A Biking Tour of Aichi

This NHK World video features a biking tour around Aichi prefecture. Nagoya is the largest city in Aichi prefecture, so it is very important to sumo fans as the home of the July Honbasho. As the video shows, Aichi is also important to the production of “Tai”, sea bream, that wonderful red fish we associate with yusho, promotion, and celebration. Anyway, if anyone out there is planning a trip to Nagoya to see the tournament, chances are you’ll be looking for other stuff to do off-hours or on days that you aren’t able to manage tickets, so this video may give a few ideas.

Bike Around Aichi

Another important feature of this video is its focus on “craft”, monozukuri 物作り…literally “making stuff.” The concept is central to Japanese industry and life. We’ve seen that with the recent video Herouth pointed out that showed (among other things) how sumo wrestlers’ combs are made. I’ve been particularly interested in it lately, playing around with making whisky. My favorite part is malting barley. The smell of germinating barley is nice. In this video, there’s a factory making hamanatto…in a woman’s house. It’s so awesome.

As I find things like this around sumo venues, I’ll try to bring them to your attention so you find things to enrich any trips you make to Japan. I’d like to help others avoid “Lost in Translation” syndrome, having experienced it myself when I first moved there.

Haru Jungyo!

With Haru Basho now in the rear view, time for Jungyo! The Iki Thump tour officially kicks off on April 1 at the Jingyu Kaikan in Ujinakanokiricho. No, I did not just step on my keyboard but thanks for asking.

So, for those of you unable to get your fill of sumo during the last fortnight in Osaka, there are still opportunities to watch your favorite wrestlers in action…maybe. There have also been a lot of injuries, including those to Nelly, I mean, Ikioi so we do hope they get a chance to recover. For those on the path to recovery – Onosho? Ura? – I wonder if this may be a nice way to ease back into the routine, though with Ura now in the depths of Makushita, I doubt it. But wouldn’t that be a way to keep the sport in the headlines and off the “other sports” tabs on Japanese news sites? A full list of dates is available on the Sumo Kyokai website.

伊勢神宮奉納April 1, 2018三重県伊勢市宇治中之切町15234.462801,136.7185575
中津川市April 2, 2018岐阜県東美濃ふれあいセンター中津川市茄子川1683-79735.4579753,137.4655545
堺市April 3, 2018大阪府 堺市金岡公園体育館 堺市北区長曽根町1179-1834.570691,135.506387
舞鶴市April 4, 2018京都府舞鶴文化公園体育館舞鶴市上安久420番地35.4550923,135.3378189
姫路市April 5, 2018兵庫県 姫路市立中央体育館 姫路市西延末9034.8212194,134.6699379
宝塚市April 6, 2018兵庫県 宝塚市立スポーツセンター総合体育館 宝塚市小浜1-1-1134.8022502,135.3606516
刈谷市April 7, 2018愛知県 ウィングアリーナ刈谷 愛知県刈谷市築地町荒田1番地35.0193854,137.0078769
静岡市April 8, 2018静岡県 草薙総合運動場体育館(このはなアリーナ) 静岡市駿河区栗原19-134.9883592,138.4245477
掛川市April 9, 2018静岡県 東遠カルチャーパーク総合体育館 掛川市大池225034.7854244,137.9991479
伊那市April 10, 2018長野県 伊那市民体育館メインアリーナ 伊那市西町5834-835.839454,137.9414958
東御市April 11, 2018長野県 東御中央公園第一体育館 東御市鞍掛177-236.3623777,138.3453912
草加市April 12, 2018埼玉県 草加市スポーツ健康都市記念体育館 草加市瀬崎6丁目31-135.8126413,139.8168489
川崎市April 13, 2018神奈川県 川崎市とどろきアリーナ 川崎市中原区等々力1−335.5873118,139.6453032
藤沢市April 14, 2018神奈川県 秋葉台文化体育館 藤沢市遠藤2000-135.3887615,139.4420105
高崎市April 15, 2018群馬県 高崎アリーナ 高崎市下和田町4丁目1-1836.3160485,139.0106099
靖國神社奉納April 16, 2018東京都 靖國神社相撲場 東京都千代田区九段北3-1-135.6945115,139.7405352
柏市April 18, 2018千葉県 柏市中央体育館 柏市柏下73柏市民文化会館横35.8675563,139.9833309
柏市April 19, 2018千葉県 柏市中央体育館 柏市柏下73柏市民文化会館横35.8675563,139.9833309
町田市April 20, 2018東京都 町田市立総合体育館 町田市南成瀬5-1235.5359736,139.4770061
八王子市April 21, 2018東京都 エスフォルタアリーナ八王子 八王子市狭間町1453-135.6397614,139.2903041
青梅市April 22, 2018東京都 青梅市立総合体育館 青梅市河辺町4丁目16-135.7807013,139.2821679
取手市April 24, 2018茨城県 取手グリーンスポーツセンター 取手市野々井1299番地35.9191301,140.024319
笠間市April 25, 2018茨城県 笠間市民体育館 笠間市石井2068-136.3853014,140.2442122
越谷市April 27, 2018埼玉県 越谷市総合体育館 越谷市増林2丁目3335.9026965,139.8114681

Day 13 – Highlights and a Look at Effective Hatakikomi

Apologies for the Day 13 update coming so late. As Leonid mentioned the yusho race is pretty well locked up now heading into the final weekend. Kaisei’s big day against the yokozuna was a bit of a dud as Kakuryu won by backing up. If anyone has a hope of challenging at this point, it’s probably Takayasu if the stars align on Sunday, though he’s probably gunning for a jun-yusho. Today, he went head-to-head with fellow Ozeki Goeido in a lesson on how to pull effectively. When Goeido landed on his belly, accelerated into the ground by Takayasu shoving his head, Takayasu was headed out but clearly still had his left foot in. In fact, he had his hand on Goeido’s head while Goeido was still standing on his side of the dohyo. He wasn’t going to leave this to chance.

Now, let’s go into a bit of a time warp and back up to the bottom of the banzuke. Myogiryu is fighting to stay in Makuuchi and today took out his frustrations on poor Meisei, visiting from Juryo. I think this was the best sumo I’ve seen from Myogiryu this week. Nishikigi, on the other hand, offered token resistance, doing his best blocking sled impression as Kotoyuki walked him out of the ring. Ishiura took a knee, handing Daiamami his kachi-koshi.

Yutakayama surprised Aoiyama and the rest of the stadium with a valiant win. He had Aoiyama on the ropes but the man-mountain came charging back…a wee bit over-zealous? Yutakayama by yorikiri. Ikioi will earn a special prize this tournament and I will not be surprised if he wins 12. He’s got Ishiura tomorrow and hopefully will know well enough to do his best Shodai impression at the tachiai. Today, he took out Chiyonokuni in a brief slugfest. It seemed like at the end Chiyonokuni tried to pull but ran out of room. The fact is, this match was all about hatakikomi. There were about 4 or 5 attempts at different points. However, why try when your feet are ON THE TAWARA? You’ve got nowhere to go! Takayasu’s was still close and he started a full 6-7 feet forward. Pull when you’re on the other guy’s realestate.

If you want to see a beautiful uwatenage, Chiyoshoma’s today versus Daishomaru was a great example. Chiyoshoma got hold of Daishomaru’s belt, spun him like the Tazmanian Devil, and dropped him on his butt. Beautiful. Asanoyama picked up his kachi-koshi in another hard fought bout versus Okinoumi. Great example of shitatenage, the lower arm throw, a cousin of the upper arm throw. The difference is in the position of the arm over or under the opponent’s arm. In this case, Asanoyama’s arm was in tight against Okinoumi, with Okinoumi’s arm outside. Chiyonouma had his arm on the outside of Daishomaru’s arm.

Backing up, Ryuden did his best Kotoshogiku impression, beating Hidenoumi by hug-n-chug. Giku, meanwhile, beat Daieisho by…yorikiri. Tochiozan needs to sit on a couch. Straight back, eased off the dohyo, grimacing, by Takarafuji. Kagayaki staved off make-koshi by drawing injured Arawashi. Yoshikaze got in low against Tamawashi in a show bout where Tamawashi didn’t show.

Endo got his kachi-koshi today against Chiyomaru. He tried to go in for the belt but Maru was having none of it. His tsuppari attack was relentless until Endo dodged and let Chiyomaru fall. Again, Endo did this with tons of space behind him. It was Chiyomaru against the tawara. Obviously, he’d need to get momentum going the other way, so Endo just let him. Belly-flop-otoshi.

To finish things off, Abi picked up the Ishiura bug and henka’d Chiyotairyu. Shohozan used the Ichi-No-Show brand blocking sled for a quick yorikiri. Mitakeumi saved his best sumo for Hokutofuji? OK… He’ll need more of that in the closing weekend to save his sanyaku slot. Tochinoshin will also be under the gun this weekend if he wants promotion to Ozeki. He tried the kachiage against Shodai but stayed way too high and off balance after it failed. Shodai didn’t exactly “go low” more like he kept Tochi “high” and walked him off the dohyo.

I’m looking forward to the final weekend. As Leonid’s post mentioned, there’s a lot of movement and a lot still up in the air, even though the yusho is almost set. Also, I’m eager to see where yo-yo Iki-yoi will finish.

Day 12 – Highlights (abridged)

Day 12 brought us another thrilling day of sumo action. Ishiura stepped up against Aoiyama today. Ishiura obviously knew what was coming. Aoiyama knew what was coming. Everyone in the whole freaking stadium knew what was coming. Henka. Yet Aoiyama still got spun around and pushed out by the speedy little Ishiura. Maaaa…ne… Ishiura needs one more win for katchi-koshi.

Next, Hidenoumi picked on Kotoyuki while everyone wonders why he’s not kyujo. Myogiryu goes makekoshi against Chiyoshoma. The kachiage didn’t seem to connect but there was enough force there to give Chiyoshoma the initiative. When Myogiryu closed in to clinch, Chiyoshoma shoved his head down for the hatakikomi win.

Skipping way up the banzuke, Kotoshogiku picked up his fourth win against Arawashi. Arawashi has one and a half legs, mind you, and he still was able to hold on for some time before the bumpity-bumpity yorikiri. I can’t say it enough, the one trick pony could prolong his career if he picked up another trick. Throws, pulls, purple nurples, come on! Endo beat Kaisei with a pretty easy formula…boom and pull. Booom! Right in the kisser. Pull. Boom (this time in the eye), one last olé and Kaisei steps out. Not pretty but effective.

An impotent Uncle Takara withered under Tamawashi’s thrusting attack. Takarafuji doesn’t seem particularly injured so I hope the drama at Isegahama isn’t weighing on him. He’s a “tweener,” like Ikioi.  He has a real rough go against sanyaku and joi wrestlers but he’s solid against lower maegashira. So they yo-yo. Tochinoshin was a bit like this, too. Then…wait for it…wait for it…

Chiyotairyu picked up a third win against Shohozan. He drove Shohozan back and was declared winner despite the fact he may have fallen first. No mono-ii on this should be a signal to pullers that they may be considered “dead” and lose some of these close ones. Again, I’ll bring up Tochinoshin here and his bout yesterday. And Goeido and his 1.0 version bouts. Pull at your own risk. Better to win with the initiative, moving forward.

Shodai fought for this one against Mitakeumi. This was a solid belt bout on both counts. Mitakeumi appeared to have a slight edge for most of the bout with better position, getting Shodai near the edge and almost over a few times. But as they both worked into a throw, Shodai was able to execute first. Mitakeumi’s 7th loss means he needs to win out to get kachi-koshi. He needs to pick up one more win to have any hope at staying in sanyaku. I agree with Leonid, with the loss to Shodai today, I think that door just shut. A good day for Endo became a great day for Endo.

The tachiai between Chiyomaru and Takayasu was something to behold. Both bubble bellies bounding brightly…Chiyomaru somehow comes out on top, moving forward and bringing it to the Ozeki. I think that surprised everyone. After some early thrusting, with Chiyomaru clearly in the driver’s seat, Takayasu momentarily gains the advantage as he grabs Chiyomaru’s arm and tries to put him into orbit. Chiyomaru clings on, dances near the tawara and by gravitational field pulls Takayasu back around and out. Wonderful bouts make me smile. Takayasu on 9 wins, one short of where Ozeki should be, but wow, Chiyomaru at 6-6! Sleeper!

Goeido versus Ichinojo. Goeido 2.0 showed up and the lethargic, gentle giant did, too. Meaning a quick walk out win for the Ozeki while everyone in the stadium hopes Ichinojo’s back issues aren’t coming back.

After Kaisei’s skull-rattling loss to Endo earlier, Kakuryu is in the driver’s seat for this yusho against the winner of the last yusho, Tochinoshin. Surprisingly, at the tachiai, Kakuryu brought it to Tochinoshin, locked in, and tried to win it Tochinoshin’s way. But Tochinoshin has the height and the leverage. He wasn’t going anywhere but forward. A brief pause on the belt while Tochinoshin gathers his strength and Kakuryu silently ponders, “what the f*** did I get myself into?”… Then Tochinoshin strikes and Kakuryu has no choice but to hold on for dear life as the Sekiwake tries to throw him into the upper deck. I’ve got to hand it to Kakuryu, he clung on for a while but with the frustration of the past few days mounting, Tochinoshin was not going to lose. He brought the Ozeki sumo today. I think only Hakuho would have had a chance against him.

So, on tap for tomorrow, we’ve got our leaders, Kakuryu and Kaisei battling after our Ozeki go head-to-head for that symbolic 10th win. I’ve got to run because the snow only afforded us a delay today, and I hope to fill in the blanks later.



Day 11 Highlights

Day 11 of the Haru Basho opens with news from Givemechanko that Kaisei has been gifted a fusen win with the exit of Takakeisho. Having succumbed to a losing record as a result, Takakeisho joins Oh No Show on the couch, watching from home. They will return in May ranked considerably lower than their abilities; while, if it holds up, Kaisei’s jun-yusho would make a case for Komusubi. Tomorrow he’ll face Endo, who at M1E is also eyeing the sanyaku slot Chiyotairyu will vacate. I’m circling that match. Kaisei will bring it with Endo-level cash on the line. I’m still in shock at Herouth’s point about the Ichinojo-Kaisei bout lacking kenshokin.

What did I say yesterday about Daiamami? As has been noted on Twitter, my predictive powers are lacking. Kyokutaisei picked up a surprise win on his visit from Juryo, sneaking in a swift trip during an oshi bout that evoked more bighorn sheep than grappling. Daiamami didn’t seem bovvered, while Kyokutaisei’s fighting hard to finally garner makuuchi promotion after two years bouncing around in Juryo.

Myogiryu does not want to drop into Juryo but he’ll need to find his mojo. He sure lost it today. Asanoyama picked up an easy hikiotoshi as Myogiryu over-committed at the tachiai. At first he was firmly met but once he committed to driving forward, the limber Asanoyama slipped his grasp, ducking to the left, letting Myogiryu fall. Hidenoumi offered token resistance to Daishomaru’s oshi attack, little more than an animate blocking sled. Daishomaru picked up his kachi-koshi while Hidenoumi’s 9th loss and counting will find him deeper in Juryo.

Kotoyuki’s frustrated spin was the oddest thing I’ve ever seen. It was like he saw the futility of his oshi attack and just took a frustrated swing at Yutakayama, totally whiffed, and spun around like a ballerina. Yutakayama gently pushed him out. Ishiura caught out Tochiozan in a…surprise…surprise…henka. Next! Aoiyama and Chiyonokuni engaged in a strong tachiai with Aoiyama slowly giving ground until his yeti feet got hold of the tawara, where he slipped to the side and Chiyonokuni fell to hatakikomi. Aoiyama got his kachi-koshi while Chiyonokuni is still on pace at 6-5.

Sokokurai and Okinoumi locked into a fierce grapple, Okinoumi clutching Sokokurai’s left arm from above, Sokokurai securing Okinoumi’s right from below. Okinoumi’s initiative drove the pair backward, Sokokurai pivoting on the tawara at the last second, for a clever but costly sukuinage. Sokokurai was unable to return to the dohyo under his own power. If he goes kyujo, as it looked bad, he’ll be likely to drop back into Juryo.

Next, Daieisho locked horns with Nishikigi. After a brief tussle, with Daieisho shoving hard at Nishikigi’s face, he did a quick change-a-roo, got his hands behind Nishikigi’s head and drove him to the floor. Daieisho rose to 6-5 while Nishikigi needs to win out to avoid a makekoshi.  Kagayaki was ready to go against Ikioi, met firmly at the tachiai, and soon went for a nodowa…but on one leg? Once he rocked over on one leg, Ikioi found the drive to push him out and get his kachi-koshi. That was a theme for today with five wrestlers picking up that all important 8th win today.

Yoshikaze is out of sorts. He literally fell to Ryuden, and as a result is makekoshi. Can he arrest his slide down the banzuke, or will he take the Takakeisho way to the couch? He needs to recoup and regroup. Ryuden has delayed his own makekoshi for another day. Abi shot like a bullet into Chiyoshoma, thrusting his arms into his opponent’s face…but Chiyoshoma didn’t want to give it back. Disarmed, Abi struggled to respond as Chiyoshoma walked him backward and off the dohyo.

Shohozan followed with another brawling attack against Hokutofuji. Hokutofuji weathered the storm, however, and countered as Shohozan tired. Oshidashi. Hokutofuji improves to 5-6 while Shohozan falls to 6-5. In a scene similar to Yoshikaze’s sad fall, Kotoshogiku flops onto his belly as Tamawashi’s mass disappears. This was Giku’s 8th loss, sealing his losing record.

Takarafuji had eyes on Endo’s stack of envelopes, engaging in a very entertaining, back-and-forth battle. Endo pulled, but Takarafuji wasn’t going to fall for any tawara tricks. So instead, Endo drove hard, knocking Takarafuji off balance and onto his back. Endo keeps his money and stays on pace for a winning record. As I mentioned, this may leave planners with a promotion conundrum if there’s only one sanyaku slot up for grabs.

Chiyotairyu sensed blood against 1-9 Arawashi, so he blasted off. Arawashi found a bit of guile, and after meeting firmly at the tachiai, suddenly pulled and Chiyotairyu fell. Both stand at 2-9. Chiyomaru withstood Mitakeumi’s early attack and, after some determined leaning, drove Mitakeumi out for a yorikiri win. Both stand at 5-6.

Goeido blasted Shodai, who seemed to be a bit weak on his left foot. Tochinoshin lost another controversial bout against Takayasu. He needs 10 wins to have any hope of Ozeki-hood. Regardless of whether he was in or out, I wasn’t a fan of the pull. He ran out of space quickly and the odds of falling out first seem greater than if he took the fight to Takayasu and battled on the belt. That’s how he will become Ozeki, not with hatakikomi attempts.

We close today with a showdown with Kakuryu and Ichinojo. Ichinojo put some great effort into this. The taller, wider behemoth was in control for much of the bout. But Kakuryu dug deep, worked Ichinojo briefly off balance, back to the tawara and out for yorikiri. Kakuryu will face a desperate Tochinoshin tomorrow. Should be a great one.



Day 10 Highlights

Sorry for this being so late.

Day 10 of the Haru Basho 2018 opened with an intriguing matchup: AARP member Takekaze visiting from Juryo to battle the surging Bulgarian, Aoiyama. This low on the banzuke, Aoiyama’s been mopping up wins against youngsters; his only losses thus far have been to fellow sanyaku journeymen, Myogiryu and Ikioi. The prize for this bout is a winning record and a rise up the banzuke, with an added incentive for Takekaze of an assured return to Makuuchi in May.

With all of this riding the outcome of the bout, a decent staredown was expected. Aoiyama finally gave in and committed first. With a bit of “come at me, bro,” he absorbed Takekaze’s initial charge, allowing the visitor from Juryo to drive him back…but not all the way to the tawara. Perhaps sensing a hatakikomi attempt, Takekaze backed off. This allowed Aoiyama to begin a slapping charge of his own, which ended in a heap on the power water as Takekaze ducked to the side, as if to say, “this is how it’s done, son.” Takekaze picks up that crucial 8th win, secures his return to makuuchi, and Aoiyama falls out of yusho contention.

Our second bout saw rising Asanoyama taking on an overranked Hidenoumi, hoping to stave off a sixth losing record in the top division. A firm tachiai saw Hidenoumi let Asanoyama drive him to the edge, where he got purchase with one foot on the tawara and tried a throw. The throw failed but gave Hidenoumi better position in the center. From here, Hidenoumi seemed out of ideas while Asanoyama took the initiative and again began to drive his opponent across the dohyo. This time, Asanoyama pulled up short, letting gravity do his job, dropping Hidenoumi onto his belly – and back down to Juryo.

Ishiura has been hanging on, of late, and has hopefully been finding more confidence as he’s found some non-henka success in the lower quarter of the division. Today’s bout against Myogiryu brought us back to the Ishiura we’ve come to expect. Henka. Myogiryu was unable to recover and got spun out of the ring. Ishiura improved to 5-5, Myogiryu slipped to 4-6.

Sokokurai has not been having a great tournament so a bout against an injured Kotoyuki likely looked like a gift. With the first two rows of spectators on alert for the roly poly in pale purple, the two engaged at the center in some leaning. Just when I started thinking, “I could settle in for a bit, maybe grab a beer,” Sokokurai dropped Kotoyuki like a cheap yo-yo that won’t come back up. In this condition, it looks like it will be a while before Kotoyuki returns from Juryo.

Daiamami has impressed many this tournament, two wins short of the yusho leader into the second week, and fighting to remain “in the hunt” and pick up a kachi-koshi today. Tochiozan, however, has been struggling and needs to lead a serious charge to get a winning record, so I was expecting him to pull out some tricks. Instead, Daiamami pulled out the henka. But with the injured Tochiozan lumbering at him at a glacial pace, the youngster was quickly back to the drawing board. Thrust, nodowa, thrust…Daiamami continued steadily on the attack, but nothing was sustained long enough to drive Tochi back to Kochi. Instead, the door opened for Tochiozan to reach out for the youngster’s oicho-mage and drive him down for a hatakikomi win. Sorry to say it, but I don’t see Daiamami trying to pick up the 10 wins he’s capable of. Seven wins in hand, he’ll pick up one against Juryo visitor Kyokutaisei tomorrow and probably stay on cruise control – don’t get injured mode – through the weekend.

Ikioi faced Yutakayama, looking for an eighth win, and hopefully the ability to sit out and rest his leg. He sure was up for it, attacking vigorously from the outset. Wildly pushing, pulling, thrusting, grabbing at everything he could get a hold of. After sending Yutakayama to the dirt, however, it was clear that some of that grabbing involved the youngster’s topknot. Ikioi loses by forfeit (hansoku), both 7-3. Purple nurples are okay in this sport. Hair-pulling is not. Maaa… Kagayaki better watch out tomorrow.

Chiyonokuni came prepared. Strong tachiai, strong thrusts, Nishikigi’s face had nowhere to look but skyward until a quick pull drove Nishikigi’s face into the clay. Kagayaki followed up by ushering Daishomaru (on cruise control) quickly over the bales. He’ll face a real test tomorrow.

After some initial thrusts, Chiyoshoma and Daieisho locked in for a great belt battle. At one point Chiyoshoma tried to deadlift Daieisho, but realized he’s not Tochinoshin. Eventually he wore Daieisho out and guided him over the bales.

Ryuden’s been having a disappointing tournament and came in rather lethargic. Abi leaped out with a forceful, unrelenting oshi-attack, dropping Ryuden to 3-7 and in danger of make-koshi. In the next bout, Yoshikaze and Okinoumi engaged in a promising belt battle until The Berserker’s knee gave out from under him. Very disappointing end to the match but very telling as to why fortunate winds have not been filling Yoshikaze’s sails.

When Hokutofuji locked in with Takakeisho, I think he went for the balls but ended up with a handful of sagari…which he promptly sent express mail into the second deck of the arena. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that. Takakeisho seemed to immediately shut down realizing his precious tama could have been in outer space and backed out. I don’t blame him. It was weird. Fierce and weird.

Kotoshogiku’s career is on life support. Chest to chest, he couldn’t get Takarafuji to back up to the tawara. Takarafuji stood him up a good three feet from the bales. I think he was able to beat Endo because he had managed to get Endo’s arm up at an awkward position. In this case, a panicking Giku then started to try to roll him into a throw. The first one almost worked but as each subsequent attempt got weaker and weaker, Takarafuji went for his own throw. How will the former Ozeki do against guys like Abi, Kagayaki, and Yutakayama? We’ll find out in May. I don’t think he’s headed to Juryo as quickly as Terunofuji and he could hang around in the mid-rank-and-file for a while…but will he want to?

Arawashi is hurt and Endo took advantage by patiently riding out Arawashi’s attack, then steadily walking him toward, and over, the tawara. Kaisei and Ichinojo, on the other hand, are prime. Two giant dudes, in a great belt-battle. This was not as epic as we’ve seen from Ichinojo/Tochinoshin in the past but Ichinojo proved too powerful and handed Kaisei his first loss of the tournament.

Tamawashi is a powerful guy but fell asleep today. Chiyotairyu blasted him quickly straight back and into the first row of spectators. Speaking of power, Shohozan is a brawler, make no mistake. This man wanted Mitakeumi’s lunch money. Powerful thrusts and slaps got Mitakeumi upset (read: pissed). The angry Mitakeumi charged at a suddenly clever Shohozan, who sidestepped but didn’t quite have enough strength to get him out. Both settled into a grapple but Shohozan had morozashi while Mitakeumi was clinging on to his opponent’s shoulders for dear life. Like Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jack, he could only hold on for so long before sinking into the cold depths beneath the surface.

Takayasu had no time for Shodai’s weak tachiai. It wasn’t really a nodowa because it seemed he had Shodai by the jaw. Maybe an agowa? Regardless, it did the job and wrecked Shodai, picking up his kachi-koshi.

Goeido! Goeido! Home town hero! Henka? Wow… Gotta be prepared for that. Unfortunately, Tochinoshin wasn’t, got turned around and run out of town. Even the pro-eido crowd had a mixed reaction to Goeido’s deception. For Tochinoshin, that’s a certain end to any hopes of a repeat yusho. However, the case for Ozeki remains.

Lastly, in the musubi-no-ichiban, Kakuryu versus a bowling ball. Chiyomaru is way out of his depth. Goeido was his first ever sanyaku opponent. Today, a yokozuna in the showcase matchup? Kakuryu got both hands on Chiyomaru’s belt at the outset. He seemed to wait for a minute thinking it was too easy, then steadily walked Chiyomaru out. If I were Chiyomaru, I’d be like, “Well, I tried. And at least I didn’t henka. I’m not desperate.”


NHK World Live Makuuchi Broadcast (Day 1)

Hat tip to Bruce on finding this. The NHK will broadcast makuuchi bouts live from 4:10am Eastern to 5am! It looks like it’s a Day 1 thing only. Honestly, I want so much traffic they decide to do it again. I will keep my eyes peeled for next weekend action and (hopefully) senshuraku.

Also, the always fantastic Grand Sumo Preview program airs over the next 24 hours on NHK World. Make a point to watch it, as it’s always interesting, and features friend of Tachiai, John Gunning. I am curious which rikishi gets the special coverage this time, and if Raja is further abused in training. Details of when it airs here: https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/tv/sumo/

Baruto Features in Landmark NHK New Drama Series

Big news for former ozeki Baruto. He will be taking on the title role in a new drama on NHK called Ototo no Otto (弟の夫), “Brother-in-Law.” Those of you familiar with the kanji will be quickly clued in on why this is a landmark series – and it doesn’t really have to do with the fact that a foreigner is playing the title role. An alternative, literal translation is, “Little Brother’s Husband.”

In the US, this would be seen as rather tame. There are many gay and LGBT characters on TV and in movies. However, in Japan, especially the conservative NHK, this is a turning point. The description for Baruto’s NHK interview points out, “今までにない”, meaning until now, there’s not been a show of this type.

This is a big step for Baruto. He’s got Japanese citizenship and has been making his living as a TV talent and even recently he was giving MMA a try. But why is NHK introducing this show now? Personally, I think this series is being aired in preparation for the 2020 Olympics. The Winter Olympics in Korea featured many homosexual athletes so I presume there is a desire to normalize attitudes toward homosexuality before hosting the games. Western visitors are already accustomed to acceptance and could be seriously put off by having negative, discriminatory experiences.

The plotline is that Baruto plays Mike, the jovial Canadian husband of the lead character’s deceased brother. He goes to Japan to visit his husband’s brother, 弥一 (Yaichi?)…and awkwardness ensues. The awkwardness gives way to acceptance as Hisaichi’s daughter takes a shine to Mike. Perhaps sensing that this will be a bit of an adjustment for Japanese audiences, the lead role is Japanese and straight (divorced father) and the gay role is played by a straight foreigner who was a popular sumo wrestler. Breaking taboos is about baby steps. It also helps that the story comes from an award winning manga [hat tip to Herouth].

In Baruto’s interview, he was asked about food; he was a sumo wrestler after all, and stereotypes are really hard to break. 🙂 Apparently, food-related scenes play a big part of the new series so they asked him what was most memorable. He said that while on set he made chanko for the cast and crew and that his chanko is pretty darn good. So while it’s not something that’s actually a scene from the show, he’s proud of it because apparently everyone loved it. I’m hungry now and am going to go have dinner.

A Little About Georgia

Welcome to Georgia, shusshin (birthplace) of Tochinoshin, Gagamaru, and wine. Yes, that bacchanalian beverage, perfected in the hills of France, was domesticated in the Caucasus. Georgian wines are a favorite among my Russian and Eastern European friends. I believe that is why it is such a prize for Vladimir Putin (as well as the resorts Crimea). The Russian Olympic venue at Sochi was a stone’s throw from Georgia. A quick visit to the website for the National Tourism Administration shows several pictures of cultural treasures and amazing vistas.

Mtskheta, Georgia

Tochinoshin is from Mtskheta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site was put on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2009 but removed from that list in 2016, noting work done and the commitment by the State Party to the preservation of the site. This month, a UNESCO monitoring mission is headed to Mtskheta to “assess current conditins at the property.” Tachiai will report on findings.

I must admit, the description from the tourism company, VisitGeorgia.GE is enticing: “Situated at the confluence of the Aragvi and Mtkvari rivers, Mtskheta has been a site of human settlement since at least the second millennium BC. The town is named after Mtskhetos, son of Kartlos – the legendary progenitor of the Georgian people. Already a town of some significance in pagan times, it gained importance as the site of the first Christian church in Georgia. Today it is no longer the capital of the country, but it is still the spiritual capital and home to two of Georgia’s greatest churches – Svetitskhoveli and Jvari.

While I was growing up, Georgia was a part of the Soviet Union. When the Communist block dissolved, Georgia declared independence. However, that independence has been fraught with conflict as Russian loyalists, primarily in the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, continue to try to break away with Russian help. The breakout of heavy fighting and war in 2008 has yielded to an uneasy peace as Western war correspondents have embedded themselves in other Russian proxy battles from Crimea to Syria. It’s difficult to get a sense of the status quo in Tblisi. The most recent article I could find was this from Politico: “Vladimir Putin’s mysterious moving border.”

節分 – The Japanese Setsubun Festival

Setsubun is a Japanese festival to celebrate the coming of Spring. It falls on February 3, which should be easy for Americans to remember as the day after Groundhog Day. For non-Americans among Tachiai readership, let’s just say Groundhog Day is a great movie by Bill Murray and leave it at that.*

The ritual at the center of setsubun is the bean throwing, mamemaki (豆撒き), shown here in this tweet found by Herouth (@SumoFollower).

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Tachiai Instagram

Tachiai has an Instagram account. After a period of neglect and under-utilization from yours truly (I blame the fact that I am in Maryland and not Japan), Nicola has taken over and has been doing an amazing job. I’ll get it integrated into this site but I wanted to let all of the readers know that the Instagram account is there.


Hatsu Torikumi Released: Kisenosato Will Start

The NSK released the schedule for the opening two days of the upcoming tournament. Among the storylines, the headline is that Kisenosato is scheduled to compete. Out of the gate he will tackle two top tadpoles, Takakeisho and Hokutofuji. In truth, the entire yokozuna triumvirate will have their hands full. In his do-or-die hatsu, Kakuryu starts off with the reverse schedule, Hokutofuji followed by Takakeisho. Meanwhile, Hakuho begins with Onosho and then faces a hopefully resurgent Ichinojo on Day 2.

I’m excited to see Ichinojo back in the joi, starting with his first bout against Goeido. He had a premature taste last tournament from M4 as the depleted sanyaku ranks, with five unable to finish, meant he faced seven top tier opponents including Yokozuna and Ozeki. Without such injuries, M4 would likely face a couple of lower sanyaku opponents. Ichinojo held his own, beating Goeido, Mitakeumi, and Yoshikaze and finishing with 10 wins overall. A similar record this tournament will not only catapult him into san’yaku but could kick off an Ozeki run.

Kotoshogiku, the former ozeki, will prove to be an interesting test for Mitakeumi and Takayasu. Both are coming off injuries and may be ripe for an upset. The senior rikishi from Sadogatake is clearly driven. He wants to be back among the top ranks, even though he’s no longer on anyone’s short list for yusho contention. There were a few bouts in the last tournament where it looked like his sumo was developing beyond the humpity-bumpity. He still finds yorikiri and oshidashi wins, somehow. But if he starts picking up -nage wins, he could arrest his slide down the banzuke. The top ranks are a mix of banged-up geezers and green upstarts. It’s time to use some wiles.

Terunofuji will face Chiyomaru for the first time in four years. After two years in Juryo, Chiyomaru has apparently finally been cast in a recurring role among the lower maegashira and should serve as a decent early test of those knees. Is Terunofuji headed for Juryo or can he recover after a prolonged period of lower-ranked competition? On Day 2 he’ll face the one-time high-flying Kotoyuki, who’s coming off his own recovery in the lower ranks. If Kotoyuki has recovered, he may flip-flop with Kotoshogiku as top at Sadogatake. His tournament will start against Uncle Sumo Aminishiki.

I’m likely alone in my early picks but my Bout of the Day for Day 1 is Goeido v Ichinojo. This early bout should set the tone for both men’s basho. Will Goeido be in contention and will the Monster show up? As an optimist, I’m hoping for “Yes.” My pick for Day 2 is Tamawashi v Yoshikaze. One hopes to start an Ozeki run, the other just always brings it. “There Will Be Blood.”

明けましておめでとうございます!!。 謹賀新年!

Akemashite-omedetou-gozaimasu is the phrase Japanese use to ring in the new year. It’s a mouthful so many of us foreigners just say, “Akeome.” While I just woke up in DC — and am technically about 40 minutes late with this post — it is already 2018 there.

謹賀新年 kinga shin’nen is a more formal, sophisticated phrase for the same thing. 四字熟語 (yoji jyuku-go) are four-character stock phrases and kinga shin’nen means welcome the new year. After 2017, hell yeah. Welcome 2018!

今年宜しくお願い致します。Kotoshi yoroshiku onegaitashimasu. (Roughly: “We will appreciate your support in the New Year.”)

Welcome 2018!

I am welcoming in the year of the dog with this Tosa Ken, The Yokozuna dog. In Kochi, close to the sea shore and a few minutes from the memorial to Sakamoto Ryoma, there’s a little tourist spot where they have a little dog dohyo.

If you check out my Twitter account, my avatar is a cartoon-styled version from a Mos-Burger calendar from a few years back. Another Japanese tradition is to hand out calendars. Just about every company floods you with calendars, and the Japanese Sumo Association is no different. However, it is bitter-sweet to look at last year’s NSK calendar. The year opened with three yokozuna and four ozeki. The pictures reflect the ranks from Aki 2016, so Takayasu was front and center for the picture featuring the east side of the lower sanyaku ranks and upper maegashira, Takanoiwa on the far right of the front row. I haven’t gotten the calendar for 2018, yet.

I especially want to thank Bruce, Herouth, Josh, Leonid, Liam, Thomas and Nicola! In 2017, you all – Team Tachiai – turned this little blog into a real sumo community by engaging hundreds of readers and it’s reflected in the amazing comments. Thank you readers (commenters and lurkers alike)! You keep me engaged in this sport and I really appreciate it. I am excited to see what happens this year!

Thank you!

Tachiai 忘年会チャレンジ

Long ago, in an 英会話 far away, your correspondent was a terrified, socially awkward foreigner in 日吉. I was plopped into a classroom with virtually no training in the middle of October 2003. After a few fits and starts, I was able to grasp the gist of the our school’s methodology: keep the students entertained and help them learn something. There were amazing days and quite a few challenging ones. In this context, when December rolled around I was introduced to the wonderful Japanese custom of the Bonenkai.

Japan has many New Year customs which this blog will highlight with several posts in the coming weeks. Do not worry, their relevance to sumo will be apparent. In this post, I will highlight the Bonenkai. A literal translation of the kanji is “forget the year gathering”. Unlike the many customs, like setsubun, which are family oriented, the Bonenkai is different because it is oriented toward business and friends. This is more similar to “the company Christmas party” in the West. Many businesses will be closed for the first week of the new year so these parties are generally held before that break.

So, for a business person in Japan, December can be a super busy month. Often there will be a Bonenkai with your section or division, then there will be another one with clients, others with friends. This party is generally an alcohol fueled gathering at a local izakaya where colleagues and friends will celebrate the end of the last year. At an izakaya there are no photocopiers, though, so our grand tradition of getting drunk and photocopying our butts is sorely missed. Instead, many izakaya have a karaoke machine which lend themselves to my horrible renditions of 90s grunge classics.

While the name may demonstrate the reason for the party, these gatherings are not dismal affairs. Rather than dwelling on the challenges of the past year, colleagues and friends focus on appreciation for their support and look forward to the new year.

So, with December upon us, I urge Tachiai readers to go out and have your own Bonenkai where we can put this horrible 2017 behind us. Yes, we were blessed with a new Yokozuna and Ozeki only to quickly lose both to the disabled list. We quickly lost two ozeki and our electrifying youngster, Ura, went down to injury. Adding in the fallout from the fight in Tottori, we can see the reasons for our Bonenkai. If you have your own Bonenkai, take pictures and if you share them on Twitter, I’ll retweet and like them.

Rather than dwell on these past challenges, we raise a glass (with a few “Banzai!”) to Hakuho’s 40th, the resurgence of Uncle Sumo (Aminishiki), the continued growth of young talents from Asanoyama to Enho to Wakaichiro, and the comebacks of Endo and Okinoumi. Who will make the next Ozeki run? Takakeisho, Onosho, Tamawashi, Hokutofuji, or other?

It’s Jungyo Time!

Are you ready for Jungyo? The winter jungyo begins tomorrow, 12/3. For the Aki Tour, Herouth provided a great map which you can reference under the features menu. I’ve replicated her map for the winter tour. This 1500-mile journey will cover 10 locations over the next two weeks. The first 8 events will be a 660-mile course of one-day stops in eight different venues on the island of Kyushu. The last two stops will be on two islands in Okinawa with each of those events lasting two days. As the final event will wrap up on December 17, this will give rikishi almost a full month to prepare for the Hatsu Basho starting 1/14.

Two Week Winter Tour

Of particular interest in these events will be the attendance of sekitori. We already know that we are down one yokozuna with the retirement of Harumafuji. I hope he gets to sleep in late tomorrow and enjoys a late afternoon tee-time at a picturesque golf course while the other sekitori prepare to haul their luggage around Kyushu.

Two other yokozuna, Kisenosato and Kakuryu have nagging injuries to worry about. Their health is a priority for the Sumo Kyokai and they are expected to come back to sumo at full force, or join Harumafuji on the links. That leaves us with Hakuho as, likely, the sole yokozuna participating.