Wishes for a Trip to Fukuoka

kotoshogiku
“Sho” me the belly

Earlier this year, Herouth shared with us the Tanabata festival – where rikishi participated in the ritual of writing down one’s wishes to be hung from a bamboo. While the festival usually takes place on or around July 7, the rikishi largely wrote their wishes for what was then the upcoming campaign (and in many cases for life in general: my two personal favourites being Ishiura’s desire to create more children and Chiyotairyu’s “I need money” plea).

I’ve been fortunate to have some amazing experiences in sumo this year – from Golden Week to the Jungyo, meeting the legendary Konishiki and conducting some fun interviews for the site. As we head into the final honbasho of 2018, I’d like to share some of my wishes for the upcoming tournament. The Kyusho basho in Fukuoka will complete my “set” of all four honbasho locations. I think it’s fair to say it’s also – at least for westerners – probably the more obscure and difficult location to reach, owing to its distance from most major entry ports to Japan.

Reception for Local Heroes

There’s no question that sumo fans have their favourites, and the likes of Mitakeumi and Endo notably have massive cheering sections most days of each basho. Watching the Kyushu basho in past years on TV however, I’ve noticed that the locals from that part of the country – who aren’t all typically fan favourites – tend to get a fantastic reception in their “home” tournament. Of course, Yoshikaze’s head-first “berzerker” style is beloved by sumo fans worldwide, but I’m looking forward to experiencing first hand how the local crowd will receive #BigGuns Shohozan and Kotoshogiku. While it’s probably too much to wish for the famous back-belly bend from the former Ozeki, he’s not getting any younger and this may be one of the last chances (if not the last) to see him close to his hometown crowd.

Yatai

It’s impossible to talk about sumo culture without talking about food culture. In Tokyo, you can get anything you want, most anytime that you want it. In Nagoya, for me, well, it’s all about the katsu. Osaka is the nation’s kitchen and incredible delights of okonomiyaki, takoyaki, and shockingly, the best bowl of ramen I’ve ever had are within 3 minutes of sumo’s Kansai venue. But Fukuoka has a unique experience I’m looking to enjoy, which are the “Yatai” food stalls which line the city. Each stall has around 5 or 6 indoor seats and gets built up every day before being taken down every night, with vast ranges in the types of cuisine on offer. NHK World did a good piece on these Yatai which I highly recommend, as it has helped open my eyes to what promises to be a delicious local flavour I can add to my sumo experience.

Performance

As we touched on in this week’s Tachiai podcast (audio here, video here), I’m looking for some big results in Kyushu: An Ozeki yusho challenge. The return of low ranked Maegashira snaffling sansho special prizes. Storming returns to form from the local rikishi. Abi to continue to discover his potential for greatness if he can harness the reach of those long arms to go with his superstar personality and dexterity. Ishiura to henka Tokushoryu in the Juryo playoff and Tomokaze to join Enho, Wakatakakage and Mitoryu in the 2018 class of new sekitori to consolidate their status as the next class of top professionals.

But most of all, I’m looking forward to the experience of just being there. As many of our readers – and Bruce, from his last minute jaunt to Aki – can attest, there is nothing like the atmosphere and excitement of live sumo, and a day out at the arena with thousands of your newest, bento-box munching, shikona-laden-towel waving, chanko-devouring friends. Hakkeyoi!

Sumo Stew Returns to Brooklyn in November

Sumo Stew - July 2018 Chankonabe
Chanko nabe from July’s Sumo Stew event

Popular stateside sumo viewing and Japanese food culture event Sumo Stew will return to Brooklyn on November 12 to coincide with the upcoming Kyushu basho. The event will take place at The Brooklyn Brewery and you can click here for tickets.

Sumo Stew founders Michael Harlan Turkell and Harry Rosenblum will reprise their popular gathering surrounded by a host of exciting vendors, and a portion of the $60 ticket fee will support The Japan Society.

I visited Sumo Stew in July, and you can check out my review of the proceedings by clicking here.

November’s event will feature a “seasonal chicken chankonabe” from Momo. Punters will also receive a bento box featuring a smattering of delectables from local vendors. Area craftsmen will also be on hand and this time, there will additionally be a rakugo performance from Ken Saito.

Tachiai Enjoys Sumo Stew in Brooklyn

Sumo Stew - July 2018

As Bruce shared with Tachiai readers earlier in the month, our friends at Sumo Stew hosted their 22nd event during the Nagoya basho. This event took place at Arrogant Swine in Brooklyn, NY. As I coincidentally happened to be in New York at the time, I decided to check it out with a couple of friends who were new to sumo!

Menu

For the latest event, Sumo Stew founders Michael Harlan Turkell and Harry Rosenblum teamed up with Arrogant Swine’s Tyson Ho to deliver what they called a “North Carolina BBQ-style Whole Hog” chankonabe. Arrogant Swine is a barbecue restaurant and bar located in Brooklyn’s industrial East Williamsburg neighborhood, and so this take on chanko was a fusion of traditional chanko flavors with a falling-off-the-bone pork twist.

Sumo Stew - July 2018 Chankonabe
The Chankonabe of Sumo Stew 22

While the chanko is perhaps the main event of Sumo Stew, it is far from the only item on offer. Upon entering the venue, attendees were given a bento box full of items from four different local vendors:

  • Spicy beef shank & yuba salad from Junzi
  • A mushroom and umeboshi onigiri from Momo Sushi Shack
  • Seaweed salad with ikura and fried potato from Juku
  • Cold ramen from O Ya

This menu was further augmented by the presence of a number of whiskey, wine, and sake vendors. A number of representatives from the enormously popular tea brand Ito En were also on hand doling out bottles of Japan’s favorite Oi Ocha.

Vendors

Besides the sumo and the amazing food & drinks, one of the aspects of Sumo Stew that shouldn’t be overlooked is that the organisers bring in all sorts of vendors with specialties that run the gamut of various facets of Japanese culture.

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All sorts of hand crafts were on display for sale, and there was also representation from the US branch of Japanese cutlery brand Kikuichi Cutlery (their stateside headquarters are located not far away from New York City in nearby Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey). They had an impressive array of knives on hand for demonstration.

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One brand I hadn’t been aware of before attending was NYrture, a natto company based in New York City. For Western palates, the fermented soybean can perhaps be an acquired taste, but this vendor did a great job of pairing what is often a divisive ingredient with incredibly interesting flavors to create a really cool snack. I especially appreciated the combination of black natto with coconut milk yogurt, honey, and blueberry.

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Sumo

Owing to the time difference between Tokyo and New York, it was clearly difficult to line up live sumo with the evening dinner hour. The folks at Sumo Stew had a playlist of videos from the first several days of the Nagoya basho projected onto a big screen inside of the venue. From time to time they cut in trailers from various features from an upcoming film festival put on by the event’s partners at the Japan Society in New York.

There were quite a few regular attendees on hand, and many of the folks I talked to seemed newer to sumo and were somewhat more connected to the food and cultural elements of the event. In that sense, Sumo Stew is doing a really great thing by bringing members of the local food community together to get an initiation into the ways of a sport that many of us have come to dearly love. On the flip side of the menu which all attendees were given was an overview of how the sport works, its rules, traditions and key vocabulary words to help newcomers understand a bit more about what was happening on the big screen.

I had a chance to speak briefly with the event’s organizer Michael Harlan Turkell during the event, and he mentioned that the Sumo Stew team are looking to continue bringing the event to other cities around America in the near future for forthcoming basho. So if you’re interested in attending, perhaps there will be one nearer to you in the future, and of course we’ll continue to share news of this unique Sumo-themed event here on Tachiai.

For more info on Sumo Stew, check out sumostew.com.

Enjoy Hawaiian BBQ with Konishiki

Konishiki's Hawaiian BBQ Stand

Earlier this month, Andy tipped off readers via the Tachiai twitter account that sumo legend Konishiki would be hosting a stall at the BB (“Beer & BBQ”) Fest, which takes place from now until May 6 in Odaiba:

The festival is taking place out on Symbol Promenade Park in Odaiba, and I decided to head out there today to check it out. Getting there took about 15 minutes from Shimbashi station in central Tokyo on the unique Yurikamome line (a must-ride for transit enthusiasts, owing to its looping track that goes out over the Rainbow Bridge).

There are three festival areas running concurrently during Golden Week on Odaiba: an Oktoberfest, a large section of the BB Fest that is dedicated to Japanese-style BBQ vendors, and then a section of the BB Fest on the eastern part of the island featuring international BBQ food and craft beer. Konishiki’s Hawaiian BBQ is located in the latter area.

Konishiki's Hawaiian BBQ Menu
Konishiki’s Hawaiian BBQ menu board

As for the menu, Konishiki offered a couple selections: a meat plate (featuring BBQ pork, spare ribs and chicken) and then a combo platter which contained all of the meat items plus rice, slaw and the classic Hawaiian macaroni and egg salad. Obviously, I opted for the latter choice:

Konishiki's Hawaiian BBQ Plate
Konishiki serves up a meat lover’s Hawaiian BBQ paradise, replete with Mac Salad

Konishiki has long been one of the most flavorful names in sumo, and puts out a dish to match. All of the meat selections were very succulent, very moist and well coated in the right amount of marinade and sauce. The macaroni salad was delicious as well. I opted to wash it all down with a bottle of water from Konishiki’s stand owing to the hot weather, but there were a number of craft beer vendors also in the park and Konishiki’s BBQ would surely make a great pairing for many of them. When he says he knows how to have a good time cooking up Hawaiian BBQ, he’s not joking.

Konishiki has also provided a video that takes you behind the grill, in promotion of the event (in Japanese):

The event also has plenty of other food vendors offering BBQ from a variety of regions and countries. I was too full from Konishiki’s Ozeki-sized platter to take in any of the others, however a man at the Texas BBQ stand was offering free samples which were also delicious. Hopefully, up and coming Texan sumotori Wakaichiro can make it out to the festival to get a taste of home!

BB Fest International Vendors
Other vendors in the international portion of the festival included Spanish, Jamaican and Texan BBQ.

As for the man himself, Konishiki, he was off to the side of the stand, relaxing under a tent near the festival stage with family and friends. A number of his fans ambled up from time-to-time throughout the afternoon to request photos, which he graciously provided. I was able to get a few moments to chat with the man to let him know just how good the BBQ was, and ask if he had any words for Tachiai readers.

Konishiki says he wants everyone to come on down to Odaiba, and adds: “Bring your hungry on, and bring your thirsty on!”

Konishiki’s Hawaiian BBQ is located at the BB Fest on Odaiba in Symbol Promenade Park, located just off the Odaiba-Kaihin-Koen station on the Yurikamome line, and the Tokyo Teleport station on the Rinkai line. The festival runs through May 6 during the Golden Week. For more info, check out bbfest.jp

Additionally, for those readers who will be in Tokyo during the upcoming Natsu basho, Konishiki will be appearing at the Island Music Festival in Symbol Promenade Park on May 18 and 19. For more information, check out islandmusicfestival.jp