Nagoya Storyline #1: Hakuho, 15 Days? 白鵬は十五日間出来ますか?

The top storyline going into Nagoya must be this man. Will he compete on Day One? If he does, will he be able to withstand the full campaign? The champion’s mindset, however, does not stop there. Hakuho wants to win. From Herouth’s Twitter feed today we see his Tanabata (link to last year’s excellent story) wish, along with the realistic admission that he’s not anywhere near 100%.

Still, his wish is to pick up Yusho #43, 11 clear of the great Taiho. We hope he comes back and comes back healthy. The specter of Kisenosato still haunts the dohyo but with Takakeisho’s participation far from certain, there will clearly be pressures to appear and not go full kyujo for a second straight tournament. Either way, we can only hope for a prudent decision based on fitness. He’s got a full year to make good on the Tanabata wish, no need to rush it.

This year, Tanabata falls on the first day of the Nagoya tournament, so the Rikishi-Kai met and sekitori filled out their Tanabata wishes. So let’s pivot from Hakuho’s grand dream in honor of the early celebration to see what the others decided to wish for. Some, like Meisei, opted for the simple, a Go-Pro camera. I am just waiting for the day when a rikishi sneaks one into the folds of his mawashi and live streams a bout. Then again…maybe not.

Hakuho’s protege, Enho, aspires for the Technique Special Prize. The first concern will be getting a winning record. If he does get a winning record, a technique prize would be fitting if he picks up an extra two wins. According to the career visualizer, 20% of his wins come from shitatenage, just under 14% each from the usual yorikiri and oshidashi, while 10% come from ashitori.

Six or seven of the bouts at the bottom of the banzuke will be competitive with wrestlers who’ve been in Juryo recently. However, there are quite a few bruising barracudas swimming around down there this tournament, looking for breakout tournaments special prizes of their own.

Newly minted sekitori, and nervous looking Kizakiumi is aiming for a simple kachi-koshi, likely just hoping to maintain his professional rank and all the accoutrements that come with it. I’m eager to catch more of this pusher-thruster. 80% of his wins come from oshidashi and he has the curious distinction of making the professional ranks without notching a single yorikiri win. The wise should try to get at his belt.

Azumaryu, on the other hand, is shooting for a Juryo yusho from the top rank in the West. He’s toiled in Juryo for much of the last 6 years. He’s in a prime spot for Makuuchi promotion if he manages a simple 8 wins…but grabbing that title would likely propel him pretty far into the thick of the top division where he could hopefully stay around for a while.

I will wrap things up here with Onosho’s wish because this is my wish for all of these gladiators: good health. I’m shooting for sound mind and toned body myself this year. My son’s been really into soccer so my own game has improved to such a level, and I’ve developed such power in these thunder thighs that I managed to kick the ball straight through our back window the other day. Those sumo squats are paying off.

Nagoya ’19: Visual Banzuke

The banzuke is out. Leonid has broken down his prediction. In the coming days we’ll be dissecting the new ranking list, tracking notable wrestlers, pointing out winners and losers. I have updated the interactive banzuke for Makuuchi and Juryo in Nagoya. I can never keep straight which wrestlers are in which heya (unless their names start with Koto) so if you click on the name of an ichimon or a heya, the banzuke will filter to just those wrestlers. I hope you all enjoy!

Sumo Retrospective Video

Herouth (@sumofollower on Twitter) found and shared this retrospective from YouTube. With all of the hype around our up-and-comers, it’s cool to go back a decade and see who the up-and-comers were back then. It’s great to see Ama during the good ole days. It also opens with a bout in that long Kisenosato vs Kotoshogiku rivalry.

Japanese TV Show “Arashi ni Shiyagare” at Kokugikan Saturday

This Saturday at 9pm (Japan time), TV Japan will slip into Kokugikan for a segment. They will be accompanied by Shibatayama oyakata and everyone’s favorite bruiser, Yoshikaze. We will hopefully be able to bring you a clip!

Hamatensei Danpatsushiki

元濱天聖断髪式

While the sumo world can still be a bit shy about social media, we do get occasional glimpses into their lives through platforms like Twitter and Instagram. This morning, the former Hamatensei shared photos from his private danpatsushiki ceremony. The youngster, still just 23 after an 8 year sumo career at Shikoroyama beya, expressed his appreciation to his supporters, his oyakata, family, and anideshi and ototodeshi (fellow wrestlers).

He had quite an injury plagued career, never escaping Jonidan division and dropping off the banzuke a couple of times before, according to his statement on Twitter, the doctors have finally put a hard end to his career. Aside from a neck hernia which limited his arm motions, he suffered multiple knee injuries. After the third surgery his doctors told him they could do it again but he probably wouldn’t be able to walk or would find it extremely difficult to do basic things.

Hamatensei Retirement Statement

In his final year at the heya he was able to graduate from high school and, interestingly, started driving lessons. That is very unusual because rikishi are not allowed to drive. However, driving school in Japan is quite intensive so there is a substantial amount of classroom training and videos. Perhaps that’s how he got around the prohibition. Bottom line, the guy was 23 with no high school education or skills beyond what he learned in the heya. So it would not surprise me if he got an exception for his second career. He mentions many times struggling with the heya lifestyle and the rigid social structure.

Former Rikishi Orora Hits the Gym, too

Orora, Anatoliy Mikhakhanov, famously was the largest rikishi ever, at just under 300kg just before his retirement. The “get your hands down” rule did not apply to him. Since retirement he’s been working to get in shape. If I were to replicate this particular exercise, I would lose my big toe.

Takekaze Retirement Ceremony Feb. 1.

The Japanese Sumo Association has announced a date for former Takekaze’s danpatsushiki at Kokugikan. For those who will still be around Tokyo for the week after Hatsu basho, which runs through Jan 27, the retirement event would be a great way to see some more action. There will likely be hanazumo and shokkiri, and sumo culture demonstrations that are more familiar scenes in Jungyo tours rather than hon basho.

The ceremony will culminate in the hair cutting for the former Sekiwake. For Takekaze this will surely have participation from former Oguruma stablemates Yoshikaze and Yago, and likely contemporary Yokozuna or two.