A Weekend of Hana-Zumo

There is no Jungyo in February. Hence no Jungyo coverage. But luckily, the world of sumo takes pity on sumo-starved fans, and spices this cold month with exhibition events, called “hana-zumo”.

These events generally take place in the Kokugikan in Tokyo, meaning they are much easier on the wrestlers than Jungyo events – no traveling, practicing in their own heya, eating the chanko they are accustomed to, and so on.

This weekend included two back-to-back hana-zumo events. On Saturady, as Bruce already mentioned, there was the NHK charity event, which has been held for 51 years now. The most startling news item from this event has been this:

chiyotairyu
Elvis has left the building

This, my friends, is Chiyotairyu. Sans sideburns. Rumor has it that Ichinojo heard that Chiyotairyu had mutton chops, and just ate them.

I don’t know how I’ll recognize him from now on.

There was sumo jinku:

And kiddie sumo:

kiddie-sumo
Sumo in Neverland

And of course, there were bouts. Here is the Makushita “yusho” bout (Makushita was in elimination form). Enho…

…may eat a lot of similar crow up in Juryo. I hope he (or Hakuho, his master) finds a solution for this soon.

And between the bouts, it’s not hana-zumo  (or Jungyo) if you don’t get this scene:

hakuho-and-yobidashi.jpg

What you see here is Hakuho waiting his turn in the kore-yori-san-yaku. That’s when the participants in the last three bouts go on the dohyo and perform synchronized shiko.

In honbasho, this happens only on senshuraku. And in any case, there’s no fooling around in honbasho. But in Hana-zumo and Jungyo, there’s a kore-yori-san-yaku every day. And Hakuho always finds himself a comfortable yobidashi to lean on. Sometimes the bored Yokozuna goes a bit too far:

The sumo events of the day ended with the superb Satonofuji. Can’t get enough of him:

Sunday, and switching channels to Fuji TV. And here, some familiar faces stripped down and wore their old mawashi:

old-boys

Thought you’ll never get to see this again?

Damn, Kotooshu!

Kyokutenho – Tomozuna oyakata – also has nothing to be ashamed of. Asasekiryu (Nishikijima oyakata) fresh out of his chon-mage:

Kitataiki (Onogawa oyakata) is still wearing his chon-mage. Wakakoyu (Shiranui oyakata) nearly got him there:

There was also kiddie sumo. Correct me if I’m wrong, but these kiddies do not look Japanese.

You may notice two differences from kiddie sumo in Jungyo:

  • The Ozeki participate. This is very rare in Jungyo. And both of them together is even rarer.
  • In Jungyo the kiddie sumo is part of keiko. Hana zumo doesn’t include keiko, and the wrestlers do their kiddie sumo in their shime-komi (silk mawashi) and oicho-mage.

In this event, both Juryo and Makuuchi were in elimination format. The championship bout:

Tochinoshin didn’t get that yusho by a bracket fluke. He had to get there through Hakuho:

He got the cup from his stablemaster (Kasugano oyakata):

And from Fuji TV… a cardboard cow?

More bouts:

Hakuho vs. Endo:

Takayasu vs. Tamawashi:

The complete set of Tochinoshin bouts plus interview and cup ceremony:

Juryo tournament:

Final Jungyo Newsreel – December 17th

🌐 Location: Ginowan, Okinawa

Today was the second day at Ginowan, but the last day of the Jungyo. Today’s newsreel centers on bouts, bouts, bouts!

hakuho-takayasu
Hakuho vs. Takayasu

Before we sit back to enjoy our sumo, it should be mentioned that Kakuryu’s health took a turn for the worse in the past couple of days, as he developed an inflammation in his left foot (or leg – the word in Japanese is the same). He says that once everybody returns to Tokyo, he’ll be able to get care for it, but nevertheless, this is a source for worry. Remember, Kakuryu has to participate in Hatsu, and have a good showing. Having been kyujo from Aki with a problem in his right foot, in the preparations for Kyushu he got his lower back in trouble again, and was kyujo from Kyushu as well. He is running out of body parts to spare.

He did participate in today’s tournament, and did a dohyo iri-with a baby, but Hakuho was the one doing the tsuna-shime ceremony today.

tsuna-shime-enho

Those who followed the Jungyo reports diligently will notice that Enho has been promoted from “thread bearer” to “rope puller #5”, an important position that comes with white gloves!

OK, so let’s finish this Jungyo with a bit of sumo. As in the previous 3 days, the top 16 Makuuchi (which is basically Ichinojo and up on the Kyushu banzuke, deducting Harumafuji, Kisenosato and Chiyonokuni) competed in elimination format. Below that, the torikumi went the usual way.

The Makuuchi bouts started with Aminishiki vs. Yutakayama. Yutakayama won – and the audience let out a sigh. Poor Yutakayama! It’s not his fault that Aminishiki is the most popular rikishi in Japan!

No visuals from that torikumi, I’m sorry to say, but here is the Maru bout, Chiyomaru vs. Daishomaru:

Arawashi vs. Ikioi:

Now let’s move to the tournement part. Hakuho starts with Onosho:

…and makes short work of it. Onosho, where is your red mawashi?

Mitakeumi takes on Tochiozan:

Nexw was the battle of the Fujis – Hokutofuji vs. Terunofuji. No video for that, but Terunofuji wins. So did Goeido vs. Takakeisho. So the two top tadpoles were eliminated in the first round already.

Takayasu took on Chiyotairyu in the first round. Remember Takayasu took the title yesterday:

Sorry for the lack of Tachiai. Next was Ichinojo vs. Tamawashi. Ichinojo wins.

Now Yoshikaze vs. Shohozan:

And the end of the first round is Kakuryu vs. Kotoshogiku:

This, despite the left foot issue…

Next round. Hakuho vs. Mitakeumi:

No repeat of Nagoya basho… And also no video of the Terunofuji-Goeido bout. But Terunofuji won. Terunofuji actually able to beat both Hokutofuji and Goeido is great news. Please don’t let him find a new way to ruin his knees in January.

Next was Takayasu vs. Ichinojo.

I do wish Ichinojo would not give up so easily at the tawara. 🙁

To finish this second round, Kakuryu vs. Yoshikaze:

Yori-no-questions-about-it-kiri!

Semifinals. Hakuho wants to finish this Jungyo with a freaking yusho. Terunofuji hung on for about 20 seconds:

Takayasu got the other Yokozuna and won. No video.

And so we come to the final: Hakuho vs. Takayasu:

And here is a different angle with better video quality but poorer view:

Okinawa Jungyo day 2 - tournament brackets

Hakuho was, of course, delighted, and felt that he has tied up the Jungyo in a satisfactory way, giving the audience something to enjoy.

Now everybody has already landed back in Tokyo, having been absent since September. And this is the end of this newsreel series, see you in the next Jungyo!

 

Short Jungyo Newsreel – December 14-15

🌐 Location: Miyakojima, Okinawa

The second day of the Jungyo at Miyakojima continued pretty much the same as the first day.

venue
Venue filling up in the early afternoon

Hakuho still didn’t practice on the dohyo, and opted for practicing with low-rank partners in what was at first a quiet corner:

hakuho-practicing-off-dohyo

Ikioi joined the Jinku team again, once again singing the part dedicated to Yuho. He commented later “Yuho has always been kind to me and cared about my well-being. I put my soul into the song and I believe it has reached him in Heaven”.

ikioi-doing-jinku-again
Ikioi in the Jinku finale. Note the fan with the lyrics stuck in his mawashi.

Kakuryu did the tsuna-shime ceremony again. On his way back down the hana-michi, still wearing his rope, he high-fived a kid who stood on the sidelines with his hand extended (this used to be a Harumafuji specialty).

The main difference between yesterday and today was that Hakuho found motivation enough to want to win the Yusho on the second day. Remember, the top 16 rikishi were competing in elimination format.

Hakuho beat Onosho in the first bout. In the second, he defeated Tochiozan. In the semifinal, he met Terunofuji (back on the torikumi, apparently, and able to win two bouts!), and passed him as well. In the final bout, he faced Chiyotairyu – but lost, and the yusho slipped away.

“Aaagh… I wanted that yusho!” he lamented in the shitakubeya.

The day ended in dance again. Note Homarefuji dancing like a boss, hand motions and all:


Today (December 15th) the Jungyo was on hiatus again, as the rikishi took flights back north to the main island of Okinawa. The first plane that landed included Kakuryu and Takayasu, and a few other sekitori, and they ended up participating in a welcome party at the Naha airport, in the company of the lovely Miss Okinawa.

arrival

A while later Hakuho and Goeido arrived as well, and the two Yokozuna and two Ozeki, together with Kasugano oyakata, went to lay flowers at the Cemetery for the Fallen in the Battle of Okinawa in Itoman, and also had a moment of silence at the Cornerstone of Peace.

Tomorrow the Jungyo renews, for the final two days in Ginowan.

Jungyo Newsreel – December 10th

🌐 Location: Kagoshima, Kagoshima

Today’s location was Kagoshima, where 4500 fans came to cheer for the rikishi, particularly the Kagoshima-born Chiyomaru and Daiamami. Daiamami, as a freshman, drew most of the attention. Accordingly, Kakuryu invited him to san-ban and butsukari.

kakuryu-butsukari-daiamami

The san-ban part consisted of 9 bouts, and as would be expected, Kakuryu won them all. This was followed by butsukari, but at this point Daiamami somehow came to admit that he “wasn’t doing enough keiko”.

The butsukari that followed turned out to be rather punishing for the local. Despite much support from the spectators, he hardly had any pushing power, and found himself rolling frequently:

Kakuryu was relentless, and after about 10 minutes, the session ended like this:

Daiamami did come to, and went through the thank-you ceremony at the end, albeit in a bit of a hazy state:

“This is all because you don’t do keiko”, scolded the Yokozuna after the keiko session was over. “I didn’t work you out that hard. You shouldn’t be exhausted by that much. You should do keiko every day.” Kasugano oyakata, who sat on the sidelines during the session, added his own voice to the scolding. “Both veterans and youngsters should go up the dohyo with vigor. It’s your job. There are fans watching.”

Kakuryu added: “The butsukari is not over. When we get to a warmer place, I’ll continue it”, hinting that when the Jungyo gets to its Okinawa leg he is going to be grilling Daiamami again.

By the way, did you notice Nishikigi hovering worried over Daiamami in the video above? This is typical of Nishikigi, who has earned the nickname “Mommy Nishikigi” for caring for rikishi during keiko, wiping sweat, etc.


OK, switching to the light side of the day’s event. First, Halt! Yokozuna aboard!

Enho works out in what seems to be a rather painful way:

Tobizaru, the Flying Monkey, tries to imitate him…

Er, no banana for you…

Isegahama beya took up the kiddie sumo as a team today:

isegahama-kiddies
Takarafuji, Terutsuyoshi, Aminishiki exchanging tykes

Where’s Homarefuji? Well, funny that you should ask!

Sumo with the older, more serious young sumo hopefuls was taken up by Kokonoe. Specifically, Chiyomaru, the other local.

Yep, that’s a big kid. But Chiyomaru is not Hikarugenji, either, if you catch my drift.

Here is the NHK coverage for the day, in which you’ll see Daiamami having recovered from the morning’s troubles, and beating Okinoumi in their torikumi.

You’ll also see Hakuho doing a baby dohyo-iri. This time we get to see the excited parents at the end. “He passed near us, and I asked if he’ll give the child a ‘dakko’. And he said a good-natured ‘yes’, so I quickly undressed her and handed her over” said mom.

More torikumi:

Takayasu vs. Goiedo

Takayasu complains about his lack of practice, but somehow ends up with the kensho-kin. Goeido having trouble with his ankle again?

Note Mitakeumi rising at the end to give the chikara-mizu on the opposite side. This means he has won his own torikumi (vs. Yoshikaze).

Musubi-no-ichiban:

Hakuho 4 – Kakuryu 3. Close call, there?

Again, note the applause Satonofuji gets when he arrives at the side of the dohyo. Very popular, that man.

satonofuji-popular
Also popular as a picture subject

 

Everything You Need to Know After Act Two

Sumo wrestlers line up as they pray before the start of the annual 'Honozumo' ceremonial sumo tournament dedicated to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan

The curtain has dropped on act two. The stage is now set, and the actors are ready for the grand finale of the Kyushu basho. While the early days of this tournament were overshadowed by scandal, the sumo took center stage in act two. So far we’ve seen triumph, defeat, skill and and even a little luck. But the best is yet to come! Here is a quick run down of everything you need to know going into the last five days of sumo in 2017.

Yusho Race

After two acts, only one man remains lord on high in the yusho race: Dai-Yokozuna Hakuho. With a 10-0 record and a two-win cushion separating him from second place, this is truly Hakuho’s yusho to lose. The story is not over yet, however, as two men are trailing Hakuho, just waiting for him to make one crucial mistake that will bring them closer to yusho contention. These rikishi are Okinoumi and Hokutofuji, who both ended day 10 with eight wins apiece. Should he keep his record spotless, Hakuho can clinch the yusho with a win on day 14, if not sooner.

Kachi Koshi and Make Koshi

There were only three men who secured their kachi koshi by the end of act two. In addition to Hakuho, only Okinoumi and Hokutofuji have earned a winning record so far, and are safe from demotion for the New Year Tournament. Conversely, there are three rikishi with make koshi losing records, beginning with Tochiozan who went winless in his first eight bouts. Chiyonokuni and Kotoshogiku also have losing records and can expect to move down the banzuke for January. For a closer look at the kachi koshi and make koshi  projections, please see this article by fellow Tachiai authour lksumo.

Kinboshi

Yokozuna Kisenosato surrendered three more kinboshi during the second act of the kyusho basho, bringing the overall total to six. These kinboshi were claimed by Hokutofuji, Ichinojo, and Takarafuji respectively. Having lost to five Maegashira rikishi, Kisenosato tied the record for the most kinboshi given up in a single basho since 1949.

Kyujo and Absences

On day 3 it was announced that Aoiyama had withdrawn from competition due to issues with his ankle. He returned to action on day 8 in what many believe to be a desperate attempt to stave off a major demotion down the banzuke. Since the end of act one, only one more rikishi has joined those who have pulled out of the Kyushu basho. Early in day 10, Kisenosato withdrew from the competition due to ankle and lower back issues. This marks the third time he has had to end a tournament prematurely this year. The kyujo and Absentee list so far includes Kakuryu, Ura, Takanoiwa, Harumafuji, Terunofuji, and Kisenosato.

Tozai-Sei

After ten days, the West now leads the East by a score of 104-85. The West side of the banzuke is really beginning to pull away from the East, mostly due to Hakuho, Hokutofuji, Ichinojo, and Arawashi, who have all won seven or more matches. That being said, the East has been far more affected by injuries and has lost many top point-earners this basho. The next five days will see the crowning of the first unofficial Tozai-sei championship.

Like a play, each act of the Kyushu basho has been better than the last. There’s still so much fantastic sumo that awaits us as we head into the final days of competition. So with that, let’s open the curtain on act 3. Let the finale begin!

Everything You Need to Know After Act One

 

With the first act of the Kyushu basho coming to an end, here is a quick rundown of everything you need to know to get all caught up.

Yusho Race

Five days in and the leaderboard has already dwindled down to three men, all with perfect records. Maegashira 13 Aminishiki, Ozeki Goeido, and a very genki Yokozuna Hakuho have five wins each and are neck and neck in the yusho race. Behind them with four wins are Takayasu, Mitakeumi, Hokutofuji, Ichinojo, Arawashi, and surprisingly, Okinoumi. I expect this group to be much smaller by the end of act two.

Kinboshi

So far, there have been three kinboshi surrendered this basho. Tamawashi earned the first of these gold star victories on day 1 when he defeated Yokozuna Kisenosato. Up and comer Takakeisho claimed the other two when he beat Harumafuji on day 2 and Kisenosato on day 4.

Kyujo and Absences

There are currently six men on the banzuke who have pulled out of the competition. Ura, Takanoiwa and Yokozuna Kakuryu withdrew citing health issues before the start of the basho. Aoiyama joined them on day 3 after sustaining an ankle injury in his match with Okinoumi. Day 3 would also see Yokozuna Harumafuji pull out of the competition following accusations of an assault on Takanoiwa during the October jungyo tour. After four straight losses, former Ozeki Terunofuji withdrew on day 5 to address the multiple health issues that have been plaguing him as of late.

Tozai-Sei

On day 1, I mentioned that I would be keeping track of the unofficial Tozai-sei Championship going on between the East and West sides of the banzuke. The Tozai-sei was an award used in the early 20th century and was given to the side of the banzuke with the most wins, and I’ve decided to resurrect it for a bit of added fun this basho. The rules are simple: for every win a rikishi gets, his side receives a point. After five days, the West leads the East with a record of 53 to 46. This lead is no doubt thanks to Aminishiki, Ichinojo, Takayasu, and Hakuho, who have a combined 18 points thus far. The top point earners on the East side are Okinoumi, Mitakeumi, and Goeido, who have 14 points between them.

With day 6 set to start in just a few short hours, there are still so many great sumo highlights to look forward to as the Kyushu basho rolls on.

Blast From The Past

I’ve been positively giddy with excitement these last few days with the Fukuoka Basho approaching. Now that it’s here, I’m scouring the web for insight into who will win. My pick: Goeido. Why? Okay, follow me down the rabbit hole:

I’ve created a spreadsheet to track Josh’s “Ones To Watch” and populated it with data on the 21 rikishi and the match-ups of the 10 fighting on Day 1. Sadly, no Wakaichiro, Jokoryu, or Enho. Hattorizakura is fighting in the first bout of the tournament. Can we invent some ceremony? Maybe I’ll just drink a beer in a few hours, at 6:30pm Eastern, to commemorate Hattorizakura opening the basho, hopefully with a win!

So, who else am I going to watch on Day 1? Let’s see… Oh, what about our good friend Shunba? He’ll likely post footage on his blog afterward so we’ll be able to see it. Who’s he fighting? Obamaumi? Obama-umi. For real? That’s an interesting name. Obamaumi. I like it. Let’s take a quick check of the SumoDB and see his stats. He’s a Sakaigawa boy there with Goeido, Myogiryu, Sadanoumi, and Toyohibiki. Funny. He actually started sumo as President Obama was taking office. There’s got to be more to this story.

Googling the kanji for Obamaumi in Japanese (小浜海) yields a bunch of articles but one thing catches my eye immediately: Geocities. WTF? There’s a Geocities site still active on the web in 2017? Click. Up pops some amazing data, only overshadowed by the fantastic 1990s background and web design. What is this? Some random Sakaigawa fan site? This is great! My terrible Japanese picks up the fact that he has an O blood type, his favorite food is curry, and his brother is the recently retired Sadanofuji who he followed into the sumo world.

I click to the homepage and a realization hits me… This is the official site for the Sakaigawa stable. Half of me is tempted to pass around a hat to solicit donations to bring this site into the 21st Century. With my vinyl copy of Kenny Rogers Greatest Hits playing in the background, nostalgia started to kick in hard. Flashbacks are now pouring back, including my first website – which was populated by pictures I had stored on floppy discs.

“…this time the hurting won’t heal. You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille…”

Nostalgia aside, the Hakuho era is coming to a close. His reign on top of the sport has peaked as injuries begin to pile up. For years the movers-and-shakers in the sport were looking for a worthy rival. Harumafuji, while certainly worthy of the title yokozuna, was never quite able to be a consistent threat as Hakuho’s mantle overflowed with macarons. So as they scanned the next plateau, they found Kakuryu, swiftly hit with the injury bug. Kisenosato bobs up – and before he can lift his second cup, he falls to injury. There will be a changing of the guard and the moves will be swift. Who will be there to start mopping up? Goeido 2.0