2019 Natsu Basho Preview

With the Natsu Banzuke published, it’s officially Basho season again! With less than a week until the return of sumo action, here are some of the biggest stories and most pressing questions on the minds of sumo fans this May!

Keep watching until the end for a sneak peek of a new series coming soon.

Jungyo Newsreel – Day 22

🌐 Location: Ome, Tokyo

Although today’s event takes place in a town that’s part of the greater Tokyo, it seems most Tokyoite fans are actually waiting for the bigger event the next day at Yokohama. So we have another short report for you today – but use the time to buy some popcorn and find a babysitter – because the next installment will be a lengthy one.

First, I want to update the sick list. Unfortunately, Kagayaki came up with a rather late case of the flu, and departed from the Jungyo together with his tsukebito.

OK, so in the hand-shake corner, Tsurugisho decides to simulate a crucifix. Shimanoumi is amused:

There are not many people who can dwarf Mitakeumi, but his tsukebito, Dewanojo, certainly seems to have the knack:

Inside the main hall, Abi gets ready to stretch his fine legs, and Daieisho is doing his shiko, and searches for Takakeisho with his eyes:

Up on the dohyo, Takakeisho has some practice with Onosho:

He had seven of these bouts, won 4-3.

Onosho was then given some butsukari by Kakuryu:

Takayasu took Ichinojo for a spin, and as is usual with him, destroyed the boulder 7-1.

This completed the practice part. Everybody hurries to the shower. Apparently, it’s Takakeisho’s shampoo day:

The photographer who took this then found the special Ozeki-and-Yokozuna-only shower room, and set up camp there in hope of capturing the shin-Ozeki when he goes in and out of the shower.

First Class Shower, economy class passengers not welcome

However, the shin-Ozeki is probably still not used to the idea of Ozeki privilege, or maybe he doesn’t want Hakuho to stare at him in the shower… whatever the reason, he failed to show up, much to the lady’s disappointment.

The only bout I got any record of was this Abi-Onosho one. Onosho seems to be really fascinated with Abi’s shiko – despite having seen it many, many times already:

In that bout, Abi proceeded, as usual during the Jungyo, by attacking Onosho’s mawashi:

Hmm… where did the gyoji go?

Anyway, Abi won this bout.

And yes, that’s my report for today. I couldn’t even find a decent photo of Enho for the pin-up corner. So instead, though I can’t in good conscience call a Yokozuna a “pin-up boy”, I give you a photo of Kakuryu being nice to kids although it’s time for his bout soon:

Jungyo Newsreel – Day 20

🌐 Location: Sano, Tochigi

We have a small event today, with 1800 participants. Let’s start today with the consecration of the dohyo:

If you recall, at the Yasukuni event, the dohyo was consecrated with a full dohyo-matsuri, featuring high ranking gyoji and all that jazz. But since this is a temporary dohyo, it is consecrated by the local organizers. A bit of saké, and off we go.

Who are our home boys of today? Well, there are Dewanojo, Mitakeumi’s tsukebito, and the pretty Toshonishiki, Mitoryu’s tsukebito:

They would make a good shokkiri team

But the real pride and joy of the prefecture are the Taka twins:

Since I rarely write about the twins, this would be a good opportunity to remind you how to tell them apart. Little brother (by half an hour or so) Takagenji, when he smiles, has a gap between his front teeth. Big bully brother Takanofuji (formerly Takayoshitoshi) has a mole over his right lip. And he smiles a lot less than his little brother, probably because he knows that his days as a sekitori are numbered.

The twins were interviewed by the local papers and struggled to come up with memories of the prefecture, which they have left at a very young age – they grew up at Ibaraki. They did mention that their kindergarten teacher came to see them at the venue.

Turns out they are also a bit stung about the fact that their ototo-deshi (member of the same heya who joined more recently) has left them in the dust and made Ozeki. Takagenji says: “What’s important is what your rank is when your mage is shorn”. He has been told in the past that he is a future Yokozuna, and apparently believes he will be at that rank by the time he retires.

Meanwhile, though, Takakeisho is Ozeki, and they are not. Hence, kawaigari!

Takakeisho entertaining the crowd by torturing Takanofuji

Yeah, as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself. We were at the handshake stage, weren’t we? For some reason, it seems like they had the handshakes today in the toilets:

At least, for some reason, the outer corridors of this community hall are lined with sinks.

Takayasu enjoys the sunny day, and uses it for a bit of deep contemplation:

What rank will I be when I retire, I wonder?

Nishikigi wants to change from Clark Kent to Superman… or maybe just get on the dohyo:

We only have one practice video from the NSK, but this one is significant: Kakuryu starts on-dohyo training. We are officially at the last leg of the Jungyo, then.

His chosen opponent – and butsukari victim – is Daieisho.

So we are done with the practice part. It’s time for some shokkiri. Ebisumaru and Shobushi keep refining small points of their routine:

Ebisumaru lets Shobushi do his high kicks alone, and goes around encouraging the audience to clap.

Juryo dohyo-iri. Gagamaru and Sokokurai fool around happily:

Aminishiki seems not to think much of the behavior of these two kiddies.

Arawashi is about a meter ahead of them, busying himself, as always, with being dreamy:

Then they all wait for their turn to wrestle, as the Juryo bouts start with Shonannoumi, who is today’s “filler”:

Filler or not, he beats Daiseido.

And now, where are the aforesaid Gagamaru and Sokokurai?

Ah, right in the middle of the crowd. More specifically, right in the middle of a bunch of primary school kids:

Gagamaru tries to camouflage himself. For some reason «cough»212kg«cough», this doesn’t work all too well.

But the man is sure enjoying himself:

And so do the kids. His tactic works – when he goes on the dohyo, he is accompanied by many little voices calling “Gagamaru! Ganbare!”

Oh, you think this sort of foolish antics is solely the realm of the likes of Gagamaru or Shodai? I give you:

Prince Charming himself! The funny thing is, it looks like the hat actually fits him.

The Juryo bouts end with local boy Takagenji vs. Chiyomaru. Chiyomaru is showing us his prize winning… lunar aspects.

And I swear that Kotoyuki is showing much interest in the full moon that rises on the other side as well.

Ahem… let’s take a look at the three Yokozuna:

Hakuho and Kakuryu do their duty to the local sponsors – and the local mascot, who became a Yokozuna for a day.

On to the Makuuchi bouts, and here is Kagayaki’s shimekomi, sans kagayaki:

Ah, the duties of a tsukebito.

Here is a summary video of today’s event, which includes a few bouts:

Note the “gaijin-cam” there…

Our pin-up boy of the day is the slightly blurry Ryuden:

Jungyo Newsreel – Day 19

🌐 Location: Takasaki, Gunma prefecture

Unlike our previous location, which boasted a local sekitori, a local tsukebito, and a semi-local former Yokozuna’s nephew, Gunma prefecture is really short on famous or high-ranked local boys.

The local organizers gave Hikarifuji and Kayatoiwa their due glory, but their real pride and joy is not regularly a part of the jungyo anymore. He was brought in specifically for this event.

That, of course, is 42 years old Satonofuji, the grand master of the bow, who hails from Gunma prefecture. And while all the other low-ranked rikishi were working on the dohyo, Satonofuji was working with the struggling new performer, Shohoryu, giving him a master class.

This was just one of the various outdoor activities today. The weather was deemed warm enough to have the handshaking sessions outside:

Though the sky looks pretty gray, if you ask me. Not all the rikishi just stand for handshakes. Some famous veterans sit in a separate corners, and fans can go and have a photo taken with them:

But actual practice takes place inside the venue. The first sekitori arrive and pull their taping kits:

Asanoyama, get, set, tape!

Others start stretching:

Some squatting and suri-ashi are in order:

Takarafuji is showing us his his good side.

Wakamotoharu works on his upper body:

But then he and Mitakeumi decide to gang up on poor Enho:

The Yokozuna synchronize:

But then each goes his own way. Kakuryu manages an exercise that doesn’t look ridiculous:

While Hakuho is doing suri-ashi in the hana-michi, and interacts with the spectators:

Near the wall, a group of lower-ranked rikishi prove to us that titty obsession is not just a Tamawashi thing:

What are you doing, guys?

Up on the dohyo, Ichinojo is giving butsukari:

While Terutsuyoshi seems to have… a toothache?

By now, you should know who it is who makes Takakeisho smile this wide:

Takayasu finishes stretching, has a bout with Mitakeumi, and butsukari with Onosho.

Some more practice bouts: Daieisho-Takakeisho, Myogiryu-Ichinojo, Kiribayama-Takanofuji:

Practice over. Lower-ranked rikishi get their hair done and go about their chores:

Some sekitori go out and enjoy the food stalls outside the venue. Namely, Terutsuyoshi, Chiyotairyu and Enho. Enho starts well with some yaki manju:

But seems to pick up something that doesn’t suit his dainty palate:

Or maybe it’s the camera crew that affect his apetite.

Terutsuyoshi and Chiyotairyu enjoy some yakisoba:

With everybody fed and in good order, it’s time for the afternoon part of the day. We begin with a Jonidan bout, because of course we don’t want to miss Satonofuji:

Nice throw. Next up, we have the Juryo dohyo-iri, or as Gagamaru calls it, “cheeky time”:

The cheeks in question being Takanosho’s of course.

Azumaryu and Akiseyama have a less painful way to enjoy the wait:

Next up, the Juryo bouts, and we have Aminishiki vs. Hidenoumi for you:

Nice effort from old Uncle there, but to no avail.

Chiyomaru makes short work of Daiamami:

And we are up in Makuuchi. And the dohyo-iri there is not free of sin, either:

No, no, you have to wait for the Ozeki!

For some reason, Chiyotairyu decides that facing the spectators is just too much for him and turns around in the middle of the dohyo-iri. Abi tries to argue with him.

Takakeisho, by now getting used to all the “shin-ozeki” stuff, receives gifts of local produce – rice, meat, etc.:

The bouts start, and Yoshikaze has a wardrobe malfunction:

Is it me or does Toyonoshima surreptitiously improve his mawashi hold during this matta? Zurui… he won this bout.

Next up, Terutsuyoshi throws his usual bucket load of salt… and seems to hit his own eye:

Typical Terutsuyoshi sumo. Sorry, Yago, maybe next time!

Next up, Ichinojo vs. Endo:

Ichinojo is not sleeping.

Kaisei is pitted with Nishikigi, and doesn’t let the green mawashi man set up any sort of defense:

Last before the san-yaku, Hokutofuji vs. Mitakeumi:

Takakeisho is up next vs. Tamawashi:

No rolling into the crowd today. The last bout whose footage I got is Goeido vs Tochinoshin:

And after Kakuryu beats Takayasu (sorry, no video), comes the part everybody has been waiting for – good old Satonofuji’s yumi-tori shiki. Watch it, then go back to previous reports and compare with Kasugaryu, never mind poor Shohoryu. This is the work of a true master:

Our pin-up of the day is Wakamotoharu. Adieu!

Jungyo Newsreel – Day 18

🌐 Location: Kashiwa, Chiba prefercture

Another lengthy one today. Make some coffee, feed the baby, here we go:

Continue reading

Jungyo Newsreel – Day 16

🌐 Location: Adachi ward, Tokyo

Today’s event is really close to home – at Adachi ward, just north of Sumida, where the majority of sumo stables are located.

And yet, equipment still needs to be delivered and carried into the venue.

That is yobidashi Hiromasa, proving to us that yobidashi is physical work, not just singing and drumming.

Here is Chiyoraizan from Kokonoe beya. Whose baggage is he carrying?

This is Kimura Konosuke’s stuff. Gyoji need their outfits and paraphernalia, too.

The equipment comes from side-opening trucks like this one, which you can see is loaded with sekitori’s akeni:

Akeni are the green-red-black boxes that each sekitori receives upon promotion to Juryo, where he stores stuff like his kesho-mawashi, shimekomi (silk mawashi) and sagari. During transit, akeni are wrapped in plastic or tarp. I always amuse myself by trying to identify as many of the Akeni as I can. If you read kanji, or at least memorize shikona, try that yourself. I’ll give you two hints:

  • The ones wrapped in gray are not rikishi’s, but rather gyoji’s.
  • While the name on the Akeni itself matches the sekitori’s current shikona, they rarely replace the tarp. Thus, there are two akeni in the bottom row labeled “Takayoshitoshi” (now called Takanofuji), and “Oyanagi” (now called Yutakayama).

Good luck!

So let’s go inside the venue and see what everybody is doing. Kakuryu seems to be very tired:

Aw, Yokozuna. Why don’t you find something soft to rest your head against and get some shut-eye?

Um… not exactly what I had in mind. But if it works for you…

This early in the morning, Takakeisho is trying to find an out-of-the-way corner where he can work out properly without being disturbed.

It’s not working.

Nishikigi is working out his already formidable arms:

Wakamotoharu and Ishiura are doing their shiko.

Between the two of them, I’m sure there is not a single evil spirit in the ground anywhere in Adachi.

Ichinojo is working with hand weights:

These arms are made for slap-down
And that’s just what I’ll do
One of these days these arms are gonna hatakikomi you!

Later, after he does some on-dohyo training, Hakuho calls him over and gives him a private lesson. “Insert your right arm deeper!” and the like:

When reporters ask the Yokozuna about this, he says “I felt I wanted to do some teaching this Jungyo. Every day I take one man and guide him”.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I am imagining a baton being passed here.

Here are the three top contenders for “kawaii rikishi of the late Heisei era”:

Daishoho – Meisei – Takanosho

And by now Takakeisho arrives at the dohyo, and greets his beloved Daieisho:

Daieisho, Daieisho, wherefore art thou Daieisho?

The reason these two have been called a “couple” throughout this Jungyo is apparently because they were caught in the shitakubeya sleeping wrapped in one towel. If a photo ever turns up…

Hokutofuji, look behind you!

There is a prowling bear!

The bear, I mean, the Ozeki, started actual on-dohyo practice today:

This included, for example, this practice bout with Tochiozan:

Up on that same dohyo, Mitakeumi is giving butsukari to Wakatakakage:

This apparently gets carried beyond the standard end-of-moshiai-session butsukari and into the realm of kawaigari:

Goeido is doing the same for Takanosho:

This session is definitely kawaigari rather than plain butsukari:

Here are a couple of practice bouts: Gagamaru vs. Takanosho, a short interlude showing Tochinoshin working out, then Meisei vs. Kaisei.

This concludes the practice part of the Jungyo. Time for lunch! And Abi is looking for something nicer than a cold bento:

This looks like a mobile stall offering various types of “don” (a bowl of rice topped with something, like curry, chicken, pork, beef, etc.).

I don’t have much from the second part of the day. But here is Takanosho before his bout, having a smiling conversation with his heya-mate, young yobidashi Hiroshi:

And the important news of the day. Do you know what this photo means?

It means Enho is finally back on the torikumi list, doing sumo!

Unfortunately, it looks like he is being yori-kiried by Daiamami here.

No pin-up photo for you today. Instead, here is a video with some comments by Hakuho and Takakeisho. Hakuho responds to questions about his naturalization process. That is, he is not responding to questions about it:

Hakuho: “Nothing is decided yet. I was surprised this made such a splash in the news. There are many supporters, family, relatives I have yet to inform about this. For the time being, all there is to do is wait for the results”.

He says he wants to “Start Reiwa well, following the good closure of Heisei”. The reporters take it as a wish to win his 43rd yusho in May. Of course, there’s that pesky injury.

Takakeisho says he has all but gotten used to his new Ozeki status, and that he wants to work on the fundamentals, because “An Ozeki needs to have a body”.