A Weekend of Hana-Zumo

There is no Jungyo in February. Hence no Jungyo coverage. But luckily, the world of sumo takes pity on sumo-starved fans, and spices this cold month with exhibition events, called “hana-zumo”.

These events generally take place in the Kokugikan in Tokyo, meaning they are much easier on the wrestlers than Jungyo events – no traveling, practicing in their own heya, eating the chanko they are accustomed to, and so on.

This weekend included two back-to-back hana-zumo events. On Saturady, as Bruce already mentioned, there was the NHK charity event, which has been held for 51 years now. The most startling news item from this event has been this:

Elvis has left the building

This, my friends, is Chiyotairyu. Sans sideburns. Rumor has it that Ichinojo heard that Chiyotairyu had mutton chops, and just ate them.

I don’t know how I’ll recognize him from now on.

There was sumo jinku:

And kiddie sumo:

Sumo in Neverland

And of course, there were bouts. Here is the Makushita “yusho” bout (Makushita was in elimination form). Enho…

…may eat a lot of similar crow up in Juryo. I hope he (or Hakuho, his master) finds a solution for this soon.

And between the bouts, it’s not hana-zumo  (or Jungyo) if you don’t get this scene:


What you see here is Hakuho waiting his turn in the kore-yori-san-yaku. That’s when the participants in the last three bouts go on the dohyo and perform synchronized shiko.

In honbasho, this happens only on senshuraku. And in any case, there’s no fooling around in honbasho. But in Hana-zumo and Jungyo, there’s a kore-yori-san-yaku every day. And Hakuho always finds himself a comfortable yobidashi to lean on. Sometimes the bored Yokozuna goes a bit too far:

The sumo events of the day ended with the superb Satonofuji. Can’t get enough of him:

Sunday, and switching channels to Fuji TV. And here, some familiar faces stripped down and wore their old mawashi:


Thought you’ll never get to see this again?

Damn, Kotooshu!

Kyokutenho – Tomozuna oyakata – also has nothing to be ashamed of. Asasekiryu (Nishikijima oyakata) fresh out of his chon-mage:

Kitataiki (Onogawa oyakata) is still wearing his chon-mage. Wakakoyu (Shiranui oyakata) nearly got him there:

There was also kiddie sumo. Correct me if I’m wrong, but these kiddies do not look Japanese.

You may notice two differences from kiddie sumo in Jungyo:

  • The Ozeki participate. This is very rare in Jungyo. And both of them together is even rarer.
  • In Jungyo the kiddie sumo is part of keiko. Hana zumo doesn’t include keiko, and the wrestlers do their kiddie sumo in their shime-komi (silk mawashi) and oicho-mage.

In this event, both Juryo and Makuuchi were in elimination format. The championship bout:

Tochinoshin didn’t get that yusho by a bracket fluke. He had to get there through Hakuho:

He got the cup from his stablemaster (Kasugano oyakata):

And from Fuji TV… a cardboard cow?

More bouts:

Hakuho vs. Endo:

Takayasu vs. Tamawashi:

The complete set of Tochinoshin bouts plus interview and cup ceremony:

Juryo tournament:

Foreign Led Stables of ex-Kotoshu & ex-Kyokutenho (corrected)

Today’s article comes from the Mainichi newspaper:

外国出身親方の船出 元琴欧洲「新しいものを」/元旭天鵬「愛される力士に」

It is an article about two new foreign born elders starting their own heyas, former Ozeki Kotooshu and former Sekiwake Kyokutenho. Just to note, both are have won yusho and I’m sure that’s significant in the decision to let them run stables. **Updated to reflect the point made by Asashosakari: Kotooshu is starting his own stable while Kyokutenho is inheriting the Tomozuna stable.** In this headline there are two shikona so we’ll start there, Kotooshu (琴欧洲) and Kyokutenho (旭天鵬). Immediately preceding both shikona is the kanji for “former,” 元 .


To knock out a few more of the easy terms and sumo-specific terms we will go back to the beginning, “Foreign born sumo elders.” The first two kanji, GaiKoku is the Japanese word for foreign. Shusshin is place where you’re from. You hear this word every time the announcer at sumo tournaments introduces the wrestlers. If they’re Japanese he says what prefecture they’re from and if they’re foreign he says what country they’re from. You hear a lot of “Mongolia shusshin.” Lastly we get to the term for “elders.” Kotooshu and Kyokutenho are running their own stables and thus “oyakata.” The first kanji is parent and the second is the honorific, formal word, for person.


These new heya are setting sail, being launched. It’s actually pretty exciting. I’m happy for both new oyakata. Please visit Mainichi’s site. They have a nice picture of Naruto-oyakata in front of his stable with three of his wrestlers. The base seems to be in Tokyo so it could be interesting to check out. We’ll see about the other heya, as well. We’ll be tracking their performance and hope that they register on our new power rankings in the coming years.


That character for new should be old hat by now. A new thing (mono) is being done here. We’re starting to get foreign elders. Recently Musashimaru started his stable and we’re eagerly following the exploits of our Young Texan, pun intended, Wakaichiro. Now it’s Kotooshu and Kyokutenho. Others will follow. This is certainly a welcome development if sumo is ever to become an Olympic sport. Maybe foreign expansion? Asashoryu heads up wrestling in Mongolia. What if there was an officially santioned sumo offshoot? Think American O-sumo in the vein of NFL Europe. Okay, maybe that’s not a good example. Maybe like how the NBA is quickly taking over? Spain, Italy, China…Professional King of the Hill goes global?


Who doesn’t love Hakuho, Osunaarashi, Gagamaru? These rikishi (力士) are loved (愛される). Clearly, rikishi is a sumo word you’ll want to know. Some of you may be familiar with the Nakashima Mika song, “Aishiteru,” or “I love you.” Well, if you use this “saseru” form of the word, it becomes the passive. The wrestlers are loved. So there we have it, “Foreign Born Elders Set Off, ex-Kotooshu ‘A New Thing is Being Done’ / Kyokutenho ‘These Wrestlers are Loved’.” Clunky, but the best I could do after a couple glasses of an amazing Reisling.

When we turn to the translation engines, this one is a doozie. First let’s look at Google: “Foreign born master’s ship Origen Kinpuzuzu “New things” / former Asahi Tenpen “To be loved wrestlers”.” Wow. I am officially changing my name to Origen Kinpuzuzu. This is my new shikona. You all can just call me King Puzuzu. This Google brand word sausage is the greatest tripe available. I swear, I can’t read this without laughing because there’s no discernable reason for this translation. It is now, utterly unrecognizable pork “product.” Maybe there’s some horse in there?

Yahoo! seems to actually know some shikona. It didn’t pick up Kotooshu but it got Kyokutenho. “The sailing former koto Europe ‘new thing’ of the boss from foreign country to / former Kyokutenho ‘loved sumo wrestler’”

Excite also did a terrible job. “Sail of a chief from the foreign country For the sumo wrestler by whom motokonousu “of something new”/a former Asahi heaven legendary gigantic bird “is loved.”

It should be clear now that the translation engines are good to take words you don’t recognize but for whole sentences in Japanese, especially in a sumo context, they’re pretty poor. But “Origen Kinpuzuzu” takes the cake. I’m still smiling because it’s just that…WTF.

Yours truly,
Origen Kinpuzuzu,
King Puzuzu of Tachiai-quetzel-kukamunga

Kotoshogiku Demoted


Kotoshogiku is Out of Gas

The biggest story coming out of Kokugikan on Day 12 is Kotoshogiku’s demotion. Today’s bout with Tamawashi was particularly heart-breaking as it was so straight forward. Kotoshogiku’s tank has run out of gas. I know I’ve been one of his biggest critics with the yo-yo nature of his performance, especially last year. But in the way Switch pleaded with Cipher in the Matrix (the good one), “Not like this, not like this.” Tamawashi met him at the tachiai with a solid shoulder and sent him straight back over the tawara and off the dohyo. 

If he competes in March, he will be Sekiwake. And, as often repeated, he will be given his ozeki status if he can get 10 wins. At this point, though, I’m not thinking he can get a winning record…much less 10 wins, meaning he’d tumble farther down the banzuke. I’ll keep my eyes and ears peeled for articles that may indicate whether he decides to retire before March. As Bruce pointed out, the sekiwake rank will be full if he does compete. Giku gets a guaranteed spot and his opponent from today will likely be his opposite number at the rank.

The last ozeki demotion was Kotoshogiku’s former Sadogatake stablemate, Kotooshu. Coincidentally, this also happened following the hatsubasho in 2014. When March came along the Sekiwake rank wasn’t so crowded (just Goeido & Kotooshu) but since Kotooshu couldn’t garner 10 wins, he remained Sekiwake when sumo returned to Tokyo in May. At that tournament, there were three Sekiwake because Goeido & Kotooshu had 8 wins but Tochiozan had 11 at the Komusubi rank.

Interestingly, Tochiozan was Sekiwake #2 in the West despite having that 11 win record and no special prizes (even after defeating both ozeki-ranked Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku). Kotooshu decided to call it a career after his 10 straight losses ensured further demotion well down into the maegashira ranks. I’d found that interesting, but this is where the Twilight Zone music comes in. The rikishi picking up the fusen win, thus the immediate benefactor of Kotooshu’s retirement, was Tamawashi*.

* As always, hat tip to Sumodb.Sumogames.De for the fantastic site with amazing historical data. I just wish it collected data on sponsors and kenshokin. Dude…the analyses I’d do with that data…

琴 (koto): An Excuse to Listen to Tool for the Rest of the Evening

Traditional Japanese instruments don’t get much attention in popular music. The koto is a great sounding instrument and is relevant to sumo because the kanji for Koto is used in the shikona of several wrestlers, generally from the Sadogatake heya, headed by former Kotonowaka (琴ノ若), including two ozeki – Kotoshogiku (琴奨菊) and Kotooshu (琴欧州). The heya was established in 1955 by Kotonishiki (琴錦). Please check out my brief post about the kanji for nishiki, 錦, from a few days ago.

So, what is a koto? It is this stringed instrument, played with picks and the bridges can be moved to change the sound. I’ve not listened much to koto music, preferring the shamisen. If you haven’t heard the Yoshida Brothers play the shamisen, I encourage you to check them out…they’re amazing.

But back to the koto. Perhaps the most famous track, the sound of the koto was incorporated into Dr. Dre’s “Still Dre”. I know you’ve heard it. It’s really simple and very catchy. In college, that song was EVERYWHERE. However, my personal favorite is this cover of Tool’s “Lateralus” using a bunch of koto. I miss Maynard’s voice and the buzz of the guitars but this is fantastic. I love great rap tunes but I’m a huge metal head and I especially love prog metal from Tool, so after listening to the koto version I HAVE TO listen to Tool’s original. And then more Tool. This is really going to kill my evening because I will have to lie down and listen to their albums on a loop now.