Rikishi of the Future – The Hakuho Cup 2018

Following the two hana-zumo events, the dohyo in the Ryogoku Kokugikan was not left unattended. On Monday, February 12, the 8th Hakuho Cup took place.

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The Hakuho Cup is a children’s sumo event, second only to the annual Wanpaku National Championship. Its origins are actually in the Asashoryu Cup. The Wanpaku National Championship is an all-Japanese event, and Asashoryu wished to put some Mongolian kids on the dohyo in the Kokugikan. This dream has finally come to fruition in August 2009, in an event for boys age 8-12, won by the Mongolian delegation winning all of its bouts. Asashoryu wanted to make this an annual event, but unfortunately he was forced to retire a few months later, and the event was never repeated.

With Asashoryu gone, Hakuho took his place as the leading (and only) Yokozuna, and starting in 2011, established his own event. And as usual with Hakuho, anything Asashoryu did, he improved upon. The Hakuho cup in its current form is an event for boys from first to ninth grade. No less than 1300 boys attended this year’s event, hailing not only from Mongolia and Japan, but also from the USA, Taiwan, Hong-Kong, Mainland China, Thailand and South Korea.

The Mongolian delegation practiced at Tomozuna beya:

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While the “Aloha State” team practiced at Musashigawa:

Other heya have also opened their dohyo to the various sumo school clubs and delegations.

On the day itself, many bouts took place on temporary dohyos spread around the kokugikan. At lunch break, Hakuho and Yoshikaze – always involved in children sumo – sat down for a public chat on the dohyo. They were joined by a surprise guest:

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Hakuho, Hanada, Yoshikaze

This was none other than the 66th Yokozuna, the former Wakanohana, Mr. Masaru Hanada. Yes, Takanohana’s older and estranged brother.

This was the first time for the 66th and the 69th Yokozuna to meet face to face, and also the first time for the former Wakanohana to step up the dohyo in the Kokugikan since his retirement in 2000. Hakuho told Hanada that he has been watching his videos since he entered into the sumo world, and always thought he would be a tough one to engage with. Hanada said “You’re huge!”, and then addressed the child wrestlers: “Don’t worry. Even small ones can become Yokozuna, like I did. Just be diligent with your keiko!” (Wakanohana was merely 181cm tall).

Among the participants in the event was Hakuho’s own eldest son, Mahato. That’s the same kid who participated in the 2017 summer Jungyo and asked to engage Mitakeumi, to take revenge (Mitakeumi has beaten Hakuho in the Nagoya basho).

Hakuho Jr. is 9 years old, in the third grade, and therefore this has been his third appearance in his father’s tournament. And for the first time, he actually won a bout – he was winless in the previous two occasions. He overcame a henka, got a brief migi-yotsu and finished with an uwate-nage. The proud father said “Keiko doesn’t lie. He does 200 shiko stomps… but not every day.” The boy was defeated in his next bout, though.

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Hakuho, comforting his son Mahato after his loss in his second bout

The tournament winner for the second grade was Takaaki Uno from Kanazawa.

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The Kanazawa delegation got a lot of support from the latest Kanazawa sekitori, Enho:

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And finally, here is a video with a summary of the events of the day, including the Hakuho jr. bout and various other bouts:

Yes, they are children. The tears are real.

 

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.

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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!

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:

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Harumafuji (L) vs Ikioi (R)

NekoDamashi x2 + Henka = Angry Japanese Press

Okay, the hilarious Hakuho/Tochiozan match had more going on than I noticed when I watched this morning. I obviously saw the henka but I didn’t notice the hand-clapping. The clap is called neko damashi. Mainoumi, who is frequently the Japanese commentator for NHK, was famous for this move. Apparently the Japanese media is all aflutter because they think the trick is not becoming of a yokozuna, nevermind the fact that he did it twice and topped that with a henka.

Mainoumi could get away with it because he was tiny and needed to pull out all the stops to succeed. This is another bit of silliness.

November 2015: Kakuryu Falls

Kakuryu fell to Goeido in the final match and biggest upset of the day. Previously, Hakuho’s failed henka was the funniest thing I’ve seen in a while. Tochiozan stopped his momentum before falling out, so Hakuho had to run over and shove him a few times to get him out of the ring.

After Shohozan’s loss to Ikioi, Takayasu’s loss to Kyokushuho, and Kisenosato’s loss to Toyonoshima (arguably a bigger upset than Goeido over Kakuryu), Harumafuji stands as the lone competition trailing Hakuho who still controls his own destiny. If Harumafuji wins out, including victories over Hakuho, he will win the tournament.

Takanonami Died Saturday, 6/20

Otowayama oyakata, former Takanonami, died suddenly on Saturday of heart failure at the age of 43. The former Ozeki remained in the sumo world as a coach and continued to have a relatively high profile in the sumo world as a talent on television. The news today showed Takanohana accompanying his body at the funeral. Sorry to get this news to you so late but I was in Chiba camping over the weekend.

With Loss To Hakuho, Terunofuji Out of Yusho Race & Ozeki Promotion Must Wait

A lot was on the line in today’s Hakuho/Terunofuji bout. If Terunofuji were to win, the yusho race would be blown wide open with Kaisei alone on top and 3 sanyaku wrestlers among the field tied at second. Also, odds on ozeki promotion would be considerably stronger but he would still face a tough final four days with matches against three sanyaku opponents, Kotoshogiku, Goeido, & Myogiryu, ahead. After being pulled forward onto the ground, uwatedashinage, hopes at yusho and rapid promotion have flown out the window.

Kaisei is still tied with Hakuho for the lead and faces Aoiyama tomorrow. It will be a test against an occasional sanyaku wrestler. Hakuho will fight Goeido. Kisenosato and Takayasu are one win back at 9-2.

May Tournament, Day 8: Oosunaarashi out (shoulder)

Both yokozuna stay in the lead at 7-1. Hakuho got the freebie win since Oosunaarashi did suffer a shoulder injury when tumbling with Kisenosato off the dohyo yesterday. He’ll go up against Myogiryu tomorrow. Harumafuji got an impressive yorikiri victory over Ichinojo and faces M5 Tamawashi tomorrow, who has two wins so far and has not been particularly successful in the top half of the makuuchi.

Terunofuji, Takayasu, Kaisei, and Kyokushuho round out the leaders. Kaisei and Takayasu face off tomorrow, guaranteeing someone will be 8-1 and kachi-koshi.