Freshman Wins Amateur Title

“I came to win. I came to win, and I won.”

Hanada Hidetora

The Japan Sumo Federation, not to be confused with the Japanese Sumo Association which governs professional sumo, hosted its 69th Annual All-Japan Sumo Championship. Hanada Hidetora took the yusho. Nitaidai has been a powerhouse, winning the yusho back in October. I think Hanada is the one holding the yusho pennant/banner in the picture in that article. But just to show how tight these competitions are, Yersin Baltagul did not make it to the final eight — and four of the eight were from Nitaidai, including Nakamura, who won last year’s university title. This elimination format is very different from the fortnight of fun we’re used to.

Young Hanada, no apparent relation to the infamous Hanada clan, hails from Wakayama Prefecture. In another coincidence, the last Freshman to win this sumo title was Kushima Keita (ex-Kushimaumi) who also came from Wakayama. However, Kushima was actually a repeat champion since he also won the title as a high school senior.

Above is the bracket for the final eight, elimination phase of the tournament. After beating Hadeyama from Toyo University, he faced off against his teammate, Matsuzono in the first bout below. Matsuzono had previously defeated Yersin Baltagul in the Sweet Sixteen. Hanada drove Matsuzono back to the bales, then pulled for the hikiotoshi win.

In the finals, the second clip from the embed below, Hanada beat Kinki University’s Yamaguchi. It seems like it was a mistake for Yamaguchi to try to go for the headlock. This meant Yamaguchi was too high and turned around, so Hanada drove straight through and pushed Yamaguchi off the dohyo.

I really encourage all sumo fans to try to learn some Japanese. Start off with the hiragana and katakana but definitely pick up some kanji as well. Give yourself a month to get that and you’ll find that a bit helpful when you’re watching sumo. For the next level, you’ll want to pick up vocabulary and some of the first kanji you’ll learn is 来る, to come, and 勝つ, to win. If you are diving into the grammar so you can try to really master it and read Japanese news articles, I found a part of the interview with Hanada very instructive on how to use ために.

The young man also contained his emotions when he won and did not celebrate. In Japan, they call such celebratory displays a “guts pose”. ガッツポーズ. I told you that katakana knowledge could be useful! He commented that Yokozuna and Ozeki do not do it, so he felt he should be able to contain his emotions, as well. Good job, and good luck next year!

*Note: For those who tried but quit trying to learn Japanese, I totally understand. Just when you think you’re getting the hang of it, you get a curve ball that makes you question what you’re doing with your life. You’re thinking, “Oh, that one’s easy. I recognize the name 山内. They just put a 小 in front of it, so it’s got to be Koyamauchi, right?”

Bahahahahaha! No, you fool! It’s Osanai!

Kensho Roundup 2020

Thanks to Herouth, we’ve got some great data on kensho again for the November basho. With the hype around a new Ozeki, I was expecting a bump in the number of fat stacks being handed out. However, overall pledges were down 10% from September’s tournament. This was true from Day 1, not something easily explained by Asanoyama and Shodai’s injury withdrawals.

The middle weekend of the September tournament was a holiday, but the bump in pledges in that tournament may have been because of the Endo/Terunofuji bout. There were also huge pledges made for his Day One bout against Asanoyama and his scheduled Day 12 bout with Takakeisho. Takakeisho’s matches saw slightly fewer envelopes, despite being the only “top dog” for much of the tournament. As we see from the chart above, senshuraku again had the most pledges but the bounties placed on Takakeisho vs Asanoyama was higher than Takakeisho vs Terunofuji.

Terunofuji was the most effective wrestler at winning envelopes. He won 87% of the bounty envelopes from his matches while Takakeisho only won 83%, the difference there being Terunofuji’s big win on senshuraku to force a playoff.

Mitakeumi unfortunately came out of this tournament as the biggest loser, letting 79 envelopes slip from his grasp, while last basho, Asanoyama lost the most “fusen-adjusted” envelopes. (For this metric, I took out the envelopes pledged in fusen matches.) Second place for this dubious distinction goes to Enho (-65) and third goes to Takayasu (-61). Takayasu still won 41% of bounties from his bouts while Mitakeumi only won 35% and Enho won 22%. Endo actually had more pledge money up-for-grabs than anyone but Takakeisho in this last tournament.

As with last tournament, I’ll publish the visualizations for you all to play with but I’m going to take a little more time to make it look nice before publishing it. I already think there may be more interesting views than what I’ve got here, so we’ll see what I can do. Anyway, it will only get more exciting when there’s more data to track performance through time.

JOINT PRACTICE!

“No Kensho…no Jungyo…no degeiko…no…”

This song has been playing on a loop inside my head since March, as events and gatherings that I had taken for granted were ripped away.

 

Slowly, activities are coming back in our own lives. And today, the sumo world took another step back to normalizing as several heavyweights gathered for the first joint practice session in half a year. No name is bigger than Hakuho, obviously. Kakuryu was not there, but stablemate Kiribayama was, along with Mitakeumi, Takakeisho, and yusho holder, Shodai.

Hakuho didn’t just sit on the sidelines, hamming for the camera, either. He got in a little action, here doing butsukari with Shodai and practicing his tachiai with Ikioi. It’s great to see the Boss back in a mawashi, offering his chest and a few pointers to up-and-comers. But now that he’s gotten a few pictures in it, hopefully he folded it neatly and left it in a corner to gather dust for a few more weeks. There’s no need to push it.

Wait a minute, Amazumo is back? And there’s video?

So, um…last night I’m chilling on the couch half-watching Mexican soccer (Go Pumas!) when a Twitter account that I follow posted the results of an amateur sumo tournament from Saturday. “Whaaaaaa?” I’ve been tracking the Japan Sumo Federation (日本相撲連盟) and the raft of canceled and postponed tournaments all spring and summer. Apparently, I’d not been following it closely enough because they decided to hold a big one. Journalism 101, Andy-man. Stay on top of things. Oops.

So…it turns out they hosted the Eastern Japan University Sumo Championships this weekend. The tweet had been the results of B and C squads the day before. Sunday was the A Team. A total of twelve schools participated, including many of the top Japanese Universities. From previous coverage of amazumo tournaments, you may be familiar with some of the bigger schools already. However, since this is an Eastern Japan thing, Kinki Daigaku, alma mater of Ozeki Asanoyama, was not participating. They’re in the Western part of Japan. Herouth has found the results of the Western version which happened this weekend, too.

So, which schools were participating in the East? Let’s see…Shodai’s Tokyo University of Agriculture, Mitakeumi’s Toyo University, Endo’s Nihon University (AKA, Nichidai), Shohozan’s Komazawa University, Yago’s Chuo University, and Nippon Sports Science University which produced the likes of Hokutofuji, Chiyotairyu, and Myogiryu. Other schools, like Meiji, Keio, and Waseda are more well-known for their academics rather than their athletics, but still participate. To round out the twelve, we’ve got Takushoku, Senshu, and Hosei. Waseda and Keio seem to be pretty big rivals, so that match-up was nice to see in the third round. Even more athletes from these schools are currently battling their way through the lower divisions, like Mitoryu or up-and-comer Hagiwara from Takushoku University.

These tournaments will lead up to the Major championships later this year. Those who do well in those tournaments are rewarded with advanced placement in the banzuke if they go pro, in either Sandanme or Makushita. Win a major amateur title and get placed in Makushita, like Endo. Runner-ups don’t go home empty handeded as they get slotted in Sandanme. But if you miss out, you start at the bottom like Shodai. So there’s a lot on the line for those who want to go pro.

I posted a bit of a teaser yesterday for an article and data viz tool that I’m working on. It turns out that it will be related. Now, I’m going to need to see if I can get university affiliation into my data. But what I’m hoping for is to build a vizualization that will allow us fans to visually track the progress of maezumo cohorts. As we see from the graph below, despite the relatively low numbers of debutantes lately, there’s still more than 60 new guys to follow each year and that can be a bit overwhelming to see which of these guys will be up-and-comers, grinders, or flame-outs. There are SO MANY stories in here, many of which we read up on thanks to Herouth, Josh, Tim and the rest of the team.

So, how’d the schools do at this tournament? Well, it’s no real surprise that Keio did not make it to the next phase. They had a real tough schedule and got swept in the first two rounds, and only picked off one win against rivals Waseda. Since Waseda finished in the top 8, they were able to move on to the elimination phase. Toyo University swept their opponents in all three rounds, qualifying at the top of the elimination bracket. They were followed by Nichidai, Chuo, Takushoku, and Nitaidai for the Top 5. Shodai’s Tokyo University of Agriculture finished sixth with 9 wins. Komazawa and Waseda rounded out the eight.

Well, the great thing about the tournament in the East is that for the second day, the Class A bouts — team and individual competitions — are all online. I encourage any fan of sumo to watch. The bouts happen very quickly. But if you want to skip forward to the elimination phase of the team competition, fast-forward to the 2 hour, 22 minute mark.

 

Nihon Sports Science University won the yusho. They defeated Toyo University in the semi-finals. The team, pictured below will be strong contenders for the National Championship later this year. However, I think Nichidai will have a better chance and they’re probably very disappointed to walk away tied for third with Toyo. Nichidai’s entire squad qualified for the individual finals and as Herouth points out, one of their team, Yersin Batagul from Kazakhstan, picked up the individual yusho.

The tweet below has pictures of the teams from the Final Four. Last is the yusho picture. I get the feeling Takushoku was just happy to be there. Nichidai seem disappointed and I expect they’ll fight hard at Nationals.

Welp, I need to run but I hope to dive into the individual bouts and the Western University tournament later tonight. But I wanted to get these highlights out for you all to enjoy. A real proper introduction to the university-level sumo is in the works and should be ready in the next few weeks, in preparation for the national championships.