Small man sumo is very much in vogue at the moment, with rikishi like Enho and Terutsuyoshi capturing the imagination of fans. But sumo has a rich history of smaller rikishi and one of the more notable names of recent times, Satoyama, recently retired at the end of the Kyushu basho in November. He then became Sanoyama oyakata, having borrowed his kabu from Chiyootori. He spent much of his sekitori career in juryo – where I personally especially enjoyed his matches with Asahisho (even if he didn’t always come out on top).
He is one of two new oyakata in the Onoe stable, a stable I recently had the chance to visit for morning keiko – an exercise which I will detail further in a future post on the site.
Visitors to recent basho since Satoyama’s retirement have seen the friendly former rikishi staffing the NSK’s official merch booth at Kokugikan and the other venues. Usually, he is one of three or four oyakata working the booth and interacting with fans, along with his stablemate and fellow new coach Hidenoyama, the former Tenkaiho.
I said hello to Satoyama/Sanoyama during the recent Natsu basho, and told him I had seen keiko recently at his stable (he was not present that day), and that it was a cool experience. He inquired about my Tachiai t-shirt, and when I told him it was an English sumo website, he handed me a flier in the hope that I would share some news with you all. Here is that flier:
Satoyama/Sanoyama has been spending most of his time during the basho interacting with fans and working hard to advertise his forthcoming danpatsushiki, where his hair will be cut and his retirement process will be complete.
As a former top division rikishi, this event will take place at Kokugikan on September 28. The day will consist of Makuuchi and Juryo matches as well as, of course, the ceremonial cutting of Satoyama’s top-knot.
If you buy tickets direct from the NSK, the ticket prices are as follows:
¥2000 for Arena C seats
¥4000 for Arena B seats
¥8000 for Arena A seats
¥36000 for Masu (box) C seats
¥42000 for Masu (box) B seats
¥46000 for Masu (box) A seats
Bear in mind of course that the boxes seat four people (and comfortably seat two people).
In addition to Satoyama’s sake sponsor, the flier also includes an outline of Amami Island in the Oshima district of Kagoshima prefecture, from where Satoyama hails. I wasn’t familiar with it before discovering the island through this flier, but it does look like a very lovely place. Having recently visited Okinawa for the first time, I’m intrigued that there’s quite a bit of content on youtube (such as this video) playing Amami up as an alternative, desirable Japanese island destination.
Our friends over at buysumotickets.com are currently selling tickets for this event. Tickets will come with a markup over the face value prices, but I have found this to be an acceptable price to pay in exchange for the ease of securing good tickets. Additionally, the event has an official website at satoyama.basho-sumo.jp, where an order form has been set up in Japanese (along with additional event details).
If you have plans to attend the Aki basho and will be extending your stay in Japan (or are a local), this event could be a good opportunity to not only see sumo but enjoy a unique milestone in the career of a former popular sekitori!
Today has been a day of decisions in the divisions below Juryo, and yet another fun day in Juryo. Let’s look at some sumo!
Before taking a look at the yusho race, we bid goodbye to the record holder in the anti-yusho ranking, our friend Hattorizakura. Today he said his farewells to Kyushu 2018 by way of Azumayama:
It seems we are safe for a while yet from having to memorize a new shikona for this icon of sumo (which his stablemaster promised him he will be given if he gets a kachi-koshi).
On to the Yusho race. As I explained yesterday, if Hatooka lost his bout today, we would have a complex playoff situation on our hands.
Fortunately, Hatooka resolved that issue decisively. A harizashi followed by pushing forward like a locomotive. Hatooka is the Jonokuchi yusho winner. In his interview today on NHK he talked about his injury and recovery. You can see his knee is in a massive brace. It’s the aftermath of an injury to the knee that saw him go kyujo and drop all the way to Jonokuchi from Makushita. In Aki, he did the same trick as Ryuden to avoid dropping off the banzuke completely, and participated in one bout, which he won. Now he came back with a vengeance. He said in his interview that he was inspired by the sekitori in his heya, such as Ura, Akiseyama and Shimanoumi (who was also kyujo for several consecutive basho).
Here is a video with several Jonidan bouts, the first of which is the yusho decider between Kotourasaki and Kenho. Other bouts in this video:
The size differences between Kenho and Kotourasaki are striking. Nevertheless, Kotourasaki knows how to defeat the big guy. He is 7-0 – sorry, Kenho fans. At this stage he waits for the result of the Mitsuuchi-Fukunofuji bout in the beginning of the Sandanme bouts.
Satonofuji’s bout (around 9:30 min.) is quite interesting, with the yomi-turi performer emeritus going for a half-henka, an attempt at tottari, then sticks his head into Zendaisho’s chest. It takes the shimpan quite a while to declare the kimarite (watashikomi).
The final torikumi (about 13:30) introduces you to Sakurafuji, one of the tallest in the low ranks at Isegahama beya at 183cm. He currently serves as Takarafuji’s tsukebito and is considered a nice guy all around, but for a man with his build, his career has been less than satisfactory, stalling way too long at Jonidan.
The first bout of the day at Sandanme is between Mitsuuchi, who has 6-0 at Jonidan, and Fukunofuji, with 6-0 at Sandanme. If Mitsuuchi wins, there will be a playoff in Jonidan. If Fukunofuji wins, a playoff in Sandanme.
Well, that was decided very quickly. Mitsuuchi railroads Fukunofuji off the dohyo, and the Jonidan playoff between him and Kotourasaki will take place on Senshuraku.
Before moving on to the other yusho decider, let’s take a look at Torakio vs. Rao. Both are 4-2, thus kachi-koshi.
Again, Torakio displays rather good sumo, but loses at the edge, and again expresses his frustration by shoving his opponent slightly. Doesn’t his oyakata watch his bouts?
Now on to the yusho decider, and now the participants know that whoever wins this is the Sandanme yusho winner then and there. The participants, by the way, are Ura (Sd33E) and Hikarifuji (Sd81W). It’s a no-brainer, really.
This reminds me of an old anime, Yu-Yu Hakusho, where the protagonist’s most formidable weapon was the tip of his finger, which was loaded with a huge amount of energy. The bout here starts with a mutual attempt at getting inside, until Ura decides he has had enough and seems to blow Hikarifuji away by the power of the tips of his fingers. He looks at him and nods apologetically, before he returns to his place on the dohyo with an expression of “Oops, did I do that?” on his face.
Ura is Sandanme yusho, and it will be rather entertaining to see him go through Makushita (and possibly meet Hoshoryu there. Yummy).
Here is a match between the two Ms9 wrestlers, Kotokamatani and Satoyama. Both 3-3, so winner kachi-koshi, loser make-koshi.
No monoii there. The kimarite is shitatenage, and Satoyama is kachi-koshi.
About an hour after this bout is over, the NSK informs the public that this was, in fact, Satoyama’s last bout as an active wrestler. Satoyama was formerly a long-time sekitori, and seems to have given up the hope of returning to the top. He is retiring and joining the NSK as Sanoyama oyakata, apparently borrowing the Sanoyama kabu from Chiyootori. (I wonder if he purposely picked a kabu which sounds so similar to his own name!)
On to the yusho decider. In Makushita, it’s the simplest situation: Sokokurai and Takaryu are the only ones with 6-0. Winner takes the yusho.
And after a matta, Sokokurai works hard to prevent Takaryu from getting a grip with his left arm, then goes for the pull down. Sokokurai is the Makushita yusho winner, and ensures himself of promotion to Juryo in Hatsu. There has never been a case where a yusho winner at Ms5 was not promoted.
Interestingly, he may actually go over the heads of the two kachi-koshi wrestlers at Ms1. If the shimpan department decides not to relegate more than two wrestlers from Juryo, Daiseido, who currently has 4 wins at Ms1W, and may earn his fifth today, might find himself promoted merely from Ms1W to Ms1E.
Sokokurai was also interviewed on NHK and assured the interviewer that his leg is “fine” now. By the way, I haven’t been around long enough to hear Sokokurai before, so I was rather impressed with his Japanese. It sounds as good as Kakuryu’s.
Enho seems to have rallied back a bit. Yesterday he looked totally lost and unsure what to do. Today he is back to seeking that grip of his. But Tomokaze denies him, despite the little one’s quick attacks. Enho finally lands his grip, but only at the edge of the dohyo where Tomokaze shows him out. Enho must be feeling grateful that he managed to secure his kachi-koshi before this slump. Tomokaze has a double-digit winning score, which is very impressive for a newcomer to Juryo.
Gokushindo tries to be careful and watches his own feet, but he is not protecting his mawashi and gets easily trapped by Azumaryu.
Chiyonoo once again tries everything he can and hangs on to his opponent’s mawashi, but Jokoryu gets him out nonetheless. Chiyonoo’s fall down to Makushita is going to be a long hard one.
Kyokushuho is quickly dispatched by Shimanoumi, who is now kachi-koshi.
Toyonoshima complained yesterday that he doesn’t know what to do with small opponents. Today Terutsuyoshi seems not to have posed any problems. The Isegahama homunculus seems to have run out of steam. He looks very disappointed at the end of this bout, as he is relegated to the chaser group. I hope he still has it in him to get that extra win and go double-digits.
Tobizaru pushes Ishiura down. Ishiura manages to survive two additional seconds by hanging on to the monkey’s legs, but that’s not a tenable position. Tobizaru kachi-koshi. Ishiura may get there yet. I think we haven’t seen him henka for two or three bouts, so there will probably be one tomorrow.
Chiyonoumi fights bravely, with several nodowa, lots of thrusts, and even a mawashi attempt. However, he repeats a mistake we have seen from his heya-mate, Chiyonokuni, several times in the previous basho – foot out on the Janome, and the bout is over. Chiyonoumi’s make-koshi deepens and the fires of purgatory are already reaching his feet.
Takagenji can’t afford another loss, and attacks aggressively to stave it off. Hakuyozan is overwhelmed by the young angry twin. Still no kachi-koshi.
The loser in the next battle is make-koshi. Two veterans face off. Tokushoryu has Takekaze trapped almost immediately, and the make-koshi goes to Takekaze. Again, he will assess his situation and let us know by Banzuke meeting day, as he has in the past two basho.
For some reason, the Kotoyuki-Mitoryu duel is completely one-sided. Has Mitoryu’s leg issue reasserted itself? Luckily, he is kachi-koshi already. Kotoyuki – double digits! Not much rolling this basho!
Aminishiki also can’t afford a loss. He slaps, he pushes, and Tsurugisho finds himself doing the Kotoyuki roll. Tsurugisho is make-koshi.
Akiseyama turns the bout with Daishoho into a leaning match. Daishoho is Mongolian, and resolves the long stalemate Mongolian-style, with a kick that gives him enough room to maneuver Akiseyama to the edge. Yori-kiri. Daishoho closer to a kachi-koshi, Akiseyama can’t afford another loss.
Kotoeko tries a henka. Kyokutaisei recovers, but can’t quite overcome Kotoeko’s barrage of tsuppari. Kotoeko kachi-koshi. Kyokutaisei has two more chances at his.
Wakatakakage very impressive today. I saw his brother’s bout earlier today (Wakamotoharu-Gagamaru) and despite having a very similar body, their skill level is completely different. Yago must be happy his kachi-koshi is secure already. Wakatakakage has two days to get the win he needs for his own.
Given his low position of attack, I’m surprised that it has taken this long for Ura to fall to a hatakikomi defense but this last couple of days has really exposed this hole in his abilities. Often he takes this stance where his torso is nearly horizontal, arm stretched toward the opponent. *Edit: While he had not lost by hatakikomi in Juryo prior to this tournament, he had lost three times in lower divisions. Twice in makushita and once in sandanme. It’s actually pretty telling that 3 of 4 losses in those lower divisions were hatakikomi (not counting his playoff loss).*
Click on the picture to watch video of today’s match. He actually started off today’s bout with Sadanofuji upright, more-or-less chest to chest. But as soon as he started to lower himself into that horizontal position, Sadanofuji reached out and dropped the hammer on the back of his neck and then wrapped up his arms and pulled him down. This follows on the heels of his hatakikomi loss to Chiyotairyu.
Ura is only 173 cm tall. Sadanofuji, like Osunaarashi, is 189 cm. Chiyotairyu is 182 cm. For tomorrow’s bout, Ura will jump into makuuchi to battle the 179 cm Daieisho. I want to see him take on this (relatively) short opponent ON THE BELT. Yesterday, Satoyama – known by random English-speaking shouting women in Nagoya as “sexy sugar mountain” – effectively demonstrated how a grip on the mawashi should be used when facing taller opponents. He was paired off against the same Sadanofuji who Ura faced today. It’s a brilliant fight that I’d recommend everyone watch. Satoyama brings it in close, chest-to-chest, and then works the legs. By the end, he’s exhausted but to me it shows how a small opponent can use the belt to prevent being pushed down. This brings into play tripping or throwing attacks that guys like Mainoumi use and that I’d like see from Ura.
It’s been a while since I posted about kanji. A great example to mention when it comes to sumo is 山 because it’s used in so many shikona. There’s two basic readings for this kanji, yama and –san. Either way, it means mountain and accurately reflects the girth of guys like Aoiyama (碧山). After some characters the s-sound is changed to a z, like in Tochiozan (栃煌山) and Shohozan (松鳳山). Other makuuchi warriors with related shikona are Satoyama – perhaps with a touch of irony – and Akiseyama (otherwise known as the body of Kim Jong-Un).
Mount Fuji, or Fuji-san, is an important symbol in Japanese culture. Many works of art feature the mountain, the most famous being Hokusai’s “36 Views of Mount Fuji.” I’ve posted a picture of one of them that I have at home, “The Kazusa Province Sea Route” (上総の海路). In this picture, you can just make out Fuji-san on the horizon near the full sail.