Today, Takanoiwa’s danpatsu-shiki, the ceremonial cutting of the top-knot, took place on the dohyo at the Ryogoku Kokugikan. Sumo fans who did not read about the reconciliation between Harumafuji and Takanoiwa, may have been surprised to see this:
And even those who knew about the reconciliation, may have been surprised at another consequence of it:
And, perhaps less surprisingly, Kakuryu was there as well:
Indeed, it seemed every Mongolian sekitori showed up: Tamawashi, Arawashi, Chiyoshoma and, of course, Ichinojo, all snipped a strand of hair, as did members of Takanoiwa’s own heya:
As has been speculated, Takanoiwa’s original stablemaster, Takanohana, absented himself from this ceremony, and chose, instead, to show up for an assembly of his support group in Nagoya. Comedian Kunihiro Matsumura, known, among others, for his impressions of the former Takanohana, filled in:
About 370 people participated. This may seem a small number for the 12,000 seat Kokugikan, but it should be noted that the tickets sold for this event all included both the ceremony itself and the party that followed it, so the limiting number was the capacity of the banquet hall, not the Kokugikan itself – and the tickets sold out. The other day I reported that only 90 tickets were sold – but in fact, whatever was allotted was sold. Here is a summary of the ceremony:
A quick shave-and-a-hair-cut, and I give you Takanoiwa in his new form:
The party after the ceremony included a Mongolian band:
As well as karaoko! Here is the man of the hour:
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t give you Chiganoura oyakata’s karaoke, because he is one of the best singers in the Sumo world.
And so, it appears that the reconciliation indeed helped the ceremony become a respectable, well-attended occasion.
But it may have done more than bring Hakuho to softly lay his hands on Takanoiwa’s shoulders.
Meet Takanoiwa’s nephew, Sukhbat
In March 2018, Takanoiwa’s nephew, Sukhbat, son of his second eldest brother (Takanoiwa is the youngest of five siblings) was looking for a heya.
Sukhbat was 19 at the time, graduating at the same time as the famous Naya, and from the same school, Saitama Sakae, which has a very strong sumo program. This is the same school Takakeisho graduated from.
This was before Haru 2018. The boy was practicing with his uncle at Takanohana beya’s Osaka facility, but of course could not join that heya, as Takanoiwa himself occupied the foreigner slot. So he was looking for a heya that was willing to take someone who finished third in the inter-high sumo tournament, in time for the new recruits exams of the haru basho… but there were no takers.
This was in the middle of the Harumafuji scandal. Haru 2018 was the first basho Takanoiwa was to attend after the “incident”. And heya were distancing themselves from the matter, apparently.
But he didn’t find one in Natsu, and in Nagoya, and in Aki… you get the drift. With his uncle’s own retirement, it seemed that the world of sumo was willing to give out on this supposedly talented wrestler.
And then we had the reconciliation. Then suddenly…
Sukhbat is going to join Onoe beya. He will probably undergo the new recruit examination in Haru, but will only be able to do his mae-zumo in Natsu, as is usual for foreign recruits.
So, of course, temporal succession does not necessarily imply causation. But with foreigner slots being a limited resource, and the Japanese natural suspicion of anything foreign, it makes sense that any foreigner wanting to join the world of sumo would need an intercessor or sponsor to speak for him. Apparently the well-oiled Mongolian recruiting machine was not working for Sukhbat until just recently. He is now 20 years old. Let’s hope he has kept himself in shape!
Takanoiwa and Harumafuji reconcile. Harumafuji to attend Takanoiwa’s danpatsu-shiki.
On the evening of January 17th, shortly after the Day 5 action of the Hatsu basho has ended, two men arrived separately at a fancy Japanese restaurant in Akasaka, Tokyo. The two, known to us as former Yokozuna Harumafuji and former Maegashira Takanoiwa, were there to bury the hatchet. They enjoyed good food and discussed the future.
The meeting was a success. Following dinner, the former Yokozuna entered a black luxury car, and was soon followed by his fellow Mongolian, and the two were driven to Ginza, where they spent the rest of the evening having drinks together.
The news outlets reporting this meeting added that Harumafuji is to attend Takanoiwa’s danpatsu-shiki (ceremonial cutting of his top-knot) which will be held on February 2nd. The following day this has been confirmed by Chiganoura oyakata, who is in charge of Takanoiwa’s former heya, and is holding the ceremony for him. (Danpatsu-shiki are not given by the NSK, but rather by the individual heya, usually paid for by the heya’s koen-kai).
This finally puts the Harumafuji saga to rest.
A sad saga
The story began, as our readers may recall, on the night of October 25th, 2017, the night before the Aki Jungyo event at Tottori city. You can find the full details of the fateful after-party in previous posts. Harumafuji, annoyed with Takanoiwa for checking his phone while Hakuho was speaking to him, proceeded to beat him with bare hands and karaoke remote control, lacerating his skull to the degree that it required stapling. The whole affair would probably have gone under the radar, if word of it did not somehow get to the ears of Takanohana oyakata, Takanoiwa’s stablemaster, and at the time, the head of the Jungyo department.
The news broke out on the third day of the following Kyushu basho. Harumafuji went kyujo, and at the end of that tournament, took responsibility and retired. But what should have ended pretty much like the Asashoryu saga: a retirement, a settlement out-of-court, and that’s it, developed into a holy war between Takanohana and the NSK.
In particular, Takanohana refused to allow Harumafuji to settle this matter with Takanoiwa. In the absence of an out-of-court settlement, Harumafuji faced a summary indictment and paid a fine. Furthermore, Takanoiwa was prevented from showing up to Jungyo events and honbasho for quite a while following the incident, ending up at the bottom of Juryo. After making his first appearance in honbasho eventually (Haru 2018), he was once again absent from Jungyo, handing in a doctor’s certificate for PTSD – which apparently healed in time for the next honbasho (Natsu 2018).
A civil suit
How did an injury whose original medical certificate was for less than two weeks of rest, and which should not have prevented Takanoiwa from participating in any honbasho following the incident, develop into several months of absences, it’s hard to say for certain. My guess was that a big lawsuit was in the works.
But that civil suit took its time in materializing. In the meantime, Takanohana was demoted to the bottom rung of the NSK ranks. He filed a complaint about the NSK for that with the Government Office (the NSK is a tax-exempt organization and as such its governance is subject to government scrutiny). But when his young deshi, Takayoshitoshi (now Takanofuji), unwisely decided to beat up his tsukebito right in front of dozens of people in the shitaku-beya during the Haru 2018 tournament, Takanohana was forced to pull that complaint, to allow his deshi to keep his career.
Then one day at the end of September 2018, right after the end of the Aki basho, Takanohana announced that he is resigning the NSK, saying that he was “being forced to declare that the complaint to the government was unjustified, which he does not believe it was”. This was yet another media circus, which ended in the Takanohana beya being closed up, all its deshi being transferred to the care of a very surprised Chiganoura oyakata, and Takanohana leaving the NSK, getting a divorce and putting what was both his home and his heya out on the real-estate market. However, he did not let go of the Takanoiwa saga.
On October 3rd, 2018, Takanoiwa filed a civil suit against Harumafuji. That civil suit included all those lengthy medical expenses, damages, loss of income, etc., for the long absences I have mentioned above, to the tune of nearly ¥25,000,000. His new oyakata, Chiganoura, was not aware of this. The law firm behind the suit was the same law firm Takanohana (now back to his family name of Hanada) was using for his own affairs.
The lawyers on the Harumafuji side reacted with indignation, calling this an extortionist sum and declaring that they will fight it in court, as it was way above and beyond the real damages accrued by their client.
Once again, attempts at settlement out of court were blocked.
Public Shaming In Mongolia
It seems that Takanohana and his lawyers failed to predict all the consequences of that civil action. Back in Mongolia, people were outraged. Harumafuji is held in much respect by many in Mongolia, due to his philanthropic activities there. In particular, he recently established a school in Ulan-Baatar which is supposed to give young Mongolians a Japanese-style education. He invested about $12,000,000 in the establishment of that school of his own money, and also raised donations from others. His fans in his home land took a dim view of Takanoiwa’s “preposterous” law suit, and some of them started publicly shaming and physically harassing Takanoiwa’s family. It should be noted that neither of Takanoiwa’s parents is alive, and his family consists of siblings and their own families. They called him often to express their distress, and he couldn’t bear it any longer.
On October 30th, Takanoiwa announced that he will be pulling the suit. “I will pay for my own medical expenses… I want the harassment of my family to stop”, he said.
The reaction from the Harumafuji side was that it was “unthinkable that Mongolian Society would act in such a deplorable way towards the victim side”. While a bit cryptic, the reaction from the Takanohana side was much more dramatic. According to Takanoiwa’s koen-kai, the former oyakata immediately severed ties with his former deshi.
The next day, Harumafuji’s lawyers hinted that they think “perhaps Takanoiwa’s legal representatives were obstructing negotiations and misrepresenting their own offers”, and suggested that direct talks should take place between the sides.
The victim turns aggressor
Whether or not such direct talks indeed started at this point, we will probably never know. But we do know that shortly afterwards, during the 2018 Fuyu Jungyo, Takanoiwa, angry with his assigned tsukebito, Takataisho, for forgetting his purse in the previous Jungyo location, beat him up. When the attending oyakata found out, Takanoiwa was sent off to Tokyo, questioned together with his new oyakata, and sent off to await judgement at his heya. This was all too much for the victim-turned-aggressor, and he decided to leave the world of Sumo.
No red carpets were waiting for him out the door. The RIZIN pro-wrestling association, following the embarrassing Osunaarashi second scandal, announced that it wasn’t a dumping ground for sumo criminals (or something more polite but to the same effect). There was no invitation waiting for him there. Without education, without a civil profession, with burnt bridges in his home land, and now also without the support of his former oyakata (who made a public announcement that he will not allow Takanoiwa within his presence before he does 10 years of penitence), Takanoiwa was in a serious pinch.
A lonely danpatsu-shiki
His recent oyakata, Chiganoura, was acting very decently – appearing by his side in his news conference and bowing in apology together, appealing to the Chiganoura koen-kai to be kind to his short-time deshi in his new life, and arranging for that danpatsu-shiki at the Ryogoku Kokugikan to give him a respectable farewell. Chiganoura also invited Takanohana, as Takanoiwa’s former stablemaster. However, no indication was given that Takanohana was going to accept the invitation, and given the above, the likelihood that this would happen was very low indeed.
This ceremony, unlike Harumafuji’s (and the one planned for Kisenosato next September) is not going to include hana-zumo (a day of sumo, jinku, shokkiri etc). Hana-zumo requires the cooperation of the rikishi-kai, and is an expensive affair. It includes only the ceremony itself and an after-party. At the moment, only 90 tickets have been sold.
With Takanohana not attending, and an ongoing feud with the Harumafuji camp in the Mongolian community, news outlets were speculating that the event would turn out to be not just low-key, but a rather lonely affair.
So perhaps it is Takanohana absenting himself from the scene. Perhaps it was the prospect of a lonely farewell ceremony. And perhaps the reason was the new state of unemployment Takanoiwa found himself in. Whatever the reason, the overtures from Harumafuji’s side, long rejected, found an ear this time, and the two sides finally found a way to put one of the saddest, ugliest affairs in the world of Sumo in recent years to rest, and smoke the pipe of peace.
And the danpatsu-shiki? Harumafuji will attend it. Gossip columns tell us that Takanohana’s ex-wife, Takanoiwa’s former Okami-san, Keiko Kono, will also attend it. Whether ticket sales will increase as a result, and whether Harumafuji’s attendance will draw in more of the Mongolian community, we will learn in a few days.
The Jungyo continues its trail through Fukuoka. The rikishi start practicing around the venue. We have Ryuden pumping iron:
Or in this case, pumping Shobushi. The tweet, by the way, says “Oh, I want to be hugged by Ryuden princess-style!” – carrying a person in this position is called “Ohime-sama dakko” – “Princess-style hug”. Shobushi is the princess in this case.
On the first day, Terutsuyoshi was a good boy and didn’t touch Enho at all! But it seems that the phase of the moon changed, the monster is out and about:
Eventually, of course, Terutsuyoshi does end up with at least one hand on his favorite pixie:
Enho doesn’t seem to mind it too much, though. By the way, I was surprised to realize that Takarafuji is taller than Chiyoshoma. Proportions can be misleading. Of course, both look like giants next to the pixie pair.
Rikishi come to greet Asakayama oyakata (the oyakata formerly known as Kaio). He seems to have a little rule: You want to talk to me? Talk to that salt bag first!
Terutsuyoshi as all like “Are you kidding me? All I want is to say my greeting!”. Nevertheless…
Pump that salt! Mission accomplished, Terutsuyoshi can have a few words with the former Ozeki, and make his bow. All the while, Enho is waiting for his turn.
That is to say, he’s pumping that bag as well.
Many photos and videos we share with you actually come from the NSK’s social media. They get ther via the lovely NSK social media ladies:
Bearing in mind that these PR people are, indeed, ladies, there is no wonder we end up with the following Yokozuna practice video:
I’m sure videos like this increase the sales of hand fans at the concession stands at least threefold – even though it’s mid-winter.
Speaking of the Yokozuna, he and Takayasu were comparing their tegata print skills:
While the Yokozuna wins in the speed and quantity categories, Takayasu totally nails the cool category by getting retweeted by…
And Ms. Rowling wins by having Takayasu retweeting her, of course!
The participants in the Jungyo are the sekitori and their tsukebito. Now, the on-going scandals may make you think that being a tsukebito sucks rocks. The truth is, though, that it all depends on the master you serve. Some are abusive. Aminishiki was asked today (Dec. 7) about the Takanoiwa scandal, and said, among other things: “Your tsukebito is not your plaything. In exchange for helping you with the daily necessities of your career, you are supposed to guide and sort of ‘raise’ him”. Apparently, Aminishiki is not the only one in Isegahama who believes sekitori owe their tsukebito some coaching:
Takarafuji’s tsukebito is Sakurafuji. And Takarafuji gives him both some general tips:
…and actual hands-on practice:
Meanwhile, on the dohyo, there’s some butsukari taking place between moshi-ai sessions:
Here is some Juryo moshi-ai:
Interesting to note that they have a short shikiri between the bouts. They don’t just go down and tachiai. So here is some Makuuchi moshi-ai:
Practice time over, the Yokozuna leaves the building, but doesn’t forget his fansa:
Before we turn to the dohyo-iri, let’s take a look at one of the back rooms. Apparently, the rikishi have changed their favorite game this Jungyo.
In the previous Jungyo, it was “Nip the Nipple”. This Jungyo they have switch to the less-painful “Wiggle the Wattle”.
And Kyonosato does have a considerable wattle.
And this leads us right to the dohyo-iri, where Onosho decides to play “Wiggle the Wattle” with Chiyomaru:
Dohyo-iri over, and the Yokozuna is also done with his.
I dunno. Takarafuji looks completely out of place in that scene.
It’s bout time. I don’t have many bouts, but I do have this:
Apparently, in Jungyo, Kotoshogiku still entertains the spectators with his back bend.
Shohozan, at this point sitting beside the dohyo as his turn is two bouts later, is apparently impressed, because…
…he totally steals the move.
The only bout of which I have footage is… guess… Enho! He is facing Chiyonoumi.
And Enho does his famous… tsuppari? Tsuppari? Enho?
Well, the Jungyo is the right place to try new stuff, I guess. But Chiyonoumi is all like “Thanks for the gift, man. You do know that tsuki-oshi is my specialty, right?” – and unceremoniously tosses the pixie off the dohyo.
Practice makes perfect, though, Enho.
Time for our pin-up rikishi of the day. And by special request…
Um, nope. I’m not going to close a post with Akiseyama. Un-uh.
Yes, we’re back with the series of Jungyo Newsreels that will try to keep your blood sumo levels above the emergency threshold until a new tournament is in site.
As a reminder – the Jungyo is a promotional tour in which the sekitori (Juryo and Makuuchi) participate. Each takes one tsukebito (manservant, a wrestler ranked between Jonidan and Makushita), except Yokozuna and Ozeki who get to have a “team”. Together with a bunch of shimpan, gyoji and yobidashi, and of course the big heads from the Jungyo department, they travel through small towns around Japan, performing from morning through the afternoon, and letting the locals get a bit of live sumo and sumo-related fun. For a fuller description, refer to the Introduction To The Jungyo I published a while back.
The winter Jungyo is supposed to be the shortest Jungyo of the year. However, with the rising popularity of sumo, it’s not that short any more. The 2013 Fuyu Jungyo included only six events. The 2018 Fuyu Jungyo includes 17 events spread over 21 days! In fact, there were more Jungyo days in 2018 than honbasho days!
So without further ado, let’s see what we had on day 1.
Nagasaki is a popular tourist destination in Japan. So some members of the entourage took time to explore. While Hakuho had a little excursion to the lighthouse to have some Champon (a Nagasaki noodle dish), Kokonoe oyakata decided to visit the famous Spectacles Bridge:
One rikishi was on the tour, who was neither sekitori nor tsukebito. Tachiai favorite Wakaichiro had a one-day adventure. The reason for this is that he is registered as coming from Nagasaki. His mother is from Nagasaki, and his grandparents came to this day’s event to watch him. As you all know, he actually grew up in Texas. He mostly spent summer vacations in Nagasaki. This being his first Jungyo, he had a bit of trouble getting the hang of things (remember, there are no sekitori in Musashigawa). The press was mostly amused that he decided a good place to camp in the shitaku-beya would be right between Takayasu and Tochinoshin. (Well, yeah, it is a good place!)
As a “local boy”, he received some kawaigari (TLC – the euphemism for butsukari, especially when used as a torture session) from Jokoryu. This was the effect:
Wakaichiro was not the only novice in the Jungyo – though the others have the advantage of traveling with familiar faces and being used to the company of sekitori. One new face in the Jungyo is Midorifuji, who is serving as Terutsuyoshi’s tsukebito (I’m getting worried about Terunohana, Terutsuyoshi’s long-time tsukebito, who has been kyujo for quite some time). Midorifuji is considered one of the most promising current talents at Isegahama beya, and I think they decided to send him on the Jungyo to get some “sekitori experience”. Here he is with Terutsuyoshi and Aminishiki’s tsukebito, Terumichi:
Another new face in the Jungyo is Wakamotoharu (though he had been on at least one event in the past). He is there as his little brother’s tsukebito – the little brother being Wakatakakage, of course.
The shimpan squad has also been refreshed. In the previous Jungyo we saw Futagoyama, Tomozuna and Furiwake. This tour we have Asakayama, Hanaregoma and, of course, Kokonoe.
And what are the rikishi up to? Well, it’s early morning, so Ichinojo demonstrates his ability to squat while sound asleep:
Then there are these inseparable two. Surprisingly, Terutsuyoshi is rather hands-off today:
But of course, most of the attention goes to one participant: Hakuho, back from his post-operative kyujo, and trying to regain some fitness. Here he is doing some shiko:
Mmmm… Hakuho said he can stomp with power now, but this seems to be very tentative shiko.
By the way, the Yokozuna also changed his seating arrangements in the Jungyo bus. Apparently, one of the reason his leg got worse in the previous Jungyo was sitting with cramped, bent knees for hours on end, while traveling. He used to sit in the front seat of the bus, but decided to change to the back seat, to allow himself to fully stretch his legs. I suppose that means he took the entire back bench to himself and stretches himself on it – he did mention something about getting some sleep. Maybe he should borrow one of Yoshikaze’s folding mattresses…
By the way, I did not mention this before, but there are several rikishi who are kyujo from this Jungyo – at least for the time being. Kakuryu, Kisenosato, Goeido, Kaisei and Arawashi from Makuuchi, and Kyokushuho, Kyokutaisei and Chiyonoo from Juryo. All Tomozuna sekitori are absent! Yoshikaze was also off the torikumi, but he is definitely in the Jungyo.
This also means that Hakuho is left with only one Makuuchi rikishi from his own ichimon for the dohyo-iri. Indeed, his tsuyuharai is Chiyoshoma:
The shiko here is stronger, of course.
Chiyoshoma looks a bit uncomfortable about the whole thing. I predict that for the Meiji-Jingue dohyo iri of January 2019, we’ll see Terutsuyoshi as his tsuyuharai (this will be after the new banzuke is announced so Terutsuyoshi is expected to be in Makuuchi).
Let’s take a look at some practice bouts. First, Hakuyozan vs. Takagenji.
Then, Meisei and Aoiyama:
Aoiyama seems to be getting more and more confident lately. Here he is vs. the Yusho winner (that’s Takakeisho, if you have been on another planet last month).
Takayasu is saying he wants to work towards his first yusho, but he won’t get there if his keiko looks like this:
That’s Tochiozan – not exactly a semitrailer.
Here is todays full Sumo Jinku. Yes, that’s 15 minutes of Jinku. You are allowed to press stop only if you understand everything they say. 😛
The members of the Jinku team this Jungyo are:
It’s easy to recognize Mutsukaze by his prominent mutton chops. If you can’t recognize the others, here’s a little challenge: try to guess who is who by the kesho-mawashi they wear. It’s supposed to be borrowed from a sekitori in their heya (OK, so that won’t help you with the two Sadogatake guys…).
Going into the competition part of the event, the lower divisions each had its own elimination-format tournament, while the upper divisions had the traditional format torikumi. I’m sorry to say that Wakaichiro dropped in the first round of the Jonidan tournament. The winners got prizes – which is not an everyday occurrence for lower-division wrestlers.
Jonidan winner, Imafuku, won a bag of rice. At least, that’s what it looks like.
Sandanme winner, Wakanofuji, won a big bottle of saké.
Makushita winner, Obamaumi, won a… picture of rice crackers? Hey… It sucks to be in Makushita!
OK, so if you’re wondering about those two Goofometer points above, here is what was afoot between Juryo bouts:
Hidenoumi decides to tickle Terutsuyoshi with his sagari. Terutsuyoshi, in response, goes all “Oh yeah, baby, ooh, that’s good, give it to me, baby”.
Hidenoumi has an expression like “God, man, aren’t you enjoying this just a little bit too much?”, or maybe “Whoa… do I really want this guy hanging around anywhere near my little brother?”
Not that his little brother is any better…
OK, OK, so we have a few bouts to see! Here are the “Kore-yori-san-yaku”. Well, two of them. By the way, there was a slip in the torikumi program. They had Hakuho doing the musubi with Takayasu. Hakuho is not really dohyo-ready in any way, shape or form. So eventually Asanoyama was placed at the bottom of san-yaku for a second bout, and everybody else was shifted one space up, sort of.
And once again Takakeisho needs a mawashi adjustment right before the bout.
Asanoyama, of course, is no match for the mighty tadpole – who gets some kensho.
The Mitakeumi/Ichinojo bout is rather comical. I’m not sure Ichinojo actually intended to belly-bump Mitakeumi. That’s a funny tsukiotoshi.
OK, so who shall we put up as our pin-up boy this time? Maybe Terutsuyoshi?
Hey, what’s with the sour face? We know you are quite capable of a big smile. Especially if you’re looking at Enho. Anyway, that photo looks a bit like a Soviet propaganda poster, doesn’t it?
So maybe just revert to Enho:
Now we can all have a big smile! This commercial for “Macho” proteins brought to you by Ishiura, by the way.