Kaishu Rintaro

Lower division sumo bouts are perfect prime-time viewing for those of us sumo fans living in exile in the Eastern US. Obviously, we miss out on most of the stars unless we take a nap through makushita and wake up at 3 to 4am for makuuchi. In the lower ranks, many of the wrestlers have yet to pack on the skills and girth necessary to climb up the ranks but there are some fantastic bouts with great finishing moves. This izori from Kaishu was one of my favorite bouts from the whole tournament.

Kaishu is a Musashigawa beya stablemate of Musashikuni and Wakaichiro. All of the coaches’ and wrestlers’ profiles are available on the Musashigawa homepage. He joined back in 2016 at the age of 18. Ladies, his blood type is B. https://musashigawa.com/rikishi-urakata/rikishi_kaisyu

He has three years of championship-caliber judo training in high school. If I’m getting my time frames right his High School, Shutoku, won the national judo title while he was there. With that experience under his belt, he’s come in with a strong grappling background. This was his first izori victory at Natsu 2019 but he’s already got a rather impressive slate of kimarite, including two ashitori wins and the zubuneri seen below, when he was fighting under the name Kobayashi. He’s young — but those guns, dude.

Now, for a statistic that blew me away when I saw it. For all of the 1107 wrestlers featured in the Tachiai Kimarite dashboard, which includes all active wrestlers plus those who retired after 2013, the median wrestler has won with 16 kimarite. Kaishu has already won by using 24 distinct kimarite. That puts him near the 90th percentile and he’s only been in sumo for 3 years. Granted, Aminishiki has nearly doubled that tally. But that’s Aminishiki. By the way, the data in the dashboard has been updated with data from Natsu 2019.

Median wrestler has won with 16 kimarite. Kaishu has 24. Mr 47 is Aminishiki.

For those fans with an interest in Japanese history, his current shikona, 海舟, is a nod to Katsu Kaishu. He also changed the character used for his first name, from 倫太郎 to 麟太郎, which was a name used by Katsu Kaishu, father of the Japanese Navy. When the West pressured Japan to open themselves to commerce in the 1850s, Kaishu pushed to establish a strong navy and to staff it with people based on capability rather than lineage. He commanded the ship which brought the first Japanese delegation to the US before playing a pivotal role in the Meiji Restoration.

He also likes mangoes. OK, I admit, that’s non sequitur. I just had to throw that in there because I had an amazing mango yesterday and his profile actually does say his favorite food is mango. In more Musashigawa fun facts, the stable will be participating in a beach clean up this Saturday at Enoshima’s Benten Bridge. If you’re in Japan, and in the area of Enoshima, this may be a great reason to go to the beach! There’s a great little train, too, the Enoden that you can take down there from Kamakura.

Kaishu Rintaro

Unfortunately, he’s been on a bit of a slide after peaking near the top of Sandanme. He had a winless hatsu and will be back in Jonidan in Nagoya because he finished with a 3-4 makekoshi record. One of those pivotal losses, though, came at the hands of Shiraishi who won the Sandanme yusho in his debut tournament from below Sandanme 100. He skipped Go — mae-zumo, jonokuchi, and Jonidan — based on his amateur pedigree from Toyo University. Without that tough match up, one wonders if he’d have been able to secure his kachi-koshi.

President Trump’s Senshuraku Visit

File Photo

As senshuraku approaches and the yusho race heats up, I wanted to take a minute to summarize what we know (and some speculation) about President Trump’s scheduled visit to Japan. The purpose of the visit is to be the first foreign leader to meet with the popular new Emperor, Naruhito. Along with the aircraft carrier visit, a golf outing, and dinner at a robatayaki restaurant, the trip will include a chance to watch sumo at Kokugikan and award a new trophy to the makuuchi yusho winner.

Already, there is one positive thing to come from this trip. Despite having studied Japanese in college, lived and worked in Tokyo, visited numerous times since I moved back to the States, and having married a Japanese woman…I had never heard of robatayaki until an hour ago. Apparently it’s grilled on skewers, like yakitori, but it’s usually seafood and veggies. My wife really likes scallops done in this way. How am I just now learning of this? Bruce, did you know of this? I’ve eaten shirako, fugu, bonjiri and basashi for Christ’s sake. I thought my palate was rather sophisticated with my fondness for yuzu and preference for anago over unagi. I guess not. I’m going to need to hit up a robatayaki joint next time or else I’ll only feel worthy of KFC…or maybe Skylark.

Back to the President’s trip, my wife also offered an interesting justification for the golfing trip, one that is apparently common sense among Japanese executives but not mentioned much in the American press. She says her former bosses, executives at a Japanese chemical company, used to golf the next day after traveling back to Japan from the US to help deal with jetlag. Something about being out in the sun helped them recover quickly from the time change. My shusshin is Pinehurst, NC and have played and worked on some of the country’s best golf courses. But I’ve never heard of this rationale. I will be making some marketing suggestions next time I’m home.

The visit comes at an important time with a number of policy issues; the failure of the TPP is firmly in the rear view mirror but there’s a hot trade war with China and the threat of new tit-for-tat trade tariffs with Japan itself, over cars and agriculture, as well as the usual diplomatic tensions with North Korea. However, according to Time magazine, this is a “policy free” trip…which means our posts get to be policy-free (and humor-filled) posts! This is a friendly networking visit and an exciting chance to have the US offer a prize to the yusho winner.

We know the Emperor, and his father, are sumo fans. Naruhito’s daughter was also a big fan of sumo when she was growing up. They stepped back a bit in light of various scandals but the sport still draws the imperial presence. So, as the two parties hope to signal their strong ties and the importance of the alliance in the Pacific, it makes a lot of sense that they would take in some sumo. They are currently scheduled to watch the final three bouts and then present an official trophy to the yusho winner. Trump is a noted teetotaler, so I doubt there will be any drunken antics like when the mayor of Nagoya awarded Harumafuji his trophy back in 2016.

The Japanese press has indicated American stable master Musashigawa (former Yokozuna Musashimaru, uncle of Musashikuni, oyakata of Wakaichiro) will be on hand to assist with translation and answer questions, offer explanations of the sport. I do not know the President’s knowledge level of the sport – or Prime Minister Abe’s – but it would be awesome to sit and watch with a former Yokozuna. If it were me, he would be asked a bunch of silly questions, such as, “what do the four colors of the tassels mean?” However, if Trump is a more seasoned, knowledgeable fan, it would be fascinating to just sit back and listen to them discuss the finer points of yotsu grips and kimarite.

Foreign dignitaries have visited Kokugikan before. Above are some pictures of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Their son, William, is also a fan. As we can see, though, they sat in the box. There is speculation, and some consternation, about why Trump will be seated ringside but I believe the VIP box will be full and Hakkaku will have a lot on his plate entertaining his own guests. He’ll probably be quite happy passing off some duties to Musashigawa oyakata.

The President and Prime Minister will be seated by the dohyo. This will likely be on the 正 side, facing the gyoji, so a bit off camera (below the bottom of the screen) for that main shot we’re all used to from NHK and AbemaTV coverage. I’m sure the camera between bouts will cut to some of the commotion but I’m not entirely convinced the guests will show up in time for the last three bouts. It may be the DC traffic, but it’s been my experience that things with VIPs seem to run quite a bit behind schedule sometimes, especially after a round of golf. I swear, I’ve been behind some five hour rounds of golf before and it is torture. My bet is, they’ll show up, still in spikes, just in time to hand Kakuryu his trophy.

Ozeki promotion acceptance phrases

In a few hours, two representatives of the NSK will arrive at Chiganoura beya, wearing formal kimono, and formally inform Takakeisho of his promotion to Ozeki. He will bow, flanked by his oyakata and okami-san (stablemaster’s wife), and formally accept the honor.

The most recently promoted (and now demoted) Ozeki, Tochinoshin, uttering his phrase

Part of this formal acceptance speech is a phrase which is supposed to express the spirit in which the rikishi wants to undertake his new duty. This phrase is often a four-character set phrase (yojijukugo), but that’s not mandatory.

Sumo fans are speculating on the phrase Takakeisho will choose to use in his acceptance ceremony, and the Japanese media published all the phrases used by all Ozeki who were promoted in the Heisei era. I thought I’d share the list with Tachiai’s readers.

YearOzekiPhraseReadingMeaning
1990Kirishima一生懸命isshōkenmeiWith all my might
1992Akebono名を汚さぬようna o yogosanu yōNot to disgrace the title [of Ozeki]
1993Takanohana
不撓不屈futō-fukutsuIndomitable, Unyielding
1993Wakanohana一意専心ichiisenshinWholeheartedly
1994Takanonami勇往邁進yūōmaishinPush forward
1994Musashimaru日本の心を持ってnippon no kokoro o motteWith a Japanese heart
1999Chiyotaikai名を汚さぬよう(See Akebono)
1999Dejima力のもののふを目指しchikara no mononofu o mezashiAim to be a warrior of strength
2000Musoyama正々堂々seisei-dōdōOpen and aboveboard
2000Miyabiyama初心を忘れず
Shoshin o wasurezuAlways remember my initial resolve
2000Kaio地位を汚さぬようchii o yogosanu yōNot to disgrace the status [of ozeki]
2001Tochiazuma名に恥じぬようna ni hajinu yōNot to shame the title [of ozeki]
2002Asashoryu一生懸命(See Kirishima)
2005Kotooshu名に恥じぬようにna ni hajinu yō ni(See Tochiazuma)
2006Hakuho全身全霊zenshin-zenreiBody and Soul
2007Kotomitsuki力戦奮闘rikisenfuntō
Fighting with all my might
2008Harumafuji全身全霊(See Hakuho)
2010Baruto栄誉ある地位を汚さぬようeiyo aru chii wo yogosanu yōNot to disgrace the honorable status [of ozeki]
2011Kotoshogiku万理一空banri ikkūMany principles under one sky
2011Kisenosato名を汚さぬよう(See Akebono)
2012Kakuryu喜んでもらえるようなyorokonde moraeru yōnaTo be able to make people happy
2014Goeido大和魂を貫いて
Yamato-damashi o tsuranuiteTo carry on the Japanese spirit
2015Terunofuji心技体の充実に努めshin-gi-tai no jūjitsu ni tsutomeWork to bring heart, technique and body to the utmost
2017Takayasu正々堂々(See Musoyama)
2018Tochinoshin力士の手本rikishi no tehonA role model for rikishi

Some of these are quite unique. Dejima’s “chikara no mononofu” is actually written as 力の士 – the kanji that make up the word “rikishi” – “a man/warrior/samurai of power”. It’s not usually pronounced “mononofu”.

Kotoshogiku’s phrase is a kind of Zen phrase, which famously appeared in the “Book of Five Rings” by Miyamoto Musashi. Its meaning is unclear and is supposed to be something to ponder as you prepare for a challenge.

Personally, I really like Kakuryu’s artless phrase. All he wants is to make people happy!

So, with a few hours to go, what kind of resolve or feeling do you think Takakeisho’s phrase will express?

鬼は外‼ Seriously, devil, just get the f*** out already.

Today is setsubun, the last for the current Emperor. Herouth’s got some great highlights on her Twitter feed from this year’s mame maki events. Goeido was back home in Osaka with Hakuho, Mitakeumi, and Okinoumi? in Kanto. Hakuho walked rather gingerly down the temple stairs. Great timing for a month break.

I was re-reading my post from last year…are the giant maki rolls still a thing? Also, has anyone seen the stage version of Groundhog Day?

The Origin of Sumo: A Story of Gods, Emperors, and the History of a Nation

Origin of Sumo.jpg
Sumo wrestlers entering the ring by Utagawa Kuniteru,1863.

The origin of sumo is an ancient one, filled with mysticism and mystique. The sport of giants we so fondly love today, came into being over two thousand years ago when two Kami (Shinto gods) clashed in a tumultuous battle for the fate of Japan. Legend has it that the god of thunder Takemikazuchi met his rival, Takeminakata, on the shores of the Sea of Japan in the first recorded sumo bout. Takemikazuchi bested Takeminakata, and thus the thunder god’s followers inherited Japan and established the imperial line that continues to the present day. Henceforth, sumo and Shinto were irreversibly married, and the sport became an integral part of Shinto festivals to entertain the very Kami who gifted sumo to humanity. Sumo also held a key part in the annual rice planting, as wrestling matches played the role of prayer for a bountiful harvest. During the Heian  Period (794-1185), the status of sumo was further elevated when the sport became a regular form of entertainment for the Emperor and the Imperial Court. Not to be outdone, the Daimyo lords began holding sumo matches in their own fiefs across the nation. As rikishi during this era were typically samurai or ronin, they would be invited into the armies of lords who valued their combat prowess.

Oda_Nobunaga_sumo
A mural depicting Oda Nobunaga, one of Japan’s most important Daimyo, observing a sumo bout. Nobunaga was a prolific supporter of sumo, and his influence on the sport can be seen today in the form of the raised dohyo.

As Japan descended into turmoil during the Sengoku period (1467-1600) the practice of  Kanjin, or public sumo bouts emerged, primarily as a means to fund temple renovations. Over time public sumo events spread out from the temples and into the streets of the major city centres of Japan. However, this street sumo was no longer the dignified sport that had enthralled Emperors and warlords alike. It was far more brutal, bloody, and lewd. Fearing the sport was negatively affecting public morals, the Tokugawa Bakufu (Shogan Government) put a moratorium on the sport, including events organized by shrines to pay for repairs. This ban was short lived and by the Genroku Period (1688-1704) public sumo returned stronger than ever, with the first sanctioned tournament taking place at Tomioka Hachiman Shrine in 1684. It was during this revival that many of the Shinto traditions and rules commonplace in modern sumo were adopted. These additions, such as a strict list of sanctioned techniques, were no doubt a move to improve the sport’s image in the eyes of the Bakufu. By the latter half of the 18th century, sumo’s popularity had grown to the point of being profitable and for the first time competing as a rikishi became a genuine profession. Rikishi such as Tanikaze and Raiden became superstars, and massive temporary venues were constructed to accommodate the throngs of fans desperate to see their favourite athletes compete. Professional sumo, Ozumo, was born.

arena
A temporary sumo venue on the grounds of the Ryogoku Eko-in Temple, Edo. The Eko-in was the seat of Edo/Tokyo sumo and the location of the annual fall and spring basho until the construction of the first Ryogoku Kokugikan in 1909.

While one could see sumo throughout the country,  the Tokugawa capital of Edo was the largest centre for sumo in the country. In 1761, the first banzuke was published, and the group tasked with developing these rankings became the foundation for an organized sumo association that would become the Nihon Sumo Kyokai. Edo, However, was not the only Ozumo hub in Japan. Osaka had also emerged as one of the major powers in the sumo world, and its rivalry with Edo (later Tokyo) Sumo would continue through to the 20th century.  With the end of Tokugawa rule in 1868 came the most serious threat sumo had ever faced. The end of the Bakufu saw Japanese society go through a massive restructuring during the Meiji Revolution, and sumo was seen as archaic and counterintuitive to the nations urgent efforts to catch up to the western world. Furthermore, with the Shogun and Daimyo system abolished, regional Ozumo organizations and rikishi no longer had the financial backing they once relied on to hold tournaments and make a living. In an attempt to weather these financial constraints, Tokyo Sumo established the system of salaries and governance that is still in place today.

American-Sumo
A sumo bout for a crowd of American sailors, 1854. The forced opening of Japan’s borders by Commodore Matthew Perry and his notorious black ships had a significant impact on Japanese culture and, by extension, sumo. Perry and his crew were not impressed by the sport. Rather, they described rikishi as “overfed monsters” and deemed sumo brutish and disgusting.

Sumo remained in a state of uncertainty until Emperor Meiji endorsed the sport through his attendance of a tournament 1884. While the Emperor may have incorporated sumo back into the Japanese consciousness, it wasn’t until the heated rivalry between Hitachiyama Tamien and Umegatani Taro II in 1902 that the sport would regain national prominence. Sumo was once again one of Japan’s most popular forms of entertainment. This success, coupled with the poaching of talented rikishi away from Osaka to the “big leagues” in Tokyo, lead to the merger of the two regional Associations in 1927.  Thus the Nihon Sumo Kyokai was formed, the governing body that would shepherd the sport through the 20th century and it’s greatest boom period ever. Despite its divine origins, sumo has weathered many trying times that nearly saw its extinction. Yet the sport that has delighted both rulers and commoners refused to fade into obscurity. Sumo persists into the current day and survives as the physical, spiritual, and lasting link to the ancient past of Japan.

Meiji-Sumo 2
Two rikishi compete before Emperor Meiji, seated in the top right. The Emperor’s endorsement of sumo marked a dramatic change in the public perception of the sport and ushered in its resurgence in Japan. According to some biographers, Meiji himself was a talented amateur sumo wrestler in his youth.

Onishiki 4
Onishiki Daigoro, sumo’s 28th Yokozuna who competed in the Osaka Association from 1906 to 1922. Following the merger of the two regional Ozumo associations, all Osaka rikishi were relegated to the Makushita division due to the perceived superiority of Tokyo sumo. The only exception were Osaka’s Yokozuna, as their rank protected them from demotion.

 

Book Review: Discover Sumo By Hideo Yamaki

In this video, I give a brief review of Discover Sumo by former Tate-Yobidashi Hideo Yamaki. Hideo does an excellent job not only documenting the life and responsibilities of a yobidashi, but also goes into detail about heya life, the careers of rikishi, the origins of sumo, and the inner workings of each basho. Discover Sumo is an excellent pocket guide to sumo and is a fantastic read for both newcomers to the sport and longtime fans.

If you’d like to get your own copy of Discover Sumo, follow the links below:
http://www.cdjapan.co.jp/product/NEOBK-2048503
https://www.facebook.com/commerce/products/1519518198096213/

Yamagata: Jungyo Site #14

Yamagata prefecture is not only an unknown entity for me, my wife admitted she knows very little about Yamagata. Yamagata is a rural, mountainous prefecture known for its produce, mainly fruits. Cherries, pears, grapes and apples from this region are specialties. The pears are “La France” western-style pears, not the Asian pears. Yamagata is known for its Hanagasa Festival, which centers around women performing a traditional dance, and actually just happened last week, ended on Tuesday.

Hakuyozan Returns to Juryo

The Jungyo event will be held in Nanyo, just outside the eponymous capital city, Yamagata. The city of Tendo is also nearby. This city is where most shogi pieces (koma) are made and features an annual spring human shogi festival.

The Yamanashi — oops, sorry, Yamagata — Jungyo event will be a homecoming for Makushita yusho winner and Juryo promotee, Hakuyozan. He was first promoted to Juryo for the May tournament but finished with a poor 5-10 record. He fell back into Makushita but with impressive, and at times dominant, wins over Jokoryu, Toyohibiki, TYT, and Enho, this homecoming will hopefully give him a chance to enjoy center stage for the day…and perhaps a bout with Endo? Will he manage to get that mawashi undone?