Rikishi Cheering Stricken Asakura Survivors


As I reported yesterday, the Jungyo was on a day off today, but some of the rikishi went to Asakura, Fukuoka, which was struck by torrential rains in July and suffered great deveastation, to comfort and cheer the surviving residents.

tamawashi-at-asakura
Tamawashi: Going for Ozeki

But what was first reported as “Hakuho and Kotoshogiku and a few officials” turned out to be a delegation of 46 men, 30 of whom were rikishi, who were there to make the survivors happy.

After observing a moment of silence beside the sculpture of Yokozuna Umegatani, who hailed from Asakura, the rikishi proceeded to a local venue where they mingled with the locals, and offered red-and-white sweets.

About 1200 people, including the local primary school kids, filled the main hall, where they viewed a demonstration of how an oicho-mage is done, listened to sumo-jinku, and of course, savoured the experience of Hakuho’s dohyo-iri.

Outside the venue, the locals could also enjoy free chanko-nabe.

The man of the day surprisingly turned out to be Tamawashi. His heya stayed at Asakura during the Kyushu basho. Many of the locals showed warm hospitality toward the former sekiwake, and he, in exchange, promised them that he would win a double-figure kachi-koshi. And as you may recall, he delivered!

So today, when he came back there, he was greeted warmly as a returning son, and said “So many familiar faces. It feels like a homecoming. I’ll consider Asakura as my second home town from now”.

He added that now he is eyeing the “top of the top”, meaning that he is not settling for a return to san’yaku, but he is going to go for an Ozeki run. Best of luck, Bejeweled Eagle!

Pearl Of The Day: How Are Sagari Stiffened?


Sagari are the cords hanging down from the wrestler’s mawashi.

sagari-silhouette

In the past, wrestlers used to fight in their kesho-mawashi, but the heavy ornamental apron hampered them, and it is also very hard to clean. So the kesho-mawashi became a purely ceremonial item, and for fighting purposes, it was simplified into the sagari cords.

Sagari are separate from the mawashi itself, hanging from a sash that is tucked into the mawashi. This is in order to prevent broken fingers should they get caught in the cords.

Low-ranking wrestlers have loose sagari. Sekitori use stiffened sagari, as straight and stiff as pencils, which match the color of the mawashi. So how is that achieved?

It is usually the duty of the Sekitori’s tsukebito to stiffen the sagari. And the pearl of the day is Itadaki of Isenoumi Heya showing us how he stiffens Nishikigi’s sagari:

Glue is applied to each of the silk tufts, making sure (using one’s nails) that it is absorbed by every strand. The excess is removed – and the width adjusted – using a piece of cloth. The end is nicely flared, and the whole cord is stretched on the board to dry.

Looking for a New Job


Do any readers know of job openings for a data analyst with 10 years of experience using SAS? I currently manage safety data for the Federal Railroad Administration. For various reasons, I’m very interested in “moving on up” — though it doesn’t necessarily need to be “to the East side.” Data science is awesome and relevant to everything, including sumo (naturally). I’ve been reading a lot about the whisky-making industry, and you’d be amazed at how much data Diageo and other companies are collecting as they regulate steeping temperature, track malting progress, and trigger the cut from the heads to the heart to the tails of the distillation.

My background is in Economics. I got my BA in Economics and Latin American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. No, I’m not a basketball fan…at least until they bring back the hand check and get rid of charging fouls. After a stint teaching English in Japan, I got my Masters in Economics at East Carolina University, where I learned the power of Econometrics and Forecasting…and importantly their limitations and the dangers of bias.

Unfortunately, the standard Economics curriculum does not seem to delve deeply enough into data management. I’m always stunned at how much data is stored and analyzed in spreadsheets and text files, cobbled together with Ctrl+C and glue sticks. I learned a great deal about data management and programming from a colleague of mine with a degree in computer science. We worked together at a non-profit called Social Compact that assembled data from municipal data sources to create neighborhood population estimates.

Our main targets were food deserts and the lack of formal banking services in many urban communities. Much of our day involved cleaning tax assessment data, building permits and utility data and creating replicable ETL (extract, transform, load) process flows. Municipal data sets have tons of data, much of it unstructured. We would update tax assessment data with information from the building permits to create estimates of the number of housing units, and mash that up with data from the credit bureaus on market strength, then map locations of the closest grocery stores and retail banks.

Though I learned a lot, including the power of maps and GIS analytics, I needed to learn formal best practices in data management. So, I went back to school at George Washington University and got my MS in Information Systems. This helped me at my current job where I manage the data behind several of our safety systems, including our accident data from the railroads, inspection data, and our grade crossing inventory. This leads to interesting analyses regarding rule-making activity, accident trends, and inspection effectiveness. Crossing incidents are correlated with single-family residential developments, so we’re working to understand more about how to mitigate those risks.

It’s time I move on, though. I would love to go back East to Japan but that’s not necessary. I need to be challenged and I look forward to new opportunities. If you know of any, and can put up with bad puns, drop me a line at martinandy@hotmail.com or feel free to leave a comment.

A Bit of Seriousness…Again?!?!


It is with deep sorrow, and a little fear as I clutch my Michael Kiwanuka tickets for tomorrow, that I extend my condolences to the people of London, Manchester and Manila. The threat of terrorism is unfortunately an uncomfortable reality that hangs over high-profile, popular events and locations. We should be able to gather for work and enjoy entertainment without fear that we may not return home. I’m not going to leave this post up long…I’ll probably delete it soon because I don’t want to dwell on dark topics…but I wanted to express sympathy to those of you who may have been affected, or know someone who was.

It’s not something new. It’s been present in our literature, cinema and art for longer than Guy Fawkes masks have been around. Thomas Harris’s first book wasn’t about Hannibal Lector; it was a 1975 thriller about the race to stop a blimp from bombing the Super Bowl.

Throughout my childhood, the specter of hijackings hanged over the act of flying but the first time terrorism really registered as something in my consciousness occurred as a kid, visiting London in the 80s at the end of the Troubles, when unable to return to our hotel because of a bomb threat. Then, during high school, the attacks in Oklahoma City and at our own Olympic Games in Atlanta captured our attention. And though I knew about it, the sarin attack in Tokyo occurred but the gravity and reality of it didn’t really hit me until I found myself in Kasumigaseki station many years later.

The events of September 11th didn’t really surprise me. I had been in the lounge at the top of one of the towers of the World Trade Center 6 months before, watching the birds circling below my feet and wondering what would happen if a plane was lost in the city. It had happened before, and it has happened since. Usually by accident, but it wasn’t hard to imagine an event where it wasn’t. And over the past 18 years, whether it be Bangkok, or Nairobi, or Paris with frustrating regularity there seems to be another attack which has me concerned about friends I met at that location, or family I know who frequent it, or friends of friends, or friends of friends of friends.

I work in DC, next to the Navy Yard, and was at work when a laid off contractor slipped through security and killed 13 people, one of whom had been evacuated but succumbed to his injuries in front of the CVS. We were locked down that day, just as our kids were last year when a divorced security guard started killing random people in parking lots around Montgomery County. That reminded my neighbors of the heightened fears during the DC sniper events since one of the shootings occurred at the gas station a block from here. I’m pretty jaded now.

It is madness, and I offer no advice or answers. I have none. I can only offer my sympathy and hope that this last one was the last one.

Where Has Sumo Gone? – Jungyo! (巡業)


For international Sumo fans, it’s a long wait between the end of the Nagoya basho and the September basho in Tokyo. but in the 2 months between tournaments, for those in Japan, Sumo goes on tour! Referred to as Jungyo (巡業 – Literally, to “make the rounds”), each day  consists of exhibition matches, training sessions demonstrating how Sumotori work out, and sessions where local children square off against Rikishi for fun and entertainment.

The schedule includes a slapstick Sumo bout called “Shokkiri” (しょっきり), which seems to be straight out of the 3 Stooges in places.

These tours in between tournaments helps raise public awareness of Sumo and build the audience for the sport.  It appears to be working, as the popularity of Sumo has risen in Japan during the past few years.

The Sato-Shuffle


Screenshot (168)Kisenosato surprised the world with his dodge of Kotoshogiku. Well, forgive the hyperbole but he sure surprised me…dunno about you all. He’s getting close and yusho talk is picking up. The last time he was 9-0, he actually kept winning until Day 14 when Hakuho put an end to his yusho hopes. He finished 13-2 behind Hakuho’s zensho yusho. This time, though, Hakuho is already one loss back.

But obviously they’ve got several fights before a potential showdown with the yusho on the line. Hakuho will face a weakened Terunofuji who had his hands full of Toyonoshima. Kisenosato will face a Kakuryu hoping for redemption from getting bounced by Goeido of all people. Goeido secured his kachi-khoshi and stays in the yusho mix, tied with Hakuho.

Sadly, Ikioi fell one more loss off pace in an entertaining bout with Harumafuji. No words are needed. The picture below summarizes the bout brilliantly:

Screenshot (167)
Harumafuji (L) vs Ikioi (R)