This song has been playing on a loop inside my head since March, as events and gatherings that I had taken for granted were ripped away.
Slowly, activities are coming back in our own lives. And today, the sumo world took another step back to normalizing as several heavyweights gathered for the first joint practice session in half a year. No name is bigger than Hakuho, obviously. Kakuryu was not there, but stablemate Kiribayama was, along with Mitakeumi, Takakeisho, and yusho holder, Shodai.
Hakuho didn’t just sit on the sidelines, hamming for the camera, either. He got in a little action, here doing butsukari with Shodai and practicing his tachiai with Ikioi. It’s great to see the Boss back in a mawashi, offering his chest and a few pointers to up-and-comers. But now that he’s gotten a few pictures in it, hopefully he folded it neatly and left it in a corner to gather dust for a few more weeks. There’s no need to push it.
So, um…last night I’m chilling on the couch half-watching Mexican soccer (Go Pumas!) when a Twitter account that I follow posted the results of an amateur sumo tournament from Saturday. “Whaaaaaa?” I’ve been tracking the Japan Sumo Federation (日本相撲連盟) and the raft of canceled and postponed tournaments all spring and summer. Apparently, I’d not been following it closely enough because they decided to hold a big one. Journalism 101, Andy-man. Stay on top of things. Oops.
So…it turns out they hosted the Eastern Japan University Sumo Championships this weekend. The tweet had been the results of B and C squads the day before. Sunday was the A Team. A total of twelve schools participated, including many of the top Japanese Universities. From previous coverage of amazumo tournaments, you may be familiar with some of the bigger schools already. However, since this is an Eastern Japan thing, Kinki Daigaku, alma mater of Ozeki Asanoyama, was not participating. They’re in the Western part of Japan. Herouth has found the results of the Western version which happened this weekend, too.
There was also a West-Japan university tournament today, but it didn't get as much love as the East one. These are the singles winners, three guys from Kindai, and one Mongolian from Doshisha uni. The Japanese transliteration of his name is "Demidejamutsu". Needs research. https://t.co/UdBaBl2v7Q
So, which schools were participating in the East? Let’s see…Shodai’s Tokyo University of Agriculture, Mitakeumi’s Toyo University, Endo’s Nihon University (AKA, Nichidai), Shohozan’s Komazawa University, Yago’s Chuo University, and Nippon Sports Science University which produced the likes of Hokutofuji, Chiyotairyu, and Myogiryu. Other schools, like Meiji, Keio, and Waseda are more well-known for their academics rather than their athletics, but still participate. To round out the twelve, we’ve got Takushoku, Senshu, and Hosei. Waseda and Keio seem to be pretty big rivals, so that match-up was nice to see in the third round. Even more athletes from these schools are currently battling their way through the lower divisions, like Mitoryu or up-and-comer Hagiwara from Takushoku University.
These tournaments will lead up to the Major championships later this year. Those who do well in those tournaments are rewarded with advanced placement in the banzuke if they go pro, in either Sandanme or Makushita. Win a major amateur title and get placed in Makushita, like Endo. Runner-ups don’t go home empty handeded as they get slotted in Sandanme. But if you miss out, you start at the bottom like Shodai. So there’s a lot on the line for those who want to go pro.
I posted a bit of a teaser yesterday for an article and data viz tool that I’m working on. It turns out that it will be related. Now, I’m going to need to see if I can get university affiliation into my data. But what I’m hoping for is to build a vizualization that will allow us fans to visually track the progress of maezumo cohorts. As we see from the graph below, despite the relatively low numbers of debutantes lately, there’s still more than 60 new guys to follow each year and that can be a bit overwhelming to see which of these guys will be up-and-comers, grinders, or flame-outs. There are SO MANY stories in here, many of which we read up on thanks to Herouth, Josh, Tim and the rest of the team.
So, how’d the schools do at this tournament? Well, it’s no real surprise that Keio did not make it to the next phase. They had a real tough schedule and got swept in the first two rounds, and only picked off one win against rivals Waseda. Since Waseda finished in the top 8, they were able to move on to the elimination phase. Toyo University swept their opponents in all three rounds, qualifying at the top of the elimination bracket. They were followed by Nichidai, Chuo, Takushoku, and Nitaidai for the Top 5. Shodai’s Tokyo University of Agriculture finished sixth with 9 wins. Komazawa and Waseda rounded out the eight.
Nitaidai Yusho. This is the alma mater of Hokutofuji and Chiyotairyu. Last year's College Yokozuna, Nakamura Yasuteru is from Nitaidai. He was a Freshman last year so we'll see if he can repeat. pic.twitter.com/cpwG2UZ3Pz
Well, the great thing about the tournament in the East is that for the second day, the Class A bouts — team and individual competitions — are all online. I encourage any fan of sumo to watch. The bouts happen very quickly. But if you want to skip forward to the elimination phase of the team competition, fast-forward to the 2 hour, 22 minute mark.
Nihon Sports Science University won the yusho. They defeated Toyo University in the semi-finals. The team, pictured below will be strong contenders for the National Championship later this year. However, I think Nichidai will have a better chance and they’re probably very disappointed to walk away tied for third with Toyo. Nichidai’s entire squad qualified for the individual finals and as Herouth points out, one of their team, Yersin Batagul from Kazakhstan, picked up the individual yusho.
The tweet below has pictures of the teams from the Final Four. Last is the yusho picture. I get the feeling Takushoku was just happy to be there. Nichidai seem disappointed and I expect they’ll fight hard at Nationals.
Welp, I need to run but I hope to dive into the individual bouts and the Western University tournament later tonight. But I wanted to get these highlights out for you all to enjoy. A real proper introduction to the university-level sumo is in the works and should be ready in the next few weeks, in preparation for the national championships.
This is Yersin Baltagul, the Kazakh wrestler. He just won the East Japan university competition.
Herouth has been keeping fantastic stats on kensho-kin. I wanted to make use of that data and present it in a more visual fashion and see if we could define any interesting metrics. The most straight-forward is to count the number of envelopes won. Takakeisho won that contest handily. As Herouth mentioned on senshuraku below, Takakeisho walked away with 44 envelopes in that one victory over Asanoyama. That one bout provided nearly a fifth of his total haul.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have Asanoyama who lost more envelopes than any other wrestler; 121 envelopes were handed to his opponents from his five losses. He overtook Terutsuyoshi on senshuraku by losing that stack to T-Rex. Overall, it wasn’t a terrible tournament for Asanoyama, though. His ten wins provided 144 envelopes. He won’t even need to spend any on tissues to cry into since they hand them out like business cards. Click the link below to see the visualizations. I don’t want them to bog down your machines if you just scroll and don’t want to see them. But I am interested in which visuals y’all find most interesting.
Ah, such is the game. If you’re like me, and you only play one card, we’re kinda SOL. I don’t exactly fit the mold of the avid Bingo Parlor resident, 8 cards at the ready…yet. So I have not (yet) gone back to the link and put in my “Big Al” alias. YET. I know there are several out there with much worse luck, who could be in the running for make-koshi bingo or the Kyujo Bingo. I’m dying that Shodai’s blocked by Shohozan, who picked up his make-koshi on Sunday, and Tokushoryu who may get it tonight against Hoshoryu.
Regardless, last night five men picked up their kachi-koshi. If you’re lucky enough to have a row with Takakeisho, Shodai, Wakatakakage, Onosho, AND Tobizaru, you’re in luck! If it were me, I’d go out and buy a lottery ticket or two (or 70). My mouth watered when I looked at my card and saw, Shodai, Takarafuji, Wakatakakage…SHOHOZAN?!?! Shoot.
I think my best (only?) chance lies on the Takanosho, Kotoshoho, Hokutofuji, Ichinojo, Tobizaru line — and that’s only got one confirmed kachi-koshi. Takanosho and Kotoshoho are two wins away, Ichinojo’s three, and Hokutofuji’s still five away! Make-koshi — and a solid block — will be confirmed tonight for either Hokutofuji or Ryuden. Even if Ryuden wins, another Okinoumi loss blocks that row. Well, at least I don’t have a make-koshi bingo yet. No free-space joy in this version…instead I got Enho for the 4-way block. Oh well…I may wait until November or, go click on the link and register an entry for each kid and my buddy “Snidely Whiplash.” I’d never be so, underhanded, though. Though I would pull a henka on a fellow Yokozuna on senshuraku…so maybe?