Sumo+Sushi: Andy Experiences Sumo

It’s been almost 10 years since I started this blog and while I have gone to tournaments, I had never mounted a dohyo…until last night. The moment that I saw Konishiki was coming to DC, I knew I was going to buy tickets. When I saw that there was an option to get on the dohyo and give it a go, yep, I’m in. The fact that it was on my birthday meant the wife would not get to say anything about the VIP upgrades. “We’re gonna have fun!” So for the past few weeks I’ve been eagerly awaiting this night and I was not disappointed. It was an awesome night and I really want to do it again.

My mind is a product of the 80s and unfortunately seems to have been installed with an i386…in dire need of an upgrade. My terrible vision indicates I could probably go for a dedicated GPU, too. And for whatever reason, whether it’s taking calculus or giving a speech or attending a kegger or apparently “fighting” in a sumo bout, pretty much everything I experience in life is like sensory overload the first time. No matter how much I study, no matter how much I prepare, no matter how much I plan, all of it goes out the window and my mind is an utter blank while I just observe what’s happening around me. So that means that while I write to you today, all of what happened last night is a bit of a hazy blur, with a few still images, brief visual clips, sounds and emotions that will stick with me for a lifetime. That’s how long it will take this slow-ass mind to process it.

The implication is that I really need to do it again. For my second attempt, I will not have the need to try to absorb everything and I can actually focus on what I need to do. So when Konishiki mentioned that this was the first time many of the boys have been to DC, he proposed coming back in 2024. Oh, please do! It’s not Konishiki’s first time to DC, mind you. He went to the White House back during the Reagan Administration. Despite his larger than life presence and his stories, I think it escapes people how big he was in his prime — and I’m not talking about his size. He was all over media in Japan. The dude’s wedding was carried live on TV. Sumo will get there again and it will be through events like this which not only introduce newbies to the sport but also engages us more serious fans because there’s stuff there for all.


There are several options for tickets. Some will just come for the show and buy food a la carte, others get a bento. My wife pointed out that this is actually very similar to going to a sumo tournament, a fact probably missed by many of the attendees and which I had not noticed until she mentioned it. Regular readers of the blog will probably recall various times Josh, Bruce, or I have written a bit of a review of the various bentos that sometimes come with your seats. Here, it was a similar idea. The “sushi and the show” ticket has a bento provided by Zeppelin. If you go with the “Front Row” option, your bento is provided by Love, Makoto while the VIP section doesn’t have a bento, and instead has food prepared for it by Takara 14.

The Evening

The DC venue is in Ivy City near the Amtrak yard. That means nothing to y’all non-railroaders but it does mean that it’s a bit of a challenge to get there and it’s not near the usual nightlife or event venues. I’m a seasoned DC driver and a few times I’d suddenly find myself in a left turn only lane or right turn only lane. God, I hate driving in DC. I should have probably taken Metro but even from there it would have been a bit of a hike and I would have had to drive to and from our closest Metro station, anyway. Rideshares are a bit of a pain for us in the boonies to get into DC but are definitely an option. I do miss the mature transit system in Tokyo. So, don’t get me started.

I picked the 5pm show so we wouldn’t be getting home late for the kids. I promise it has nothing to do with the fact that I’m a geezer and my bedtime is 9-10pm now. There seemed to be plenty of parking at the venue, though there was a $30 fee to park in the lot. The VIP package had an Early Bird arrival and its own dedicated entrance, so we got their early and went straight in. There were a few people already there when we arrived but I didn’t appreciate that Early Bird option until we were leaving and I saw the line for the second show. Great to see that kind of a turnout, that’s for sure.

I will note that my wife noticed there seemed to be very few people from the Japanese community among the crowd or in the line. Most everyone were Westerners. My wife said she didn’t see much advertising or publicity on the Japanese sites and forums she usually visits. I just point that out because there’s actually a pretty big Japanese community here. My daughter goes to Japanese school on the weekends and I would think the wrestlers would be a hit if they went and visited. One of the JAXA astronauts went last week and it was covered on the news with a photo op with the Embassy. These Sumo+Sushi events are 21+, so the kids wouldn’t be coming but I am willing to bet their parents would love to. My wife had a blast but it was all in English so it probably wasn’t an audience they necessarily thought to target.

The Food

The day before the show, I got an email with more details on the menu. I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to it because I wasn’t going for the food. I was going for the action. I should have paid more attention to the food, though. It was excellent. As I mentioned above, depending on which ticket package you choose, there’s a different menu. In the VIP section, we had an open bar and instead of getting a pre-packaged bento box, our food was prepared there by the chefs of Takara 14.

Our food started with a salad of wakame and watercress. Many Japanese restaurants offer “seaweed salad” and I usually skip it because I’m not a fan of wakame. And I hate, no loathe watercress. But this was freaking good. There were little slices of watermelon, which was curious and unexpected but there was also a sesame dressing. Whether it was the dressing or not, for whatever reason, I actually liked the wakame salad. What followed was a chain of maki-style sushi rolls, nigiri, and more modern/fusion dishes.

There was tuna tartare (diced raw tuna) on shrimp crackers and mussels, then some of the usual suspects: tuna, salmon, unagi, mackerel. My favorite was the hirame because along with the crispy potatoes, it had this nice yuzu flavor. My wife, though, definitely preferred the rolls and nigiri. Either way, I was fat and happy. Full disclosure, I didn’t eat everything. I couldn’t. I was actually so full I started to get a bit worried that doing sumo might be a mistake. I definitely did not want to be known as the bloke who blew chunks on Konishiki’s dohyo. So I did let my wife have a few of my maki rolls. Nothing went to waste.

The Sumo

The show opened with taiko drumming. This group was quite good. My wife started reminiscing about her grand father and his taiko drum. He would play all of the local matsuri when she was growing up. Even though he was bald he’d have a hachimaki and his taiko, playing with their local taiko club. But I digress. The drumming was great, and is certainly very relevant to sumo because of the taiko drums played by the yobidashi at Kyokai events like honbasho and jungyo.

Next, the wrestlers were introduced and took to the ring one-by-one. Aononami, Chiyonoshin, Kirinowaka, Daikiho, Tooyama, and Somayama were each introduced and had their own walk up music while Konishiki told the audience about their sumo careers as well as a bit about their careers after sumo. Tooyama was introduced as “Big Poppa” and entered the stage to music from the Notorious BIG, and seemed to immediately become the crowd favorite. The sumo itself was broken up into three blocks, with two short intermissions separating them.

The first block explained about their basic exercises, like shiko, suriashi, and stretching and covered some of the basics of sumo, like what’s allowed and what’s not. The second block was a bit more detailed, going into the various techniques, like oshi-zumo or yotsu-zumo. They demonstrated several throws and strategies. For the third block, the six wrestlers had a play-off style tournament where the first wrestler to wrack up three wins in a row is the champion. Somayama won during our show.

It’s Time!

Finally, it was the moment I had been waiting for: I was going to compete against a real sumo wrestler. Our names were announced and we lined up ringside. I got to go first! I signed my life away, took off my shoes and climbed up the stairs to the dohyo. Since Daikiho was such a successful collegiate champion, trained at Miyagino-beya and reached makuuchi, he was my first choice but he was not available for any of us to pick. Still, he was up there on the dohyo and explained a bit of the routine to each of us. “First, you’re going to bow to each other,” “You can’t wear your glasses,” “Make sure you don’t have anything in your pockets.” etc. While I scrambled for a second choice and Daikiho sorted out my glasses and keys, the crowd started yelling for Big Poppa. So I asked for Big Poppa. Then, while Big Poppa came was getting ready, I seem to remember the MC asking where I was from and if I had any experience, it’s kind of a blur.

It looked like Big Poppa was actually about to start diving into his dinner so I immediately wished I had picked someone else, but he dutifully came up to the dohyo. We bowed to each other and I must say, my tachiai was terrible. There was definitely no, “kachin,” and no clash of heads — thankfully. Instead, I got a head full of sweaty man-boob. Anyway, he’s a big guy. Much bigger than me, that’s for sure. And having studied successful strategies for just this type of situation, I knew that okuridashi is one of the few avenues of attack for those of us with a height and weight disadvantage. If you’re able to get in behind your opponent, you can possibly force him out. So I scurried around trying to get behind Tooyama but for the most part, he just pivoted and stayed right with me.

I felt a bit silly, though, running around so I stopped and engaged him to see for myself, “how hard would it be to actually move this guy?” When I grabbed him, the answer was apparent rather quickly. “It’s hard as hell.” Others had been telling me to go for the legs, “sweep the legs,” yada, yada, yada. I’m not trying to hurt them (or me), so I went for a belt grip to actually experience that for the first time in my life. While I was tussling with the belt, I suddenly found myself upside-down and on the other side of the tawara. I have no idea how that happened. Like I said on Twitter, “I was there, and then I wasn’t.”

Watching the video is hilarious. I didn’t know he was miming spanking my ass until I saw the video, and I didn’t see his perfect execution and posing as he threw me. Remember, I was upside down and flying through the air, without glasses. And I gotta say that whatever that dohyo material was, it made for a rather soft landing. Tooyama quickly checked on me and apologized. In my head, I felt like the baby on the old sitcom, Dinosaurs. “AGAIN!” I’m thinking, “Dude, you don’t need to apologize, I paid to get thrown like that and it was worth every penny!” Unfortunately, there were about a half-dozen guys waiting their turn after me so I collected my keys and glasses, posed for a picture and ran in my bare feet back to my seat so I could ask my wife if she saw and got it on video.


We watched the others wrestle which was very entertaining. Several guys got their shirts off and I think we all know the drunk dudes in sunglasses would have taken off their pants. Somehow, Justin (Muhomatsu on Sumo Forum, Hochiyama on Twitter) beat Chiyonoshin, which is pretty cool. His wife Meredith (FakeItFrugal on Twitter) got some perfect pictures of my thrashing. This points out that if you want good pictures, bring a good camera and you might prefer a ringside seat. I’ve just got my camera phone and the zoom isn’t too great.

The phone camera was enough, though, for taking pictures with Konishiki afterwards. He was a joy to meet and I hope to see him again next year! The show really did a good job of balancing the content for those who are completely new to sumo and those who have been following it for some time. I just think that if you’re a hard core sumo fan, you MUST get in the ring. That’s just an awesome experience.

SumoStew Video on Konishiki

SumoStew released a great video with Konishiki. The premise was to give viewers a bit of the back story on the photo we’ve all seen of the massive former Ozeki framed by a black background glaring at, and dwarfing, his opponent. But it’s more. It’s a quick, well-produced ride through the story of Konishiki, featuring an interview from the man himself. It also has a bit of the history and cultural background of the sport. I learned a lot. I didn’t know the story of the photo. But, it’s not just for die-hard sumo fans. She carefully explains the key concepts so you don’t need to be an expert in sumo to enjoy it. NBC should take notes.

Yes, I realize there’s a bit of irony in me enjoying this video about one of the largest rikishi ever when I complained about that NBC piece precisely because THAT video focused on the stereotypical girth of sumo wrestlers. I would argue that this SumoStew video is not intended as a 2:30 minute introduction to the sport but it definitely goes deeper into the cultural background while staying in the context of Konishiki and his importance as a ground-breaking Ozeki.

The NBC video is linked in the tweet above. And I understand where y’all are coming from that, “it wasn’t THAT bad.” But, I guess, if I had to make a comparison, the NBC video would be like introducing an audience to the NBA by focusing on the height of the players and not mentioning really anything substantive about the sport itself, like that it’s 5-on-5 and there’s a three-point line. No discussion of offensive strategies or defensive strategies or showing great plays. Just, “these guys are tall.” And rather than poking a basketball player in the belly, interview him from a ladder. It’s a missed opportunity.

That said, the career and life of Manute Bol is worth exploring for basketball fans in the way SumoStew introduces her viewer to Konishiki. I think SumoStew payed more respect to her subject than NBC did and she did so in a way that would entice more people to learn more than the NBC video — as Konishiki himself said he learned more about Japan. There’s a lot of depth to this sport which is why I get so agitated when it’s reduced to caricature and stereotype.

Musashikuni Returns with Konishiki to Sumo & Sushi

Musashikuni on the dohyo at Kokugikan, Natsu 2019
Former Makushita rikishi Musashikuni in his previous life. Photo credit: @nicolaah for Tachiai.

Longtime followers of Musashikuni were disappointed to learn of his recent intai. Long touted as a great hope of Musashigawa-beya, the former Yokozuna and stable master’s nephew vacated the banzuke after struggling with injury in recent months.

His intai ceremony was performed at his heya, and left the Texan Wakaichiro (whose shusshin is technically Nagasaki) as the sole American competitor in the sport.

View this post on Instagram

【武蔵國 引退のご報告】 武蔵川部屋再興当時より皆様に応援して頂いて参りました武蔵國でございますが、今場所をもって引退する事ととなり、本日たくさんの方々に見守られる中、断髪式を行いました。 昨年より体調を崩したまま回復に至らず、親方と話し合いをした結果、今後はハワイに帰り第二の人生を送ります。 来日してから七年間、大相撲の世界で努力して参りましたが、皆様のご期待に応えることができないまま引退となりました事を大変申し訳なく思っております。 これまで、武蔵國の応援をして頂き、誠にありがとうございました‼︎ #武蔵川部屋 #武蔵丸 #大相撲 #sumo

A post shared by 武蔵川部屋 (@musashigawa_beya) on

Musashikuni has now resurfaced in America, taking part in the curious “Sumo & Sushi” tour, which will be hosted by the legendary former Ozeki and popular cultural tarento, musician and plate lunch grillmaster Konishiki. These events have taken place on a smaller scale at various cultural festivals across America, and allow people who might be completely unfamiliar with the sport to see some of the traditions and the rikishi up close and personal. Often, the events even offer local customers the chance to get in the ring with a former rikishi, and we had the privilege of speaking to one such punter not too long ago.

(The competing rikishi’s status in the sport is perhaps played up for the benefit of customers who may never be the wiser – we also spoke to someone who was under the impression that former Maegashira Yamamotoyama had in fact been a Yokozuna.)

Musashikuni will be on tour with three other retired rikishi: Bungonishiki (Makushita 16, Dewanoumi beya), Kumago (Sandanme 38, Takasago beya), and Tooyama (Makushita 7, Tamanoi beya)

The events will offer varying degrees of tickets for fans in the Seattle (Oct 31-Nov 2), Los Angeles (Nov 10) and New York (Nov 16 & 17) metropolitan areas over the balance of 2019. Viewing-only tickets range between $50 and $70, Sushi dinner ticket packages tend to run around $100, with front row seats and fights against the rikishi running $100 and $200 more, respectively.

While those ticket prices do compare somewhat unfavourably with even Kokugikan honbasho tickets purchased through third party sites which apply a fee, it does of course seem fair to mention that these events not only may serve to bring new fans to sumo, but can offer intimacy on a tangential level with the sport for fans who may not be able to travel (for time or budgetary reasons) all the way to Japan. Of course, the events can also help provide a source of income for former rikishi who may not have achieved sekitori status and the accompanying salary in their career in Ozumo. And you certainly wouldn’t get the chance to dance with a current rikishi at Grand Sumo’s hallowed home.

Tickets can be purchased at We would certainly look forward to any feedback from readers of the site who may be in attendance. We will also be tracking these events and keeping a close eye on other lower division favourites who may be making their way around the world with similar tours in the future.

Tachiai Interviews Kintamayama, Part 2: “You have a responsibility to your viewers to show everything.”

Kintamayama at Kokugikan
Kotokintamayama? Photo courtesy of Moti Dichne

Welcome to Part 2 of Tachiai’s conversation with Moti Dichne, aka Kintamayama. Moti is well known in the online sumo community for his tireless coverage of all things sumo through his newsletter, his presence on SumoForum, and of course, his exhaustive YouTube channel.

If you missed Part 1 of our conversation, click here to catch up. The second part of our series incorporates some of Moti’s thoughts on the current state of sumo coverage, and who he’d like to bring onto his channel. As with Part 1, the interview has been edited only for clarity and length. This segment features some strong language and opinions, which are of course the subject’s own.

Tachiai: One of the great moments from your channel in the last few years was your Konishiki interview. That was an amazing moment, and one of the things that was very interesting was when you drew out the revelation that Konishiki felt Hakuho wouldn’t have been dominant in another era –

Moti Dichne: He didn’t say “wouldn’t have been dominant.” He said he would barely make Ozeki! 

And he also correctly predicted Kisenosato as the next Japanese Yokozuna.

He said he was the only one. And when he said that, I said, “Are you sure about what you said? You’re OK with me broadcasting this?” 

But Kisenosato still had to actually do it. You had that moment, but who from the sumo world, now or in the past, would you like to feature on the channel, like the interview that you had with Konishiki?

That’s an excellent question. Well, Taiho is dead, so I won’t be able to do that. Chiyonofuji is dead. I guess… Kisenosato (Araiso oyakata).

You know, something really weird happened. The guy [Kisenosato] could hardly speak. When they said they were going to make him an NHK commentator, I said, “This guy has blocks in his mouth.” He’s like Moses!

And suddenly, he’s become this articulate speaker, and very, very deep. The things he says, he’s always right – very nice observations. I said, “What! This is Kisenosato?!”

Look at all of his interviews from when he made Yokozuna, or when he made Ozeki. You can’t understand a word he’s saying – and I know Japanese pretty well. And it’s not like [the interviews are] right after the basho, he’s out in front of the stable! Suddenly, it’s like he has a load off his back, he’s a different person, he has a different face! He’s not grouchy, and he has a lot to say. He says it without being asked, which is even more astounding.

I remember what Takanohana used to do. They used to have to drag all of the stuff out of him. They would ask him three times until he would say yes or no. Now, Kisenosato’s not Kitanofuji, that’s for sure. But Kitanofuji, there’s only one.

Kitanofuji has also had 40 years to hone his punditry.

I like Kitanofuji, because he says things that no one dares to say.

I think that’s what sumo needs.

Of course! The NSK gets offended at every word. Hakuho asks [the fans] to clap three times, they call him in. “Why did you do that? Bye. Here’s your punishment.” “Thank you very much.” What are they trying to do? They’re trying to break him. Hakuho, the guy who broke all the records, which pisses them off, for sure. They can’t do anything about it, but [he has] TEN more [yusho] than the great Japanese Taiho – who was half Russian.

It’s interesting. One thing that we talk about a lot on Tachiai is that there are a lot of people that don’t realise that the Sumo Association is not 100 people who all think the same thing. There are different personalities.

It’s also different generations. 

Yeah, and politics. And navigating that as a sumo fan is that next challenge after you start to understand the sport. 

It’s almost impossible. It’s a different mentality [in Japan]. And if you don’t understand it, you don’t know what’s going on.

That’s why many fans say “Why don’t they do this? Why don’t they lower the dohyo?” Nonsense. I keep writing [that] the injuries from falling off the dohyo are 0.4%. All the injuries occur on the dohyo but not from falling down. Almost none. They learn during the keiko [how to fall], it’s part of training!

That’s another misunderstanding, people who come from [a background of] American sports trying to change the rules, you know? The Kyokai has a lot to change, but… let’s leave the rules.

You’ve said a number of times, “I’ll stop posting recaps when NHK starts covering every bout.” Through what you’ve posted, it would appear you’ve brought thousands of fans to sumo.

For sure. I know, and I keep all the thank you notes. I have them all kept.

As you have been doing what you’ve been doing, and seeing the development of the Abema and NHK and the hunger from the fans, how have you received NHK’s recent development? Where do you think they are in the path to provide the best sumo coverage?

They are by far in a better place. They have NHK World doing live shows 3 or 4 times a basho? Come on, anybody can watch it, for free! That’s incredible.

The only thing I never understand is, even on the Japanese side, they do the digest and they always leave out 4 or 5 bouts. That’s disrespectful. And it’s not that there’s no time. I do it in [a] 15 minute video. They have 24 minutes. So, cut off one of the fucking replays, you know? Show the Daishohos. Show the Daiamamis.

There are guys that I don’t give a shit about, but you’re showing the sport. You’re calling it a digest. Sumo is not a ten minute bout, it’s a three second bout. Altogether, these bouts that [NHK is] cutting out, [total] maybe one minute.

It drives me nuts. If you’re doing a digest, do it. In the USA, in baseball, you’ve got many more games, and the shows show every game. You cannot disrespect the wrestlers. You’re NHK, you have the rights. It’s not like you’re some pirate station where the guy shows only who he likes. You have a responsibility to your viewers to show everything. And that got me doing it. Because it kills me, today – that they still don’t show all the bouts!

As a fan, or as someone who’s even just getting into it, how do you even understand the story of a Terutsuyoshi, or a Daishoho, if you don’t know what’s happened?

It’s unfair, it’s unfair. Period. That’s all I can say. Someone like Nishikigi’s bouts [are] boring to me too, but show it! Sometimes it’s a great bout! Or there’s a great story behind it, you know?

Beyond that, do you think there are more things they can do?

Yeah, they can do 15 days [of live coverage]. But they won’t, because they can’t shoot themselves in the legs. But listen, what they’re doing now is incredible, and it’s still not enough.

Also, it’s only Makuuchi, and it’s not even the whole of Makuuchi. Still, beggars can’t be choosers. For anyone who is not into YouTube, or they’re older, [they] can have NHK World, on cable, on their [device], and it’s free. That’s better than nothing.

I would do every single one of the [live broadcasts] with Murray [Johnson] and [John] Gunning! They are the best, fantastic. I never used to listen to the English people, they drove me crazy with mispronunciation. But Murray I always liked. Together with John, it’s so nice, it has great pace, it’s very informative, there’s great humour. 

They work well together.

They have a good rapport! I would watch that, without question. Very informative. First of all, John has experience. He did sumo, he knows what he’s talking about. He’s a busy person, he does all kinds of stuff with rugby, and he still has time [to keep up with sumo]. Listen, I know him, since he was just getting started. He is an incredibly nice guy. An amazing guy.

Find out more from Kintamayama and subscribe to his mailing list at, and keep an eye out for the next parts of our conversation, which will run soon on Tachiai.