February Hana-Zumo events

It’s that time of the year again. It’s February, and there is no Jungyo. If you take a look at the Grand Sumo Calendar, though, you’ll see that there are always two hana-zumo events in this month: The NHK charity event, and Fuji TV’s Grand Sumo Tournament.

Hana-Zumo is exhibition sumo. The name literally means “flowor sumo”. This is because in the Heian era, events like that took place in the Imperial Palace, and there were no “East” and “West” then. So the rikishi were distinguished by flowers they wore in their hair.

NHK’s #52 Charity Sumo Event

The special feature of this event is the song contest at the end. One side of the Kokugikan is fenced off, and set up as a huge stage.

The event includes extras such as Jinku, drum demonstration, Shokkiri, and Yokozuna rope tying demonstration.

Kasugaryu putting the finishing touches on Hakuho’s rope.

There is also what the Japanese call “A talk show”, which is actually an on-stage interview with some celebrity. In this event, they interviewed the former Takekaze, now Oshiogawa oyakata.

In fact, we had several new oyakata faces in the blue NSK jackets.

Here is a short video report about this event from NHK:

The former Takekaze says: “I didn’t imagine I’ll get to age 39, nearly 40, in any shape. If someone like me can do it, than anybody can!”

This is a “regular” sumo event in that bouts are more or less by ascending banzuke order ending with the san-yaku members doing san-yaku soroi-bumi (synchronized shiko). As always, Hakuho awaits his turn to do the soroi-bumi leaning on the shoulders of a Yobidashi:

And I also have a bout for you from this event – the musubi-no-ichiban, Kakuryu vs. Hakuho (bonus bow twirling ceremony):

You may notice that Hakuho is far from being in shape for sumo. He does this bout with his right leg mostly floating up in the air. There are several rikishi who are kyujo from this event, but Hakuho is not one of them, as absenting himself from the hana-zumo event would prevent him from participating in any events – such as weddings, and the Hakuho Cup, which of course he doesn’t want to miss. So he participates on one leg.

Update: here is a link to the part of the event that was broadcast the following week. Ad blocker highly recommended. I was amused by the narrated Shokkiri. :-)

Fuji TV Grand Sumo Tournament

The Fuji TV event comes the day after the NHK event. It includes sumo in elimnation format – both Juryo and Makuuchi. The special feature of this event is the veteran bouts – with oyakata putting on their shimekomi and doing sumo.

From top left: Kyokutenho (Tomozuna oyakata), Tosayutaka (Magaki oyakata), Futeno (Inagawa oyakata), Robocop Takamisakari (Furiwake oyakata), Satoyama (Sanoyama oyakata), Tamaasuka (Kumagatani oyakata)

Refer to the link at the end of this post for the veteran bouts themselves.

The former Kisenosato had his debut as a commentator in this event. He readily speaks, but I think they should leave commenting to someone who speaks more clearly.

Two former yokozuna as Statler and Waldorf

Since the active rikishi bouts are arranged in elimination format, it means there are winners in this event. Much like a honbasho yusho, winning this tournament means receiving many prizes. There is a trophy:

Takayasu’s first yusho… in the Grand Sumo Tournament hana-zumo event, that is

And there is an air-conditioner:

This will come in handy in the next Nagoya basho

There are also a bale of rice, a lot of beef, a 10-day cruise around Japan. All went to Takayasu, who had to earn them by going through a very genki Yoshikaze. Take a look at Yoshikaze vs. Shohozan:

Here is a link to the full TV broadcast of the tournament. Things to note:

  • Hakuho, again, doing his sumo on one leg and getting eliminated in his first round.
  • The veteran bouts. The most impressive one is Kyokutenho. Robocop does a lot of pre-bout robot stuff, but Inagawa oyakata eliminates him rather easily. The most balanced bout is the one between Magaki and Kumagatani.
  • Azumaryu wins the Juryo tournament. This was done in such a way that the final was held between three wrestlers – like a three-way playoff. In Japanese you’ll heard the word “Tomoe Ketteisen”. This alludes to a mitsu-domoe:
  • Ryuden’s matta. And another matta.
  • Yoshikaze vs. Abi – continuing his genki performance.
  • Araiso oyakata in his role as a commentator. He is mostly asked to comment about Takayasu.

Jungyo Newsreel – Days 15 and 16

Day 15

return-of-the-satonofuji-2
Ohisashiburi, Yumi-chan

🌐 Location: Takasaki, Gunma prefecture

Kiddie sumo – Abi purifies a scalp:

abi-purifies-boys-head

Trust Abi to be more childish than his child rival.

Shodai had to go kyujo due to an inflammation. This meant Kakuryu was a tachimochi short. So, for the first time in his life, Yutakayama bore the sword for the Yokozuna dohyo-iri.

yutakayama-the-tachimochi

In his bout with Tochinoshin, Mitakeumi had a wardrobe malfunction:

You can see the two in a mawashi-matta. Explanation to newcomers: if a mawashi knot comes undone and reveals the wrestler’s family jewels, he loses immediately by disqualification. For this reason, if the gyoji or someone around the ring spots an undone knot, the gyoji calls a “mawashi-matta”, signals the rikishi to freeze, ties back the naughty knot, then slaps the backs of both rikishi to signal them to continue from the same position.

The only bout I have is actually Takayasu vs. Goeido, but I warn you in advance that you probably want to silence your speakers. This was shot by a very enthusiastic Philipino patriot who seems bent on embarrassing Takayasu very loudly:

The Gunma prefecture locals who came to watch this day’s event got a rare treat – they got to see Satonofuji perform the yumitori-shiki again. Satonofuji is a Gunma native.

Satonofuji also got many requests for photographs and autographs from his enthusiastic neighbors.

Day 16

 

three-yokozuna-backs
Unryu, Shiranui, Unryu

🌐 Location: Yasukuni shrine, Tokyo

Today’s honozumo event (a sumo event performed in the precincts of a shrine) marked the rikishi’s return to Tokyo after a very long while – those who participate in the Jungyo have been on the road since before the Haru basho.

Here come the entire Makuuchi – gathering at the main yard for a purification ceremony.

It’s really hard to have an elegant walk in a kesho-mawashi, isn’t it? Myogiryu manages it quite well, though.

This event marked the return of Hakuho to the Jungyo. The Yokozuna reported to the NSK board and expressed his appreciation for receiving permission to participate in his father’s funeral.

I’m not really sure what that new adornment to his right ankle is supposed to mean.

The main event took place at an outdoors, permanent dohyo by the side of the shrine. As usual, they started with some keiko. Enho got lots of wedgies practice.

enho-wedgie

Especially from this guy:

Looks like despite his recent kyujo, Terunofuji is gaining some of his physical strength back. Aminishiki, by the way, is still MIA.

Kakuryu performed his dohyo-iri accompanied by a mini-yokozuna with a perfect little Unryu-style rope. The little tyke was none other than Kakuryu’s own son. Pay attention to Nishikigi-mama.

Please excuse the quality. The video shows the dohyo-iri of all three Yokozuna. I think both Hakuho and Kisenosato improved their shiko recently.

This has been Kisenosato’s first dohyo-iri at Yasukuni shrine.

This time I have several bouts to show you.

A few seconds of Enho vs. Akiseyama:

I guess all that practice pays.

Here – with a couple of glitches – is the Ichinojo-Tochinoshin bout, followed by the san-yaku soroi-bumi (synchronized shiko stomps – though the west side is a little disappointing):

Here is the Kisenosato-Goeido bout. What is Goeido doing there, exactly?

And here is the full Hakuho vs. Kakuryu bout.

Note how Hakuho, fresh off the dohyo, immediately switches to fansa mode.

Jungyo Newsreel – Catching up at Kanagawa

Hello again, Jungyo enthusiasts. I have strayed off the trail after day 6. Let’s try to do some catching up and join the sekitori again at Kanagawa, where they have been spending days 13 and 14.

So what happened during that interval?

Little girls can no longer participate in kiddie sumo

Despite public outcry, the NSK is asking each hosting town not to send little girls to the kiddie sumo events of the Jungyo. The reason given “Safety first”. When various outlets pointed out that boys and girls are equally susceptible to injury on the dohyo, the answer was “We don’t want to risk girls sustaining permanent injuries to the face”.

Hakuho’s father passed away

On April 9th, Hakuho’s father, Mönkhbat, the former Olympic medalist in wrestling, and the equivalent of Dai-Yokozuna in Mongolian Wrestling, passed away at the age of 76 of liver cancer.

Hakuho fully participated in the event in Ina, Nagano prefecture, but asked for – and received – a leave of absence to attend his father’s funeral in Mongolia starting from April 11th. He will re-join the Jungyo for the Honozumo event at Yasukuni shrine on April 16th.

hakuho-funeral

The late Mönkhbat has been a national hero in Mongolia, and his funeral drew much attention and included military escort.

hakuho-funeral-son

Hakuho has always been very strongly connected to his father and looked up to him. When the father was diagnosed with liver cancer, Hakuho had him flown to Japan for treatment, then back to the comfort of his own home in Mongolia. Of course, even the best modern medical intervention has its limitations.

Kisenosato joins the Jungyo

Kisenosato announced that he will re-join the Jungyo. His return was planned for the 13th, but he joined one day earlier – may be to avoid Friday the 13th, or maybe to cover up for Hakuho’s absence.

kisenosato-tsuna-shime

In the couple of days he’s been participating he has been showing mixed results. I’d warn you against developing high hopes hearing reports that he wins his Jungyo bouts. We’ve been here before – Kisenosato managing to win bouts and elimination tournaments in Jungyo, getting breathless coverage from the press, then hitting a wall in honbasho. That injury is not going away any time soon.

Terunofuji and Aminishiki absent

I reported in my Day 6 coverage that Terunofuji was absent from the torikumi. The next day he was joined by his stablemate, Aminishiki. Terunofuji was reportedly back on duty today (April 14th) at the Fujisawa event, but Aminishiki is still out.

Birthdays

Goeido had a birthday on April  6th – day 6 of the Jungyo – and is now 32. The following day, Ichinojo celebrated his 25th birthday.

ichinojo-25

Today, although he is never again going to be on any Jungyo, many sumo fans celebrated Harumafuji’s 34th birthday.


So let’s now proceed to the daily coverage.

Day 13

🌐 Location: Kawasaki, Kanagawa prefecture

Here is Chiyomaru’s version of kiddie sumo:

Ahaha… poor kids.

Tochinoshin offered his chest for some butsukari to Tobizaru and Takanosho. Bigger men have failed to move the Georgian Cliff:

Things look a little different when it’s reverse butsukari (the higher ranking guy is the pusher). You just let the Wookiee win:

Endo is getting a lot of high-rank attention this Jungyo. Apparently that’s because he is going to make san-yaku in the Natsu basho. Previously he got juiced by Takayasu. This time, Kakuryu invited him to san-ban (practice form in which the same two wrestlers go through full bouts repeatedly until the higher ranking one calls it off).

kakuryu-vs-endo

This one consisted of 13 bouts, all won by the Yokozuna. Rather than counting wins, the Yokozuna concentrated on adjusting his own movement and building up his body.

After practice, the Yokozuna was seen having a talk with Endo. It turned out that they were exchanging injury-related experience.

Kakuryu’s finger injury lingers on. He seems able to use his grip, but says that after applying sudden force, when he lets go of the opponent’s mawashi, the pain hits. “But it’s not preventing me from doing sumo”.

Kisenosato engaged Meisei from Juryo for a 9-bout sanban, and won them all. Also watch for the bout vs. Kakuryu at the musubi-no-ichiban. Just remember my warning above.

Day 14

🌐 Location: Fujisawa, Kanagawa prefecture

Help, a group of fierce robbers has taken to the streets of Fujisawa!

fierce-robbers

(A word of advice to Kyokushuho: your highwayman career is going to be very short if you wear kimono with your name (and those of current and former stable mates) splashed all over it).

The spectators got to enjoy double bills, both in the oicho construction performance:

And in the tsuna-shime performance, where the two Yokozuna present showed off their ropes. I think this was originally planned to include Hakuho, which would have given the spectators both Shiranui and Unryu style rope tying, but unfortunately Hakuho is in Mongolia, and so they got a double Unryu.

The top 16 members of Makuuchi participated in an elimination tournament. So here is Kisenosato vs. Tamawashi:

Kisenosato vs. Shodai (who has beaten Tochinoshin in the first round):

Kisenosato vs. Kaisei:

And finally, the final, Kisenosato vs. Takayasu. When playing in elimination format, the restriction against matching rikishi from the same stable does not apply:

Kisenosato wins today’s yusho.

Jungyo Newsreel – Days 5 and 6

sanyaku-soroi-bumi-himeji
san-yaku soroi-bumi

Day 5

🌐 Location: Himeji, Hyogo prefecture

3800 people came to view the event in Himeji. The main objects of interest were, of course, the Hyogo local boys – Myogiryu, who comes from Takasago, some 10km from himeji; Terutsuyoshi, from a nearby island; and the young jonidan Teraowaka, of Shikoroyama beya.

Myogiryu was the object of a demonstration of oicho-mage construction, while Terutsuyoshi played with the kids:

terutsuyoshi-himeji-kiddie

Those kids are almost Terutsuyoshi’s size…

The jinku team members in their borrowed kesho-mawashi basked in the adoration of the spectators.

jinku-team-having-fun
The hills are alive with the sound of music

Of all the bouts, the only one I have anything about is the musubi-no-ichiban. I don’t know the result, but since Hakuho is closer to the ring, I guess it was his win:

hakuho-vs-kakuryu-himeji

Day 6

🌐 Location: Takarazuka, Hyogo prefecture

3150 people came to view the jungyo event in Takarazuka.

As in every Jungyo event, there was a speech by the mayor. However, this time, the mayor happened to be female. This means the speech was not delivered from the dohyo:

Tomoko Nakagawa, mayor of Takarazuka

The mayor addressed the issue in her speech: “Not being able to deliver my speech from the dohyo is frustrating and painful”. She later held a press conference, in which she said she was insulted by the salt thrown after the incident in Maizuru (Note: salt is thrown on the dohyo whenever a serious injury occurs on it. It’s also thrown as a marker of separation between events and even thrown if practice seems somewhat subdued. The claim that it was thrown because of the women is false). She also added that she will write to the NSK and ask them to treat men and women equally, whether it’s on or off the dohyo, implying that if women have to give speeches from the side of the dohyo, men should have to do the same.

The mayor’s speech got a mixed reaction – applause on the one hand, jeers on the other (mostly by male spectators). The discussion is becoming heated. While everybody agrees that women should be allowed when life is at stake, there are many – men and women – who think that breaking away from this tradition or even asking for it to be broken is not warranted.

On to actual sumo.

Tobizaru worked hard enough to get his hair in zanbara again:

Ichinojo practiced his kaiju mode, grabbing kids and eating them. OK, maybe not eating. But certainly giving them atomic wedgies.

By the way, there were over 30 local kids, starting from those little “play with the big mountain” toddlers and through to serious wanpaku sumo practitioners. Ichinojo was not alone on that dohyo – there were Kaisei, Ryuden, Chiyoshoma as well.

Takayasu decided to invite the ever-popular Endo for butsukari. Takayasu does butsukari with all his heart. So Endo ended up looking like this:

Takayasu showing his love and compassion

By this time, Hakuho was on the dohyo as well, doing his shiko and waiting his turn after the Ozeki. He revived Endo by pouring some water on him (it’s common practice for a third party to do that, especially high rankers):

Hakuho bastes the roast

You can’t really see endo and Takayasu in this video, but pay attention to Hakuho. He is priming the audience for applause, and when Endo finally manages to push Takayasu out, the Yokozuna gives the signal:

Then Hakuho himself started training on the dohyo. He did reverse butsukari (that’s when the lower ranked man offers his chest to the higher ranked one) with Ishiura.

Note the tsukebito waiting at the side of the dohyo for the incoming sliding sekitori:

As you can see, at this point Takayasu is on the sidelines, continuing to practice with his tsukebito. Here he tries to sharpen his leaning skills:

Tsukebito are busy people…

In sadder news, Terunofuji has gone kyujo. He was on the bout program. In Jungyo, they don’t do the fusensho thing – the Jungyo is intended to entertain the audience. Terutsuyoshi filled in for him, meaning that Terutsuyoshi did two bouts this day.

Musubi-no-ichiban: