Checking in on the Waseda Sumo Club

This week there’s been a flurry of activity on the Waseda Sumo Club’s blog. Most are authored by the club’s manager, a junior named Yoshimura.

They have set up a YouTube channel with a couple of short test videos featuring some practice bouts between Hashimoto (橋本) and Igarashi (五十嵐). One looks like a yorikiri win by Hashimoto and the other a hatakikomi win by Igarashi. If UNC (my alma mater) had a keiko-ba like this, I would have jumped at the chance to join. It looks like fun!

Seeing a woman with a mawashi reminds me of Lisa, my roommate’s girlfriend, and a few of her friends — not because she wore a mawashi but she was a gymnast, and I swear she would have destroyed me. I seem to remember she won more than a few sparring sessions against Matt in the living room, come to think of it. Sorry, these were in the days before YouTube so I do not have footage of those classic bouts. I did have a digital camera back then (I’ve always been an early adopter) but it had a floppy disk inside of it and the image quality wasn’t even anywhere near what you could get with one of those disposable cameras. And it definitely would not have handled video.

Waseda Chanko — 美味しそう!

Now that I’m in undergraduate-nostalgia-mode, I recall my diet in college was probably not optimal for competitive sumo. I think I would have had fewer pizzas, fried chicken tenders, fries, and pancakes if I had a sumo club. Instead, perhaps I would have eaten better chanko like what we see from the other posts this weekend. What we see here from Waseda’s post is a simple dish but would have been better than most cafeteria food and certainly better than what I would have been eating.

Yes, those pork buns are THAT good

The shimeji mushrooms strike me, in particular, because for like 25 years I thought I hated mushrooms — until I had one of these. I was at an izakaya called Yume (夢) in Hodogaya, close to the station. I think it’s along the highway 第一京浜 or close to the big intersection there. Or at least it was. It’s been ages. I got the mushrooms as one of those little dishes that they serve you before your meal (前菜), kinda like an appetizer. I used to go there for the buta kimchi (pork with kimchi) and to be polite I ate what was given to me, and they were fantastic. That’s actually how this “Southern Boy” had okra for the first time, too. I think the okra was served simply with sesame or something. Delicious.

Anyway, until that day I had thought all mushrooms were those terrible, bland “button” things they put on pizza and in salads here in the US. It turns out they’re not all the same. (I know, shocker, right?) I like shimeji while my wife is more of a fan of enoki. There are so many different kinds of mushrooms and some are absolutely amazing (others aren’t) but there’s so much variety. Why don’t we learn this stuff in elementary school? This is basic. Nowadays I’m actually jealous of makuuchi yusho winners getting that giant container of shiitake. Mmmmmmm….

Back on topic, the pork here was a gift from Waseda supporters, along with rice, nikuman (pork buns) and protein supplements, given by family and other supporters. This environment would foster a bit more community and more of the atmosphere I missed out on in college by choosing to double major in MarioKart and Bond.

With Ajigawa and Araiso’s new links to Waseda, in particular, it would be great to see more attention to University sumo in general. We also learn from Yoshimura’s post that the sumo club would have normally eaten with their supporters but these COVID times are weird for everyone. This is their way of showing what they did with it and showing appreciation. Another post from this past week brings us back to that Zoom Roundtable which featured Ajigawa and Demon Kakka. That would be an awesome Chanko-kai.

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!

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.

68th Annual All-Japan Amateur Sumo Championship

Kokugikan hosted the Amateur Sumo Championship on Sunday. Koshiro Tanioka of Kinki University (近畿大) won the yusho. One of the favorites heading into the event was new college Yokozuna, Daiki Nakamura. You may remember that last month the first-year college student from Nippon Sports Science University (日体大) defeated Tanioka to capture the University title. If anyone had hoped for a rematch, they got it…in the round of 32!

That’s right, imagine Duke facing off against UNC on the first weekend of March Madness, perhaps a late game on Sunday night as everyone’s trying to get home for their 8 am classes. The freshman yokozuna was toppled after his first-round bye. Tanioka went on to win his next four matches (at total of six through the knockout phase) and captured the yusho! Tanioka had one loss in the earlier qualification stage so while Nakamura went undefeated in the prelims, this highlight matchup came early.

* Corrections made to some rather sloppy mistakes I made with the universities. Thank you Herouth! I’m glad I spelled UNC and Duke right. That would have been embarrassing. I think they’d retract my birth certificate over that. The university abbreviations are often two characters but were three on the torikumi list I saw, and that’s what I used for the data in the graph at the bottom.

I’m sorry this video picks up after the tachiai but it gives a great sense of the crashing disappointment felt by Nakamura as he realized he lost. His afternoon should have just started but it was suddenly all over and time to go home. Tanioka, on the other hand, exhibited great technique by dancing along the tawara but sneaking his hands in for a strong uwatedashinage.

The title bout was against a Kazakh prospect, Yelshin, from Nippon Daigaku (日本大). Tanioka got on his opponent’s nerves early with the matta games. He did this several times during the tournament. The hit-and-shift tachiai led to a quick, arms-length shoving match with Tanioka quickly sneaking in for a belt grip. The sudden pull forced Yelshin to one knee for an uwatenage win for Tanioka.

Ladies, Get a Load of the Size of That Belt Buckle!

I want to draw your attention not to the yusho trophy, which is quite nice or the Purple Ribbon of Greatness, but to the massive belt-buckle which would fit in quite well in Texas. Amirite, Bruce? This trophy may find itself next to the macaron and the mushrooms in my list of all-time-faves. The original of this comes from @die_is_cast_ on Twitter, who has more great pics of the winners.

An interesting component of this tournament is that it features sumo wrestlers from companies and the general public, even the occasional high school student. There were two such high school students in this year’s competition, including the high school yokozuna. Nippon Daigaku and Chuo Daigaku sent quite a few wrestlers, as did the Aishin corporation.

Number of Competitors per Institution