And nestled in there is a mention of Tachiai, with a specific shout out to our ace prognosticator Leonid Kruglyak (lksumo) and contributor Herouth.
Team Tachiai is honored to make the press, and to be described in positive terms.
It’s a testament of how global sumo fandom has grown, and I think will continue to grow. People like John Gunning, Moti Dichne, and Jason have spent more than a decade blazing the trail that the rest of us are now following.
That being said, I do hope that we get to have Mr. Gunning back as commentator on NHK soon. I have no news of this, but I do miss having him on the color commentator rotation for the weekend broadcasts.
Trump isn’t the first head of state to watch a sumo tournament, nor the first president to hand over a trophy in the ring, but the excessive security presence, and over-the-top restrictions put in place on the day, were illustrative both of the outsized importance of his office and the extreme emotions the man himself generates.
Any visit to sumo by a member of the Imperial family necessitates increased security, but nothing approaching the level of controls and checks at the Kokugikan last Sunday had ever been implemented.
Much has been made of the fact that sumo fans were those most negatively affected by the president’s presence.
As well as a reduction in the amount of available regular tickets, the number of same-day unreserved seats was cut in half, with the result that only those who had started queuing by 10 p.m. the night before were able to get in.
For fans that did attend, there were a number of differences too.
Cans and plastic bottles were banned, while any liquids in soft containers had to be sampled in front of security to prove that they weren’t dangerous substances.
Fans had to walk through metal detectors and have their bags searched on the way in, all the while being watched by the police and members of the U.S. Secret Service.
Facilities and services normally available at the venue were also curtailed or severely restricted.
One thing that John touches on briefly in his article is the monstrous logistic problems the President’s visit created. Specifically the heightened security protocol forced people to wait in an unthinkably long queue in hot and humid conditions while their bags were checked and they passed through a metal detector. Most Japanese folks can take summer weather, but the fans at the Kokugikan do tend to skew towards the elderly side of life, and it’s never good to put the older crowd in the heat. Some specifics (culled from our live blog):
Here is a photo of the security line, stretching from the station, to Edo-Tokyo museum, then back and through the front gates. Crazy!
Another image of the cursed line to get into the Kokugikan. This is especially tough as its a hot and humid day today, and some of the more aged sumo fans might be in dire shape standing in line for hours.
I get that a presidential visit requires a level of security, but in hind sight it really does seem over the top. Perhaps if President Trump returns to a future Natsu basho, as he has mentioned, they will dial back the security somewhat.
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.
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.