The Philippines: Next Sumo Powerhouse?


With Takayasu’s ozeki promotion and Mitakeumi looking to slide into his vacated Sekiwake slot, I thought I’d take a look at the Philippines. I almost lived there growing up. My dad was in the US Air Force and we were supposed to be stationed there but somehow ended up in Biloxi, MS instead. I always consider it a missed opportunity. This is not anything near the “Mongolian invasion” we’ve seen in sumo and more approximates the Bulgarian or Georgian mini-booms. But, will their rise to the upper echelons of professional sumo, timed as it is during a surge in domestic popularity, bring more interest in Filipino recruits?

Philippine Satellite Initiated by Japanese University Programs

This satellite mission patch graphically illustrates the commonalities and ties between the Philippines and Japan. On the face of things, the countries have some very interesting similarities. Both are sprawling, earthquake prone, volcanic, island nations sitting off the eastern coast of mainland Asia, of roughly similar population (Japan: #61, Philippines: #72) and size (Japan: #10, Philippines: #13). Basically, the smaller brothers of massive Indonesia (#4 in population; #14 in land area). Their histories are very different, but obviously interconnected at times. Colonized by the Spanish, Japanese, and Americans, the Philippines returned to democratic rule in 1984. Recently, the country has been in the news because of the actions and rhetoric from its controversial President, Rodrigo Duterte.

Because of its fascinating history, The Philippines has it’s own distinct, wonderful culture with flavors from Spanish, Japanese, and American colonizers. For me, culture starts in the kitchen. Traditional Filipino dishes have been noted to be among Takayasu’s favorites. In Japan, nata-de-coco went through its own mini-boom, kind of like the 1980s version of today’s American “cronut” craze.

Nata De Coco

Tonight, I tried nata-de-coco for the first time. It is really good. It’s more firm than gelatin and has an interesting, lavender-like flavor. Supposedly it has a lot of fiber. It’s big in Japan, though not as big as it once was and seems to be rarely eaten on its own. One of the desserts featured here from Denny’s was a great example. They don’t offer it anymore, but you can see it was offered up to 1992. My wife remembers it fondly and bought us a bottle of nata-de-coco from our local Korean grocer.

The quality of “Family Restaurants” in Japan like Denny’s, Skylark and Saizeria, compared to those in the US, will surprise you. I mention this because if you go to Japan, don’t avoid “Western” brands like Denny’s, 7-Eleven, Starbucks, etc., just because you think you know them. You sure would not find many desserts featuring nata-de-coco, or fresh mango back home. And my favorite bit is always the customer service. *Pro tip*: a call button is usually available in restaurants in Japan to summon help, or just yell “sumimasen!” In the US, we have to rely on making eye-contact with a busy waitstaff or our psychic powers to will them from out of their hiding places in the kitchen.

In DC, we have several Philippine restaurants with high reviews. I’d been planning to try one before posting this article but haven’t been able to make it to one since none are close enough to Navy Yard for me try at lunch. Then, on the weekend, I avoid DC like the plague and I’ve not found similarly high-rated examples here in the suburbs. I’m glad that I was able to at least try nata-de-coco before posting this. Keep an eye out for future posts on Philippine cuisine: like adobo, lumpia,

Natsu Day 8 Preview


Sumo’s version of Hump Day is upon us and I like where we stand:

  • Hakuho and Harumafuji, undefeated and vying for the title
  • Takayasu’s Ozeki hopes are not just alive, but thriving
  • Kotoshogiku’s day of reckoning approaches
  • Wakaichiro Progressing; Faces Jonidan veteran, Takaseiryu
  • An exciting slate of bouts!
    1. Yoshikaze vs Takayasu
    2. Hakuho vs Kotoshogiku
    3. Terunofuji vs Mitakeumi

First of all, Takayasu versus Yoshikaze is my bout of the day. I just can’t put into words how excited I am to see these two fighting together with Takayasu not only chasing ozeki rank – but in yusho contention. Yoshikaze was built to be a spoiler; will he throw a wrench into Takayasu’s coronation?

Hakuho and Harumafuji look healthy and are fighting well. Both have been quite dominant and aggressive, with the exception of the one “almost henka” from Harumafuji…I believe against Daieisho on Day 5. I’ve got a few theories about that but no sense risking injury against a guy who should not even be at this level. Harumafuji will face Chiyoshoma for the first time so I’m expecting a quick sidestep/spin to check the box and move on to Day 9.

Hakuho, on the other hand, will face a desperate Kotoshogiku. If Giku loses tomorrow, he will be on the verge of makekoshi, and certain demotion to the maegashira ranks with Japan’s darlings, Kisenosato & Mitakeumi, waiting in the wings. After that, 5 more days of certain humiliation as he fights lowly maegashira for the privilege of staying in the upper ranks. And with Hakuho as dominant as he has been the last few days, as his own sumo has had to evolve, I’m not expecting him to let Giku get a bear hug to even try a hug-and-chug.

If he can keep him at arms length, battering him with slaps, I will be VERY curious to see how the sekiwake will react. As his lower body fails him, he needs more options with the upper body. Does he have it in him to go toe-to-toe in a street brawl? I want to see that so bad. To whom does Sadogatake beya turn if he retires? Kotoyuki’s been fizzling – with Myogiryu, Kaisei, and Tochinoshin – facing newly promoted Yutakayama.

Wakaichiro will face an interesting test tomorrow. Takaseiryu has spent almost four years in this Jonidan division. Never kyujo, just up and down with setbacks in between spurts of steady improvement. Not long ago he was at his highest position in the division, managing a 3-4 record at Jd5. He doesn’t seem to be a big guy if 112kg from the SumoDB is accurate. Is that what’s holding him back? With both rikishi close in size, it is certainly an interesting bout between experience and raw strength.

Takayasu The Crowd Favorite at Spring Jungyo


Bruce and Tom’s point is well taken. There’s a lot more news out there beyond Kisenosato. And spectators of the Spring Jungyo will be happy to know that there’s still plenty of reasons to go out and watch. So, I found an article via @nifty news that covers the Jungyo activities. The headline is a good one for us because it has so many shikona, 5 to be exact: Hakuho, Kisenosato, Goeido, Terunofuji, and Takayasu. My son is in elementary school and each week they get a list of “sight words.” So, I’m going to subject you all to the same standard and start with sanyaku shikona. You need to be able to recognize these names by sight. It will help you root out “Kisenosato-fever” headlines in favor of the other 10 or so guys in sanyaku.
Continue reading

Kyushu Day 5 Preview


harumafuji
First Act Ends As Action Intensifies

At the end of day 5, Kyushu will be ⅓ complete. Andy and I laid out some of the story lines that would be unfolding during Kyushu, and many of them are unfolding in amazing ways. Before we look at the pivotal matches on Thursday, let’s see how things are developing

Endo is clearly in the running for a Sanyaku spot. Short of a complete, Okinoumi style week 2 collapse, he is actually thriving at Maegashira 3. As of Thursday they are pairing him against Yokozuna, as he has already overwhelmed the Ozeki ranks. This is his audition, with week 2 likely to be other Maegashira rank and file sumotori. A kachi-koshi would place him in consideration for the top slot of sumo for the new year basho (which I am going to try to attend)

Takayasu’s Ozeki run is in trouble. But wait, you say – he is on a winning streak with only one loss. Let’s look at the math – firstly, he lost to Goeido. I am still troubled by that match. But to make Ozeki, he needs 13 wins, in part because he lost a few easy matches at the end of Aki. That means he can only lose 2 bouts. One is already lost to Goeido. This means that he has to win everything, beat the other 2 Ozeki (not a tall order, as they are flagging), and only lose to 1 Yokozuna. Unless Harumafuji goes kyujo with that ankle, he faces 3 fairly amped up Yokozuna, all tuned up and ready for battle. That slippi-toshi against Goiedo is probably a deciding factor in his promotion.

Speaking of Goeido – he’s got trouble, because of that really smelly bout with Takayasu, and the one that followed with Yoshikaze. If he wants his rope, he has to overcome the same obstacles. He has to find a way to beat at least Hakuho and Kakuryu. He is certainly capable, but the first act of Kyushu is really to warm up the top talent, and give the lower ranked Makuuchi a chance to shine. If the top talent gets easy / fall-down matches, they are not really ready for the rigors of the closing 10 days. Goeido needs challenges, but his brethren Ozeki are playing wounded, except for Kisenosato.

Terunofuji looks doomed, really. He may get some mercy wins from scheduling, but as Andy has correctly pointed out, he needs medical treatment and recovery. I personally want the really scary good, nobody’s safe Terunofuji back.

Aoiyama has the best 0-4 record in sumo. He has taking a beating from the top ranks, and he gives it everything he’s got. That was especially on display day 4 where he made Harumafuji work, and work more to defeat him. I worry that his massive size is making is joints fail. Clearly the man has talent, but like any arms race, he may have gone too far. (also Kaisei)

Harumafuji is damaged, at least his ankle, maybe his knee as well. If you recall, he was hurt in Nagoya, and that injury limited him during Aki – which opened the door for Goeido. The ankle took damage on his loss day one to Tamawashi during that awkward exit from the dohyo. Depending on how well they can manage his damage, don’t be surprised if he goes kyujo.

Day 5 Notable Matches

Ishiura vs Ichinojo – It’s muscle man vs sumo robot time!

Ikioi vs Takarafuji – This could be mighty fine. Let’s see who wants it more, as both are 3-1

Takayasu vs Tamawashi – Sekiwake vs Komusubi, this could be fun too!

Kotoshogiku vs Yoshikaze – The berserker can’t seem to buy a win right now. This will be an indicator on how degraded Ku is, and how rough the match up with Goeido will be

Goeido vs Aoiyama – Aoiyama is going to give it everything, but right now Goeido is still in super attack mode.

Harumafuji vs Endo – This is probably the highlight match of the day. How hurt is Harumafuji? How ready is Endo? Time to find out!

Kyushu Day 2 Preview


takayasu-goeido

Aspiring Champions Square Off

Day one certainly had some lackluster matches, but with any luck day 2 will provide a thrill. Without a doubt the schedulers at the Japan Sumo Association decided to toe two of the great story threads together early. Aspiring Yokozuna Goedio will face off against aspiring Ozeki Takayasu.

Meanwhile, given rumors of Okinoumi’s injury, we shudder to think about his face off against Yoshikaze, who gives no quarter.

Notable Matches, Day 2

Ichinojo vs Chiyootori – Ichinojo looked very poor on day 1. No strength, no agility, he looked pretty much lost. Chiyootori won fairly convincingly, so it will be interesting to see if Ichinojo was just rusty after 6 months off, or if he really is starting over.

Kotoyuki vs Shohozan – Shohozan has a good start, but Kotoyuki’s day one match was a real grind which he narrowly lost. This one is a toss up, and could be a great contest of strength sumo

Yoshikaze vs Okinoumi – Yoshikaze is back in good condition, and his day 1 bout was not a slap and push fest, but was rather a strength duel. Okinoumi is rumored to be very hurt, and if true this could be really painful to watch.

Goeido vs Takayasu – In my mind, this is the match of the day. Two rikishi who are pushing forward on a path to promotion, each one needing a win to secure their advance. They meet day two, and only one will be a winner. Goeido fought day one in the same style as his Aki “total offense” style. With Takayasu being a “war of attrition” rikishi, I give an advantage to Goeido

Kotoshogiku vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi lost to a resurgent Kakuryu on day one, but did a fairly good job against the grand champion. Now he faces an Ozeki with one approach to any match, but he is the master of the hug-n-chug. I am really keen to see if Mitakeumi can foil Kotoshogiku’s offense

Tamawashi vs Kisenosato – Tamawashi dispatched Harumafuji with little difficulty on day one. Now he faces mass and strength rather and guile and speed. Tamawashi os destined for greatness, he will present well against Kisenosato day 2.

Hakuho vs Aoiyama – Hakuho won on the first day, but did not look to be completely engaged. Winning here would give him 999 wins, which will be a magnificent and well earned achievement. In contrast, Aoiyama looked completely out of his element on the first day. With any luck he will warm up and give the Yokozuna a proper challenge.

Tochiozan vs Kakuryu – Kakuryu looked strong day 1, dispatching Mitakeumi. Now it’s time for Tochiozan. While he is a favorite of mine, he is competing in a very tough group during Kyushu. I expect Kakuryu to win day 2.

Kyushu Storyline #7 – Takayasu’s Drive For Ozeki


takayasu-profile

Kisenosato’s Protege Trains For Victory

Second only to Goeido’s push to challenge for Yokozuna is Takayasu’s drive to sumo’s second highest rank – Ozeki. For several tournaments, the Tsuchiura native has been a steadfast of the sanyaku, continuing to score winning records in sumo’s toughest ranks.

His performance during the Aki basho was nothing short of spectacular, including some of the more thrilling bouts of the tournament. Highlights include his day 11 match against Harumafuji, where he went blow for blow with the Yokozuna, and in his typical style, waited for Harumafuji to make a mistake and exploited it. Did we see a look of congratulatory respect at the end of that match?

But there was also a marathon match against Okinoumi on day 10, and then what I think was his best example of Aki, his day 9 match with Terunofuji. Here, Takayasu battles back from an almost impossible hold, re-establishes his grip, and forces Terunofuji out.

So, given that, you could think Takayasu is the end-all, be-all up and coming rikishi, but he finished Aki with 3 losses to rank-and-file Maegashira.

takayasu-training

So if you are Takayasu, and you are very credibly on a push for Ozeki, what do you do? TRAIN. You train hard, you train daily. Takayasu is a member of the Tagonoura Beya, that means he trains with Kisenosato. In fact it seems that Kisenosato has made Takayasu’s promotion somewhat of a project. While Kisenosato spectacularly discarded a Yokozuna drive, he is a high skill force of sumo, and daily bouts have honed Takayasu’s sumo.

A week prior the Kyushu, Takayasu expressed some concern that he had gained additional weight during the fall Jungyo tour, and declared an “weight loss emergency”.  We note with some interest the emerging trend among the sumotori to back away from ever increasing mass.

The Ozeki title is within reach for Takayasu, his goal is 12 wins in Kyushu, which will be quite an accomplishment with Hakuho back in the rotation, Goeido looking (perhaps) even sharper than he did in Tokyo, and Terunofuji fighting to keep his rank.

Reports from pre-tournament inter-beya practice sessions describe Takayasu as struggling, losing against the current Ozeki repeatedly.

Tachiai wishes him the best of fortune in his matches.

Zensho Goeido *updated*


As Bruce reported yesterday, Goeido won his first yusho. Bruce also has a great rundown today. Goeido managed it in spectacular fashion, going undefeated over the 15 days. This is obviously the biggest headline coming out of the Fall Tournament but there are many other key storylines:

  • Tokitenku intai – I’m very sad to see Tokitenku officially call it a career. The former Komusubi has not competed in the past year since his diagnosis with lymphoma.
  • Endo resurgence – Endo picked up a jun-yusho and the technique special prize with his 13 wins
  • Whispers of Ozeki Takayasu – Fighting Spirit special prize and 10 wins at sekiwake gives him a good first step. We need two more great tournaments!
  • WTF, Okinoumi? – One of the most spectacular runs ever, followed by a week of mediocrity
  • Terunofuji kadoban – I hope he heals quickly because another basho with a kadoban ozeki magically retaining his rank does harm to the sport.
  • Injuries – Will Hakuho and Osunaarashi be able to recover in time for November?

A Konishiki-sized “Thank You” to Bruce for his great reporting; I’m really looking forward to November! It’s always much more fun when I know there are others out there, like me, who enjoy professional King of the Hill.

If any of you all are in the DC area, maybe we can get a Happy Hour going?