97th National University Sumo Championship

While sumo fans wait on pins and needles for Grand Sumo action to begin next weekend in Fukuoka, Japan’s National University Sumo Championship took place in Osaka. Successful wrestlers at this stage often become successful wrestlers on the professional level with the Champions granted privileged entry into Makushita, makushita tsukedashi, upon turning pro. Current wrestlers taking this path from Uni-Yokozuna to Jr. Sekitori include Endo, Ichinojo, and Aki-basho yusho winner, Mitakeumi. (I’m making up the Junior Sekitori term because they’re not immediately Sekitori but just outside.)

The big story coming out of Osaka is that the yusho winner was a first year (freshman) student-athlete, Yasuteru Nakamura from Nippon Sports Science University. He defeated Koshiro Tanioka, with a dominating yorikiri. Last year’s champion, Yota Kanno was knocked out in the first round. Any relation to Yoko Kanno is unconfirmed, but the need to knock a little harder is undeniable. Regardless, keep an eye out for these talented young men to be highly sought-after recruits and to appear on a banzuke in the near future.

According to the Mainichi Shimbun, this was the first time in 29 years that a freshman won a Championship. The last time there was a freshman University Yokozuna was Luis Ikemori for Takeshoku University in 1990. Ryuko, also known as Ryudo when he reached his peak rank in Juryo, was also notable for being the first foreign-born wrestler, from Brazil, to be granted the makushita tsukedashi privilege.

In team competition, Nihon University won the title for the first time in four years from Mitakeumi’s alma mater, Toyo University. Jokoryu and Mitoryu are products of the Nihon University program. Nakamura’s Nippon Sports Science University finished tied for third, and they count Hokutofuji among their graduates. These three universities have had historically strong sumo programs, with one of these three teams winning the title in each of the last nine years.

After the Kyushu basho, eyes will turn back to Kokugikan in Tokyo for the 68th National Amateur Sumo Championship, a title won by Yago and the fore mentioned Mitakeumi, Mitoryu and Endo, as well as Daishomaru, Yoshikaze, and Takamisakari. The year Endo won, Shodai picked up the jun-yusho and Mitakeumi and Hokutofuji were semi-finalists.

Musashigawa-beya Beppu

In preparation for the Kyushu tournament next month in Fukuoka, Musashigawa beya has moved its training camp (合宿 – gasshuku) to Beppu, a nearby city popular for its onsen.

Meanwhile, just before dinner on the East Coast of the US, enjoy some food porn courtesy of KONISHIKI.

Hiroshima-based Fans: Do You Want To Do Sumo?

Raise your hands if you wish you had a chance to try sumo! Hiroshima University’s sumo club is putting on sumo events that Tachiai readers may be interested in. On October 16, they are holding a tournament for international students and then on the 29th they are holding one open to everyone. So often, we just read about sumo. Here’s your chance to DO IT.

Oo! Oo! Pick me!! Pick ME!!

There will be separate male and female sections. Bring a shirt, shorts and a towel! There will be prizes for top wrestlers. If you don’t want to wrestle and just want to watch, it sounds like this will be a great opportunity to see the next generation of university competitors!

If you’re following the Jungyo dates and schedule, the event on the 29th is two days after the Jungyo’s final date in Hiroshima. For those of you in Western Japan, that sounds like an amazing few days. The final three days of the tour are in different areas of Hiroshima prefecture. It’s quite the opportunity to see your favorite wrestlers (unless your favorite is on the kyujo list) and then actually compete!

If you do go, and you’re interested in writing up your experience for a guest post on Tachiai, let me know. If you have more questions about the event, reach out to the Hiroshima Daigaku Sumo Bu @hirodaisumou as in the Tweets above. I wish we had this opportunity 15 years ago in Tokyo! I think this is nearer Bruce’s old stomping grounds but I would have thumbed a ride from Tokyo to give it a try. Good luck!

Nagoya Storyline #1: Hakuho, 15 Days? 白鵬は十五日間出来ますか?

The top storyline going into Nagoya must be this man. Will he compete on Day One? If he does, will he be able to withstand the full campaign? The champion’s mindset, however, does not stop there. Hakuho wants to win. From Herouth’s Twitter feed today we see his Tanabata (link to last year’s excellent story) wish, along with the realistic admission that he’s not anywhere near 100%.

Still, his wish is to pick up Yusho #43, 11 clear of the great Taiho. We hope he comes back and comes back healthy. The specter of Kisenosato still haunts the dohyo but with Takakeisho’s participation far from certain, there will clearly be pressures to appear and not go full kyujo for a second straight tournament. Either way, we can only hope for a prudent decision based on fitness. He’s got a full year to make good on the Tanabata wish, no need to rush it.

This year, Tanabata falls on the first day of the Nagoya tournament, so the Rikishi-Kai met and sekitori filled out their Tanabata wishes. So let’s pivot from Hakuho’s grand dream in honor of the early celebration to see what the others decided to wish for. Some, like Meisei, opted for the simple, a Go-Pro camera. I am just waiting for the day when a rikishi sneaks one into the folds of his mawashi and live streams a bout. Then again…maybe not.

Hakuho’s protege, Enho, aspires for the Technique Special Prize. The first concern will be getting a winning record. If he does get a winning record, a technique prize would be fitting if he picks up an extra two wins. According to the career visualizer, 20% of his wins come from shitatenage, just under 14% each from the usual yorikiri and oshidashi, while 10% come from ashitori.

Six or seven of the bouts at the bottom of the banzuke will be competitive with wrestlers who’ve been in Juryo recently. However, there are quite a few bruising barracudas swimming around down there this tournament, looking for breakout tournaments special prizes of their own.

Newly minted sekitori, and nervous looking Kizakiumi is aiming for a simple kachi-koshi, likely just hoping to maintain his professional rank and all the accoutrements that come with it. I’m eager to catch more of this pusher-thruster. 80% of his wins come from oshidashi and he has the curious distinction of making the professional ranks without notching a single yorikiri win. The wise should try to get at his belt.

Azumaryu, on the other hand, is shooting for a Juryo yusho from the top rank in the West. He’s toiled in Juryo for much of the last 6 years. He’s in a prime spot for Makuuchi promotion if he manages a simple 8 wins…but grabbing that title would likely propel him pretty far into the thick of the top division where he could hopefully stay around for a while.

I will wrap things up here with Onosho’s wish because this is my wish for all of these gladiators: good health. I’m shooting for sound mind and toned body myself this year. My son’s been really into soccer so my own game has improved to such a level, and I’ve developed such power in these thunder thighs that I managed to kick the ball straight through our back window the other day. Those sumo squats are paying off.