August 16 saw the rikishi reach Aomori. There are no less than 18 active rikishi from Aomori – six of them from Isegahama beya. Why? Because Isegahama oyakata is from Aomori. Aminishiki, Takarafuji and Homarefuji hail from Aomori. Unfortunately, Takarafuji is kyujo this jungyo. So only Aminishiki and Homarefuji represented the heya in this day’s event.
Aminishiki wished to have his photograph taken with his son in his home prefecture. He couldn’t do dohyo-iri with him (I have seen no babies or toddlers in this Jungyo’s dohyo-iri). But he did get that photo taken:
Note the matching kesho-mawashi.
In the event itself, Aminishiki and Homarefuji chose to kill two birds with one stone, and practice together to the cheers of the local crowd:
The Isegahama men were not the only ones celebrated this day. There were also the Sasayama brothers, Daiseido and his older brother, who maintains his original surname:
Of course, the most prominent Aomori-born rikishi is Onosho, currently the only Makuuchi wrestler from that prefecture. Takayasu, who does san-ban with him almost every day, gave him butsukari today instead:
Of course, the Yokozuna also performed his dohyo-iri with the rest of the Yokozuna.
Nice wolf-themed kesho-mawashi. The writing at the bottom says “Hakuho’s Hokkaido Support Group”. The Yokozuna doesn’t have just one support group, it appears.
Here is a video with the events of the day and lots of bouts:
You may notice the spectators shouting “keppare” to Onosho. “Keppare” is the Aomori version of the word “Gambare” used in central Japan. The word is used generally in Tohoku and also in Hokkaido. So instead of gambarizing, the northern folk kepparize. 🙂
All the local boys win… (Nishikigi seems to be considered local due to being from Tohoku). Daiseido’s brother, Sasayama, also won his bout vs. Kyokusoten earlier.
While the Jungyo is taking place, the rikishi who are not in the Jungyo are either in their Tokyo heya practicing, or going around doing various training camps. Isegahama beya had its traditional training camp at Aomori (mostly) – together with Tatsunami beya. The day after the Aomori Jungyo event was a rest day for the Jungyo, and this coincided with Isegahama’s conclusion of aforesaid training camp. They had a pep rally to celebrate that conclusion and cheer on their rikishi – and conveniently, the Isegahama sekitori and tsukebito were still at Aomori and could join their heya for the day:
And with this little side trip away from the Jungyo, I conclude today’s report. And there is absolutely no Enho today. Nor Tobizaru, nor Arawashi. The ladies of Aomori simply refused to share the pretty faces of the sumo world with the rest of us.
All I can give you is Hoshoryu, who – for some reason – participated in the Isegahama event:
(Yeah, it was a joint training camp, but it doesn’t seem to be a joint rally)
Today, the sumo nobori flags were flapping in the wind in Katsuyama city.
Those of you with sharp eyes (and Kanji skills) will note some flags that one doesn’t normally see in honbasho. For example, a flag for Kimura Ginjuro – the gyoji, and a flag for… Naruto beya, which is certainly not participating in the Jungyo due to having as yet no sekitori whatsoever.
The rikishi practiced. Not only on the dohyo, but all over the venue. Take a look at Ryuden lifting weights. Well, the sort of weights that are available in abundance in the Jungyo:
The towel, by the way, is a point of courtesy. Keeps your sweat away from your partner.
Ishiura was busy… nail gazing? I thought that was reserved only for yokozuna.
So… maybe this is not actually a practice photo. It seems there is a line forming (that’s Homarefuji behind him), which probably means they are waiting to greet one of the Yokozuna.
But here is some actual practice. Wakatakakage seems to be doing an off-dohyo reverse butsukari for Mitakeumi. Just a reminder – a butsukari practice is when a low-ranking rikishi has to push a high-ranking one again and again until he dies, or at least feels as if he did. A reverse butsukari is when a high ranking rikishi feels he needs the exercise, but only has someone ranked lower than himself available to push. It’s basically the same thing, but since the high ranking one calls the shots, it’s usually a lot less like a torture and a lot more like an actual practice.
Mitakeumi later switched to the dohyo and gave straight butsukari to youngsters, much like yesterday:
And yes, that’s Kisenosato on the dohyo. This is the first time in this Jungyo a Yokozuna practiced on-dohyo, and that it should be Kisenosato only tells you how badly banged up the other Yokozuna are.
Kisenosato was giving butsukari as well – first to Nakazono, a low ranker (I’m not sure, but I think he is one of his tsukebito):
Relax, Kaisei! I’m sure Tamawashi has no intention of applying a kotenage to any of the fans!
Between the practice and the torikumi, the tokoyama re-arranged the hairdos for the rikishi:
Just before the Juryo dohyo-iri, the Shokkiri took place. Surprise – we have reverted back to the Shokkiri team from Takadagawa beya, rather than the Kasugano pair from yesterday. And just to show you that each pair has unique features in their act, they went and got what looks suspiciously like an Acme-branded hammer:
Moving on to the Torikumi, it seems that Enho is the regular fill-in in Juryo. That makes sense, but why not just let the guy wear his shimekomi, and be done with it?
Short stop here for beginners: Low ranking rikishi practice and compete in the same black cotton mawashi. When they compete, they insert loose sagari (those cords hanging down from it) into it. Sekitori, on the other hand, practice in a white cotton mawashi which is folded at the front like a roll of toilet paper. When they compete, however, they wear a silk mawashi in the color of their choice, with matching, stiffened sagari. This silk mawashi is called “shimekomi”.
So in the picture above Tobizaru is the sekitori wearing his off-white shimekomi and you can see the stiff sagari protruding to his sides. Enho is a Makushita fill-in, so he wears his black cotton mawashi and you can see his loose sagari hanging down his hips.
Enho has a shimekomi stored somewhere in his heya, from the Haru basho this year, in which he participated as a sekitori. Since he is going to be a sekitori again next basho, he will be putting it back into use.
So let’s move on.
Actually, again, there is not much information about the day’s torikumi, other than the fact that Kagayaki has beaten Ikioi by yori-kiri. And this was only mentioned because Ikioi was doing the duties of “local boy” today, on the premise that his… grandmother hails from a nearby town. 😀
At this point I’m really getting worried about Kakuryu. Three wins in a row for Kisenosato against the man who won two yusho in a row only a couple of months back? What the heck is going on with Kakuryu’s foot? He looks like he is doing laundry with it, not sumo.
That’s it for today, and since, for some unknown reason, the sumo ladies did not take any Enho photos other than that one against Tobizaru, I’ll have to settle for Arawashi instead:
Yes, dear readers, it is time! We have waited long enough. In the next few hours, set aside your worries about your favorites being hurt: It’s honbasho time! It’s a full day of raging action for day 1 at the Kokugikan, and frankly I can’t wait for all the amazing stories that are about to unfold. Many folks will be focused on the top of the banzuke as the drama there plays out, but I find myself increasingly draw to Josh’s “Ones to watch”. This series has proven remarkably insightful while educating and entertaining. Most folks in the US (and other parts of the world) don’t even get to see all of Makuuchi, let alone all of the great action in Juryo, Makushita, Sandanme and Jonidan.
Just as it was in Osaka, my favorite stories are likely to be at the lower end of the Makuuchi banzuke. Nishikigi continues to refuse to ever give up, and somehow holds onto the last Maegashira slot at the edge of the earth. Aminishiki may have nothing more than courage and gristle left in his knees, but he will mount the dohyo today and give challenge. Kyokutaisei somehow adapted to life in the sumo heya, and excelled. Now he’s in Makuuchi and Hokkaido can finally represent once more. Go Hams!
Fans, keep in mind it will take a few days for everyone to settle into the tournament, so you may see some favorites looking like they are not quite their normal genki selves, and some great surprises. So expect anything!
What We Are Watching Day 1
Hell, I am going to watch all of it. But I am sure you don’t have the time to read everything I might write up about the outstanding fight card we have to start the basho. I will do my best.
Nishikigi vs Aminishiki – Nishikigi will never make San’yaku. He’s kind of blind as a bat without his specs, but even blind he’s good enough to find a way to stay in Makuuchi. Now he’s up against Uncle Sumo on day 1. I am sad for folks who are going to view the highlights, as you are not going to believe the roar that will rip through he Kokugikan as the yobidashi sings out his name. People LOVE Aminishiki. To many folks who might struggle with some challenge in their life, he is a reminder that “Nana korobi ya oki” can always apply! (Fall down seven times, get up eight)
Myogiryu vs Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei’s first match in the top division is against Myogiryu, a solid veteran who has been drifting between the top of Juryo and the bottom of Makuuchi during the past year. These two are no strangers to each others’ fighting style. I will be curious to see if Kyokutaisei has any top division jitters.
Tochiozan vs Takekaze – I am very glad to see Takekaze back in the top division after a brief tour of Juryo. For reasons that I can’t imagine, all of the Oguruma upper echelon has been on the skids as of late. I have to wonder if maybe they are having problems with their Chanko supply… Tochiozan, on the other hand, has been reported to be ripping through folks during joint training in the past week. We know Tochiozan is capable of some explosive and powerful sumo, it would be acres of fun to see him have a great basho this May.
Sadanoumi vs Aoiyama – The Bulgarian man-mountain is back for more, like a giant angry dollop of sour cream with the reach to slap you from across the dohyo. Sadanoumi is a seasoned veteran who is probably happy to be pulling down Makuuchi pay again. My bet is on Aoiyama, who always seems to start tournaments strong. With Sadanoumi preferring the belt, he will have to survive the withering rain of blows from Aoiyama to get there.
Ishiura vs Asanoyama – The happy rikishi goes up against Ishiura, whose sumo seems a bit lost these days. He opened big a bit over a year ago, but his limited arsenal of moves has left him in something of a corner. I think he has amazing potential if he can find his sumo again. We can count on Asanoyama being happy just to get to do sumo today, even though he really likes to win.
Arawashi vs Chiyonokuni – As discussed in the podcast, both of these rikishi are tremendous fighters. They bring huge energy and go flat out with nothing in reserve. Both of them deserve a good, turn-around basho this May, but first they need to beat the daylights out of each other.
Takakeisho vs Hokutofuji – One of my highlight matches. Hopefully both men are healed up from the injuries that have left them underperforming. With significant changes at the top of the banzuke anticipated this year, now is the right time for both of them to press hard for the top ranks. We have not seen Takakeisho’s wave action tsuppari in several basho, and we need him to bring it back with gusto. Likewise I want to see Hokutofuji channel Kaiō again. There is a big role that may open up for a huge, powerful rikishi who moves low and balances offense and defense.
Yoshikaze vs Chiyomaru – Another match where the fans are going to erupt when the yobidashi call the rikishi. People adore Yoshikaze, in part because he never ever gives up, and is always bright, witty and a gentleman. And people love Chiyomaru because who the hell can hold a grudge against a guy like that? Word on the street is that with Yoshikaze getting free meals anywhere in Sumida, they are going out for supper afterwards. The same rumor cites Chiyomaru for a spate of early restaurant closures in the area (they run out of food), as well as a rash of missing house plants, vending machines and even a pair of manhole covers. Listen for him to clank suspiciously as he mounts the dohyo.
Ryuden vs Takarafuji – One of my freshmen takes on the highest ranking man remaining at the once-mighty Isegahama beya. Both men are going to go for a mawashi grip early, but I would give Takarafuji a slight edge.
Chiyoshoma vs Ikioi – Only question to ask here – is Ikioi healed up? It was painful to watch him walk the hanamichi in Osaka. We can only hope that he was able to heal fully. This is two seasoned vets going head to head, so I am sure it’s going to be a solid match.
Kotoshogiku vs Shodai – Well, Shodai is probably going to get owned. Mostly because he tends to let Kotoshogiku do whatever he wants, and he wants to give you a sweet, passionate battle hug.
Chiyotairyu vs Yutakayama – Another of my freshmen, Yutakayama, is going up against Chiyotairyu, who had BETTER HAVE HIS SIDEBURNS! Seriously, the kami that inhabits his sideburns is the source of his sumo power. Granted the kami is some kind of sprit of a smelly mountain aesthetic from the feudal period who never ever washed, and ate nothing but fermented sardines, but we take what we can get in life, right?
Mitakeumi vs Daieisho – The King of the Tadpoles needs to make a comeback. The big jump ball at the top of the banzuke is coming, and if Mitakeumi wants a ticket to that dance, he needs to be producing double-digit wins every basho from here on out. He has the body, the skill, the heart to do it. But I suspect he doubts himself just a tiny bit. That’s all it takes at the top of this sport to keep yourself from greatness. Daieisho, however, is point man on team Oitekaze. I can’t wait to see if he starts Natsu as genki as he ended Haru.
Abi vs Ichinojo – Could be the match of the day. We get the lead Freshman against The Boulder. Large, tough as granite, and when roused, quite dangerous. He has added an astonishing 20 kg to his already ponderous bulk, and rumor has it, two new cuddle-ponies at Minato beya. Much to the chagrin of his tsukebito. Abi has to stay mobile, and use Ichinojo’s mass against him.
Tochinoshin vs Shohozan – If you wanted cake and ice cream for Mothers Day, here we go. Big guns goes up against unstoppable strength. Win or lose, nobody leaves a match with Shohozan without being sore. But Tochinoshin’s fantastic strength will likely carry the day, provided his upper body is healed.
Kaisei vs Goeido – I think this one is all Goeido. Goeido is lightning fast, and Kaisei seems to be huge, powerful and kind of slow. Andy thinks that he’s been upgraded to GoeiDOS 2.1, so we will see what shows up tomorrow.
Tamawashi vs Hakuho – It’s Hakuho time! It will be good to see The Boss back in action. But Tamawashi is a tough first customer. As long as Tamawashi is not psyched out by facing the dai-Yokozuna, I think he will give him a good, if brief, fight. Boss all the way on this one. [Past history is 10-0 in Hakuho’s favour. –PinkMawashi]
Kakuryu vs Endo – Woo! Saving the best for last, and what a match-up. Endo is a very technical rikishi, I have heard that he studies video of his opponent before each match. He looks for habits, things they like to do. He comes up with ways to counter strong moves and attack weak ones. He starts against Kakuryu who is the master of “reactive sumo”. He loves to stalemate an opponent and wait for them to make a mistake, which he turns against them in a blink of an eye.
Before every bout, the wrestlers about to engage need to purify themselves. For this purpose, there is a bucket of water on either side of the dohyo. Below the dohyo, a rikishi awaits. The yobidashi hands him a ladle and a piece of paper, and he hands first the ladle, then the paper to the rikishi on the dohyo. The receiver rinses his mouth with the water, and spits it under the cover of that piece of paper into a spittoon built into the corner of the dohyo.
This water is called chikara-mizu, “power water”. The rikishi that hands it is supposed to be untainted by loss that day. The rule is usually very simple. On the side where the previous rikishi won, that winner presents the ladle. On the side that lost, the rikishi who is scheduled to play in the next bout on that side, and has neither won nor lost as yet, delivers the water.
Consider a part of today’s (Haru day 4) schedule:
So, in the bout between Kagayaki and Yoshikaze, Abi, who won his bout, hands water to Kagayaki, while Yoshikaze gets the water from Hokutofuji.
This is how things go until the last match, the musubi-no-ichiban. But that’s where it gets complicated. There is no “next player” who can offer the ladle. What happens then?
For this purpose, the last winner on both sides is supposed to stick around. But of course, you can’t just keep someone around forever, denying him his bath and relaxation, just because five people after him on the same side were rude enough to lose their bout. It’s usually just the second-to-last who stays around.
We had exactly that situation today. Chiyotairyu, achieving his first win today, was the last wrestler on the west to win. Ichinojo, Tochinoshin, Tamawashi, Goeido – all of them on the west, all of them lost. So who was to hand the water to Arawashi?
This is something we rarely get to see. First, because us foreigners mostly watch highlights and digest reels, which omit the chikara-mizu ceremony altogether. But also because the standard procedure for the TV broadcast is to only show the losing rikishi briefly as he bows and leaves, and then concentrate on the winner of the last bout as he waits with the ladle in his hands. So we rarely see what’s going on at the losing side at all.
What you see here is Arawashi’s tsukebito, Hikarugenji, handing him the chikara-mizu. That’s not an improvisation – it’s standard procedure. And as the ceremony is supposed to be performed wearing a mawashi, and there is no time for the aforesaid tsukebito to change back into his mawashi, he symbolically adjusts his kimono to expose one shoulder – and apparently, one leg – so he can be considered “naked”.
(Much obliged to the originator of that tweet, Nii-san, for taking the time to look up the reason for the change in the kimono for me).
We have ourselves a yusho winner. The first from Georgia. The first Maegashira to win the title since Kyokutenho in in Natsu 2012. The first Kasugano yusho winner in 46 years (Tochiazuma Tomoyori, Hatsu 1972 – also Maegashira at the time). No wonder the Kasugano support club wanted to see a fish and to see it now:
Down at Jonokuchi, I’m glad to inform you that Yoshoyama managed to scrape his kachi-koshi today, facing the hapless Osumifuji.
His heya mates brought him flowers to the hana-michi.
In Makushita, Wakamotoharu lost his final bout and is make-koshi. No video at this time.
Up in Juryo, Meisei goes against Takagenji:
Takagenji still doesn’t have kachi-koshi. Both he and Meisei will need a win tomorrow. Takagenji will face the strong Hidenoumi who wants the Yusho.
On to the top division we go:
Sokokurai and Daiamami engage in a lengthy hidari-yotsu, with Sokokurai burying his head in Daiamami’s chest. Eventually Sokokurai tries a throw, but it doesn’t quite work and Daiamami uses it to yori-kiri him.
Kotoyuki and Daieisho go on a tsuppari battle, that ends up with Kotoyuki spread across the dohyo. Hikiotoshi. Kotoyuki’s last chance of a kachi-koshi is tomorrow.
Yutakayama pushes Daishomaru mightily to the edge. Daishomaru tries a side step. Yutakayama slams to the ground – but Daishomaru is also out. Gunbai says Yutakayama, a monoii is called – but Daishomaru’s foot was out first, and it is indeed Yutakayama’s win – and kachi-koshi.
Aminishiki tries to be as genki as he can and bumps into Nishikigi. Gives a harite and tries to get a mawashi grip. This doesn’t quite work, and Nishikigi drives him to the edge. Then hovers around with a worried face to see that he didn’t damage the old man. On the Isegahama web site, Aminishiki writes “Tomorrow is the last match, so I want to win”. Somehow it sounds to me that he means that it’s the ultimate last match. He may not want to go down to Juryo again.
And… Ishiura does a henka against Chiyomaru. Ishiura kachi-koshi. So we’ll see more of his henka in Haru. Sigh.
Ryuden takes on Kaisei and gets in a quick morozashi. Kaisei has the weight advantage and good mobility on his side, and he shifts and turns and gets one of Ryuden’s hands out. Then tries to pull an uwatenage, but he ends up on the floor first, and it’s declared Ryuden’s shitatenage. Ryuden hits the double digits on his debut – which is impressive because he was never a double digits man.
Chiyoshoma gets a fast hold on Asanoyama and they go on a raging battle, but Chiyoshoma loses his hold, and once Asanoyama has his grip, he pushes the Mongolian out with a defiant head nod. Chiyoshoma make-koshi, Asanoyama kachi-koshi again. It’s funny to hear people in the crowd cheering for him using his real name (Ishibashi).
The Ghost of Terunofuji vs. Ikioi. Move along. Nothing to see here. It’s a yoritaoshi despite Ikioi both hurting and trying to be gentle. Terunofuji says that he wants to win at least tomorrow’s bout. Fat chance.
Takekaze comes in strong at the tachiai and gets his left hand inside… but that’s about all he can manage. Okinoumi brushes him out as if he was a fly.
Kagayaki starts an oshi battle vs. Endo, but after a couple of clashes, falls pray to slippiotoshi, Endo swiftly moving aside to let him “split the dohyo” as the Japanese expression goes.
The camera has been following Tochinoshinthrough the previous two bouts. A few obligatory shots of Shohozan as well, but he is not the story here. When those two finally get at it, you can cut the tension with a knife. Shohozan starts a tsuppari barrage which Tochinoshin can only fend off. This goes on for some time, then Shohozan tries to sidestep. This nearly gets Tochinoshin, and the spectators let out a big “whoa”. But he quickly turns around, and when he does, he also gets a good grip on Shohozan, and from there it’s a couple of yori followed by a yori-kiri. The man from Georgia gets his first yusho. The crowd bursts into applause. It’s party time… but there are still bouts to go.
Yoshikaze and Chiyotairyu are apparently graduates of the same university. So they are sempai and kohai. But Chiyotairyu doesn’t give Yoshikaze any precedence, and quickly pulls at him for a hatakikomi. Yoshikaze looked for a moment like he was going for an outstanding performance prize, but that moment passed several bouts ago.
In yet another battle of opposite ends, Abi draws former Ozeki Kotoshogiku in a battle of the up-and-coming vs. the down-and-going. However, Kotoshogiku is not going anywhere without a fight. Abi tries to pull Kotoshogiku down quickly, but Kotoshogiku not falling for that. Abi then sticks his head in Kotoshogiku’s chest and grabs at his armpits. But a yori battle will favor the Chrisanthemum. Abi’s pelvis is about the height of Kotoshogiku’s chest, so Kotoshogiku refrains from pumping his hips, but he does know how to push, and yori-kiris Abi right out. In Yiddish we call this “rebe-gelt” – “tuition”, what you pay when you learn a lesson.
Chiyonokuni doesn’t give Hokutofuji even two seconds before slapping him down. Hatakikomi, and the Kokonoe man slowly reduces the damage of his make-koshi, while Hokutofuji is 4-10 and will drop way down the banzuke at Haru.
Now, I hate it when the torikumi guys pit two guys I like against each other, but oh well, I can always be happy for the winner. This time Takarafuji was trying to get his kachi-koshi from Ichinojo. And Ichinojo is not in the business of letting his rivals win this basho. If they want to, they have to work for it. Ichinojo unbelievably tries for a nodowa on his left and momentarily allows Takarafuji to get his hand in on his right. Nodowa? The boulder quickly realizes his mistake, abandons the nonexistent throat, and changes his grip on the right. Now it’s migi-yotsu, which favors Ichinojo. But there is no extended leaning battle this time, as Ichinojo grabs Takarafuji’s mawashi tightly and throws him outside for a shitatedashinage, no ifs, ands and buts.
Today it was the old Shodai vs. the old Takakeisho. Shodai stands up at the tachiai. Doesn’t get anything done. Takakeisho bumps him a couple of time. No kachi-koshi for Shodai as yet.
In the match of the Eagles, Arawashi with his bad knees gets a better tachiai. I would even call this one a matta. But Tamawashi regroups and goes into a tsuppari attack. Arawashi sidesteps, and Tamawashi flies over the edge. Arawashi still has a chance for a kachi-koshi tomorrow.
Goeido avoids kadoban and gets Mitakeumi all the way to the tawara in a blink of an eye. Correct bootup today, apparently.
Musubi no ichiban. Takayasu drives hard and gets Kakuryu to the edge. But Kakuryu is looking better today, circles and regroups. Tries to get a grip on Takayasu, but Takayasu turns him around. The Yokozuna quickly turns right back and lunges at Takayasu. And then…. he… pulls… again…. Oshidashi, yet another loss for the Yokozuna. And Takayasu has the jun-yusho (though theoretically he can lose tomorrow and Ryuden or Kakuryu win).
So the yusho goes to Tochinoshin. Both the Georgian prime minister and president tweet their congratulations.
The jun-yusho, with high probability, goes to Takayasu. My assumption is that he will do his best to win tomorrow, to make it a decent 12-3 jun-yusho, which may allow him to lay claim to a rope should he win the yusho in Haru. One of my twitter followers says that not having been in the yusho picture, this wouldn’t count for Takayasu, but I think that if he does happen to win Haru, given that he has the all-important Japanese birth certificate, the NSK and the YDC may avoid nitpicking.
What’s left tomorrow is to see if the Yokozuna can pull at least the win from Goeido. To see who gets the various sansho (Abi still has a shot, Ryuden certainly has, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Ichinojo gets one). And then we will get to see Tochinoshin lifting cup after cup, and being driven around in the NSK’s spiffy new Mercedes-Benz.