Nine wrestlers from Shikihide Stable have left the heya, appealing to the Kyokai for help from moral harassment. The wrestlers left claiming that the stable’s okamisan had imposed and enforced unacceptably strict rules in the absence of Shikihide-oyakata due to an unspecified illness.
There are nineteen total wrestlers at Shikihide stable. The identities of the wrestlers involved have not been disclosed. The nature of Shikihide’s illness has not been disclosed, either, but he has been kyujo from tournaments this year. He usually manages the jungyo tours which have been cancelled due to the pandemic. Tachiai wishes him well and hopefully he will recover soon and hopefully some arrangement and solution can be found for the stable.
Sadly, we may have lost Abi. If he’s out, surely one must wonder about the lower-ranked wrestler who went with him…and now almost half of Shikihide beya? The heya life has become exceedingly difficult under COVID restrictions. Wrestlers have been virtually cloistered for months. It is understandable and perhaps predictable that tensions are high and tempers have flared. I hope these little fires can be contained, perhaps by loosening of these restrictions on movement and social media before it’s too late.
Over on Twitter, Chiganoura-oyakata, pictured here in his traveling salesman days, had the brilliant idea to introduce all of his deshi and the staff of his stable. OK, let’s get going, we don’t want to keep him waiting any longer. Chop, chop!
A few days ago I posted a visualization about Heya. I gave it the “Banzuke Dashboard” slot under the Data Tools menu above. I will also embed it at the end of this post but I wanted to play around with an idea reader Bbbut had in the comments section. This visualization digs further into the issue Herouth raised about worthy practice opponents for the heya-gashira (部屋頭), or top-ranked rikishi of a stable.
I set two baselines, one at approximate Juryo level, the other at approximately the Makuuchi level. A few interesting things come out. While Sadogatake stable doesn’t have any sanyaku wrestlers and seems to have faded a bit with the decline of Kotoshogiku and the yo-yo rise and fall of Kotoeko and Kotoyuki, the stable has a slew of fairly even ranked wrestlers. Kokonoe stable is also duking it out with Sadogatake and Oitekaze for “The Dawg Pound” moniker as the dog-eat-dog internal competition for status must be fierce.
With the default setting I used for the visualization, Ishiura is a peer of Hakuho and Hoshoryu is a peer of Meisei. In the latter case, we get a sense of the difference in quality from Herouth’s tweet below. Use the slider feature at the bottom to tighten or relax that “peer buffer.”
This is also useful to look into competition at stables with no sekitori, like Otake, Shibatayama and Naruto. I’m interested in what feedback you all may have for how to tweak the buffer. Looking at Sakaigawa, for example, I got the idea for a “veteran boost” calculation. Toyohibiki has been in makushita division for a while now but he has serious sekitori experience, having won three Juryo titles and spending nearly a decade in the top ranks. Despite the injuries and lack of mobility, he will still have a wealth of technique pointers to offer many of the youngsters. Myogiryu is a grizzled vet himself, though.
I have not updated this for the Natsu banzuke or with the various retirements. Toyonoshima, for example, is still in my Tokitsukaze listing. Even in retirement, though, he will still have a lot of experience to offer Shodai and Yutakayama.
The NHK has a great video (#43) about shikona in its “Sumopedia” but I thought I’d dive a bit into the statistics on the usage of various characters. Why? Because I’m always trying to improve my Japanese and the kanji is the most impenetrable part for me.
The Japanese Language is one of the biggest hurdles facing any sumo fan. If you’re just trying to catch up on news, few media outlets outside of Japan cover the sport on a regular basis and the Japanese Sumo Association often offers its press releases only in Japanese. There’s a whole other world to sumo fandom if you can learn the language. However, we don’t need to learn THE WHOLE LANGUAGE. We need to learn SUMO Japanese. It’s still a difficult prospect but it seems the best place to begin is with the shikona and just a handful of shikona can take us a long way.
First of all, a brief detour. The word Shikona is 四股名. Shiko, the “sumo stomp” excercise is the first two characters, with the character for name at the end. Memorize that last character if you hope to learn Japanese. You’ll see 名前 (na-mae) everywhere for “name.”
Back to the topic of characters used in shikona. This is a list of the Ten most frequently used characters, counting by the number of rikishi. Koto, for example, is used by Kotoshogiku (aka Kotokikutsuki) twice but I only count him as 1 distinct rikishi. One little side note is that characters used in Shikona include a few hiragana and katakana, not just kanji. Hiragana and Katakana are kind of inescapable and are crucial to anyone learning Japanese.
# of Uses
# of Rikishi
The good news is, there’s only 223 or so kanji that are used in 25 or more shikona since the 1950s. The bad news is, there are 1028 characters used 24 times or fewer. This includes the 隠 (O) from 隠岐の海 (Okinoumi).
Yama, the character for “mountain,” is a wildly popular character not just because of all of the Asanoyama’s and Tochiozan’s, but also many Japanese surnames like Yamaguchi and Yamada — the latter which combines our Top 2. Yamadayama goes even further by surrounding the rice field with two mountains. Yamamotoyama, who even made an appearance in John Wick 2, bookends a book with two mountains.
But mountain it’s not the most popular for rikishi from all prefectures. It’s in 3rd place after 土 and 佐 for rikishi from Kochi and fifth place after 安, 芸, and two versions of the possessive “no” (ノ and 乃) while the hiragana “no” is just after yama. This is because of the historical domain of Tosa (土佐) in Kochi and many location names within Hiroshima, including Aki (安芸). If you click on Shizuoka prefecture, the characters for Fuji (富士) bubble up to the top.
There’s another interesting, but predictable, aspect to kanji pairs like Tosa, Aki, Fuji, and Chiyo (千代). Shikona which use those characters are longer, on average, so the bars are orange to red while greener colored characters are used in shorter shikona (on average).
It’s also just interesting to see where wrestlers are coming from. Along with Tokyo, Osaka, Aichi, and Fukuoka (sites of the big tournaments) many wrestlers come from Hokkaido, including several yokozuna like Taiho, Chiyonofuji, Hokutoumi, Kitanoumi. Neighboring Aomori, home of Wakanohana I & II is also up there, along with Hyogo (next to Osaka and Kyoto), and Kagoshima have been hotbeds of sumo talent and the geography offers clues to the origins of many of their shikona.
In the past, I’ve had articles which tried to help decipher Japanese headlines, short articles, and tweets to try to help readers (and me) gather just a bit more information about sumo. Let’s face it, Shikona and sumo jargon (and medical/injury terms) are where Google Translate breaks down into word salad. If you can pick out the shikona and place names from headlines and articles, we can start diving deeper into the articles and tweets. This visualization and some of the others I’m working on will try to break down the hard part and help sumo fans focus on Sumo Japanese.