Nagoya Storyline #1: Hakuho, 15 Days? 白鵬は十五日間出来ますか?

The top storyline going into Nagoya must be this man. Will he compete on Day One? If he does, will he be able to withstand the full campaign? The champion’s mindset, however, does not stop there. Hakuho wants to win. From Herouth’s Twitter feed today we see his Tanabata (link to last year’s excellent story) wish, along with the realistic admission that he’s not anywhere near 100%.

Still, his wish is to pick up Yusho #43, 11 clear of the great Taiho. We hope he comes back and comes back healthy. The specter of Kisenosato still haunts the dohyo but with Takakeisho’s participation far from certain, there will clearly be pressures to appear and not go full kyujo for a second straight tournament. Either way, we can only hope for a prudent decision based on fitness. He’s got a full year to make good on the Tanabata wish, no need to rush it.

This year, Tanabata falls on the first day of the Nagoya tournament, so the Rikishi-Kai met and sekitori filled out their Tanabata wishes. So let’s pivot from Hakuho’s grand dream in honor of the early celebration to see what the others decided to wish for. Some, like Meisei, opted for the simple, a Go-Pro camera. I am just waiting for the day when a rikishi sneaks one into the folds of his mawashi and live streams a bout. Then again…maybe not.

Hakuho’s protege, Enho, aspires for the Technique Special Prize. The first concern will be getting a winning record. If he does get a winning record, a technique prize would be fitting if he picks up an extra two wins. According to the career visualizer, 20% of his wins come from shitatenage, just under 14% each from the usual yorikiri and oshidashi, while 10% come from ashitori.

Six or seven of the bouts at the bottom of the banzuke will be competitive with wrestlers who’ve been in Juryo recently. However, there are quite a few bruising barracudas swimming around down there this tournament, looking for breakout tournaments special prizes of their own.

Newly minted sekitori, and nervous looking Kizakiumi is aiming for a simple kachi-koshi, likely just hoping to maintain his professional rank and all the accoutrements that come with it. I’m eager to catch more of this pusher-thruster. 80% of his wins come from oshidashi and he has the curious distinction of making the professional ranks without notching a single yorikiri win. The wise should try to get at his belt.

Azumaryu, on the other hand, is shooting for a Juryo yusho from the top rank in the West. He’s toiled in Juryo for much of the last 6 years. He’s in a prime spot for Makuuchi promotion if he manages a simple 8 wins…but grabbing that title would likely propel him pretty far into the thick of the top division where he could hopefully stay around for a while.

I will wrap things up here with Onosho’s wish because this is my wish for all of these gladiators: good health. I’m shooting for sound mind and toned body myself this year. My son’s been really into soccer so my own game has improved to such a level, and I’ve developed such power in these thunder thighs that I managed to kick the ball straight through our back window the other day. Those sumo squats are paying off.

Hakuho Resumes Full Contact Practice

Herouth breaks the great news that the GOAT is back to butting heads again! He faced off against Enho for 20 bouts. While encouraging, we’re still one month away from the start of the Nagoya tournament.

Not to douse cold water on my own happiness, but I’m still hoping he takes The Eagle’s advice, “Take it Easy.” As we had seen with Kisenosato, rosy training stories with his stablemate morphed into a sad pattern of basho disappointment, kyujo, and intai rumors until they eventually stopped…with retirement.

2019 Natsu Basho Preview

With the Natsu Banzuke published, it’s officially Basho season again! With less than a week until the return of sumo action, here are some of the biggest stories and most pressing questions on the minds of sumo fans this May!

Keep watching until the end for a sneak peek of a new series coming soon.

Natsu Sekitori Stature Update

 

Ichinojo
No prizes for guessing who came in heaviest in the latest weigh-in…

Unlike last year, this May’s Yokozuna Deliberation Council soken – an event held before the Natsu basho where rikishi work out in front of the YDC and are appraised thusly – was closed to the public. We had a friend in the media on hand, who furnished us with the media handout detailing the height and weight updates that were taken and published earlier in the week by the Sumo Association.

This is by no means incredibly “new news,” but I thought it would be fun to give a brief update on some easily digestible stats published from this document, in case anyone’s interested:

Height

Tallest rikishi (Makuuchi): Kaisei, 195cm. Closely followed by Ichinojo and Kagayaki, both 193cm.

Tallest rikishi (Juryo): Ikioi immediately becomes the tallest in the division upon his demotion, at 194cm. Closely followed by Takagenji, Kyokushuho, Azumaryu, all 191cm.

Shortest rikishi (Makuuchi): Enho, 168cm. Terutsuyoshi is just taller at 169cm, followed by Ishiura at 174cm.

Shortest rikishi (Juryo): Toyonoshima, 169cm. After him it’s all the way up to Daishomaru at 174cm and Tobizaru at 175cm.

Weight

Heaviest rikishi (Makuuchi): It’s Ichinojo and it’s not even close. He’s up to 227kg, which is a gain of 1kg from the previous weigh-in. After him, the next closest is Kaisei, at 204kg. So, it’s fairly astonishing that there’s a 23 kg difference (a quarter of an Enho) between the heaviest and second heaviest rikishi in the top division.

Heaviest rikishi (Juryo): Mitoryu now clocks in at an even 200kg. This makes him 1kg heavier than the next heaviest Juryo rikishi, Gagamaru.

Lightest rikishi (Makuuchi): No surprise here, it’s Enho, at 99kg (and according to the NSK he’s actually lost a kilo). Again, he’s followed by Ishiura (115kg) and Terutsuyoshi (116kg), who were both even.

Lightest rikishi (Juryo): Wakatakakage (125kg), followed by Kiribayama (129kg) and Tobizaru (135kg).

Biggest weight gain (Makuuchi): Chiyomaru added an incredible 8 kilos, and is now at 193. Asanoyama (177kg) and Chiyotairyu (198kg) both added 7kg. So, it will be interesting to see how they’re all moving.

Biggest weight loss (Makuuchi): Stablemates Tochinoshin and Aoiyama both dropped 5 kilos, landing themselves at 170kg and 193kg respectively. Veteran “Big Guns” Shohozan also shed 5kg, to end up at a more trim 137kg.

Averages

Average Makuuchi stature: 183.4cm, 163.9kg. On the whole this is a decrease in 2.3kg from the previous weigh-in. This means the average top division rikishi would be of a similar build to Goeido (184cm, 160kg) or Shodai (184cm, 165kg).

Average Juryo stature: 183.4cm, 159.8kg. While Juryo rikishi are 4kg lighter than their top division counterparts on average, the group did increase by 2.7kg on average. Much of that can probably be explaining by swapping in Ikioi for Enho. The average Juryo rikishi would be of a similar build to Takanosho (183cm, 161kg).

While these kinds of numbers don’t necessarily tell us a whole lot in isolation, they can be helpful when it comes to understanding the performance of a rikishi relative to his previous tournament, as well as and understanding of his potential physicality compared to others in the division.

Edit: Our friends over at Inside Sport Japan have shared a shot of the full list (in Japanese):

Jungyo Newsreel – Day 21

🌐 Location: Hidaka, Saitama prefecture

We have a short one for you today. The Jungyo is back in Saitama, which means these guys are once again in the spotlight:

Hokutofuji, Daieisho

“Hey, hey, hey, wait a second! What about me?!”

Yes, Abi, you’re a home boy, too. Now stop obscuring the other ones.

Not many visuals from the sidelines today, except Chiyoshoma, quietly doing his shiko in the hanamichi while others are practicing on the dohyo:

The practice on the dohyo includes some attention to Wakamotoharu, who has been very popular with the upper echelon this Jungyo:

Can’t say whether that’s a full fledged kawaigari or just plain butsukari. Meisei is also getting some quasi-Ozeki attention. But in his case, it’s pretty clear that when you look like this from the front:

And like this from the back:

…it’s kawaigari. Tochinoshin is making good use of his last days at Ozeki.

Practice bouts: Shimanoumi-Wakatakakage, Endo-Sadanoumi (with a bit of Yokozuna shiko at the end):

Hokutofuji-Kaisei:

Actually, the more interesting san-ban is taking place away from the dohyo. Kotoshogiku and Toyonoshima are having at it in the corner:

Then again:

And again:

Good stuff!

Enho – we can’t do without Enho in any report – has finished his practice and wants to go get a shower, when all of a sudden, a team of hoodlums gangs up on him:

“Shortstuff, meet Yuki. He is my VP of Beating People To Pulp”

“Now, for some reason it looks like you think I was born yesterday, but I was not.”

“So I can’t get you to see reason? OK, Yuki, you have a go at making him see reason”

Poor pixie… Got in trouble with the Tamawashi-gumi.

I have absolutely nil material from the afternoon part of this event, sorry. All I have is Hokutofuji serenely having his head shampooed.

Rikishi don’t wash their hair every day, and when they do, it’s basically done with car-mechanic-grade grease remover, because the suki-abura used for their hairstyles is pretty much like having a head full of butter.

So I bid you farewell with our pin-up of the day, Tsukahara, from Kasugano beya, who is also a Saitama home boy:

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 19

🌐 Location: Takasaki, Gunma prefecture

Unlike our previous location, which boasted a local sekitori, a local tsukebito, and a semi-local former Yokozuna’s nephew, Gunma prefecture is really short on famous or high-ranked local boys.

The local organizers gave Hikarifuji and Kayatoiwa their due glory, but their real pride and joy is not regularly a part of the jungyo anymore. He was brought in specifically for this event.

That, of course, is 42 years old Satonofuji, the grand master of the bow, who hails from Gunma prefecture. And while all the other low-ranked rikishi were working on the dohyo, Satonofuji was working with the struggling new performer, Shohoryu, giving him a master class.

This was just one of the various outdoor activities today. The weather was deemed warm enough to have the handshaking sessions outside:

Though the sky looks pretty gray, if you ask me. Not all the rikishi just stand for handshakes. Some famous veterans sit in a separate corners, and fans can go and have a photo taken with them:

But actual practice takes place inside the venue. The first sekitori arrive and pull their taping kits:

Asanoyama, get, set, tape!

Others start stretching:

Some squatting and suri-ashi are in order:

Takarafuji is showing us his his good side.

Wakamotoharu works on his upper body:

But then he and Mitakeumi decide to gang up on poor Enho:

The Yokozuna synchronize:

But then each goes his own way. Kakuryu manages an exercise that doesn’t look ridiculous:

While Hakuho is doing suri-ashi in the hana-michi, and interacts with the spectators:

Near the wall, a group of lower-ranked rikishi prove to us that titty obsession is not just a Tamawashi thing:

What are you doing, guys?

Up on the dohyo, Ichinojo is giving butsukari:

While Terutsuyoshi seems to have… a toothache?

By now, you should know who it is who makes Takakeisho smile this wide:

Takayasu finishes stretching, has a bout with Mitakeumi, and butsukari with Onosho.

Some more practice bouts: Daieisho-Takakeisho, Myogiryu-Ichinojo, Kiribayama-Takanofuji:

Practice over. Lower-ranked rikishi get their hair done and go about their chores:

Some sekitori go out and enjoy the food stalls outside the venue. Namely, Terutsuyoshi, Chiyotairyu and Enho. Enho starts well with some yaki manju:

But seems to pick up something that doesn’t suit his dainty palate:

Or maybe it’s the camera crew that affect his apetite.

Terutsuyoshi and Chiyotairyu enjoy some yakisoba:

With everybody fed and in good order, it’s time for the afternoon part of the day. We begin with a Jonidan bout, because of course we don’t want to miss Satonofuji:

Nice throw. Next up, we have the Juryo dohyo-iri, or as Gagamaru calls it, “cheeky time”:

The cheeks in question being Takanosho’s of course.

Azumaryu and Akiseyama have a less painful way to enjoy the wait:

Next up, the Juryo bouts, and we have Aminishiki vs. Hidenoumi for you:

Nice effort from old Uncle there, but to no avail.

Chiyomaru makes short work of Daiamami:

And we are up in Makuuchi. And the dohyo-iri there is not free of sin, either:

No, no, you have to wait for the Ozeki!

For some reason, Chiyotairyu decides that facing the spectators is just too much for him and turns around in the middle of the dohyo-iri. Abi tries to argue with him.

Takakeisho, by now getting used to all the “shin-ozeki” stuff, receives gifts of local produce – rice, meat, etc.:

The bouts start, and Yoshikaze has a wardrobe malfunction:

Is it me or does Toyonoshima surreptitiously improve his mawashi hold during this matta? Zurui… he won this bout.

Next up, Terutsuyoshi throws his usual bucket load of salt… and seems to hit his own eye:

Typical Terutsuyoshi sumo. Sorry, Yago, maybe next time!

Next up, Ichinojo vs. Endo:

Ichinojo is not sleeping.

Kaisei is pitted with Nishikigi, and doesn’t let the green mawashi man set up any sort of defense:

Last before the san-yaku, Hokutofuji vs. Mitakeumi:

Takakeisho is up next vs. Tamawashi:

No rolling into the crowd today. The last bout whose footage I got is Goeido vs Tochinoshin:

And after Kakuryu beats Takayasu (sorry, no video), comes the part everybody has been waiting for – good old Satonofuji’s yumi-tori shiki. Watch it, then go back to previous reports and compare with Kasugaryu, never mind poor Shohoryu. This is the work of a true master:

Our pin-up of the day is Wakamotoharu. Adieu!