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.

十両の妙義龍が結婚発表 6月に第1子誕生

Alright people, I’m resurrecting the Japanese sumo headlines with a twist: no translation in the title. Basically, I want to challenge you all to try to find the meaning from the headline alone. Occasionally I retweet stuff from Japanese press and am curious how many of the English language followers can pick up the meaning. Today’s article came from the Mainichi Newspaper.

This one is easy. There are only a couple of sumo terms but the rest of the headline is fairly basic. First thing’s first, let’s decode sumo vocabulary. In this case, there’s only two sumo terms,
1) 十両 is Juryo division.
2) 妙義龍 is Myogiryu’s shikona.

Next, let’s go for level 1 terms.
6月 = June
第1子 = First child
誕生 = Birth

Then, the only thing left are a couple of level two terms.
結婚 = marriage
発表 = announcement

Grammar points:
誕生日: (Tanjyobi) is a beginner word meaning “birthday”. Before you even start seriously learning kanji, you often get taught to recognize this.
結婚式: (Kekkonshiki) is another term, meaning wedding, you also learn to recognize before you really learn the meaning of the individual kanji. The key here is that without “shiki”, “kekkon” means marriage. So in this headline he announced his marriage.
の is often a sign of the possessive. In this case, “Juryo’s Myogiryu” or “Myogiryu of Juryo”.
武士道: (Bushido) is the way of the warrior. And the “Bu” looks a lot like the “shiki” from the above kekkonshiki. This is why learning Japanese throws me for a loop. So many characters look similar.

“Juryo’s Myogiryu announces his marriage; [their] first child was born in June.”

So, Congratulations to Myogiryu. He married his high school sweetheart. They weren’t permitted to date in high school because he was committed to sumo. But they started dating about six years ago and she helped him recover from his injuries. (I wonder if this is the injury when he got KTFO by Hakuho). They will have the ceremony next June.

I Got Next: Searching for the Next One, Tachiai Introduces Readers to the “Tatakiage”

Hakuho is “The One.” He owns just about every conceivable record in the books. This past tournament he registered his 1050th win, surpassing Kaio’s mark of 1047. He will complete the “Hakuho Conquest” (1066 wins) in time for the Olympics in 2020. His career was made possible by the fact that he started so early, joining a heya at 16. These youngsters who start so low and achieve so much are called the “Tatakiage.”

The Many Hands Began To Scan For the Next Plateau

Now that he’s achieved so much, and set so many bars so extraordinarily high, the question becomes “Who is next?” Will anyone be able to do what Hakuho the Conqueror has done? The current crop of champions do not have the health to come anywhere close. Hakuho’s the only Yokozuna left standing for the summer Jungyo tour, Terunofuji and Goeido are in a dangerous cycle punctuated by recurring injuries and threats of demotion. Takayasu, our shin-ozeki, will need six and a half years of zensho yushos to catch up to where Hakuho is now. And with Hak winning yushos, it’s not only a moving target but one where all current wrestlers are losing ground.

None of the up-and-comers, like Mitakeumi, will have a chance at such a long career. In spite of his rapid rise to the upper divisions and makuuchi, he got a comparatively late start in professional sumo. We’re now watching another up-and-comer, Yago, skip the lower divisions on the heels of their successful college careers and start in the Makushita division in their early twenties. Even Hakuho’s disciple, Enho, got a bit of a late start, like Shodai. Tatakiage wrestlers like Hakuho forgo high school and college to pursue their dohyo dreams.

So who has the chops? We are familiar with Wakaichiro, the Texan rikishi who started his career last year at 18. After securing his kachi-koshi in Nagoya we hope to see him continue his strong progress. However, this article profiles a Musashigawa-beya stablemate named Tokuda who has begun his sumo career before finishing high school. After a strong Jonidan tournament in Tokyo, he was promoted into sandanme, but will fall back down into Jonidan in September.

It’s a difficult path for these youngsters. Not all will make it to the upper divisions and many will drop out. But Hakuho has demonstrated what they can achieve. It may be this early start in sumo which imbues a successful wrestler with the ring presence and the canny abilities required for a long career. Kisenosato started at 16. Kotoshogiku at 18. Many impressive wrestlers will come out of the universities ready for successful careers in sumo. But anyone who hopes to become “The Next One” and come close to any of Hakuho’s records will need to come from the ranks of the Tatakiage.

Japanese Headlines: It’s been a long time.

大観衆、有名力士に熱狂 大相撲夏巡業草津場所

久しぶり。Hisashiburi is an extremely useful Japanese phrase. If you haven’t seen someone in a long time or it has been a while since you last did some task and you’re a bit rusty, “hisashiburi.” In the first situation, it means “long time no see.” In others, “It’s been a long time.” My way of apologizing for not having posted a sumo headline in quite some time is to drop some quality culture on you, here, in the form of Rakim. I actually hum this song to myself every time I use the word, hisashiburi. “It’s been a long time…”

大相撲夏巡業草津場所

From our previous Japanese headlines, you should be able to pick up the gist rather quickly. If we start with the last half of the headline after the break, we see that the article covers the Kusatsu Basho leg of the summer tour (natsu jungyo).

大観衆

This phrase is simple enough. Taken all at once as Dai kanshu, or big crowds. Kanshu is also often translated as audience.

有名力士に熱狂

This phrase can be broken into three parts. You should quickly recognize the sumo term rikishi (力士). Preceding that is the word for “famous” (yūmei – 有名). Last is the word nekkyo, 熱狂, which means enthusiasm.

The large crowd of 3,200 people greated their favorite sumo wrestlers with great enthusiasm. It had been thirty-three years since the sumo jungyo stopped in Kusatsu, in 1984. And the last time the tour stopped in Gunma prefecture was back in 2010. Kusatsu is famous for its hot springs.

I really wanted to bring this article to your attention because it used many different numbers. It states the Western years, Japanese “Showa” years and the audience attendance figures.  So it is very important to know how to read numbers in Japanese, and that’s something that I haven’t covered until now. Below you will find an abbreviated chart to help decypher these numbers. So the year 1984, as in the article, is 一九八四. You’ll notice that they don’t insert the character for thousand, 千, for years. But when we look at the attendance figure of 3200, they do (and the character for hundred, 百).