Wait, what? Day 7? Did I skip days 4-6? Um, yes I did. I skipped Asanoyama Day, and Mitakeumi Day. Maybe I’ll get back to them later. Who said I have to do this chronologically anyway? But day 7 had some fun materials I just couldn’t skip. So let’s get to it.
Day 3 took place at Kusatsu, Shiga prefecture. Day 4 took place at Echizen, Fukui prefecture. Here are some of the things that happened, on and off the Jungyo.
Yeah, we couldn’t do without those, could we? Takanosho, a.k.a Onigiri-kun, injured his right knee during practice, and left for Tokyo, joining his two heya mates who are already kyujo, Takakeisho and Takagenji. The only Chiganoura sekitori to stay in the Jungyo is Takanofuji, the evil twin. I hope it’s not one of those career-shattering injuries.
And Ryuko, who was having a streak of bad luck ever since he had the privilege of being Aminishiki’s last opponent, also made his way to Tokyo with an injury. It’s not clear whether it’s a new injury or a lingering one from the basho.
Meanwhile, we are informed that neither Takakeisho nor Takayasu will be joining this Jungyo at all. Chiganoura oyakata says Takakeisho’s state is improving every day, but still, he is not practicing at the moment, taking treatments and rehab with a specialized trainer. He will apparently not be in until banzuke day, and then, says Chiganoura oyakata “We’ll see if he can wrestle sekitori”.
As for Takayasu… you can see for yourself. Torn ligament, arm in a cast. He is not supposed to be in the keiko-ba (practice ground) at all, but he is, though apparently, mostly moving a bit and bossing the youngsters around. I’m more worried about him, with his heya’s history of… Kisenosato… than I am about Takakeisho, though.
Chiyonofuji’s Death Anniversary
Three years ago today (July 31), former Great Yokozuna Chiyonofuji, AKA “The Wolf”, died age 61. Members of Kokonoe beya participating in the Jungyo, including tokoyama Tokotake (I hope I got that right) and Gyoji Konosuke, held a moment of silence in his memory:
Mitakeumi declares an Ozeki run
OK, enough sad news. Yesterday, Mitakeumi had his first on-dohyo practice.
On that occasion, he told the press he was very dissatisfied with his result in Nagoya – a mere 9 wins – and declared he was aiming for double figures and the possible start of an Ozeki run in Aki. “I keep telling myself I am the next Ozeki”. So far he is mostly getting reverse butsukari – yesterday he was pushing TV star Tochiozan, today Abi. His moshi-ai results are not exactly Ozeki-level. He had 5 bouts with Tamawashi, Ryuden et al., won 2 and lost 3. But the Jungyo is still young.
Kawaigari du jour
Yesterday Hakuho rested his inner khan, giving nobody kawaigari. But today, he was back. He told Kizakiumi he might go with him, getting a nervous laugh, but eventually decided to break the shin-Juryo pattern, and go with Tomokaze. That was a 7 minutes ordeal, as befits someone who is much more likely to actually meet Hakuho on the dohyo some time soon.
Yes, white-haired guy on the other side of the dohyo, Hakuho is actually tripping his victim as he is trying to push. Kawaigari is great fun!
As for Kizakiumi, Hakuho said “Well, the Jungyo has just begun!”
Kototsurugi (the official sumo illustrator, a former rikishi) created a design for a new line of Enho products, and had Enho promoting it for him:
Enho is depicted as Issun-Boshi in this design. Issun-Boshi, the tiny hero who leaves his parents’ house to sail the seas in a rice bowl with a chopstick for an oar, is the Japanese equivalent of Tom Thumb.
Of course, somebody else would need to empty that rice bowl for him, though, because Enho himself is famous for his dislike for cooked white rice.
I predict this line of merchandise (I have seen this shirt and a lunch bag so far) will be scooped off the shelves as soon as it hits them. Enho is the hottest thing in Sumodom at the moment.
Today’s event is really close to home – at Adachi ward, just north of Sumida, where the majority of sumo stables are located.
And yet, equipment still needs to be delivered and carried into the venue.
That is yobidashi Hiromasa, proving to us that yobidashi is physical work, not just singing and drumming.
Here is Chiyoraizan from Kokonoe beya. Whose baggage is he carrying?
This is Kimura Konosuke’s stuff. Gyoji need their outfits and paraphernalia, too.
The equipment comes from side-opening trucks like this one, which you can see is loaded with sekitori’s akeni:
Akeni are the green-red-black boxes that each sekitori receives upon promotion to Juryo, where he stores stuff like his kesho-mawashi, shimekomi (silk mawashi) and sagari. During transit, akeni are wrapped in plastic or tarp. I always amuse myself by trying to identify as many of the Akeni as I can. If you read kanji, or at least memorize shikona, try that yourself. I’ll give you two hints:
The ones wrapped in gray are not rikishi’s, but rather gyoji’s.
While the name on the Akeni itself matches the sekitori’s current shikona, they rarely replace the tarp. Thus, there are two akeni in the bottom row labeled “Takayoshitoshi” (now called Takanofuji), and “Oyanagi” (now called Yutakayama).
So let’s go inside the venue and see what everybody is doing. Kakuryu seems to be very tired:
Aw, Yokozuna. Why don’t you find something soft to rest your head against and get some shut-eye?
Um… not exactly what I had in mind. But if it works for you…
This early in the morning, Takakeisho is trying to find an out-of-the-way corner where he can work out properly without being disturbed.
It’s not working.
Nishikigi is working out his already formidable arms:
Wakamotoharu and Ishiura are doing their shiko.
Between the two of them, I’m sure there is not a single evil spirit in the ground anywhere in Adachi.
Ichinojo is working with hand weights:
Later, after he does some on-dohyo training, Hakuho calls him over and gives him a private lesson. “Insert your right arm deeper!” and the like:
When reporters ask the Yokozuna about this, he says “I felt I wanted to do some teaching this Jungyo. Every day I take one man and guide him”.
Perhaps it’s just me, but I am imagining a baton being passed here.
Here are the three top contenders for “kawaii rikishi of the late Heisei era”:
And by now Takakeisho arrives at the dohyo, and greets his beloved Daieisho:
The reason these two have been called a “couple” throughout this Jungyo is apparently because they were caught in the shitakubeya sleeping wrapped in one towel. If a photo ever turns up…
Hokutofuji, look behind you!
The bear, I mean, the Ozeki, started actual on-dohyo practice today:
This included, for example, this practice bout with Tochiozan:
Up on that same dohyo, Mitakeumi is giving butsukari to Wakatakakage:
This apparently gets carried beyond the standard end-of-moshiai-session butsukari and into the realm of kawaigari:
Goeido is doing the same for Takanosho:
This session is definitely kawaigari rather than plain butsukari:
Here are a couple of practice bouts: Gagamaru vs. Takanosho, a short interlude showing Tochinoshin working out, then Meisei vs. Kaisei.
This concludes the practice part of the Jungyo. Time for lunch! And Abi is looking for something nicer than a cold bento:
This looks like a mobile stall offering various types of “don” (a bowl of rice topped with something, like curry, chicken, pork, beef, etc.).
I don’t have much from the second part of the day. But here is Takanosho before his bout, having a smiling conversation with his heya-mate, young yobidashi Hiroshi:
And the important news of the day. Do you know what this photo means?
It means Enho is finally back on the torikumi list, doing sumo!
Unfortunately, it looks like he is being yori-kiried by Daiamami here.
No pin-up photo for you today. Instead, here is a video with some comments by Hakuho and Takakeisho. Hakuho responds to questions about his naturalization process. That is, he is not responding to questions about it:
Hakuho: “Nothing is decided yet. I was surprised this made such a splash in the news. There are many supporters, family, relatives I have yet to inform about this. For the time being, all there is to do is wait for the results”.
He says he wants to “Start Reiwa well, following the good closure of Heisei”. The reporters take it as a wish to win his 43rd yusho in May. Of course, there’s that pesky injury.
Takakeisho says he has all but gotten used to his new Ozeki status, and that he wants to work on the fundamentals, because “An Ozeki needs to have a body”.
We have only a short report today, and less goofy than the usual. But those who are new here are going to learn about kawaigari. Learning is a good thing, isn’t it?
So, let’s start in the morning. The first activity of the day is handshakes with the fans. Yoshikaze participates.
But notice that he does it in a yukata, which is rather unusual. Most of the rikishi do the handshakes in their practice mawashi. This tells us that not only is Yoshikaze off the torikumi, he is also not doing any keiko. One has to wonder what ails him, or rather, what is it that ails him enough not to do keiko, but still not enough to excuse himself from part or all of the Jungyo.
On the sidelines, we have Okinoumi doing some push-ups:
I think he is not quite up to par by military standards.
Next we have some moshi-ai bouts. First, Takakeisho vs. Daieisho, followed by Takakeisho vs. Onosho:
I wonder who it was who got tossed off the dohyo.
Next we have Abi vs. Onosho, followed by Abi vs. Ichinojo.
A direct push doesn’t work against the boulder, so Abi goes for a (somewhat crude) death spin.
Next up, Takayasu vs. Endo, then Takayasu vs. Tochiozan:
Tochinoshin with Ichinojo:
Oof, Ichinojo’s legs don’t look very pretty.
And neither does his sumo. 😩
Finally, the Yokozuna gets on the dohyo. This is significant, as up till now he didn’t do any on-dohyo activity. Well, technically he did some stretches and shiko at the corner of the dohyo, but that’s not something he really needs a dohyo for.
The Yokozuna – all of them – tend to scale their activity up through the Jungyo. There are different degrees of intensity. Doing basics is ground level. Then you have butsukari geiko (where you are the dominant), which is slightly higher (you have to use your feet and you get smashed in the chest). Then there is doing your own butsukari, and doing bouts with low and high ranking rikishi.
The Yokozuna is not yet on the torikumi list – the Musubi is between the two participating Ozeki – but he did start giving butsukari today. The pushing partner was Takakeisho.
Butsukari is a drill in which one side – usually higher-ranked – offers his chest, and the other side has to push him, again and again, all the way to the edge of the dohyo. If you succeed, you do a squat, and continue until the high-ranker decides you’ve had enough. If you fail, the dominant throws you on the floor, or he may choose to get you to walk around in what I call a “monkey walk” – it’s not exactly the same as suri-ashi, and the dominant usually has his hand on your neck to bend you down.
That’s the basics. But then there is kawaigari. Now, you wouldn’t know it from the NSK video above, but this was actually a kawaigari session.
A kawaigari session is butsukari with extra testosterone. On the dominant’s part, that is. It’s a show of dominance, and a serious challenge for the submissive. You get shouted at. And kicked. And your hair may be pulled, or your ass slapped. And all you can do is go “yes, sir”, “yes, sir”, and keep up. At some point you get exhausted. But you have to get up and keep going. You are not supposed to waste the time of the high-ranking rikishi who is giving you his precious attention.
This is a well known ritual in the sumo world. And watching it is not easy for newcomers. Though the original version is worse – it includes spits and hard beating with a bamboo stick. I’m told this still goes on today – though not in public. The public version is not really hazardous to one’s health.
Hakuho loves kawaigari. Having been a Yokozuna so long, nobody can give him one. But he can sure give it to others, they can’t refuse, and it’s considered an honor – while it makes it very clear who’s boss, which is exactly how the Yokozuna likes it. And so, you won a Yusho, young man? Get some “TLC” (that’s what “kawaigari” means) from the Yokozuna. Here is the extended version:
Hakuho is an excellent performer. He makes sure all of the spectators get a good view – standing at different edges of the dohyo each time. He gets more laughs than the shokkiri team – but also signals to the audience when to applaud the exhausted Komusubi. He kicks and growls – and makes sure that Takakeisho’s mawashi knot doesn’t come undone.
But this performance caused quite a stir with one faction of sumo fans – the so-called “Takanohana cultists” (not all Takanohana fans belong to this category). They – or rather, some of them, because I don’t believe anybody who has been a sumo fan for any serious length of time would be – were outraged by Hakuho’s “hideous” treatment of Takakeisho. “That man does not deserve to be a Yokozuna!”. “Why did the NSK censor all the kicking and hair pulling?”. “I really hope Takakeisho makes it through this Jungyo uninjured”. “Hakuho makes sure no young talent can rise in the sumo world”. Some even searched the Internet and found evidence that Harumafuji used to do the same! Those awful Mongolians!
That, my friends, is called “cherry picking”. Because the practice is quite widespread, and no, it’s not restricted to awful Mongolians. Here we have some kawaigari Goeido gave Hokutofuji in 2016.
I think Goeido has never been in Mongolia. Here is one Takayasu gave a youngster from his heya a few years back in a public training:
OK. Lesson over. Now, unlike those cultists, you’ll know a kawaigari when you see one.
I do not have much from the latter part of the day. I do have these two serious, stern-faced sekitori doing their dohyo-iri:
Who are we kidding? You think Abi can stay serious for more than two seconds?
Hey, concentrate on the dohyo-iri, Daddy-Long-Legs.
To wrap up, here is a pixie:
Enho is giving butsukari to one of the low-rankers. Thing is, Hakuho is on the dohyo, and seems to be saying something to his wee uchi-deshi, which gives Enho an expression which is completely incompatible with butsukari or sekitori dominance in general. 🤗