New Year Goals (2020)

Happy New Year!

Tachiai.org is a growing community of sumo fans, united with the common interest of promoting the sport and we look forward to another exciting year of sumo action! We almost hit 900,000 views last year and I’m shooting for 1,000,000 this year. I started the site as a place to share my love of the sport and to dispel rather derisive and dismissive stereotypes. It is inherently subjective in nature, where the opinions of its contributors and visitors are vital to the site, as with any other blog.

As the site has grown with the fantastic content of its contributors, Bruce, Herouth, Josh, Leonid, Nicola, Liam, Timothée, all of our commenters and readers, many have naturally begun to turn Tachiai for sumo news, holding us to a standard of journalism which should not apply to a blog.

Therefore, I’ve decided that early in 2020 I will release a new site, TachiaiTimes.com, as a distinct sumo news site committed to upholding the core values journalists should espouse: namely that journalists should only follow sumo, 24/7, and none of the other nonsense. “I kid, I kid.” But seriously, only sumo news at the new site and none of my infamous humor.

Web 2.0 applications feature, and thrive upon, a constant feedback loop. Tachai.org will always be the kind of community that supports and promotes sumo with a focus on 大相撲, or “Grand Sumo,” but I do want to promote the international and amateur sumo community as well so count on me following those a bit more closely. In that regard, it seems March has a little tournament in Kochi that I am looking forward to.

Following sumo and the “heya life” (admittedly from quite a distance) it strikes me as a fascinating social program that I wish were available to all people: dedicate yourself fully to a pursuit without having to worry about making ends meet since your needs are covered by the heya. But it’s no utopia. In return for lodging, food, clothes, health care, etc., a wrestler leads a strict lifestyle. And in reality, not all heya are the same; not every circumstance is ideal. Crucially, it’s not mandatory and many drop out…but there’s no going back. To me, that’s an extremely interesting conversation, perfect for Tachiai.org but one which I understand many may not want, in preference for hard, one-way news about the sport and wrestlers they follow. And that’s why TachiaiTimes is needed.

Journalism has always been a passion of mine…but I’ve had a few stumbles while trying to pursue it as a career, including a few rejection letters back when I wanted to go to graduate school. At the day job, I work closely with our public affairs office and members of the media as they mine our (at times incomprehensible) data and conduct research, so the passion remains strong and this is my way forward. This seems like a critical time in journalism and I’ll carve out a little sumo-related respite for those interested. I look forward to another year of great conversations, and hopefully the retirement of our scandal meter.

Happy New Year!

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!

一生懸命

In our third installment of the Japanese idioms series, we hit upon an extremely well known, well used phrase. This was the phrase cited by Kakuryu, Asashoryu, and Chiyonofuji. It is so well used, most people may not even realize that it is one of these four-character idioms. Basically, it means to work hard, so hard one’s life depends upon it. Practically synonymous with “gambarimasu,” or as we say in English, to gamberize, the two are often used together. My wife said it to the kids tonight.

一生懸命頑張ります。

The first two kanji are very common, meaning “one” and “to live.” The third character, “ken” is very rare and not used much on its own. It is, however, important for fans of sumo as the “ken” in “kensho” and “kenshokin” the sponsorship banners and winners bounties awarded to victors, respectively. Lastly, “mei” is the character for life, “inochi”. I’m not going to hazard a guess at a literal translation and I think we can see why Google has such trouble and often ends up with word salad.

You’re likely wondering why I’m skipping a few promotions, going from Kisenosato to Kakuryu. Terunofuji and Goeido decided not to cite an idiom, opting for simple ceremonies, not wanting to stumble over the phrases. For native Japanese speakers, it could also be a bit intimidating since there’s likely a desire to sound sophisticated and a bit of pressure to use a rare one, as we’ll see next time with Kotoshogiku. It’s a particular challenge for non-native Japanese speakers, as we saw with Tochinoshin opting to skip it as well.

A Biking Tour of Aichi

This NHK World video features a biking tour around Aichi prefecture. Nagoya is the largest city in Aichi prefecture, so it is very important to sumo fans as the home of the July Honbasho. As the video shows, Aichi is also important to the production of “Tai”, sea bream, that wonderful red fish we associate with yusho, promotion, and celebration. Anyway, if anyone out there is planning a trip to Nagoya to see the tournament, chances are you’ll be looking for other stuff to do off-hours or on days that you aren’t able to manage tickets, so this video may give a few ideas.

Bike Around Aichi

Another important feature of this video is its focus on “craft”, monozukuri 物作り…literally “making stuff.” The concept is central to Japanese industry and life. We’ve seen that with the recent video Herouth pointed out that showed (among other things) how sumo wrestlers’ combs are made. I’ve been particularly interested in it lately, playing around with making whisky. My favorite part is malting barley. The smell of germinating barley is nice. In this video, there’s a factory making hamanatto…in a woman’s house. It’s so awesome.

As I find things like this around sumo venues, I’ll try to bring them to your attention so you find things to enrich any trips you make to Japan. I’d like to help others avoid “Lost in Translation” syndrome, having experienced it myself when I first moved there.