After going as far south as Osaka yesterday, the tour heads back slightly north to Kusatsu, near Kyoto, on a trail that will eventually lead it to the true Japanese north. But in the meantime, it’s hot.
Unlike our previous location, which boasted a local sekitori, a local tsukebito, and a semi-local former Yokozuna’s nephew, Gunma prefecture is really short on famous or high-ranked local boys.
The local organizers gave Hikarifuji and Kayatoiwa their due glory, but their real pride and joy is not regularly a part of the jungyo anymore. He was brought in specifically for this event.
That, of course, is 42 years old Satonofuji, the grand master of the bow, who hails from Gunma prefecture. And while all the other low-ranked rikishi were working on the dohyo, Satonofuji was working with the struggling new performer, Shohoryu, giving him a master class.
This was just one of the various outdoor activities today. The weather was deemed warm enough to have the handshaking sessions outside:
Though the sky looks pretty gray, if you ask me. Not all the rikishi just stand for handshakes. Some famous veterans sit in a separate corners, and fans can go and have a photo taken with them:
But actual practice takes place inside the venue. The first sekitori arrive and pull their taping kits:
Others start stretching:
Some squatting and suri-ashi are in order:
Wakamotoharu works on his upper body:
But then he and Mitakeumi decide to gang up on poor Enho:
The Yokozuna synchronize:
But then each goes his own way. Kakuryu manages an exercise that doesn’t look ridiculous:
While Hakuho is doing suri-ashi in the hana-michi, and interacts with the spectators:
Near the wall, a group of lower-ranked rikishi prove to us that titty obsession is not just a Tamawashi thing:
What are you doing, guys?
Up on the dohyo, Ichinojo is giving butsukari:
While Terutsuyoshi seems to have… a toothache?
By now, you should know who it is who makes Takakeisho smile this wide:
Takayasu finishes stretching, has a bout with Mitakeumi, and butsukari with Onosho.
Some more practice bouts: Daieisho-Takakeisho, Myogiryu-Ichinojo, Kiribayama-Takanofuji:
Practice over. Lower-ranked rikishi get their hair done and go about their chores:
Some sekitori go out and enjoy the food stalls outside the venue. Namely, Terutsuyoshi, Chiyotairyu and Enho. Enho starts well with some yaki manju:
But seems to pick up something that doesn’t suit his dainty palate:
Or maybe it’s the camera crew that affect his apetite.
Terutsuyoshi and Chiyotairyu enjoy some yakisoba:
With everybody fed and in good order, it’s time for the afternoon part of the day. We begin with a Jonidan bout, because of course we don’t want to miss Satonofuji:
Nice throw. Next up, we have the Juryo dohyo-iri, or as Gagamaru calls it, “cheeky time”:
The cheeks in question being Takanosho’s of course.
Azumaryu and Akiseyama have a less painful way to enjoy the wait:
Next up, the Juryo bouts, and we have Aminishiki vs. Hidenoumi for you:
Nice effort from old Uncle there, but to no avail.
Chiyomaru makes short work of Daiamami:
And we are up in Makuuchi. And the dohyo-iri there is not free of sin, either:
For some reason, Chiyotairyu decides that facing the spectators is just too much for him and turns around in the middle of the dohyo-iri. Abi tries to argue with him.
Takakeisho, by now getting used to all the “shin-ozeki” stuff, receives gifts of local produce – rice, meat, etc.:
The bouts start, and Yoshikaze has a wardrobe malfunction:
Is it me or does Toyonoshima surreptitiously improve his mawashi hold during this matta? Zurui… he won this bout.
Next up, Terutsuyoshi throws his usual bucket load of salt… and seems to hit his own eye:
Typical Terutsuyoshi sumo. Sorry, Yago, maybe next time!
Next up, Ichinojo vs. Endo:
Ichinojo is not sleeping.
Kaisei is pitted with Nishikigi, and doesn’t let the green mawashi man set up any sort of defense:
Last before the san-yaku, Hokutofuji vs. Mitakeumi:
Takakeisho is up next vs. Tamawashi:
No rolling into the crowd today. The last bout whose footage I got is Goeido vs Tochinoshin:
And after Kakuryu beats Takayasu (sorry, no video), comes the part everybody has been waiting for – good old Satonofuji’s yumi-tori shiki. Watch it, then go back to previous reports and compare with Kasugaryu, never mind poor Shohoryu. This is the work of a true master:
Today we are still in Tokyo, in a part that’s mostly known for the Haneda Airport which is located there. Indeed, the official name for today’s event is “Haneda International Basho”.
An update on the sick list: Chiyonoumi is once again off the Torikumi, Yoshikaze is back on it.
We have already seen rikishi arrive early in the morning, eyes blurry, getting off busses, etc. But who are these two elegant gentlemen showing up at the venue? Are they lawyers? Doctors?
No, those are in fact these two gentlemen and co-workers from Kokoknoe beya:
Namely, yobidashi Shigeru, and Gyoji Kimura Konosuke. And Konosuke looks spiffy in his usual red kimono, and… what’s this, a tantō?
We are always told that only a tate-gyoji (that is, either Kimura Shonosuke or Shikimori Inosuke) wear a tanto – the short sword tucked into the left side of the belt. This is a symbolic expression of the gyoji’s commitment to perform seppuku if he misjudges a bout. So what is Konosuke doing wearing one? He is a mere san-yaku gyoji, there is not a hint of purple in his laces!
The answer to that is that while san-yaku gyoji do not wear tanto during bouts, they do wear it when they accompany a Yokozuna dohyo-iri. And it’s Konosuke’s turn today to accompany Kakuryu’s dohyo-iri.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s rewind. Back to the hand-shaking corner of the venue, where the Iwasaki brothers are showing us their muscles:
At one side of the venue, Abi is working out with Shodai. Well, kind of:
Shohozan is doing suri-ashi and manages to frighten the NSK’s SNS team:
Kotoeko is also working on his lower body:
Enho is also near one of the walls, having a quiet morning workout with Tobizaru:
But Enho has got to be the most popular wrestler in the top two divisions, because we shortly find him also serving as Mitakeumi’s teppo pole:
The little teppo pole turns all rebellious all of a sudden.
Perhaps the most impressive Enho practice pic of the day is this one:
The size difference between these two is enormous. Ichinojo is slightly bigger than two Enhos combined.
Next to the dohyo, Takayasu decides to give Onosho some personal tutoring.
I mean, close personal tutoring:
That is, very close, and very personal tutoring:
OK, well, they actually were practicing sumo there. Suri-ashi, for example:
He was also teaching him his new move:
We will reveal to you in a day or two what the secret move is! But in the meantime, let’s look at some practice bouts: Ryuden-Aoiyama, Asanoyama-Hokutofuji. Followed by a short glimpse of Hakuho and Takayasu who are not doing any on-dohyo practice at the moment.
With practice over, the rikishi head for the showers, which happen to be on-location this time. This means a great line of fans waiting outside of the shower.
Time for the Juryo dohyo-iri. And this time Enho is on the East side (not that he participates in the torikumi or anything), which makes Chiyomaru on the West lonely. He has no one to bump into… except Daiamami:
By the way, this day is Chiyomaru’s birthday! This has to be the reason why the only bout I have is his bout with Kotoyuki:
Kotoyuki sends the birthday boy almost into the arms of the awaiting Makuuchi wrestlers down the hana-michi.
Chiyomaru hurries out to celebrate his birthday with some cake, which the reporters have promised him. And in his hurry, he doesn’t notice he has interrupted a significant moment:
That moment which he has interrupted is the moment in which Kasugaryu hands over his bow to Shohoryu, who is wearing an oicho-mage for the first time and is about to perform his first yumi-tori shiki.
But that let’s see what kind of birthday celebration Chiyomaru gets.
Ah, this kind:
Congratulations, round one! Now it’s time for Makuuchi dohyo-iri and Yokozuna dohyo-iri.
But it’s hard to be a Yokozuna when everybody around you, including your tsukebito, tsuyuharai and tachi-mochi, exchange jokes and laugh out loud, and you are the only one who has to control his face:
Now all the Makuuchi wrestlers can get ready for their bouts. Like, for example, Nishikigi and Ryuden
Interesting way to pass the time. But not as interesting as Shodai’s way:
The two clowns are everywhere. Ichinojo suddenly has a mind to get friendly with Shodai. Shodai is not in the mood to be crushed right before his bout:
Luckily for him, somebody calls out “Ichinojo zeki”. He immediately points out to Ichinojo that a fan of his has arrived:
Ichinojo complies, and puts on his fansa face:
We are not done with Nishikigi. He is still in the joi, so that means he waits for his bout a long time. And that means a lot of mischief. This time the victim is pretty Toshonishiki:
Again, recall that Nishikigi has the strongest armpits in Makuuchi. I wouldn’t want to trade places with poor Toshonishiki.
What does the expression on Onosho’s face mean? Is he admiring Abi’s shiko? Or is he preparing a salt-laden ladle? You be the judge.
Just to prove to you that Hakuho is not alone in being chased by the fans, here is Kakuryu on the way to his bout:
He certainly doesn’t need to find something to keep him busy during the wait.
Finally, as anticipated, let’s take a look at Shohoryu’s debut yumi-tori shiki:
Green, very green. He’ll need to learn how to wear a kesho-mawashi – his fundoshi is showing through. And he had a few mistakes here and there. But he is better than Kasugaryu at passing the bow behind his back.
And I leave off with the pin-up of the day – Asanoyama: