, has been suffering greatly in this basho. He was down to seven straight losses, when he decided to go back to wearing his old purple Mawashi.
On day 2, the Yokozuna slipped when he was in the shitaku-beya. In his attempt to right himself, he re-injured himself “at the same place as I did in my bout with Endo two years ago”, the Yokozuna commented as he returned to his heya’s lodgings from the hospital.
The official doctor’s report is: “Damage to right-side patellar tendon, suspicion of avulsion fracture of the right tibial tuberosity. Requires two weeks of rest”.
Tachiai wishes the yokozuna good health and will continue to update if information turns up.
We saw a brilliant match today between Takayasu and Chiyonokuni, in which the latter survived after doing the splits and won the day.
Well, this time he accepted the victory (and Takayasu’s fat wad of kensho envelopes) squatting on his own feet. It ended differently in Nagoya 2013:
Although he won, he got seriously injured, went kyujo for the rest of that tournament, dropped down to Juryo, and had a hard time recovering (followed by additional injuries that threw him all the way to Sandanme) (Hat tip to Twitter user Vikram Hegde for the history lesson).
Rikishi often find themselves with their legs placed in very awkward positions. Unlike impact injuries, pulled tendons can often be avoided by diligently doing this:
Don’t let interaction with fans come between you and your splits:
While I don’t have evidence that prior to Nagoya 2013 Chiyonokuni has been lax about his flexibility drills, it is clear that he is now very diligent about them (The video is from 2017, the pictures from April 2018). And today it paid off.
The hardcore fans have been eagerly awaiting Hattorizakura’s best chance at securing a white star. The opponent was Wakaoyama. A 16 years old boy who weighs just 67kg, and whose record at Maezumo was a miserable 0-5. Hattorizakura weighs 88kg, and has a lot of experience.
Hattorizakura now has the interesting scoreline of 1 win – 111 losses in his career.
Tomorrow (or should I say, today) I’m going to watch Chiyotaiyo’s bout with interest. He is 175cm tall, weighs just 70kg, and looked like a stick insect in his shin-deshi presentation. But unlike the above Wakaoyama, he was 3-1 in Maezumo, and I think Kokonoe oyakata didn’t just pick him for the chanko and clean-up duties. He is up against Tanakayama, who is 183cm, 120kg, and was 3-0 in maezumo. Should be interesting.
Here is Shunba’s first match, up against Shikihide’s foreigner, Francis:
Sandanme is hot this basho. Well, everything in Nagoya is hot this basho, but Sandanme in particular. Here we have one we have been following for a while – Hoshoryu, Asashoryu’s nephew, who won the Jonidan yusho last basho. He faces Tagonofuji.
Well, there goes the Sandanme yusho.
Also in Sandanme, a bout between the two foreigners – Mongolian Yoshoyama from Tokitsukaze, and Bulgarian Torakio from Naruto. Both of them could be said to be somewhat underachieving. Torakio is the star of his heya, but has suffered injuries and setbacks and is only in Sandanme a year into his career. Yoshoyama was touted as very strong when he entered sumo. He is Tokitsukaze’s replacement for Tokitenku. So far he has been kachi-koshi, but not impressively so.
Torakio dispatches of him with a heave-ho. I guess young Mongolians suffer badly in extra hot Nagoya.
Here are some bouts from the hot end of Makushita. First, Tomokaze-Wakatakamoto. Wakatakamoto aims to catch up to his little brother Wakatakakage up in Juryo. It’s going to be hard to do it like this:
Quick reversals in a slap fest.
Murata vs. Hakuyozan. Bouts at the top of Makushita are energetic, not no say frantic:
Here is a digest of all Day 1 Juryo bouts (BTW, most of the videos in this post are from One and Only, now called “Sumo Channel”)
Homarefuji manages to reverse the charges at the edge. He is fighting for his life this basho, at the edge of a Makushita drop.
Tobizaru is trying everything he has, including an attempt at kicking, But Kizenryu just keeps him at bay and eventually grabs him and sends him flying like a… well… flying monkey.
Chiyonoumi in his first bout as a Sekitori. Land some heavy tsuppari at Wakatakakage, who joins his big brother on the black star list.
Mitoryu seems to be still a little bit on the injured side, and eventually resorts to the Ichinojo tactic – lean, then squeeze out.
Terutsuyoshi attempts a henka against Gagamaru, but executes it really sloppily and loses promptly.
Yago gets himself a birthday gift vs. Tokushoryu.
Azumaryu solid against Shimanoumi. Takes his time, wins in the end.
Adding to the list of Mongolians who can stand the heat – Kyokushuho who dispatches of Tsurugisho quickly. Seiro, on the other hand, has some trouble with Hidenoumi. The battle rages across the dohyo, but the man in the magenta mawashi gives way first.
Now, Aminishiki’s bout is worth watching from more than just that angle.
He goes straight for Daishoho’s mawashi. No henkas, no hatakikomis. Daishoho defends solidly, trying to prevent Aminishiki from making use of the handhold he has with his right hand. Aminishiki plants his head. Sets up his feet first one way and then the other, then applies all the strength he has with his right hand for a shitatedashinage. It is Aminishiki’s first Day 1 win this year.
Not sure about the Takanoiwa-Takanosho bout. Is Takanosho that good, or is Takanoiwa that rusty?
A battle of tsuppari ensues between Takagenji and Kotoyuki. Just as Kotoyuki is about to do his famous rolling stone impression, Takagenji’s heel touches outside of the tawara. No monoii needed.
Akiseyama doesn’t look like he is ready to face the challenge of Makunouchi just yet. Daiamami disposes of him rather quickly.
Just a few comments here as Bruce covered this excellently.
Arawashi looks like he is heading down to Juryo. Of course, ring rust and everything. But he seems to be simply too weak.
Nishikigi continues his forward motion from last basho.
Takarafuji also seems to be nearing his expiration date. He lost this bout on lack of stamina.
Ichinojo must have been watching the Russia-Croatia game yesterday. Including overtime and penalty kicks. He came into the ring as if he hasn’t had much sleep and… that’s not the Ichinojo I want to see. It was painful to watch (unless you’re a Chiyonokuni fan, that is).
Now, I wonder how it is that whenever I watch Hakuho fight I see a totally different match than the other Tachiai members… Bruce described this match as “the dai-Yokozuna dismantling Tamawashi”. What I saw was the dai-yokozuna winning on plan C. First, he went for the harizashi. Yes, that forbidden harizashi – slap and grab. Only, he couldn’t really grab. Tamawashi blocked him quite effectively. OK, plan B. He starts a flying tsuppari attack, and manages to turn Tamawashi around. But unexpectedly, Tamawashi wheels back in an instant, and gets the surprised Yokozuna in a firm morozashi. OK, plan C, because nobody becomes a dai-yokozuna by being a one-trick pony, and certainly not Hakuho, who creates a diversion behind Tamawashi’s neck, and, quick as lightning, performs a makikae (change of grips from overarm to underarm). This usually results in losing ground, but Hakuho times this very well and by the time Tamawashi pushes him to the tawara he is already in his favorite migi-yotsu and in the middle of a sukuinage.
So a brilliant show of the walking sumo encyclopaedia that is Hakuho, but it was a close call and certainly not a good sign for the Yokozuna.
This post originates in quote-retweets I made of the relevant NSK tweets. Josh suggested I collate them into a post. So for the benefit of those who don’t follow my Twitter account, here is the collation:
Tanabata is an ancient Japanese festival, celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month. Nowadays, it’s mostly celebrated on July 7th.
The main Tanabata custom is to write one’s wishes on a small piece of paper called “tanzaku”, hang the wishes from a bamboo – sometimes with other decorations – and then float the bamboo, wishes and all down a river or burn it around midnight or the next day.
This year Tanabata falls on Saturday, July 7th – the day before the Nagoya basho.
A couple of days ago, a rikishi-kai took place. “Rikishi-kai” is both the name of the meeting of sekitori taking place before each basho, and the body of sekitori itself. As a worker’s association, it’s pretty useless. But they have a fun meeting before each basho, sometimes raising money for charity, and sometimes just giving fans an opportunity to meet their idols and get photos.
Given the date Tanabata falls on, it’s no wonder that sekitori attending the rikishi-kai were handed tanzaku, and asked to write their wishes on them. Their wishes will be hung at the Dolphins Arena (the location of the basho) during Tanabata. Here is what they came up with:
Endo: “Get through the group stage”. Bruce claims this is about the Tachiai Sumo World Cup. I have a hunch he was talking about Team Japan in the FIFA World Cup. And he got his wish, though I wish those last 10 minutes would be erased from history.
Shodai: “I want a watch”. I’m sure he’s not addressing the gods… You want Japanese make or Swiss make? I’ll bet many of his sashi-ire (gifts to rikishi… or prisoners…) in the coming weeks are going to be ticking.
Mitakeumi: “I want to become handsome”. Well, he is using the word “ikemen” which is a manly man kind of handsome. There has been an argument about this on Twitter, in which some of the ladies claim that he already has his wish, whereas I claim that despite his obvious sumo prowess and good nature, he looks like a carp in a mawashi.
Hakuho: “Win #1000”. He is referring to number of wins in Makuuchi – he wants to pass 1000. He won’t make it this basho, though, as he is still 17 or so short, and I’m sure he doesn’t want the gods to extend the basho to 17 days.
Finally, we end with the leader of the banzuke, the surprisingly genki yokozuna Kakuryu: “I wish not to be injured”. I’ll add my voice to that, Amen. Chuckle for coming up with a wish that requires no kanji (“kega” is written in hiragana or katakana more frequently than in kanji).
You can see the two in a mawashi-matta. Explanation to newcomers: if a mawashi knot comes undone and reveals the wrestler’s family jewels, he loses immediately by disqualification. For this reason, if the gyoji or someone around the ring spots an undone knot, the gyoji calls a “mawashi-matta”, signals the rikishi to freeze, ties back the naughty knot, then slaps the backs of both rikishi to signal them to continue from the same position.
The only bout I have is actually Takayasu vs. Goeido, but I warn you in advance that you probably want to silence your speakers. This was shot by a very enthusiastic Philipino patriot who seems bent on embarrassing Takayasu very loudly:
The Gunma prefecture locals who came to watch this day’s event got a rare treat – they got to see Satonofuji perform the yumitori-shiki again. Satonofuji is a Gunma native.
Satonofuji also got many requests for photographs and autographs from his enthusiastic neighbors.
🌐 Location: Yasukuni shrine, Tokyo
Today’s honozumo event (a sumo event performed in the precincts of a shrine) marked the rikishi’s return to Tokyo after a very long while – those who participate in the Jungyo have been on the road since before the Haru basho.
Here come the entire Makuuchi – gathering at the main yard for a purification ceremony.
Hello again, Jungyo enthusiasts. I have strayed off the trail after day 6. Let’s try to do some catching up and join the sekitori again at Kanagawa, where they have been spending days 13 and 14.
So what happened during that interval?
Little girls can no longer participate in kiddie sumo
Despite public outcry, the NSK is asking each hosting town not to send little girls to the kiddie sumo events of the Jungyo. The reason given “Safety first”. When various outlets pointed out that boys and girls are equally susceptible to injury on the dohyo, the answer was “We don’t want to risk girls sustaining permanent injuries to the face”.
Hakuho’s father passed away
On April 9th, Hakuho’s father, Mönkhbat, the former Olympic medalist in wrestling, and the equivalent of Dai-Yokozuna in Mongolian Wrestling, passed away at the age of 76 of liver cancer.
Hakuho fully participated in the event in Ina, Nagano prefecture, but asked for – and received – a leave of absence to attend his father’s funeral in Mongolia starting from April 11th. He will re-join the Jungyo for the Honozumo event at Yasukuni shrine on April 16th.
The late Mönkhbat has been a national hero in Mongolia, and his funeral drew much attention and included military escort.
Hakuho has always been very strongly connected to his father and looked up to him. When the father was diagnosed with liver cancer, Hakuho had him flown to Japan for treatment, then back to the comfort of his own home in Mongolia. Of course, even the best modern medical intervention has its limitations.
Kisenosato joins the Jungyo
Kisenosato announced that he will re-join the Jungyo. His return was planned for the 13th, but he joined one day earlier – may be to avoid Friday the 13th, or maybe to cover up for Hakuho’s absence.
In the couple of days he’s been participating he has been showing mixed results. I’d warn you against developing high hopes hearing reports that he wins his Jungyo bouts. We’ve been here before – Kisenosato managing to win bouts and elimination tournaments in Jungyo, getting breathless coverage from the press, then hitting a wall in honbasho. That injury is not going away any time soon.
Terunofuji and Aminishiki absent
I reported in my Day 6 coverage that Terunofuji was absent from the torikumi. The next day he was joined by his stablemate, Aminishiki. Terunofuji was reportedly back on duty today (April 14th) at the Fujisawa event, but Aminishiki is still out.
Goeido had a birthday on April 6th – day 6 of the Jungyo – and is now 32. The following day, Ichinojo celebrated his 25th birthday.
Today, although he is never again going to be on any Jungyo, many sumo fans celebrated Harumafuji’s 34th birthday.
Endo is getting a lot of high-rank attention this Jungyo. Apparently that’s because he is going to make san-yaku in the Natsu basho. Previously he got juiced by Takayasu. This time, Kakuryu invited him to san-ban (practice form in which the same two wrestlers go through full bouts repeatedly until the higher ranking one calls it off).
This one consisted of 13 bouts, all won by the Yokozuna. Rather than counting wins, the Yokozuna concentrated on adjusting his own movement and building up his body.
After practice, the Yokozuna was seen having a talk with Endo. It turned out that they were exchanging injury-related experience.
Kakuryu’s finger injury lingers on. He seems able to use his grip, but says that after applying sudden force, when he lets go of the opponent’s mawashi, the pain hits. “But it’s not preventing me from doing sumo”.
Kisenosato engaged Meisei from Juryo for a 9-bout sanban, and won them all. Also watch for the bout vs. Kakuryu at the musubi-no-ichiban. Just remember my warning above.
Help, a group of fierce robbers has taken to the streets of Fujisawa!
(A word of advice to Kyokushuho: your highwayman career is going to be very short if you wear kimono with your name (and those of current and former stable mates) splashed all over it).
The spectators got to enjoy double bills, both in the oicho construction performance:
And in the tsuna-shime performance, where the two Yokozuna present showed off their ropes. I think this was originally planned to include Hakuho, which would have given the spectators both Shiranui and Unryu style rope tying, but unfortunately Hakuho is in Mongolia, and so they got a double Unryu.
The top 16 members of Makuuchi participated in an elimination tournament. So here is Kisenosato vs. Tamawashi:
3800 people came to view the event in Himeji. The main objects of interest were, of course, the Hyogo local boys – Myogiryu, who comes from Takasago, some 10km from himeji; Terutsuyoshi, from a nearby island; and the young jonidan Teraowaka, of Shikoroyama beya.
Myogiryu was the object of a demonstration of oicho-mage construction, while Terutsuyoshi played with the kids:
Those kids are almost Terutsuyoshi’s size…
The jinku team members in their borrowed kesho-mawashi basked in the adoration of the spectators.
Of all the bouts, the only one I have anything about is the musubi-no-ichiban. I don’t know the result, but since Hakuho is closer to the ring, I guess it was his win:
🌐 Location: Takarazuka, Hyogo prefecture
3150 people came to view the jungyo event in Takarazuka.
As in every Jungyo event, there was a speech by the mayor. However, this time, the mayor happened to be female. This means the speech was not delivered from the dohyo:
The mayor addressed the issue in her speech: “Not being able to deliver my speech from the dohyo is frustrating and painful”. She later held a press conference, in which she said she was insulted by the salt thrown after the incident in Maizuru (Note: salt is thrown on the dohyo whenever a serious injury occurs on it. It’s also thrown as a marker of separation between events and even thrown if practice seems somewhat subdued. The claim that it was thrown because of the women is false). She also added that she will write to the NSK and ask them to treat men and women equally, whether it’s on or off the dohyo, implying that if women have to give speeches from the side of the dohyo, men should have to do the same.
The mayor’s speech got a mixed reaction – applause on the one hand, jeers on the other (mostly by male spectators). The discussion is becoming heated. While everybody agrees that women should be allowed when life is at stake, there are many – men and women – who think that breaking away from this tradition or even asking for it to be broken is not warranted.
On to actual sumo.
Tobizaru worked hard enough to get his hair in zanbara again:
Ichinojo practiced his kaiju mode, grabbing kids and eating them. OK, maybe not eating. But certainly giving them atomic wedgies.
By the way, there were over 30 local kids, starting from those little “play with the big mountain” toddlers and through to serious wanpaku sumo practitioners. Ichinojo was not alone on that dohyo – there were Kaisei, Ryuden, Chiyoshoma as well.
Takayasu decided to invite the ever-popular Endo for butsukari. Takayasu does butsukari with all his heart. So Endo ended up looking like this:
By this time, Hakuho was on the dohyo as well, doing his shiko and waiting his turn after the Ozeki. He revived Endo by pouring some water on him (it’s common practice for a third party to do that, especially high rankers):
You can’t really see endo and Takayasu in this video, but pay attention to Hakuho. He is priming the audience for applause, and when Endo finally manages to push Takayasu out, the Yokozuna gives the signal:
In sadder news, Terunofuji has gone kyujo. He was on the bout program. In Jungyo, they don’t do the fusensho thing – the Jungyo is intended to entertain the audience. Terutsuyoshi filled in for him, meaning that Terutsuyoshi did two bouts this day.
Before I fall into too much of a backlog, here is a selection of events from the days 2 through 4. If you’re dying to read about the scandal of day 4, jump right ahead. Just remember, we’re here for the sumo, not for the sensation.
🌐 Location: Nakatsugawa, Gifu prefecture
About 3000 people came to watch the event at Nakatsugawa. There were handshakes and fansa (Japanese shortcut for “Fan Service”).
The center of attention was Mitakeumi. Although he is not from Nakatsugawa or even from Gifu, he hails from the close-by Agematsu in the adjacent Nagano prefecture. So the locals were rooting for him.
Practices around the dohyo also included a komusubi doing stretches:
🌐 Location: Sakai, Osaka prefecture
In this Jungyo tour, the shokkiri team consists of Kotoryusei and Kotorikuzan from Sadogatake. Every different shokkiri team changes the details of the shokkiri routine a bit and makes it its own. Notable elements – Gyoji very much a part of the show, and Kotoryusei doing the Kotoshogiku stretch. I guess he got permission from his senior heya mate.
Hakuho performed his dohyo-iri with a toddler:
You can almost hear the “there, there” (or “yosh-yosh” in Japanese). The toddler is the son of the leader of Japanese pop group ET-King, the late Itokin, who died in January of lung cancer at the age of 38. Hakuho promised him he’ll put his boy on the dohyo and this was the fulfillment of that promise.
Takayasu is aiming for the yusho in the next basho. He said that he doesn’t get enough practice, and accordingly, invited Abi, Shodai and Mitakeumi for san-ban – a series of bouts between the same rikishi – in which he won 11 of the 12 bouts. He followed that with butsukari-geiko for Mitakeumi, who himself aims to re-establish himself at the sekiwake position which he is certainly going to lose in the coming basho. Mitakeumi said Takayasu “was heavy”, but was thankful for the exercise.
As always in Osaka, Goeido is king, and participates in the kiddie sumo, something Ozeki only do if they choose.
Here is a rather shaky video of the musubi-no-ichiban, Hakuho vs. Kakuryu:
Jungyo tours are usually done by invitation from the town being visited. The town’s mayor usually opens the festivities with a speech. It so happened that the mayor of Maizuru (“Dancing Crane” – it could make a good shikona), who is 67 years old, suddenly dropped in the middle of his speech with his hands shaking.
A number of people, including yobidashi and people from the audience gathered around him, when a medical professional – first said to be a doctor, later a nurse – who clearly had experience in CPR climbed up the dohyo and gave the man a heart massage. She happened to be a woman. Women are not allowed on the dohyo, but the men on the dohyo gave way and let her do her thing. Another similar professional joined her. More people gathered, including a few other women, when the PA started calling “Ladies, please leave the dohyo”.
The additional women who came confusedly left the scene. The original professional stayed until the paramedics arrived. There is a fully staffed and ready ambulance in every Jungyo event, and the paramedics came in rather quickly. By this time a female usher was tugging at the lady professional to get off the dohyo. She only left when the paramedics took over.
The PA is always handled by a gyoji. His part usually comes down to announcements such as “On the west, Maegashira Kaisei, from Brasil, Tomozuna beya. On the east, Maegashira Takarafuji, from Aomori, Isegahama beya”, and “The kimarite is yori-kiri, Kaisei performs a yori-kiri and wins”. The standard formulae are always the same, occasionally peppered by kensho messages, requests from the audience not to throw zabuton and safety procedures.
The gyoji with the mike, shocked and confused by the emergency situation on the dohyo, for which he did not have a manual, reverted to first principles, and did what he knows best: stick to tradition. Unfortunately, this was the wrong choice, further complicated by being made in an age in which everything is being captured and uploaded within seconds.
Twitter basically burst into flames. “How can you put tradition ahead of human life?” was the main theme. Some, of course, blamed the NSK as a whole for this, as if this was done by official sanction. The situation reached such proportions that the chairman of the NSK, Hakkaku, had to issue a written press statement back in Tokyo. He said that the gyoji’s response was an inappropriate response when human life was at stake. He apologized to the women involved and thanked them for coming to the mayor’s rescue.
The next day the new Jungyo master, Kasugano – who, I believe, was in the restroom when the whole thing happened – also made a statement. He said that this was an unforeseen occurrence, and that since it may also happen during honbasho, the NSK will have to come up with a procedure for dealing with it.
So next time, the gyoji will have it in his manual.
The mayor, by the way, was diagnosed with a haemorrhage from a cranial blood vessel. So in fact the CPR was not pertinent to his situation. He is currently stable, and will need a month of hospitalization to fully recover.
Unfortunately, this event overshadowed the rest of the day. I could not find any photos of wrestlers or bouts. If any turn up, I’ll be sure to include them here.
Some of the readers may know that I’m currently on vacation in Tokyo. I thought that from Japan, I would be able to post better, high quality matter. As it turns out, it’s very difficult to post anything larger than a tweet when all you have is a tablet and a smartphone. Well, today I finally got myself to Akihabara and got an external keyboard for my tablet, so I’m ready to brave posting again, but I still can’t promise these jungyo posts will be up to par – or even that I’ll be able to post them daily. I’ll do what I can.
The Jungyo actually started on April 1st. So I’m sorry about the delay. Let’s start!
🌐 Location: Ise Shrine, Mie Prefecture
The Ise Shrine is Japan’s holiest and most ancient shrine – the main shrine of the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu. The visit to Ise Shrine was not just your regular jungyo visit, intended to entertain the residents of small towns and let them share in the national sport. It’s a “Honozumo” event – sumo bouts that take place inside the precincts of a shrine. Sumo originated as an entertainment for the gods, and Honozumo events bring it back to its origins.
12 sekitori are absent from the Jungyo. This includes Kisenosato who – unsurprisingly – still has that problem in his left chest. It also includes every sekitori from the Takanohana stable, except for Takagenji. Takanoiwa’s medical certificate indicates mental stress.
That same Takagenji stood a long time at the edge of the dohyo. The sekitori were doing moshi-ai, where the winner of a bout stays on the dohyo and chooses his next opponent. Nobody chose Takagenji and he looked pretty frustrated.
Takagenji is used to having his twin around during jungyo.
While the rest of the rikishi were practicing, the Yokozuna performed a ceremonial dohyo-iri. This is much like the one performed in the beginning of every year at the Meiji shrine, with a few differences. First, at Meiji it is performed right in front of the main Shrine building. At Ise, the grand shrine is actually off-limits to anybody but high priests.
Second point, the Meiji shrine yard is hard cement. Here, the Yokozuna had to do their dance in the sand. Hakuho had a really hard time doing the seriagari (the part where he gradually rises):
As I said on Twitter, I’m pretty sure there were a couple of tsukebito that night who were muttering curses under their breath as they were trying to clean all the sand out of the fringes of the two Yokozuna’s kesho-mawashi.
Ah, you did notice that Hakuho is back and beaming, didn’t you? He was in a very good mood the whole day, and said that he was really eager to get back on the dohyo. When asked about the condition of his big toes, he said “so-so”, but was still wearing that big smile when he did.
The torikumi that day was in the form of an elimination tournament. Here is a demonstration of the kimarite known as “kekaeshi”. It’s a minor trip, usually accompanied by a pull that causes the rival to lose his balance.
That boy in the front row? He is not going to forget this visit to the shrine. And a very genki Hakuho takes the yusho for the day.
Note that dohyo, by the way. It’s not your regular beer-crate jungyo dohyo. It’s an old permanent dohyo. Many of those are scattered around Japan, in school yards and shrines. Not as pretty or straight as the one in the honbasho venues, but one where you really feel the Earth under your feet.
Yesterday, the NSK board convened. After a couple of meetings in which the newly elected board was set up and various toshiyori were assigned duties, it was finally time to deliberate the penalties of various trouble makers.
Takayoshitoshi and Takanohana
As you may recall, in the middle of the basho, shin-juryo Takayoshitoshi decided to beat up his tsukebito in front of many witnesses, and was pulled out of the basho as a result. His punishment for the deed is a suspension for one basho. He will not do the spring jungyo and will forfeit the Natsu basho. He is allowed to practice at his heya.
This of course implies a sharp drop in rank. Maybe even as far as sandanme.
The stablemaster of every trouble rikishi also has to bear punishment for his part in raising and guiding his deshi improperly. However, in Takanohana’s case, there was more – he has continued his games with the NSK and played hooky from the arena. He wasn’t around when the twin did the deed, and he should have.
There was a faction in the NSK – allegedly the Nishonoseki ichimon – which called for him to be suspended from all activities this time. This would have prevented him from actually guiding his deshi, and may have required fostering them temporarily to other heya in his ichimon. However, the Takanohana ichimon begged for a lighter sentence, and eventually the board decided on yet another demotion. He now has the lowest possible rank for a member of the NSK: toshiyori.
The Minezaki scandal
We haven’t mentioned this story in a post so I need to fill you in. A short time before the Takayoshitoshi story broke, it was announced that a rikishi from Minezaki beya has beaten up a junior on four separate occasions, some of them after the Harumafuji scandal. The junior rikishi retired as a result, but the story only came to the knowledge of the stablemaster from a letter sent by the former rikishi’s father. He promptly reported it to the NSK and they announced it publically after verifying it with the parties involved.
The names of the parties have not been revealed by the Japanese press, but only one rikishi retired from that heya recently: Kaigo. As for the assailant, a single rikishi from Minezaki beya pulled out of the tournament following the publication: Arawashi’s tsukebito, Hikarugenji. Connect the dots.
And his punishment was decided yesterday as well. He, too, will be suspended from one basho. Again, a drop in rank is implied. Hikarugenji was sandanme 25 in the Haru basho.
Minezaki oyakata was docked 10% of his salary for the next two months.
The Osunaarashi wrap-up
At the time of the announcement of the Osunaarashi scandal, his stablemaster served as a trustee. This means that he was not considered a member of the NSK and could not be punished (though through some regulation gymnastics, he could still keep his heya…)
However, in yesterday’s meeting he was docked 10% of his salary by his own request. At the same opportunity, he also declared that he will not be holding a danpatsu-shiki (ceremonial cutting of top-knot) for Osunaarashi. Indeed, the former rikishi is already shorn.
The punishments seem extremely light. Yet another demotion for Takanohana, after he clearly didn’t repent following the previous one and indeed said he does not accept nor understand it? It remains to be seen if the former dai-yokozuna will quit his attention-seeking behavior and start on a more constructive path.
As for the two violent rikishi, what message does that send to parents who send their kids to professional sumo? “Nothing has changed. Your kid may well be beaten up if a senior doesn’t like the way he makes the chanko. There is no incentive for the seniors to keep their hands in their obi.” After Hakkaku declared that stopping violence in sumo is the top item on his agenda, I would have expected a more severe punishment.
An old Jewish saying goes: “He who is kind to the cruel ends up being cruel to the kind”.
Today, the banzuke meeting took place. The full banzuke will not be published until shortly before the next basho, but as usual, promotions to Juryo are announced ahead of time, to allow new promotees to get ready with their paraphernalia.
Newcomers to Juryo:
Wakatakakage, Arashio beya
Hakuyozan, Takadagawa beya
Asabenkei, Takasago beya
Wakatakakage hails from Fukushima, and in his promotion interview, he vowed to do his best for the sake of the Fukushima residents who suffered in the great Tohoku disaster. He says he got a kimono and obi from the previous Fukushima “representative”, Sotairyu, who retired in Hatsu 2018, symbolically continuing in his footsteps.
Hakuyozan, when asked about his goal as Sekitori, said he wanted to reach the same rank as his stablemaster, Takadagawa oyakata [That is to say, Sekiwake. –PinkMawashi].
The stablemaster himself laughed and said he was aiming too low. Eventually they agreed that he should follow in the steps of Yokozuna Kashiwado, who hailed from Yamagata, Hakuyozan’s home.
With three promoted, three will be demoted. The demoted rikishi have not been announced, but obviously two of them are Enho and Takayoshitoshi. The third one will probably be Amakaze. If, like myself, you are wondering why ranked J7 he will be demoted rather than one of the low rankers with a make koshi (e.g. Tobizaru at J13), well, Amakaze had a very poor performance (3-12), and I’m told he was scheduled on senshuraku against Asabenkei, specifically to determine whether they should trade places. Amakaze lost, Asabenkei got the promotion, thus Amakaze goes.
Congratulations to the new (and returning) sekitori, and personally, if indeed Amakaze is the unlucky ex-sekitori, I hope to see both him and Enho back in their Kesho-mawashi soon.
What a marvellous day we had today at the EDION arena in Osaka.
The first bout in Makuuchi featured a visitor from Juryo, Takekaze, who seems to be quite on the genki side and ready to come back to the top level. He was faced with Aoiyama, still part of the Yusho arasoi.
This time, no Henka, and Aoiyama pulled away from the tachiai to give himself space for his usual tsuppari attack, then pushed Takekaze forward – but one advantage the little bullfrog has over Aoiyama is that he is much lighter on his feet. Lateral movement, and the Bulgarian’s inertia did the rest. Aoiyama now out of the yusho race, but he will get his kachi-koshi, and probably double digits.
Asanoyama faced shocking pink Hidenoumi, but was not blinded by his mawashi. He got a safe hold on Hidenoumi’s mawashi, tried a yori in one direction, then a yori in the other direction, then just pulled the man down. Uwatedashinage, and Hidenoumi is make-koshi and heading back to Juryo.
Ishiura didn’t do the most flagrant henka on the dohyo today. It was only a half-henka. Myogiryu managed to turn around at the edge, but not quickly enough to avoid the push.
Kotoyuki must be spending a large fraction of his keiko time perfecting his rolling technique. Even when he doesn’t roll off the dohyo, he still manages to roll. And today the bowler was Sokokurai, with a very typical uwatenage. Kotoyuki still winless.
Daiamami, who has had a strong basho this far, surprises by doing a henka. Still not the most flagrant one of the day. And also rather ineffectual. Tochiozan easily recovers and returns the favor, and it’s Daiamami who is on the receiving end of the hatakikomi, and off the yusho race.
Ikioi seems as good as he has been this basho. Pushes here and there, and then slams Yutakayama to the ground. Yutakayama’s hand goes straight to his topknot before he even rises, and for a good reason. His hair got pulled. Was it a forbidden hair pull or a hand accidentally getting caught in the elaborate hairdo? A monoii is called. The shimpan confer and decide: he pulled.
It’s worth noting that the point here is not so much if the hand in the hair is what caused Yutakayama to fall, and it’s also not whether it was intentional or not. Japanese culture regards people’s intentions and feelings as something that can’t be judged easily from the outside, so it tends to concentrate on observable behavior. The point is, therefore, whether Ikioi was grabbing the hair or not. And the replays show him bending his fingers as they get caught in the hair. This makes it a grab. Hatakikomi experts like Aminishiki know to keep their fingers straight when this happens. If your fingers are straight, you’re pretty much safe.
Ikioi, therefore, loses by hansoku – a disqualification – for using a kinjite – a forbidden technique. This is very rare in the top divisions. Ikioi says he thought his hand was already free of the mage when he pulled down.
Chiyonokuni gives Nishikigi his standard treatment. Forward attack with fierce tsuppari, and then a sharp pull. Nishikigi, as he has been for quite a few basho, is struggling to string wins together.
Kagayaki beats Daishomaru by a straightforward yori-kiri. Kagayaki has really improved his sumo style, and I would have expected him to be more than 5-5 at this point. Daishomaru missed his kachi-koshi opportunity this time.
Daieisho tries to develop an oshi battle against Chiyoshoma, but Chiyoshoma catches his mawashi and it turns into a yotsu battle. Chiyoshoma goes back and forth trying to create one of his favorite throws. He is having a hard time of it this basho, though. Eventually he gives up and completes this by a simple, straightforward yori-kiri.
The two rikishi who won the kanto-sho together last basho, Ryuden and Abi, are now being sorted into two different levels. Ryuden, though he is a very nice rikishi, will stay at the low to middle ranks, while Abi is definitely going places. Abi did his standard routine. Long hands landing a barrage of tsuppari, long legs moving forward fast. Ryuden could not withstand that attack or try anything. Abi, if he improves his footwork, may get to sanyaku in a couple of basho.
Something very strange is happening to Yoshikaze. Are we seeing the initial signs of concussion-related issues? He looks pretty much alright in his match with Okinoumi, when suddenly his left foot develops a mind of its own and he crumbles to the ground. The kimarite is kainahineri, but it doesn’t really look like one, and the only reason he escaped being sent off with a tsukihiza (which is a hiwaza – a non-technique, a default) is that Okinoumi was, in fact, applying some force to his body.
Takakeisho continues his weak, supposedly injury-related, sumo vs. the struggling Hokutofuji. For a couple of basho, the tadpoles have been the great hope for the future, and now they are all crumbling together.
Takarafuji showed today what he is really worth, in a patient and strong match with Kotoshogiku. He even attempts to gaburi the gaburi-master at some point there, but eventually finishes with a cleanly executed throw. The Isegahama man is a clear demonstration of the hardship of the joi. In the first week he got pummeled by much superior rikishi, and then, with low confidence and accumulated bangs, lost a couple of matches he should have won if they were in the beginning of his schedule. Thus, a make-koshi for an otherwise excellent wrestler. All he can do is try to pad his slide down the banzuke with a few wins.
Arawashi, whose left knee bandage seems to grow larger every day, is no real match for Endo, who gets him quickly out of the circle. Off-dohyo issues may also be affecting the injured Eagle, as apparently his tsukebito, Hikarugenji, is involved in yet another violence scandal and is kyujo as of today.
And now we come to the highlight match of the day. 420kg on the dohyo, not counting the gyoji. On one side, the new kaiju, Ichinojo, flexing his muscles and looking for young horses to toss around. On the other side, Kaisei, with a perfect 9-0 record, eyeing the yusho. Tachiai. Boom! The meeting of bodies nearly causes the seismographs in the Kansai area to send the signal for all shinkansen to stop in their tracks. It’s lucky that the honbasho dohyo is not made of beer crates like the jungyo dohyo are.
Kaisei takes the initiative and manages to get Ichinojo to the bales, but the Kyomusubi rallies and step by step pushes back to the middle of the ring. Then he sets his alarm clock for the next day, finds a soft spot on Kaisei’s shoulder to rest his head and goes to sleep. Remember, there are no wolves in Japan. Ichinojo can allow himself to sleep deeply, while Kaisei’s eyes start to bulge. The next day, Ichinojo wakes up, pushes a bit, sees that Kaisei still has some stamina left, hits the snooze button, and sleeps some more. Then he wakes up, picks the spent Brazilian up, and heaves him across the tawara.
Kaisei is too heavy to stop dead, and drops down, but Ichinojo still has enough stamina to pull at the Tomozuna man, enough to make him land lightly on his feet with little impact. Well done, Kyomusubi. Ichinojo is kachi-koshi, and Kaisei receives his first loss.
(OK, OK, I’m sure my Japanese jokes are lost on the crowd here. I’m calling him Kyomusubi because Komusubi – 小結 – means “little knot”, but 巨結 – Kyomusubi – giant knot – seems somehow more appropriate).
But would you believe that this battle of titans, with immediate implications for the yusho run, was honored with not a single envelope of kensho? None. Zero. Ichinojo got to take home only his pride and the fans’ adoration.
Tamawashi has settled into a “one day sunshine, the next day rain” pattern. Where is the strong Tamawashi of yesterday? Chiyotairyu pushes him off the dohyo before the gyoji completes his first “hakkioi”.
The bout between Mitakeumi and Shohozan turns out to be a very nice piece of sumo. Shohozan goes for a harizashi but doesn’t quite gets the “zashi” part (slap-and-grab, but where’s the grab?). Then a slapfest ensues. Another harite! And another! And a body clash! Then Shohozan attempts to pull and sidestep. Mitakeumi keeps his balance and manages to re-engage. But Shohozan has now achieved the “grab” he was looking for, with a right-hand-outside. Mitakeumi’s left hand goes outside Shohozan’s grip, and he attempts to grab at Shohozan with his right, but this only ends with Shohozan having a tight morozashi with both hands firmly on Mitakeumi’s left back mawashi. Mitakeumi tries to do something with the arm he has on Shohozan’s neck, but Shohozan’s mighty pythons are doing their job, and Mitakeumi finds himself rolling below the dohyo.
Takayasu makes short work of Shodai. Kachiage. A couple of Nodowa, and good-bye. Takayasu is kachi-koshi, safe from kadoban, and looks pretty much like he did in the previous basho.
And now we come to the most flagrant henka of the day. By, you guessed it, Ozeki Go-Away-Do. And I don’t want to hear any complaints about me using that nickname when he does this. Are you under 170cm, Ozeki? Perhaps you weigh less than 100kg? Are you injured? Coming back from a long, rust inducing kyujo? In kadoban? Facing a man ranked 10 levels above you? Bah. Chicken. His home crowd at Osaka didn’t like it, either. There was a babble of disapproval where there should have been applause for their hero. The Osaka crowd are sumo aficionados. They know what’s right and what’s not. Tochinoshin managed to circle around in time, but couldn’t rally fast enough. He is now out of the yusho race. But I certainly hope he can continue the Ozeki run. Goeido, on the other hand, gets about 20 envelopes of kensho for this display.
Kakuryu, after his display of tawara-waltz yesterday, probably decided it’s time to show some Yokozuna-worthy sumo. He starts with a harizashi (which some argue is not yokozuna sumo. Well, at least not when the Yokozuna is Hakuho). Then gets his typical migi-yotsu, firmly holding to Chiyomaru‘s mawashi with his right hand.
This was, in fact, only the second time he used that grip in this basho. That’s the injured hand, and most of his bouts have been about working around it. He attempts to use it for the yori, but it’s actually Chiyomaru who advances. The yokozuna changes his overarm grip – the left hand – placing it closer to the front of Chiyomaru’s mawashi, and then uses it cleanly and efficiently and Chiyomaru finds himself outside in no time. This has been the first time for Chiyomaru to appear on the musubi-no-ichiban, or engage with a Yokozuna at all. He said “It was an atmosphere which I have never experienced before”.
Kakuryu achieves his “Yokozuna kachi-koshi”. It now remains to see if his faith is going to be different than in the previous basho, as he goes into the last third where he faces the strongest opponents. And the first challenge is Kyomusubi Ichinojo!
10-0 – Y1E Kakuryu
9-1 – M6E Kaisei
8-2 – OE Takayasu, KE Ichinojo
As I said, I’m combining my coverages today, and here is the Juryo summary.
At the very bottom, Enho is edging closer to a make-koshi, and his chance of winning all of his next five bouts are vanishingly small, much like himself. He will need to spend some more time at Makushita and get those kilograms rolling.
Tobizaru pretty much sweeps the floor with him.
Terutsuyoshi is not fairing much better, and I believe he is heading back to Makushita yet again, despite being stronger than Enho. He complains of various injuries on the Isegahama website.
The rest of the Isegahama sekitori surprisingly all won today, while all of Takanohana’s lost. In fact, Takanoiwa lost to Homarefuji.
Homarefuji got him into an oshi battle, which is clearly not his specialty.
Terunofuji got to meet the much higher-ranked Kyokutaisei. And once again, showed a glimpse of the old Terunofuji:
Harizashi, yotsu, yori-kiri. The former Ozeki and Kyokutaisei both hit the even 5-5 mark.
For some reason, One And Only seems not to like Aminishiki, and never posts a video of his bouts. So here is a time-stamped (46m 18s) full Juryo video from Miselet:
I have a hunch Aminishiki is going to announce his retirement soon – after this basho, or maybe the next. He is having a real hard time, and I suppose he is getting tired of suffering pain day after day and seeing not much in return.
But for the time being, he manages to scrape another win and break his fall down Juryo somewhat. Tokushoryu tries a tottari, but Aminishiki uses the same elbow to push him away and out.
Mitoryu and Sadanoumi are the only two Juryo wrestlers to achieve kachi-koshi by day 10. Tsurugisho and Amakaze are, alas, make-koshi.
Finally, at Jonokuchi, here is the Hoshoryu of the day. Congratulations, first kachi koshi!
Yesterday, on day 8, Takayoshitoshi arrived late, trotting up the hanamichi, as the bout between Yago and Takanoiwa was about to start. He was told off by the head shimpan.
The newly-minted sekitori arrived late because his newly-appointed tsukebito failed to cue him in time.
Sekitori are appointed a tsukebito upon promotion to Juryo. A tsukebito is the sekitori’s manservant. He carries his things and does all menial jobs for him. The duties include prompting the sekitori that it’s time to get to the arena – the sekitori should be there two bouts before his own in case the wrestler on his side loses, requiring him to offer the chikara-mizu to the next one on that side.
Following his late arrival, Takayoshitoshi lost his own bout. In a precarious position already, being at the bottom of the Juryo banzuke with only three wins to his name, he went back down to the shitakubeya (the preparation room), and there proceeded to cuss and beat up his tsukebito. This ended in a swollen face and a cut inside the mouth that caused the tsukebito to spit blood.
This was done in front of many witnesses, and the head of the crisis management department, Kagamiyama oyakata, as well as the head of the board, Hakkaku, were informed immediately. Takayoshitoshi and the tsukebito were called in for questioning, and Takayoshitoshi admitted to 2-3 punches.
It is morning time on Monday in Japan, and Takanohana oyakata has called in a press conference, apologized, and announced that Takayoshitoshi will be kyujo as of today. A special meeting of the board will be convened today to further question the parties involved, and deliberate an appropriate punishment.