Yamagata: Jungyo Site #14

Yamagata prefecture is not only an unknown entity for me, my wife admitted she knows very little about Yamagata. Yamagata is a rural, mountainous prefecture known for its produce, mainly fruits. Cherries, pears, grapes and apples from this region are specialties. The pears are “La France” western-style pears, not the Asian pears. Yamagata is known for its Hanagasa Festival, which centers around women performing a traditional dance, and actually just happened last week, ended on Tuesday.

Hakuyozan Returns to Juryo

The Jungyo event will be held in Nanyo, just outside the eponymous capital city, Yamagata. The city of Tendo is also nearby. This city is where most shogi pieces (koma) are made and features an annual spring human shogi festival.

The Yamanashi — oops, sorry, Yamagata — Jungyo event will be a homecoming for Makushita yusho winner and Juryo promotee, Hakuyozan. He was first promoted to Juryo for the May tournament but finished with a poor 5-10 record. He fell back into Makushita but with impressive, and at times dominant, wins over Jokoryu, Toyohibiki, TYT, and Enho, this homecoming will hopefully give him a chance to enjoy center stage for the day…and perhaps a bout with Endo? Will he manage to get that mawashi undone?

Aoyama: Jungyo site #11

I got a wee bit behind in my jungyo site posts and suddenly we’re already back in Tokyo. Aoyama Gakuin University, informally called AoGaku, is in a fantastic location. If you’ve never been to Tokyo, Aoyama is in the Shibuya area, not far from Omotesando. Aoyama and Omotesando seem to have a more posh reputation than Shibuya, itself, and neighboring Harajuku. The university is found out the opposite side of Shibuya station from most of the famous stuff. Walk along Aoyama-dori about half way to an entrance for Omotesando station.

The university, itself, has ties to the sumo world. Last year, an event was put on here with the help of proud parents of current and former AoGaku students, Isegahama Oyakata, Takanohana Oyakata, and Harumafuji. It is known as a school for the children of celebrities. Private Universities like AoGaku and Keio have grade schools, as well. So many kids who go to the private grade schools go straight into the Universities when they graduate.

Omotesando is a shopping district not far away, but far enough from much of the hustle and bustle of Shibuya. Omotesando Hills is probably having its 10th anniversary about now? It’s a nice mall there that used to feature a wine bar with a wall full of what are essentially wine vending machines. It’s been a long time, though, so it may not be there anymore but I will need to do some research next time I’m back. As with all of these posts, it’s my goal to update and repost them with more information (especially pictures if I get a chance to go).

Niigata: Jungyo Sites #6 & #7

The tour moves along the coast, to Niigata prefecture, for its next two stops. Niigata is northwest of Tokyo, directly west of Fukushima on the Sea of Japan. It is a coastal prefecture but is home to ski resorts because of the presence of the Japanese Alps. The first Niigata event brings us into the mountains at the ski resort town of Yuzawa. Strawberry lovers can enjoy picking fresh Echigo Hime strawberries at the Yukiguni Agri Park and sake lovers can sample local brands at the sake museum.

The Jungyo will then stop in the city of Niigata, on the coast. The longest and widest river in Japan (Shinano) courses though the prefecture before emptying into the sea at this city. There is a long-running manga convention at the Toki Messe complex.

Yesterday, Asanoyama got to be feted as the hometown boy. Lucky Yutakayama hails from the city of Niigata so he’ll probably enjoy two days of attention.

Toyama: Jungyo Site #5

Uozu city, Toyama prefecture is our next stop along the jungyo tour. It’s also the next stop in my geographic education of Japan. We’re still travelling along the coast of the sea of Japan. This time we’re just east of neighboring Ishikawa.

Uozu is host of the Tatemon festival which occurs on the first Friday and Saturday of August. So timing of this jungyo stop was likely no coincidence. Spectators would likely stay for a couple days to enjoy the matsuri which features giant triangle structures of lanterns weighing a few tons and supported by 80 people.

Festivals/matsuri of this type are a fun experience when traveling in Japan. I always enjoy the food most.

Ishikawa: Jungyo Site #4

The summer tour now hops the prefectural border to stop in Komatsu, Ishikawa. I wonder if the construction company is a sponsor? It would be funny if Kubota or Kawasaki was instead. Ishikawa is shusshin to considerably more active wrestlers than our previous stops, (10) including Endo, Kagayaki, Enho, and Shunba.

A short trip from Kubota, oops, Komatsu, is the prefectural capital of Kanazawa. There’s a lot of history and scenic views from Kanazawa, including the gardens which surround its castle. Ishikawa is another coastal prefecture so it is known for its seafood as well as fresh produce.

Fukui: Jungyo Site #3

Day 3 of the Summer Tour, July 31, will take wrestlers to back to the Chubu region of Japan after dipping its toes in Kinki at Lake Biwa. Fukui is not exactly a sumo powerhouse like Hokkaido. It is the shusshin of two active wrestlers, Koshinoryu of Fujishima beya and Maikeru, top-ranked wrestler of Futagoyama beya. Maikeru has been doing well his first year of sumo. After his fifth kachi-koshi, indeed a strong 5-2, he will find himself around sandanme 30, where Ura was ranked this past tournament. Maikeru already sports a massive knee-supporter. Koshinoryu has been as high as Makushita but has not been able to establish himself there for long. Most of his career has been in sandanme. Neither have faced Wakaichiro yet but Koshinoryu may be on the radar for next tournament.

Murakami Nightmare

Fukui prefecture, itself, is a coastal prefecture along the Sea of Japan. The prefecture is famous for those long-legged red crabs, the echizen gani. There are hot springs and there’s also a dinosaur museum. Katsuyama, site of the jungyo event, is in the far north, near the capital, Fukui, and the border with Ishikawa. This is also near the scenic Tojinbo cliffs. I will find myself there chowing down on crabs. I’m from Maryland, now, so it’s a requirement to find good crabs.

Shiga: Jungyo Site #2

July 30 and the second site of this year’s summer tour brings us to Shiga prefecture. This is the western loop of this long tour, before we head east again toward Ishikawa, Niigata, and Nagano on back to Tokyo in 10 days. Shiga prefecture is dominated by Lake Biwa, the largest freshwater lake in Japan. The southwestern section of the lake is surrounded by Otsu city, where the Jungyo event is being held. There’s quite a bit of historic significance, like the assassination attempt of the future Tsar Nicolas II of Russia, and World Heritage sites. A particular kind of fermented sushi, funazushi, is considered a delicacy in the area. It sounds like something Scandinavian that I’ve read about, gutted and salted when fresh to draw out the moisture, then stored for a year. It’s then taken out and stored again in rice. I’m a glutton, so I like food but my nerd side wins in Otsu – this Open Data site looks more appealing than fermented sushi. http://www.city.otsu.lg.jp/opendata/ I wonder whether a sumo jungyo mash-up with tourist or restaurant locations would be helpful…

Gifu: Sumo Summer Tour Site

Gifu is the site of the first leg of the this summer tour as it snakes its way from Nagoya back to Tokyo, then up to Hokkaido. Do train/bus miles accumulate award points like airline miles? I found this great tweet of them setting up the dohyo in preparation. It’s a pristine thing of beauty, isn’t it? Kinda makes me want to have one in my living room…my wife would make me put it in the back yard but it would get rained on. This week makes me think it would get washed away.

Of particular interest to this post is the fact that all three Yokozuna are scheduled to appear. The post comes from the account of the local Gifu-ken newspaper. Local newspapers seem to be frequent sponsors of honbasho, so it makes sense that they’d put in on the tours, too. According to the Jungyo presser, tickets are sold out. Apparently, they were only on sale until the 20th…which is a little weird…but, whatever. Some were being sold through a newspaper but their website also says their tickets are sold out.

That makes me think that I’ll need to plan any Jungyo visit well in advance next time I’m in Japan. None of my, “no schedule,” “flying-by-seat-of-pants” -style vacations. Bummer. The moral: plan, plan, plan, and I need to start researching October’s Jungyo schedule if it’s going to be of any help to any of you traveling. I’d rather the “fun, fun, fun,” method…till my T-Bird got taken away.

Gifu is home to Shirakawago, which is a very unique, historic village. It was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. These peculiar roofs on the buildings are made from straw and tied together with rope instead of using nails. That’s a two hour drive, though, from the Jungyo site in Oogaki city.

A bit closer in, along the Nagaragawa river, is this kind of night fishing with fire. They use cormorants (birds) to catch the fish (called ayu). The birds catch the fish, the fisherman reels back in his birds, and…well…a delicacy is born. Gifu city has a very historic downtown along the Nagaragawa River and the scenery is dominated by the mountains and forests. Oogaki-city itself has a castle, like Nagoya.

Summer Jungyo! 26 Dates!

If any sumo fans are visiting Japan over the next month, check the summer Jungyo schedule for events near you! The tour will take our travelling troupe of t-restlers on an extensive, month long trip around the country. A few stops are around Tokyo and the Kanto region but the tour extends as far north as Hokkaido. Yusho-holder Mitakeumi will be welcomed home in Nagano on August 5 & 6.

If you’re in Japan and want to escape the heat…and catch some sumo…check out those northern tour dates.

Sumo World Cup Round 1

At the conclusion of any vacation, one is met with a laundry list of things to do: many should have been done before leaving in the first place, others come out of ideas thought of on vacation. First thing’s first, because thanks to Bruce, Herouth, Josh, and Leonid, and all the commenters, I was able to keep up with the drama -strike that- chaos in Nagoya from my phone. I’ve still got to actually watch the matches though, so I’m setting myself up for a few days of catch-up.

As the temperatures rose the wrestlers sure dropped like flies. I know he’s from Nagano, but perhaps Mitakeumi’s tropical Filipino roots helped keep him from melting under that heat. It would be interesting to map wrestler’s hometowns to their Nagoya success with the theory that being raised in Kyushu would make one less affected by hot conditions than those from Hokkaido. Since they basically all train in Tokyo, though, it’s probably a moot point.

I digress. I dusted off my Sumo World Cup spreadsheet and updated the results. Generally, my predictions are pretty far off. Well, I guess I’m guilty of being generally a tad hopeful. I really wanted Kakuryu to three-peat, for example. Instead, he barely made it through Act One. So, instead of the Kakuryu yusho claiming first place in Group A, Takanoiwa’s 13-win Juryo yusho takes that honor. Takakeisho and Onosho did battle it out for second on 10 wins, Takakeisho slipping through on strength of schedule.

I also really wanted the boss to be in the thick of it on senshuraku. I put sentiment aside and thought that Aoiyama and Kotoyuki’s injuries were too serious for them to move on. So both have promptly moved on. I’m going to pay very close attention to their matches, and Yoshikaze’s in my catch-up marathon this weekend.

Okinoumi did not claim Group C but came in second to Chiyotairyu. Chiyonokuni was my bet for advancement but that kyujo bug claimed him as well.

Goeido and Endo make it through from Group D. I’m excited to see Goeido winning. Endo sneaks past Ikioi because of the fusen victory tie-breaker. In this, I’m considering “quality wins” and then “strength of schedule” as tie breakers. A win is a win, so if you’ve got two fusen, it’s two wins. However, 8 wins without fusen is better than 8 wins with.

The Yama twins easily claimed Group E. 13 and 12 wins are good enough for first in any group. The competition got the better of Giku as he dropped out from injury. Yoshikaze has been in terrible shape and seems to have been lucky to scrape out two wins. I think he has a serious leg injury. In one of the matches I watched before heading to Tennessee, his leg clearly buckled when he tried to brace against the Tawara. The weight of two rikishi appeared to be too much. Also, when he walked, it seemed like he was using it rigidly, as a peg, and not really bending his knee. He will fall but good to hear he won’t fall out of makuuchi yet.

I’m most excited about Group F. Tochi-from-Kochi and Myogiryu both made it out of the group stage. Tochinoshin was my early favorite from this group but then Nagoya happened. I also thought Takekaze may put together some good numbers in Juryo but he’ll fall deeper into the division in September. Instead, it’s two other veterans, Tochiozan and Myogiryu who advanced.

Group G was terrible. When 6 wins is enough to claim a spot in the top two, there’s a problem. When Ichinojo is able to claim the top spot, in spite of the use of adjectives like “embarrassing” to describe his form, we’ve got a weak group. So, on the strength of Kagayaki’s schedule, his 6-wins just beats out those of Kyokutaisei and Meisei. Shohozan was probably over-promoted and just got beat down. In Arawashi’s case, though, I’ve got him on my hidden injury watch list.

Lastly, Mitakeumi’s yusho and Hokutofuji’s 11-wins will see the pair through to the next round at the expense of solid performances from Kaisei, Tamawashi, and Sadanoumi. Hokutofuji and the Yama-twins will fly up the banzuke in September so their competition will be much more fierce in the next round. Mitakeumi already faces the meatgrinder though this time it seems the grinder had to go in for repairs. Cautious jungyo schedules and plenty of rest will hopefully get it back to making burger.

Word Salad

Andy is catching up on the action on an ill-timed vacation in Nashville, TN. What on Earth is going on there in Nagoya?

Reader Denise was kind enough to pass along a picture of Akua wearing a word salad tee-shirt. It’s pretty common to see English-like phrases on things in Japan.

Tochinoshin Kyujo

NHK Sports is reporting that Tochinoshin will not compete on Day 7. Shodai will get the fusen win. Obviously, we will try the best we can to get information on the severity, and whether he will return this tournament. We’ll remember Endo returned after going kyujo last tournament and did not win any bouts after a 3 day break. As Ozeki, Tochinoshin now has a serious advantage. If it turns out this is a serious injury, he could stand to go kadoban and plan to come back in September. If it is even more serious, he could stand to go back down to ozekiwake in November, win 10 and come retain his Ozeki rank to start the year. But, this being sumo, he’ll likely be back by Monday.

We now have no Yokozuna and two Ozeki. As things stand, we’re looking at Goeido/Takayasu showdown on the final day. Woo. This basho is melting…melting…

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Update: Tochinoshin’s medical certificate is for “Damage to the collateral ligament of the MTP joint of the great toe. Requires about 1 month of rest and may require further treatment”. (Source: Nikkan Sports – Herouth)