Katsuya Takasu, Sumo Super Fan

Japan watchers are likely already familiar with Katsuya Takasu, likely from his ubiquitous “Yes, Takasu Clinic” commercials. The cosmetic clinic mogul is a colorful figure in the Japanese business world and is a big fan of sumo. Ever the believer in cosmetic surgery, the company site lets you see how he, himself, has been transformed via cosmetic surgery.

As a sumo fan, he has been seen sitting ringside during many tournaments. He puts his money into the sport as well, something this blog is a big proponent of. Eagle-eyed kensho banner watchers will notice his “高須クリニック” and the same text appears below his cartoon advertisements on several kessho mawashi – including Nishikigi and Ikioi.

During Week 1 of this current tournament, there was a bit of drama in the sumo world as the sumo kyokai accidentally forgot his banners for the Nishikigi bout. He’d paid for three during Nishikigi’s bout, five for Ikioi, and 3 during the final bout. If you go back to Day 2 footage, you’ll see him in bright yellow sitting on the very edge of the first row. In some instances, you’ll notice him on his phone, presumably tweeting his displeasure at the Sumo Kyokai. The Kyokai got apologized and made up for it by adding banners to Ikioi.

 

The Hanamichi Life

If a sumo fan needs more of a reason to learn Japanese, it’s this. There’s a whole world of entertainment gossip that surrounds every pop culture topic, and sumo is no exception. We miss out on so much detail when we’re not able to follow along in the Japanese press and on social media. Given the increasing coverage of sumo in the Japanese press, and the always colorful Japanese Sumo Twitter, yours truly will re-double efforts to open these doors. Google Translate is just about the worst when it comes to meaningful translation of Japanese so it is important that sumo fans have somewhere to turn to get information. This blog post by Dr Takasu about “BannerGate” is a great example of the stuff we miss out on. It’s also wonderful because he uses a casual form of Japanese that many of us are not exposed to in our “Business Japanese” courses.

 

And by the way, when I say that the guy sits in the front row, I mean the FRONT ROW. This is one of the pictures of Ikioi he took from his seat. I think this seat is even better than being in the center because wrestlers fall on those poor chaps all the time. From this seat he can strike up a conversation with a wrestler, greet them as they come and go, and pop out to the bathroom without having to climb over everyone else. Anyway, Katchan was very happy when Ikioi won, thus getting his kenshokin.

Sponsors Withdraw Kenshokin

Thanks to my wife and Reddit, I was tipped off to the fact that 200 banners have been pulled from the tournament because of the 3 absent yokozuna. My wife sent me this link to the Asahi article. When I checked Reddit, the same article was also cited there. Reddit commenter u/saleph also linked to another article showing Takayasu as the top kensho recipient for this tournament. As I mentioned in the comments of Bruce’s previous post, this is a bit disappointing and should also clarify for us viewers that sponsorship money is another pressure for sekitori, particularly Yokozuna.

Takayasu: Aki Kensho King

I say disappointed because as I fan, I feel excited for this tournament – possibly more excited than if ALL the wrestlers were competing. With injured wrestlers out, we will see better quality matches, not just in this tournament, but next tournament as our yokozuna hopefully return healthy…or at least moderately healthy. Also, for this basho, the door is wide open for more competitors to grab a yusho or really impress. I would think this would be a prime time for sponsors to engage tadpoles rather than withhold funding. It would also be when I would think loyal sponsors would step up and continue to support their injured stars. Endo used to attract a ton of sponsorship money but when he went to Juryo, the money dried up and it does not seem to have returned. Perhaps that’s why he’s not gone kyujo, though I’m hopeful he’s genuinely healthy enough to compete.

All of my predictions from the podcast were probably totally wrong…especially my hopes for a 40th Hakuho yusho. But I am so jazzed for this basho, it isn’t funny. I really have no idea what’s going to happen. Will King Kinboshi (Harumafuji) fall out of contention in the first week? Or zen-sho yusho? My odds would be even money on both. Who will drop off the leadership pack by next weekend? Any of the ozeki? Which maegashira will be in the hunt deep into week two? I have no idea and that’s thrilling me. One Twitter fan tossed out the idea of an Ikioi-yusho…THAT WOULD BE AWESOME.

Kenshokin (懸賞金) a.k.a. bounties

Nikkan-Gendai posted a brief but interesting article about kenshokin/bounties that are handed to some of the top-wrestlers after they win their matches. According to the article, each envelope contains 30,000 yen. At recent exchange rates, we’re talking less than $250. It still boggles my mind that there aren’t more bounties and that you get some top maegashira, guys as high up as Tochinoshin, not receiving bounties after every match.

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Tochinowaka retirement

tochinowakaretires

Tochinowaka, facing another demotion to juryo division, has retired from sumo citing a lack of motivation. Since May, his last tournament with a winning record (9-6), he has had progressively worse performances. He had only won 27% of his bouts during the last half of the year. In his final tournament he lost each of his last six matches. His final win came against Juryo #1 Kagamio. His last victory of any real consequence was a win over then-komusubi Aminishiki on the final day of the Nagoya tournament in July.

I’m a bit disappointed that at such a great time for sumo he didn’t seem to want to be there. I don’t want to say ‘glad to see him go’ but I always like to think that every time any competitor sets foot in a ring, or on a field, they give it their all. This is probably why I’ve been so disappointed with the Redskins these last few seasons. The media hype in the pre-season leads to lethargic performances and bitter sniping…but that’s another story.

With American football players, however, they get paid millions. Sumo wrestlers do not. I would like to see more sumo fans shell out and sponsor wrestlers. As I’ve mentioned in my previous post, Kensho kin is quite affordable. If I had my own business, I would promote it in a heartbeat with sponsorship. It was amazing to see how seriously lower-ranked wrestlers take their matches against Endo, knowing that a win will add several hundred dollars to their wallets.

Sir Paul and Sumo

Admittedly, this isn’t news. It’s an annecdote from last year’s Fukuoka tournament. I was talking to my wife about this year’s basho and she mentioned how Paul McCartney is a big sumo fan and was a sponsor at last year’s tournament.

Since I learned how affordable it is, I’ve wanted to pay kensho-kin to have my name paraded around when one of my favorite wrestlers prepares to fight. If I am actually successful at starting my own business, I WILL DO IT. I was really surprised that it was so affordable. Apparently, each banner is about $600 which is about 10x cheaper than I thought it would be.

I thought I’d open this up for a poll. I started with the high profile and prize winners from this basho but left it open if anyone wants to suggest others. If I get some real traffic on here, I’ll publish the results. Not sure which wrestler I would sponsor, though. If Homasho makes it back, he’d definitely be on the list.