Nagoya Storyline #3 – The Makushita Joi-Jin

Some readers are wondering – what is a “Joi-Jin”? In general, it’s the top 10 or so ranks of any lower division, and in the case of Makushita for Nagoya, it’s jam-packed with some rather potent rikishi. Some of them are veterans pushing hard to return to sekitori status, others are up and coming youngsters fighting their way up the banzuke. As we have said before on Tachiai, the top end of Makushita, especially during week 2, is where some of the most flat out, 110% sumo takes place. We expect Nagoya, given who is in the joi for Makushita, to be especially frantic.

It’s important to note that unlike the top 2 divisions, matches go by pairing rikishi who have the same record for all 7 of their matches. So after the first match, all of the 1-0 will fight other 1-0, and all of the 0-1 rikishi will pair off with other 0-1 fighters. This narrows down the 100-200 strong divisions into a workable yusho elimination bracket by match 6 or so in most cases. Because of the vigorous competition in the Makushita joi, many of its members count themselves blessed if they can simply exit the basho with kachi-koshi (4 wins). Lets take a look at who is in the joi this time.

EastRankWest
SeiroMs1Irodori
DaiseidoMs2Hoshoryu
TamakiMs3Churanoumi
ChiyootoriMs4Kaisho
FujiazumaMs5Wakamotoharu
ChiyonokuniMs6Naya
AkuaMs7Tsukahara
KototebakariMs8Nishikifuji
BushozanMs9Chiyosakae
HakuyozanMs10Nogami

There are quite a few notables here

Seiro – Long time Juryo mainstay Seiro finds himself the top man in Makushita after a 7-8 make-koshi at Juryo 14. A simply 4 wins will put him back in a kesho-mawashi for September.
Irodori – A 6-9 in his Juryo debut in May put him back in Makushita, like Seiro, he needs both a kachi-koshi and some poor performance at the bottom of the Juryo banzuke to return.
Daiseido – After finishing 3-12 at Osaka, he dripped out of Juryo far enough down into Makushita that 5-2 finish at Natsu could take him no higher than Makushita 2.
Hoshoryu – Some readers get frustrated when we mention this, but this fellow is in fact former Yokozuna Asashoryu’s nephew. He has been plugging away with excellent speed / agility sumo, and he’s on the cusp now of a promotable rank. This guy, if he can stay healthy, is likely a future star.
Churanoumi – Former Nihon University athlete, he’s won 3 yusho (including a 7-0 Makushita yusho in Osaka) and already been in Juryo twice.
Chiyootori – Long-serving Maegashira, he has been plagued by injuries and is now fighting to try to return to the salaried ranks. At one point in 2018, he was ranked in Sandanme, but has been fighting back.
Wakamotoharu – After a Makushita yusho in January, and a 5-10 debut as a sekitori in Osaka, this Onami brother is outside the range to likely be promoted with a simple kachi-koshi, he’s going to have to run up the score.
Chiyonokuni – Did you wonder where Makuuchi mainstay Chiyonokuni ended up after he brutally injured his knee? Right here, in the briar patch. A healthy Chiyonokuni can take these guys to the cleaners, but I am going to guess he is lucky to be at 75%. It could get ugly.
Naya – Another young, up and coming rikishi from a sumo family, he has been on a slower upward trajectory than his rival Hoshoryu, but his sumo is coming to gether very well. He’s not at a promotable rank unless something crazy happens, but his last 2 tournaments featured 6-1 records.
Akua – I have to admit, I really like Akua’s sumo. I want to see him march ahead on the banzuke, but his accumulated injuries seem to have capped his performance.
Kototebakari – Another young man on a rocket ride up the banzuke, this 19 year old rikishi from Chiba has only had one make-koshi in his professional sumo career.

As you can see, even looking into a handful of these rikishi, there is a lot of talent, and a lot of drive to win. It’s going to be tough staying up to watch the top Makushita matchs, but I suspect for Nagoya, there may be a lot of great sumo action to follow from this group.

Lower divisions – Days 11 and 12

Hoshoryu avoided a make-koshi on his birthday

Today I’m trying to catch up on two days of lower division action. Let’s start with day 11, May 22.

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Jungyo Newsreel – Day 20

🌐 Location: Sano, Tochigi

We have a small event today, with 1800 participants. Let’s start today with the consecration of the dohyo:

If you recall, at the Yasukuni event, the dohyo was consecrated with a full dohyo-matsuri, featuring high ranking gyoji and all that jazz. But since this is a temporary dohyo, it is consecrated by the local organizers. A bit of saké, and off we go.

Who are our home boys of today? Well, there are Dewanojo, Mitakeumi’s tsukebito, and the pretty Toshonishiki, Mitoryu’s tsukebito:

They would make a good shokkiri team

But the real pride and joy of the prefecture are the Taka twins:

Since I rarely write about the twins, this would be a good opportunity to remind you how to tell them apart. Little brother (by half an hour or so) Takagenji, when he smiles, has a gap between his front teeth. Big bully brother Takanofuji (formerly Takayoshitoshi) has a mole over his right lip. And he smiles a lot less than his little brother, probably because he knows that his days as a sekitori are numbered.

The twins were interviewed by the local papers and struggled to come up with memories of the prefecture, which they have left at a very young age – they grew up at Ibaraki. They did mention that their kindergarten teacher came to see them at the venue.

Turns out they are also a bit stung about the fact that their ototo-deshi (member of the same heya who joined more recently) has left them in the dust and made Ozeki. Takagenji says: “What’s important is what your rank is when your mage is shorn”. He has been told in the past that he is a future Yokozuna, and apparently believes he will be at that rank by the time he retires.

Meanwhile, though, Takakeisho is Ozeki, and they are not. Hence, kawaigari!

Takakeisho entertaining the crowd by torturing Takanofuji

Yeah, as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself. We were at the handshake stage, weren’t we? For some reason, it seems like they had the handshakes today in the toilets:

At least, for some reason, the outer corridors of this community hall are lined with sinks.

Takayasu enjoys the sunny day, and uses it for a bit of deep contemplation:

What rank will I be when I retire, I wonder?

Nishikigi wants to change from Clark Kent to Superman… or maybe just get on the dohyo:

We only have one practice video from the NSK, but this one is significant: Kakuryu starts on-dohyo training. We are officially at the last leg of the Jungyo, then.

His chosen opponent – and butsukari victim – is Daieisho.

So we are done with the practice part. It’s time for some shokkiri. Ebisumaru and Shobushi keep refining small points of their routine:

Ebisumaru lets Shobushi do his high kicks alone, and goes around encouraging the audience to clap.

Juryo dohyo-iri. Gagamaru and Sokokurai fool around happily:

Aminishiki seems not to think much of the behavior of these two kiddies.

Arawashi is about a meter ahead of them, busying himself, as always, with being dreamy:

Then they all wait for their turn to wrestle, as the Juryo bouts start with Shonannoumi, who is today’s “filler”:

Filler or not, he beats Daiseido.

And now, where are the aforesaid Gagamaru and Sokokurai?

Ah, right in the middle of the crowd. More specifically, right in the middle of a bunch of primary school kids:

Gagamaru tries to camouflage himself. For some reason «cough»212kg«cough», this doesn’t work all too well.

But the man is sure enjoying himself:

And so do the kids. His tactic works – when he goes on the dohyo, he is accompanied by many little voices calling “Gagamaru! Ganbare!”

Oh, you think this sort of foolish antics is solely the realm of the likes of Gagamaru or Shodai? I give you:

Prince Charming himself! The funny thing is, it looks like the hat actually fits him.

The Juryo bouts end with local boy Takagenji vs. Chiyomaru. Chiyomaru is showing us his prize winning… lunar aspects.

And I swear that Kotoyuki is showing much interest in the full moon that rises on the other side as well.

Ahem… let’s take a look at the three Yokozuna:

Hakuho and Kakuryu do their duty to the local sponsors – and the local mascot, who became a Yokozuna for a day.

On to the Makuuchi bouts, and here is Kagayaki’s shimekomi, sans kagayaki:

Ah, the duties of a tsukebito.

Here is a summary video of today’s event, which includes a few bouts:

Note the “gaijin-cam” there…

Our pin-up boy of the day is the slightly blurry Ryuden:

Jungyo Newsreel – Day 11

Isn’t that a punch, boss?

🌐 Location: Kawasaki, Kanagawa prefecture

After a day of hiatus spent in their homes or heyas, the rikishi get back together for an event at Kawasaki. The locals have used that day to prepare the dohyo:

Interestingly, this video shows the venue with normal lighting, but for some reason, on the day itself, the lighting was changed such that most of the stadium was shrouded in darkness, with spotlights on the dohyo. Although perfectly normal for performances, this is a bit unusual for a Jungyo event, and it caused sideline photos to come out… not exactly pleasing:

Hey Wilt, pass me the ball, I’m open!

On the other hand, photos taken on or around the dohyo tended to be artistic or dramatic, like this Abi shot, showing him preparing for Showdown:

Draw!

Still, there was action both near and away from the dohyo. Shohozan was trying to do suri-ashi, and got a bit flustered by the presence of the NSK camera:

Enho was trying to help Onosho with his seiza.

But it seems like this drove Onosho to stop doing seiza and do something to the poor suddenly alarmed pixie. I’m not sure whatever follows is fit for the consumption of children.

Off to the side Nishikigi is doing Nishikigi things to a low-ranked rikishi.

I would feel a lot more sympathy for his victim, if that victim wasn’t Hikarugenji, Arawashi’s tsukebito, who has beaten up a younger rikishi in his heya last year, who left the world of sumo because of that. So go right ahead, yay Nishikigi!

Not far away from them, Ichinojo is practicing with Chiyoshoma (and yes, it’s the lighting again):

Quite brave of Chiyoshoma to attempt that.

Gagamaru was wrapping himself up:

Every sekitori has a taping kit. Some of them need quite a lot.

Kakuryu… is upgrading from the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy to Alien:

Still a little low on the fangs, though.

At the dohyo, Toyonoshima and Goeido are enjoying each other’s company:

Tomokaze is preparing for a big day. He is the local boy here at Kawasaki. And this means lots of butsukari, and a special extra bout (we’ll get to that).

Endo is doing proper suri-ashi:

Ichinojo gets up on the dohyo:

Though he seems a bit puzzled as to what he is supposed to do on it. We’ll, he’ll remember eventually. Oh yes, Ichinojo and Takakeisho both resumed on-dohyo practice.

In fact, both Ichinojo and Yoshikaze are back on the torikumi as of today. On the other hand, Chiyonoumi is off the Torikumi. I don’t know what the nature of his injury is, though.

Let’s take a look at some practice bouts. Here are Mitoryu and Takanosho:

Kiribayama vs. Daiseido:

Nice leg muscles, Daiseido.

Okinoumi vs. Meisei:

Meisei and local-boy Tomokaze:

Kaisei and Asanoyama:

Practice over! The sekitori hit the baths, and only a lonely mawashi and lonelier leg brace remain at the venue to tell the tale:

But of course, they’ll be back. In fact, it’s time for the Juryo dohyo-iri. And guess who is being bumped from behind?

Enho is getting groped and rubbed against so much in this Jungyo, I heard that JR East is preparing a specially designated “Enho Car” on applicable train lines, as part of its harassment prevention efforts.

Chiyomaru is using his belly to great effect, also to get attention from the ladies as he awaits his bout:

“I’m due around August. Ooh, did she just kick? Did you feel that?”

With the Juryo bouts in the background, a Yokozuna prepares for his rope-tying demonstration, just like yesterday. Today it’s Hakuho’s turn:

Note that a Yokozuna wears his kesho-mawashi differently than other rikishi – the top of the apron is tucked into the mawashi rather than covering the Yokozuna’s belly.

By the way, Hakuho was asked what he thought about the US President’s plan to come watch sumo on Senshuraku of the Natsu basho. He said “I’m grateful. It’s still not clear if it will happen or not, but I plan to do my best”.

Time for the Makuuchi dohyo-iri, and Yago is using Ryuden as a sock-puppet:

“See, Ryuden is happily waving at you, dear fans”

Terutsuyoshi and Shohozan are practicing their nirami-ai. That is, the dreaded stare-down. And those two are really good at it. You’d think they are actually angry at each other:

Following the dohyo-iri, but before the regular Makuuchi matches, a very special match took place – one that you’re probably never going to see in honbasho.

Yoshikaze vs. Tomokaze.

The two are holding a gift of snacks from the city. Tomokaze was born is Kawasaki, as I mentioned. The reason that you are not going to see this in honbasho is that they are from the same heya (and very unlikely to be in a yusho playoff together). In fact, Tomokaze served as Yoshikaze’s tsukebito, and out of respect, continued to do so even when he became sekitori, only quitting once he reached Makuuchi.

So these two are very tight, in a mentor-apprentice kind of way. And they also swore they will do this bout completely “gachinko” (“honest”).

Another angle:

Time for the regular bouts. I do not have much in the way of video, but here is Hokutofuji who adopted Nishikigi and Shohozan’s idea of becoming a spectator:

With the lighting in the venue being what it is, you’d think somebody would take an artistic photo of Terutsuyoshi’s salt throw… ah… here it is:

Ryuden seems to enjoy his match with Shohozan, the other starer, quite a lot:

Also, it appears that Abi’s watch has made it to 5 minutes to 6!

But as for his bout itself… he must be the world’s worst yotsu wrestler. Get that ass down, Abi-long-legs!

Well, that’s Tomokaze he is engaging there. So maybe he knows he shouldn’t beat the local boy. Tomokaze wins this one, and marks his victory to all as he goes back to the dressing room:

Here is some news footage from this event, showing mostly Takakeisho – including his daily Tochinoshin bluff match.

As the sekitori all go home, we stop and admire Tsurugisho’s purse:

And while Ichinojo’s bag is rather plain, his weapon of choice is…

…a very stressed water bottle?

See you tomorrow, big boulder! And in our pin-up corner today, we have:

Chiyomaru! Because all body types are welcome!

❉ Except Akiseyama’s