Maezumo November 2020

For most rikishi, maezumo is the required on-dohyo initiation to sumo tournaments. An exception is made for amateur champions from major tournaments in Japan. They are allowed to forgo maezumo and take advantage of a privileged entry directly into Sandanme or Makushita. This year is clearly a difficult year for recruiting — and the amateur sport — but there are still quite a few young men ready to join the heya life.

The goal in maezumo is for the participants to reach three wins in kind of a round-robin style. Top recruits will pick up their three wins very quickly and not participate in further bouts. If unsuccessful after even five matches, this does not preclude the wrestler from continuing their sumo career but it sure does not bode well for a rapid rise.

We have eight wrestlers who participated in maezumo this tournament, including five brand new recruits (shin-deshi), a drop from more than forty in March — but an increase compared with last November when there were only two. Aside from the two veterans who had fallen off the banzuke and hope to remain in sumo, we’ve got a nice new group of six men making their debuts.

The top recruit in the November cohort is Atamifuji. Born Takei Sakutaro in Chiba, he moved to Atami and his shikona is a nod to his hometown. He joined Isegahama stable this fall, at age 18. He’s the rikishi at the front on the far left. Joining Atamifuji at Isegahama are Onofuji (back row, left) and Minorufuji (back row, right).

Arauma, front and center, is Atamifuji’s biggest competition from this particular set of recruits and he joins Isenoumi stable. If I’m not mistaken, he’s the only Isenoumi recruit this year. The two faced each other for their third bout, the maezumo equivalent of a Darwin bout. Atamifuji came out on top but I’m sure we will be able to revisit this rivalry in January in Jonokuchi.

Lastly, Kyoda (front row, right) has joined Futagoyama and Harada (back row, center) joined Oguruma stable. Kyoda defeated Onofuji twice and Minorufuji once during the maezumo bouts to pick up his three wins. Harada also beat Minorufuji twice for his two wins. Onofuji picked up three wins but Minorufuji was winless in four bouts after being thrown in his bout against Arauma.

Physical Requirements

Sometimes people wonder what it takes to be a sumo wrestler. I don’t blame them because whenever I watch a Jonokuchi bout, I’m usually thinking the same thing, half, “That looks like fun!” and half, “I could clean up!” The five brand new recruits, shin-deshi, and had to pass the entrance physical.

*Hat tip to Herouth for explaining that Arauma’s physical was passed in September, so he’s not actually a “shin-deshi” in this maezumo cohort. Shishi also joined in January but had to wait until March for maezumo.

To qualify, recruits must be healthy, taller than 167cm and weigh more than 67kg and under 23 years old. From the list above, we can see all recruits easily met these standards, though Atamifuji was the tallest and heaviest at 185 cm (6 feet) and 166 kilos.

There are age exceptions for amateur champions, who must still be under 25 and middle school recruits must be at least 165cm and weigh more than 65kg. And since you’ll be hanging out in standard issue white boxers, you likely need a heafty dose of humility and have the personal hygiene skills to not leave skidmarks.

For exceptional talents, maezumo a very brief blip before they rocket up the banzuke, often pausing at the rough-and-tumble makushita joi. On the other end of the spectrum, wrestlers who are injured will sometimes fall completely off the banzuke (banzuke-gai) and will need to do maezumo again. Some wrestlers avoid this by fighting one bout each tournament, like Ryuden did before his storied come-back.

Despite the challenges of this year, maezumo cohorts from 2020 have offered up some amazing talents who we will likely see transition from part-time to full-time, like Hokuseiho, Shishi, and Hayatefuji, already well into Sandanme and likely set to get their own kesho mawashi within a year or two. We look forward to following all these new wrestlers in the new year.*

*I must apologize to the sumo fan universe, and all Americans, for the challenges that we have faced this year. My wife has informed me that 2020 is my Yakudoshi. I had thought that was next year but I’m told that next year will be better. Mea culpa.

Maezumo: Hatsu 2020

Intro

Almost all prospective rikishi who find a stable and pass the Kyokai’s entrance requirements must then compete in several trial bouts against fellow recruits. Exceptions include wrestlers like Endo, Shodai, Ichinojo, and others who are granted the privilege of accelerated entry at a higher rank, usually lower sandanme up to middle makushita, just outside the makushita joi. This privilege is granted based on performance in top amateur tournaments. Injured rikishi who are kyujo for so long that they fall completely off the banzuke, or banzuke-gai, must also compete in maezumo bouts for their return.

Remember Kyushu?

A few new wrestlers joined last tournament in Kyushu: Mudoho, Nihonyagi, and Dewanoryu. Taiga is a current example of the latter group of injured wrestlers who hope to stay in the Heya Life rather than retire. Herouth introduced these men to us last tournament and I mentioned them briefly the other day in my first article from the lower divisions; more updates will follow.

Maezumo: Hatsu 2020

For this article, I will focus on the new crop of wrestlers for Hatsu 2020 and their bouts. I’m going to do the back row first. Hiding in the back right is Sasazaki, then moving left is Kirameki, Onoyama, and Sakai. In the front row from right to left are Hayatefuji, Takeoka, Shinohara, Nabatame, and Taiyo. Taiyo? Seriously? I’ll never figure out these readings, I owe a big thanks to Herouth for that one.

Above is the introduction of our new rikishi. This occurred on nakabi, after all the maezumo fights from the previous mornings. The ceremonial kesho mawashi are borrowed from their heya, or relatives. It will be quite a while before any of these rikishi wear their own kesho mawashi as sekitori, if any of them reach that high rank. According to the Sumo Kyokai website, ten rikishi were slated for introduction this tournament but one, Sergey Sokolovsky, will end up making his debut in March with Irumagawa-beya. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/sports/2020/01/16/sumo/ukrainian-sergey-sokolovsky-follows-sumo-great-taihos-career-path/

A little introduction to the wrestlers:

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Sasazaki Miramu (笹崎 巳来夢) joined Nakagawa stable from Mukainoka Technical Senior High School in neighboring Kawasaki. Here we’ve got the Instagram of Sasazaki the High School student.

https://www.townnews.co.jp/0206/2020/01/01/511723.html

And here we have Sasazaki-kun, the Rikishi. He will be welcome as stablemate Kyokuyuko also came from the same high school. This school looks pretty awesome, frankly. https://www.pen-kanagawa.ed.jp/mukainooka-th/zennichi/images/home_m.jpg. Robotics competitions, construction and a competitive sumo club? We need more of these schools around here to prepare kids with marketable skills out of high school. Instead, we get insane parents who respond to the idea of work after high school with, “not my kid.” (Sorry, PTA venting.)

Nakagawa beya has had a decent online presence, with a Twitter account, https://twitter.com/nakagawabeya, Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/%E4%B8%AD%E5%B7%9D%E9%83%A8%E5%B1%8B-291698034609289/, Instagram, (https://www.instagram.com/nakagawabeya/), and website http://nakagawabeya.jp/.

We learned of Hayatefuji (颯富士) last year as Okuwa (大桑) after he became high school yokozuna. In December, he entered the Open Championship hoping to win accelerated entry into the sumo world. He made it to the knockout stage but lost before making it to the quarter-finals. He has joined Isegahama-beya.

Nabatame (生田目 竜也) joins Futagoyama beya.

Sakai (酒井 慶次朗) joins Irumagawa beya, and will be joined by the Ukrainian Sergey Sokolovsky in March. The stable’s top-ranked rikishi is Makushita 14 West Sagatsukasa.

Daiyo (橋本 大海) joins Onoue beya, where Satoyama has a coaching job and high-flying Hokutenkai joined last year.

Shinohara (篠原 大河) joins Fujishima beya from Fuji city in Shizuoka.

Bolivian Daniel Velez-Garcia (ベレス ガルシア ダニエル), has taken the shikona Kirameki (煌) joins Asahiyama beya.

Onoyama (奥武山) of Okinawa joins Tatsunami beya, home of Meisei, Akua, and Hoshoryu. He’s the slightest recruit, weighing 152 pounds.

Takeoka (竹岡 勇人) joins Oguruma beya, to help replenish after the retirements of Takekaze and Yoshikaze.

Match Day 1:

Sakei did not fight on Day 1 he is listed as kyujo that first day. Instead, Tsuyasato fought twice. According to the SumoDB he is listed as banzuke-gai for this tournament and Kyushu after two straight kyujo tournaments, note the very large knee brace. Hopefully he’ll be back on the banzuke in March.

He had a rough first day back with two bouts, one against Sasazaki and the other against Takeoka — both losses. As expected, Hayatefuji, the former high school champion, won his first bout. Sasazaki, Taiyo, Kirameki, and Takeoka all claimed their first wins.

Round 2:

Hayatefuji, Sasazaki, and Takaoka picked up their second wins. Nabatame rolled against Tsuyasato, Shinohara quickly threw Sakai who got himself dangerously turned around near the edge. Sasazaki had a tough time against a persistent Onoyama, despite wrapping him up pretty quickly.

The unfortunate Onoyama then got flattened as punishment for his efforts but somehow Sasazaki seems to be the one grimacing after the bout. Hayatefuji makes short work of Taiyo and Takeoka got the jump on Kirameki. I thought that last one could have been a matta.

Round 3:

Tsuyasato picked up his first win against Onoyama but again it wasn’t easy despite the obvious size advantage for the veteran. Onoyama’s 0-3 but he’s picked up a fan. He’ll likely have an easier time in Jonokuchi in March. Nabatame beat Taiyu, who’s got a rather unique pre-tachiai stance. It looks more like something one would see from a defensive lineman in the seconds before they set before the snap.

Kirameki fell to a knee…not really a slippy-otoshi but an awkward loss to Shinohara. Lastly, Hayatefuji and Takeoka picked up their important third wins. Sasazaki seemed to get a jump on Hayatefuji but the high school champ shifted his direction and let Sasazaki’s weight do the rest.

Round 4

Hayatefuji and Takeoka are done, having picked up their third wins. Shinohara and Nabatame picked up their third wins during the fourth day. Onoyama gamberized against an opponent closer to his physical match but beat Sakai easily. Shinohara beat Sasazaki who seemed to walk a bit gingerly after the bout.

Nabatame dispatched Tsuyasato with some good oshi-tsuki fundamentals. Tsuyasato took a scary fall but got back up quickly. Taiyu…henka? Seriously? Maezumo henka? Relegated. Dust yourself off, Kirameki. Vengence shall be yours.

Round 5:

Sasazaki took a hard loss, and a hard fall, after a decent effort. Tsuyasato picked up his second win to the hapless Sakai, who will need to improve his technique because Houn and Hattorizakura will put up a challenge. The nodowa was likely a bit excessive.

Damn it, Onoyama, just when you were getting a fan you throw in a henka? This is maezumo. If you henka someone like Hattorizakura, I’m pretty sure they just exile you. It’s in the rules. In exchange, the Japanese take in one asylum seeker but it’s only done on a one-for-one exchange. And it be you. Good reaction from Kirameki this time, though, catching and throwing the string bean. Getting henka’d twice in maezumo? Kirameki’s got some notoriety now. Last, but not least, Sasazaki picked up his third win in a fairly even contest with Tsuyasato.

Well, that’s it for maezumo this tournament. Let’s follow these youngsters as they join Jonokuchi. Hayatefuji’s got to be an early favorite for the yusho but Takeoka will be an interesting competitor. Beware the henka!