“I’m glad there’s such a great community around sumo” – A Conversation With Jason Harris (Part 2)

Jason Harris: Yokozuna
Photo courtesy of Jason Harris

In the second and final part of our interview, we’re happy to present more takes from the very popular Jason Harris of Jason’s All Sumo Channel. Here, he shares more opinions on what he’s looking forward to in sumo, some fantasy matchups that he would create on the dohyo, and the role of YouTube videos in the English speaking world where content can be hard to come by.

If you missed Part 1 of our interview, click here to check it out. As in part 1, the interview has been edited for clarity and length. We’ve embedded Jason’s “Welcome” video for the upcoming basho as well, so make sure to tune in to learn more about how Tachiai has partnered with him for his upcoming contest this month.

Tachiai: In all of your time watching sumo matches over the years, is there one particular matchup (either because it was something a lot of people related to on the channel, or just because it’s something that you’ve enjoyed) between two rikishi that you could just watch again and again?

Jason Harris: Oh boy! There are so many. I went back through some of old playlists recently, because I wanted to see how it started, and I watched a match here and there. I loved it when people came not out of nowhere – because sometimes they were Ozeki – but when they just won that one tournament. People like Kotooshu and Baruto, or even the wild basho that ended up with Kyokutenho winning – those were very fun [to watch]. Of course, in 2008 & 2009, the showdowns between Asashoryu and Hakuho were always fun to look forward to on Senshuraku.

Videos that stick with me the most probably have to be Harumafuji matches, like when he did the back to back 15-0 [tournaments]. Even when he won recently [in September], I was so happy for him. What happened to him was a terrible way to go out, but he seems to be OK with it. He’s going to have his hair-cutting ceremony this year and I think he’s going to stay in Japan and try and stay connected with sumo.

One of the things I like, that I wish I could show more, is when I get to watch on the weekend for my own enjoyment: They do a pretty good job on NHK of having guests go over sumo history. Every now and then, they’ll show an old Chiyonofuji match, or one of the big Americans like Akebono. I really have zero knowledge of sumo pre-2004: I came into a complete void, I’d never seen the sport before. So, when I get to see older matches from the 80s and 90s and even before that are in black and white, I love watching all that old stuff, it’s great. The amazing thing about watching Hakuho [now] is that I have watched Hakuho from Day 1, attaining Yokozuna and being the “GOAT” that he is. Every record that he’s broken, they go back and show you, “Taiho (or someone) did this and Hakuho beat that record.”

I’m not one of these baseball fans that knows all of these players on the roster going back to the 30s, or one of these football fans that’s been rooting for the team since I was 5 years old. Sumo came to me when I was 36, but it is a huge part of my life. It’s amazing to me that it takes place so often and at such a high level. I can’t think of any sport aside from maybe tennis, where you have tournaments every other month! It’s not easy winning a yusho in professional makuuchi sumo, and they really do go all out every other month.

I wish more people in Japan would watch it, because I go to work sometimes, and I’ll be high on the previous day’s tournament, and I just wanna be like: “Man! Did you see Kisenosato? His arm was falling off! And he won that match (laughs)!” And it’s just crickets. The kids aren’t home from school yet [when sumo is on] and the adults are blasé about it. There’s one old guy at work now who talks to me about sumo. I love to wear my sumo shirts around town – people love that a foreigner is so invested in it.

Tachiai: I’ve had similar experiences. I want to go back to something you said about watching matches in the 2000s up through now. This is a Marvel vs DC kind of question: let’s bring two universes together. If you could pit any current rikishi against a former rikishi from when you started watching to create an ultimate fantasy matchup, what might that be?

JH: The obvious one has gotta be Chiyonofuji against Hakuho. That’s the Muhammad Ali vs X, or Michael Jordan vs X… the matchup for the ages. When you look at Chiyonofuji, he’s just so muscular! He doesn’t look fat to me! My gosh, I can imagine how formidable an opponent he must have been, and to see him fight Hakuho!

I loved how Harumafuji was so quick and so good with technique, and I think that was the one thing that allowed him to have any yusho wins during the Hakuho reign. It would [also] be great to see somebody like Ichinojo who’s now tipping the scales at 225kg against somebody like Akebono or other huge guys from the past. It would be great to see some Americans make it back up to the top division, and have that fun pride. We talk a lot about foreigners in sumo, and now we’ve got a guy from Texas, that Tachiai promotes a lot, Wakaichiro.

Fantasy matches are fun to think about. Hakuho vs. Chiyonofuji though, that’s gotta be the one, right there.

Tachiai: I’ve got a question coming up now from Andy, who runs the site.

JH: Yo, Andy!

Tachiai: Andy is curious as to your thoughts on Araibira, who used to put the whole NHK feed on Youtube before he got shut down and moved over to Vimeo. Firstly, have you ever been worried about how close you might be cutting it in terms of the amount of content you put on Youtube, and how the authorities might feel about that? How do you, as a person who’s in that space, react to seeing someone else having to move off Youtube and onto another platform?

JH: Araibira was a nice dude. I talked to him a few times back when he was popular. He had some feed – not proper NHK. The thing that I think got him in trouble is that he was so quick, and he would put up the matches literally minutes after they were live, and he just would take the footage and post it. And that’s kind of direct competition [with NHK] in a way. He wasn’t adding commentary or anything, and I don’t think he wasn’t using an English feed, it was all in Japanese. So he got in trouble and taken down. I don’t know if he’s still over on Vimeo. If he is, then good luck to him.

I could never match the speed of Kintamayama, who does a really good job with his editing. I feel like I just offer a slightly different product, and you’re not going to get the whole day [of matches]. I don’t live in fear of the channel being shut down, but I know that at any point it could happen. I would just have to be sad, and be like: “oh well.” And then move on.

It is completely not my content, which is why I’ve never put any ad on any content, I’ve not monetised [my videos], I’m not a partner on YouTube. It’s just a portal for me to share what I love about sumo with other people… and I’ve been attacked for it. There was a guy who wrote a whole article in The Japan Times about two years ago, calling me bad names and saying “why is this allowed?” And I thought, “well, that’s it, they’re going to shut me down.” But they didn’t, and I heard from other people that guy is kind of a crank anyway! [editors note: the writer in question was not current Japan Times sumo writer and friend of the site, John Gunning]

Every now and then, especially when I first started, NHK would flag this video or that video, and then I’d say “oh, damn!” People would ask “where’s so and so… where’s the Kaio vs. Asashoryu match, the final match of the day?” And I’d just have to say, “yeah, it got snagged.” When people first watched my channel, they just got used to that. But it really hasn’t happened since 2011, since they changed the broadcast.

I think NHK are trying their own thing at streaming services and apps and it hasn’t quite come all together yet, and they’re really leaving me alone. And I’m very thankful about that. Because I think as much as I do it, and I’m in English (and I don’t want to toot my own horn but I’m kind of the most high profile person posting in English), there’s probably tons of people posting and reposting NHK sumo in Japanese. I don’t type in kanji for the names of the wrestlers and see all of those videos. So I’m sure that happens a lot and I’m just not aware of it. If you’re going to ask me to justify what I do, I feel like I’m spreading the sport around to people who wouldn’t normally get to see it.

Tachiai: That touches on the second part of Andy’s question too, which is that in an era where only so many fans around the world can make it to Kokugikan or one of the other venues around Japan, it’d be interesting to get your take on what role videos like yours and other online content can play in the spread of sumo as a sport. Specifically for people who can’t get there: maybe they’re in Japan and it’s too far away, or they’re in other countries and are never going to make it there. What roles do these videos play in creating more fans? 

JH: Absolutely. If I lost my job tomorrow, and I had to move back to California, I would want my channel: somebody who does what I do, so that I could keep watching sumo in America. Now, I would be lucky, because the US has a large Asian-American population, so there’s a cable channel you can get called TV Japan, and it’s $25 a month, and you can watch sumo on it. But sumo is on at midnight or whatever it is in America because of the time difference.

NHK World, I gotta admit, is doing a good job. They’re stepping up, they’re putting out these [daily] summary videos. They’re fairly accessible, they’re free, and they get reposted on YouTube a lot! They’re not comprehensive, they don’t show every match of every day, they drop 1 or 2, but it’s a good way to get into the sport too.

I just hope there’s still something my channel can offer that’s not redundant. If people say “I can go to NHK World, why come to your channel?” Hopefully people find interesting things, and the fact that I’m reacting to it live most of the time is a little bit of a different flavor. A lot of people surprisingly don’t just want to see the tachiai and the outcome. They want to see the ritual. They want to see the salt throwing, and the stare down, and the replay, and all of those things that I provide.

And it’s definitely a big space! It’s a big huge thing, YouTube. I know for a fact that people in Mongolia, and people in Georgia, and Canada, and all the places that I get a lot of hits from, their source for sumo is YouTube. Maybe they don’t have that [premium] cable channel in their country. I’m sure now in Georgia, they probably do have somebody watching [and posting updates]. I know they’re going to be watching Tochinoshin closely this tournament, but who knows if they still cover sumo in Estonia now that Baruto’s gone.

So many people send me messages and say “I used to be stationed in Okinawa as a soldier,” or “I used to live in Japan where I was a teacher,” or “I was a student,” and they are reigniting their nostalgia and feelings for sumo by seeing some of my videos and starting to follow the new guys. And that’s great. That makes me feel great and I’m just glad that there’s such a great community around. Tachiai, and my channel, and people on Twitter, and what John Gunning is doing: everybody is talking about it in English, which is an important part to spread its popularity.

Tachiai: I agree. I certainly feel it because a lot of the content that I personally write for Tachiai is covering stuff that happens outside the top divisions: things that happen in the lower divisions, and how guys making their debuts are doing, and things like that. And it’s hard enough for us to see the content from the top divisions in America. There’s just absolutely NO WAY that without the folks who are there at Kokugikan at 10am shooting video from the Jonidan division and posting it on YouTube, that it would be possible. It just wouldn’t.

So finally, our last question… what are you looking forward to in sumo over the course of the next year or so?

JH: It’s hard. Talking to sumo fans, Japanese sumo fans have their own point of view because they are Japanese and they want a Japanese champion… and then they got Kisenosato and then they didn’t, know what I mean?

Tachiai: Yeah. 

JH: He became Yokozuna, and then unfortunately, bad things happened and he just couldn’t keep it up. I think – and it’s funny, because I get called out for this a lot, people [think I don’t like him] – that Hakuho is the greatest of all time. Absolutely. We are in a special era to be able to watch him on a daily basis.

Tachiai: He’s trying to make it until the Olympics.

JH: He’s talked a lot about that. Sure. But we don’t want diminishing returns, he should go out on top.

Tachiai: Well, he is trying to get 1,000 wins in makuuchi. That’s the next thing. He’s 28 wins short.

JH: I hope he gets that! You know, I feel like he should get a little more respect from some of the other fans. It’s hard when you’re that consistently good and you’re always winning, people do then cheer for the underdog because they just want somebody different.

But that’s not a reflection of how good he is and how much he deserves, because if somebody could have stepped up to him, then certainly I think he would have been happy to have had a good rival. Not that Harumafuji wasn’t a good rival, or Kisenosato, but they were not and are not him. And when Asashoryu left as unceremoniously as he did, we really lost that good rivalry.

So, my hope for the next couple years is that we do see some of these new guys: the Enhos, the Abis, the Mitakeumis, these guys come up, and a new crop take over the san’yaku. And some new blood, and some new really strong rivalries that will really keep us entertained for the next 4 or 5 years. Harumafuji’s retired, and there’s talk that Kisenosato might retire this year. There was talk about Kakuryu, but that’s gone, he’s back pretty strong. I don’t think Hakuho is going to retire, but I don’t think he’s going to dominate like he did in the past. It’s the middle of 2018, so he’s got to stay wrestling for 2 more years to get to the Olympics? He could do it! He’s not that old.

Tachiai: He’s 33.

JH: Yeah, so you look around at some of the other guys [over the years] who were able to hang on. Kaio was able to hang on because he had that Ozeki “safety net.” Aminishiki has stuck around, he is going to be 40 soon. But to be a Yokozuna like Hakuho, and have everybody gunning for you, it’ll be interesting [how long he can keep going].

I’m excited about the next couple years of sumo. I think we’re going to have some great tournaments, and in each basho some story emerges that you weren’t really prepared for – along with the standard narrative: “Hakuho’s going to dominate.” What’s going to upset that apple cart may be more interesting.

I’m looking forward to it. I plan to live in Japan at least until 2021. At that point I’ll be turning 50, and then I have to think about what I want to do from there. I hope the channel stays around, and stays popular, and sumo is still a lot of fun for everyone for the next 3 or 4 years at least!

Thanks again to Jason for taking the time to chat with us. You can find his channel on YouTube by clicking here, and follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

Summary of the Meeting of the Board of Directors of the NSK, Nov. 30

Yesterday, Nov. 30, the NSK Board of Directors held its regular meeting. In addition to run-of-the-mill stuff like the creation of a new heya, much of the discussion was around matters related to the Harumafuji scandal.

press-conference-nov-30

The board of directors finally succeeded in securing Takanohana’s cooperation with the crisis committee’s investigation. Takanohana claimed that cooperating with them will interfere with the police investigation. The board contacted the Tottori police by phone, and were told that the matter is left to their discretion. Eventually Takanohana agreed to cooperate once the police investigation is complete. The police is expected to hand its report to the prosecutor in mid-December. So the crisis committee expects to interview Takanoiwa and prepare a final report by December 20th. At that time, irregular meetings of both the YDC and the NSK board will be held, and further decisions will be made.

The decisions are not expected to relate to Harumafuji himself, as he is no longer an employee of the NSK.

Hakuho and his stablemaster, Miyagino oyakata, were called in to the meeting, and reprimanded severely for Hakuho’s conduct – the “matta” protest, the contents of his yusho speech, and the “banzai”.

Another decision was related to a publication in Shukkan Shincho (a weekly magazine) which claimed that Mongolian rikishi were exchanging Yaocho among themselves. The NSK will file a complaint against the magazine.

It was decided that since Takanohana is deeply involved in the current issue, he will sit out the Winter Jungyo, and Kasugano oyakata will take his place.

The crisis committee presented an interim report. They still need to interview Takanoiwa, but having interviewed everybody else involved, they believe the content is pretty much established. Following the board meeting, a press conference was held and the details of the interim report were presented.

Details of the assault

  • On October 25th, a dinner party was held by associates of the Tottori Johoku High School, to support their graduates. The dinner party included Hakhuo, Kakuryu, Harumafuji, Terunofuji, Takanoiwa, Ishiura, and people from Tottory Johoku high. This was not a Mongolian-only meeting nor was it intended as such.
  • In the dinner party itself, Hakuho took issue with Takanoiwa regarding rude behavior he exhibited in September at some restaurant in Tokyo. In this instance, Harumafuji defended Takanoiwa and the matter was dropped.
  • Harumafuji usually had a soft spot for Takanoiwa, who has lost both his parents, because he himself lost his father. He would give him advice, buy him meals etc.
  • The after-party, which took place in another venue – a private room in a lounge bar – included most of the participants in the dinner party.
  • At the after-party, Hakuho started lecturing to Terunofuji and Takanoiwa that they should be dutifully thankful to their high school for their ability to do sumo.
  • Takanoiwa began fiddling with his smartphone. Harumafuji berated him for doing that in the middle of Hakuho’s speech. Takanoiwa answered “It’s mail from my girlfriend” with a wry smile. This angered Harumafuji, and he slapped Takanoiwa on his face once.
  • Takanoiwa returned a defiant stare and did not apologize. At this point Harumafuji proceeded to slap him about 10 times, and added a few hits to the head with the karaoke remote control, demanding the apology.
  • Harumafuji picked up a bottle of champagne and raised it above his head, but it slipped and fell. He did not hit Takanoiwa with a bottle,  did not attempt to throw any other object at him, and did not straddle him at any point.
  • Hakuho stepped in, and the beating stopped.
  • Harumafuji drank sake on that occasion, but was not heavily drunk, and has full memory of the entire affair. There is no evidence of bad drunken behavior on his part on previous occasions.
  • The result of the beating was an injury which required the use of a skin stapler.
  • According to the hospital that issued the medical certificate, it is doubtful that there was a skull fracture or a leakage of cranial fluid. [Note: this could also be translated as “there was a suspicion of fracture/leakage”. Choose your version.]
  • The medical certificate included a rest period of two weeks which was supposed to be from October 26th through November 8th, and he was released on November 9th after the hospital was satisfied with his state of health.

This summary is based on several news outlets, primarily:

Don’t Pin The Blame On Alcohol

On the third day of the Kyushu basho, when the news hit us that Harumafuji had beaten up Takanoiwa, I – like many sumo fans around the world – was shocked to the core.

harumafuji-press-conference

There are not many rikishi at the top of the sport whose perceived character is so far away from “violent drunkard” as Harumafuji’s was. This man was known for helping old ladies with their baggage, for being nice to children, for making himself available to fans. He was known for his habit of embracing his opponents after a yori-kiri, to prevent them from injuring themselves falling off the dohyo, and for being generous with his advice to young wrestlers as well as tough opponents. And he was also known for his responsibility to his rank, as demonstrated when he persisted in the Aki basho despite injuries and serial losses, because he was the sole Yokozuna in attendance.

How does one reconcile this image with that of a violent rampage in a bar? Many of us assumed that it was the alcohol. It’s not unheard of for people with good self-control to become violent under the influence. In one of my comments, I compared Harumafuji to Hercules: Hercules, who was a strong but gentle person, was struck by madness and killed his wife and kids. When the madness left him, he had to face what his own hands had wrought.

This was a fine picture to paint, but it left us with the puzzle of why the Yokozuna did nothing once the hangover was gone. Where was that famous sense of responsibility? How could he proceed in doing Yokozuna dohyo-iri while he knew that he committed an act of violence that was no less severe than the one that caused Asashoryu to retire? Was Harumafuji really such a cynical hypocrite?

Bruce suggested that the Yokozuna offered to resign but was denied until the NSK could think of the best solution. This, too, didn’t feel right to me. The worst time for any scandal to break is in the middle of a basho. If he had reported it at the end of the Jungyo, I would have expected the NSK to handle matters at least partially before the basho, and to at least instruct him to go kyujo and make himself scarce from the beginning to the end of the basho.

Another puzzling aspect was that it seems his answers to the police questioning were detailed and coherent. To me that seemed beyond the capability of a brain soaked in so much alcohol as to cause a man to entirely forget his values.

Earlier today, the Yokozuna and his visibly weeping stablemaster held a press conference, which shed some light on some of these questions.

When asked about the reason for the violence, Harumafuji said: “I feel that it is the duty of a sempai and a Yokozuna to correct low-ranking rikishi’s manners and conduct. In scolding him, I injured him, and this brought mayhem and trouble for everybody involved.”

When asked why he then continued in his daily life as if nothing has happened, he replied “I didn’t know that this would get to the papers. Takanoiwa came later to apologize. I told him to be thankful he has a big brother to guide him, and told him to take care and work hard, and we parted with a handshake. I didn’t think the matter would go any further than that.”

Both Isegahama and Harumafuji stressed that this was not caused by drunkenness. Isegahama said that he has never seen or heard rumor of Harumafuji being violent when drinking. Harumafuji repeated the same: “I have never hurt anybody or acted violently when I drank, and I have never been told that I act badly when drunk.”

Later the same day, Demon Kakka was asked to comment to the press about the Harumafuji resignation.

demon-kakka

Demon Kakka (formerly Demon Kogure) is this flamboyant rocker, who is known for always being in character, and for being a huge sumo fan. He is a popular sumo commentator. Some of you may have seen him in various sumo TV shows, including the “Sunday Sports” program in which he interviewed Harumafuji after the yusho he won in the last Aki basho.

Kakka gave the press the straight dope:  After saying that in his personal opinion, he would have preferred Harumafuji not to retire, he then continued: “In the sumo world the tradition of ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’ is still entrenched. Harumafuji must be thinking: ‘Why am I being singled out about something everybody is doing’? The fact that this tradition is considered obvious in the sumo world makes the current problem a structural issue. Times have changed. The Yokozuna’s retirement is not going to solve the problem. The sumo world needs to think up ways to bring up its rikishi other than the current merciless system”.

Kakka has a point there. Take the case of Kasugano oyakata, who disciplined Tochinoshin and two other wrestlers by beating them with golf club in October 2011, for repeated violations of the dress and curfew code. After matters became public (because of an anonymous tip to the police), he admitted to “going to far”, apologized, got severely reprimanded by the NSK… And Tochinoshin and the two others apologized and were disciplined (in a more humane manner). He now serves as the head of the NSK public relations department.

Why should Harumafuji have thought that he would end up any differently? The picture now becomes much clearer. He didn’t actually think he did something as bad as Asashoryu. Asashoryu attacked a man who was not related to the sumo world. This is something that Harumafuji would never do. But Harumafuji thought that he was “doing it for Takanoiwa’s own good”. It’s not violence if it’s education, and it’s not education without violence, as Kakka said. And apparently Takanoiwa also accepted those terms. The Yokozuna did not think he did something a Yokozuna shouldn’t do until the matter hit the papers. Even after that, he was quoted as saying that “the one thing that he didn’t want to do was to retire”, continued to practice every day, and even announced that he will be kyujo for the jungyo. These are the acts of someone who believes he has at least some hope of keeping his rope and his hairdo.

It was not until the YDC made its “dealt with with utmost severity” statement that the Yokozuna realized that his act is not going to be treated like the Kasugano case, and had to offer his resignation hurriedly before the deliberations of the Banzuke committee.


Details of the press conference: NHK (Japanese)

Demon Kakka interview: Sponichi

 

Harumafuji Scandal Development

Hakuho

There has been another development in the Harumafuji scandal today. While speaking to the press, key witness Yokozuna Hakuho stated that there was a bottle involved in the incident, but it was not used in the assault on Takanoiwa.

横綱・白鵬が取材に応じ、「やってはいけないことで、手を出したのは事実です。私もその場にいたわけだし、相撲界として世間に本当に申し訳ない気持ちでいっぱいだ。報道されているようにビール瓶で殴っていたわけではありません。ビール瓶は持ちましたが、手から滑り落ちそのあとに私が間に入って部屋から連れ出しました」

Hakuho noted that Harumafuji had been holding a beer bottle before the altercation, but it slipped from his hand before Hakuho separated him from Takanoiwa. The Dai-Yokozuna also expressed his sorrow for not stepping in and breaking up the fight sooner, and apologized to sumo fans for the entire incident.

Former Yokozuna Asashoryu has also remarked on the incident and stated via his Twitter account that there was no bottle involved in the conflict.

モンゴル出身の元横綱朝青龍もツイッターで「ビール瓶で殴ってないらしいよ」

Despite this claim, there has yet to be any proof that Asashoryu was present at the scene of the event on October 26th, and could be basing his opinion on second-hand knowledge.

This development raises the question of how Takanoiwa could have been seriously injured without the use of a weapon. Hakuho’s word is highly respected in the sumo world, but should evidence come forward that the night’s events were drastically different than how he described them he could find himself in hot water as well. Tachiai will continue to cover this story as it develops.

Link to the NHK article:

Day 2 – Slip Slidin’ Away

aminishiki-2017-11-day-02
The Battle of the Tsuyuharai

Before we turn to Aminishiki, who is still carrying Isegahama beya on his shoulders all alone (well, Homarefuji also won today), let’s drop and visit one of our favorites down in Makushita.

Yes. Unfortunately, Tokoryu was not letting the boy wonder outdo him. Hakuho’s pretty uchi-deshi tastes his first defeat.

In my personal watch list of Naruto beya – Torakio wins, Sumidagawa lost yesterday to Ezuka, who is a third of his size. Gap starts to open?


So, back up to Makuuchi. Nishikigi shows good fighting spirit and pushes Ishiura’s face with his lower arm several times. Ishiura, on the other hand, shows why he is in Juryo. Something is not working there.

Takekaze gets Kotoyuki down, stumbles over him, and both fall awkwardly below the dohyo. Takekaze seems to be OK, but Kotoyuki limping. Unfortunately, it’s not the worst injury of the day. Following the Aminishiki-Kagayaki bout, we have Aoiyama vs. Okinoumi. Aoiyama somehow damages his foot against the tawara, and ends up in the dreaded giant wheelchair. Following the doctor’s check, his stablemaster says that he hurt his heel, and that there was a “snapping sound”. This does not bode well for the Bulgarian.

This is not basho-related, but if we’re in the hospital already, the NSK finally released the reason for Takanoiwa’s kyujo, and it sounds very unpleasant: Concussion, ear canal inflammation, skull fracture, and a suspicion of cranial fluid leakage. For some unfathomable reason, the press says the expected recovery time is two weeks. From a skull fracture? Hmmm. Wishes of health go out to Kotoyuki, Aoiyama and Takanoiwa.

So, rewind a bit to the battle of the Tsuyuharai. That is, Kagayaki is Kisenosato’s tsuyuharai, whereas Aminishiki continues to serve as Harumafuji’s tsuyuharai, despite the fact that it strains his knees and ankles, and that it leaves him precious little time to get ready for his bouts. An honor is an honor. And anyway, he doesn’t seem to be affected by it too much, and might be running out of Yokozuna pretty soon the way things look up the banzuke. The torikumi itself was pretty short: Uncle chose to rise high at the tachiai to match Kagayaki’s height, and already had a grip in preparation whilst rising. Then it was left, down, and 2-0.

Endo and Kaisei take some time to fight over their mawashi grips, when Endo decides he has had enough, pulls on the one side of Kaisei’s mawashi he has a firm grip on, and twists him down. Shitatehineri. Nice!

Chiyomaru seems to have had a good night sleep, and came back with his usual genki today. Slap-slappity-slap, grab, push, and out with Daieisho.

Chiyoshoma on the other hand, makes the mistake of retreating after a good tachiai vs. Shodai, tries to grab something for one of his throws, but runs out of dohyo doing so.

Chiyonokuni loses by slippiotoshi – not the last one of the day – to Arawashi. Today was not a very good day for Kokonoe, either. But really, their fare is better than Isegahama…

What mode did Ichinojo boot up in for this basho? What a lovely bout against Takarafuji. Shoulder blast at the tachiai, a combination of oshi and yotsu zumo, some patience, and a couple of gaburi to put the Isegahama man out. As a general Isegahama fan this makes me a bit sad, but on the other hand, I really like Ichinojo. Especially when he’s wide awake.

OK, we’re up in the sanyaku. Hokutofuji looks convincing vs. Mitakeumi. Or is it that Mitakeumi is all… fishy…? Sorry, but that man’s face…

The ghost of Terunofuji tries to do all sorts of things with Shohozan, but, quite expectedly, fails. Shohozan is kind enough not to push the ailing Kaiju off the dohyo.

Chiyotairyu drops the lid on Yoshikaze‘s hopes to make an Ozeki run.

Goeido. Well, Goeido. That is, Goeido. He does to Kotoshogiku exactly what Harumafuji did to him in the playoff match in Aki. Simply prevents the henka and pushes the local man out so quickly he doesn’t know what hit him. Well, it was Goeido, Giku-zeki. He studied the monitor well and probably watched that match dozens of times since. The way Goeido looks right now, Hakhuo can start worrying.

Takayasu is back. Blast, push, and Tochiozan learns the pain of the joi. So, you’re saying the man from Tagonoura was injured? When was that?

And now we’re into the Yokozuna. And… when was the last time Harumafuji had two black stars from day one? The answer is Natsu 2010. Never as a Yokozuna, of course. He tried to tackle Takakeisho. Once. Didn’t work. Twice. Didn’t work. Third time… and he ran out of clay. Takakeisho was benevolent enough to pull him in so he will not roll off the dohyo (this is the real meaning of karma, by the way). The Yokozuna has as much chance of becoming a dai-yokozuna as I have of becoming a Japanese…

The bout between Kisenosato and Onosho was, in Onosho’s words, “Not what I thought it would be”. It looked a bit like a cartoon character starting to run, with feet shuffling but no forward motion. Big, big, slippiotoshi, and all Kisenosato had to do was let him fall in a way that could be called a kimarite.

kisenosato-2017-11-day-02
Slippiotoshi, reverse angle

The Japanese broadcaster said he did a “left ottsuke”. Anybody see an ottsuke there? Because I don’t. I see a man falling down.

Finally, Hakuho back in the musubi-no-ichiban. Slips in his usual face slap. Disengages for a second, and before Tamawashi can think of anything, shows him the way out.

hakuho-2017-11-day-02
Get out, trespasser!

So, two days go by. Maybe we’ll see a yusho playoff between Hakuho, Goeido, and, er… Aminishiki? Nah, I’m just jinxing him talking like that. Seriously, though, Hakuho, Goeido and Takayasu are currently the only dominant-looking rikishi on the clay.

 

Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall, Who Is The Genkiest Of Them All?

I had a feeling of déjà vu as I watched the opening day today. It looked like the Nagoya basho all over again. Yokozuna falling left and right, Terunofuji looking like a ghost. And one Lord of the Ring.

hakuho-2017-11-day-01
The boss, under pressure

But do I detect a worried look on the face of the King of Kings?

Hakuho was very careful and kept his pelvis about a meter away from Kotoshogiku’s. The man in the blue mawashi did try one gaburi before he realized that he had nothing but Hakuho’s classical Mongolian wrestling grip – all upper body – and from there it was only a matter of hakuho getting his hands sorted for a throw.

What pain in his body has given him that worried look, we’ll never know.

Moving to the less pleasant yokozuna stories. It was every bit as painful to see Harumafuji as I thought it would be. His shikiri/salt throwing routine was slow, heavy and stiff. His tachiai was slow, heavy and stiff. If it was just his elbow that didn’t work, well, an injury is an injury. But my favorite Yokozuna’s whole body is screaming for retirement. Onosho, of course, is not taking any prisoners. The only positive thing that can be said about this bout from the Yokozuna’s perspective is that it was short.

Kisenosato’s bout, with all its mattas, was pretty strange. I would have thought that the big, experienced man would have at least the same composure as Takayasu has shown, but his nerves were all over the dohyo.

At some point in the bout Kisenosato pushed Tamawashi away, and then seemed to be surprised that Tamawashi came back as strong as he did. In fact, as soon as they re-engaged Kisenosato didn’t stand a chance. What the injured Yokozuna has going for him at the moment is a great angle on the Tachiai (which was somewhat neutralized by all the mattas and nerves), and excellent balance. But at the point they re-engaged, it was in a standing position with no angle of attack advantage, and Tamawashi wasn’t going for anything that would require unbalancing the Yokozuna. Just applying power where the Yokozuna couldn’t answer.

Bruce has already said all that there was to say about the Goeido bout. I still maintain that in their Aki bout, Goeido lost by slippiotoshi and bad state of mind. Takakeisho is not a quick thinker or a sly planner. Goeido simply used him as a slider today.

Takayasu is one guy who doesn’t just say that he’s cool. When he says it, he means it. He simply doesn’t stress too much about his kadoban. He opened with his signature shoulder blast, and once he got that out of the way he didn’t shy away from a sidestep and an easy win.

On to Terunofuji. Well no, on second thought, let’s pretend that Terunofuji is not in this basho. How did that man succeed in damaging his knees that thoroughly in less than a month? When he joined the jungyo he looked sharp and strong. That Utchari! And then he managed to overdo it so badly that he is hardly able to move, much less threaten his opponents.

It really was a bad day for Isegahama. With the exception of Uncle “Who Needs Ligaments Or Tendons” Aminishiki, not a single sekitori from that heya won. At least most of their lower-level rikishi won, including our favorite Shunba:

shunba
Obamaumi rising after Shunba’s Tsukiotoshi

The situation is very similar for Kokonoe. With the exception of Chiyoshoma’s excellent katasukashi, all their sekitori lost their bouts. It was Chiyoshoma’s 8th katasukashi, by the way. The thin thewy thug thrives on thrilling throws.

Poor Chiyonokuni was just unlucky to face Ichinojo on one of the rare occasions he comes out of hibernation. But what happened to Chiyomaru? The fire in his eyes seems to have gone out. Yes, it’s lovely that Endo is back, but at least give the man a fight!

Now, what about the Yokozuna’s favorite toy, Asanoyama? One thing that I noticed about his rather quick bout today was that he used hidari-yotsu. That’s not his favorite grip. But he did get to practice it a lot in his bouts with Kisenosato during the Jungyo. The fruits of Yokozuna love?

I liked Nishikigi’s bout with Daiamami. It’s not often that you get to see a good mawashi fight that low down the banzuke.

Here are a couple of Makuuchi dropouts. I mean, potential come-back men. Start with Ishiura. Um, forget about the comeback. But at least he didn’t try a henka.

And here’s Yutakayama. He is said to be Asanoyama’s rival, but despite the win, what a difference of level:

Now, who will get an oicho-mage first? Asanoyama or Yutakayama? That’s a point on which Yutakayama may actually stand a chance…


In news unrelated to the basho: Ura’s “people in charge” officially made it known that he’ll have his operation and rehabilitation.

Ura Gets The Chair
No more of this, please.

As it turned out, during the pre-basho practice, he tried to practice with a brace etc., and caused himself serious damage including an internal hemorrhage, and couldn’t even walk. Sometimes you have to learn things the hard way, I guess. They are optimistic about his recovery chances after that operation. Go Ura! Listen to the doctors!

Final Jungyo Newsreel – October 29th

🌐 Location: Fukuyama

Today we bid farewell to the 2017 Aki Jungyo!

Aminishiki's Akeni
Aminishiki’s Akeni. It has seen some history, and will see more.

The event at Fukuyama has been the last of the Aki Jungyo, and now the (about) 160 participating rikishi are heading straight to Fukuoka, where they’ll join the waiting low division rikishi who were busy preparing lodgings and equipment for the past week or so.

The Jungyo day itself started with heavy rain, carried over by the most recent typhoon. Despite the rain, the local fans filled the venue:

(NHK)

They got to see some very energetic practices, including Hakuho doing both reverse and straight butsukari (and getting pushed off the dohyo, much to his embarrassment).

All Yokozuna were eager to leave a strong impression, and made statements to the press either yesterday or today.

Harumafuji

In yesterday’s practice session, Harumafuji was working on his Tachiai with Chiyoshoma, launching himself at his fellow Mongolian partner 11 times. The next one was so powerful, Chiyoshoma was blown away and nearly fell off the dohyo.

haruma-saves-chiyoshoma
Typical Harumafuji reaction

But Harumafuji doesn’t like to see people hurt, so he grabbed Chiyoshoma by the arm before he started to take off, and made sure he stayed put.

“Just practicing the basics,” said the Yokozuna.

Nobody can overlook the fact that the Yusho winner, although he clocked in every day, did not participate in the bouts and did very little on-dohyo practice during the Jungyo. “I’m concentrating on the Kyushu basho,” was the Yokozuna’s response.

Kakuryu

“Yes, of course I’ll fully participate,” answered Kakuryu decisively when asked about the Kyushu basho.

kakuryu-butsukari
Kakuryu doing butsukari

The Yokozuna who has been vigorously practicing since the beginning of the Jungyo says he is feeling positive about the state of his health. He intends to engage in degeiko with some of his potential rivals before the honbasho. “I’ll do what I have to do. The important thing is to get into the right flow in the basho”.

Kisenosato

“I’ll be in the basho from day 1. That’s obvious,” was Kisenosato’s statement.

kise-no-practice

The newest Yokozuna did not practice on the dohyo every day of the Jungyo, but on the days he did, he showed signs of improvement both to his upper left side and to his left ankle. But his own statement was (as usually, I must say) somewhat vague: “A lot has happened in the past month. There were typhoons. And I got called to do dohyo-iri in various places, which is something I can’t always do. It was very different from the previous Jungyos I participated in.” More specifically about his health and participation in the basho: “I have been able to work my entire body patiently. As a rikishi, it’s obvious I have to participate in the basho, and I want to get results.”

Hakuho

hakuho-salting
Sodium Chloride Galore

“Be sure to remind me every 50 days!” reacted the dai-yokozuna when told yesterday that the Olympic games start in 1000 days. He reasserted his wish to perform a dohyo-iri in the Tokyo games. When asked about the next basho and his chances for his 40th yusho, he replied brightly “I’m doing swimmingly”.

Today he toned down his replies a little bit. “I joined the jungyo in the middle, and gradually improved my body and my dohyo-sense. My wish was to end the Jungyo in the best shape. I’d like to mark myself a 100, but I can only give myself 50.”

“As the senior yokozuna, I felt sometimes that I was able to lead and pull my convalescent junior fellow yokozuna forward,” he added with satisfaction.


Regarding his recent sodium habit, watch Goeido cover his head as Hakuho rains fire and brimstone – OK, just salt – all over the place:


Bouts

As they have done before in Tokyo, today the Jonidan, Sandanme and Makushita rikishi wrestled in elimination format rather than the usual torikumi.

In Jonidan, Teraoumi (Of Shikoroyama beya) won, beating Motokiyama (Tamanoi) in the final.

For Sandanme, the winner was Takatenshu (Takanohana), who beat Kotodairyu (Sadogatake) in the final.

And the Makushita winner was Akinohana (Takadagawa), who beat Terao (Shikoroyama) in the final.

Of the sekitori bouts, all I have is, as usual, the musubi:

Hakuho 10 – Kisenosato 4. Trust Hakuho to reach double figures in two weeks.

Jungyo Newsreel – October 26th

🌐 Location: Tottori

Limelight bathing Ishiura and Terunofuji

Today the Jungyo landed in the one prefecture in Japan where nobody is going to tell Terunofuji to “Go back to Mongolia”.

The true Tottori Shushin is, of course, Ishiura. And the official news sources (such as there were) gave him preference, as you can see in this video:

(Asahi shimbun)

Ishiura: “The last time I was on a Jungyo in the Tottory prefecture, I was in the Juryo division. I’m happy to be here now as a Makuuchi wrestler. I felt invigorated here today, and I repaid by doing good sumo”.

As you can see in this video, there are some serious wanpaku wrestlers (child wrestlers – these were all primary or secondary school children, so no more than 15 years old!) in Tottori. I think it actually wasn’t fair to counter by tsuppari to the face, because that’s forbidden in wanpaku sumo (only allowed to professionals).

Ishiura wasn’t taking any risks wrestling with those kids himself, and left the hard work to a sekiwake, opting to play the gyoji:

ishiura-not-taking-risks

Whoa.

But he did win his bout with Takekaze today by Okuridashi.

Edit: A video with some bouts materialized! Ishiura cleared of henka charges!

This also allows us to keep up the tally: Hakuho 7 : Kisenosato 4!

Edit2: A full video of the Kisenosato/Hakuho bout, full version including chikara-mizu and full shikiri, plus yumitori at the end:

The chikara-mizu also tells us that Kakuryu has beaten Goeido (and that Terunofuji also won, but we knew that from the previous video).

Ishiura-Takekaze including tachiai (different angle):


So why did I open with Terunofuji? While the official channels celebrated Ishiura, most tweets I found were more around the theme of “Terunofuji is back! And he’s genki!”. “It was great to see Teru again!” and so on.

The Tottori crowd considers Terunofuji to be a local, as he started his career in the famous sumo program of the Tottori Johoku high school, headed by none other than Ishiura’s father. It was Ishiura senior who noticed the young kaiju’s unbelievable strength, and advised him “If your opponents get a grip on your mawashi, bear-hug them”.

Terunofuji was in a bright mood, and practiced with Shodai and Daieisho. Here you can see him in a reverse butsukari:

terunofuji-reverse-butsukari

And here, in what seems to be a rather painful (for Daieisho) uwatenage. Notice the rapt attention on the faces of Takarafuji and Onosho:

terunofuji-uwatenage

His bout of the day is also included in the second video above, as is Takanoiwa’s, who was also in the same school (Ichinojo, too, but he is currently off the Jungyo).

Interviews

To compensate for the complete lack of bout information (in the first version of this post), here are some Jungyo interviews (these are from the beginning of the Jungyo, but surfaced on Twitter only today):

Kisenosato

Q: Do you feel pride for being the only Japanese-born Yokozuna?

A: Being a Yokozuna, one usually has both self-awareness and self-confidence to wrestle steadfastly and produce results.

Q: You won the All-Japan Rikishi Championship tournament on October 2nd. What is your response?

A: It was only hana-zumo, but I am happy I produced a good result. I want to steadily develop a winning habit.

Q: You had to go kyujo in the middle of the Nagoya basho, and did not participate in the Aki basho at all. What are your feeling as you head towards the Kyushu basho?

A: I want to take the challenge of the honbasho by working on tuning my condition and my rhythm, and increasing my power during the Jungyo.

Harumafuji

haruma-interview
There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is!

(I think he’s the only Yokozuna ever to have his interview accompanied by a picture with a towel on his head. To compare, Kisenosato’s picture was one with his oicho-mage)

Q: You were the only Yokozuna to ascend the dohyo in the Aki basho. Did you feel any pressure?

A: I concentrated on doing my bouts one at a time. During the playoff bout I felt nothing but fighting spirit.

Q: Tell us about about your readiness for the Kyushu basho

A: There is still some time before the basho, and my wish is to work slowly and diligently, listening to my body, towards the basho.

Q: Do you enjoy anything about the Jungyo?

A: It’s a good opportunity to raise the knowledge of sumo among the fans. I would like everybody to enjoy the atmosphere of the Jungyo where, unlike honbasho, you can take pictures and get in contact with the wrestlers.

Asanoyama

Q: The Aki basho was your 10th straight kachi-koshi. What were your feelings as you faced it?

A: As always, I faced is as a challenger. I think that may have brought me the special prize.

Q: Aren’t you under pressure to improve your kachi-koshi record in the kyushu basho?

A: I intend to face the challenge with all my heart, not giving up regardless of the results.

Endo

Q: After having undergone surgery in July in your left ankle, you ended up with a double-figure winning record in the Aki basho. How did you control your feelings?

A: I did not recover completely before the basho. I am glad that I could relax well enough to be able to wrestle without worsening my condition.

Q: Are you aware of the common opinion that you have a beautiful shiko?

A: I don’t try to perform it in an especially pretty way. My shiko now is the same as I was taught when I was a boy.

Chiyomaru

Q: Your little brother is also an active rikishi. What kind of an influence does that have on you?

A: I want to be better than my little brother, so I regard him as a rival.

Q: Do you feel the weight of the “Chiyo” in your shikona?

A: I was very happy when I was given my shikona. I finally felt that I was truly a member of the Kokonoe beya, and this motivated me.

Onosho

Q: How do you feel about having the Jungyo in Chiba, where your heya is located?

A: I feel stimulated by the support of the local people.

Q: Many people don’t know how to pronounce your shikona. What do you feel about that name?

A: I feel I was given a good name. I’ll gambarize to make more people remember my name.

Short Jungyo Newsreel – October 21st

Note: to offset today’s bad news, I just found torikumi videos from the 19th, and added them to that day’s post. Do not miss the Terunofuji-Mitakeumi bout!

🌐 Location: Kishiwada

Today’s news are mostly brought to you from hospitals and ambulances, but there is a musubi as well.

Enho injured, leaves Jungyo

Enho

During today’s practice session, Enho fell off the dohyo and injured his ankle. He was carried on a stretcher to the Jungyo’s on-hand ambulance, which got him to a local hospital, where his ankle was bandaged. He was then hurried back to Tokyo for further care. “It hurts both on the inner and the outer side. And it makes crunching sounds.” said Enho “but there is still time until the Kyushu basho”.

Tachiai wishes Hakuho’s uchi-deshi a quick recovery and continued health.

Ikioi joins the Jungyo

On a happier note, Ikioi has joined the Jungyo today. I think he would have wanted to join it yesterday, as his home town of Katano is much closer to Hirakata than it is to Kishiwada. But the Jungyo is still in Osaka Prefecture and I’m sure his local fans were happy to travel the distance to welcome him back.

He was assigned to Ichinojo on the torikumi form, but I do not have any information about the content of that bout.

Update on Nishonoseki Oyakata

As it turns out, when the oyakata had his accident, he was on his way home from a visit to a sauna, where he had a fainting incident. Nevertheless he decided to bike home, and doing that he collapsed with his bicycle and received the head injury that brought about his current condition.

His anesthetic medication  has been reduced to encourage him to regain autonomous breathing, and the doctors observed some positive response.

Shohozan, who is Nishonoseki’s only sekitori, expressed his concern and promised to do his best sumo “for the oyakata” while away on the Jungyo.

Harumafuji Gambarizes

This is a bit of late news from yesterday. After his first day, doing reverse butsukari, he followed that up by teaming with Chiyoshoma for a tachiai practice.

When asked if he is bothered by his elbow, he frowned: “I am not worried, but it hurts. There is almost no inflammation, though. I’ll gambarize”.

And a little bit of actual sumo

The musubi of the day. I think Hakuho decided that if Kisenosato is taking this seriously, then so does he. Hakuho 5 – Kisenosato 2.

Apparently, the gyoji, Inosuke Shikimori, is a Kishiwada local.

Jungyo Newsreel – October 19th

🌐 Location: Kashiba

Guess what just popped out of the ocean?

terunofuji-with-aminishiki
A Terunofuji expression you don’t get to see in honbasho

Yep, today’s main sports news item is Ozekiwake Terunofuji (above, saying hi to Uncle Aminishiki) joining the Jungyo after his serious knee injury during the Aki basho. Which, I remind you, was only a month ago.

How bad was his injury? “Well, at first I couldn’t even use the toilet” remarked the fallen Ozeki (TMI! Please don’t say anything that will cause me to imagine Shunba helping you there, ever again! Somebody hand me the brain-bleach, please!). He was unable to properly extend his leg. Apparently, this was a new injury to his meniscus, unrelated to previous knee problems he had.

terunofuji-muscling-up
Pump it up, Kaiju!

He received some treatment and some rehabilitation, and alongside that (wisely) concentrated on building up his muscles. “I worked out vigorously”, he said.

Today he refrained from doing any on-dohyo practice, and opted instead for shiko, suri-ashi, tachiai practices with his loyal Sancho-Panza, Shunba. And of course, strength training, as you can see here.

But if you think he is taking it easy, like his anideshi Yokozuna, you’re wrong. Tomorrow, when the Jungyo hits Osaka, he intends to join the rest of the sekitori and do some actual keiko.

Moreover, he was in the torikumi today. And the schedulers matched him up with Mitakeumi, no less. When I read that torikumi I was pretty sure Fish-Mouth will make himself a kaiju sandwich. But surprisingly, he didn’t. Mitakeumi did a quick nihon-zashi, and got the ozekiwake all the way to the tawara, but in the end, Terunofuji lifted the sekiwake with both arms (both uwate!) and got him out by Utchari. Video below!

Terunofuji’s problems are far from over, though. “If I told you that there is no pain, I’d be lying. But even if I rested, it won’t heal. I’ll just have to live with it”. He said.

About his demotion from Ozeki after 14 basho in that rank, he had this to say: “If my injuries are healed, I’ll be able to attain that rank again any time. The fact that I ended up with a completely new, unrelated injury that time does not make me happy, but I’m not wasting time thinking about a drop down the banzuke. I have to have self-confidence, and I’ll gain self-confidence by training and competing.”

And as usual, Tachiai wishes our favorite Kaiju a safe and healthy continued career.

It’s kisenosato’s turn to play with Asanoyama

The Yokozuna has apparently forgiven the kanto-sho winner for playing hooky from keiko the other day.

kisenosato-asanoyama-kashiba

He invited him to a 14-bout sanban today, of which the Yokozuna won 9, and Asanoyama a respectable 5. Half way through the series, the two were pretty much even, and you could hear the Yokozuna grunting unhappily.

Those two have kenka-yotsu – the Yokozuna is hidari-yotsu, while Asanoyama is migi-yotsu. In those bouts in which the Yokozuna achieved his favorite grip, he easily dominated. But not so much when he didn’t. “I couldn’t push forward, so it wasn’t good sumo”, said Asanoyama, “but when I got my right hand in I could somehow negotiate at my own pace”.

Following yesterday’s 11-bout session with Kakuryu, this has been Asanoyama’s sixth time to be called for sanban by Yokozuna in this jungyo. “When I lose a bout, I can tell from the experience itself what the reason for having lost was. The angle at which Kisenosato hits you delivers a huge impact. Then he follows that by rapid attacks. Everybody should learn how to position themselves and quickly attack, from watching him”.

The Yokozuna, when asked about the training, narrowed his eyes: “He is skilled, and he has power. I can use him to assess my own state right now. He is the best opponent for that, as he vigorously produces power” he nodded his head.

(Taken from Daily Sports Online).

One thing I’d like to see is Terunofuji taking up Asanoyama (if the Yokozuna let him play with their toy). The youngster seems to be a certified self-assessment tool for high-ranking wrestlers.

Harumafuji is back on the dohyo

The Yusho winner who has, so far, settled for workouts below the dohyo, except for a couple of torikumi in the beginning of the jungyo, decided to do some butsukari geiko.

harumafuji-reverse-butsukari-chiyonokuni

This was actually a reverse butsukari. That is, usually it’s the Yokozuna who lends his chest, and the lower-ranked wrestler who attempts to push him out. Given that a butsukari is usually a show of superiority, not just a form of practice, it’s relatively rare to see reverse ones.

Harumafuji commented that the reason he did not participate so far was finding himself “slow to recover from the fatigue of the honbasho”.

(Taken from Daily Sports Online. And if you read the article to the end and get to the part where they say that sumo originates from Israel, and that the calls “Haikioi” and “Nokotta” are actually Hebrew, well, that’s utter nonsense alternative reality).

Torikumi

hakuho-strangles-kisenosato
Is that a nodowa or a Vulcan nerve pinch?

Edit: This just in: some bout videos!

Hakuho-Kisenosato:

Kakuryu-Goeido:

Terunofuji-Mitakeumi!

Not Jungyo related, but sad news all the same

Apparently, Nishonoseki Oyakata (60) was found unconscious by passers-by after an accident with his bike. He was taken to a local hospital and underwent surgery, but so far is still in a coma due to a brain contusion. (Sponichi)

Jungyo Newsreel – October 11

🌐 Location: Hamamatsu

After a short break in which the rikishi went back from Ibaraki to Tokyo, they got on their buses again and traveled back to Shizuoka prefecture, venturing further than before, south to Hamamatsu. By now, even Aminishiki is gently complaining in his blog about the busy schedule.

That is, all got on buses but the Yokozuna, who instead took the Tokaido shinkansen along with their respective retinues, straight to Hamamatsu. It’s good to be the King.

It’s actually rare for all participating Yokozuna to travel together, as usually each makes his own arrangements (or has them made for him). This time they all had a reception to attend, and therefore traveled together.

Let’s see what they have been up to since finishing with their non-sumo obligations:

Kisenosato gives Daieisho a nosebleed

daieisho-bleedingKisenosato once again engaged Daieisho in san-ban. They did 10 bouts, of which Kisenosato won 8 and lost 2. And Daieisho, as you can see, also lost a bit of blood.

Sponichi reports that Kisenosato was in good form, used his left arm, and entertained the viewers with excellent mobility. Me? I’ll believe that when I see it. Unfortunately, it seems that no obasan was kind enough to record any of the events. If I see any video, I’ll be sure to edit it in later on.

Kakuryu practices with Asanoyama

kakuryu-asanoyama

Having been dumped by Kisenosato in favor of Daieisho, Asanoyama has been batting his pretty eyelashes at Kakuryu. Apparently Kakuryu couldn’t resist much longer, and offered him some Yokozuna love. That is, a sanban. I suppose Asanoyama’s tachiai is better than Shodai’s.

Harumafuji gives Ichinojo personal tutoring

Harumafuji, in addition to all the other responsibilities he seems to enjoy accepting, has taken it upon himself to give sumo lessons to anybody around the dohyo who is willing to listen. In the Natsu jungyo, he taught Goeido his arm and shoulders workout routine. In this Jungyo, at Chikusei, he picked Meisei and demonstrated waza to him (seemed to be ashitori), patiently placing Meisei’s hands on his own person to clarify the points. Today he took up Ichinojo.

ichinojo-harumafuji-lesson

While the other sekitori were busy with moshi-ai geiko (winner picks next opponent), the Yokozuna spent about half an hour making Ichinojo do suri-ashi repeatedly, and at the same time physically corrected his technique, such as the use of his left arm. “It was a tachiai practice. I just taught him what I know. But whether he’ll diligently ingest this or not is up to him,” said Harumafuji.

Ichinojo himself was dutifully thankful, and noted that it has been a long time since he received guidance from the Yokozuna. “If I can get this down pat, I’ll have confidence facing the next basho”, he added. The Yokozuna remarked: “That depends on him”.

Ichinojo himself paid it forward, picking Yago for butsukari:

ichinojo-butsukari-yago

Now, this makes a lot more sense than Nishikigi offering his chest to Yago. This is a butsukari whose video I’d love to find. I’m sure when those two bodies clashed, seismographs around Shizuoka went into the red.

Terunofuji achieves pole position in race for Darwin Award

terunofuji-leaning-on-shunba
Terunofuji, the knee disaster personified, announced today that he will… oy… be joining the… oy… Jungyo as of October 19th, when it stops at Kashiba in Nara. Sorry, it’s really painful for me to type this. Oy.

Reminder: last time the fallen Ozeki prematurely returned to action, it ended up as you see on the left. And he just refuses to learn. I wonder how much more of this Shunba can take.

A less painful addition to the Jungyo occured today, as the recovering Yutakayama joined forces with the rest of the Makuuchi.

Short Jungyo Newsreel – October 9th

🌐 Location: Chikusei

Yes, it’s already Monday, and you’d expect the media to come up with some real beef to feed us after a dry weekend, but no. The only article on Nikkan sports, for example, is about… Aminishiki caught reading a book! A book! I’m sure there is a rule against that somewhere…

Aminishiki Reading A Book

So today, like yesterday, we’ll settle for a short summary. But let’s start with a little tidbit that escaped me a couple of days ago:

New Shokkiri performer: Baraki

shokkiri-duo
Shokkiri duo: Akua (left), Baraki (right)

Baraki, who definitely has the right looks for Shokkiri, with a short stature (164cm) and a comical face, joins veteran Shokkiri man Akua to perform the traditional, but not-so-serious duties in this Jungyo.

Three Yokozuna exercise outdoors

After the regular asa-geiko, all three Yokozuna opted to exercise outdoors. Harumafuji performed shiko and mostly exercised his (already well-developed) smile muscles. Still no dohyo practices or torikumi. Still cites fatigue.

Kisenosato, who took a 9-bout sanban with Daieisho, opted for some fundamental exercises with his tsukebito for half an hour in the sun.

Kakuryu opted for nearly 40 minutes of walking around. “I drew power from the sun”, he said.

Nishikigi-Yago butsukari

Nishikigi offered his chest to Yago, but this was a rather short affair, as the muscular and bulky Juryo man easily pushed the medium-sized Maegashira across the dohyo.

Today’s musubi

Kisenosato can’t really lose in Ibaraki, can he?

Another angle:

Jungyo Newsreel – October 5th

Note: I’ll do my best to make this newsreel a daily feature during the Jungyo, but this is subject to (a) work and other demands on my time, and (b) the availability of news on Japanese media outlets and twitter, so no promises made.

🌐 Location: Yachiyo

Kisenosato spars with Asanoyama 17 times, wins 15-2

kisenosato-asanoyama

Kisenosato summoned Asanoyama for a rather lengthy sanban session, consisting of 17 bouts, of which he won 15. There was still no sign of the Yokozuna’s famous left ottsuke, but he did grab Asanoyama’s upper right arm for a Yorikiri and did a left-hand uwatenage.

Kisenosato sounded rather pleased with the practice, saying he “tested out various things”, and that “he worked hard to be ready to work with sekitori”. Asanoyama’s comment: “The Yokozuna is heavy and has a low stance”. Yes, sunshine, learn.

Aminishiki celebrates 39th birthday and new age record

aminishiki-oldest-returnee
Aminishiki with cake and stablemates Takarafuji, Homarefuji and Terutsuyoshi

Everybody’s favorite Uncle Sumo celebrated his 39th birthday a few days ago, but received a belated cake from the press at the opening of the Autumn Jungyo, to celebrate a new record: being the oldest to return to the Makuuchi division. Aminishiki thanked his family for their support during “The most difficult 39th year of my life”, and vowed to strive to advance to a level that will allow him to face Ozeki and Yokozuna once again. “I’d like to wrestle with Hakuho again”.

Don’t kid us, Uncle, we know there’s a Yokozuna, not from your heya, off of whom you still haven’t peeled a Kinboshi. And that’s not Hakuho.

Hakuho to join jungyo on October 14th together with Enho

Hakuho expressed his intention of joining the tour on October 14th, when it hits Kanazawa. He will probably be accompanied by the Sandanme Yusho winner Enho, who hails from Kanazawa.

Kakuryu does butsukari with Daieisho

Kakuryu gave Daieisho a butsukari session. Commented afterwards: “I have been working out sufficiently, and now I am aiming to gain my sense of the dohyo again”.

Kisenosato beats Harumafuji again

I termed this on twitter “a Paralympic bout”, as it’s hard to tell which of the two has a worse disability. Better tachiai than the one in Beyond2020, though:

Beyond2020 – Rare Yokozuna Exhibitions

Earlier today, another exhibition event took place at the Kokugikan, just before the Autumn Jungyo starts, called “Beyond2020”.

Kisenosato and Hakuho doing san-dan-gamae

In this event, in addition to the usual fare (low-ranking rikishi practicing, keiko with kids, and later a full torikumi), there were two feature exhibitions.

The first, featuring Kisenosato and Hakuho, is called “san-dan-gamae”. Basically “Three level stances”. The two Yokozuna face each other in symbolic poses – upper, middle and lower – representing, respectively, fighting spirit, offense and defense.

Last year, this exhibition was renewed after 20 years, featuring Harumafuji and Kakuryu. This year it was the other two Yokozuna’s turn.

The second feature, a little more active, was the “Gonin-gakari”. This pits a Yokozuna against five simultaneous rivals on the dohyo. He takes the first at the tachiai, and then the rest tackle him one after the other from the sides. This is the first such exhibition to take place since 2001, when it was performed by Takanohana. This time it featured Harumafuji:

I won’t blame anybody who thinks that this looks scripted, but somehow, it seems Mitakeumi didn’t get the memo.

The feature exhibitions were followed by a regular set of Makuuchi torikumi. I’ll post all results if and as I get them, but these are the ones I got to see live (Yay, no geo-restrictions):

  • Chiyoshoma vs. Takarafuji. Chiyoshoma wins, but thinks he didn’t, as Takarafuji picked him up and got him out of the dohyo. But he did so with one foot out…
  • Chiyonokuni vs. Ikioi. Ikioi wins after a Monoii and a Torinaoshi.
  • Ichinojo vs. Kagayaki. Ichinojo wins by being bigger.
  • Shodai vs. Takakeisho. Shodai wins. What?
  • Shohozan vs. Chiyotairyu. Chiyotairyu picks Shohozan at least half a meter above ground and wins by a fancy kimarite. I know, I know, I should have written it down.
  • Hokutofuji vs. Onosho. Starts off on equal footing, then Onosho sidesteps, gets behind Hokutofuji and sends him outside.
  • Kotoshogiku vs. Tochiozan. Tochionzan wins.
  • Mitakeumi vs. Tamawashi. Turns out that given enough time, Mitakeumi knows what to do with a morozashi. Well, Tamawashi is not Harumafuji. Mitakeumi first holds him high, just below his armpits, then corrects this to a full mawashi grip and out goes the eagle.
  • Goeido vs. Kakuryu. Well, if I find a video of this torikumi I’ll be sure to add it here. Kakuryu wins convincingly. Slightly favors leg, though.
  • Musubi no ichiban: Kisenosato vs. Harumafuji. This was… disappointing. It reminded me a bit of that strange matta in the Aki basho. Harumafuji got into a bad tachiai, Kise pushed him a bit so he jumped back, and then jumped back again and out of the dohyo. It was set down as an oshi-dashi, but Kisenosato was still in the middle of the dohyo at the end of the bout. I’d call it an isami-ashi. Fans are now worrying about Haruma’s health.

 

Natsu Day 8 Preview

Sumo’s version of Hump Day is upon us and I like where we stand:

  • Hakuho and Harumafuji, undefeated and vying for the title
  • Takayasu’s Ozeki hopes are not just alive, but thriving
  • Kotoshogiku’s day of reckoning approaches
  • Wakaichiro Progressing; Faces Jonidan veteran, Takaseiryu
  • An exciting slate of bouts!
    1. Yoshikaze vs Takayasu
    2. Hakuho vs Kotoshogiku
    3. Terunofuji vs Mitakeumi

First of all, Takayasu versus Yoshikaze is my bout of the day. I just can’t put into words how excited I am to see these two fighting together with Takayasu not only chasing ozeki rank – but in yusho contention. Yoshikaze was built to be a spoiler; will he throw a wrench into Takayasu’s coronation?

Hakuho and Harumafuji look healthy and are fighting well. Both have been quite dominant and aggressive, with the exception of the one “almost henka” from Harumafuji…I believe against Daieisho on Day 5. I’ve got a few theories about that but no sense risking injury against a guy who should not even be at this level. Harumafuji will face Chiyoshoma for the first time so I’m expecting a quick sidestep/spin to check the box and move on to Day 9.

Hakuho, on the other hand, will face a desperate Kotoshogiku. If Giku loses tomorrow, he will be on the verge of makekoshi, and certain demotion to the maegashira ranks with Japan’s darlings, Kisenosato & Mitakeumi, waiting in the wings. After that, 5 more days of certain humiliation as he fights lowly maegashira for the privilege of staying in the upper ranks. And with Hakuho as dominant as he has been the last few days, as his own sumo has had to evolve, I’m not expecting him to let Giku get a bear hug to even try a hug-and-chug.

If he can keep him at arms length, battering him with slaps, I will be VERY curious to see how the sekiwake will react. As his lower body fails him, he needs more options with the upper body. Does he have it in him to go toe-to-toe in a street brawl? I want to see that so bad. To whom does Sadogatake beya turn if he retires? Kotoyuki’s been fizzling – with Myogiryu, Kaisei, and Tochinoshin – facing newly promoted Yutakayama.

Wakaichiro will face an interesting test tomorrow. Takaseiryu has spent almost four years in this Jonidan division. Never kyujo, just up and down with setbacks in between spurts of steady improvement. Not long ago he was at his highest position in the division, managing a 3-4 record at Jd5. He doesn’t seem to be a big guy if 112kg from the SumoDB is accurate. Is that what’s holding him back? With both rikishi close in size, it is certainly an interesting bout between experience and raw strength.