Fuyu Jungyo 2018 – Day 9 (Dec 10)

Wear your sunglasses and prepare your insulin shots – we have a lot of kawaii today!

Shodai, Shodai, Shodai, Ryuko

🌐 Location: Uto, Kumamoto
😛 Goofometer: ◾️◾️◾️◽️◽️

We complete our journey through Kumamoto in Uto, home to two active rikishi. One is Ryuko, a Makushita wrestler who did well this basho and will be in the race for sekitori status in the next basho:

Narutaki, Asakura, Ryuko

Um, Narutaki. What are you doing? I thought we were done with this stuff last jungyo. Anyway, you’re drawing attention away from the local boy!

So, in yesterday’s post’s comments, I was asked whether these tsukebito actually get any practice. Well, yes they do:

Midorifuji tsupparis, Daieisho and Akiseyama look on

The practice session is more or less the same as that of the sekitori, only held earlier. It consists mostly of moshi-ai sessions, punctuated by quick butsukari for the participants. At the later stages, that butsukari is offered by sekitori:

Not that Enho is much of a pushing challenge. In Midorifuji’s case, it seems he got his butsukari from Tamawashi. At least, the mud on his back says he got rolled.

That’s a bit more of a challenge, and apparently Tamawashi makes sure that he didn’t hurt the micro-rikishi.

While the low-ranking wrestlers have their time on the dohyo, the sekitori are either outside in the corridors doing handshakes, or finding themselves quiet spots for some exercise. Meisei, who is out doing handshake, is so cold, he starts laughing uncontrollably:

Ishiura is all like “Who put me next to Crazy here”?

Which may be the reason why later Meisei had to settle for an isolated spot between a stroller and some derelict equipment:

Don’t worry, he didn’t stay alone for long:

A bit earlier, near the dohyo, just as yesterday, the Kokonoe guys do their morning workouts in front of their oyakata. This includes not just the sekitori but also Chiyosakae, who does this:

This seems to embarrass Kokonoe oyakata, whose voice you can hear in the background “take it seriously, will you?”. He also assures us in the tweet that Chiyosakae actually does take it seriously.

Around that same time, Akiseyama arrives at the dohyo and greets Kasugano, the Jungyo master.

I have a feeling Kasugano wishes he didn’t.

In some corner of the venue, Toyonoshima works out with a piece of rubber, assisted by his loyal Miyazaki:

The Juryo men start their own practice on the dohyo. Here is some butsukari between Chiyonoumi and Hakuyozan:

Jokoryu gets to have Ikioi’s chest:

And Enho… well, Enho is everywhere and practices with everybody. That is, anybody who can possibly find an excuse to lay his hands on the pixie:

Even the Yokozuna smiles when his little uchi-deshi greets him with a respectful ladle of water:

You’d think that Enho is the star of the show rather than Shodai. But actually, Shodai got a lot of attention. Some keiko with Asanoyama:

And some with Tochinoshin:

To which Tochinoshin also adds a hearty Kawaigari:

Whoa, I thought military-grade guns were forbidden in Japan!

Practice part over, everybody gets cleaned, have their oicho-mage started, and have lunch. There are food stalls outside, and… it’s the perfect oportunity to grab Enho and ask him for a pic:

Hey, is that a way to start a conversation with a sekitori? Is there a single rikishi in the whole sumo world who doesn’t think the Japanese National Sport is actually “grab the pixie”?

As practice mawashi dry in the sun…

Remember, these things are never washed…

Inside the venue it still seems pretty cold. Take a look at Terutsuyoshi, all bundled into his… is that a kimono or a Mongolian Deel?

Sure looks like a Deel to me, but Terutsuyoshi is not Mongolian.

Nishikigi, on the other hand, gets warm by pestering his tsukebito:

In the entrance, however, Shodai was being photographed with his grandmother:

The Japanese press love Shodai’s grandmother, because of her name. Shodai is one of the wrestlers, like Takayasu, Endo and Yago, who wrestle under their own name. His grandmother’s name is 正代正代 – yes, twice the same pair of kanji, two completely different readings: Masayo Shodai.

It’s time for the Juryo dohyo-iri, and Enho is turning up the kawaii level:

That can’t be a rikishi. It’s a china doll for sure!

Gokushindo is doing the same thing on the East side:

Those two are supposed to face each other this day. And they both exude kawaii like two idol group members on a save-the-cute-bunnies campaign. Enho signals to Gokushindo across the dohyo as they wait their turn:

When Gokushindo gets up on the dohyo, Chiyonoumi gives him the good old salted ladle routine:

Which you can’t blame him for doing, when that’s the reaction he gets. Then the two kings of cute battle in the cutest sumo bout you have ever seen:

I did warn you to prepare the insulin in advance, didn’t I? And those two kept it up even after the bout was over!

Hey! Isn’t sumo fun?

Well, Toyonoshima and Tomokaze were a little more serious about it:

But then came the Makuuchi dohyo-iri and of course, the usual suspects were goofing around. Abi had an arm-wrestling contest with Chiyotairyu:

And Nishikigi was still looking for somebody to bother, and found Shodai:

Shodai: “Come on, my grandma is here!”.

Looks like a little bit of cute rubbed off even on Takarafuji and Asanoyama:

But if you want to see a little actual sumo, here is this short video:

Shodai was paired, unsurprisingly, with Endo, who must be rather frustrated at having to constantly lose to local boys. Utchari, no less!

And how about that tsuridashi Hakuho did on Takayasu? It’s very encouraging to see him do that. Remember, Jungyo bouts are not something anybody is advised to put money on. There are lots of “gentlemen’s agreements” there, and at the very least, nobody is going to risk injury to win. But still, you can draw some conclusions about wrestlers’ health, and if Hakuho can do something like picking Takayasu up, it means his legs are up to the extra load.

By the way, Yoshikaze was back on the torikumi this day for the first time since the Jungyo began – while Yutakayama dropped off it.

With the sun setting, everybody’s Akeni was packed and wrapped and loaded onto the truck (the side-loading Japanese trucks are very clever):

The Akeni and their wraps carry the names of the sekitori. I always amuse myself by trying to identify as many names as possible. Try to learn the kanji for the wrestlers names!

During this visit to Uto, the Yokozuna paid a visit to the grave of Shiranui Nageimon, the 8th Yokozuna, performing his Shiranui dohyo-iri in front of the grave:

Shiranui Nageimon was actually the master of the 11th Yokozuna Shiranui Kotsuemon to whom that dohyo-iri style is (mistakenly) attributed.

And with this, we wrap up the day, tying it all up with Tobizaru:

That lovely Tobizaru really needs to be credited, so here is the Tweet from which he was taken:

Fuyu Jungyo 2018 – Day 8 (Dec 9)

🌐 Location: Koshi, Kumamoto
😛 Goofometer: ◾️◽️◽️◽️◽️

We continue our journey through the Kumamoto prefecture. As always, the day starts with the low-ranking wrestlers around the dohyo, while some of the sekitori are shaking hands, some exercise around the venue, and some around the dohyo. The Kokonoe sekitori seem to be very diligent. Earlier than everybody, they start exercising around the dohyo:

Chiyonoumi, Chiyomaru, and (non-sekitori) Chiyootor

The reason for this is that Kokonoe oyakata is in the Jungyo, and watching his flock like a hawk. He is the one who took this picture, by the way.

Hmm… where is Chiyoshoma? I guess not everybody is that stressed out about the oyakata. Chiyoshoma, as usual, gravitates toward the Mongolian corner:

Chiyoshoma, Daishoho, Mitoryu

Mitoryu is not the only one doing resistance training. Takanosho is hard at work, simultaneously stretching his rubber strap and being cute.

Ishiura is busy stretching his tendons:

You can do better than that!

Takekaze was doing… something…

The tweet says suri-ashi, but it doesn’t really look like it.

Takayasu is busy lifting one of his tsukebito. Ozeki and Yokozuna get to bring more than one tsukebito to Jungyo. His other tsukebito is also by his side – Musashikuni.

Now let’s see Takayasu try that with Musashikuni…

The local boys are Sadanoumi and Shodai. Sadanoumi does a frog impression:

Ribbit!

OK, OK, it’s another type of stretch. I get the impression that Sadanoumi tries to avoid the limelight, as opposed to Shodai who is in full fansa mode:

Shodai is accompanied by Asakura, who demonstrates the duties of a tsukebito to us.

Other rikishi take their time and chat a little. Here is a rare smile from Kagayaki:

Kagayaki once said the only rikishi he is on friendly terms with is Enho. But it seems he found some companionship in Onosho. Onosho seems to be a friendly guy in general:

Here he is with Midorifuji. Midorifuji seems to enjoy the same popularity Enho had when he was still in a black mawashi and doing the Jungyo as Hakuho’s tsukebito: he seems to hang out with many sekitori, not even from his own ichimon, which is a bit unusual for a low-ranker. I’ve seen him chatting with Chiyoshoma (who rarely chats with anybody other than his own heya-mates or the Mongolian rikishi), and even with some of the oyakata. It’s the pixie dust, I’m sure!

On the dohyo, we have some Juryo moshi-ai:

And some Makuuchi: Ryuden vs. Sadanoumi

Endo vs. Aoiyama:

I expect Aoiyama to cut through the ranks like a hot knife in butter next basho. Tamawashi vs. Shohozan:

I always like to watch these two going at it. I expect the bartender to dive under the counter any minute.

And here are Tochinoshin and Asanoyama:

No explicit information, but it seems Meisei has been through some kawaigari:

And so we get to the second part of the day. Not many photos from the actual bouts, but remember, Hakuho is back! Therefore, we have this familiar scene:

That’s Hakuho, leaning on the Yobidashi after the sanyaku-soroi-bumi, awaiting his bout. He invariably does that in Jungyo – and sometimes runs some pranks on the yobidashi while he’s at it.

Here’s a short video with some shokkiri and some bouts (alas, no complete ones):

Not a very convincing yori-kiri there.

So, pin-up time. Back to the classic Enho:

Where is the emoji for swoon?

Fuyu Jungyo 2018 – Day 7 (Dec 8)

🌐 Location: Takamori, Aso District, Kumamoto
😛 Goofometer: ◽️◽️◽️◽️◽️

We have a short one today, as few fans blessed us with photographs or videos from this town by Mount Aso in Kumamoto.

There are two sekitori from Kumamoto prefecture, so they starred today, and will be celebrated in the next two days as well. I give you Sadanoumi, in a Myogiryu Paisley yukata, and Shodai, in a dragonfly motif.

You’ll note that everybody was wearing yukata for their handshake this time. The temperature was 0ºC in the morning, and I guess the strict oyakata felt a little guilty going around in their own warm Uniqlo padded vests and having the rikishi freeze. You may also notice that they are not wearing any obi – my guess is that they have their mawashi on under the yukata.

Inside the main hall, though, the rikishi are in their mawashi, and keep warm by doing exercise. Here is Asanoyama doing his suri-ashi:

What does “suri-ashi” mean? Listen to the sound track. It means “sliding feet”. The feet are supposed to slide along the ground when you do suri-ashi, rather than be lifted.

Chiyomanu, on the other hand, was doing… what is he doing?

He was doing this repeatedly. It must be practice! Practice for… er… some father-son day in the distant future, where there will be sack racing?

On the dohyo, Nishikigi was giving butsukari to Onosho:

Easy. Abi giving butsukari to Endo:

Note that if the submissive is too successful and gives the dominant no opportunity to roll him, the dominant will sometimes signal for an itten – in which the submissive symbolically hits his chest, and is then rolled immediately. An itten is also how a butsukari session ends – and sometimes there may be more than one to finish the session (especially in kawaigari sessions).

Tochinoshin offers his chest to Daieisho:

Here is some moshi-ai:

Is that Endo again? Not sure. Meisei beats him, and Abi as well – and Abi is definitely practicing yotsu again.

Tochinoshin takes up Chiyotairyu:

Time to go away and take a relaxing bath. Coming back – in his own van – is the dai-Yokozuna, already in full regalia. And Mongolian though he is, the cold is getting to him, too:

So Kasugaryu wraps him up with his yukata. It’s good to be the king!

I do not have any bouts or even bout photos from this day’s event, but here is a video of the san-yaku soroi-bumi (“kore yori sanyaku”):

What this video tells us is that, for the first time in this Jungyo, Hakuho is participating in the bouts!

Indeed, according to the press, this was the first bout he had since leaving the Aki Jungyo and having his surgery. He beats Takayasu by yori-kiri, to much applause.

And today’s pin-up boy is:

One of the spectators asked him to hold her boy in his arms (dakko – the Japanese believe that if a rikishi holds your child he or she will grow up strong and healthy). After letting him down, he keeps patting the child’s head and talking to him. The kid seems to be interested in his sagari!

Fuyu Jungyo 2018 – Day 6 (Dec 7)

🌐 Location: Nobeoka, Miyazaki
😛 Goofometer: ◾️◽️◽️◽️◽️

Nobeoka is a small town in Miyazaki. But it boasts a sekitori! Today was Kotoeko day. Most of the nobori you see in the photo bear the name “Kotoeko”, with a few “Yoshikaze” (he is from the neighboring Oita prefecture).

So naturally the crowds gathered around a rather overwhelmed Kotoeko:

Inside the venue, Hakuho was doing some teppo. And you know what happens when there is no teppo pole in site:

Somebody’s neck becomes very very red.

Hakuho also did shiko on the dohyo:

The other day some fan on Twitter asked Daishowaka what it takes to get a nice, tight rikishi butt. The answer was “Do shiko”. So now you know.

Hero of the day, Kotoeko, practiced with Hakuyozan:

Here’s Aoiyama vs. Yutakayama and then Myogiryu.

Hakuho keeps that shiko going in the background.

Meisei practices with Shodai:

He is very active, and seems to have the upper hand, until Shodai just pulls him down. Meisei seems pretty frustrated at all that hard work going nowhere.

Takayasu does reverse butsukari with Nishikigi.

Reverse butsukari means no rolls. Nishikigi is actually very daring in that he takes Takayasu on a quick monkey walk there.

Takayasu practices with Shodai:

The same Shodai who frustrated Meisei earlier now takes his turn to be frustrated. Shodai has this problem in bouts with high-rankers. He is just not quite up to that level, and I think that frustrates him because he feels he should have been there by now.

Today’s lucky target of kawaigari is Asanoyama. I do not have footage of the kawaigari itself – but here is how Asanoyama looks at the end of it:

He takes a sip of water and a couple of breaths – and back he goes to the dohyo. Rest after a kawaigari? Not unless you passed out.

Fast-forward, and everybody gets cleaned and put on their best clothing. The top echelon get their picture taken in front of the venue:

Hakuho’s guest – the elderly man in the kimono – is Kimura Shonosuke the 35th, who retired in 2011 (and at the time, Hakuho invited him to sit in the yusho parade car). He is also a resident of Nobeoka.

Back inside, and we have the Makuuchi dohyo-iri. And unsurprisingly, Shodai is being pushed around:

Looks like Takakeisho also got the Mitakeumi treatment. Mitakeumi is careful, though. Next basho they will be trading places. You don’t get on the bad side of someone who has a reasonable chance to be Ozeki in a couple of basho.

Bouts! Here is Daieisho vs. Aoiyama:

Aoiyama doesn’t waste time. BTW, take a look at that gyoji’s gunbai!

Yutakayama vs. Abi:

Boom! And Abi is not the sort of rikishi who hides his pain. 😝

Here is a summary of the day, including the special bout Kotoeko had with Endo. He also had an “official” bout with Daiamami a few moments later.

Endo is the king of Jungyo yaocho. He takes care to entertain the spectators, but never fails to lose to the local man.

Note Kotoeko’s tearful parents thanking everybody for coming to see their son. The Jungyo passed through this city 10 years ago, and at the time Kotoeko was just in Sandanme. So this time, returning as a sekitori was a big deal for both himself and his parents.

This is it. I’ll just pause to notice that Kotoeko’s heya mate, Kotoyuki, has been missing from the torikumi for the past couple of days. Yoshikaze is still not putting on his mawashi, and Hakuho still not doing torikumi.

So off we go to Kumamoto!

But didn’t I tell you that Hakuho chose to be in the back seat of the bus? What are they doing there, you may ask?

Well, there’s more than one bus. There are around 270 participants in an average Jungyo. And these Juryo guys are unlikely to be in the same bus as the boss.

So…. who shall we pick as our pin-up rikishi of the day? I couldn’t find a trace of Tobizaru. So how about his brother? Hidenoumi, your turn to shine!

OK, so maybe his little brother is a little prettier.

Fuyu Jungyo 2018 – Day 5 (Dec 6)

🌐 Location: Beppu, Oita
😛 Goofometer: ◽️◽️◽️◽️◽️

We have only a short report today, and less goofy than the usual. But those who are new here are going to learn about kawaigari. Learning is a good thing, isn’t it?

So, let’s start in the morning. The first activity of the day is handshakes with the fans. Yoshikaze participates.

But notice that he does it in a yukata, which is rather unusual. Most of the rikishi do the handshakes in their practice mawashi. This tells us that not only is Yoshikaze off the torikumi, he is also not doing any keiko. One has to wonder what ails him, or rather, what is it that ails him enough not to do keiko, but still not enough to excuse himself from part or all of the Jungyo.

On the sidelines, we have Okinoumi doing some push-ups:

I think he is not quite up to par by military standards.

Next we have some moshi-ai bouts. First, Takakeisho vs. Daieisho, followed by Takakeisho vs. Onosho:

I wonder who it was who got tossed off the dohyo.

Next we have Abi vs. Onosho, followed by Abi vs. Ichinojo.

A direct push doesn’t work against the boulder, so Abi goes for a (somewhat crude) death spin.

Next up, Takayasu vs. Endo, then Takayasu vs. Tochiozan:

Tochinoshin with Ichinojo:

Oof, Ichinojo’s legs don’t look very pretty.

And neither does his sumo. 😩

Finally, the Yokozuna gets on the dohyo. This is significant, as up till now he didn’t do any on-dohyo activity. Well, technically he did some stretches and shiko at the corner of the dohyo, but that’s not something he really needs a dohyo for.

The Yokozuna – all of them – tend to scale their activity up through the Jungyo. There are different degrees of intensity. Doing basics is ground level. Then you have butsukari geiko (where you are the dominant), which is slightly higher (you have to use your feet and you get smashed in the chest). Then there is doing your own butsukari, and doing bouts with low and high ranking rikishi.

The Yokozuna is not yet on the torikumi list – the Musubi is between the two participating Ozeki – but he did start giving butsukari today. The pushing partner was Takakeisho.

Butsukari is a drill in which one side – usually higher-ranked – offers his chest, and the other side has to push him, again and again, all the way to the edge of the dohyo. If you succeed, you do a squat, and continue until the high-ranker decides you’ve had enough. If you fail, the dominant throws you on the floor, or he may choose to get you to walk around in what I call a “monkey walk” – it’s not exactly the same as suri-ashi, and the dominant usually has his hand on your neck to bend you down.

That’s the basics. But then there is kawaigari. Now, you wouldn’t know it from the NSK video above, but this was actually a kawaigari session.

A kawaigari session is butsukari with extra testosterone. On the dominant’s part, that is. It’s a show of dominance, and a serious challenge for the submissive. You get shouted at. And kicked. And your hair may be pulled, or your ass slapped. And all you can do is go “yes, sir”, “yes, sir”, and keep up. At some point you get exhausted. But you have to get up and keep going. You are not supposed to waste the time of the high-ranking rikishi who is giving you his precious attention.

This is a well known ritual in the sumo world. And watching it is not easy for newcomers. Though the original version is worse – it includes spits and hard beating with a bamboo stick. I’m told this still goes on today – though not in public. The public version is not really hazardous to one’s health.

Hakuho loves kawaigari. Having been a Yokozuna so long, nobody can give him one. But he can sure give it to others, they can’t refuse, and it’s considered an honor – while it makes it very clear who’s boss, which is exactly how the Yokozuna likes it. And so, you won a Yusho, young man? Get some “TLC” (that’s what “kawaigari” means) from the Yokozuna. Here is the extended version:

Hakuho is an excellent performer. He makes sure all of the spectators get a good view – standing at different edges of the dohyo each time. He gets more laughs than the shokkiri team – but also signals to the audience when to applaud the exhausted Komusubi. He kicks and growls – and makes sure that Takakeisho’s mawashi knot doesn’t come undone.

But this performance caused quite a stir with one faction of sumo fans – the so-called “Takanohana cultists” (not all Takanohana fans belong to this category). They – or rather, some of them, because I don’t believe anybody who has been a sumo fan for any serious length of time would be – were outraged by Hakuho’s “hideous” treatment of Takakeisho. “That man does not deserve to be a Yokozuna!”. “Why did the NSK censor all the kicking and hair pulling?”. “I really hope Takakeisho makes it through this Jungyo uninjured”. “Hakuho makes sure no young talent can rise in the sumo world”. Some even searched the Internet and found evidence that Harumafuji used to do the same! Those awful Mongolians!

That, my friends, is called “cherry picking”. Because the practice is quite widespread, and no, it’s not restricted to awful Mongolians. Here we have some kawaigari Goeido gave Hokutofuji in 2016.

I think Goeido has never been in Mongolia. Here is one Takayasu gave a youngster from his heya a few years back in a public training:

OK. Lesson over. Now, unlike those cultists, you’ll know a kawaigari when you see one.

I do not have much from the latter part of the day. I do have these two serious, stern-faced sekitori doing their dohyo-iri:

Who are we kidding? You think Abi can stay serious for more than two seconds?

Hey, concentrate on the dohyo-iri, Daddy-Long-Legs.

To wrap up, here is a pixie:

Enho is giving butsukari to one of the low-rankers. Thing is, Hakuho is on the dohyo, and seems to be saying something to his wee uchi-deshi, which gives Enho an expression which is completely incompatible with butsukari or sekitori dominance in general. 🤗