Heyabiraki at Naruto Beya

Today, June 8th 2019, the new Naruto Beya was officially dedicated in an event similar to a house-warming, called a “heyabiraki”.

Although Naruto beya’s new building has already been put to use for the past two basho, this marked its opening in an official way. The event included a dohyo matsuri in the presence of NSK board members Oguruma and Shibatayama, as well as Sadogatake oyakata, master of Kotooshu’s original heya. Following the dohyo matsuri, the sekitori of the Nishonoseki ichimon, to which Naruto beya belongs, led by Ozeki Takayasu, practiced on the newly dedicated dohyo.

Nishonoseki ichimon includes many san-yaku and well-known sekitori

The new heya is located five minutes away from the Tokyo Skytree station on the Tobu Skytree line, at the Mukojima quarter of Sumida. It includes four floors spread over 178㎡ of land. It took two years, and more than ¥300M ($2.8M) from the time Naruto oyakata bought the land for it to be completed. The floor plan is as follows:

  1. Keikoba (practice space) and two baths
  2. Common room, chankoba (kitchen/dining area)
  3. Dormitory, three private rooms for future sekitori
  4. Oyakata and okami-san’s residence
Folding the Natsu banzuke at the dormitory area

Two points were most important to Naruto oyakata in the planning of his new heya. One was its proximity to the Kokugikan (“It’s the center of things. It also has a medical facility”), and the visibility of the practice sessions. The side of the keiko-ba that faces the street has large windows that allow passers-by to see the practicing rikishi. Naruto oyakata is fully aware that this close to the popular Tokyo Skytree, his heya may draw a lot of foreign tourists. Being foreign-born himself, he doesn’t see that as an issue – he wants to expose sumo to the world.

Naruto beya’s daily keiko. The street facing windows (on the right) are actually half covered by wooden blinds.

This is not the only form of visibility in the new keiko-ba. In addition to it having full air conditioning and a water dispenser on hand, two video cameras are installed in it.

Camera and monitor – next to the street-facing window

The cameras allow the oyakata as well as the individual deshi to review their practice sessions and improve their technique.

All this extra visibility may also keep some problem behavior away – at least away from the sacred practice grounds.

When Kotooshu retired and became Naruto oyakata, he stayed at first, as is customary, at his original Sadogatake beya, learning the ropes and doing his blue jacket duties. However, it’s generally expected of an ex-Ozeki to form his own heya if he does not inherit one. And in April 2017 he left the heya with his two uchi-deshi – Oshozan and Honma. Until this new heya was to be completed, he set up camp at a temporary place near Kinshichi station.

He soon added what he hoped would be his foreign talent, Torakio, from his own homeland of Bulgaria, and Sumidagawa, a Sumida local with experience in Judo. These two additions turned out to be less than fortunate, though, as Sumidagawa bullied a minor deshi using Judo choking techniques, unsettling the young heya with scandal.

Torakio was apparently not connected to that scandal, but his progress turned out to be slower than he and the oyakata had hoped, and then, all of a sudden – after the heya has already moved to the new residence – it was announced privately to the koen-kai that he has retired mid-April and returned to Bulgaria in a rush.

Torakio’s privately-held danpatsu-shiki

The heya now has 12 rikishi, 6 of whom are freshmen who made their first steps in Natsu 2019. These, however, include the heya’s first recruits with actual sumo experience: Motobayashi was considered a rival of Takakeisho’s when he was in high-school, but unlike the current Ozeki, chose to continue his education at Kinki university, where he won the West Japan Student Championship yusho. He is probably the heya’s leading sekitori hope. Sakurai is a graduate of Nippon Sports University, and Maruyama graduated from Kaiyo high school.

In addition to the rikishi, the heya has two additional young members – a yobidashi and a gyoji. It also has two hired managers, which is one of the lessons learned from the Sumidagawa incident – more adults were needed on hand, and the oyakata – who did not live in the temporary heya – has to be on-site a greater portion of his time. Hopefully, now that his residence is in the fourth floor, the heya’s character will reflect his good intentions.

Answering questions from the press during the Heyabiraki, Naruto said: “This is the real start. The feeling is different than in the temporary heya. I want all of us, my deshi and I, to lower our eyes and work together without complaints about this and that”. He adds “I want to bring up humans, not just sumo wrestlers”.

“My dream is to bring up a deshi who will surpass me” – this means a yokozuna – “and to have those three private rooms we prepared filled up. But to get there, my first goal has to be getting my deshi into Makushita”.

Decisions in the Naruto beya scandal

A few days ago, we were informed of repeated abuse of a rikishi at Naruto beya. Naruto oyakata may be known to many of you as the former Kotooshu.

The details of the story were as follows: A 20 year old sandanme rikishi was harassing a minor ototo-deshi (more recent member of the heya). At first he hit him with the corner of a smartphone, accusing him of not doing his work properly. After that, over the period between September 2018 and January 2019, he chose to “punish” the victim by applying a choking technique borrowed from Judo on 10 separate occasions. He also ordered another adult rikishi (with the assistance of one other, a minor) to perform that same technique on the victim. This resulted in the victim losing consciousness at least once.

The victim eventually reported this to the heya’s hired manager, who in turn reported it to Naruto oyakata. He immediately reported it to the Compliance Committee, and suspended the perpetrator through Hatsu basho. That committee made its report, and today the NSK board held a special meeting and made decisions based on this report.

The perpetrator is without a doubt Sumidagawa – the only Sandanme rikishi from that heya who was kyujo in Hatsu basho. Although the standard set for violence perpetrated by rikishi Makushita or below is merely a one basho suspension, with possibility for warnings etc. in more serious cases, the committee noted the malicious intent and repeated nature of this case, and instead decided to recommend his intai. Naruto oyakata has already presented the intai documents and they have been accepted. The NSK board approved the decision of the compliance committee in this regard.

The (former) Sumidagawa. His Twitter profile boasts his Judo experience.

The oyakata himself was censured for being absent from the heya and not watching over his deshi properly. He will be docked 10 percent of his salary for the next three months. In response, the heya announced that due to its transient state both the oyakata and the manager have, indeed, been absent from the heya frequently, and that now they intend to hire an additional manager and keep two on a permanent basis.

The rikishi who was commanded by Sumidagawa to choke the victim will be given a warning, and the minor accomplice will receive “guidance”. The victim himself, as well as his guardians (he is a minor so he has either parents or other legal guardians), decided not to involve the police in this issue and leave it to the NSK. He also expressed his wish to continue doing sumo at Naruto beya.

Sources: Nikkan Sports, Sponichi

Update: A more extended report on Nikkan Sports reveals that Sumidagawa did not settle for just choking the victim and making another to do the same, but also took videos and made fun of the victim’s struggle for breath following the strangling. Also, he started extorting money from him on threat of choking him again.

Also, the “absences” mentioned about seem to refer to the fact that he was not living on premises. He has now handed in a plan to the Compliance Committee, whereupon in April the heya will be moved to a permanent location, which will include the residence of the oyakata and the okami-san. He will continue to hand in periodical progress reports as to the implementation of this plan as well as others for preventing the recurrence of violence in his heya.


For those of you who want to speculate as to who the victim, the adult accomplice and the minor accomplice are, here is a list of the Naruto beya rikishi. Note that in heya with no sekitori, hierarchy is determined by seniority. That is, the order in which they joined the heya. I believe it’s unlikely that Sumidagawa would “command” any of his ani-deshi (members who joined before him) to do anything. Also note that the age of majority in Japan is 20.

Shikona/NameHatsu dohyo (join date)Birth date
Oshozan2016.03May 2000
Honma2017.03May 2001
Torakio2017.05December 1996
Sumidagawa2017.07November 1998
Anzai2018.03August 2002
Kawamura2018.05September 2001
Mukaida2018.05November 1998
Oju2018.05February 1996

(The heya also has another minor member – yobidashi Kenta)

Day 6 – It’s not easy being an Ozeki

First, I would have liked to bring you news of Hattorizakura’s first win, but alas, he lost his 70th consecutive bout today. However, this has been one of the best efforts we have seen from the “Inverted Hakuho” so far:

And if you want to see more of Hoshoryu, and how he looks when his rival isn’t Naya, here’s today’s maezumo:

(I have no idea why One And Only calls him Toyoshoryu. Both the yobidashi and the gyoji are pretty clear).

Sumidagawa from Naruto beya is currently the only one in his heya still in zanbara. He is also two losses to one win now:

And alas, Enho is having a worse time than we thought he would have at this level of Makushita:

…and with a rival who can’t seem to be able to bend his knees enough for the tachiai.

enho-has-the-sads
Enho today, doesn’t seem very happy

So, let’s ascend to Makuuchi and check what happened there today.

Just before Asanoyama starts his bout with Ishiura, the announcer wonders aloud “What is Asanoyama going to do about Ishiura’s quick movements?” The answer seems to be “Tsuppari, not let him get inside, and push him out within seconds”.

asanoyama-ishiura
“See there, that’s the tawara. Go to the other side. Thank you.”

If Asanoyama stays 7-0 tomorrow, don’t be surprised to find him matched with Tochinoshin the next day or so.

Nishikigi is not letting go of Makuuchi easily. Daiamami pulls at his nose and attacks, but Nishikigi takes a hold of his right arm and drags him to the edge for a quick kotenage. BTW, the gyoji who announced the torikumi just before the bouts began doesn’t know who Daiamami is, calling him “Oamami” instead (it’s an alternative reading of the same kanji).

Takekaze, on the other hand, seems to be past his swan song. Ryuden gets a grip on him very easily and pushes him out. Oshidashi, and Ryuden now even at 3-3. Takekaze worked very hard pumping iron before the basho – he was the only one in the gym during the New Year’s break – but those muscles are not bringing back his sumo.

Sokokurai is also in dire straits, and may find himself right back in Juryo, with Daieisho pushing him out faster than you can say “ah” (that’s an actual Japanese phrase). Daieisho is, in fact, in the chaser list for the Yusho, with only one loss so far.

Abi gets slapped down in another oshi match with Daishomaru. If Abi could learn yotsu zumo, which is a bit unlikely given his shisho, he may become known as the Yokozuna with the most beautiful dohyo-iri in history. Just sayin’.

Shohozan goes for a slap-fest with Kotoyuki. The latter finds himself rolling down the dohyo. What’s the bowling score for hitting 3 pins, er, spectators?

Kotoyuki may be pissed off because of Shohozan’s harite off the tachiai. In the first days of the basho, nobody was doing that. There was some speculation that this was due to the criticism Hakuho got for this move. Shohozan decided to break the “taboo”, and he is not the last one doing that today.

Chiyomaru vs. Tochiozan. “Ah”… And the Kokonoe man wins.

Chiyonokuni attacks Takarafuji with his trademark barrage of tsuppari. Takarafuji defends and defends, and tries to get an arm inside. He knows why: as soon as his left arm is inside, he pushes Chiyonokuni out like a rag doll. Currently Takarafuji is the only ray of light at Isegahama. 😲

Okinoumi finally looks more like himself against Chiyoshoma. The Kokonoe Mongolian still hasn’t mastered the channeling of Harumafuji as well as he would have liked. He finds himself hugged and with no room for one of his throws, and hurts his ankle in the process. I guess mimicking the Horse means his injuries as well…

Shodai uses an effective tachiai to… Wait, what did I just write? The words “Shodai”, “effective” and “tachiai” are shocked to find themselves together in the same sentence. But so it is. Shodai secures a quick morozashi on Endo and pushes him out. Perhaps his win against Ichinojo was not so much Ichinojo’s fault as I thought it was.

Ikioi seems to be in deep trouble, with only one win to his name so far, with Arawashi converting his attempt at a sukuinage into a beautiful sotogake. Kintamayama says Arawashi has bad knees, and that’s obvious from the mummy-like bandaging, but I suspect Ikioi also has some trouble in that department.

This sums up the low-to-middle maegashira. But the joi bouts is where the excitement is! Let’s move straight on to Tochinoshin vs. Takakeisho. Which style will win, Takakeisho’s in-and-out tsuki-oshi, or Tochinoshin’s “Red Incredible Hulk” mode?

Well, Takakeisho got as far as pushing Tochinoshin to one side and trying to send him out. This got Tochinoshin angry. And this Incredible Hulk (a) turns red rather than green when he’s mad, and (b) wraps the puny meatball of a rikishi in front of him with his long arm and shows him how sumo is supposed to be done. Tochinoshin still riding the zensho train!

Mitakeumi doesn’t even bother with any tsuppari, where Hokutofuji may have an advantage over him. He just applies force as if Hokutofuji was giving him a butsukari. Mitakeumi looks like he seriously wants that next rank, and with two Yokozuna missing again – who knows?

And here comes the second harizashi of the day (“slap and grab”). While the first one was just a slap, not a grab, Ichinojo goes for the full monty. What taboo? I want to win, dammit. Tamawashi barely knows which Mongolian mountain hit him before he hits the bottom of the dohyo with his head. I hope he’s alright.

Goeido meets the Yokozuna bane, Yoshikaze, and finds out that he also keeps a side job as an Ozeki bane. This was over so fast Goeido may still be wondering if the bout took place. The Ozeki finds himself, again, out of the yusho race – unless all four leaders drop two more bouts. My guess is that he’ll just concentrate on not going kadoban from now on.

yoshikaze-goeido
Yoshikaze. After a slow start, now a candidate for the Outsanding Performance Award

Takayasu prepared his usual kachiage for Onosho, but the red mawashi would have none of that. Blocking him with his outstretched arm, he started his own attack, and combined with an unfortunate slip, Takayasu joins Goeido in the “Maybe next time” club.

Maybe this is the time to pause and comment that both Takayasu and Kisenosato suffer from “koshi daka”… “high pelvis”, if you please. Meaning that their stance gets too high and unstable. This is a shame, because stability and balance used to be the Tagonoura brothers’ specialty. The combination of two injured rikishi losing their dohyo sense, followed by them mostly practicing with each other, may be the cause for both men’s troubles. This is why there are still some in the NSK who believe that Kisenosato can redeem himself – by curing that koshi-daka. The problem is less pronounced with Takayasu, of course, who is not permanently damaged, has been off the dohyo a shorter time, and has practiced with more people than did the damaged Yokozuna.

Ah, what, did I leave you hanging in the air? Let’s go to the musubi-no-ichiban. And what a bout that was! Kotoshogiku determined to show he is still Ozeki material, grabs Kakuryu right from the start and starts his gaburi attack. The Yokozuna hurriedly dances hither and tither, on the one hand evading the tawara, and on the other, looking for a grip. When he finally finds one, the two stop, assess the situation, and finally Kotoshogiku attacks again. And then, Kakuryu reverses that attack into his own attack and leads the former Ozeki out. He sure was winded when that ended.

tired-kakuryu
Man, this is tiring work

So the Yokozuna maintains his record. Let’s look at the Yokozuna situation at the moment:

yokozunameter-hatsu-2018-day6

So we have one Yokozuna carrying the basho on his shoulders (unpaid), and two Yokozuna undergoing repairs. And I think neither of them will be putting his main effort into the injury that he submitted on his medical certificate. Hakuho will have to figure out a winning tachiai technique or two. Kisenosato, who actually ran out of injuries and had to report his original one (“aggravated by a hit to the chest”) as the reason for his kyujo, will have to work on that koshidaka. And if that doesn’t work, he’ll have to work on a new hairstyle.

Yusho Arasoi

6-0

  • Yokozuna Kakuryu
  • Sekiwake Mitakeumi
  • M3 Tochinoshin
  • M16 Asanoyama

5-1

  • M9 Shohozan
  • M13 Daieisho

Tomorrow the leader list is going to be down one man, as Kakuryu is to face Tochinoshin. Will kakuryu lose a notch in my meter, or will he prevail against the Incredible Hulk? Don’t miss the next episode of Hatsu 2018!