John Gunning – Life of a Yobidashi

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Once again the prolific John Gunning has opened his mental encyclopedia of sumo knowledge and let the rest of us learn.  His latest article in the Japan Times focuses on the life of the Yobidashi – the men who are always sweeping the dohyo, filling up the salt baskets, announcing matches, and taking care of everything needed to run a basho (or a jungyo day).  The article features an insight that at some point in 2012, there was recreational sumo match up between the yobidashi and the NHK crew. Once can only imagine the pounding Raja took on that dark day.

 

A Peek Behind The Scenes Of NHK’s Sumo Broadcasts

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The prolific John Gunning brings us another great piece of sumo writing in the Japan Times. For today’s article, he shares a fantastic peek behind the scenes of NHK’s English language sumo broadcasts. It seems the English language audio track started in 1992 after the jungyo went to London, and people begged NHK for more accessible coverage. The article is loaded with amazing facts and tidbits, including the news that Raja Pradhran was a flight attendant before joining NHK, and becoming a favorite for rikishi practice ballast.

It’s also great to note that Hiro Morita is pushing for broader coverage, and John references an idea to put cameras in the tawara to give fans what would be a most interesting view of action. Well worth the time to read.

John Gunning On Becoming A Sumo Wrestler

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A great article in the Japan Times from John Gunning, on the challenges for a young man to join the world of sumo. Sumo is a tough world, requiring absolute dedication from an early age. It’s a life of hard work, brutal training and physical pain.

John covers the challengers of foreigners joining the sport, and the problems of coming from a Japanese University (as Mitakeumi and Yoshikaze have) and being a success in sumo.

As always, excellent writing form Gunning – head to the Japan Times and enjoy.

John Gunning – Sumo’s Women Problem

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Noted sumo commentator and friend of Tachiai, John Gunning, bravely wrote another knock-out piece for the Japan Times.  This time, he took on the sumo tradition of barring women from the dohyo.  For sumo fans that somehow missed it, at an early jungyo stop in Maizuru, the town’s mayor collapsed while delivering the opening remarks from the dohyo. In the rush to render aid, two female medical professionals mounted the dohyo and began CPR. In an unfortunate mistake, the venue’s announcer began to admonish the women to leave the dohyo at once. As a result, the Japanese public responded with outrage, and hours later the story went world-wide.

First of all we have to ask what the purpose of the rule is. Women are not barred from the sport completely. They compete in amateur tournaments and play a large role in the management of professional sumo stables. The proscription is solely Shinto related and can be seen in other places “sacred” to the religion such as on Mount Omine in Nara.

I encourage our followers to read this well-thought-out piece of commentary.

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Japan Times – Kakuryu Feature

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Noted sumo commentator and NHK media figure John Gunning has another excellent article in the Japan Times, taking a close look at Yokozuna Kakuryu, the Osaka basho, and some insightful discussion on sumo’s near-term future. An excerpt below, but go to the Japan Times and read the whole thing.

The quality of the sumo is not reflective of the quality of the man, however, as Kakuryu is both widely respected and admired by people inside the sport. A self-starter without any personal experience in, or family connection to Mongolian wrestling, Kakuryu originally wanted to be a basketball player but decided to try sumo after seeing countrymen Kyokushuzan and Kyokutenho on television.

A letter outlining that desire, translated into Japanese by a friend, impressed Izutsu oyakata (sumo elder) enough for him to give the then 16 year old a shot.

Of special interest to myself is his discussion of the conclusion of the current Yokozuna dynasty. As many fans, the only rikishi who could step up to constantly hold a Yokozuna slot is recent Ozeki Takayasu.

It is likely that if Takayasu were to take the rope now, he would struggle. But it would relieve the pressure on his senpai, Kisenosato. Kisenosato may in fact be beyond repair physically, and his retirement would be a blow to a sport already embroiled in negative press. A Takayasu yusho would allow everyone to move past the scandals and negative coverage. But of course, this would require Takayasu to actually win the cup. With Hakuho likely back in Tokyo, and Kakuryu eager to defend his yusho, a Natsu tournament win would seem a tough goal to reach.