Jungyo Newsreel – Catching up at Kanagawa

Hello again, Jungyo enthusiasts. I have strayed off the trail after day 6. Let’s try to do some catching up and join the sekitori again at Kanagawa, where they have been spending days 13 and 14.

So what happened during that interval?

Little girls can no longer participate in kiddie sumo

Despite public outcry, the NSK is asking each hosting town not to send little girls to the kiddie sumo events of the Jungyo. The reason given “Safety first”. When various outlets pointed out that boys and girls are equally susceptible to injury on the dohyo, the answer was “We don’t want to risk girls sustaining permanent injuries to the face”.

Hakuho’s father passed away

On April 9th, Hakuho’s father, Mönkhbat, the former Olympic medalist in wrestling, and the equivalent of Dai-Yokozuna in Mongolian Wrestling, passed away at the age of 76 of liver cancer.

Hakuho fully participated in the event in Ina, Nagano prefecture, but asked for – and received – a leave of absence to attend his father’s funeral in Mongolia starting from April 11th. He will re-join the Jungyo for the Honozumo event at Yasukuni shrine on April 16th.

hakuho-funeral

The late Mönkhbat has been a national hero in Mongolia, and his funeral drew much attention and included military escort.

hakuho-funeral-son

Hakuho has always been very strongly connected to his father and looked up to him. When the father was diagnosed with liver cancer, Hakuho had him flown to Japan for treatment, then back to the comfort of his own home in Mongolia. Of course, even the best modern medical intervention has its limitations.

Kisenosato joins the Jungyo

Kisenosato announced that he will re-join the Jungyo. His return was planned for the 13th, but he joined one day earlier – may be to avoid Friday the 13th, or maybe to cover up for Hakuho’s absence.

kisenosato-tsuna-shime

In the couple of days he’s been participating he has been showing mixed results. I’d warn you against developing high hopes hearing reports that he wins his Jungyo bouts. We’ve been here before – Kisenosato managing to win bouts and elimination tournaments in Jungyo, getting breathless coverage from the press, then hitting a wall in honbasho. That injury is not going away any time soon.

Terunofuji and Aminishiki absent

I reported in my Day 6 coverage that Terunofuji was absent from the torikumi. The next day he was joined by his stablemate, Aminishiki. Terunofuji was reportedly back on duty today (April 14th) at the Fujisawa event, but Aminishiki is still out.

Birthdays

Goeido had a birthday on April  6th – day 6 of the Jungyo – and is now 32. The following day, Ichinojo celebrated his 25th birthday.

ichinojo-25

Today, although he is never again going to be on any Jungyo, many sumo fans celebrated Harumafuji’s 34th birthday.


So let’s now proceed to the daily coverage.

Day 13

🌐 Location: Kawasaki, Kanagawa prefecture

Here is Chiyomaru’s version of kiddie sumo:

Ahaha… poor kids.

Tochinoshin offered his chest for some butsukari to Tobizaru and Takanosho. Bigger men have failed to move the Georgian Cliff:

Things look a little different when it’s reverse butsukari (the higher ranking guy is the pusher). You just let the Wookiee win:

Endo is getting a lot of high-rank attention this Jungyo. Apparently that’s because he is going to make san-yaku in the Natsu basho. Previously he got juiced by Takayasu. This time, Kakuryu invited him to san-ban (practice form in which the same two wrestlers go through full bouts repeatedly until the higher ranking one calls it off).

kakuryu-vs-endo

This one consisted of 13 bouts, all won by the Yokozuna. Rather than counting wins, the Yokozuna concentrated on adjusting his own movement and building up his body.

After practice, the Yokozuna was seen having a talk with Endo. It turned out that they were exchanging injury-related experience.

Kakuryu’s finger injury lingers on. He seems able to use his grip, but says that after applying sudden force, when he lets go of the opponent’s mawashi, the pain hits. “But it’s not preventing me from doing sumo”.

Kisenosato engaged Meisei from Juryo for a 9-bout sanban, and won them all. Also watch for the bout vs. Kakuryu at the musubi-no-ichiban. Just remember my warning above.

Day 14

🌐 Location: Fujisawa, Kanagawa prefecture

Help, a group of fierce robbers has taken to the streets of Fujisawa!

fierce-robbers

(A word of advice to Kyokushuho: your highwayman career is going to be very short if you wear kimono with your name (and those of current and former stable mates) splashed all over it).

The spectators got to enjoy double bills, both in the oicho construction performance:

And in the tsuna-shime performance, where the two Yokozuna present showed off their ropes. I think this was originally planned to include Hakuho, which would have given the spectators both Shiranui and Unryu style rope tying, but unfortunately Hakuho is in Mongolia, and so they got a double Unryu.

The top 16 members of Makuuchi participated in an elimination tournament. So here is Kisenosato vs. Tamawashi:

Kisenosato vs. Shodai (who has beaten Tochinoshin in the first round):

Kisenosato vs. Kaisei:

And finally, the final, Kisenosato vs. Takayasu. When playing in elimination format, the restriction against matching rikishi from the same stable does not apply:

Kisenosato wins today’s yusho.

Jungyo Newsreel – Days 5 and 6

sanyaku-soroi-bumi-himeji
san-yaku soroi-bumi

Day 5

🌐 Location: Himeji, Hyogo prefecture

3800 people came to view the event in Himeji. The main objects of interest were, of course, the Hyogo local boys – Myogiryu, who comes from Takasago, some 10km from himeji; Terutsuyoshi, from a nearby island; and the young jonidan Teraowaka, of Shikoroyama beya.

Myogiryu was the object of a demonstration of oicho-mage construction, while Terutsuyoshi played with the kids:

terutsuyoshi-himeji-kiddie

Those kids are almost Terutsuyoshi’s size…

The jinku team members in their borrowed kesho-mawashi basked in the adoration of the spectators.

jinku-team-having-fun
The hills are alive with the sound of music

Of all the bouts, the only one I have anything about is the musubi-no-ichiban. I don’t know the result, but since Hakuho is closer to the ring, I guess it was his win:

hakuho-vs-kakuryu-himeji

Day 6

🌐 Location: Takarazuka, Hyogo prefecture

3150 people came to view the jungyo event in Takarazuka.

As in every Jungyo event, there was a speech by the mayor. However, this time, the mayor happened to be female. This means the speech was not delivered from the dohyo:

Tomoko Nakagawa, mayor of Takarazuka

The mayor addressed the issue in her speech: “Not being able to deliver my speech from the dohyo is frustrating and painful”. She later held a press conference, in which she said she was insulted by the salt thrown after the incident in Maizuru (Note: salt is thrown on the dohyo whenever a serious injury occurs on it. It’s also thrown as a marker of separation between events and even thrown if practice seems somewhat subdued. The claim that it was thrown because of the women is false). She also added that she will write to the NSK and ask them to treat men and women equally, whether it’s on or off the dohyo, implying that if women have to give speeches from the side of the dohyo, men should have to do the same.

The mayor’s speech got a mixed reaction – applause on the one hand, jeers on the other (mostly by male spectators). The discussion is becoming heated. While everybody agrees that women should be allowed when life is at stake, there are many – men and women – who think that breaking away from this tradition or even asking for it to be broken is not warranted.

On to actual sumo.

Tobizaru worked hard enough to get his hair in zanbara again:

Ichinojo practiced his kaiju mode, grabbing kids and eating them. OK, maybe not eating. But certainly giving them atomic wedgies.

By the way, there were over 30 local kids, starting from those little “play with the big mountain” toddlers and through to serious wanpaku sumo practitioners. Ichinojo was not alone on that dohyo – there were Kaisei, Ryuden, Chiyoshoma as well.

Takayasu decided to invite the ever-popular Endo for butsukari. Takayasu does butsukari with all his heart. So Endo ended up looking like this:

Takayasu showing his love and compassion

By this time, Hakuho was on the dohyo as well, doing his shiko and waiting his turn after the Ozeki. He revived Endo by pouring some water on him (it’s common practice for a third party to do that, especially high rankers):

Hakuho bastes the roast

You can’t really see endo and Takayasu in this video, but pay attention to Hakuho. He is priming the audience for applause, and when Endo finally manages to push Takayasu out, the Yokozuna gives the signal:

Then Hakuho himself started training on the dohyo. He did reverse butsukari (that’s when the lower ranked man offers his chest to the higher ranked one) with Ishiura.

Note the tsukebito waiting at the side of the dohyo for the incoming sliding sekitori:

As you can see, at this point Takayasu is on the sidelines, continuing to practice with his tsukebito. Here he tries to sharpen his leaning skills:

Tsukebito are busy people…

In sadder news, Terunofuji has gone kyujo. He was on the bout program. In Jungyo, they don’t do the fusensho thing – the Jungyo is intended to entertain the audience. Terutsuyoshi filled in for him, meaning that Terutsuyoshi did two bouts this day.

Musubi-no-ichiban:

Jungyo Newsreel – Days 2 through 4

Before I fall into too much of a backlog, here is a selection of events from the days 2 through 4. If you’re dying to read about the scandal of day 4, jump right ahead. Just remember, we’re here for the sumo, not for the sensation.

Nobori flags for a Jungyo event. Hakuho, Kisenosato, Takayasu, Goeido.

Day 2

🌐 Location: Nakatsugawa, Gifu prefecture

About 3000 people came to watch the event at Nakatsugawa. There were handshakes and fansa (Japanese shortcut for “Fan Service”).

The center of attention was Mitakeumi. Although he is not from Nakatsugawa or even from Gifu, he hails from the close-by Agematsu in the adjacent Nagano prefecture. So the locals were rooting for him.

Practices around the dohyo also included a komusubi doing stretches:

Ichinojo, and Ichinojo’s thighs, stretching

Day 3

🌐 Location: Sakai, Osaka prefecture

In this Jungyo tour, the shokkiri team consists of Kotoryusei and Kotorikuzan from Sadogatake. Every different shokkiri team changes the details of the shokkiri routine a bit and makes it its own. Notable elements – Gyoji very much a part of the show, and Kotoryusei doing the Kotoshogiku stretch. I guess he got permission from his senior heya mate.

Hakuho performed his dohyo-iri with a toddler:

You can almost hear the “there, there” (or “yosh-yosh” in Japanese). The toddler is the son of the leader of Japanese pop group ET-King, the late Itokin, who died in January of lung cancer at the age of 38. Hakuho promised him he’ll put his boy on the dohyo and this was the fulfillment of that promise.

Takayasu is aiming for the yusho in the next basho. He said that he doesn’t get enough practice, and accordingly, invited Abi, Shodai and Mitakeumi for san-ban – a series of bouts between the same rikishi – in which he won 11 of the 12 bouts. He followed that with butsukari-geiko for Mitakeumi, who himself aims to re-establish himself at the sekiwake position which he is certainly going to lose in the coming basho. Mitakeumi said Takayasu “was heavy”, but was thankful for the exercise.

As always in Osaka, Goeido is king, and participates in the kiddie sumo, something Ozeki only do if they choose.

Here is a rather shaky video of the musubi-no-ichiban, Hakuho vs. Kakuryu:

Day 4

🌐 Location: Maizuru, Kyoto prefecture

Jungyo tours are usually done by invitation from the town being visited. The town’s mayor usually opens the festivities with a speech. It so happened that the mayor of Maizuru (“Dancing Crane” – it could make a good shikona), who is 67 years old, suddenly dropped in the middle of his speech with his hands shaking.

A number of people, including yobidashi and people from the audience gathered around him, when a medical professional – first said to be a doctor, later a nurse – who clearly had experience in CPR climbed up the dohyo and gave the man a heart massage. She happened to be a woman. Women are not allowed on the dohyo, but the men on the dohyo gave way and let her do her thing. Another similar professional joined her. More people gathered, including a few other women, when the PA started calling “Ladies, please leave the dohyo”.

The additional women who came confusedly left the scene. The original professional stayed until the paramedics arrived. There is a fully staffed and ready ambulance in every Jungyo event, and the paramedics came in rather quickly. By this time a female usher was tugging at the lady professional to get off the dohyo. She only left when the paramedics took over.

The PA is always handled by a gyoji. His part usually comes down to announcements such as “On the west, Maegashira Kaisei, from Brasil, Tomozuna beya. On the east, Maegashira Takarafuji, from Aomori, Isegahama beya”, and “The kimarite is yori-kiri, Kaisei performs a yori-kiri and wins”. The standard formulae are always the same, occasionally peppered by kensho messages, requests from the audience not to throw zabuton and safety procedures.

The gyoji with the mike, shocked and confused by the emergency situation on the dohyo, for which he did not have a manual, reverted to first principles, and did what he knows best: stick to tradition. Unfortunately, this was the wrong choice, further complicated by being made in an age in which everything is being captured and uploaded within seconds.

Twitter basically burst into flames. “How can you put tradition ahead of human life?” was the main theme. Some, of course, blamed the NSK as a whole for this, as if this was done by official sanction. The situation reached such proportions that the chairman of the NSK, Hakkaku, had to issue a written press statement back in Tokyo. He said that the gyoji’s response was an inappropriate response when human life was at stake. He apologized to the women involved and thanked them for coming to the mayor’s rescue.

The next day the new Jungyo master, Kasugano – who, I believe, was in the restroom when the whole thing happened – also made a statement. He said that this was an unforeseen occurrence, and that since it may also happen during honbasho, the NSK will have to come up with a procedure for dealing with it.

So next time, the gyoji will have it in his manual.

The mayor, by the way, was diagnosed with a haemorrhage from a cranial blood vessel. So in fact the CPR was not pertinent to his situation. He is currently stable, and will need a month of hospitalization to fully recover.

Unfortunately, this event overshadowed the rest of the day. I could not find any photos of wrestlers or bouts. If any turn up, I’ll be sure to include them here.

Jungyo Newsreel – December 6th

🌐 Location: Nogata, Fukuoka

terutsuyoshi-smiling
Evidence contradicting the claim that Terutsuyoshi never smiles

Today I have a bit of a strange newsreel for you. The accredited news outlets continue to focus more on scandal and less on the content of the Jungyo. More reporters than ever are chasing the Jungyo, mostly trying to find some new reason to grill Hakuho.

Today’s event’s sponsor decided they will have none of that, and their press officer simply forbade any television crews from entering the venue, saying they do not want anything that will be troublesome for the spectators. As a result, and because none of the phone-wielding obasan was obliging, I have no actual bouts for you. Should anything materialize, I’ll update.

So what I managed to pick is mostly from unofficial (read “Twitter”) sources.

There was a positive, though secondhand, report, that said that attendance was higher than ever, with the floor level full, and all unnumbered seats in the gallery sold out. The reason? “The attached stall was selling Harumafuji goods”. This, despite the sponsor’s decision to replace the cover of the pamphlet handed at the event to one that does not include the troublesome retiring Yokozuna.

Takayasu continues to do keiko with low-ranked rikishi. This time he was working out with Shonannoumi and Hakuyozan – mostly the latter – for 40 or 50 minutes, in a quiet corner of the venue.

takayasu-practices

And Hokutofuji engaged in synchronized calisthenics (with Tobizaru):

The resident oyakata (I can’t tell which one it is from the back, sorry) watched Kagayaki and corrected him again and again. Looks tiring.

kagayaki-guided

During the moshi-age phase of the sekitori practice, we had the famous rivals in a battle of tadpoles:

onosho-takakeisho
Onosho vs. Takakeisho

As you recall, a Jungyo always includes kiddie sumo. Take a look at Shohozan – that sour-faced observer in the picture above – playing around with the kids:

Then, finally, everybody dressed up in their kesho-mawashi. Here is the Makuuchi dohyo iri – babies, babies everywhere! Watch out for Onosho trying to cope with a wriggling baby:

Edit: Got the musubi-no-ichiban!

Hakuho 2 – Kakuryu 1

Alas, outside the venue, controversy continued. When Hakuho came out, the press bore down on him, and in the crowd, somebody raised this placard behind his back. It says (free translation) “Hakuho carries most of the blame”.

hating-hakuho

 

Hakuho Interview Controversy

Last Monday, one day after winning his historic 33rd Emperor’s Cup, Hakuho was asked about the judges’ decision to have a rematch against Kisenosato a few days before. In the unguarded moment, and probably when still feeling the effects of celebrating the night before, he replied, “regarding the video, even a child could see that I won.”

Stepping back, it was the critical moment of a critical match. Hakuho drove both wrestlers out of the ring and at full speed it was too close for a definitive victor. After a conference, the judges decided on torinaoshi – a rematch – despite video evidence that Kisenosato touched the ground first.

Hakuho is a wee bit sensitive about the fact that he is not Japanese. And among Japanese fans there is a lot of anticipation for there to be a Japanese yokozuna and also quite a bit of cheering for a Japanese man to win an Emperor’s cup. The last active Japanese yokozuna was Takanohana, who retired in 2003. There has not been a Japanese cup winner since Tochiazuma won 9 years ago.

This seems to imbue Hakuho with a bit of resentment towards some of his competitors. You can see the extra intensity, determination, and aggression in Hakuho’s bouts against crowd favorites like Endo or if Kisenosato is still in the running when they meet. Dude, Hakuho, just because they’re rooting for Endo…it doesn’t mean they’re rooting against you.

I love Hakuho. He is the best sumo wrestler I’ve had the fortune to see. Sumo benefits, and the fans benefit, from the added intensity and emotion in the sport. In the case of this particular controversy, it’s a bit of a tempest in a teapot. Then again, I’m an American and our Superbowl Champion New England Patriots won their title while a former star is on trial for capital murder. So maybe my bar for sensationalism in sports is a bit too high?

Anyway, I’m not going to think any less of Hakuho for these comments. He was very close to the late Taiho and he always seems to carry himself with dignity and he does take sumo very seriously. I just think he’s got a bit of a chip on his shoulder since he will not be fully embraced by Japanese as much as he feels he deserves. And he’s probably right. But, at the same time, I know there was blowback and resentment when Tiger Woods dominated golf…but that game was never more popular.

Bottom line, I wouldn’t a expect Japanese or Kenyan or American wrestler to be embraced by Mongolians if a star suddenly came over and started dominating Mongolian wrestling or archery or horseback riding…and even less so if there seemed to be a wave of them utterly dominating every tournament for a decade. Face it, we love COMPETITION. When someone (or a group of people) dominate a supposedly competitive sport, it takes the fun out of it. We cheer the underdogs, the upstarts, the Jeremy Lins. We get pleasure out of seeing trouble brewing at McDonald’s, Starbucks, WalMart, or even with Kim Kardashian. We often want to see our leaders knocked down a peg.

In the case of Hakuho, though, it’s weird. I would like to see him challenged a bit more and I would like to see more wrestlers winning but I’m happy he’s doing so well. Also, I’d never want to see him stop performing at this peak level. I know that if he were to become injured or to start to lose, I’d feel I’d lost something — like I do when watching Tiger miss another cut. That man lost his family, a billion dollars, the player life, lost his game, and now he lost a tooth. Yes, I enjoyed seeing him lose a tournament or two when he was dominating…but I want to see him win again. I would never hope anyone would go through what he’s gone through. I give him props that in spite of all that he’s gone through, he hasn’t spiraled out of control like John Daly or Johnny Manziel.

Hakuho is utterly dominant and we are witnessing true greatness and I hope he performs at this level for another 10 years. But he needs a worthy rival. Beyond the skill and power, I think it’s that intensity that I really enjoy…even as I root for Harumafuji.