Nagoya Storyline #4: Juryo Promotions

There was a slew of Juryo promotions this tournament. All five of these wrestlers will find going full time to be a challenge, only Takanofuji has been in Juryo before (we’ll get to that). Are they up for it? Instead of 7 bouts spread over the fortnight, they’ll be battling every day.

Kotokamatani marked the occasion with a new shikona, Kotonowaka. As Herouth mentions below, it’s his father’s shikona. His father reached Sekiwake claiming seven special prizes and eight kinboshi over his career, including Nagoya 1996 with wins over Takanohana AND Akebono.

Matching that legacy requires steady progress, one tournament at a time. From J14W, there’s no room for makekoshi. Kotonowaka the younger began his career in 2016 with the Jonokuchi yusho. He progressed quickly from there, with no makekoshi records until makushita. He’s a balanced wrestler, capable of winning on the belt or with pushing/thrusting techniques though he favors the belt.

Kizakiumi’s amateur success granted him a head start when he decided on the heya life. He started at the bottom of sandanme last year. Like Takakeisho, he’s a strict oshi-battler, winning 80% of his bouts in oshidashi. He’s yet to win a single bout with yorikiri.

Ichiyamamoto debuted in March 2017, and like Kotonowaka, claimed the Jonokuchi yusho in his first tournament, rocketing into makushita by September. He’s an oshi pusher-thruster but has been able to win a few on the belt. I would say that he’d need to perfect that technique to have success beyond this level…but Takakeisho and Abi belie that thought.

Ryuko debuted in the same tournament as Ichiyamamoto. Ryuko failed to pick up the yusho because of his DAY ONE loss to Ichiyamamoto in a dramatic, evenly contested, two minute long endurance bout, shown below in the video from the Japan Sumo channel on YouTube.

Vengeance came, as Herouth covered it late last year, when Ryuko played the old, “I’ve got your leg” trick that Enho’s been playing on people lately. Thus far, only those two bouts in this rivalry but I have a feeling there will be many more, again from the Japan Sumo channel.

Lastly we’ve got Takanofuji, formerly known as Takayoshitoshi, Takagenji’s twin brother. He was briefly in Juryo in March of last year…before he beat his tsukebito. Herouth’s article describes the eventand another describes the punishment. Well, after shedding his old shikona and hopefully the entitled, violent attitude he won last tournament’s Makushita yusho. He’s a straight-forward yotsu grappler without – ironically – his brother’s ability to brawl.

Day 10 From Lower Divisions

No one on the Jonokuchi torikumi is leading for the yusho though there were a few hopefuls with an outside chance on one loss. I found a great video featuring the first four bouts of Day 10. This is a gem and shows why I stay the whole day when I get a chance to watch a tournament live. It moves fast, these four bouts take less than 10 minutes.

First up, Hattorizakura was set to battle Shishimaru to see who would pick up their first win. Shishimaru is a big guy and seems to toy with Hattorizakura, giving him a little hope by backing up to the edge. Quickly, and unceremoniously, Shishimaru pivots and throws the hapless Hattorizakura to the clay. Shishimaru picks up his first win and Hattorizakura picks up his fifth loss. All is right with the universe.

Next up we have Yada on the left versus Houn. This does not go the way I expected. Things start out with pushing, thrusting, favoring the larger Yada. He whiffs on a punch and Houn pounces, grabs the belt and takes control. He’s not strong enough to topple the kid 40 kilos heavier. Instead, he looks like a truck driver, steering his out-of-control rig around the dohyo and out. Houn gets his second win of the tournament, tying his best finish. Can he pick up a third? Yada is 1-4 in his debut tournament.

The third bout in this video features Tanaka on the left versus Toya. Tanaka is slight but has some serious moxie. The 68kg bulldozer drives Toya back and throws him in a heap off the dohyo. Lastly, Takamasaki on the left against Sawada. A solid tachiai but Sawada seemed unready for the fact that given the combined inertia of these two he’d end up going backwards, slipping to 2-3 while Takamasaki improves to 3-2.

I couldn’t find any Jonidan bouts so we move on to the sandanme bout of Ones to Watch regular Naya (right) against Shohoryu. Naya is a tall guy but still seems to be a bit too high after the initial tachiai and tsuppari. Shohoryu manages to get inside, drive Naya back a bit on the defensive. Then he uses that belt grip, and some flexibility, to get a great shitatenage under-arm throw.

Musashikuni began the Fukuoka tournament kyujo. He missed his first bout and came back in time for his second, which he lost. However, he has been on a tear since and picked up his third win on Day 10 against journeyman wrestler, Oazuma.

Oazuma has been in sumo for 12 years. He had a major setback in 2010 and fell back to Jonokuchi where he won the yusho. Since 2013, however, he’s been a makushita regular. In their bout, Musashikuni got a great drive off the line, pushing Oazuma straight back before he locked in with a solid belt grip with both hands and did his best Tochinoshin impression for a great yorikiri win. Musashikuni has a chance to pick up his kachi-koshi tomorrow against Obamaumi.


This Juryo digest video starts of with a great tachiai between Daiseido, visiting from Makushita with his kachi-koshi already, and Tomokaze who will want two more wins to stay in the professional ranks. Daiseido’s forceful charge sends Tomokaze back to the straw bales but the big guy is agile and manages to escape to the other side of the dohyo. After a few attempts at shoving Daiseido out prove futile, Tomokaze perceives his opponent over-committing, and slips to the side. Daiseido’s own momentum launches him, uncontrolled, across the dohyo and Tomokaze’s hatakikomi attempt turns into a twisting sukuinage as his right arm pulls up while the left drives down.

Is it just me, or did Mitoryu attempt a henka? Azamaryu recovers but falls to a hatakikomi. Gokushindo has learned to keep Enho away from his belt at all costs. This bout is a lot of leaning with short bursts of activity which probably wore on Gokushindo’s focus. After a long wait, Enho pounces. While spinning and trying to keep those hands away from his belt, Gokushindo loses his balance and his hand touches the clay. A tiny mistake but that’s all it takes.

Jungyo off day – some footage

We interrupt today’s scheduled programming to inform you that the rikishi had a bit of a rest today at Okayama, where they will resume their activities tomorrow.

Unfortunately, tomorrow I won’t be able to cover the events, with both work and a Euroleague basketball game to attend.

So I’ll try to give you a double helping on Wednesday. And in the meantime, here is some interesting footage that turned up from yesterday at Osaka:

The difference between butsukari and reverse butsukari

So, those who followed this program in the past few days should already know what a butsukari geiko is: Up-ranker exposes his chest. Down-ranker needs to throw himself at that chest and push the up-ranker all the way to the edge. Done? Good. Squat at the edge, and give the up-ranker a nice bow. Not done? Up-ranker will usually throw you to the ground. Occasionally, he’ll take you for a monkey-walk around the dohyo.

So here is Hakuho giving Takakeisho TLC from yesterday:

The ceremony usually ends with an “itten” (一転), where the low ranker symbolically knocks on the chest of the up-ranker, and gets thrown one last time. Here Hakuho seems to go for a “san-ten” (三転) – three final throws? Hmm…

A reverse butsukari (not an official name) is when an up-ranker wants to practice pushing. So he asks a low-ranker to do the honors. The rules are supposed to be the same. In the previous Jungyo, Kisenosato did one of those – I think it was with Kagayaki. Kisenosato is a conservative… so he kind of insisted on the itten: knocked on his opponent’s chest, and immediately threw himself to the ground. :-)

(Those throws are not actually like the ones in an actual bout. The ukemi knows he is supposed to be thrown, and usually performs a korogari as soon as the up-ranker touches him. Kisenosato simply did one without his opponent laying more than one finger on him).

So usually a reverse butsukari looks quite different than the “normal” one, which is a show of authority. How different? Take a look at Harumafuji who was doing that  yesterday, (and three days in a row, apparently):

So… no actual rolls. And the squats don’t end with much of a bow.

Chikara-mizu jokes

So, if you only ever watch the Kintamayama shorts or the NHK highlights, you probably haven’t seen many chikara-mizu (power-water) ceremonies. Before each bout, one rikishi who has not been tainted with a loss takes a ladle of water from the yobidashi and hands it to the next rikishi who goes up to wrestle. That rikishi accepts it, rinses his mouth with it, and then  accepts a piece of paper which is usually used to cover the mouth while spitting the water down into a spittoon at the side of the dohyo.  The rikishi who hands the water is the one who won the last bout, and on the other side of the dohyo, where the previous wrestler lost, the rikishi of the next bout, one who has not fought yet, will do the honors. On the musubi-no-ichiban, the last bout of the day, the role will be left to the last winner on that side, who has to stay there for this purpose.

So, during honbasho, this is all done quite seriously (though I find the constant spitting kind of yucky, especially for the yobidashi who has to clean up the spittoon from time to time). But during the Jungyo, rikishi like to play around. One of the common jokes is to add some of the dohyo salt to the ladle. The yobidashi usually keep silent, though this is done right in front of their eyes.

But this is not the only possible prank.

Here are the bouts of the Juryo division from yesterday (yes! Aminishiki can win by yori-kiri!) for your enjoyment. And pay attention to Osunaarashi handing the chikara-mizu to Amakaze. Ahem.

It’s good to be the king!


When a Yokozuna makes an appearance, the other sekitori greet him with a bow. When it’s Hakuho, that includes Harumafuji as well. Hakuho returns a nod.

I watched a similar video the other day, in which Harumafuji arrived at the dohyo, and everybody was bowing to him, but he and Kakuryu just exchanged nods and a friendly pat. Hakuho has a special status. In fact, apparently Kakuryu, Harumafuji and Kisenosato, when they mention each other, use their respective shikona. But when they refer to Hakuho, it’s “Yokozuna”, whether he’s present or not. As in Kakuryu saying to Harumafuji “We need to wait for Kisenosato and the Yokozuna”. That kind of thing.

You’ll notice that the Yokozuna himself bows. That is directed at Tamanoi oyakata. When Takanohana is present, a bow will be directed at him as well.

Note another interesting form of expressing respect: mizu-tsuke. This is similar to the chikara-mizu explained above, only without the paper to hide the spits and without a yobidashi on hand. And look how many of those there are.

(Many short butsukaris in that video as well).

Takagenji Juryo Debut in May

To illustrate the importance of basic Japanese ability for sumo fans, I point my dear readers to the Japan Sumo Association’s website. The English site has two news items with today’s date: the Sumo Museum Calendar and the Dohyo Matsuri information for the May tournament. Fascinating stuff, but the Japanese site includes those and two more: a list of retirements from March and the list of wrestlers promoted to Juryo. Takagenji and Meisei will be promoted to Juryo. For those of us hoping to construct well-informed banzuke, that would be particularly important information, especially if there were makuuchi wrestlers listed among the retirements (there are not). The most senior retirement was Ryouounami in Makushita.

So, appropriately, today’s news headline addresses the Juryo debut of Takagenji. Again, from Nikkei:

大相撲夏場所、19歳貴源治が新十両 番付編成会議

Continue reading