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”.

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 21

🌐 Location: Hidaka, Saitama prefecture

We have a short one for you today. The Jungyo is back in Saitama, which means these guys are once again in the spotlight:

Hokutofuji, Daieisho

“Hey, hey, hey, wait a second! What about me?!”

Yes, Abi, you’re a home boy, too. Now stop obscuring the other ones.

Not many visuals from the sidelines today, except Chiyoshoma, quietly doing his shiko in the hanamichi while others are practicing on the dohyo:

The practice on the dohyo includes some attention to Wakamotoharu, who has been very popular with the upper echelon this Jungyo:

Can’t say whether that’s a full fledged kawaigari or just plain butsukari. Meisei is also getting some quasi-Ozeki attention. But in his case, it’s pretty clear that when you look like this from the front:

And like this from the back:

…it’s kawaigari. Tochinoshin is making good use of his last days at Ozeki.

Practice bouts: Shimanoumi-Wakatakakage, Endo-Sadanoumi (with a bit of Yokozuna shiko at the end):

Hokutofuji-Kaisei:

Actually, the more interesting san-ban is taking place away from the dohyo. Kotoshogiku and Toyonoshima are having at it in the corner:

Then again:

And again:

Good stuff!

Enho – we can’t do without Enho in any report – has finished his practice and wants to go get a shower, when all of a sudden, a team of hoodlums gangs up on him:

“Shortstuff, meet Yuki. He is my VP of Beating People To Pulp”

“Now, for some reason it looks like you think I was born yesterday, but I was not.”

“So I can’t get you to see reason? OK, Yuki, you have a go at making him see reason”

Poor pixie… Got in trouble with the Tamawashi-gumi.

I have absolutely nil material from the afternoon part of this event, sorry. All I have is Hokutofuji serenely having his head shampooed.

Rikishi don’t wash their hair every day, and when they do, it’s basically done with car-mechanic-grade grease remover, because the suki-abura used for their hairstyles is pretty much like having a head full of butter.

So I bid you farewell with our pin-up of the day, Tsukahara, from Kasugano beya, who is also a Saitama home boy: