The 9th Annual Hakuho Cup

On February 11th, the 9th annual Hakuho Cup event took place at the Ryogoku Kokugikan.

The Hakuho Cup is an annual children sumo event taking place under the auspices of Yokozuna Hakuho. For more details about the event and its history, refer to last year’s report.

This year, again, about 1200 children from 8 countries and regions (Japan, Mongolia, USA, China, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan and Hong-Kong).

Delegates from the 8 countries and regions sworn in by a Japanese representative

Although this event is not hosted or sponsored by the NSK, many NSK employees (read: active rikishi and oyakata) took part in it. The event included both team competitions and individual competitions. While delegates from the various countries and regions outside Japan generally formed teams based on their country of origin, and thus wrestled with the name of their country marked on their mawashi, the large Japanese cohort was made of various teams training together – some of which were associated with rikishi. Here, for example, is Team Aminishiki:

These boys are all from Aomori, Aminishiki’s home prefecture.

Rikishi participation did not end just at leading teams. Many sekitori served as shimpan during the competition:

Also attended: Mitakeumi, Abi, Tobizaru, Ishiura (of course), Toyonoshima, as well as Kotoshogiku and Yoshikaze and more. The highest ranking visitor was Yokozuna Kakuryu, who seemed to enjoy himself very much indeed:

Oyakata ranged from the recently retired Oshiogawa (Takekaze) and Sanoyama (Satoyama), through Tomozuna oyakata, Hakuho’s own Miyagino oyakata, to Futagoyama oyakata (Miyabiyama). The latter had a personal interest in the competition, as his own son participated. Last year, his son won two bouts. This year, the proud father reports, he won three.

Hakuho also hoped his own 10 years old son, Mahato, will win one bout more than he did last year. But alas, he was taken down in his first match by a smaller kid.

Mahato, in his mawashi marked “Hakuho”. Of course he belonged to Team Hakuho.

During lunch break, Hakuho had what the Japanese call “Talk show” (an on-stage, or in this case, on-dohyo, live interview), and this time, the “surprise” guest was former Ozeki Konishiki.

Hakuho asked Konishiki who were the opponents he found most difficult to fight. Konishiki listed Akinoshima, Chiyonofuji and Kotokaze.

Speaking of lunch, an 11-hour event with thousands of children requires a lot of food. Hakuho took care to complement the meal with an order of 1000 pieces of cake, which immensely cheered the children up.

The children competed in teams as well as individual matches. Among all the bouts, at times taking place on three separate dohyos, one in particular drew much attention. Take a look at this wonderful match:

Motomura hangs in there

It’s interesting to see Hakuho in the background. At first he plays around with his phone, and then as the match progresses he lets go of it and watches the bout with rapt attention. Marvelous sumo, which I’ve seen described on the net as “A mix of Enho, Satoyama and Ura”.

Motomura, of Team Kotoshogiku, the David in this David-and-Goliath match, also won the technique prize for this bout. Yes, the Hakuho Cup also includes special prizes. While the yusho trophies are handed by Hakuho himself, the special prizes were handed by sekitori:

Motomura looks quite overwhelmed there. I also find Ishiura’s expression, when he realizes he is the tallest man on the dohyo, rather entertaining.

Here is the summary video of the event – where you can catch Mahato’s failed bout, a different angle of Motomura’s bout, and many smiles and tears:

And if you have 11 hours to spare, here is the full event, which was streamed live on YouTube.

(If anybody is wondering, SANKYO, the sponsor, is a manufacturer of pachinko machines).

Why I Can’t Wait For Natsu

abi-with-kensho

As stated, I have a great sense of trepidation about the upcoming May tournament in Tokyo. Some of that has now been realized, but at the same time, there is a huge amount of awesome sumo that is about to take place. In spite of my concerns about much-loved veterans facing the end of glorious careers on the dohyo, sumo’s future is bright, and there is an army of fresh talent pressing hard to rise through the ranks.  The Tadpoles are nursing their wounds, the Freshmen are ascendant, the old guard is fading with grace and dignity – the anticipation for this basho is off the charts!

I would have to start with Ichinojo. I am not sure why he is pressing for Konishiki-class mass, but he has increased his already considerable bulk in the run up to Natsu. With that much Mongolian meat on the move, any opponent is advised to think creatively and act quickly. Even Yokozuna Hakuho had trouble with him in training, showing that Ichinojo is a force for Natsu. While his new larger weight may cause him and his opponents trouble, it is going to make for some world class, amazing sumo.

Shin-Komusubi Endo has been a heartbreak trail for years, battling injuries and various problems as he struggled to rise through the ranks. Going into Natsu, he seems to be genki, and at his highest ever rank. Unlike some fast rising rikishi who bounce hard off the San’yaku wall, there is some hope that Endo may hold on. His sumo has been looking solid and focused, and we know he has the drive to win.

I find great interest in the fact that two of my “Freshmen” are in the joi for this tournament: Abi and Yutakayama. Abi has had a meteoric rise, in part due to a superb combination of oshi-zumo and very long limbs. Coupled with excellent mobility, he has been an interesting and potent take on the all-too-common pusher-thruster pattern that seems to dominate ranks below San’yaku. Now we see what happens against the top of the sumo world, and frankly I can’t wait. Yutakayama has been single minded in his determination to rise to the top, requiring multiple attempt to even remain in Makuuchi. Now he’s going to face Ozeki and Yokozuna. I expect him to be tossed like a cork on the raging sea, but it’s part of making him a better rikishi.

Somehow Shodai is back at Maegashira 4, in spite of two back to back make-koshi records. This guy has some phenomenal luck, or is close drinking buddies with the banzuke team. I still think he has potential, if he can stop losing matches at the tachiai. Then there is Ikioi. Everyone loves Ikioi, and why not? He was a self-propelled orthopedic crisis for all of Osaka, but managed to win big. Is he still genki? Is he going to find his groove and win?

I think Ryuden may have a break-out performance this tournament. At Maegashira 7, he is in a sweet spot on the banzuke, and I think he has a good shot at a kachi-koshi, while many above him in the banzuke will be fodder for the San’yaku. I also think Hokutofuji is due for a rebound. He has been looking poorly the past few tournaments. At one point he was a bright up-and-coming star, until a series of injuries took his sumo down a couple of notches.

On the subject of “what happened to their sumo?”, we can lump dear Yoshikaze and Arawashi into that bin. Both of these guys need a good tournament for a change, and I am putting my faith that they are going to show up rested and eager.

But I love the bottom of the banzuke yet again this basho. Uncle sumo is back? Nishikigi holds on against all odds? And Kyokutaisei makes the big leagues? Yes, yes and more yes!

Bring on the basho, it’s time for this sumo fan to smile.

Enjoy Hawaiian BBQ with Konishiki

Konishiki's Hawaiian BBQ Stand

Earlier this month, Andy tipped off readers via the Tachiai twitter account that sumo legend Konishiki would be hosting a stall at the BB (“Beer & BBQ”) Fest, which takes place from now until May 6 in Odaiba:

The festival is taking place out on Symbol Promenade Park in Odaiba, and I decided to head out there today to check it out. Getting there took about 15 minutes from Shimbashi station in central Tokyo on the unique Yurikamome line (a must-ride for transit enthusiasts, owing to its looping track that goes out over the Rainbow Bridge).

There are three festival areas running concurrently during Golden Week on Odaiba: an Oktoberfest, a large section of the BB Fest that is dedicated to Japanese-style BBQ vendors, and then a section of the BB Fest on the eastern part of the island featuring international BBQ food and craft beer. Konishiki’s Hawaiian BBQ is located in the latter area.

Konishiki's Hawaiian BBQ Menu
Konishiki’s Hawaiian BBQ menu board

As for the menu, Konishiki offered a couple selections: a meat plate (featuring BBQ pork, spare ribs and chicken) and then a combo platter which contained all of the meat items plus rice, slaw and the classic Hawaiian macaroni and egg salad. Obviously, I opted for the latter choice:

Konishiki's Hawaiian BBQ Plate
Konishiki serves up a meat lover’s Hawaiian BBQ paradise, replete with Mac Salad

Konishiki has long been one of the most flavorful names in sumo, and puts out a dish to match. All of the meat selections were very succulent, very moist and well coated in the right amount of marinade and sauce. The macaroni salad was delicious as well. I opted to wash it all down with a bottle of water from Konishiki’s stand owing to the hot weather, but there were a number of craft beer vendors also in the park and Konishiki’s BBQ would surely make a great pairing for many of them. When he says he knows how to have a good time cooking up Hawaiian BBQ, he’s not joking.

Konishiki has also provided a video that takes you behind the grill, in promotion of the event (in Japanese):

The event also has plenty of other food vendors offering BBQ from a variety of regions and countries. I was too full from Konishiki’s Ozeki-sized platter to take in any of the others, however a man at the Texas BBQ stand was offering free samples which were also delicious. Hopefully, up and coming Texan sumotori Wakaichiro can make it out to the festival to get a taste of home!

BB Fest International Vendors
Other vendors in the international portion of the festival included Spanish, Jamaican and Texan BBQ.

As for the man himself, Konishiki, he was off to the side of the stand, relaxing under a tent near the festival stage with family and friends. A number of his fans ambled up from time-to-time throughout the afternoon to request photos, which he graciously provided. I was able to get a few moments to chat with the man to let him know just how good the BBQ was, and ask if he had any words for Tachiai readers.

Konishiki says he wants everyone to come on down to Odaiba, and adds: “Bring your hungry on, and bring your thirsty on!”

Konishiki’s Hawaiian BBQ is located at the BB Fest on Odaiba in Symbol Promenade Park, located just off the Odaiba-Kaihin-Koen station on the Yurikamome line, and the Tokyo Teleport station on the Rinkai line. The festival runs through May 6 during the Golden Week. For more info, check out bbfest.jp

Additionally, for those readers who will be in Tokyo during the upcoming Natsu basho, Konishiki will be appearing at the Island Music Festival in Symbol Promenade Park on May 18 and 19. For more information, check out islandmusicfestival.jp