Katsuya Takasu, Sumo Super Fan

Japan watchers are likely already familiar with Katsuya Takasu, likely from his ubiquitous “Yes, Takasu Clinic” commercials. The cosmetic clinic mogul is a colorful figure in the Japanese business world and is a big fan of sumo. Ever the believer in cosmetic surgery, the company site lets you see how he, himself, has been transformed via cosmetic surgery.

As a sumo fan, he has been seen sitting ringside during many tournaments. He puts his money into the sport as well, something this blog is a big proponent of. Eagle-eyed kensho banner watchers will notice his “高須クリニック” and the same text appears below his cartoon advertisements on several kessho mawashi – including Nishikigi and Ikioi.

During Week 1 of this current tournament, there was a bit of drama in the sumo world as the sumo kyokai accidentally forgot his banners for the Nishikigi bout. He’d paid for three during Nishikigi’s bout, five for Ikioi, and 3 during the final bout. If you go back to Day 2 footage, you’ll see him in bright yellow sitting on the very edge of the first row. In some instances, you’ll notice him on his phone, presumably tweeting his displeasure at the Sumo Kyokai. The Kyokai got apologized and made up for it by adding banners to Ikioi.


The Hanamichi Life

If a sumo fan needs more of a reason to learn Japanese, it’s this. There’s a whole world of entertainment gossip that surrounds every pop culture topic, and sumo is no exception. We miss out on so much detail when we’re not able to follow along in the Japanese press and on social media. Given the increasing coverage of sumo in the Japanese press, and the always colorful Japanese Sumo Twitter, yours truly will re-double efforts to open these doors. Google Translate is just about the worst when it comes to meaningful translation of Japanese so it is important that sumo fans have somewhere to turn to get information. This blog post by Dr Takasu about “BannerGate” is a great example of the stuff we miss out on. It’s also wonderful because he uses a casual form of Japanese that many of us are not exposed to in our “Business Japanese” courses.


And by the way, when I say that the guy sits in the front row, I mean the FRONT ROW. This is one of the pictures of Ikioi he took from his seat. I think this seat is even better than being in the center because wrestlers fall on those poor chaps all the time. From this seat he can strike up a conversation with a wrestler, greet them as they come and go, and pop out to the bathroom without having to climb over everyone else. Anyway, Katchan was very happy when Ikioi won, thus getting his kenshokin.

The Roof Is On Fire!

I’m sorry, I had to. It was too early in the morning to type this joke up last night. During the sumo broadcast there was an interruption in coverage as they broadcast news of a fire on the Odakyu line. For the video of the news item, click on the link. A building adjacent to the tracks had caught fire and when the train went through the area, the roof of one of the cars caught fire. The train was Shinjuku bound but the fire was in Shibuya near Hachimon station.

All very dramatic but, thankfully, no injuries. All were evacuated safely: the men, onto the tracks, while the women got to use the stairs. Anyway, the whole time I can’t help but think of this classic track by Rock Master Scott and the Dynamic Three. Click on the image for a quick blast from the past.

No sumo news here…just a post about the news that interrupted the broadcast.


Back to your regularly scheduled programming…

Aki 2017, Day 1: Yay! Get Your Game Face On!

Harumafuji’s win over Tochiozan was a great way to cap an exciting day one of sumo action. He leads the charge as many of our favorites and up-and-comers slipped up early. Takayasu’s yorikiri win over Tochinoshin gets him off to a great start to challenge as the lone ozeki winner on Day 1. In fact, as we’ll see below, these were the only sanyaku wins today. Let that sink in. A banged up Harumafuji, who bleeds kinboshi, and the newest ozeki Takayasu are the only sanyaku wrestlers with wins today.

All the history (45 bouts), all the pressure of kadoban status was not enough to prepare Goeido for Kotoshogiku’s henka. It was almost a patented Harumafuji sidestep but Harumafuji meets his opponent full on before ducking to the side. In this case, Giku went to the side from the start…just not as blatant as Aminishiki usually does. Giku then finished Goeido off with an easy shove. Terunofuji lost a similarly disappointing match to Hokutofuji. In this case, the tachiai was well met by both, but as Terunofuji allowed himself to slide back to the tawara, he put far too much weight forward. Hokutofuji sensed his chance to pull back and let the ozeki fall to the clay.

Mitakeumi similarly looked rusty and lost to a quick pull by Onosho. Yoshikaze also fell to Chiyotairyu’s tsukidashi early on in this sanyaku blood bath, which started with Shohozan’s great bout against komusubi Tamawashi. Their bout was active, lively, going back and forth until Tamawashi over committed and Shohozan pulled back with perfect timing to let Tamawashi flop onto his belly.

Ura’s agility won the day over Shodai’s power. After a strongly met charge, Ura grabbed Shodai’s arm and pulled back, ducking to the side at the last minute for the impressive tottari win. Ichinojo and Takakeisho faced off to start the second half of makuuchi action. Ichinojo absorbed Takakeisho’s initial charge with ease and seemed to have the bout under control until he tried to grab Takakeisho’s belt. It seemed that going that low brought him off balance and with his back foot already close to the straw bales, Takakeisho pushed him back enough for the win. Balance was also a factor as Chiyonokuni quickly dispatched an off-balance Kagayaki.

The Ikioi yusho is off to a great start with his genki win over Chiyoshouma. The solid shoulder at the tachiai was followed up with a hatakikomi attempt. Chiyoshoma countered with an ill-advised pull as Ikioi pounced and launched both wrestlers out with the Mongolian falling out of the ring first.

Surprisingly, Takarafuji and Takanoiwa have only faced each other seven times, with Takanoiwa’s win bringing his advantage to 5-2. Takarafuji put Takanoiwa on the defensive when he went for an early belt grab but Takanoiwa evaded, resulting in a lively, fast moving bout as each wrestler tried to maintain position. However, Takanoiwa was able to gain control of the center of the ring and walked Uncle Taka out.

Ishiura’s quick henka over Arawashi may have won the bout, but it lost the crowd support. Daieisho aggressively chased wily Takekaze around the ring, picking up a good force-out victory.

The maru-battle was won by Daishomaru. Everyone’s favorite bowling ball, Chiyomaru, met Daishomaru with a straight-forward tachiai. Daishomaru quickly shifted to the side, letting Chiyomaru slip over the edge.

Kaisei’s sukuinage win over Nishikigi evens their personal rivalry at 2-2. Kaisei had retreated to the edge of the dohyo and when Nishikigi advanced, Kaisei used the leverage he could get from the straw bales to keep Nishikigi’s momentum going forward and out of the ring.

Sponsorship banners made an early appearance in the makuuchi tournament, courtesy of Endo’s low rank. He featured about a dozen banners for this bout against Okinoumi. Okinoumi won with a quick throw. It seemed Endo was over exposed with his left foot very far forward. Okinoumi did not miss the opportunity to tip him over forward. I know my previous post made a bit of a point about Endo’s sponsors had not been as present since his Juryo demotion, so I was glad to see so many banners for this fight.

Asanoyama picked up a convincing first makuuchi win over veteran Sokokurai. Yotakayama also got a quick hug-and-chug win over juryo bound Tokushoryu. Daiseido was victorious in a rookie sekitori bout with Yago that lived up to the hype. Both of these big, young guys have a strong future a head of them.

Sponsors Withdraw Kenshokin

Thanks to my wife and Reddit, I was tipped off to the fact that 200 banners have been pulled from the tournament because of the 3 absent yokozuna. My wife sent me this link to the Asahi article. When I checked Reddit, the same article was also cited there. Reddit commenter u/saleph also linked to another article showing Takayasu as the top kensho recipient for this tournament. As I mentioned in the comments of Bruce’s previous post, this is a bit disappointing and should also clarify for us viewers that sponsorship money is another pressure for sekitori, particularly Yokozuna.

Takayasu: Aki Kensho King

I say disappointed because as I fan, I feel excited for this tournament – possibly more excited than if ALL the wrestlers were competing. With injured wrestlers out, we will see better quality matches, not just in this tournament, but next tournament as our yokozuna hopefully return healthy…or at least moderately healthy. Also, for this basho, the door is wide open for more competitors to grab a yusho or really impress. I would think this would be a prime time for sponsors to engage tadpoles rather than withhold funding. It would also be when I would think loyal sponsors would step up and continue to support their injured stars. Endo used to attract a ton of sponsorship money but when he went to Juryo, the money dried up and it does not seem to have returned. Perhaps that’s why he’s not gone kyujo, though I’m hopeful he’s genuinely healthy enough to compete.

All of my predictions from the podcast were probably totally wrong…especially my hopes for a 40th Hakuho yusho. But I am so jazzed for this basho, it isn’t funny. I really have no idea what’s going to happen. Will King Kinboshi (Harumafuji) fall out of contention in the first week? Or zen-sho yusho? My odds would be even money on both. Who will drop off the leadership pack by next weekend? Any of the ozeki? Which maegashira will be in the hunt deep into week two? I have no idea and that’s thrilling me. One Twitter fan tossed out the idea of an Ikioi-yusho…THAT WOULD BE AWESOME.

(横綱稀勢の里初巡業) Kisenosato’s Return: Light Training, Unsure of September

According to this article from the Spo-Nichi (via Mainichi), Kisenosato’s jungyo debut was met with an enthusiastic crowd. However, his activity was limited and fellow-Yokozuna, Hakuho, expressed his concern, wondering whether the junior-zuna was okay. Kisenosato responded that he was okay but admitted later in an interview that his condition was “mada, mada” which I roughly translate as still healing. Definitely not anywhere near 100%. He also evaded answering whether he was going to participate in the Aki tournament, saying that he needs to train.

The Next One, Part 2: Asashoryu Jr.

Asashoryu’s nephew has announced that he will join Tatsunami beya. His debut is scheduled for the November tournament in Kyushu. He visited Kokugikan in his first year in high school and knew he wanted to become a sumo wrestler. He has competed and won at the amateur level, it will be interesting to see if he has his own success as a professional.


I Got Next: Searching for the Next One, Tachiai Introduces Readers to the “Tatakiage”

Hakuho is “The One.” He owns just about every conceivable record in the books. This past tournament he registered his 1050th win, surpassing Kaio’s mark of 1047. He will complete the “Hakuho Conquest” (1066 wins) in time for the Olympics in 2020. His career was made possible by the fact that he started so early, joining a heya at 16. These youngsters who start so low and achieve so much are called the “Tatakiage.”

The Many Hands Began To Scan For the Next Plateau

Now that he’s achieved so much, and set so many bars so extraordinarily high, the question becomes “Who is next?” Will anyone be able to do what Hakuho the Conqueror has done? The current crop of champions do not have the health to come anywhere close. Hakuho’s the only Yokozuna left standing for the summer Jungyo tour, Terunofuji and Goeido are in a dangerous cycle punctuated by recurring injuries and threats of demotion. Takayasu, our shin-ozeki, will need six and a half years of zensho yushos to catch up to where Hakuho is now. And with Hak winning yushos, it’s not only a moving target but one where all current wrestlers are losing ground.

None of the up-and-comers, like Mitakeumi, will have a chance at such a long career. In spite of his rapid rise to the upper divisions and makuuchi, he got a comparatively late start in professional sumo. We’re now watching another up-and-comer, Yago, skip the lower divisions on the heels of their successful college careers and start in the Makushita division in their early twenties. Even Hakuho’s disciple, Enho, got a bit of a late start, like Shodai. Tatakiage wrestlers like Hakuho forgo high school and college to pursue their dohyo dreams.

So who has the chops? We are familiar with Wakaichiro, the Texan rikishi who started his career last year at 18. After securing his kachi-koshi in Nagoya we hope to see him continue his strong progress. However, this article profiles a Musashigawa-beya stablemate named Tokuda who has begun his sumo career before finishing high school. After a strong Jonidan tournament in Tokyo, he was promoted into sandanme, but will fall back down into Jonidan in September.

It’s a difficult path for these youngsters. Not all will make it to the upper divisions and many will drop out. But Hakuho has demonstrated what they can achieve. It may be this early start in sumo which imbues a successful wrestler with the ring presence and the canny abilities required for a long career. Kisenosato started at 16. Kotoshogiku at 18. Many impressive wrestlers will come out of the universities ready for successful careers in sumo. But anyone who hopes to become “The Next One” and come close to any of Hakuho’s records will need to come from the ranks of the Tatakiage.