Japanese TV Show “Arashi ni Shiyagare” at Kokugikan Saturday

This Saturday at 9pm (Japan time), TV Japan will slip into Kokugikan for a segment. They will be accompanied by Shibatayama oyakata and everyone’s favorite bruiser, Yoshikaze. We will hopefully be able to bring you a clip!

Heyabiraki at Naruto Beya

Today, June 8th 2019, the new Naruto Beya was officially dedicated in an event similar to a house-warming, called a “heyabiraki”.

Although Naruto beya’s new building has already been put to use for the past two basho, this marked its opening in an official way. The event included a dohyo matsuri in the presence of NSK board members Oguruma and Shibatayama, as well as Sadogatake oyakata, master of Kotooshu’s original heya. Following the dohyo matsuri, the sekitori of the Nishonoseki ichimon, to which Naruto beya belongs, led by Ozeki Takayasu, practiced on the newly dedicated dohyo.

Nishonoseki ichimon includes many san-yaku and well-known sekitori

The new heya is located five minutes away from the Tokyo Skytree station on the Tobu Skytree line, at the Mukojima quarter of Sumida. It includes four floors spread over 178㎡ of land. It took two years, and more than ¥300M ($2.8M) from the time Naruto oyakata bought the land for it to be completed. The floor plan is as follows:

  1. Keikoba (practice space) and two baths
  2. Common room, chankoba (kitchen/dining area)
  3. Dormitory, three private rooms for future sekitori
  4. Oyakata and okami-san’s residence
Folding the Natsu banzuke at the dormitory area

Two points were most important to Naruto oyakata in the planning of his new heya. One was its proximity to the Kokugikan (“It’s the center of things. It also has a medical facility”), and the visibility of the practice sessions. The side of the keiko-ba that faces the street has large windows that allow passers-by to see the practicing rikishi. Naruto oyakata is fully aware that this close to the popular Tokyo Skytree, his heya may draw a lot of foreign tourists. Being foreign-born himself, he doesn’t see that as an issue – he wants to expose sumo to the world.

Naruto beya’s daily keiko. The street facing windows (on the right) are actually half covered by wooden blinds.

This is not the only form of visibility in the new keiko-ba. In addition to it having full air conditioning and a water dispenser on hand, two video cameras are installed in it.

Camera and monitor – next to the street-facing window

The cameras allow the oyakata as well as the individual deshi to review their practice sessions and improve their technique.

All this extra visibility may also keep some problem behavior away – at least away from the sacred practice grounds.

When Kotooshu retired and became Naruto oyakata, he stayed at first, as is customary, at his original Sadogatake beya, learning the ropes and doing his blue jacket duties. However, it’s generally expected of an ex-Ozeki to form his own heya if he does not inherit one. And in April 2017 he left the heya with his two uchi-deshi – Oshozan and Honma. Until this new heya was to be completed, he set up camp at a temporary place near Kinshichi station.

He soon added what he hoped would be his foreign talent, Torakio, from his own homeland of Bulgaria, and Sumidagawa, a Sumida local with experience in Judo. These two additions turned out to be less than fortunate, though, as Sumidagawa bullied a minor deshi using Judo choking techniques, unsettling the young heya with scandal.

Torakio was apparently not connected to that scandal, but his progress turned out to be slower than he and the oyakata had hoped, and then, all of a sudden – after the heya has already moved to the new residence – it was announced privately to the koen-kai that he has retired mid-April and returned to Bulgaria in a rush.

Torakio’s privately-held danpatsu-shiki

The heya now has 12 rikishi, 6 of whom are freshmen who made their first steps in Natsu 2019. These, however, include the heya’s first recruits with actual sumo experience: Motobayashi was considered a rival of Takakeisho’s when he was in high-school, but unlike the current Ozeki, chose to continue his education at Kinki university, where he won the West Japan Student Championship yusho. He is probably the heya’s leading sekitori hope. Sakurai is a graduate of Nippon Sports University, and Maruyama graduated from Kaiyo high school.

In addition to the rikishi, the heya has two additional young members – a yobidashi and a gyoji. It also has two hired managers, which is one of the lessons learned from the Sumidagawa incident – more adults were needed on hand, and the oyakata – who did not live in the temporary heya – has to be on-site a greater portion of his time. Hopefully, now that his residence is in the fourth floor, the heya’s character will reflect his good intentions.

Answering questions from the press during the Heyabiraki, Naruto said: “This is the real start. The feeling is different than in the temporary heya. I want all of us, my deshi and I, to lower our eyes and work together without complaints about this and that”. He adds “I want to bring up humans, not just sumo wrestlers”.

“My dream is to bring up a deshi who will surpass me” – this means a yokozuna – “and to have those three private rooms we prepared filled up. But to get there, my first goal has to be getting my deshi into Makushita”.

Learning the Lingo: Episode Two

Hello sumo fans. Today I’m back with another addition of learning the lingo, a series where I briefly break down sumo terms in a way that will be accessible for all fans of this wonderful sport. Today’s episode will cover Oshi-zumo, Yotsu-zumo, Oyakata, and Heya.

Before you go, I wanted to make a special announcement. The Liam Loves Sumo channel has officially surpassed 200 subscribers, and I owe each and every one of you a huge thank you for helping me reach this milestone! Thank you for watching and supporting the channel, and I will see you all soon!

Heya Power Rankings: Hatsu-Haru 19

Tamawashi Yusho Parade
Riding on the back of glory

Hello and welcome to the latest edition of the Tachiai Heya Power Rankings! The exciting news is that we’re rethinking the way that we do this ranking system. Andy has really pushed things forward in terms of data vizualisation on the site in recent weeks and we are thinking about how we can apply those features to give more detailed information not only about stables but about their performance.

Since we started the ranking system, we’ve been looking primarily at – and scoring – the stables based on performance by sekitori (those rikishi competing in the top two, salaried, ranks). But I think perhaps there are ways we can expand this, especially if we’re using bigger data sets. What do you think, Tachiai readers of this feature? Should we expand beyond the top two divisions? We’ve done this feature for two years now, so it’s right that we should continually try to make it better.

That’s a whole lot of talking without a whole lot of chart action. Here’s the chart following Hatsu 2019 and going into the Haru basho:

Heya Power Rankings - Post-Hatsu 2019

This is the first chart that doesn’t reference Takanohana-beya in any capacity since we started. Here’s the breakdown in the ever popular Billboard-style Top 20 format:

  1. (+17) Kataonami. 95 points (+80)
  2. (+-) Tagonoura. 70 points (-25)
  3. (-2) Chiganoura. 63 points (-45)
  4. (+-) Sakaigawa. 60 points (+7)
  5. (+1) Miyagino. 49 points (+10)
  6. (-1) Oitekaze. 46 points (+3)
  7. (-4) Kasugano. 45 points (-15)
  8. (+-) Izutsu. 35 points (+5)
  9. (+-) Kokonoe. 31 points (+4)
  10. (**) Kise. 28 points (+17)
  11. (-4) Oguruma. 25 points (-10)
  12. (+2) Dewanoumi. 25 points (+5)
  13. (+3) Hakkaku. 25 points (+5)
  14. (-4) Tokitsukaze. 20 points (-7)
  15. (-3) Isenoumi. 20 points (-3)
  16. (+3) Isegahama. 20 points (+5)
  17. (-6) Takadagawa. 18 points (-5)
  18. (+2) Tomozuna. 18 points (+5)
  19. (-6) Sadogatake. 15 points (-8)
  20. (-3) Onomatsu. 13 points (-7)

(legend: ** = new entry, +- = no movement, tiebreaker 1: higher position in the previous chart, tiebreaker 2: highest ranked rikishi on the banzuke)

Analysis

The one-sekitori stables are subject to more profound swings owing to the consistency of their single salaried rikishi. Before the promotion of the Onami brothers, Arashio-beya was a stable that would bounce all over the rankings owing to Sokokurai’s wildly variant top division performances. Kataonami, meanwhile, has always been a typically consistent stable as Tamawashi has put up consistently good-not-great records around the lower-san’yaku and topmost Maegashira ranks. That obviously all changed with his first yusho, which ultimately vaults the stable for the first time to the top of our charts. It’s an almost completely dormant stable but for the culinarily-talented Mongolian pusher-thruster, strangely having produced about as many oyakata as active rikishi.

Chiganoura-beya is relieved of top spot, but holds 3rd position on the back of Takakeisho‘s jun-yusho, as well as the number of rikishi still with the stable following the zero-scoring retirement of Takanoiwa. Takanofuji‘s promotion to Juryo next time out will make up the numbers, and should Takakeisho complete his Ozeki push, the stable will remain a dominant force among our rankings (as currently composed).

One Ozeki-led stable which may be set for a tumble from its usual place around the summit will be Tagonoura-beya. Our model gives credit for banzuke placement and only gives partial docked points for going kyujo mid-tourney, so Kisenosato‘s retirement will be reflected in the next version of the rankings when the stable is no longer fielding a Yokozuna. That said, Takayasu has done his level-best to consistently grab Kisenosato’s old jun-yusho “bridesmaid” mantle. With little hope of sekitori reinforcements at the stable in the near term, Tagonoura likely becomes a Top 5 or 7 rather than Top 3 heya by our figures from here on out.

Let’s have a shout for Kise-beya, which, owing to Shimanoumi‘s Juryo yusho finds itself back up in mid-table. It’s long been a perplexing stable, as they’ve fielded by the largest number of sekitori in the history of this rankings rundown (ten), yet never seem to have any rikishi capable of mounting a prolonged run in the points-grabbing realms of makuuchi, especially since the downfall of Ura. Still, the stable – as ever – has a number of rikishi not only in Juryo (including the bizarrely resurgent Gagamaru) but also in the makushita joi. While Shimanoumi will be the best placed of the six Kise-sekitori to make the move to Makuuchi owing to his position at J1, the stable has no fewer than sixteen makushita rikishi this time out (including the Sandanme-bound Ura), including six ranked Ms10 or higher. All rikishi obviously come with different ability levels and pedigrees, but if the stable can’t see their Juryo rikishi up into Makuuchi and their Makushita class further up the promotion chain this year, it would be awfully perplexing.

Will brighter days be ahead for Isegahama-beya, which now starts to move back up the listings in a meaningful way? It’s tough to say. Old man Aminishiki has taken a nasty fall down the banzuke and it’s yet to be seen whether he can – against all odds again – get up. At Juryo 11 it would be easy to predict that like many before him, a significant make-koshi would send him into the barber’s chair. However, Terutsuyoshi will look to consolidate a place in Makuuchi this basho, and with Takarafuji having grabbed his first kachi-koshi in yonks, and reinforcements on the way from Makushita soon, the stable may yet return to its powerhouse days as a top 10 (or better) heya by our reckoning soon.

One thing that made this rundown a bit more unique is that usually we see quite a bit of turnover, especially between places 7-20, but this time out, the chart stayed – with the notable exception of Tamawashi’s Kataonami-beya – remarkably stable. This echoed my initial gut feeling that there weren’t too many shocks in the new banzuke. As for the next rundown, should Juryo newcomer Kiribayama stay on the dohyo for 15 days, then Michinoku-beya will score their first ever points in our tally. But, as stated above, we’ll be having a look at how to revamp and improve the rankings after the Haru basho.