Why I Love Sumo

I want to extend a huge thank you to Nista for finding this gem and posting it in the comments of Herouth’s Day 6 Summary. This bout features the first ever meeting of Kozakura and Yabuoka. Bouts like this are amazing and should be broadcast free internationally to promote sumo. (It’s preferable to watching re-runs of the news and documentaries.) Anyway, I’m not going to offer much in the way of preview or commentary on the bout, but I will offer a little background on the two participants. I hope you enjoy.

Kozakura is a 22-year-old from Ibaraki prefecture, like Kisenosato, and Takayasu. His shikona, 小櫻 means little cherry blossom but he uses an old variant kanji for sakura. Instead of the more commonly used 桜, he uses 櫻. He is a member of the Tatsunami stable, whose top rikishi is the recent Juryo sensation, Meisei. This stable is led by former komusubi Asahiyutaka. While still young, Kozakura’s sumo career began seven years ago and he has been bouncing between Jonokuchi and Jonidan. He reached his highest rank of Jonidan 47W in September of 2015 but has been on a long slide back into Jonokuchi. Despite the great effort, this loss is one of three so far. This 1-3 record so far means he will need to win out in order to get a kachi-koshi. Two more wins, though, may arrest the slide and have a chance at rejoining Jonidan.

Yabuoka, on the other hand, is a 19-year-old whose sumo journey began this year when he joined the Fujishima stable. This stable is lead by former Ozeki legend Dejima, now Onaruto Oyakata. He’s from Osaka, like Goeido, Ikioi, and Daishomaru, and is still fighting under his real name, Yabuoka Kazutaka. Oka means “hill” and is a common kanji used for place names and people’s last names – like Fukuoka. It’s an important one to know for Japanese learners. After a great spring which propelled him into the midst of Jonidan, the youngster has dropped back into Jonokuchi. He’s clearly skilled and has a lot of heart, but at a mere 87kg, he will be trying to gain mass to advance. He is 2-1 so far this tournament. One more win may earn him a spot back in Jonidan, but he’ll surely want to pick up a few more.

Sumo Stereotypes in Journalism

Today’s sensational news naturally brings with it much wider coverage than normal. As readers, we want details. We want to know what the heck happened. I was scouring media last night and on the train this morning. There is quite a bit of unconfirmed and contradictory information. Tachiai will continue to bring you updates and information as it comes in and as we can confirm.

What I want to avoid are silly stereotypes, particularly what I’ve seen coming out of foreign media. In a rather tame example, an Irish sports outfit reported on Harumafuji’s scandal. “The ancient sport has an extremely strict protocol, and yokozuna are expected to be beyond moral reproach in addition to showing superior strength and technique in the ring. Wrestlers are not even allowed to express emotions when they win as this is seen as inconsiderate to the loser.” Despite not covering sumo for anything other than sumo suits and sumo squats in the past 3 years, they’re suddenly experts on the sport and Japanese culture.

When I mention this to my wife, both of us laugh as she says her immediate thought was of Hakuho clenching his kenshokin each time he dispatches an opponent. Surely the Irish are familiar with the rather tame and predictable wild manner in which soccer goals are celebrated: run, slide, fist pump. Hedonism if you ask me! Well, at least they’re familiar with the way the Danes celebrate; they won’t need to worry for another four years, like us and the Italians. Maybe they forgot their lucky charms?

Anyway, in the US, the NFL loves to officiate all of the fun out of their sport, excessive celebration and taunting penalties abound. Please count on us to avoid these silly generalizations and mischaracterizations – except for when I’m making fun of these Guinness-swilling leprechauns for their generalizations. I mean, I just had to live through 6 months of Connor McGreggor hype. We know athletes are not saints. Violence and hazing are not unique or, honestly, surprising in any of these sports. Personally, dozens of guys set out on a month-long road trip together. Hmmm… do you think there’s going to be friction? As there’s news, we will bring it to you.

Hattorizakura’s Day 1 Bout: The Dead Opponent *Corrected*

If you ever needed an example of a “dead” opponent, you’ll find it in today’s bout between Ishihara and Hattorizakura. As a refresher, Hattorizakura’s career is the epitome of futility. Aki was his eighth straight winless tournament. His bouts are more sumo out-takes than sumo highlights. Today was no exception but is likely the most clear cut example of how the technical “rules” of sumo are overturned to favor the dominant party rather than the one who merely was last to touch the ground. And it’s in this bout where I think we see the reason for no mono-ii in the later Goeido bout.

On paper, Hattorizakura comes into almost every bout as an instant underdog. His 70kg of mass was doubled by Ishihara’s 140, so his supposed arm-wrestling prowess aside, he was not going to be much of a match. As a small guy, he never seems to even attempt to demonstrate Harumafuji’s will to win, Ura’s flexibility, Ishiura’s trickery, or the agility of Urutora.

Click for video
Today, Ishihara wanted to take no chances so he simply secured morozashi, two handed belt grip, lifted the string bean, and walked him over the straw bales. However, Ishihara forgot to keep himself in bounds. He actually stepped over the bales first before gently setting his prone opponent down. No mono-ii needed, karmic justice is served, and the true winner of this bout walked away with a white star. No one enjoys seeing someone win “on a technicality”.

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Blast From The Past

I’ve been positively giddy with excitement these last few days with the Fukuoka Basho approaching. Now that it’s here, I’m scouring the web for insight into who will win. My pick: Goeido. Why? Okay, follow me down the rabbit hole:

I’ve created a spreadsheet to track Josh’s “Ones To Watch” and populated it with data on the 21 rikishi and the match-ups of the 10 fighting on Day 1. Sadly, no Wakaichiro, Jokoryu, or Enho. Hattorizakura is fighting in the first bout of the tournament. Can we invent some ceremony? Maybe I’ll just drink a beer in a few hours, at 6:30pm Eastern, to commemorate Hattorizakura opening the basho, hopefully with a win!

So, who else am I going to watch on Day 1? Let’s see… Oh, what about our good friend Shunba? He’ll likely post footage on his blog afterward so we’ll be able to see it. Who’s he fighting? Obamaumi? Obama-umi. For real? That’s an interesting name. Obamaumi. I like it. Let’s take a quick check of the SumoDB and see his stats. He’s a Sakaigawa boy there with Goeido, Myogiryu, Sadanoumi, and Toyohibiki. Funny. He actually started sumo as President Obama was taking office. There’s got to be more to this story.

Googling the kanji for Obamaumi in Japanese (小浜海) yields a bunch of articles but one thing catches my eye immediately: Geocities. WTF? There’s a Geocities site still active on the web in 2017? Click. Up pops some amazing data, only overshadowed by the fantastic 1990s background and web design. What is this? Some random Sakaigawa fan site? This is great! My terrible Japanese picks up the fact that he has an O blood type, his favorite food is curry, and his brother is the recently retired Sadanofuji who he followed into the sumo world.

I click to the homepage and a realization hits me… This is the official site for the Sakaigawa stable. Half of me is tempted to pass around a hat to solicit donations to bring this site into the 21st Century. With my vinyl copy of Kenny Rogers Greatest Hits playing in the background, nostalgia started to kick in hard. Flashbacks are now pouring back, including my first website – which was populated by pictures I had stored on floppy discs.

“…this time the hurting won’t heal. You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille…”

Nostalgia aside, the Hakuho era is coming to a close. His reign on top of the sport has peaked as injuries begin to pile up. For years the movers-and-shakers in the sport were looking for a worthy rival. Harumafuji, while certainly worthy of the title yokozuna, was never quite able to be a consistent threat as Hakuho’s mantle overflowed with macarons. So as they scanned the next plateau, they found Kakuryu, swiftly hit with the injury bug. Kisenosato bobs up – and before he can lift his second cup, he falls to injury. There will be a changing of the guard and the moves will be swift. Who will be there to start mopping up? Goeido 2.0

Features Menu Additions

I’ve noticed that it can be quite difficult to go back and try to find feature articles after a few days or a week has passed. So I’ve been playing with the menu bar a bit. I’ve added several selections under the “Features” menu. This will hopefully be an easy way to find Josh’s Heya Power Rankings, Leonid’s Banzuke Crystal Ball (as opposed to Moti’s Golden Ones), Herouth’s Jungyo reporting (with the awesome map), Liam’s Who’s That Rikishi, Legends of the Dohyo, and more. And one of these days I’ll update Harumafuji’s Kinboshi tally.

Kisenosato Excited for Kumamoto Temple Dohyo-iri

Kisenosato returned to perform a yokozuna dohyo-iri ceremony at the Rengein TanJyoji in Kumamoto prefecture. Kumamoto is on the island of Kyushu and borders Fukuoka prefecture where the Kyushu tournament will be held. His former Naruto-oyakata, ex-yokozuna Takanosato had performed a dohyo-iri at this same Temple. Kisenosato had also participated in such ceremonies as a sword-bearer and as a dew sweeper. He was particularly excited to be here as a yokozuna this time.

According to the website, the temple is dedicated to the memory of the Buddhist Saint Koen. The original temple was built in 1177 but was burned to the ground in a war in 1582. It was rebuilt in 1930.

Jungyo Tour: Ibaraki


Fukuroda Falls

Kisenosato and Takayasu had a bit of a homecoming today as the Fall Jungyo made a stop in their home prefecture of Ibaraki. Ibaraki is to the north-east of Tokyo and lies along the Pacific Ocean, south of Fukushima. The Fukuroda Falls are located in the Northern Ibaraki town of Daigo. The capital city is Mito. For those who like natto, Mito natto is supposedly “the bomb”. There’s a mountain called Tsukuba-san and one of the major cities is Tsukuba, home of the well-known University of Tsukuba.

There are two big lakes in Ibaraki called Kasumigaura and Kitaura. Ura means lake and you will recognize it from one famous shikona — no, not Ura (宇良). Ishiura’s “ura” (石) means “lake”.

The site of the Jungyo event was in Chikusei city. Chikusei City was created by the merger of several smaller towns with the city of Shimodate. The area is famous for its agriculture and produce, particularly watermelons, pears and strawberries. Chikusei’s website features a mascot (Chikkun) whose body is a watermelon and he has a pear and strawberry in his hat. For example, Tochiotome strawberries come from Ibaraki, as well as neighboring Tochigi and Aichi.

The more I read about Chikusei, the more I want to go. Unfortunately, the website is not really optimized for English. There’s a Google Translate dropdown menu at the top of the page. Look for the kanji for “translate” (翻訳). Hover over it and you’ll see many language options. So, basically you need to recognize the kanji before you can see the translation in your language.

Hi from Chikkun!


They have some great looking festivals and spas. There’s a summer festival where they take one of those big palanquins into a river that looks like a lot of fun. But for our rikishi, it’s quite a jaunt from Shizuoka, where they just had their Fuji jungyo and where they will return on the 11th for the Hamamatsu jungyo event.

On a tip from Nicolaah, I checked out Kyokara’s Instagram where he shared a map of their trip. お疲れ様です。I hope they’re able to spend tomorrow enjoying the sights and food. Ibaraki is on my list for places to go next time I am in Japan! It’s not far from Tokyo and there are JR Line trains that go out there. I don’t think it will be a little day trip, though.


富士山場所、お疲れ様でした。 気を付けてお帰りください。 、 、 、 、 、 巡業に参加されるお客様へ。 自分の立場で考えてください。 自分本意のノリと勢いで大切にしている物を汚されたりして何も思いませんか。 巡業は良くも悪くもお客さんとの距離が近くサインや写真を求めるのは当然だと思いますが、もう少し節度ある行動をよろしくお願いいたします。 あなただけが写真を撮りたい訳じゃないんです。 あなただけがサインを書いてもらいたい訳じゃないんです。 ここまでにしてくれと言われたらそれ以上求めないでください。 切に切に、誠に、何卒、よろしくお願いいたします。

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