NHK Grand Sumo Live This Weekend

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Following a pattern set by previous tournaments, the NHK sumo crew is broadcasting live for both Day 14 and Day 15. This maps out to Saturday and Sunday afternoon in Japan, starting around 5:00 PM Japan time. The broadcast typically starts just after the top of the hour news break, so it will be 50 to 55 minutes of live sumo, with an ensemble cast of commentators including Murray Johnson and John Gunning.

During prior live broadcasts, Tachiai has live-blogged the matches. We are working out the logistics of covering two nights of sumo and staying sane.

Grand Sumo Live Times

04:00 AM Eastern (US)
03:00 AM Central (US)
02:00 AM Mountain (US)
01:00 AM Pacific (US)

09:00 AM UK
10:00 AM Europe

Record Rainfall in Western Japan, 65 Dead and Many Missing

A flooding disaster is unfolding across Western Japan. Evacuation orders are affecting over 1 Million people. Fatalities have been reported across Kyushu and Shikoku with more rain expected in Gifu, Shimane, and Ehime. Several cities have seen more than a month’s worth of rain in a few hours. The NHK is reporting, “The city of Uwajima in Ehime Prefecture saw about 364 millimeters of rain between and 5 and 7 AM. That’s about 1.5 times the average monthly rainfall for July.” That’s more than 14 inches of rain in two hours.

When evacuating, please be extremely careful, especially if flood waters mean you cannot see the ground in front of you. Sometimes manhole covers or parts of the road will get washed away. For any of our readers in Japan, stay safe. Also, many of those in Nagoya now come from areas affected by the floods and have loved ones there.

Meanwhile, dude rolls up in a jetski to help save people.

The Asia bureaus of Western media outlets are stretched to their breaking points as they simultaneously cover American Secretary of State’s visit to Tokyo and the rescue effort to save the Thai soccer team; no one is left to cover the catastrophic flooding which has ravaged Western Japan. And apparently the home offices are glued to the breathless reporting of current efforts to extract the team so no one is left to update their websites with information about this story.

NHK Grand Sumo Preview Airs Friday

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It’s become a fixture of the sumo calendar for the English speaking world. With the opening day of the Nagoya basho just a few days away, NHK World brings us another preview of the tournament, along with highlights and features about sumo and rikishi. Fans are eager to see what new torture Raja is subject to, and what kind of discussion breaks out between Murray and John.

Make sure to tune in and enjoy it as its broadcast, or visit the NHK World web site to watch it via video on demand (works great on Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and other streaming platforms).

Schedule (All Times US Eastern)

Friday July 6th @ 12:30 AM
Friday July 6th @ 04:30 AM
Friday July 6th @ 12:30 PM
Friday July 6th @ 06:30 PM

NHK Grand Sumo Preview – Natsu Edition

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Coming this Friday, world wide – it’s time for another Grand Sumo Preview courtesy of the good folks at NHK World.  As always, these programs provide a great amount of insight and commentary from the NHK staff.  We can assume that we will get more rikishi one-on-one interviews, and possible a few media personalities being thrown around a practice ring while trying to look like they are enjoying themselves. Check your local listing or the NHK World web site.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/tv/schedule/

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.

NHK Rocks The Sumo World – Live Makuuchi Broadcast Sunday

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Firstly, the always fantastic Grand Sumo Preview program airs over the next 24 hours on NHK World. Make a point to watch it, as it’s always interesting, and features friend of Tachiai, John Gunning. I am curious which rikishi gets the special coverage this time, and if Raja is further abused in training. Details of when it airs here: https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/tv/sumo/

But reviewing their schedule for the start of competition – it seems that The Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan has heard our cries for sumo from afar, and has used his considerable might and influence: NHK World will be broadcasting live on Day 1 for at least a subset of the Makuuchi matches. Yes, it’s the middle of the night. But for a group of hard-core fans like myself, it’s no bother at all. Tune in to NHK World and show them how much we love sumo, if you can. Sure it’s the middle of the night in the US, but think of the thrill of getting to watch Tochinoshin rock up against Takakeisho live, as it happens!

Yes, Tachiai is celebrating, this is a glorious upgrade for sumo fans. With apologies to my employers, I am going to be short on sleep for a bit.

Baruto Features in Landmark NHK New Drama Series

Big news for former ozeki Baruto. He will be taking on the title role in a new drama on NHK called Ototo no Otto (弟の夫), “Brother-in-Law.” Those of you familiar with the kanji will be quickly clued in on why this is a landmark series – and it doesn’t really have to do with the fact that a foreigner is playing the title role. An alternative, literal translation is, “Little Brother’s Husband.”

In the US, this would be seen as rather tame. There are many gay and LGBT characters on TV and in movies. However, in Japan, especially the conservative NHK, this is a turning point. The description for Baruto’s NHK interview points out, “今までにない”, meaning until now, there’s not been a show of this type.

This is a big step for Baruto. He’s got Japanese citizenship and has been making his living as a TV talent and even recently he was giving MMA a try. But why is NHK introducing this show now? Personally, I think this series is being aired in preparation for the 2020 Olympics. The Winter Olympics in Korea featured many homosexual athletes so I presume there is a desire to normalize attitudes toward homosexuality before hosting the games. Western visitors are already accustomed to acceptance and could be seriously put off by having negative, discriminatory experiences.

The plotline is that Baruto plays Mike, the jovial Canadian husband of the lead character’s deceased brother. He goes to Japan to visit his husband’s brother, 弥一 (Yaichi?)…and awkwardness ensues. The awkwardness gives way to acceptance as Hisaichi’s daughter takes a shine to Mike. Perhaps sensing that this will be a bit of an adjustment for Japanese audiences, the lead role is Japanese and straight (divorced father) and the gay role is played by a straight foreigner who was a popular sumo wrestler. Breaking taboos is about baby steps. It also helps that the story comes from an award winning manga [hat tip to Herouth].

In Baruto’s interview, he was asked about food; he was a sumo wrestler after all, and stereotypes are really hard to break. 🙂 Apparently, food-related scenes play a big part of the new series so they asked him what was most memorable. He said that while on set he made chanko for the cast and crew and that his chanko is pretty darn good. So while it’s not something that’s actually a scene from the show, he’s proud of it because apparently everyone loved it. I’m hungry now and am going to go have dinner.

NHK Charity Sumo Event

Ikioi Sings

During Saturday, the sumo worlds, attention was once again focused on Tokyo’s Kokugikan for the NHK charity event. This is a yearly single day program that features elements of Jungyo, at least one rikishi interview, demonstration matches, dohyo-iri and lots of celebrity appearances with famous rikishi.

There was an interview with Tochinoshin, and the people attending were treated to photos of his wife and child in Georgia. As expected, Ikioi treated everyone to his truly talented singing voice, and even Mitakeumi had a song with idol band WaaSuta.

Reports are that the event was sold out, and parts of it will be shown in Japan on NHK-G next weekend. Sadly for us sumo fans outside of Japan, we have to resort to finding parts of it on YouTube.

NHK Grand Sumo Preview – Friday

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The NHK World sumo team is brining us another 30 minute preview show, just before the much anticipated 2018 Hatsu Basho. Past episodes have featured insightful commentary, and in depth views of star rikishi. For sumo fans, it’s a can’t miss broadcast.

As with the rest of the NHK World line up, you can stream the program via a wide variety of mobile, set-top and web platforms.

Show Times

Thursday, January 11th: 11:30 PM Eastern / 8:30 PM Pacific (5:30 AM UTC)
Friday January 12th: 3:30 AM Eastern / 12:30 AM Pacific (8:30 AM UTC)
Friday January 12th: 11:30 AM Eastern / 8:30 AM Pacific (4:30 PM UTC)
Friday January 12th: 5:30 PM Eastern / 2:30 PM Pacific (10:30 PM UTC)

NHK Grand Sumo Preview – Thursday / Friday

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As has become customary before a basho, NHK will assemble their group of commentators and experts to discuss the tournament. Prior installations of this show have featured some really interesting and useful segments covering topics such as “how to wear a mawashi”, and “How to go about getting day-of tickets”.

NHK GRAND SUMO Preview (US Times)
Nov. 9, Thu. 11:30 PM Eastern / 08:30 PM Pacific
Nov. 10, Fri. 03:30 AM Eastern / 12:30 AM Pacific
Nov. 10, Fri. 11:30 AM Eastern / 08:30 AM Pacific
Nov. 10, Fri. 05:30 PM Eastern / 02:30 PM Pacific

More information here

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/tv/sumo/

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.

Imperial Attendance At Aki Basho?

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One thing that stood out to me was the lack of attendance of a representative of the Imperial household at day 1 (or any day) of the Aki basho. Typically the Emperor or the Crown Prince will attend a portion of day 1 of any basho held in the Kokugikan. To my knowledge, this was not the case for Aki. During May’s Natsu Basho, the duty went to Crown Prince Naruhito, who was warmly received by the crowd. Emperor Hirohito (Showa) was a massive sumo fan, and would regularly attend.

Much of this is likely due to the declining health of the current monarch, Emperor Akihito, who will likely abdicate the throne in favor of the Crown Prince, quite possibly at the end of 2018. While purely ceremonial, the presence of the Imperial Household at sumo and other public events is a foundation element of Japanese cultural and civic life.

Does American Opioid Epidemic Influence Care In Japan?

 

Japan Times Opioid Article

Japanese taboo regarding the use of strong painkillers is the key difference in athletic injury care when compared with other countries. Many wrestlers with chronic joint injuries would face a life struggling with a delicate balance between managing pain and avoiding addiction. The United States’ well publicized opioid epidemic serves as a cautionary tale in how readily available and easily prescribed narcotics can lead to serious long term battles with addiction. This may be why some foreign wrestlers are seeking care in their home countries. It is notoriously difficult to obtain a prescription for the medicine and strict penalties hinder the importation of these medicines.

This is a very serious issue for athletes, even those in high school and even middle school. With athletics comes injury and often, surgery. When an athlete reaches the professional ranks, they often have numerous procedures under their belt to go along with any trophies earned along the way. A distant relative of Tachiai had a long, successful professional career in one of America’s four major sports. He continues to battle with his own addiction to opioids, a result of treatment for a score of injuries and resulting surgeries.

Two years ago, the Tachiai blog flew to Japan to visit relatives for a few weeks, just as news of the Julie Hamp scandal broke. Mrs. Hamp was just named as one of Toyota’s executives and as a female, her ascension brought wide news coverage. However, that coverage paled in comparison to the coverage of her fall when she was caught importing opioids hidden in jewelry boxes.

On the flight to Narita, my wife turned white as a sheet as she watched the news on the in-flight entertainment system. In our luggage was a bottle of opioids, prescribed to yours truly shortly before our travels because of another bout with kidney stones. Bringing these medicines into the country illegally carries very stiff penalties: up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines. For Mrs. Hamp, it cost her a job, her reputation, and several weeks in detention while her case played out.

My wife was terrified when we landed in Japan. I joked that, “at least we’re not in Taiwan, the airports there have big signs pronouncing in bold letters that you risk the death penalty for bringing drugs into that country.” She didn’t find me funny. It was also very interesting to see how her friends reacted when they heard her tell the story. The taboo is certainly real.

In the US, however, it is quite easy for doctors to turn to the morphine genie. When another pebble pops loose from one of my kidneys and begins to meander down to my bladder (the last one looked more like a shard of glass than a “stone”) holy crap that hurts. When I make it to the Emergency Room, I am inevitably treated with a morphine drip, a quick MRI scan to see where it is and how big, then I’m sent home with a prescription for opioids. Thankfully none of mine have been large enough to remove surgically. Perhaps that should be “unfortunately,” though, as it means I must let them find their way out, naturally.

My kidney woes crop up every couple of years so thankfully I don’t have to dance with the devil in the medicine cabinet because I don’t keep it around. I know it’s dangerous to have that stuff, especially with the kids around, so I rely on those IV drips at the hospital when I get the pain, which isn’t often. But athletes face this kind of treatment on a continual basis, particularly with chronic joint or muscle issues. If Terunofuji, Kotoshogiku, Aminishiki, and Osunaarashi were athletes in the United States, they would certainly be provided opioids on an almost continual basis. As a result, they would be in prime danger for opioid addiction. I believe this aversion to opioid treatment leads to many of the ongoing injury issues we witness basho after basho.

This is conjecture, but I believe the NSK feels that if the rules were loosened for rikishi, this would not only lead to addiction among wrestlers, it would bring yakuza back into the sport. With the door opened for sumo wrestlers to be routinely treated with opioid pain killers, inevitably some of those pills would trickle out of the stables and into the general population as athletes supplement their income.

Is a few days pain worth a couple of hundred dollars? This isn’t fantasy. This tradeoff is happening here in the US every day and my dad’s cousin is an example. And if the pills and pain can be traded, is it necessary to begin with? To me, this is where the danger of socialized medicine makes itself known, unnecessary tests and unnecessary treatment – including OTC and prescription medication – become rife when someone else is paying. It’s already an issue for deep-pocketed insurance companies and it becomes a bigger one for deep pocketed sovereign governments. (Ask the NHS.)

The first time I had a kidney stone, I was lucky enough to be at home. When the doctor handed me the oxycodone prescription, my dad (also a physician) reached over and plucked it out of my hands, ripped it up, and threw it away. “You won’t be needing that.” My dad’s a smart dude. I didn’t need it. I passed the stone later that day and it would be two years before my next stone. The risk of addiction and abuse is high, and so is the temptation to make a few bucks in the black market. Who’s to say a sekitori won’t start cutting his pills in half so he can trade the other half away?

According to the Japan Times, Americans consume 243.79mg of oxycodone per capita. Japanese consume the drug at the miniscule rate of 3.63mg per capita. Much of that treatment goes to cancer patients. But this article claims that even among cancer patients, there is a strong taboo when it comes to the use of opioids while in the US it is standard “palliative care” for terminal diseases.

(Note: I also wonder if this plays into the low birth rate as Japanese women do not seem to have the same access for epidurals…but I digress.)