Hakuho Retirement Ceremony

It’s about time Andy got around to writing about last weekend’s marquee event, isn’t it? I do want to point people to Hiro’s special Hakuho edition of Sumo Prime Time. I liked that he interviewed a lot of fans who were at the retirement ceremony. It’s great to watch sumo events live, and in person, but it’s even better when you get to enjoy the company of fellow fans. And sometimes you actually get to see the wrestlers up close. Hakuho has always been devoted to his fans, and fan service is a driving force behind the events put on by the Sumo Kyokai.

You may remember Andrew Blum from Sydney, Australia as our recent BuySumoTickets contest winner. When I gave him the good news of his win, he shared more details of his current trip to Japan where he attended this retirement ceremony.

Above are a few of the pictures he has to go with the memories that will last a lifetime. On the left, we have him with Ochiai, fresh off his historic makushita yusho. He will be wrestling in Juryo in March. Now, Andrew will get to see him in May. Joining them was Kawazoe, another of Miyagino’s top recent recruits. Then, on the right, Andrew was lucky to catch up with Miyagino okami-san. He also got to see former Ikioi and many others.

I’m glad to see fans making it back over to Japan, and filling seats at Kokugikan!

Isegahama Bullying Incident Leads Oyakata to Resign from Board

It’s Two-Fer-One Tuesday, I mean Monday, here at Tachiai! The holidays have offered up a real backlog of scandals! We’re practically giving them away!

From Jalopnik

Andy, you’d make a terrible pitch man. Just say you don’t have a picture of Isegahama and get on with the news, buddy.

While the Ichinojo thing has actually been stewing for a few months and has found some resolution (for now), another revelation has taken us by surprise today. There’s been a bullying situation at Isegahama-beya involving three wrestlers from the lower-ranks.

We do not know the identities of the wrestlers officially, yet, but two wrestlers were apparently bullying a third. The bullying included the victim being physically punched and stomped, as well as burned with chanko. One of the bullies has been forced to retire while the other is suspended for two tournaments. Isegahama has resigned from his post on the Board of Directors.

This is certainly a sad situation which has cost at least one wrestler his career. Isegahama-beya has had several recent new recruits and a few banzuke-gai, so it’s certainly not clear at this point what impact it will have on the stable. Sadly, there will be more to come on this story.

Ichinojo Suspended for Hatsu 2023

The Kyokai held a board meeting on Monday to address a conflict between Ichinojo and his stable. The conflict involved allegations of Ichinojo’s excessive drinking on numerous occasions which had escalated to the point where he had assaulted Minato-oyakata’s wife and not only moved out of the stable but skipped keiko, wouldn’t eat with the stable, etc. Minato-oyakata attempted to correct Ichinojo’s behavior but the situation has become increasingly strained leading up to Ichinojo’s championship win in July, and it has continued afterwards. Over the course of the investigation, the board learned that Ichinojo had gone out in contravention of covid protocols, thus the suspension. His suspension is not as severe as Asanoyama’s and Abi’s because he had gone to restaurants instead of “cabaret” clubs, or hostess clubs and he also did not lie to the board.

Ichinojo is ranked Maegashira 7 East for the upcoming tournament but it’s not clear whether his suspension will drop him out of the top division. He will be just at the cusp of demotion so it’s conceivable that the collective performance of the four Sekiwake and four Komusubi might be the deciding factor of whether he hangs onto the bottom rung or lands at the top of Juryo. If there is a 6-man sanyaku in March, there could be 18 rungs on the Hiramaku ladder. Hidenoumi’s suspension from Maegashira 8 resulted in a fall to Juryo 2 with 17 Maegashira ranks.

Winter Jungyo 2022

Winter Tour

Jungyo is making a comeback! Well, it’s actually been back since the summer after the COVID-induced break but it’s slowly gathering up steam. That first tour had four dates, the second one in the Fall had six and this December featured an 8-day tour through 12/14. This will give way to more celebrations and events around the New Year back in Tokyo.

Reiwa 4 (令和4年)

The official schedule for these tours is always available at the Kyokai website: https://sumo.or.jp/Jungyo/schedule/. There’s also an English version of the schedule available but the Japanese version provides a bit more detail, including contact information and links to the websites in order to get tickets.

One thing to navigate over there is the most recent year is at the top on the Japanese page. As a quick history/culture lesson, according to the traditional method for numbering years, it is the fourth year of the Reiwa era because it’s the fourth year of the reign of Emperor Naruhito. The Heiwa era was that of his father, Akihito, who retired in May 2019. For hardcore sumo fans, it can be helpful to at least be familiar with this system because the birthday information on the Kyokai website or on the SumoDB and sometimes on Wikipedia will use this system. And it’s just generally good to be familiar with the Showa, Heiwa, and Reiwa names. So if you’re looking for this year’s Jungyo schedule you look for Reiwa 4 and next year will obviously be Reiwa 5. There will be a test, so pay attention. When in town, Andy literally walks around Tokyo with exams ready to hand out to unsuspecting sumo fans…so be ready. The last poor sap was completely unprepared and failed. It was as if he didn’t even know what sumo was.

Fansa

As we see from our handy-dandy map, this edition of the winter tour made a quick trek around Kyushu before crossing over to the main island of Honshu and making a bee-line in the direction of Tokyo with a couple of stops in the Kansai region for the last few dates. It’s nice. For a great rundown of what Jungyo is, please read Herouth’s excellent article. But in a nutshell, each venue hosts a one or two-day mini sumo “basho” with more of a focus on meeting fans (fansa or “fan service”) than serious sumo bouts. This is where you’ll see shokkiri (comedy sumo), and jinku (folk songs), along with demonstrations of how the hairdressers (tokoyama) tie the famous oicho-mage top-knot and traditional drumming by yobidashi.

Shokkiri

It’s hard to mention shokkiri, though, without mention of Shobushi. The sumo world was rocked by Covid when Shobushi, a well-known shokkiri performer, succumbed to it early in the pandemic. So when you search for articles and YoutTube videos about shokkiri, many of them feature Shobushi. In this video, he’s the wrestler closer to the camera while Takamisato is his partner here.

For new sumo fans who may wonder why the sumo world was shut off from the public for so much longer, it seems, than the rest of Japan, that can provide some insight.

Shokkiri is a comic routine that acts as a bit of a tutorial for folks who are new to the sport, explaining the rules and traditions in a funny manner. The new Shokkiri team consists of Wakazakura and Tochimitsuru.

As Herouth mentioned in her post, the Kyokai particularly likes to feature local wrestlers. And this tour is no different. We will see more examples below but this particular tour stopped in Kyoto, home town of Wakazakura.

For a little background on this shokkiri team, both men are 27 years old and from Kasugano-beya, home of Tochinoshin and Aoiyama. Wakazakura is a Makushita-ranked wrestler, who started professional sumo pretty late, after graduating from Takushoku University and recently changed his shikona from Kawamoto. Tochimitsuru is from Kokubunji in an outer area of Tokyo.

Kyushu

There were four stops in Kyushu: Nagasaki, Ashikita, Beppu, and Kita Kyushu. From the Fukuoka Kokusai Center, the sekitori and select lower ranked wrestlers piled into buses and headed out for Nagasaki.

Nagasaki is home to Hiradoumi and recent Juryo promotee, Tsushimanada, who we think did just enough to keep his shimekomi. They’re shown here fielding questions along with yusho-winner, Abi.

As the local feature, Tsushimanada got extra special attention from the Kyokai, fans, as well as the higher-ranking wrestlers. We got to see him doing butsukari-geiko with Ozeki, Takakeisho. I usually like to think of butsukari as a living, breathing, blocking sled.

Unfortunately, this video is taken from very far back and there are quite a few rows of fans (and rikishi) blocking most of the view. A key technique in sumo is to learn how to get low and drive your opponent up as well as back. You also hear great wrestlers talk about how they are able to dig in and make themselves heavy, almost impossible to push back. The higher-ranked wrestler will almost effortlessly block the lower-ranker from moving forward while the lower-ranker pushes themselves to exhaustion. When he gets to the tawara, or if he can’t push any farther, the higher-ranked wrestler will shrug him off to the clay.

Without a Yokozuna on the list, there’s no rope-tying demonstration and the musubi-no-ichiban was Takakeisho vs Shodai each night. Now, these are not real serious bouts. Sometimes I get the feeling the wrestlers take the butsukari more seriously than the bouts on these tours. If you follow me on Twitter, you found out that Mitakeumi would usually end up getting thrown by his opponent and rolling off the dohyo and bowling over Shodai.

Beppu is known for its hot springs but Ashikita is relatively a little-known city which brings us “sumo oranges.” As such, these tours are also a great opportunity for the Kyokai to work with sponsors and promoters. Here are Tochimusashi, Chiyomaru, and Chiyosakae chilling next to what I believe is a BMW iX, the German automaker’s new electric “Sports Activity Vehicle.”

Okayama and Kansai

The troupe headed back to Honshu for the second half of the tour. Soja-city in Okayama opened this leg with Osaka, Kyoto and Mie prefecture closing things out. Omoto was featured as the local boy. He’s spent most of his 7-year career in Makushita. He’d fallen briefly into Sandanme recently after injury but had a great time in Kyushu, achieving a 6-1 record and nearly clinching the heyagashira mantle at Irumagawa-beya. On banzuke day, we’ll probably still find Shishi at the top but the lead has surely narrowed considerably.

A whole bunch of rikishi come from Osaka but the highest ranking one is Ura, followed by Takekuma-beya’s Gonoyama. I had thought Goeido would draw more of his deshi from Osaka but so far Gonoyama seems to be the only one. Naruto’s Oshoryu is also from the area but since he was kyujo, I would doubt he made it for the trip.

So ends this abbreviated look at an abbreviated tour. I hope to bring more from the Spring tour.