Fuyu Jungyo 2018 – Day 1 (Dec 2)

Yes, we’re back with the series of Jungyo Newsreels that will try to keep your blood sumo levels above the emergency threshold until a new tournament is in site.

As a reminder – the Jungyo is a promotional tour in which the sekitori (Juryo and Makuuchi) participate. Each takes one tsukebito (manservant, a wrestler ranked between Jonidan and Makushita), except Yokozuna and Ozeki who get to have a “team”. Together with a bunch of shimpan, gyoji and yobidashi, and of course the big heads from the Jungyo department, they travel through small towns around Japan, performing from morning through the afternoon, and letting the locals get a bit of live sumo and sumo-related fun. For a fuller description, refer to the Introduction To The Jungyo I published a while back.

The winter Jungyo is supposed to be the shortest Jungyo of the year. However, with the rising popularity of sumo, it’s not that short any more. The 2013 Fuyu Jungyo included only six events. The 2018 Fuyu Jungyo includes 17 events spread over 21 days! In fact, there were more Jungyo days in 2018 than honbasho days!

So without further ado, let’s see what we had on day 1.

🌐 Location: Nagasaki, Nagasaki
😛 Goofometer: ◾️◾️◽️◽️◽️

Nagasaki is a popular tourist destination in Japan. So some members of the entourage took time to explore. While Hakuho had a little excursion to the lighthouse to have some Champon (a Nagasaki noodle dish), Kokonoe oyakata decided to visit the famous Spectacles Bridge:

Rikishi wisely assembled just above the support column

One rikishi was on the tour, who was neither sekitori nor tsukebito. Tachiai favorite Wakaichiro had a one-day adventure. The reason for this is that he is registered as coming from Nagasaki. His mother is from Nagasaki, and his grandparents came to this day’s event to watch him. As you all know, he actually grew up in Texas. He mostly spent summer vacations in Nagasaki. This being his first Jungyo, he had a bit of trouble getting the hang of things (remember, there are no sekitori in Musashigawa). The press was mostly amused that he decided a good place to camp in the shitaku-beya would be right between Takayasu and Tochinoshin. (Well, yeah, it is a good place!)

As a “local boy”, he received some kawaigari (TLC – the euphemism for butsukari, especially when used as a torture session) from Jokoryu. This was the effect:

Wakaichiro was not the only novice in the Jungyo – though the others have the advantage of traveling with familiar faces and being used to the company of sekitori. One new face in the Jungyo is Midorifuji, who is serving as Terutsuyoshi’s tsukebito (I’m getting worried about Terunohana, Terutsuyoshi’s long-time tsukebito, who has been kyujo for quite some time). Midorifuji is considered one of the most promising current talents at Isegahama beya, and I think they decided to send him on the Jungyo to get some “sekitori experience”. Here he is with Terutsuyoshi and Aminishiki’s tsukebito, Terumichi:

Another new face in the Jungyo is Wakamotoharu (though he had been on at least one event in the past). He is there as his little brother’s tsukebito – the little brother being Wakatakakage, of course.

The shimpan squad has also been refreshed. In the previous Jungyo we saw Futagoyama, Tomozuna and Furiwake. This tour we have Asakayama, Hanaregoma and, of course, Kokonoe.

This is before they wear their heavy mon-tsuki kimono

And what are the rikishi up to? Well, it’s early morning, so Ichinojo demonstrates his ability to squat while sound asleep:

Luckily, there are no wolves in Japan

Then there are these inseparable two. Surprisingly, Terutsuyoshi is rather hands-off today:

But of course, most of the attention goes to one participant: Hakuho, back from his post-operative kyujo, and trying to regain some fitness. Here he is doing some shiko:

Mmmm… Hakuho said he can stomp with power now, but this seems to be very tentative shiko.

By the way, the Yokozuna also changed his seating arrangements in the Jungyo bus. Apparently, one of the reason his leg got worse in the previous Jungyo was sitting with cramped, bent knees for hours on end, while traveling. He used to sit in the front seat of the bus, but decided to change to the back seat, to allow himself to fully stretch his legs. I suppose that means he took the entire back bench to himself and stretches himself on it – he did mention something about getting some sleep. Maybe he should borrow one of Yoshikaze’s folding mattresses…

By the way, I did not mention this before, but there are several rikishi who are kyujo from this Jungyo – at least for the time being. Kakuryu, Kisenosato, Goeido, Kaisei and Arawashi from Makuuchi, and Kyokushuho, Kyokutaisei and Chiyonoo from Juryo. All Tomozuna sekitori are absent! Yoshikaze was also off the torikumi, but he is definitely in the Jungyo.

This also means that Hakuho is left with only one Makuuchi rikishi from his own ichimon for the dohyo-iri. Indeed, his tsuyuharai is Chiyoshoma:

The shiko here is stronger, of course.

Chiyoshoma looks a bit uncomfortable about the whole thing. I predict that for the Meiji-Jingue dohyo iri of January 2019, we’ll see Terutsuyoshi as his tsuyuharai (this will be after the new banzuke is announced so Terutsuyoshi is expected to be in Makuuchi).

Let’s take a look at some practice bouts. First, Hakuyozan vs. Takagenji.

Then, Meisei and Aoiyama:

Aoiyama seems to be getting more and more confident lately. Here he is vs. the Yusho winner (that’s Takakeisho, if you have been on another planet last month).

Takayasu is saying he wants to work towards his first yusho, but he won’t get there if his keiko looks like this:

That’s Tochiozan – not exactly a semitrailer.

Here is todays full Sumo Jinku. Yes, that’s 15 minutes of Jinku. You are allowed to press stop only if you understand everything they say. 😛

The members of the Jinku team this Jungyo are:

ShikonaHeya
TochigidakeKasugano
KoshinishikiTatsunami
MutsukazeOguruma
KotomyozanSadogatake
KotomanabeSadogatake
DaishowakaOitekaze

It’s easy to recognize Mutsukaze by his prominent mutton chops. If you can’t recognize the others, here’s a little challenge: try to guess who is who by the kesho-mawashi they wear. It’s supposed to be borrowed from a sekitori in their heya (OK, so that won’t help you with the two Sadogatake guys…).

Going into the competition part of the event, the lower divisions each had its own elimination-format tournament, while the upper divisions had the traditional format torikumi. I’m sorry to say that Wakaichiro dropped in the first round of the Jonidan tournament. The winners got prizes – which is not an everyday occurrence for lower-division wrestlers.

  • Jonidan winner, Imafuku, won a bag of rice. At least, that’s what it looks like.
  • Sandanme winner, Wakanofuji, won a big bottle of saké.
  • Makushita winner, Obamaumi, won a… picture of rice crackers? Hey… It sucks to be in Makushita!

OK, so if you’re wondering about those two Goofometer points above, here is what was afoot between Juryo bouts:

Hidenoumi decides to tickle Terutsuyoshi with his sagari. Terutsuyoshi, in response, goes all “Oh yeah, baby, ooh, that’s good, give it to me, baby”.

Hidenoumi has an expression like “God, man, aren’t you enjoying this just a little bit too much?”, or maybe “Whoa… do I really want this guy hanging around anywhere near my little brother?”

Not that his little brother is any better…

OK, OK, so we have a few bouts to see! Here are the “Kore-yori-san-yaku”. Well, two of them. By the way, there was a slip in the torikumi program. They had Hakuho doing the musubi with Takayasu. Hakuho is not really dohyo-ready in any way, shape or form. So eventually Asanoyama was placed at the bottom of san-yaku for a second bout, and everybody else was shifted one space up, sort of.

And once again Takakeisho needs a mawashi adjustment right before the bout.

Asanoyama, of course, is no match for the mighty tadpole – who gets some kensho.

The Mitakeumi/Ichinojo bout is rather comical. I’m not sure Ichinojo actually intended to belly-bump Mitakeumi. That’s a funny tsukiotoshi.

Yago
Chiyomaru
DaiamamiMeisei
DaishomaruTakanosho
OnoshoChiyoshoma
AoiyamaEndo
SadanoumiOkinoumi
KotoshogikuYutakayama
DaieishoShohozan
AbiIkioi
TakarafujiKagayaki
TakanoiwaAsanoyama
ShodaiChiyotairyu
Nishikigi
Ryuden
TochiozanTamawashi
MyogiryuHokutofuji
TakakeishoAsanoyama
MitakeumiIchinojo
TochinoshinTakayasu

OK, so who shall we put up as our pin-up boy this time? Maybe Terutsuyoshi?

Hey, what’s with the sour face? We know you are quite capable of a big smile. Especially if you’re looking at Enho. Anyway, that photo looks a bit like a Soviet propaganda poster, doesn’t it?

So maybe just revert to Enho:

Now we can all have a big smile! This commercial for “Macho” proteins brought to you by Ishiura, by the way.

When Sumo Takes A Breather

Utagawa Hiroshige-Night Snow at Kambara,

After the intensity of 2018, fans may find themselves suddenly going cold-turkey on sumo news.  The thing to note is that during this time of year, there are a handful of jungyo stops, and then everyone takes a breather prior to the release of the banzuke on Christmas Day. The team at Tachiai will scrounge, as always, for any rumblings in the sumo world, but for the most part the news-makers are out of sight and not up to anything obvious.

Many rikishi take a block of time off during this period (especially once jungyo finishes) to spend time with families during the New Years break.  Some of the foreign-born rikishi may take trips back to their home country for a visit, too.

So never fear, dear readers! While it may be a quiet time for sumo news, Team Tachiai is still here, and we will share anything that comes to light. But expect light coverage for the next three weeks or so.

One for the Ages

Takakeisho & Takanosho - Takakeisho Victory Parade
Image via Sumo Kyokai on Instagram (@sumokyokai)

It has been a peculiar year in sumo – there’s no question about that. The Kyushu basho punctuated this in a number of ways.

We have often talked – on this site, on podcasts, on social media – about the “changing of the guard” currently underway in the sport. The latest basho offered a delightful confirmation of this in the championship victory by Komusubi Takakeisho.

Takakeisho’s victory was a disruption of the normal order of sumo: young, talented prospects will move their way through the lower divisions – but the big prizes are almost always won by established superstars. Even Mitakeumi’s yusho this year was a victory – especially under the circumstances – by a rikishi with an enormous fanbase who was heavily favored to go on an Ozeki run even before Tochinshin’s surprise ascendance earlier in the year. This “disruption,” however, is what turns talented prospects into superstars in their own right – it’s just that it’s something we only get to see every few years – at most.

But there’s another half of that earlier point: that talented youngsters, college veterans and other hot prospects, will usually have their fun in the unsalaried ranks. Taking that into account, not only was Takakeisho’s top division championship in this tournament special in its own right – especially in the face of the heavily favored Ozeki Takayasu – it was actually unique because all of the yusho winners from the bottom four divisions were returning veterans. As a result, in a rare and incredible coincidence, Makuuchi division winer Takakeisho was actually the youngest winner of any of the six divisions at the Kyushu basho:

  • Jonokuchi: won by Hatooka, a 24-year old former Makushita mid-ranker of Kise-beya. He was making his 12th basho appearance, and first full basho in a year.
  • Jonidan: won by Mitsuuchi, a 22-year old former Sandanme mid-ranker of The Onomatsu Group Jazz Combo Onomatsu-beya. This was his second consecutive yusho on his 9th basho, though he needed to come through a playoff against one of Sadogatake’s myriad prospects. Mitsuuchi is 3 months older than Takakeisho.
  • Sandanme: won by Ura, a 26-year old past and present scientific marvel who has been apparently explained by Neil DeGrasse Tyson as “wow,” prompting Vegas bookmakers to slash the odds on the next discovered element to be named Uranon, but only because Uranium is already taken. This was his fourth spotless tournament and second yusho – having coughed up two in playoffs to fellow future funster Hokutofuji, and his stablemate Shiba, who is in the midst of making his third sekitori promotion challenge.
  • Makushita: won by Sokokurai, a 34-year old injury-and-drama survivor of Arashio-beya, who rescued himself from a future as tsukebito to the Onami brothers. Generally liked despite just a single winning record* north of Maegashira 10. This was his fourth lower-division yusho in a 15-year sumo career.
    * edited thanks to an error spotted by commenter Savaros
  • Juryo: won by Tomokaze, a 23-year old big bopper from Oguruma-beya, who likes to push and thrust more than twist and shout. This was his 3rd yusho in 9 tournaments.
  • Makuuchi: won by Takakeisho, a 22-year old tadpole from Chiganoura-beya, his 1st top division championship and 5th such success at all levels.

This coincidence is obviously a rarity because it requires a young champion. It’s the first time it has been seen in sumo in over 11 years, since the third yusho from another 22 year old: then-Ozeki Hakuho. The person to do it before that? Ozeki Hakuho, with his first championship, a year prior. Takakeisho – who like many was a much more promising recruit than the famously unheralded future dai-Yokozuna – will be hoping that his ability to turn his early career momentum into a title, like his predecessor, will bring him similar results.

SUMOS: A New Short Film on Mongolian Sumo

Acclaimed photographer Catherine Hyland has released an astonishing look at Sumo in Mongolia. In a project commissioned by WeTransfer’s WePresent arm, Hyland has released a stunning series of photographs and a short film, titled SUMOS: Rise of the Mongolians, providing insight into the world of the sport in Mongolia. Groundbreaking Mongolian rikishi Kyokushuzan, who now trains young wrestlers in Mongolia, makes an appearance in the film, which also features an interview with a recent Hakuho Cup winner who aspires to be like the tournament’s namesake someday.

Many of us around the world are of course aware of the presence and dominance of many rikishi (and Yokozuna, and yusho winners, and now stablemasters) from Mongolia, but I felt this short film was exceptionally interesting by presenting us with moving images from a country which is extraordinarily infrequently covered in the western media. Indeed, any conversation about Ichinojo will go to serve how the origin stories of Mongolian rikishi can be the stuff of legend.

The short film – SUMOS: Rise of the Mongolians – is embedded above. Click here to read a brief interview with Hyland about the project on WePresent, which includes some wonderful photos from the project.

In other news, this is apparently our 2000th post on the site, so thank you all for joining us!