Reader Request – Visiting A Sumo Stable?


Sumo-Heya

Image courtesy of http://www.broketourist.net

A Tachiai reader named Tom is looking to visit a sumo stable to watch practice on a weekend morning. For an outsider, it seems like it could be a challenging goal – how do you contact the heya to request permission? What sort of things should a visitor keep in mind?

Having never tried this myself, I have a bit of curiosity as well. For any of our readers who have successfully visited a sumo stable, please post any hints, tips, instructions or general impressions of the experience.

Thanks!

Musashigawa Enoshima Beach Clean Up


Musashigawa-Beach1

The rikishi of Musashigawa heya spent a portion of their weekend on a great community outreach project, cleaning the beach on Enoshima, a small but beautiful island in Kanagawa Prefecture. In addition to a squad of rikishi, a number of people from the community and fans of Musashigawa joined in, and they made quick work of the trash.

Following the clean up, the Musashigawa crew held an outdoor / on the beach practice and exercise session, with their supporters free to join in. This included giant rikishi sparring against children and generally having a good time all around.

Musashigawa-Beach2

Full details on the Musashigawa web site. Clean up pictures here, and community practice session here

Heya Power Rankings: August 2017


Welcome to the third installment of the Heya Power Rankings. The purpose of this series is to gauge how the various stables are performing relative to each other, and track their progress over time. Now that we’ve been looking at this over the first four basho of 2017, we can start to identify some trends.

For a refresher on the methodology and calculations behind these rankings, visit the original post. Let’s jump in:

chart-7

And in “Billboard” style Top 20 chart form (ties broken by previous ranking with the most recently better heya ranked higher):

  1. (+1) Miyagino. 107 points (even)
  2. (-1) Isegahama. 95 points (-29)
  3. (+1) Kasugano. 78 points (+20)
  4. (-1) Tagonoura. 75 points (even)
  5. (+4) Oitekaze. 48 points (+14)
  6. (-1) Sakaigawa. 47 points (-3)
  7. (+-) Kokonoe. 43 points (+2)
  8. (+-) Izutsu. 40 points (even)
  9. (+3) Dewanoumi. 35 points (+5)
  10. (-4) Oguruma. 32 points (-10)
  11. (-1) Kise. 25 points (-8)
  12. (+1) Sadogatake. 22 points (-7)
  13. (-2) Isenoumi. 20 points (-13)
  14. (+-) Kataonami. 20 points (-5)
  15. (+-) Takanohana. 18 points (-6)
  16. (+-) Hakkaku. 18 points (-5)
  17. (+-) Tokitsukaze. 15 points (-5)
  18. (+1) Takadagawa. 15 points (-2)
  19. (-1) Onomatsu. 13 points (-7)
  20. (**) Nishonoseki. 13 points (+5)

Movers

Well, there aren’t really that many, which may come as a surprise, but less points were awarded on the whole due to there only having been 2 special prizes this time, and a clear jun-yusho (Aoiyama). We can probably isolate 5 clear “winners” this time out:

Miyagino takes the top spot on the same points total as last time, so this is more a product of Isegahama not getting the production despite having twice as many rikishi. The only change here is that Yamaguchi and Ishiura trade make- and kachi-koshi, as of course Hakuho wins another yusho.

Kasugano makes another big points gain off the back of Aoiyama’s pushy-thrusty jun-yusho, but this isn’t as spectacular a gain as it would have been for another stable as it replaces Tochinoshin’s jun-yusho last time out. That being said, all three rikishi here performed well and even if they lose points for not mounting a championship push next time out, we should see some promotions and hopefully their inevitable fall down the power rankings won’t be so tough.

Oitekaze makes a big move up the charts off the back of Daiamami’s Juryo yusho. The fun might stop there. The stable is otherwise looking at a series of demotions (including the worrying health of top man and “Mr. Popularity” Endo) in spite of this, and will lose Tobizaru to Makushita in September.

Dewanoumi has moved up to the limit of what they can achieve without special prizes, yusho challenges or Ozeki promotions from Mitakeumi. Worryingly for a stable of 16 rikishi, only 2 of the men behind Mitakeumi have put up back to back kachi-koshi (and one of them is 33 year old Kihonoumi), so it’s going to be up to him for the foreseeable future. Finally, Shohozan propels Nishonoseki onto the listing in the final position, off the back of a nice tournament.

Losers

Andy referenced that he wanted to see what would happen to Sadogatake on this chart and the results are surprising – they actually move up a spot, but again this is just due to less points having been awarded in total, as the stable has lost 8, 6 and 7 of our points in each of the past three tournaments. Mostly this is of course due to Kotoshogiku fighting at lower levels and not winning, but this slide is going to continue as we’ll see demotions for all 3 sekitori. Kotodaigo will fight at his highest level in Makushita at Aki, but unless he has a big tournament then we won’t see him at Juryo until the new year, at which point the situation could be considerably more dire and there aren’t many more reinforcements coming any time soon.

Isegahama‘s drop is largely down to Terunofuji’s downturn in performance and Harumafuji’s failure to challenge for the yusho, but a decent tournament from either (however unlikely) could see them regain the top spot next time out. Kise takes a bit of a hit owing to Ura’s injury-influenced make-koshi, but will have a decent spot at at least holding their position next time out due to a pair of Juryo promotees in Kizenryu and Daisedo. The rest is much of a muchness, but a word for Isenoumi who will be reliant on Ikioi regaining his form to move back up the listings.

Up Next

We noted last time that Kise had reinforcements on the way, and had a remarkable 11 rikishi fighting at Ms19 or higher in Nagoya. Two have been promoted, but 24 year old university man Kizaki may not be far behind. We highlighted his performance last time out, as he’s never suffered a make-koshi in his 8 competitive tournaments so far (including zensho-yusho at Jonidan and Sandanme). He’s taken a minute to acclimate to Makushita but might be on the cusp at Aki, after another solid 5 win performance in Nagoya at Ms7. Shimanoumi’s Juryo comeback bid was halted in Nagoya, but having put up 3 wins he should get another bite at it this time.

Arashio-beya has been feasting and more recently in famine depending on Sokokurai’s results, but Wakatakakage has been rocketing up the banzuke and could be around to provide backup soon. He’ll be due a big promotion to the top end of Makushita after a 6-1 tournament. Likewise, Takasago‘s Murata may be arriving soon to provide backup for Asanoyama having lost the Natsu yusho duel to Wakatakakage back in Sandanme, and having adapted almost as well to the next level of competition.

Heya Power Rankings: June 2017


With the banzuke announcement just a few days away, it’s time to revisit the Heya Power Rankings series. Thanks to everyone who commented on the first version of this post – this time I’ve been able to make the key update of stacking the bars vertically, and hopefully by the time August rolls around I can get them sorted properly and then we’ll really be off and running!

For a refresher on the methodology and calculations behind these rankings, visit the original post. I’m pretty happy with how this held up for the second version – for example the accomplishments of Tochinoshin (kachi-koshi and jun-yusho from M12) are ranked equivalent to Tamawashi’s kachi-koshi at S1, and that seems fair. Without further ado:

chart-2

And in “Billboard” style Top 20 chart form (ties broken by previous ranking with the most recently better heya ranked higher):

  1. (+1) Isegahama. 124 points (-1)
  2. (+2) Miyagino. 107 points (+57)
  3. (-2) Tagonoura. 75 points (-55)
  4. (+5) Kasugano. 58 points (+24)
  5. (-2) Sakaigawa. 50 points (-10)
  6. (+5) Oguruma. 42 points (+15)
  7. (-1) Kokonoe. 41 points (-2)
  8. (-3) Izutsu. 40 points (-5)
  9. (-2) Oitekaze. 34 points (-4)
  10. (+3) Kise. 33 points (+9)
  11. (+7) Isenoumi. 33 points (+18)
  12. (+3) Dewanoumi. 30 points (+10)
  13. (-5) Sadogatake. 29 points (-6)
  14. (-2) Kataonami. 25 points (even)
  15. (-5) Takanohana. 24 points (-6)
  16. (-2) Hakkaku. 23 points (even)
  17. (-1) Tokitsukaze. 20 points (even)
  18. (**) Onomatsu. 20 points (+15)
  19. (**) Takadagawa. 17 points (+8)
  20. (**) Minato.  / (-3) Tomozuna. (both 13 points)

Movers

Isegahama takes the top spot this month on a slightly diminished score owing to quality AND quantity: Terunofuji’s second straight jun-yusho and consistent levels of performance across the board push them up to the summit. Miyagino vaults up as the greatest gainer on points owing mostly to Hakuho’s zensho-yusho (we’re not currently giving a bonus score for a 15-0, but this is something to think about), and Ishiura grabbing a KK didn’t hurt.

Kasugano takes a big jump up the listing owing to a big performance from Tochinoshin which more than offset declines elsewhere. Yoshikaze’s special prize gives Oguruma a boost, while all four Kise rikishi grabbed winning records to propel the stable forward with modest gains. Isenoumi is the greatest chart gainer with just two rikishi, but Nishikigi’s Juryo yusho and Ikioi’s regained form give the heya a big boost. Dewanoumi’s sole contributor Mitakeumi grabbed a special prize and he’ll likely have a good shot to maintain his score next time out as he will in all likelihood fight at a higher level.

Finally, 3 new heya hit the chart as Onosho’s performance drives Onomatsu, Kagayaki and Ryuden’s solid performances put Takadagawa on the board, and Ichinojo grabs a kachi-koshi for Minato.

Losers

Tagonoura lose their grip on the top, but this is simply owing to Kisenosato not winning (in any capacity). Their top 3 spot should be relatively safe however, with Takayasu’s promotion confirmed, and both of them when on-form now represent title challengers. Elsewhere, Sakaigawa takes a hit just owing to Toyohibiki coming off a Juryo yusho onto a make-koshi and not much support among the rest of the crew beyond Goeido. Meanwhile, Kokonoe’s quality doesn’t translate to quality as despite 6 sekitori, only 3 could manage winning records and the toppermost – Chiyonokuni and Chiyoshoma – ran into a san’yaku slaughterhouse.

Up Next

Takanohana could be set for another dip, with Takagenji heading out of Juryo and Takanoiwa and Takakeisho likely swapping ends of the banzuke. Tomozuna’s fortunes will also likely get worse before they get better, with Asahisho likely following Takagenji, moviestar Kyokutaisei set for a drop down to the nether regions of Juryo, and Kaisei looking like he may only be a couple tournaments behind.

Shikoroyama (not ranked) should grab their second Juryo rikishi as Abi should certainly be promoted (5-2 at Ms1), and one would think Iwasaki (6-1 at Ms2) would join him in the pro ranks to give Oitekaze a shot in the arm. If Daishoho can get his act together soon and join up later this year, the stable would have a truly impressive number of rikishi in the top 2 divisions.

Kise had a great basho at Natsu as outlined above and they may also be ready to call on reinforcements soon: they boasted 7 rikishi between Makushita 1 and Makushita 12 and while none look like certain promotion candidates for Nagoya… ALL of them scored winning records, as did 2 of the 3 just behind (so that’s 13 of their top 14 with a kachi-koshi – bear in mind some stables don’t even have that many rikishi in total!). As always with the larger stables, a number of these guys are journeymen and also-rans, but the names to watch here are Shimanoumi (5-2 at Ms5W won’t get the job done this time, but he’s scored no less than 5 lower division unbeaten yusho and will be determined to get back to Juryo after fighting back from a period out of competition), and former university man Kizaki (who has raced to the top of Makushita in a year with 7 straight KK, including a pair of yusho).

Beyond The Boss


Hakuho is a legend, and if you are reading this site then you probably know this. The meteoric rise, all the titles, all the techniques, all the style and lately, all the attitude. There’s a lot that’s interesting about Hakuho, and you could probably do a whole site just about him. However that’s not only why you’re here, and so we’re going to talk about Hakuho in the context of not really talking about Hakuho.

One of the things that has been discussed quite a bit recently on the site is that there are some interesting story lines involving top rikishi and their relationships with others within their stable: Kisenosato and Takayasu, Terunofuji and Shunba, etc. There are also a number of rikishi at the top who hail from notable heya which have stacked the banzuke with talent. To name just a few: the Isegahama powerhouse, belly bop king Kotoshogiku topping the ranks of the prolific Sadogatake stable, and of course the incredible volume of wrestlers created of late by Kokonoe.

But Miyagino, Hakuho’s stable, hasn’t produced a whole lot of note beyond the man himself over the past 20 years. There are potentially numerous reasons for this. One of them is that they simply don’t carry many rikishi – there haven’t been more than a dozen at a given time since Hakuho’s emergence. Another might be that perhaps the stable just isn’t good at producing talent in general: Hakuho’s emergence in its own right was unexpectedly one of the greatest stories in sports after no other heya would accept him and Miyagino took him on only as a promise and/or had him foisted upon the stable, depending how you hear the story told. Still yet another reason could come from dysfunction at the very top: stablemaster and architect of legends Chikubayama was forced to give up the elder stock to Kanechika who obtained it by marrying the daughter of the previous holder (perhaps not a recipe for coaching excellence in any sport). Kanechika was a fun guy who, after eventually having to hand the elder stock back over to Chikubayama after getting snaffled in a match fixing claim, then had his assistant eat a whole tub of wasabi in addition to inflicting a bunch of other punishments upon him (what’s not to love?).

All of that turmoil can’t have been helpful, but let’s look at it by the books. Here are the four men who have been #2 to The Boss since his ascendance to top dog at Miyagino in March 2004:

  • Kobo: a journeyman and one of the first products of Chikubayama to become sekitori, he was already on the down slope by early 2004 and only made a solitary appearance (at Maegashira 17!) in the top division after Hakuho surpassed him. His career as a sekitori was over 3 years later.
  • Ryuo: a Mongolian who surpassed Kobo at Nagoya 2006, but whose career was spent almost entirely in the bottom divisions. He managed 4 tournaments in makuuchi and only one kachi-kochi (though he did manage to claim the scalps of young Kisenosato and Goeido during his brief stay). He finished his career with 4 unbroken years as a Makushita before calling it quits.
  • Yamaguchi: some 6 years later, he appears at Haru 2012 out of Nihon University and instantly becomes the second highest ranked in the stable upon his debut. Managed a single makuuchi bout as Daikiho before everything fell apart and he tumbled down to Sandanme. He has been working his way back up over the past 4 years however and seemed like a good bet to challenge for a makuuchi promotion in the near future before a catastrophic Natsu basho landed him with a 10 loss make-koshi in a tournament which, as this site has covered, was both a massively up-for-grabs and turgid affair. Still only 28 though, and with a lack of can’t miss talent at his current level, could be back in the big time by 2018 if he can string together some winning records over the rest of the year.
  • Ishiura: at Nagoya 2014, having just been dealt his first make-koshi after a strong start to his career (including two lower division yusho), Ishiura moves past Yamaguchi and he’s been at that level since. Notably, he possesses a pedigree the 3 aforementioned rikishi do not and makes quick work of the lower divisions, making his pro debut in 2 years. We’ve all seen quite a bit of him over the past 4 basho in makuuchi and his evolution from henka-addict to a more respectable rikishi trying to develop what he would probably describe as “his brand of sumo.” Namely, not being a particularly excellent pusher-thruster or mawashi man or as flexible as Ura, he seems to either run around a lot or just get in low and try to pull his man down, and will need some more developed facets of his game if he’s able to consolidate and push up the banzuke in a meaningful way.

Beyond these folks, there just hasn’t been anyone of quality at all in the stable since Hakuho started to dominate the sumo world, which makes Hakuho’s achievement all the more stunning in that no one else that his coach has coached has even shown promise of being a top level rikishi until Ishiura.

One of the signals of a fast moving rikishi is racking up multiple unbeaten records/yusho at the lower levels (in many cases back to back) in their first few basho, and so for this reason it will be worth keeping an eye on young Enho who went unbeaten in his first tournament at Natsu and will make his Jonidan bow at Nagoya. Many rikishi who have made a dent on the top division, including Goeido, Yoshikaze, Ishiura, Aoiyama, Hokutofuji, Takakeisho, Sokokurai, Ura, and the recently deposed Yutakayama, have managed this. Many, many others at the level managed at least a single early yusho in their first tournaments (notably, Hakuho did not, mostly owing to his unique development as a very slight rikishi in his younger days).

Given that the percentage of rikishi reaching the top level is so small to begin with, and the number of Miyagino rikishi reaching that level is just 2-3 per decade, it will be interesting to see if Enho can establish himself. Of course it is silly to read too much into a rikishi at this stage of their career, though his sumo best seems to be described as “composed.” He appeared unrattled in all 7 wins at Natsu and the only rikishi to even put up a serious challenge was his former university-mate Tanabe, who created a fight better than some of the stuff we get on the NHK highlights (Enho is the little guy):

Hakuho is obviously a force, and statistically he will retire in serious contention to be debated among the very greatest of all time. A lot of this comes from his background, his sheer desire to continue to develop, and his coaching. But it is curious in the context that his stable does not possess a particularly keen ability to scout and develop as evidenced by their lack of ability to put a second even competitive product onto the dohyo. Hopefully at least, with continued improvement from Ishiura and the development of rikishi like Enho, that could soon change.

Great Insight Into Tsukebito (assistant) System


One of the huge storylines coming out of Haru basho was that Terunofuji is back. We get a bit more of the back story from an article, written by Muto Hisashi and published in Mainichi a couple of days ago. It’s a much longer article than the usual one or two paragraphs, and it’s fascinating. The topic is the “tsukebito” system. Makushita and lower rikishi serve as assistants to those in Juryo and above (sekitori). You often see them carrying the cushions and accompanying top ranked wrestlers as their entourage.

相乗効果もたらす「付け人」=武藤久

This headline is a quick one: Gaining synergies, “Tsukebito” by Muto Hisashi. The important term here is (付け人). I’ve never had to use the word “synergy” in English but this is what it is in Japanese: (相乗効果).

In the business world, particularly the entertainment industry, the core talents have personal assistants. They’re called “tsukibito.” For some reason, the sumo world has adopted a more positive turn on it and they refer to it as “tsukebito.” They say that there are synergies gained as younger, lower ranked wrestlers gain experience by training with the higher ranked wrestlers.

In the article, Muto highlights the relationship between Terunofuji and one of his tsukebito, Shunba. Usually these assistants are indesputably junior to the sekitori. However, occasionally some wrestlers are so good and progress so swiftly through the ranks that they seek out veteran tsukebito who act more as advisors than as assistants. Shunba fills this role for Terunofuji.

In the interview, Shunba reveals that there were deeper matters troubling Terunofuji. The injuries were serious but he had much more on his mind…the specifics of which he would not reveal. Muto interviewed Shunba in the weeks after Terunofuji’s dismal 4-win Hatsubasho where he went kadoban again. Despite the poor performance, Shunba was very confident that Terunofuji would do well. Apparently, Terunofuji had been keeping things bottled up and he had deep conversations with his tsukebito that seemed to bring about a lot of relief.

So while still hampered a bit by injuries, notably after the Endo bout, he was dominant. Not only did Terunofuji almost win his second yusho…in an awesome, fearsome manner enjoyed by us and many of our readers…Shunba went 6-1 in makuushita, at his highest rank ever. I’m eager to see him climb up the banzuke. I will be following both wrestlers and hope to do a deeper profile of Shunba and these assistant wrestlers in the future.

Foreign Led Stables of ex-Kotoshu & ex-Kyokutenho (corrected)


Today’s article comes from the Mainichi newspaper:

外国出身親方の船出 元琴欧洲「新しいものを」/元旭天鵬「愛される力士に」

It is an article about two new foreign born elders starting their own heyas, former Ozeki Kotooshu and former Sekiwake Kyokutenho. Just to note, both are have won yusho and I’m sure that’s significant in the decision to let them run stables. **Updated to reflect the point made by Asashosakari: Kotooshu is starting his own stable while Kyokutenho is inheriting the Tomozuna stable.** In this headline there are two shikona so we’ll start there, Kotooshu (琴欧洲) and Kyokutenho (旭天鵬). Immediately preceding both shikona is the kanji for “former,” 元 .

外国出身親方

To knock out a few more of the easy terms and sumo-specific terms we will go back to the beginning, “Foreign born sumo elders.” The first two kanji, GaiKoku is the Japanese word for foreign. Shusshin is place where you’re from. You hear this word every time the announcer at sumo tournaments introduces the wrestlers. If they’re Japanese he says what prefecture they’re from and if they’re foreign he says what country they’re from. You hear a lot of “Mongolia shusshin.” Lastly we get to the term for “elders.” Kotooshu and Kyokutenho are running their own stables and thus “oyakata.” The first kanji is parent and the second is the honorific, formal word, for person.

の船出

These new heya are setting sail, being launched. It’s actually pretty exciting. I’m happy for both new oyakata. Please visit Mainichi’s site. They have a nice picture of Naruto-oyakata in front of his stable with three of his wrestlers. The base seems to be in Tokyo so it could be interesting to check out. We’ll see about the other heya, as well. We’ll be tracking their performance and hope that they register on our new power rankings in the coming years.

「新しいものを」

That character for new should be old hat by now. A new thing (mono) is being done here. We’re starting to get foreign elders. Recently Musashimaru started his stable and we’re eagerly following the exploits of our Young Texan, pun intended, Wakaichiro. Now it’s Kotooshu and Kyokutenho. Others will follow. This is certainly a welcome development if sumo is ever to become an Olympic sport. Maybe foreign expansion? Asashoryu heads up wrestling in Mongolia. What if there was an officially santioned sumo offshoot? Think American O-sumo in the vein of NFL Europe. Okay, maybe that’s not a good example. Maybe like how the NBA is quickly taking over? Spain, Italy, China…Professional King of the Hill goes global?

「愛される力士に」

Who doesn’t love Hakuho, Osunaarashi, Gagamaru? These rikishi (力士) are loved (愛される). Clearly, rikishi is a sumo word you’ll want to know. Some of you may be familiar with the Nakashima Mika song, “Aishiteru,” or “I love you.” Well, if you use this “saseru” form of the word, it becomes the passive. The wrestlers are loved. So there we have it, “Foreign Born Elders Set Off, ex-Kotooshu ‘A New Thing is Being Done’ / Kyokutenho ‘These Wrestlers are Loved’.” Clunky, but the best I could do after a couple glasses of an amazing Reisling.

When we turn to the translation engines, this one is a doozie. First let’s look at Google: “Foreign born master’s ship Origen Kinpuzuzu “New things” / former Asahi Tenpen “To be loved wrestlers”.” Wow. I am officially changing my name to Origen Kinpuzuzu. This is my new shikona. You all can just call me King Puzuzu. This Google brand word sausage is the greatest tripe available. I swear, I can’t read this without laughing because there’s no discernable reason for this translation. It is now, utterly unrecognizable pork “product.” Maybe there’s some horse in there?

Yahoo! seems to actually know some shikona. It didn’t pick up Kotooshu but it got Kyokutenho. “The sailing former koto Europe ‘new thing’ of the boss from foreign country to / former Kyokutenho ‘loved sumo wrestler’”

Excite also did a terrible job. “Sail of a chief from the foreign country For the sumo wrestler by whom motokonousu “of something new”/a former Asahi heaven legendary gigantic bird “is loved.”

It should be clear now that the translation engines are good to take words you don’t recognize but for whole sentences in Japanese, especially in a sumo context, they’re pretty poor. But “Origen Kinpuzuzu” takes the cake. I’m still smiling because it’s just that…WTF.

Yours truly,
Origen Kinpuzuzu,
King Puzuzu of Tachiai-quetzel-kukamunga