Saturday morning in Tokyo, the dohyo for the 2019 Hatsu basho was consecrated in a shinto ceremony. The event was open to the public, and attend by the top men of sumo along with community and government leaders. With the senior gyoji in full priest regalia, the symbolic offerings were placed in a small hole exquisitely cut in the center of the dohyo, and then sealed inside. With prayers for the safety of the competitors, the prosperity of Japan and the health of the nation, the ceremony was concluded. The dohyo is now ready for competition, which is just hours away.
Following the dohyo ceremony, the portraits of the last two yusho winners were presented, before being hoisted to the rafters of the Kokugikan to join the legion of images of past winners that encircle the upper deck. I have to say, this photo of the great Hakuho standing next to Takakeisho could serve as the iconic transition point for this era.
The yobidashi and supporting crew are hard at work rebuilding the dohyo at the center of the Kokugikan. Each tournament the fighting platform is built or re-built, and made ready to host 15 days of competition. The dohyo and all of the elements that are incorporated into it are built by hand each time, and each tournament the dohyo will be slightly different.
Below is a video from the NSK’s twitter feed, showing a group of yobidashi tamping down fighting surface. Hatsu is only a few days away!
With most of Japan hoping to dodge typhoon Jebi, the yobidashi squad got to work today at the Kokugikan, tearing down the old dohyo from the Natsu basho, and constructing the new. With the basho just 5 days away, preparations are underway in the stables, at the Kokogukan and in the offices of the Japan Sumo Association. It has also been published that NHK World will once again host Sumo Live, on day 1 and day 8 (both Sundays) for Aki.
The raised fighting platform (dohyo) is built or re-built before each tournament, by hand. It’s a task that sumo’s yobidashi do with pride and a great deal of skill. For the Kokugikan, this dohyo will serve multiple purposes once its duty for the basho has elapsed. This will be the same dohyo that Harumafuji will use to perform his last dohyo-iri.
The Jungyo once again reached Tokyo – and not for the last time in this long trail. In Tokyo, there are all kinds of comforts. Like specially-branded ice cream (the blue lettering reads “Grand Sumo Tachikawa Tachihi Basho”):
❉ Not really. It’s a Joke. Fake news. Shame on me. Sad.
In Tokyo, apparently, you also get a full house even though it’s a Jungyo event.
And since it’s Tokyo, it’s a good opportunity for kyujo rikishi to join the Jungyo if they can. One who went a bit under the radar (his name was not in the original kyujo list in the papers) was Takagenji, the more self-possessed of the Taka twins.
Another, more high-profile comeback is this man:
Yes, King of the Hug, Prince of the Chug, Kotoshogiku, is doing his stretches.
One notable absence, on the other hand, is Takayasu. I have seen nothing about it in the newspapers, but he has been taken off the Torikumi, and I could spot him neither in the dohyo iri nor in any of the official and unofficial still photographs.
Tochinoshin was giving reverse butsukari to Kisenosato. The Yokozuna is a conservative type, so he insists on having the full monty, monkey walk, and “itten” at the end.
Kisenosato usually does this with Takayasu who obliges him on the “full treatment” part, but Takayasu is not around, so he had to settle for another Ozeki. Tochinoshin obliged, but reverse butsukari is still not anything like real butsukari/kawaigari. Just compare it to the short butsukari Tochinoshin gave Chiyonoumi:
During the Makuuchi dohyo-iri, Chiyomaru gave a good natured back shove. Onosho pushed back. Chiyomaru stood his ground. Yutakayama, sandwiched between them, was subjected to inhuman compression forces:
You can see the whole scene here in the full dohyo iri (also includes Kakuryu’s):
Also note Ikioi and Tamawashi pestering Shodai in the East part.
Speaking of Yokozuna dohyo-iri, I’ll go off at a bit of a tangent here. Some of you may remember the huge wave of anti-Hakuho sentiment that washed over the Fuyu Jungyo following Hakuho’s 40th Yusho, with complaints about Hakuho’s banzai, Hakuho’s sore loser behavior after his bout with Yoshikaze, and then complaints about his kachiage and harizashi, and even complaints about him wearing a “Mongolian Team” Jersey.
Hakuho has since regained his composure (the Kyushu basho was when the Harumafuji stuff broke out, and he lost his best friend and apparently his social bearings). He has been on his best behavior since, asking permission for anything, expressing gratitude for everything, doing charity work and whatnot. So what was there for the Hakuho haters to complain about?
Ah yes. His dohyo-iri is ugly. He is unworthy of being a Yokozuna.
They are complaining that he does not stretch his arms fully, and that he looks like a plucked chicken.
The thing is, Hakuho always had a style in which he stops short of stretching his arms, and then gives a sharp stretch, which has the effect emphasizing his moves. Only, it appears he is either getting lazy or simply can’t stretch his arms fully anymore.
Take a look at this dohyo-iri of his (from this event at Tachikawa) and see for yourself:
Compare to Kisenosato’s (and Kakuryu’s above). They are doing different styles, of course – Hakuho is Shiranui and therefore stretches both arms after the seriagari (rise). But there is still enough to compare:
Now compare to this dohyo-iri of his from 2016:
So, what do you think? Dai-yokozuna or plucked chicken?
OK, back to the Jungyo and its goofs. A little before the Makuuchi dohyo-iri, the Juryo torikumi took place. You know that old prank in which the rikishi who hands chikara-mizu to the next one mixes in some of the dohyo salt?
Well, Chiyonoumi decided to go all the way on that and handed Mitoryu a very salty ladle:
Yesterday I gave you a video of the dohyo construction. Today, I’ll introduce the dohyo de-construction. How is the dohyo taken apart?
We start with a slightly used dohyo:
The padding boards around the dohyo are packed away and the tawara are dug out and put to one side:
Then the side panels are removed, and the packed dirt is broken and shovelled away (spaded away?):
As the clay is removed, the blocks of styrofoam are removed:
Finally, the matting is stripped off and we’re all done:
Can you tell which Yokozuna this is?
(A little space left here to avoid spoiling)
Well, even if you can’t recognize his backside quite the way that I can, the rope tie is a dead giveaway. With Harumafuji retired, the only Yokozuna wearing a Shiranui tie is Hakuho.
But there are other corroborating evidence in the picture. Take a look at the tsukebito to his right. He is wearing an oicho-mage. That means this is Kasugaryu, they yumi-tori performer. Other than the yumi-tori man, the only non-sekitori to wear an oicho-mage are the Shokkiri team, and they are not Yokozuna tsukebito (it’s not a rule, I suppose, but they just aren’t).
So if this is Kasugaryu, the Yokozuna is Hakuho.
And of course, the tsukebito closest to the camera. What do you mean, you don’t recognize him? I’ve been putting a picture of him in each and every one of these Jungyo newsreels. Well, at least when one was available. Can’t recognize Enho’s backside? How is that possible? 🙂
Of course, Enho is only temporarily Hakuho’s tsukebito. He’ll soon be a sekitori again.
With tournament action just a few days away, the Sumo Kyokai crew in Nagoya have completed construction of the venue’s dohyo. The traditional sumo combat platform is built or re-built by hand before each tournament, and is a masterpiece of craftsmanship and attention to detail.
The dohyo will be consecrated in a ceremony early on Saturday, with the leading men of the Kyokai and local dignitaries in attendance.