Acclaimed photographer Catherine Hyland has released an astonishing look at Sumo in Mongolia. In a project commissioned by WeTransfer’s WePresent arm, Hyland has released a stunning series of photographs and a short film, titled SUMOS: Rise of the Mongolians, providing insight into the world of the sport in Mongolia. Groundbreaking Mongolian rikishi Kyokushuzan, who now trains young wrestlers in Mongolia, makes an appearance in the film, which also features an interview with a recent Hakuho Cup winner who aspires to be like the tournament’s namesake someday.
Many of us around the world are of course aware of the presence and dominance of many rikishi (and Yokozuna, and yusho winners, and now stablemasters) from Mongolia, but I felt this short film was exceptionally interesting by presenting us with moving images from a country which is extraordinarily infrequently covered in the western media. Indeed, any conversation about Ichinojo will go to serve how the origin stories of Mongolian rikishi can be the stuff of legend.
Following the two hana-zumo events, the dohyo in the Ryogoku Kokugikan was not left unattended. On Monday, February 12, the 8th Hakuho Cup took place.
The Hakuho Cup is a children’s sumo event, second only to the annual Wanpaku National Championship. Its origins are actually in the Asashoryu Cup. The Wanpaku National Championship is an all-Japanese event, and Asashoryu wished to put some Mongolian kids on the dohyo in the Kokugikan. This dream has finally come to fruition in August 2009, in an event for boys age 8-12, won by the Mongolian delegation winning all of its bouts. Asashoryu wanted to make this an annual event, but unfortunately he was forced to retire a few months later, and the event was never repeated.
With Asashoryu gone, Hakuho took his place as the leading (and only) Yokozuna, and starting in 2011, established his own event. And as usual with Hakuho, anything Asashoryu did, he improved upon. The Hakuho cup in its current form is an event for boys from first to ninth grade. No less than 1300 boys attended this year’s event, hailing not only from Mongolia and Japan, but also from the USA, Taiwan, Hong-Kong, Mainland China, Thailand and South Korea.
The Mongolian delegation practiced at Tomozuna beya:
While the “Aloha State” team practiced at Musashigawa:
Other heya have also opened their dohyo to the various sumo school clubs and delegations.
On the day itself, many bouts took place on temporary dohyos spread around the kokugikan. At lunch break, Hakuho and Yoshikaze – always involved in children sumo – sat down for a public chat on the dohyo. They were joined by a surprise guest:
This was none other than the 66th Yokozuna, the former Wakanohana, Mr. Masaru Hanada. Yes, Takanohana’s older and estranged brother.
This was the first time for the 66th and the 69th Yokozuna to meet face to face, and also the first time for the former Wakanohana to step up the dohyo in the Kokugikan since his retirement in 2000. Hakuho told Hanada that he has been watching his videos since he entered into the sumo world, and always thought he would be a tough one to engage with. Hanada said “You’re huge!”, and then addressed the child wrestlers: “Don’t worry. Even small ones can become Yokozuna, like I did. Just be diligent with your keiko!” (Wakanohana was merely 181cm tall).
Among the participants in the event was Hakuho’s own eldest son, Mahato. That’s the same kid who participated in the 2017 summer Jungyo and asked to engage Mitakeumi, to take revenge (Mitakeumi has beaten Hakuho in the Nagoya basho).
Hakuho Jr. is 9 years old, in the third grade, and therefore this has been his third appearance in his father’s tournament. And for the first time, he actually won a bout – he was winless in the previous two occasions. He overcame a henka, got a brief migi-yotsu and finished with an uwate-nage. The proud father said “Keiko doesn’t lie. He does 200 shiko stomps… but not every day.” The boy was defeated in his next bout, though.
The tournament winner for the second grade was Takaaki Uno from Kanazawa.
The Kanazawa delegation got a lot of support from the latest Kanazawa sekitori, Enho:
And finally, here is a video with a summary of the events of the day, including the Hakuho jr. bout and various other bouts:
Over the past weekend, the 7th annual youth sumo tournament known as the “Hakuho Cup” took place at the Kokugikan in Tokyo. The tournament brought together young sumo enthusiasts from around the world to compete in individual and team competition. This included teams from Japan, China, Korea, Mongolia and the United States.
As can be expected when the leading man of Sumo holds an event, many well known sumotori showed up to work with the young wrestlers, help out running the event, or simply encourage participants and families. This includes one of my favorites, Yoshikaze, who not only worked the event, but also hosted a group of youngsters from Japan at the Oguruma beya. A group of children from Hawaii competed as well, hosted by the Musashigawa beya, keeping the spirit of Hawaiian sumo alive.
In team competition, the Mongolian team took first prize. as well as a strong showing throughout the various classes.
During Sunday’s youth sumo tournament – the “Hakuho Cup” held at Tokyo’s Ryōgoku Kokugikan, fans were delighted to see Yokozuna Kakuryu make a personal appearance in support of event. Kakuryu had a disappointing tournament in January, where he withdrew after day 10 with a recurrence of lower back pain. This is the same problem that has plagued Kakuryu in the past, and the reason why he was missing for the Nagoya basho in 2016.
When asked about his injuries, he remarked that he was going to tough it out, and continue to train, and expects to appear in the Osaka tournament, in spite of his chronic back problems. Readers skilled in reading Kanji can take a stab at the source material here.
It’s fantastic to see Kakuryu mobile and apparently in good spirits, but Tachiai fears that without some kind of medical intervention, Kakuryu is going to continue to deliver disappointing performance. Sumo fans everywhere wish him good fortune and a strong recovery.