Lower Division Yusho Roundup

Jonokuchi

In the end, the Jonokuchi title came down to one bout: undefeated Inoue against Tsukubayama, a Jonidan-ranked wrestler with one-loss. I was a bit puzzled by the pairing, frankly. Inoue had faced both Chiyoshishi and Goseiryu on his path to the yusho, so I had assumed he would face Raiho. Instead, Inoue faced Tsukubayama, a young man from…you guessed it…Tsukuba city in Ibaraki prefecture. He’s another young’un who started his sumo career last summer and has remained in Jonidan but at Jonidan 91, even a 6th win would likely not be enough to secure a promotion to Sandanme.

Inoue pressed forward and defeated Tsukubayama, without breaking a sweat. Tsukabayama half-heartedly tried a henka, shifting to his right at the tachiai. Inoue’s coming off an injury, so he’s not going to be charging headlong into the crowd. Inoue just pivoted left and bulled forward, shoving Tsukubayama out. Congratulations, Inoue, on the yusho!

Chiyoshishi tossed Takabaho for a dominant ouchie-ta-ouchie win. And lastly, Raiho defeated Goseiryu. Raiho latched on quickly to Goseiryu’s belt with his left-hand, and then came down hard with his right, throwing Goseiryu to the ground.

Jonidan

The Jonidan yusho race came down to three wrestlers with 6 wins; Chiyoyamato, Yurikisho, and Kaiho. Higher-ranked Kaiho was paired against Sandanme yusho contender, Taiyo. Chiyoyamato faced Yurikisho in the bout from the tweet below.

With Yurikisho’s victory assured, he still had to wait for the Kaiho bout to know whether he won outright or would need to fight in a playoff. Kaiho won, meaning there would be a Jonidan playoff.

Sandanme

In Sandanme, the Kaiho victory meant Taiyo was out of the race and the winner would be one of two men. You’ll remember Arauma as the Jonokuchi yusho contender from January, who beat Atamifuji on their first meeting but then lost in their playoff rematch. This tournament, he faced the Kinbozan, who debuts in sandanme because of his success at the university level. Kinbozan was 10cm taller, and 30kg heavier and used all of that mass to overpower Arauma. Atamifuji awaits both, as they will be promoted to Makushita but Atamifuji is already nearing the precipice to Juryo.

Makushita

Ryuden won the Makushita yusho with straight-forward oshi-zumo against former Juryo wrestler, Chiyonoumi. This victory marks his return to action after serving a suspension. Along the way he did face several former sekitori, including Chiyonoumi, so his path to yusho was not easy.

He will need to do it again in January for promotion to Juryo, but that will be even more difficult with many wrestlers, including Atamifuji, fighting for the few slots which open up.

Juryo

Lastly, Ichiyamamoto claimed the Juryo yusho with an impressive 13-2 record. He’s virtually assured a slot in Makuuchi with Hakuho’s retirement, Asanoyama’s suspension, Shohozan’s demotion, and possible demotions for Kaisei and Kagayaki.

I couldn’t get all of the bouts into the video, so I supplemented with some of these clips from YouTube. I did manage to get the yusho ceremony so that’s tacked onto the end of the video at the top.

Juryo Promotions Announced (Kyushu 2021)

Some sail to Juryo on a barge from Makuuchi, for others, it’s a luxury cruise

The Japan Sumo Association has set up its banzuke for November and determined there will be three wrestlers promoted to Juryo from Makushita. One wrestler, Kotokuzan, returns to the salaried ranks. His debut in July yielded four wins but eleven losses and quick demotion back to Makushita. Four wins this tournament were all he needed to go back up, indicating that the 3-rank fall may have been a bit soft. Prior instances of 4-11 records from near the bottom rung of the Juryo ladder resulted in drops to the fifth or sixth rank in Makushita* (corrected). From that rank, even Shiba’s 5-2 was insufficient for promotion. I expect him to be at the bottom of Juryo this time with a short leash, meaning that another four-win performance in Kyushu should result in a more significant drop.

Juryo Debuts

The other two wrestlers will be donning kesho mawashi for the first time as professional wrestlers, Asanowaka and Hiradoumi. Asanowaka is the new shikona for Terasawa, who had been competing under his family name until this promotion. Asanowaka seems to have requested the shikona from current Takasago coach Wakamatsu, as back during his fighting days Wakamatsu never had any kyujo, or absences, throughout his career. If that name change helps him stay healthy, succeed, and remain in the paid ranks for at least a few more tournaments, he may well become heyagashira in 2022 as his former senpai, Asanoyama, tumbles into Makushita.

Tachiai readers may remember a feature article on mawashi written by Herouth, inspired by the unsolved mystery of Terasawa’s pilfered cloth, which happened to be imbued with mystical powers from the remains of his late pet rabbit. That article is always worth a read, not just for the bizarre who-done-it, but the wealth of information about practice mawashi and competition mawashi in both amateur and Grand Sumo. There’s a discussion of sagari as well as the difference between the silk shimekomi (which Asanowaka will now wear with stiffened sagari), and the cotton mawashi.

What are you still doing here? Go. Read it. Now. I’ll wait.

Welcome back. Fascinating read, no? Hopefully that answered some of the questions you had and likely pointed out some things you never even noticed.

Hiradoumi also joins Asanowaka in Juryo. It’s quite the basho for Sakaigawa beya as Sadanoumi’s 10-wins will lift him back into Makuuchi and Myogiryu’s jun-yusho performance was also rewarded with a special prize. However, both of these veterans are in the latter stages of their careers while Hiradoumi, at 21 years old, is still trying to establish himself. This was his fifth consecutive kachi-koshi record, making a rather determined slog through the grist mill at the top of the third division. Congratulations to all three!

The Intrigue

Not so fast, there Andy, I’ve got another question.

So, does this mean there were supposed to be two promotions and with Hakuho’s retirement Kotokuzan gets the “free pass,” and joins the pack on the lead lap? (I’ll find out who’s here for NASCAR references.) Or does this mean that Hakuho’s announcement was still not done in time for the banzuke committee to remove his name from the banzuke? I think it would be very odd for Hakuho to still appear on the list in Kyushu since he announced his retirement before the banzuke committee drew up their list. So Kyokushuho might still make the cut due to the lack of other promotion candidates among the top makushita ranks. If Shiba had a 6-1 record or a yusho, would he have joined the other three and taken Kyokushuho’s slot? Or will Kyokushuho drop, essentially for nothing?

Given the weak demotion given to Kotokuzan after his 4-11 record in July, I find it hard to demote Kyokushuho from a rank and a half higher on a 6-9 record. We know that 7-8 is often good enough to maintain ones rank and Kyokushuho has already had a couple of recent instances of two-rank drops with 6-9 records. Why not drop him to Juryo-jiri and only demote Takakento after his 3-12 and Asashiyu after his 1-14? This avoids the difficult choice of trying to decide who is the next deserving candidate from Makushita when it’s hard to justify Jokoryu at Ms4 with a 4-3, Shiba at Ms6 with a 5-2, or Tsushimanada at Ms9 with 6-1.

Anyway, my banzuke for Kyushu has Hakuho off and Kyokushuho sitting on the bottom rung of Juryo.

The Addendum

Not so fast, again, Andy! As Leonid rightly points out below, Takagenji’s gone. That’s what you get for removing the Scandal Meter. While his slot was conspicuously vacant in the last tournament, it will certainly be filled this time around. So that means two promotions were “extra” this time around? Will Takakento be saved? No. I think that’s the point that puts Hakuho back on the banzuke. My point above that the Kyokai would have to “go fishing” for a lackluster promotion candidate is only half the story. They need to find two promotion candidates from that field. Kyokushuho was never in danger of demotion.

So let’s turn back to those promotion candidates. A promotion from Ms6 with 5 wins is rare but has happened three times this century, to Baruto and Satoyama. Baruto proceeded to a very successful 12-3 record in that debut tournament, while Satoyama’s makekoshi 7-8 was still safe because he had been promoted to Juryo 12E from Ms6. His case was a highly unusual one, though, as he was one of nine promotions that tournament. The yaocho scandal had claimed many scalps that year. The Ms9 promotion with 6 wins is even more rare, last granted…let’s see here…to some up-and-comer named Hakuho in 2003. There are certainly more promotions from Ms4 with 4 wins, with Akiseyama’s promotion last year being the most recent example.

Without a fourth promotion, Hakuho is on the banzuke and someone’s getting robbed of a position in Juryo, and the victim appears to be Jokoryu.

Juryo Promotions Announced

The Japanese Sumo Association has announced that four Makushita wrestlers are being promoted to Juryo for July’s tournament. Kotokuzan from Arashio-beya (apparently NOT from Sadogatake-beya) will make his Juryo debut. Yago, Kaisho, and Abi return to the salaried ranks.

The headline here is that Abi, and his shiko?, will return to Sekitori status after serving a suspension for breaking Covid protocols with Fukushima (then Gokushindo). He has stormed back in the most rapid fashion, scoring 14 straight regulation victories, including a victory over Kaisho. While Abi was away, Ichiyamamoto returned and has established himself as a solid Juryo rikishi with a very successful Natsu. I am eager to see if the two of them go toe-to-toe at some point.

Abi’s redemption comes at an awkward time as current Ozeki Asanoyama is facing down a similar scandal, though the facts in his case are still being investigated and thus a punishment has yet to be determined.

Yago will be eager to finally find a permanent foothold in the division. He is talented but has struggled with injuries, seemingly yo-yoing between Juryo and Makushita. Kaisho reached Juryo briefly in 2019 for two tournaments before falling back into Makushita. For Kotokuzan, his promotion has been a long struggle. He has been in Makushita since the end of 2016, back when Terunofuji was an Ozeki the first time ’round. It will be interesting to see if he’s got a spark in his sumo that can keep him around for a while.

Momotaro Wins Juryo Yusho!

Thank you, Bruce and Leonid and all the readers and commenters for another very entertaining tournament. I’m very pleased this one finished so well and it seemed to offer quite a bit of solace and distraction from the news and Covid. During the run-up to the basho, the debate in the Japanese press mentioned how at times of hardship, sumo served to distract/inspire/cheer up the nation.

Sumo is a sport where there’s SO MUCH GOING ON that when you pull on one thread there’s usually an amazing backstory that just pulls you deeper into Japanese culture. Here, we have one such thread (in a literal and figurative sense).

After Tsurugisho’s Juryo yusho last night, the Yamaguchi.shishu Instagram account posted their congratulations with the image of his kesho mawashi. I’m usually asleep during the Juryo dohyo-iri so I had not noticed his kesho mawashi before. I really enjoy their account and I’ve found them not only beautiful but very interesting and I like researching it and the connection to the wrestler — or the dentist. Sometimes it’s a high school symbol or something from their home town…or in Shodai’s case, a random dam in Gunma.

“Is that kid jumping out of a peach? And why is that on a kesho mawashi?”

Me (to my wife)

For this one, though, I really didn’t know where to start so I asked my wife. Her eyes lit up and she started singing, “Mo– motaro-san, Momotaro-san, okoshi ni tsuketa kibidango…” That first bit was even in the Instagram post. Then she told me the story of the kid born from a peach to an elderly couple. He then goes on a Hobbit-type quest and defeats some Oni (demons). During the quest he’s picks up a few friends, who basically hang out with him and help him because his kibi-dango are the bomb.

A Little Tangent

Here’s where I’m going to go off on a little tangent and give some advice about studying Japanese. When you’re learning Japanese, do yourself a favor and pick up some childrens’ books. If you’re learning Persian, you’ll probably want to read Rumi. When I was studying Russian and Spanish back in college, our professors would introduce us to their newspapers and rather fine literature. Even back in High School my Latin teacher had us memorizing Caesar’s “Gallic Wars.”

Frankly, I think that’s a bit of a mistake and it’s probably done because high school and college students probably think they’ve outgrown nursery rhymes. That is definitely not-so with Japanese. You will NOT be able to pick up and read a Japanese business newspaper for the very simple fact that you have to learn all of that kanji first! And frankly, before even that you really need to master hiragana, katakana, and a lot of the basic kanji. That’s where childrens’ books come in.

So, swallow your pride and go to the childrens’ section if you ever find yourself in a Japanese bookstore, like Kinokuniya, (Don’t laugh, I go to the one in NYC all the time and I’m pretty sure there are 5 in California, and 3 in Texas — check that, there are 4 — and several more around the country.) If you’re lucky enough to make it to Japan, there’s usually at least one bookstore in every mall and there’s usually at least one mall attached to (or next to) every major train station.

The benefit of having two kids in Japanese school is that we have got a bunch of their text books and other books around the house. Momotaro is one of the more common stories that feature in their books. There’s a two-volume set that I love, pictured above. These feature 366 tales (one story per day).

Back to Momotaro-san

In the version of the story that’s in this book (July 13, in the red volume which covers July-December), the old woman goes to the river to wash clothes. She finds a nice peach floating down the river. She takes it back to her husband and as they’re going to open it, a cheerful baby jumps out. They are quite happy and name him, “Momotaro.”

He grows up healthy. “すくすく育った.” Japanese is full of these repetitive, onomatopoeic words and the kids books are full of them. They’re a huge stumbling block for me when trying to listen to the spoken language.

When he grows up, he decides to go off on his quest to the demons’ lair. As he sets off, he receives kibidango (dumplings) from the old woman. These dumplings are made from a process similar to the way mochi was made at New Year’s with the mortar and pestle. (Sumo’s ties to the mochi-tsuki run deep!) As he’s traveling, a dog, monkey, and then a pheasant accompany him, drawn by the dumplings which he shares with them as they travel.

When they make it to the demons’ hangout on Onigashima, the animals help attack while the oni were all drinking. They defeat the oni and the demon boss apologizes…with his hands on the ground. (“手をついていいました”! And people wonder how I am able to connect sumo to just about anything.) The merry band then travel back home with their plunder. I wonder if they rented the Takarabune to get back to the mainland….

There are a lot of vocabulary and kanji in these simple stories that really help with shikona and understanding basic Japanese. But the key is, it’s not such an impossible hurdle as trying to read a Japanese book about sumo, which usually has no helpful furigana. And these short stories are such bite-size chunks that it’s actually manageable, even early in your studies.

Even better, the great thing about being an adult, is that we understand metaphors and chuckle at the subtext. Just like many legends and Fairy Tales have a darker or “adult” edge, I wonder what the inside of the peach was referring to? Hold up…Venus was born from a “clam,” Athena sprang forth from Zeus’ “head,” Momotaro came from a peach… Dude, ALL these stories are dirty!

Tsurugisho Momotaro

Before my thoughts sink deeper into the gutter, let’s get back on topic. What is the connection between Tsurugisho and Momotaro? Well, it’s actually his name! We often forget that shikona, wrestlers’ ring names, include the more famous surname — and a first name!

Hakuho is “Hakuho Sho.” Takakeisho is “Takakeisho Mitsunobu” while Tochinoshin is “Tochinoshin Tsuyoshi.” Tsurugisho chose Momotaro. Whether there’s a deeper personal connection between Tsurugisho and the tale of Momotaro, I’m uncertain. If you know more details, please feel free to drop such knowledge in the comments! If you made it this far, thank you.