Tachiai Summer Podcast

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Surprise!

Team Tachiai has been well motivated by Herouth’s fantastic jungyo coverage, so Andy, Josh and Bruce took to Skype to discuss the jungyo, Mitakeumi’s yusho, “Sumo Lite” at Nagoya, the health of the kadoban rikishi, and a quick run through our “ones to watch” list.

Take a listen to the audio, we will have the video podcast up later this weekend.

 

John Gunning On Becoming A Sumo Wrestler

japantimes-logo

A great article in the Japan Times from John Gunning, on the challenges for a young man to join the world of sumo. Sumo is a tough world, requiring absolute dedication from an early age. It’s a life of hard work, brutal training and physical pain.

John covers the challengers of foreigners joining the sport, and the problems of coming from a Japanese University (as Mitakeumi and Yoshikaze have) and being a success in sumo.

As always, excellent writing form Gunning – head to the Japan Times and enjoy.

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.

Natsu 2018 Jungyo Newsreel – Day 5

🌐 Location: Uozu, Toyama

dohyo-iri-ouzu

Day 5 of the Jungyo was Asanoyama Appreciation Day. Asanoyama is the hero of Toyama Prefecture. In fact, a documentary about him is about to be aired in a few days in a local TV station. And this day, Asanoyama worship reached new heights. There was a large Asanoyama panel at the entrance:

asanoyama-panel

A few days ago the Toyama Post Office issued a special set of Asanoyama postcards an stamps, which the man himself presented this day:

asanoyama-stamps

The man was flooded with fan requests for autographs:

And Kisenosato gave him butsukari to the cheers of the 3000 fans who filled the Ariso Dome:

And a local news outlet’s summary of the Jungyo event was also rather Asanoyama-centered:

Asanoyama says there he will work hard and try to achieve double digits in the next basho as well, and that he wants to become a superstar.

However, there were other people in this Jungyo event, too. Hokutofuji was doing suri-ashi:

Watched over by… Asanoyama.

Tamawashi was lending his chest to the low rankers, in what looked like a combination of butsukari and moshi-ai:

By which I mean that he didn’t stick with one victim until exhaustion in a full-fledged “kawaigari”, but rather quickly finished with one and replaced him with one from a group of eager boys.

Hakuho did not ascend the dohyo as yet, and used one of his tsukebito as a Teppo pole:

And Kakuryu exercised Harumafuji-style, with weights on his wrists:

Nishikigi was stretching, and for some reason felt he needed to cushion his hands. And by “cushion” I mean use the fluffiest, softest cushion available: Chiyomaru!

nishikigi-chiyomaru
Practicing for the role of Sisyphus in a movie, perhaps?

Tamawashi was doing fansa and using Shodai for his writing desk:

shodai-writing-desk
“If you’re good and let me use your chest, I won’t break any of your arms in our next bout. Deal?”

Mitakeumi learned to clap the hyoshigi – those wooden clappers the Yobidashi use to punctuate the ceremonial parts of Grand Sumo events. There is a certain art to producing the right sound from these things. Hakuho learned that in the past from the now-retired Yobidashi Hideo.

mitakeumi-hyoshigi

We haven’t seen many Yokozuna dohyo-iri since this Jungyo started, right? So here are the three Yokozuna for you:

Kakuryu:

Hakuho:

And Kisenosato. Since it’s more or less the same angle, you can compare Kisenosato’s Unryu-style rope tie and dohyo-iri to Hakuho’s Shiranui-style above:

There was a bit of the Musubi-no-ichiban in the above “Asanoyama Appreciation Day” video, but here is the full thing:

Kakuryu is still drawing circles with his left food, but not as badly as in the first three days.

That’s it. Take a look at the Komatsu post, where I added the full opening drum roll which turned up in YouTube.

And instead of an Enho photo, I give you his “mystery rikishi” video by the NSK. Guys, the teleprompter should go above the camera!

Aki ’18 Banzuke Crystal Ball

Don’t want to wait for the official banzuke announcement on August 27th? The Crystal Ball is here to give you a good idea of how it’s likely to play out.

Upper San’yaku

Y1

Kakuryu

Hakuho

Y2

Kisenosato

O1

Goeido

Takayasu

O2

Tochinoshin

No changes here following the results in Nagoya. Tochinoshin will be kadoban at Aki after his withdrawal, and will need 8 wins to maintain his Ozeki rank.

Lower San’yaku

S

Ichinojo

Mitakeumi

K

Tamawashi

Takakeisho

Takakeisho was the only rikishi from the upper maegashira ranks to earn double-digit wins, making him the obvious choice to take over the Komusubi slot vacated by Shohozan. While it seems obvious that yusho-winning Mitakeumi (13-2) should be ranked ahead of frequently lethargic Ichinojo (8-7), the current banzuke committee seems to strongly favor recent precedent over common sense, and so I’m predicting that they won’t switch them from their current ranks. For once, I’d be happy to be wrong.

Rank-and-file (Step 1)

I thought I’d do something a little different for this prediction post. How do I make these forecasts? It’s basically a two-step exercise. Step 1 is entirely algorithmic: where “should” each rikishi in Makuuchi be ranked for the next tournament, given their current rank and their performance in the just-completed basho? This produces a list like this:

M1:   Yutakayama, Ikioi, Kaisei

M2:   none

M3:   Chiyotairyu

M4:   Shodai

M5:   Chiyonokuni, Endo

M6:   Abi, Myogiryu, Onosho, Asanoyama

M7:   Kagayaki

M8:   Takarafuji, Tochiozan

M9:   Shohozan, Hokutofuji

M10: Kotoshogiku, Daishomaru, Daieisho, Aoiyama

M11: Sadanoumi

M12: none

M13: Kyokutaisei, Nishikigi, Okinoumi

M14: Ryuden

M15: Chiyoshoma, Chiyomaru

M16: Yoshikaze, Ishiura

Juryo: Arawashi, Meisei, Kotoeko

Looking at this list reveals some obvious problems. Some ranks have too many rikishi (e.g. M6 and M10, with four each), while others have too few (or none, in the case of M2 and M12). Since every rank must contain exactly two rikishi on the actual banzuke, this is where “banzuke luck” comes in: some rikishi will be ranked higher and others lower than they “deserve.” Most of the time, rikishi from (say) the M5 group will be ranked above those from the M6 group, but the decisions for whom to move up or down from within a group to fill out the ranks are much more subjective. Note also that I’ve left off the list my predicted promotions from Juryo (Takanoiwa, Takanosho and Kotoyuki), as these computed ranks don’t translate well between divisions.

Rank-and-file (Step 2)

In step 2, I go through the list above and decide which rikishi to move up/down so that each rank is appropriately filled. I also have to decide whom to place on the East/West side, and where to slot in the guys from Juryo. Some decisions follow simple rules or are otherwise obvious, while others are basically some combinations of gut reaction, coin flip, and (often fruitless) attempts to guess what the banzuke committee is thinking; the latter is made difficult by the fact that they often make inconsistent decisions in similar situations from one banzuke to the next, or even within a single banzuke.

I won’t go through the whole thing, but let’s walk through a few examples (or skip to the next section to see the predictions). Which of Yutakayama, Ikioi and Kaisei should move down to M2? Well, M2 is already a huge promotion for M9 Yutakayama, and the banzuke committee doesn’t like really big jumps up the banzuke (see Chiyonokuni, last basho), so Yutakayama is the odd man out, moving down to M2e. He’s joined at M2w by the next highest-ranked rikishi, Chiyotairyu. Shodai claims one of the M3 slots, and I favor Endo over Chiyonokuni for the other, given Endo’s popularity and winning record and Chiyonokuni’s withdrawal and two fusen wins.

An example of a tricky area is how to sort out the four rikishi who “should” be ranked M6. The numbers dictate that one of them will move up to M4, two to M5, and one will be ranked at M6. But how to order them? By previous rank? By win total? By KK vs. MK? There’s no obvious answer, and no consistent pattern to what the banzuke committee has done in the past.

As we continue down the banzuke, the gaps at M11, M12 and M14 create natural openings for Takanoiwa, Takanosho and Kotoyuki, respectively, and we get down to the final four slots, which seem relatively clear-cut.

The predicted maegashira banzuke

And so we arrive at the final product. I hope the process description gives the reader a better sense of how I got here, and which of these placements are more solid or wobbly.

M1 Ikioi Kaisei
M2 Yutakayama Chiyotairyu
M3 Shodai Endo
M4 Chiyonokuni Onosho
M5 Asanoyama Myogiryu
M6 Abi Kagayaki
M7 Tochiozan Shohozan
M8 Takarafuji Hokutofuji
M9 Kotoshogiku Daishomaru
M10 Daieisho Aoiyama
M11 Sadanoumi Takanoiwa
M12 Takanosho Kyokutaisei
M13 Nishikigi Okinoumi
M14 Ryuden Kotoyuki
M15 Chiyoshoma Chiyomaru
M16 Yoshikaze Ishiura

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.

Natsu 2018 Jungyo Newsreel – Day 4

🌐 Location: Komatsu, Ishikawa

komatsu-dome

Today the Jungyo found itself in the Komatsu Dome, a semi-outdoors stadium, rather different than the usual local gymnasiums where the Jungyo takes place. It has a retractable roof and a bare-bones design, and is used to host baseball, soccer, and other turf-based sports. Well, tatty artificial turf, but still.

And there is no air-conditioning there. At all.

And it was 32ºC (~90ºF) today.

Did I mention it was hot?

There were electric fans and “tsurara” – blocks of ice, of which the rikishi made as much use as they could. For example, Kyokushuho thought this would be an ideal place for his rubber-band training:

kyokushuho-ice
Komatsu Hot

Takekaze, on the other hand, used the ice to cool off his aching elbow:

takekaze-ice

You can imagine that doing fansa under such conditions is not easy. But Kakuryu was very dutiful:

kakuryu-fansa
Where is Shinzan (the scary-looking bespectacled tsukebito) when we need him?

Despite the heat, some rikishi made good use of the facilities for some track-and-field:

Participants, from the left: Terutsuyoshi, Nishikigi, Shodai, officiated by Shohozan. And… Shodai could have won this, if he only had a… better… start…

The NSK’s PR department made an appearance in today’s event, for the first time bringing the NSK’s mascot, Hiyonoyama, to the Jungyo. They were there to promote ticket sales for the Aki basho, which start in a few days. They picked a nice way to do it – videos of “guess the rikishi”, followed by “come and support us in the basho, ticket sales start on August 4th”. I’m including a few of those here, you can see them all in the NSK’s twitter account if you want:

This mystery rikishi was captured in his undies. Doesn’t seem to bother him much, though.

And this one was actually captured coming out of the bath! And got photobombed, too.

“Make sure you come!” cries the intruder.

Apart from this, business was as usual. Onosho did some suri-ashi on the artificial turf:

onosho-suriashi

Goeido lended his chest to Tobizaru. The Ozeki seems to enjoy this immensely.

goeido-butsukari-tobizaru

Yutakayama and Asanoyama engaged in an energetic moshi-ai bout. A moshi-ai is a series of bouts, in which the winner decides who his next rival will be. This always involves several anxious rikishi hovering around and begging to be selected as soon as the current bout is over:

yutakayama-asanoyama-moshiai

The king of the moshi-ai in this Jungyo seems to be none other than Aoiyama:

asanoyama-aoiyama-moshiai
Aoiyama vs. Asanoyama

He has been doing serial moshi-ai (which means he was winning) for four days in a row now. Today it was just four, but on day 1 he had 5 bouts, on day 2 11, and on day 3 9 straight moshi-ai bouts. He is taping padding to his injured heels, and gambarizing in general, and it seems to be working.

Komatsu is in Ishikawa, and there are two and a half sekitori Ishikawa boasts as its own. These are Endo, Kagayaki, and Enho:

three-ishikawa-natives
Enho in a Taiho yukata, Endo in a Takanohana Yukata, and Kagayaki going for monochrome sakura.

169cm Enho right next to 193cm Kagayaki. It’s the story of his life, really:

enho-with-kagayaki-in-middle-school
Enho and Kagayaki, or rather Nakamura-kun and Tatsu-kun, in their middle school days.

Endo is, of course, the undeniable superstar of the three. He was everywhere. He gave butsukari:

endo-butsukari-daishoryu
The victim is Daishoryu (I think he is his tsukebito)

He also received some butsukari:

yutakayama-butsukari-endo
The chest is offered by Yutakayama

The okonomi acts of the day also involved the local boys. In addition to the usual Shokkiri (this time by the Kasugano pair, they seem to be alternating), Endo was used to demonstrate how an oicho-mage is tied:

endo-oicho

The other okonomi allowed Enho, who is not a sekitori, to also partake of the limelight. How? Well, put Hakuho on stage for a rope-tying demonstration:

hakuho-rope
Enho on the right, pulling with every ounce of his (considerable) strength

The three local boys were also in the news! So here are three torikumi packed into one news report:

Whoa, that’s some nice tsuri-yori from Enho there. Churanoumi gets a reminder why he is going back to Makushita while Enho back to Juryo.

That’s it for today. If I get my hands on the Musubi or any other bout I’ll add it here. Here is your daily Enho (as if you didn’t have enough…):

obEnho4
The kid is actually wearing an Kokonoe shirt… Oops…

PS – Since I found this on the net after the post was already published, but couldn’t just let it slip away: Here is the full opening drum roll:

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.

Natsu 2018 Jungyo Newsreel – Day 3

🌐 Location: Katsuyama, Fukui

Today, the sumo nobori flags were flapping in the wind in Katsuyama city.front-image-katsuyama

Those of you with sharp eyes (and Kanji skills) will note some flags that one doesn’t normally see in honbasho. For example, a flag for Kimura Ginjuro – the gyoji, and a flag for… Naruto beya, which is certainly not participating in the Jungyo due to having as yet no sekitori whatsoever.

The rikishi practiced. Not only on the dohyo, but all over the venue. Take a look at Ryuden lifting weights. Well, the sort of weights that are available in abundance in the Jungyo:

ryuden-lifting-weights

The towel, by the way, is a point of courtesy. Keeps your sweat away from your partner.

Ishiura was busy… nail gazing? I thought that was reserved only for yokozuna.

ishiura-nail-gazing

So… maybe this is not actually a practice photo. It seems there is a line forming (that’s Homarefuji behind him), which probably means they are waiting to greet one of the Yokozuna.

But here is some actual practice. Wakatakakage seems to be doing an off-dohyo reverse butsukari for Mitakeumi. Just a reminder – a butsukari practice is when a low-ranking rikishi has to push a high-ranking one again and again until he dies, or at least feels as if he did. A reverse butsukari is when a high ranking rikishi feels he needs the exercise, but only has someone ranked lower than himself available to push. It’s basically the same thing, but since the high ranking one calls the shots, it’s usually a lot less like a torture and a lot more like an actual practice.

wakatakakage-reverse-butsukari-mitakeumi

Mitakeumi later switched to the dohyo and gave straight butsukari to youngsters, much like yesterday:

mitakeumi-butsukari

And yes, that’s Kisenosato on the dohyo. This is the first time in this Jungyo a Yokozuna practiced on-dohyo, and that it should be Kisenosato only tells you how badly banged up the other Yokozuna are.

Kisenosato was giving butsukari as well – first to Nakazono, a low ranker (I’m not sure, but I think he is one of his tsukebito):

nakazono-butsukari-kisenosato
The Yokozuna has a lot of chest, but very little of it is muscle

Then he switched to Takanosho:

kisenosato-with-takanosho

And you can see a bit of this action here:

The Yokozuna doesn’t have to do anything, really. Just be heavy.

In addition to practicing, the various sekitori also did a lot of fansa. This included, for example, Shohozan volunteering as a photographer:

shohozan-assistant-photographer

And also Tamawashi signing autographs and having his photo taken with fans. Which for some reason, Kaisei was doing everything in his capability to prevent:

Relax, Kaisei! I’m sure Tamawashi has no intention of applying a kotenage to any of the fans!

Between the practice and the torikumi, the tokoyama re-arranged the hairdos for the rikishi:

tokoyama-working

Just before the Juryo dohyo-iri, the Shokkiri took place. Surprise – we have reverted back to the Shokkiri team from Takadagawa beya, rather than the Kasugano pair from yesterday. And just to show you that each pair has unique features in their act, they went and got what looks suspiciously like an Acme-branded hammer:

shokkiri-team-hammer

Moving on to the Torikumi, it seems that Enho is the regular fill-in in Juryo. That makes sense, but why not just let the guy wear his shimekomi, and be done with it?

enho-vs-tobizaru

Short stop here for beginners: Low ranking rikishi practice and compete in the same black cotton mawashi. When they compete, they insert loose sagari (those cords hanging down from it) into it. Sekitori, on the other hand, practice in a white cotton mawashi which is folded at the front like a roll of toilet paper. When they compete, however, they wear a silk mawashi in the color of their choice, with matching, stiffened sagari. This silk mawashi is called “shimekomi”.

So in the picture above Tobizaru is the sekitori wearing his off-white shimekomi and you can see the stiff sagari protruding to his sides. Enho is a Makushita fill-in, so he wears his black cotton mawashi and you can see his loose sagari hanging down his hips.

Enho has a shimekomi stored somewhere in his heya, from the Haru basho this year, in which he participated as a sekitori. Since he is going to be a sekitori again next basho, he will be putting it back into use.

So let’s move on.

Actually, again, there is not much information about the day’s torikumi, other than the fact that Kagayaki has beaten Ikioi by yori-kiri. And this was only mentioned because Ikioi was doing the duties of “local boy” today, on the premise that his… grandmother hails from a nearby town. 😀

But there is a video of the musubi-no-ichiban:

At this point I’m really getting worried about Kakuryu. Three wins in a row for Kisenosato against the man who won two yusho in a row only a couple of months back? What the heck is going on with Kakuryu’s foot? He looks like he is doing laundry with it, not sumo.

That’s it for today, and since, for some unknown reason, the sumo ladies did not take any Enho photos other than that one against Tobizaru, I’ll have to settle for Arawashi instead:

arawashi

New Juryo for Aki

Via the Sumo Forum: returning to Juryo for Aki are Hakuyozan, Tachiai favorite Enho, Jokoryu and Akua. The corresponding demotions to Makushita are Sokokurai (who sat out all of Nagoya), Homarefuji, Churanoumi and Kizenryu. Jokoryu was ranked as high as Komusubi four years ago, before falling all the way to Sandanme. Kizenryu holds the record for 9 separate promotions from Makushita to Juryo, each time falling back below the “heaven/hell” boundary after a single basho in the second-highest division.

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.

Post Basho YDC – No Guidance to Kisenosato

Kisenosato-Salt

Do you feel it? With sumo done for now, it’s been a bit over 24 hours. No sumo video to watch, no commentary to write, no matches to preview. We are a bit more than a month away from the next banzuke, which will be for Aki, and there is a jungyo tour starting soon. But the work up for Aki has already started in some circles.

As is common after each basho, the Yokozuna Deliberation Council met to discuss the state of sumo. One could imagine that they would have quite a bit to say following a basho with zero Yokozuna participating on day 8, let alone day 15. The elephant in the room is, of course, the perpetually injured relic of Kisenosato, who sat out his 8th consecutive tournament since tearing his left pectoral muscle during Osaka 2017.

The the subject, the YDC took up the topic, and discussed encouraging him to participate in Aki, but decided to not take a stand or make any kind of recommendation. That’s it – no ultimatum, no guidance, no “hey, fatso, get your ass in the ring or get a haircut” statement at all. The NSK, under advisement from the YDC, are welcome to manage their talent however they choose to. But at this point the Kisenosato grows more comical with each passing basho. The damage that was done to his left chest muscles robbed him of his primary weapon. The extended break he has taken trying to heal has left him de-conditioned, most likely for good. The last time he tried any sumo, his footwork was all over the map, and he struggled to keep his upper body balanced.

I would love to see Kisenosato fight with strength and vigor once again, but that’s not going to happen. I suspect that soon he will make an appearance at a basho, knowing full well that it will be his last. He will enter it to go out “guns blazing” in a manner fitting a man who devoted his life to sumo. At some point Kisenosato’s pride and dignity will get the better of him, and he will chose his exit path.

I do recognize that there will be a YDC Soken conducted just before the Aki basho, along with health checks and a weigh in. It’s possible that the YDC will give clearer direction on the subject of Kisenosato at that time.