Recommendations Threads: General Caveats

I want sumo fans to go to Japan and enjoy the sport (and the country) first hand. I also hope to expose more English speakers already in Japan to the sumo world. In that vein, I will offer my recommendations and encourage others to do the same. But, be open and frank with your relationship to the service and/or restaurant. Let’s face it, it’s very different to hear a recommendation from a customer, employee, owner or paid spokesperson. All I need to do is point at a supermodel and say, #FyreFestival, and you should get my point:

General recommendations and advise are always helpful, and I’ve got a few of those I’m going to share with you now. Don’t expect the same level of “food customization” that we have in the US.

Grilled Rooster Comb

The “Have it your way” philosophy just doesn’t seem to have taken off over there. In many cases, it’s easiest to do the “omakase” (chef’s recommendation), but have an open mind. And if you’re crazy like me, and open to eating stuff that even native Japanese don’t touch, like eel heads, 白子, 馬刺し, or grilled rooster comb, it should go without saying not to whinge afterwards. BTW, 馬刺し and grilled rooster comb are awesome. Just for the record.

So, I’m going to create a page for travel-related recommendations to focus on the four sumo venues: Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka. It will be in the menu bar next to the link to the Youtube video, for easy access. I know that finding posts on this site can be a bear, especially if the post was written a few months ago. But I want it to look nicer than what I’ve got for the “Japanese Lessons” page right now that’s basically just a series of links. It may start out that way but I’d love to have a way for people to share their own recommendations, and maybe even photos.

Also, Twitter is another great medium for sharing photos. Please Tweet to us or Instagram. I just signed up for Instagram on @tachiaiblog. I don’t have anything up there yet but will start sharing some of my sumo related pictures there.

錦 (nishiki): Brocade

I’m familiar with the meaning of many of the popular kanji used in wrestlers’ shikona. I’ve had a post about kiku/giku before, and in the future, between tournaments, I’m going to try to post a bit more about them – mostly to help myself study Japanese. I chose to post about 錦 because I really had no idea what that meant. The best part was that after I looked it up, I still had no idea what the English word (brocade) meant. So, I had to go to Wikipedia to get my answer.

Basically, if you clicked the link, you’d see it’s a loom-woven fabric. Wikipedia talks about how they were generally luxury items but I’m still a bit puzzled as to why wrestlers like Aminishiki, Homarenishiki, or Kaonishiki would use it in their shikona. Is it a reference to the keshou mawashi they wear for the ring entering ceremony? Those are made of fabric, heavily decorated, often with their sponsors’ logos or symbols from the cities or countries that they come from.

旧安田庭園
旧安田庭園

When I looked more into the Japanese term, it’s clear the Japanese meaning is more complex beyond the literal translation. There are references to animals and kaleidoscopes and artwork that incorporate the term.

But, for perhaps the best example, we’re all familiar with Koi fish particularly because they’re commonly found in Japanese gardens. I’ve got a picture here which I took at a beautiful garden a block away from Kokugikan (the main sumo venue in Tokyo). There are koi in this pond and many are 錦鯉(nishikigoi) which are prized for their decorative colors – gold, red, black, white. I’m sure you know the ones I’m talking about.

Clicking the picture will take you to a Google Map of where you can find the garden. Like I said, it’s very close to the Kokugikan (you can actually see its distinctive roof behind the trees) so if you’re in the area for a tournament, this is a great place to visit. I walked around here for a few hours, taking pictures and just enjoying the peace and quiet. Anyway, there are fish and turtles in the pond and cranes and ducks. It seems a lot of people bring their lunch or bento and eat while pausing to feed the ducks. There’s a shrine in the back, over a little red bridge, behind the trees.

Anyway, this context certainly gives more of an idea of why the term is incorporated into shikona. It still could be something as straightforward and literal as their keshomawashi but Aminishiki, in particular, seems like a rather colorful character. That may be stretching the meaning a bit too far but to me it makes a bit more sense and will at least help me remember the meaning of the kanji.

*Update 1 – (10/4/2015)*
How could I neglect to mention the most famous modern nishikiKONISHIKI (小錦)? Maybe a future post will be about the kanji for 馬鹿 because sometimes I can forget the most obvious stuff that’s staring me in the face. (For some reason horse and deer equals idiot.)

Ichinojo New Kesho Mawashi

Ichinojo has appeared in Baby Star commercials and a cartoon version of him is used on their packaging. Now Baby Star features on his new Kesho Mawashi. At the last tournament, he was sponsored by NiBank, the National Bank of Mongolia.

The Oyatsu Company makes these Baby Star brand ramen chips that are popular among kids in Japan. Oyatsu actually means snack in Japanese. The baby star mascot features on one version of the new Mawashi while Mt. Fuji features on the other with the Oyatsu Company’s name written out in Japanese below the picture.

I’m actually not sure why they haven’t made it to the US, yet, since legit ramen is finally becoming “a thing”. My son loves the chips but I’ve never had them. I will try to remember to have some next time we travel back to Japan.