Birthday Boys

Birthday Calendar Screenshot

Followers of the Tachiai Twitter account, and followers of the Sumo Kyokai’s own official account, may have noticed that Monday was Enho’s birthday and Tuesday was Endo’s birthday. Well, very soon you will be able to track rikishi birthdays dynamically on the site because I plan to release a Birthday Calendar. I’m teasing the information now because I want to gauge interest in the visualization before putting it out there for the public to use.

I’ve been working on several data visualizations and this is one that I believe will be most helpful to experts AND new sumo fans, alike. Rather than focus on the well-known sekitori, this calendar has data on ALL wrestlers from the July tournament so we hopefully become a bit more familiar with some of those from the lower divisions, as well.

October 17 was the birthday of Takadagawa-beya’s chanko-cho, Sakura (pictured). Sakura has been a long-time rikishi, debuting under the shikona Maeamami in 2003. He spent most of the first three years of his career in Jonokuchi but has mostly been in Jonidan since. His top rank so far has been Jonidan 5 in 2013.

On the 18th, along with Enho and fellow sekitori Kyokutaisei, Hirose from Arashio-beya celebrated another orbit around the sun. On the 19th, Chiyohokkai and Miyakojima partied with individualized Strawberry Shortcakes.

Tomorrow, Tsugunohana will be the only active Birthday Boy. Onomatsu beya The tweet below shows him carrying a zabuton. Is the shikona on that cushion “Terutsuyoshi?” Onomatsu is way out in Chiba. That’s a long commute to downtown Tokyo for tsukebito duties at Isegahama-beya. He was promoted to Sandanme for the first time this past summer but will likely fall back into Jonidan for Kyushu.

These workhorses of the heya life are rarely noticed by the media so this will help us superfans dive a bit deeper into the sumo world. I am very interested in feedback from users but I’ve still got a little work to do before it’s ready for prime time. I’m enticingly close, though, so that’s why I’m teasing it out a wee bit early.

51st Annual Junior High School Sumo Championships

The 51st Annual Junior High School Championships took place in Tachikawa. It is really two tournaments in one, an individual (個人-kojin) tournament and a team (団体-dantai) competition.

Kumamoto Wrestlers Performed Well on Saturday

The team tournament came down to Kiso, Nagano (left) against Uta City’s Kakujo (right). In the team competition, it’s a best-of-three format. On the Kakujo team, Kuraoka and Ito (#2 and #3 from the right) were undefeated through the team tournament. The link above should be cued to just before the finals bouts. The whole tournament is available on the Sumo Federation’s YouTube site. Meet the team in their Yusho Interview. I’m glad they were able to do their brand of sumo!

For the individual tournament, I have cued things up to the Finals. Ino and Nishide win their bouts and move on to the Final where Nishide easily overpowers the smaller Ino. If you’re wondering how Ino got to the Final giving up such a size disadvantage, check out the semi-final bout! Ino has skill. He gave up a considerable height and weight advantage to Sameshima. (Is his first name Kagayaki?) Judging from the tape on his shoulder/neck, it takes a lot out of you to throw these big dudes. Below, we meet Nishide Daiki in his Yusho Interview.

Tachiai looks forward to seeing these young guys advance in their careers. We may see some of them at the University or even Pro levels in the future.

The individual finalists are here with Jr High Yokozuna Nishide Daiki.

And here are the team photos for the semi-final teams. Top-left are the squad from Uta-City in Kumamoto. Congratulations to all of the winners.

Shikoroyama-beya is looking for some recruits!

How did you get into sumo? (Testing Twitter Spaces)

I think I’ve mentioned before how I found sumo. Late at night during the Akebono, Taka/Waka days, ESPN used to broadcast highlight shows of tournaments. The sport caught my eye back then and I remember actually showing my cousins and doing a few bouts with them in the living room. It struck me as a pure sport for a sportsman. No need for balls or goals and it’s about skill more than pure force. You’re not trying to pound the opponent to a pulp, just tip them over or push them out of a ring.

But enough about me. I started this blog because I get to talk about sumo to people, fan to fan. I realized the other day that Twitter has this Spaces feature and I’m curious about whether anyone wants to chat about sumo. I am usually on conference calls all day when I’m not trying to build dashboards, develop risk models, or update the website, so I’m not hoping for another conference call where I’m lecturing or the only one talking but I know it can’t be a free-for-all. So I figure if we keep this on point: “How did you get into sumo?” it will work. If we keep it limited to that and maybe shared our first live experiences at a basho, it won’t turn into conference call hell and can be a fun dialog.

I’m going to schedule one for 6pm Eastern on Thursday, 8/12. I’m eager to hear your stories. If this goes off well, I’d like to host them more often. Especially as things open up and when we get to go over to Japan again, I think Tachiai readers will like to hear about what it’s like and what to do from fellow fans.

SumoStew Video on Konishiki

SumoStew released a great video with Konishiki. The premise was to give viewers a bit of the back story on the photo we’ve all seen of the massive former Ozeki framed by a black background glaring at, and dwarfing, his opponent. But it’s more. It’s a quick, well-produced ride through the story of Konishiki, featuring an interview from the man himself. It also has a bit of the history and cultural background of the sport. I learned a lot. I didn’t know the story of the photo. But, it’s not just for die-hard sumo fans. She carefully explains the key concepts so you don’t need to be an expert in sumo to enjoy it. NBC should take notes.

Yes, I realize there’s a bit of irony in me enjoying this video about one of the largest rikishi ever when I complained about that NBC piece precisely because THAT video focused on the stereotypical girth of sumo wrestlers. I would argue that this SumoStew video is not intended as a 2:30 minute introduction to the sport but it definitely goes deeper into the cultural background while staying in the context of Konishiki and his importance as a ground-breaking Ozeki.

The NBC video is linked in the tweet above. And I understand where y’all are coming from that, “it wasn’t THAT bad.” But, I guess, if I had to make a comparison, the NBC video would be like introducing an audience to the NBA by focusing on the height of the players and not mentioning really anything substantive about the sport itself, like that it’s 5-on-5 and there’s a three-point line. No discussion of offensive strategies or defensive strategies or showing great plays. Just, “these guys are tall.” And rather than poking a basketball player in the belly, interview him from a ladder. It’s a missed opportunity.

That said, the career and life of Manute Bol is worth exploring for basketball fans in the way SumoStew introduces her viewer to Konishiki. I think SumoStew payed more respect to her subject than NBC did and she did so in a way that would entice more people to learn more than the NBC video — as Konishiki himself said he learned more about Japan. There’s a lot of depth to this sport which is why I get so agitated when it’s reduced to caricature and stereotype.