The Japanese Sumo Association has announced that four Makushita wrestlers are being promoted to Juryo for July’s tournament. Kotokuzan from Arashio-beya (apparently NOT from Sadogatake-beya) will make his Juryo debut. Yago, Kaisho, and Abi return to the salaried ranks.
The headline here is that Abi, and his shiko?, will return to Sekitori status after serving a suspension for breaking Covid protocols with Fukushima (then Gokushindo). He has stormed back in the most rapid fashion, scoring 14 straight regulation victories, including a victory over Kaisho. While Abi was away, Ichiyamamoto returned and has established himself as a solid Juryo rikishi with a very successful Natsu. I am eager to see if the two of them go toe-to-toe at some point.
Abi’s redemption comes at an awkward time as current Ozeki Asanoyama is facing down a similar scandal, though the facts in his case are still being investigated and thus a punishment has yet to be determined.
Yago will be eager to finally find a permanent foothold in the division. He is talented but has struggled with injuries, seemingly yo-yoing between Juryo and Makushita. Kaisho reached Juryo briefly in 2019 for two tournaments before falling back into Makushita. For Kotokuzan, his promotion has been a long struggle. He has been in Makushita since the end of 2016, back when Terunofuji was an Ozeki the first time ’round. It will be interesting to see if he’s got a spark in his sumo that can keep him around for a while.
We’ve just ended the first third of the tournament and already have a clear favorite for the Cup in Terunofuji. He’s been dominant while his fellow Ozeki have struggled to prove their mettle at the rank. It’s far too early to crown any champions yet but at this point the competition appears tarnished and dull. Kaiju, however, has yet to fall.
Tokushoryu (Juryo 4-1) vs Chiyomaru (3-2): Both of these big men lost competitive bouts yesterday. Tokushoryu’s was a tawara-dancing switcheroo against Yutakayama. Tokushoryu is highly motivated to get back into Makuuchi, while Chiyomaru only needs 5 of 10 wins to stay, so I’m giving Tokushoryu a slight motivational edge in spite of Chiyomaru’s historical edge. Either way, it will be a fun oshi-brawl.
Kaisei (3-2) vs Akua (1-4): Akua had a disappointing loss to an injured Enho today. It looked like he was trying to develop a belt game rather than focusing on pushing the smaller guy down. I would not advise going into a bout with Kaisei in the same way. Don’t go for the belt with weak belt game or he’ll win. Keep him off the belt if you want to turn things around.
Ishiura (3-2) vs Daiamami (3-2): Both men are having a good start to the tournament but definitely have work to do to ensure they stay in the top division. Both men also have preferences for migi-yotsu sumo and Ishiura holds a slim 2-1 lead in their rivalry. I don’t think Ishiura will need a henka to pull this off. He can hit Daiamami head on and act quick at the tachiai. If the bout drags out, Ishiura will slip away and rely on an off-balance Daiamami to give chase.
Kotonowaka (3-2) vs Chiyotairyu (3-2): Kotonowaka will want to get a belt-grip against Chiyotairyu. The key here will be whether Chiyotairyu allows it. If not, this bout goes full-on bar brawl.
Akiseyama (1-4) vs Chiyoshoma (2-3): Kaisei handed Akiseyama his fourth loss while Chiyoshoma is happy his arm is not broken. Neither has had a particularly impressive first week so far.
Tamawashi (4-1) vs Kotoeko (3-2): On the flip side, Tamawashi and Kotoeko are doing quite well. A few more wins for Tamawashi and he’ll be able to coast to kachi-koshi. Kotoeko is still outsized and often outmatched at this rank. He’ll need to capitalize on any opportunities afforded by Tamawashi but there won’t be many against this veteran.
Okinoumi (3-2) vs Terutsuyoshi (1-4): Okinoumi is under-ranked here while Terutsuyoshi has been “solved” by most of his opponents. These two have split their previous meetings but my gut gives Okinoumi the confidence and experience edge against Terutsuyoshi “on tilt.”
Tochinoshin (1-4) vs Kagayaki (2-3): Tochinoshin has a fraction of the power he had previously. This may turn into a brawl, rather than his standard belt battles but I think Kagayaki will pick up his second win against the former Ozeki.
Shimanoumi (2-3) vs Takarafuji (2-3): These two gentlemen have been chewed up and spit out in their visits in the Makuuchi joi. Takarafuji probably has the experience and technique advantage here. Takarafuji will rope in Shimanoumi and win this one on the belt.
Hidenoumi (4-1) vs Tsurugisho (1-4): These two men are fighting strength-to-strength and have a long history of bouts in the lower divisions with Tsurugisho having the slight 10-9 edge. The nod goes to the lady’s man in this bout.
Endo (4-1) vs Ichinojo (3-2): Endo had a very impressive, adaptive win today against the smaller Terutsuyoshi but he has trouble with the size of Ichinojo on the belt. Will he avoid the belt and try to win in a slapfest? This is Endo, so I doubt it but I think that gives him the best chance.
Wakatakakage (3-2) vs Onosho (4-1): Onosho is in the chase group but Wakatakakage has collected quite the scalp collection this tournament, winning 50% of his bouts against Ozeki as well as a thumper against Takayasu. After his loss to Kaiju, he’ll be punching below his weight (not literally) against Onosho. If he hopes to advance and pick up more hardware, he’ll need to win all the bouts in which he’s favored.
Meisei (1-4) vs Hokutofuji (0-5): Both of these guys have been through the ringer this week. Neither get much headway with sanyaku, though they’re certainly capable of the occasional upset. They’ve been lacking consistency at this high level but one must win. With a narrow 2-1 head-to-head going the way of Hokutofuji, I still think Meisei’s the least likely to go 5-10 or worse among these two.
Takayasu (4-1) vs Mitakeumi (4-1): These two share roots in the Philippines and a desire to take advantage of the froth in the sanyaku ranks. However, Mitakeumi has proven that he knows how to win while Takayasu crumbled in historic fashion in the last tournament. They have stated goals of double-digit wins with Takayasu one-leg in an ozeki run. Mitakeumi will need a miracle but both will duke it out in spectacular fashion. The edge goes to Takayasu since the yusho is not on the line.
Daieisho (2-3) vs Takanosho (3-2): This will be the bout to get up and get a beer.
Asanoyama (3-2) vs Kiribayama (1-4): Stay in the kitchen a bit, choose another beer and avoid the disappointment. I want both of these guys to be in the hunt and I’m sad that neither are performing anywhere near that level.
Hoshoryu (2-3) vs Terunofuji (5-0): Hoshoryu’s surprise win against Ichinojo will have prepared him well for his bout with…oh. The Kaiju? Not the Kaiju. Say your prayers, young dragon.
Shodai (4-1) vs Myogiryu (1-4): Shodai needs wins. Myogiryu enjoys handing them out.
Tobizaru (1-4) vs Takakeisho (4-1): The wave action should find Tobizaru three or four rows deep in the stands. Maybe he can help his brother out while he’s there by getting the Posture Princess’ phone number.
“Are you sure it’s already May? Mid-May? We don’t have, like, another six weeks to go before the tournament starts?”
Not only is it already May but we’ve just closed the books on the first Act of Natsu 2021. Fans are back in the building and Kaiju is tearing through the top of the banzuke. Will Wakatakakage be able to put some dirt on Terunofuji? Will “the other” Ozeki be able to stay on pace?
Enho defeated Akua (1-4): Frankly, I was hoping this would be a scratch but Enho showed up with that wrapped up right elbow. Enho actually picked up his first win with a solid game plan…keep Akua off the belt and look for a quick pull. He struck Akua with a solid tachiai and immediately grabbed Akua’s arm and nearly pulled it off right there. Akua never adjusted his sumo so Enho kept up the strategy. Akua kept seeking a belt grip and Enho kept him at arm’s length and pulled on whatever he could. He got the win but may have tweaked his right ankle. Eventually, Akua reached too far seeking that belt with his right hand so Enho dipped to the side and shoved with his right arm. Tsukiotoshi.
Ishiura (3-2) defeated Chiyotairyu (3-2): Ishiura jumped early. On the second attempt, Ishiura shifted to his left but Chiyotairyu got him head on where they settled into a grapple. What? Chiyotairyu in a grapple? Something’s wrong. Ishiura realized this was not With a quick shift, Ishiura got in behind Chiyotairyu and bulldozed Chiyotairyu out from behind. Okuridashi
Daiamami (3-2) defeated Chiyomaru (3-2): Daiamami pursued Chiyomaru, shoving strongly while maru danced around the tawara. Chiyomaru slipped to the side and Daiamami fell on his belly to end the bout…shikashi!! A mono-ii determined that Chiyomaru’s foot had gone out earlier. Oshidashi.
Kaisei (3-2) defeated Akiseyama (1-4): Big Boi Belt Battle. Akiseyama secured a morozashi and tried to drive forward but Kaisei had a solid left-hand belt grip and with his right he twisted and thrust Akiseyama down. Tsukiotoshi.
Kotoeko (3-2) defeated Okinoumi (3-2): Okinoumi and Kotoeko tussled to start the match, neither going for a belt grip, opting for an oshi bout. A few slaps in but Okinoumi did not get much of an attack going here. Kotoeko thrust with the right arm and sent Okinoumi over the edge. Oshidashi.
Tamawashi (4-1) defeated Chiyoshoma (2-3): Chiyoshoma wanted a belt grip with his left but Tamawashi clamped down with the arm-breaker; Chiyoshoma relented and backed away. Tamawashi pursued with aggressive tsuppari and Chiyoshoma stepped out before he was able to launch any counter attack. Oshidashi.
Kotonowaka (3-2) defeated Shimanoumi (2-3): Kotonowaka was looking to reach over Shimanoumi for the left-hand grip but an opportunity presented itself as Shimanoumi was pitched very far forward. Kotonowaka pushed down with the right while shifting to his left. Hikiotoshi.
Endo (4-1) defeated Terutsuyoshi (1-4): Terutsuyoshi’s shifty HNH tachiai was well snuffed out by Endo. He then chased Terutsuyoshi around the dohyo while Terutsuyoshi tried to come up with a Plan B. However, Endo caught up and pushed Terutsuyoshi out. Oshidashi.
Kagayaki (2-3) defeated Tsurugisho (1-4): Straight-forward sumo from Kagayaki. He drove forward into Tsurugisho and while Tsurugisho was comfortably sliding to the edge, Kagayaki put on the brakes and pushed him to the ground. Hikiotoshi
Hidenoumi (4-1) defeated Takarafuji (2-3): In the first great grapple of the day, Hidenoumi dragged Uncle Takara all the way across the ring for the win…falling out and over Hoshoryu. Hikiotoshi
Onosho (4-1) defeated Tochinoshin (1-4): Onosho made quick work of Tochinoshin. As Tochinoshin drove forward, Onosho stepped to the side and watched Tochinoshin roll by. Hikiotoshi (Is this thing stuck?).
Hoshoryu (2-3) defeated Ichinojo (3-2): Hoshoryu with some big man sumo here. On paper, when I see Hoshoryu in a belt battle with Ichinojo, I’m thinking Ichinojo’s got the edge. But Hoshoryu withstood Ichinojo’s solid throw attempt. He maintained his balance despite the pressure on his head, pushed forward and guided Ichinojo out. Yorikiri.
Myogiryu (1-4) defeated Hokutofuji (0-5): What a mess. First, both guys thought it was a matta so their tachiai was more of a cuddle. Seriously. The two Nitaidai graduates got up and hugged like they were fraternity brothers at a reunion. “Oh, shoot, we’re supposed to fight?” All that was missing were a couple of beers. When reality hit that it was a legit tachiai, Hokutofuji pressed forward into Myogiryu and Hokutofuji fell forward while apparently driving Myogiryu out. But on review you can see Myogiryu’s throw, forcing Hokutofuji down while his foot was still on the playing surface. Kotenage.
Mitakeumi (4-1) defeated Takanosho (3-2): Great power sumo from Mitakeumi. After a solid tachiai, he drove forward into Takanosho, forcing him back to the edge. Takanosho was too high to mount any kind of defense on the tawara and was pushed out. Oshidashi.
Takayasu (4-1) defeated Daieisho (2-2): Takayasu is looking strong. He drove forward, powering through Daieisho’s tsuppari and forcing him back. At the tawara he then threw Daieisho off to the side. Tsukiotoshi.
Terunofuji (5-0) defeated Wakatakakage (3-2): Wakatakakage’s power could barely budge Kaiju. He hit once at the tachiai, Terunofuji felt nothing. He backed up and engaged again. Terunofuji rocked over onto one leg but maintained his balance. By now, Kaiju has woken. Terunofuji went on the offensive and reached out for Wakatakakage’s belt and forced him out into the crowd. Yorikiri.
Shodai (4-1) defeated Meisei (2-3): Shodai resisted Meisei’s attack with good, power sumo. He forced Meisei to the edge and over. Yoritaoshi.
Takakeisho (4-1) defeated Kiribayama (1-4): There was not much of Takakeisho’s patented wave action here. As Kiribayama launched inside to get a grip, Takakeisho slapped him down. Hatakikomi.
Asanoyama (3-2) defeated Tobizaru (1-4): Uwatenage? Oh, this one might live on in replay land. Asanoyama clearly throws Tobizaru. But while falling, Tobizaru grabs Asanoyama’s legs and Asanoyama falls backward. The question is, does Tobizaru land first? Or was he already dead? Can a dead body (zombie rikishi) launch an attack? I’m eager to see closer replays and possibly more angles because during the live-action, it seemed like Tobizaru landed, planking on Asanoyama and not on dirt.
By now, y’all have discovered that I like to track sumo wrestlers’ ceremonial kesho mawashi. Yamaguchi Embroidery Company’s (山口刺繍加工点) Instagram account posts great pictures of some of the kesho mawashi they made. Before Harubasho, they posted pictures of makuuchi mainstay Endo’s eight kabuki-themed kesho mawashi. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to see them all at Haru because of Endo’s mid-basho kyujo.
These mawashi are sponsored by Nagatanien, a company known in Japan for noodles, soups, and toppings and spices and its kabuki theme. All of them feature the same kumadori called Shibaraku, an iconic kabuki image, which is actually trademarked by Nagatanien and a Nagatanien pop-up restaurant. These mawashi also feature unique gold leaf detailing. Nothing but the best for the golden boy, I tell you what.
What’s kumadori (隈取), you ask? Well, I guess you may not have asked…I’m going to tell you, anyway. Actually, I’ll find out for myself…then report back.
<…50 days pass…>
OK, I’m back. You still here? Good! Now, where was I?
Oh, right. Kumadori. Let’s look at the term, first. You may already recognize the second kanji character, ‘tori’ (取), as in sekitori and torikumi, etc. That’s a well known character I’ve discussed before. But how many of you recognize the first character, (隈)? Here’s a hint:
That’s right! The “kuma” in Takekuma is the same as the first character in kumadori, as opposed to the character for bear — which I usually think of when I hear “Kuma”. It has to do with the boundary between light and dark. Clearly, this means that Takekuma oyakata will be the stable master who will usher young recruits to the dark side…but I digress..
That brings us to the meaning of kumadori, where the artisan accentuates the lines of the face, blurring the lines between light and dark to represent and exaggerate emotion. So, in other words, Kumadori is the makeup of kabuki, which is applied with a brush and then stylistically smoothed and blurred with the finger. The funny thing is, the word for “makeup” in Japanese is kesho (化粧), as in kesho mawashi. So, Endo’s kesho mawashi of kumadori kesho seems to be a glorious pun…which means I love them even more.
[Hmm… a kesho kesho mawashi. Does that mean, kesho x kesho mawashi = kesho2 mawashi?]
There are several different styles of make-up patterns in kabuki. The one that is featured on Endo’s mawashi is the sujiguma (すじぐま) pattern on Umeomaru (梅王丸) and in the famous play “Shibaraku” (暫) on Kamakura Gongoro.
In this case, Yamaguchi.Shishu said it is from Shibaraku which has been associated with Nagatanien. Shibaraku is a Nagatanien trademark. It even appears there is/has been a Shibaraku restaurant featuring miso soup and ochazuke.
Occasionally, I find myself enjoying new experiences in Japan without really knowing what’s going on. If I were dropped into a Kabuki theater before today, I’d be totally lost. To prevent that from happening on my first visit to a Kabuki theater, I’ve decided to explore a bit more and share what I learn with you all. According to the Japan Arts Council’s “Kabuki for Beginners” website, there are a number of kabuki makeup themes, of which they have highlighted ten:
Mukimi-guma (むき身隈): This style’s name comes from the shape of the design, which resembles shucked shellfish. These characters symbolize youth, sexiness, and justice. You know, terms synonymous with scallop flesh and oysters and clams. Think Clint Eastwood in “Fist Full of Dollars.”
Ippon-guma (一本隈): Uncontrollably violent and mischievous characters are portrayed with this style, noted by a dark line, looping vertically from the scalp on each side of the face, and a double chin.
Nihon-guma (二本隈): This style is noted by two lines giving the impression of rising up. It has a blue beard and conveys a strong, dignified adult.
Suji-guma (筋隈): This is the style used by Nagatanien’s kabuki-styled brand and featured on Endo’s mawashi. These characters are powerful heroes, full of anger, denoted by streaks of red across the face, a triangle on the chin (look at the Nagatanien one again), and at the corners of the mouth.
Kagekiyo-no-guma (景清の隈): This “style” is named after the character, Kagekiyo. He’s a general of a defeated army, hunkered down at a shrine. Drama ensues. Physically, the upper half is red, like the Suji-guma we see above. But the lower half of the face is blue. As we see with in the next style, Kugeare, the blue conveys a coldness, often associated with villains. Kagekiyo is consumed with vengeance and tries to kill the deputy of the General who defeated him, as that deputy is coming to work on a construction project. Personally, I think this makes him less hero, more villain…and likely why he’s both?
Kugeare (公家荒れ): As mentioned above, this form features blue streaks instead of the red ones we have seen above. That conveys a coldness, rather than the hot anger of the red — and is used by villains.
Akattsura (赤っ面): Instead of a base of white, the base makeup here is red. These characters are usually the assistants of the villain characters
Chaguma (茶隈): The base makeup here is a tea-brown, featuring heavily distorted facial features. These are bakemono and evil spirits, the yokai.
Saruguma (猿隈): The comedic samurai Kokkei features “egg-plant” shaped eyes, evoking a figure-eight.
Namazuguma (鯰隈): The “catfish” theme here is like Kagekiyo, with the red on the top and blue on the bottom. But the shape of the blue, making round arcs around the mouth, seems like the comedic shape like a catfish.
Andy-guma (アンディー隈): A recent innovation featuring those seductive, just, and youthful shellfish eyes and characteristic comedic, clown-like orange mouth evoking golden fried-catfish. Lately, it has been portrayed with streaks of white on the chin, indicating advancing age Nordic heritage.
There’s a cool little tool here where you can make your own color schemes to use in these different patterns. I hope you all enjoy learning a bit about Endo’s kesho mawashi.