Aki Day 7 – Bouts from the lower divisions

Hoshoryu. Sometimes famous uncles are not a good thing.

Here we are again, nearing the half-way line, many rikishi have completed their fourth match in the lower divisions, and some of them even collected their kachi-koshi or make-koshi already.

Continue reading

Tachiai Interviews Kintamayama, Part 3: “Everyone was scared to enter the dohyo!”

Kintamayama (Moti Dichne) with Musashimaru and Konishiki
Kintamayama, pictured overseeing keiko at Musashigawa-beya with the former Musashimaru (Musashigawa-oyakata) and Konishiki. Photo courtesy of Moti Dichne.

Welcome to Part 3 of Tachiai’s conversation with Moti Dichne, aka Kintamayama. Moti is well known in the online sumo community for his tireless coverage of all things sumo through his newsletter, his presence on SumoForum, and of course, his exhaustive YouTube channel.

Click here for Part 1 and click here for Part 2 of our conversation, if you are catching up. The third part of our series incorporates some of Moti’s stories from keiko, thoughts on future stars, and fun with sumo. The interview took place during this year’s Natsu basho and has been edited for clarity and length [edited to add: this post was edited further on August 17 due to a complaint regarding some of the video content]. This segment features some strong opinions, which are of course the subject’s own.

Tachiai: Obviously you use your Japanese language skills to bring us a lot of information. And particularly, you have got some really interesting scoops from the interview room…

Moti Dichne: laughs

Do you have any of those videos coming up? I think there are some people who want to know who else came to Ichinojo’s bar mitzvah….

I always watch all the interviews, and I know which interview can go like that. Most of the interviews lately are very straightforward. I have to be in the zone, you know? It doesn’t happen very easily! I’ll tell you something. I estimate 70% of people think those videos are real. I’ve been having complaints, like “why did Ichinojo jump the line in the supermarket?!”

 

It’s all music, it’s all the sound. There are a lot of words that sound a bit like English. I enjoy it a lot. When people enjoy it, that’s great. I haven’t done it in a long time, I don’t know why.

You seem to have your favourites that you’ll go after. 

 

 

In the old times, they used to show a close-up of the monoii because [the video] was the Kyokai’s feed, not NHK. My best work is the rapport between the shimpan. One time, one of the shimpan, Chiyotaikai’s slipper fell off, and so I have Chiyonofuji saying “see? I told you not to buy cheap shoes! Where did you buy these shoes anyway!?” It looks like he’s saying it! And Chiyotaikai says, “What do you want? it was a sale!”

I can’t do that anymore because I can’t see [the monoii], it’s very far on the NHK feed, and I don’t know what they’re saying. Listen, that humour is part of me. I can’t help it. Sometimes, I have “font day.” I have all kinds of nonsense that annoys people. I don’t give a shit. I love it! It makes it more entertaining.

 

 

 

You have to find the joy in it, right?

Humour is always arguable, but at least I make it my thing. Maybe not all the information is there, but it’s the personal touch. People like to feel part of the running gags. They say, “oh yeah, the guy without the neck!” And people correct me, they go: “there was a tsuppari against the guy without a neck and you didn’t say anything!”

“OK, I’ll file that away for next time.”

The problem is at my age I don’t remember what I filed!

We both obviously love Ikioi, and I discovered you like Abi as well. Is it the guys that have the high energy now, that come to the top division, who you find entertaining?

I don’t know about other people, but I have seen a lot of behind the scenes videos. Abi looks like the perfect prankster. He’s always pranking. That’s it! I don’t care about anything else. It’s not the norm. I like the pranksters!

They’re good characters.

Good characters! And they’re different. Abi looks serious when he’s on the dohyo, but that’s life. He looks like a really light hearted, nice guy. The sumo’s very, very shallow, that [two hand attack] is all he does.

The funny thing is, my daughter called me Abi way before he came up. Because abba in Hebrew is dad. And “Abi” is like “daddy.” Suddenly, this guy called Abi comes up! And he came up with Abiko, so there were two Abis: Abi and Abiko, who’s now Tsurugisho. But that’s why I like Abi, that’s why I like Ikioi. You can tell that it’s more than sumo to them.

It’s true, because I think it can also be a really hard, sometimes joyless, lifestyle.

Exactly! Exactly to the point. These guys can find their five minutes of joy. We know the life. We’re not passing fans, we know what things they go through. I’ve been to keiko.

I saw Asashoryu in 2000. I went to Wakamatsu-beya, and I have never ever seen such a thing, not before and not after. He was head-butting everyone around. Everyone was scared to enter the dohyo! And the Makuuchi guys were whistling and looking around [trying not to be noticed]. They didn’t dare get in! So I asked the oyakata, “please, allow me to take a picture with him.” He says “oh… Makushita.” You know, Makushita, they’re trash. And I said, “But please, I came all the way from Israel, please let me take a picture.”

The oyakata said, “Why?” I said, “Because he’s the next yokozuna.”

And I wrote that on the mailing list, as proof. I said, “I just saw a guy, he was in Makushita, he is the next Yokozuna.” I’ve never seen anything like that. And I have the picture! I spoke with him, and he was very intelligent. He knew everything about Israel and Palestine, and he asked questions. The oyakata allowed me to speak, otherwise I couldn’t. [The Makushita guys] to them, they are nothing, you cannot talk to them.

The funny thing is if you go now to keiko, you might be more likely to end up taking a photo with the guys near the bottom end of the banzuke!

I got Takanohana, I got Wakanohana, I got everybody. I just walked up, it’s the Israeli cheekiness. People say “no, don’t go…” What’s going to happen? They might say, “No, go away.”

During that era, I went to Kokugikan, and I was with Doreen Simmons, who just died, and she knew everybody. I totally respected that she knew everyone. She got me in everywhere – except Futagoyama, which was out in Chiba somewhere. A friend took me there. That was an incredible experience, to see Takanohana and Wakanohana training. No-nonsense training. It’s not like, “I’m the Yokozuna, and I’m going to watch.”

[When] Takanohana came into the room, I swear to God there was an electric shock in the whole room. I felt it, I was thrown back! It was the presence, and he is gigantic. You never know this! I always thought Terao was a small guy. Terao is tall! I met him also.

I got Takanohana in his prime. I walked up right after the keiko and said, “can I take a picture with you?” He said, “you stay here, I’m going to do an interview and then I’m coming back and we’re taking pictures.” There was a huge staff of TV [people]. And he said, “don’t you want to shake my hand?” Takanohana! I was at Futagoyama-beya when it was Takanohana, Wakanohana, and all these [top division] guys. I was sitting there, and it was really cool.

You obviously identified Asashoryu in that moment. Who now, if you’re looking outside the two divisions, are you super excited about?

It’s not such a stretch. Of course, Hoshoryu and Naya. I had a lot of faith in Shoji at Musashigawa-beya. But, something happened along the way. I don’t know if he’s stuck. I’ll see him tomorrow, I’ll talk to him and see what happened. 

He hit the wall really badly, 5 or 6 basho stuck in the same place. He was coming up really, really [well], and he was looking good, I was watching his bouts and I spotted something in him.

Other than that, there’s a guy now coming in, who started from Sandanme who’s supposed to be really, really [good], Shiraishi. Listen, the last two guys who started from Sandanme to come up [to the top division] were Yutakayama and Asanoyama. I think Asanoyama, by the way, is going to have a fantastic basho this basho. (edited to add: this was said by Kintamayama at the very start of the tournament before Asanoyama won his fairly unprecedented, debut yusho)

Yeah? He’s looked pretty good so far.

I have a feeling that he was injured for the last few bashos. He looks much better now, and Yutakayama will be back up for sure. It’s gotta be an injury.

What do you think about Hakuho as a recruiter? He brought along the two small guys – Enho and Ishiura – and they got up to the top division, and now he’s got this enormous guy, Toma.

There’s no question about it, the results speak for themselves. There’s nothing you can argue about. It’s not semantics. We’re not guessing. He’s got two midgets in the first division! Not in Juryo, not in Makushita… in the first division! We’ll have to see how Enho does, because Ishiura was lucky and should have been demoted. It will be interesting to see if Enho can make it – I personally don’t believe he’ll make it. It’s like Takanoyama… I think he’s too small. But, who knows?

That’s the debate: will he be Takanoyama or will he be Mainoumi?

He could have one or two good basho, but the real test will be the third [Makuuchi] basho. When the guys catch on to you and they know what you’re not supposed to do, that’s it.

It also happened with Ishiura.

Yeah, yeah. But still, he’s still around! 

He’s physically pretty decent. With Enho, when you shut down his mobility, you shut him down.

And he’s had an injury which everyone knows about, it’s not a secret. With his shoulder, I think in [the old days] he would have been kyujo.

Listen, there was the kosho system. [That] was really cool, until the Ozeki were very weak. The truth is it’s all Musoyama’s fault, today’s Fujishima-oyakata. He was the one misusing [the system] in a very, very obvious way. Don’t let anyone else tell you anything else because it’s bullshit. He was going 0-3 and suddenly making up an injury and getting out.

They’re going to lose prime wrestlers [because of] this shit! Look at Ura. He also came back too early! 2 seconds later he got injured again.

And also the jungyo. There used to be 7 or 8 jungyo [dates per tour], now they have 25 or 26. There’s no way anyone can recuperate – no way!

The exciting new stars don’t only put butts in seats, but they also sell so much merch. 

[The Association] is killing the chicken that lays the golden egg. Why!? They have got to find a way [to deal with injuries]. I’m pretty sure someone has come up with a way that’s not kosho, something in the middle. It’s crazy. Maybe when [rikishi] go kyujo, don’t drop them [all the way] back, drop them a little less. Don’t treat it as a 0-15, because that’s not fair, it’s an injury. Treat it as a 5-10, 4-11. It’s not that complicated to do that. It’s not rewriting the rules. There are no rules that say it has to be a 0-15. That’s not written anywhere.

Find out more from Kintamayama and subscribe to his mailing list at dichne.com, and keep an eye out for the next parts of our conversation, which will run soon on Tachiai.

[This post has been edited to reflect Kintamayama’s own updates to his comments regarding his meeting with Asashoryu, correcting the year and stable.]

Jungyo Newsreel – Day 12

🌐 Location: Fujisawa, Kanagawa prefecture

Today we have a relatively short report, as the ladies of Fujisawa were less than diligent with their smartphones. More is the pity, as today’s schedule included a bout between Ichinojo and Terutsuyoshi. Alas, unless some footage turns out in the next few days, we’ll miss this clash of fire and ice.

Before describing this day, though, I want to take you back to Haru Jungyo 2003, and a photograph that shouldn’t have existed:

Asashoryu – Takanohana – Musashimaru

Three Yokozuna in 2003? That never happened. Takanohana, in fact, retired in Hatsu 2003, and Asashoryu was promoted only on the next banzuke, Haru 2003. You might think it’s a similar situation to what’s happening with Tochinoshin and Takakeisho now – Tochinoshin is still Ozeki due to the previous banzuke, and Takakeisho is shin-Ozeki as of the next banzuke, and both are treated as Ozeki this Jungyo. However, this doesn’t really happen with retirements, and besides, there is no Jungyo between Hatsu and Haru. Haru Jungyo comes between Haru and Natsu.

And yet, with the magic that is Jungyo, you see the retired Dai-Yokozuna side by side with the next Dai-Yokozuna, both in their tsuna. One can even see that Takanohana is already a lot thinner than he was when active.

OK, engage the flux capacitor. Let’s go back to 2019 – same town, same venue. It’s a beautiful spring day, and with more than 5000 people attending, it’s a good opportunity to get blood donations:

Inside the venue, rikishi are supposed to shake hands with the spectators. Instead, Mitakeumi gives Ichinojo a massage:

It’s hard to tell, with Ichinojo, whether he is pleased or disgusted with this.

The Onami family is in the building at full capacity, and in seniority order:

First, big brother Wakatakamoto. Second, second brother Wakamotoharu. Third, little brother Wakatakakage. Now we need a wolf to huff and puff and blow their house in… Furtunately, neither Seiro nor Roga are available at the moment.

Soon the subjects of the two previous pics get to the dohyo, and Ichinojo gives Wakatakakage a butsukari session:

Takakeisho was very busy on the dohyo today. He got butsukari from Goeido:

And he also had actual sumo practice for the first time this Jungyo. He engaged Hokutofuji:

And Myogiryu:

All in all, six bouts of which he won four: “I’m only starting. I need to get used to it again”. Said the shin-ozeki.

With practice over, the rikishi enjoyed some time off on the lawn outside the venue. Ryuden was enjoying himself, as usual:

And the children of Fujisawa were having the time of their lives:

After shower and dohyo-iri, they were at it again! Some of them were trying to make… thingamajigs… fly:

Or at least figure out what the things were supposed to do:

Some more serious people were still inside the venue doing their job:

“No, my job is not sweeping chimneys!

OK, “serious” may be stretching it. Abi is a bit bored by the oicho-mage demonstration. I can tell.

This demonstration included both him and Onosho, facing each a different section of the audience. Onosho, unlike Abi, was behaving well:

Then it was Kakuryu’s turn to show off his rope.

Behind him you can see Shohoryu, handing pieces of twine to the rope team leader (I think it’s Shinzan, not sure).

Today, the torikumi included an elimination tournament for the top of Makuuchi. All other sekitori had their usual bouts. Again, no footage. All I have is this photo of Kakuryu and Endo starting their match:

Somewhat surprisingly, Kakuryu won this tournament, winning ¥2,000,000 and a year’s supply of vegetables from the area. “I’m going to eat lots of vegetables”, chuckled the Yokozuna.

I still hope to find that elusive footage of Ichinojo vs. Terutsuyoshi. If I do, I’ll add it here. In the meantime, enjoy our pin-up of the day:

Arawashi is definitely supermodel grade

June 30th News Round Up

News Update Banner

Another news round up, as we are now one week away from the start of the Nagoya basho. Everyone who is going to participate is practicing now, and we are in the midst of inter-stable / ichimon cross training sessions and practice matches. In many cases, this is where people can start sizing up who is genki and who is not.

Sumo Kyokai

There are zero new recruits joining the sumo kyokai in Nagoya. This is a somewhat unusual situation, but in and of itself it’s not a cause for any alarm or assumptions that the Japanese public have given up their love for sumo. Today marked the dedication dohyo-iri at the Atsuta shrine. The party attending included shin-Ozeki Tochinoshin, marking the first time he has been of rank to participate.

Tagonoura Heya

First and foremost is Kisenosato. He looks like he is not even close to being ready. He lacks power, he lacks poise, he struggles against mid-tier Makuuchi rikishi. As someone who loves sumo and deeply respects Kisenosato’s commitment to the sport, this is painful to watch. But we can more or less assume that he won’t be competing. Takayasu, however, seems to have put his upper body injuries behind him, and has been fighting with gusto. We can expect him to enter and to strongly compete for the yusho.

Isegahama Heya

Our beloved kaiju, Terunofuji, once again went into surgery in a desperate attempt to repair his knees. It’s obvious that he is going to drop as far as he drops in a last ditch attempt to regain some kind of fighting form, and barring that some kind of mobility to use for the remainder of his life. Don’t look for his at Nagoya or Aki, I would say. Meanwhile, Harumafuji’s retirement is set for the end of September at the Kokugikan. Some elements of Team Tachiai may be in attendance…

Miyagino Heya

Dai-Yokozuna Hakuho took 38 practice bouts against rikishi of all levels down to Jonidan. He won 22 of them. He also called on Asashoryu’s nephew, Hoshoryu for 3 bouts. Speaking afterwards, Hoshoryu said, “”Glad to face the Yokozuna”. Hakuho stated, “It’ll be nice to hand over the baton to him”.