Female Sumo


どすこい、京の相撲ガール 全国初の創部から丸2年

Because of today’s headline, I will unveil the Tachiai Hiragana Guide. One could think of hiragana as the Japanese alphabet, except that it’s not an alphabet. It’s easier than an alphabet because it’s purely phonetic. No letters that sounds like other letters and nothing changes when combined with others. No diphthongs.
These are the only sounds in the Japanese syllabary. Everything comes from these sounds. There are a few tricks which I will point out but hiragana is covered in Japanese 101 and it should just take a week. Take two columns per day and you’re golden. I’ll talk briefly about the “dots” below. They change the pronunciation to the appropriate hard sound: so k becomes g, s becomes z, t becomes d, and h becomes b. H becomes P if there’s a little circle like degrees (°).

 

どすこい、

Today’s article starts with sumo related hiragana. Dosukoi is a sumo word and is also the name of the French blog run by Yohann. It’s one of those things that doesn’t have a translation; it’s just a sumo-related exclamation. I wanted to draw particular attention to this article because it shines a light on a topic close to me: sumo and women. We also see “dots,” kind of look like double-quotation marks, that changes TO into DO.
April is when the new school year starts in Japan. For these students in Kyoto, they’re starting another year as the female sumo club at their high school in Kyoto.
My daughter loves sumo. She’s four, wrestles her older brother (8), and she is brilliant. She’s super aggressive so sometimes I feel sorry for my son because he has to hold back since he’s about 1.5 times her size. So, naturally, I’d love to encourage her. Right now, the only real option around here will be judo, if I can find a good dojo around here. Another option is MMA and getting her into an octagon…but no. I’m not going to let either of my kids go that route. If they want to try physical sports, fine, but I don’t want them developing CTE or eating tons of creative like a former roommate of mine.

京の相撲ガール

Anyway, back to the article. The first kanji is the first character of Kyoto and you should quickly recognize “sumo.” The next little bit will introduce us to katakana which is an alternative writing system for the same sounds that you get in hiragana. It’s just that if you see something written in katakana, it usually means it’s a foreign loan word. In this case, we’ve got ga-ru (ガール) or Japanese pronunciation of “gal.” Again, we see “dots” next to the katakana KA that turns it into GA.
The katakana KA looks like the hiragana KA but unfortunately not all of the katakana are so similar to their hiragana counterparts, as we see with RU (ル) which bears little resemblance to the hiragana version (る). Don’t try to learn both at the same time. Get hiragana down cold, then move on to katakana. I’m a little surprised that they would use the term ga-ru in the headline. It’s quite informal.

全国初の創部から丸2年

Nationwide, this is the first division of its kind and they are starting their third year of the program. The first two kanji, zenkoku (全国), means nationwide. You should recognize the third kanji by now from several of our lessons, hatsu, “begin/start”. The circle looking thing afterward is the hiragana “no.” You also saw it in the first part: 京の. I’m not going to get into the meaning of these particles much, yet, I really just want people to recognize the hiragana first. Next is the kanji for when they established the club. Don’t worry about this kanji: (創). But, remember this kanji: (部). It’s pronounced BU and it’s used in this case as club but it can also be used in an office setting as a division or section. It’s pretty common. In this case, SOBU refers to the group that started this club. (丸) Maru means circle, but when used with a time frame like two years, ni nen, 丸2年 means two complete years. The two years were able to go through the entire cycle. Hiragana (から) “kara” means from, so “from the club’s establishment, two complete years.”

Odaiba Basho 8/23-8/24


As we’ve covered in recent articles, it’s pretty hard to get tickets to a sumo tournament. This has been made even tougher, obviously, with the promotion of Kisenosato and the rise of several native Japanese wrestlers after a long period of flagging interest within Japan itself. This will have ticket prices for the six annual hon-basho (main tournaments) at very high prices, available mostly through middlemen. So, those of us sumo fans who cannot shell out much for a tournament, there is hope in the form of the promotional tours (Jungyo).

Odaiba Tournament Promotion

お台場で初の巡業を8月開催「大相撲ODAIBA場所」

One such tour was just announced. As the headline reads, August will see the first Odaiba Basho! Odaiba is a big development built from re-claimed land in Tokyo bay that contains a large convention center, mall and restaurants and is scheduled to host several events during the 2020 Olymipic games. There’s a light rail line, the Yorikamome, that takes people out there and it’s accessible by car via Rainbow Bridge. I’ve watched summer fireworks over Rainbow Bridge which is pretty spectacular. Those fireworks are a major reason to brave the heat and go to Japan in the summer. I will keep a lookout for scheduling to find out when those will be this summer.

8月

August: Just to reinforce our temporal lesson from a few days ago, this means August but if you add (間) and make it 8月間, then it means something lasted 8 months or it took 8 months to do something.

初の巡業…開催

“First Tour…will be held”: So much of this headline is at a basic level of sumo Japanese. You should recognize “hatsu” from “hatsubasho,” the first tournament of each year held in January. You should also recognize Jungyo. The only real new vocabulary in this entire headline is “kaisai” (開催). Many headlines don’t put the full form of the verb, especially verbs like “suru.” But here we would imply the passive form of the verb, “kaisai sareru,” or will be held.

「大相撲ODAIBA場所」

“ODAIBA Sumo Basho”: Often, Odaiba is written out like this in the roman alphabet because it’s a tourist center. They want tourists to go there, especially for the many conventions. The kanji was what started off the headline (お台場). With the hiragana de, we get “At Odaiba.”

General tickets go on sale June 4. The specific venue for the sumo tournament is supposed to hold 4500 people. There’s mention of a priority lottery on April 23, so I will research for more details.

Asanoyama: The Pride of Toyama Prefecture


Takasago beya, despite its legacy of big named stars, has fallen on hard times. To start 2017, the stable which produced Asashoryu and the American ozeki Konishiki had no active sekitori. According to the article, this was the first time since the 11th year of the Meiji era (1868) that Takasago beya did not have an active sekitori. Asanoyama’s promotion for the March tournament brought the stable back into the elite divisions. He will climb quickly into makuuchi on the back of his 10-5 record, just missing out on the Juryo yusho, losing a three-way playoff which included Osunaarashi and yusho-winner, Toyohibiki.
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Takayasu The Crowd Favorite at Spring Jungyo


Bruce and Tom’s point is well taken. There’s a lot more news out there beyond Kisenosato. And spectators of the Spring Jungyo will be happy to know that there’s still plenty of reasons to go out and watch. So, I found an article via @nifty news that covers the Jungyo activities. The headline is a good one for us because it has so many shikona, 5 to be exact: Hakuho, Kisenosato, Goeido, Terunofuji, and Takayasu. My son is in elementary school and each week they get a list of “sight words.” So, I’m going to subject you all to the same standard and start with sanyaku shikona. You need to be able to recognize these names by sight. It will help you root out “Kisenosato-fever” headlines in favor of the other 10 or so guys in sanyaku.
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The Kisenosato Effect


It’s been a few days since our last scan of Japanese sumo articles. Today, we turn again to Mainichi since the Nikkei seems quite satisfied to take a break in coverage during the interbasho timeframe. I’m hesitant to use Yahoo! and other aggregators but will expand my crawl in the coming days. I bring this up because today’s headline is a bit…premature, so I think they’re kind of reaching for content. It would be nice if they covered the Jungyo.

稀勢の里効果に期待も…増えない高校生力士

Today’s headline is about the “Kisenosato effect,” an expectation for an increase in high schoolers turning toward sumo, which has apparently not materialized. Come on, Chris. It’s been two basho. There are a lot of trend driven Japanese but no one in their right mind would drop out of cram school, scrap plans for university and quash their dreams of becoming salarymen by suddenly devouring chanko and choosing the grueling life of a rikishi based purely on Kisenosato’s win, no matter how many times articles refer to his gekiteki (“dramatic” via lesson 1) championship.
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Natsu Basho Sold Out in 90 Minutes


Today’s headline comes again from Mainichi:

前売り券、1時間半で完売
“Pre sale tickets have sold out (for the May tournament) in an hour and a half.”

We’ve got a very short headline today that will introduce several important kanji. Again, I’ll break things but you will need to know ALL of this kanji. The whole thing is beginner level.
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Great Insight Into Tsukebito (assistant) System


One of the huge storylines coming out of Haru basho was that Terunofuji is back. We get a bit more of the back story from an article, written by Muto Hisashi and published in Mainichi a couple of days ago. It’s a much longer article than the usual one or two paragraphs, and it’s fascinating. The topic is the “tsukebito” system. Makushita and lower rikishi serve as assistants to those in Juryo and above (sekitori). You often see them carrying the cushions and accompanying top ranked wrestlers as their entourage.

相乗効果もたらす「付け人」=武藤久

This headline is a quick one: Gaining synergies, “Tsukebito” by Muto Hisashi. The important term here is (付け人). I’ve never had to use the word “synergy” in English but this is what it is in Japanese: (相乗効果).

In the business world, particularly the entertainment industry, the core talents have personal assistants. They’re called “tsukibito.” For some reason, the sumo world has adopted a more positive turn on it and they refer to it as “tsukebito.” They say that there are synergies gained as younger, lower ranked wrestlers gain experience by training with the higher ranked wrestlers.

In the article, Muto highlights the relationship between Terunofuji and one of his tsukebito, Shunba. Usually these assistants are indesputably junior to the sekitori. However, occasionally some wrestlers are so good and progress so swiftly through the ranks that they seek out veteran tsukebito who act more as advisors than as assistants. Shunba fills this role for Terunofuji.

In the interview, Shunba reveals that there were deeper matters troubling Terunofuji. The injuries were serious but he had much more on his mind…the specifics of which he would not reveal. Muto interviewed Shunba in the weeks after Terunofuji’s dismal 4-win Hatsubasho where he went kadoban again. Despite the poor performance, Shunba was very confident that Terunofuji would do well. Apparently, Terunofuji had been keeping things bottled up and he had deep conversations with his tsukebito that seemed to bring about a lot of relief.

So while still hampered a bit by injuries, notably after the Endo bout, he was dominant. Not only did Terunofuji almost win his second yusho…in an awesome, fearsome manner enjoyed by us and many of our readers…Shunba went 6-1 in makuushita, at his highest rank ever. I’m eager to see him climb up the banzuke. I will be following both wrestlers and hope to do a deeper profile of Shunba and these assistant wrestlers in the future.