Takayasu The Crowd Favorite at Spring Jungyo


Bruce and Tom’s point is well taken. There’s a lot more news out there beyond Kisenosato. And spectators of the Spring Jungyo will be happy to know that there’s still plenty of reasons to go out and watch. So, I found an article via @nifty news that covers the Jungyo activities. The headline is a good one for us because it has so many shikona, 5 to be exact: Hakuho, Kisenosato, Goeido, Terunofuji, and Takayasu. My son is in elementary school and each week they get a list of “sight words.” So, I’m going to subject you all to the same standard and start with sanyaku shikona. You need to be able to recognize these names by sight. It will help you root out “Kisenosato-fever” headlines in favor of the other 10 or so guys in sanyaku.
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The Kisenosato Effect


It’s been a few days since our last scan of Japanese sumo articles. Today, we turn again to Mainichi since the Nikkei seems quite satisfied to take a break in coverage during the interbasho timeframe. I’m hesitant to use Yahoo! and other aggregators but will expand my crawl in the coming days. I bring this up because today’s headline is a bit…premature, so I think they’re kind of reaching for content. It would be nice if they covered the Jungyo.

稀勢の里効果に期待も…増えない高校生力士

Today’s headline is about the “Kisenosato effect,” an expectation for an increase in high schoolers turning toward sumo, which has apparently not materialized. Come on, Chris. It’s been two basho. There are a lot of trend driven Japanese but no one in their right mind would drop out of cram school, scrap plans for university and quash their dreams of becoming salarymen by suddenly devouring chanko and choosing the grueling life of a rikishi based purely on Kisenosato’s win, no matter how many times articles refer to his gekiteki (“dramatic” via lesson 1) championship.
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Natsu Basho Sold Out in 90 Minutes


Today’s headline comes again from Mainichi:

前売り券、1時間半で完売
“Pre sale tickets have sold out (for the May tournament) in an hour and a half.”

We’ve got a very short headline today that will introduce several important kanji. Again, I’ll break things but you will need to know ALL of this kanji. The whole thing is beginner level.
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Kotoshogiku Welcomes 1st Baby Boy


Tachiai would like to congratulate Kotoshogiku on the birth of his first baby, a boy. Today’s news comes from Mainichi, again. Apparently Nikkei doesn’t want to cover sumo during Jungyo. Well, even during a tournament it falls under “Sports\Other,” so maybe my expectations are too high. Glad to see that Mainichi is covering it. Three articles from them today. This one is a great, easy headline. Now that I’ve spoiled the surprise of the headline, we may as well take a look at it:

琴奨菊に第1子の長男誕生「親孝行だ」

First thing’s first, Kotoshogiku’s shikona followed by hiragana “ni” because the baby was born to Kotoshogiku. When counting ordinal numbers (i.e. sequentially) Japanese often uses the character “DAI” (第) and follows up with the appropriate kanji for what you’re counting. Here we’re counting kids (子). “CHONAN” is the word for first son (長男). If you replace the second character (which means male) with the character for female (女), you get first daughter. The first character is usually translated as “long” but it also gets used as leader or “head” as in the head of an organization. The head of a company is the ShaCho, using that character.

Then Tanjo (誕生) is birth. If you study Japanese you learn the word Tanjobi (誕生日) which is birthday. This is an important word to know for anyone studying Japanese. Not just so you can celebrate your birthday, you can fill out immigration forms and other paperwork! If you know your bloodtype, you can even set up a social media profile or blog. If you think I’m joking, I’m laughing but I’m not joking.

「親孝行だ」

Lastly, remember yesterday’s “synergy”? How the sumo assistants, tsukebito, get a benefit from assisting sekitori by being able to train with them? Well, kids provide for their parents by respecting them and being dutiful…doing things, like not dying before their parents. His son decided to be born after the tournament, so Kotoshogiku said, “Oyakoko da.” If he’d been born during the tournament, 困ったね。

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

Kisenosato Restarts Training with Pectoral Injury


There’s more bad news on Kisenosato. His stable revealed new details of the extent of his injuries which include a previously undisclosed injury to his left major pectoral muscle. He also restarted training on April 3. We can only wonder why he’s begun training again but I hope his injury is allowed to heal completely. Maybe he’s being allowed to throw a ball against the wall to stave off boredom?

This news comes via Nikkei. The headline we’ll discuss today is below:

稀勢の里、新たに左大胸筋損傷が判明 非公開で稽古再開

By now, we know the kanji for Kisenosato’s shikona, so we all know who we’re talking about. So let’s move on and parse the six kanji characters in the middle, right before the hiragana “GA.” This is usually the subject. These six go together as, “left (左) major (大) pectoral (胸) muscle (筋) injury (損傷).”

Going back to the kanji and two hiragana characters after the comma, we’ve also previously seen the kanji for “new”. With the hiragana -tani, we get the adverbial form, so this yields, “newly.” Japanese usually puts the verb at the end of the phrase. In this case we get, hanmei, or reveal (判明) right before the break in the headline. So, we basically have “a newly revealed left pectoral muscle injury.”

非公開で稽古再開

It’s this last bit which is the startling revelation, in my book. Let’s start at the end. The last two characters (再開) mean restart. Immediately before that, we see what he restarted. Keiko (稽古) means “training.” Hikōkai (非公開) means “private,” and with the hiragana -de, we can take that as “privately.” So, all together, Kisenosato has privately restarted training with a previously undisclosed left pectoral injury. Surely the big guy was not going to sit on the couch watching Cowboy Bebop all day. And he has pulled out of the Spring Jungyo exhibition tour. They are taking his injury seriously and I hope he will be healed and ready in May.

Lastly, I thought I’d show the translations we get from our three translation engines. Google didn’t do too poorly but the use of the word “unpublished” rather than “private” does change the meaning of the headline pretty significantly. Rather than saying he has already restarted, that would seem to imply it may start again at a future date. Excite takes the other tack of making it explicit that “practice resumes.” Yahoo’s regurgitated brekkie sausage (wonderful term, Dana!) brings to mind those fancy restaurants that smear sugar, cocoa and honey on a plate, calling it a “deconstructed S’more.” Completely unintelligible.

According to Google Translate: “Rare village, newly revealed left major pectoral muscle damage Unpublished training restart”
According to Yahoo! Japan: “Revelation is closed and takes a lesson, and, Kisenosato, the left pectoralis major muscle damage reopens newly”
According to Excite: “The left greater pectoral muscle damage is revealing closure again, and a practice resumes Sato of rare momentum.”