“He’s Got My Number!”

I’ve got a new book about sumo, specifically sumo terms in Japanese, and I’ve been loving it. One new term for me is “Aikuchi ga warui” (or, conversely, Aikuchi ga ii). In Japanese it looks like this: 合い口が悪い. The term is used for a difficult opponent, one whom at your level you should be able to beat more frequently but you just can’t do it. In English, I think I’d equate it to someone who’s “got my number.” As an example, Kotoeko appears to have Wakatakakage’s number, as we can see in these tweets below:

Their rivalry is pretty young, having faced each other 7 times with Kotoeko winning 5 of their bouts. When I started drafting this article a few months ago, Wakatakakage was down 5-to-1. Wakatakakage actually claimed victory this July. And wouldn’t you know it, he also beat the other example I was going to use, Mitakeumi. Until July, he had gone 0-4. Even with this terrible July, he somehow figured out a way to beat Mitakeumi and Kotoeko, two rikishi he’d had difficulty with previously.

So, what’s another example? Let’s take a look at Shodai. He has beaten Takarafuji 14 times in 17 bouts. But Kaisei, of all people, has his number. Shodai has never beaten Kaisei, not counting fusen. The first visualization that I’m releasing here is the heatmap. The size of the box indicates the number of bouts they’ve faced each other, with the most going from top-left to the least at the bottom right, with a minimum of three bouts. That minimum kicks out a lot of the young guns and low rankers. More red means a worse win/loss ratio (aikuchi warui). Darker blue means a better ratio (aikuchi ga ii). I’m still working on ways to visualize trend or other “rivalry” metrics to see who’s been winning lately, that kind of thing. To prevent having this load every time someone visits the site, continue reading below to see…

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山: Mountain (with a side of Hokusai)

WP_20160419_18_22_45_ProIt’s been a while since I posted about kanji. A great example to mention when it comes to sumo is 山 because it’s used in so many shikona. There’s two basic readings for this kanji, yama and –san. Either way, it means mountain and accurately reflects the girth of guys like Aoiyama (碧山). After some characters the s-sound is changed to a z, like in Tochiozan (栃煌山) and Shohozan (松鳳山). Other makuuchi warriors with related shikona are Satoyama – perhaps with a touch of irony – and Akiseyama (otherwise known as the body of Kim Jong-Un).

Mount Fuji, or Fuji-san, is an important symbol in Japanese culture. Many works of art feature the mountain, the most famous being Hokusai’s “36 Views of Mount Fuji.” I’ve posted a picture of one of them that I have at home, “The Kazusa Province Sea Route” (上総の海路). In this picture, you can just make out Fuji-san on the horizon near the full sail.

A few years ago, the whole collection toured at the Smithsonian Museum here in DC. Some great blog posts here: http://bento.si.edu/tag/thirty-six-views/. If anyone has a chance to visit Washington, DC, I would encourage stopping by the Freer and Sackler Galleries. They’ve got great works from all over Asia, including frequent exhibitions from masters like Hokusai.

有言実行 = Execute (a plan): Japanese Term of the Day

I came across this article about Terunofuji but was unsure of how to translate this term:有言実行 (yugen jikko) and translation sites were just giving a bunch of word salad. So, I asked my wife. In English we don’t seem to have a direct translation for this four-character idiom (these idioms are called 四字熟語, yoji jukugo) but it seems it’s close to the way athletes and coaches talk about “execution”. It’s not an empty boast since they have a plan and follow through. These four-character idioms are very important in Japanese. They study them in school growing up and my wife said that in a job interview she was asked what her favorite was – she doesn’t remember the answer.

Basically, the gist of the article was that Terunofuji had a plan to beat four particular strong rikishi: Ichinojo, Takayasu, Takekaze, and Tochinoshin. Since he did it, he was able to execute on his plan and had a successful tournament, capped off with the victory over Hakuho. (Perhaps he should have added Kaisei to that list.)  Anyway, if anyone else has any insight into a good translation for the term 有言実行, it would be nice to get a discussion going in the comment section.