Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Behind the Curtain - May 2018

The Natsu basho is upon us, time to find out who is stepping out from behind the curtain and joining the paid ranks.  This Kokugikan tourney we have two rikishi making their first visit to sekitori world.  With some hard work and a little luck, perhaps they can stay there.  In addition, we have one rikishi returning to the paid ranks.

Ms1w Wakatakakage (4-3) got the minimum number of wins to become a sekitori.  He is from Fukushima city in Fukushima prefecture.  At the promotion interview, he made a point of saying that he was going to do his best on behalf of his home prefecture, which suffered during the 2011 Tohoku disaster.  

Wakatakakage entered sumo at sandanme tsukedashi, “where an amateur wrestler finishing in the top 8 of either the All-Japan Championships, All-Japan Corporate Championships, National Student Championships, or the National Sports Festival Adults tournament is allowed to skip the bottom two divisions and start at the bottom of the sandanme division.”  Hence, he was allowed to skip maezumo, Jonokuchi, and Jonidan.  It still took him 7 basho to reach sekitori, the slowest of the all wrestlers who started at sandanme tsukedashi.

For his stable, Arashio-beya, he will be the second Fukushima rikishi to reach Juryo.  Incidentally, Wakatakakage’s older brothers are also rikishi at the same stable.  His oldest brother, Wakatakamoto, went 5-2 from Ms22w, while the middle brother, Onami, went 4-3 from Ms12e.  Fun fact.  Their grandfather is none other than komusubi Wakabayama.  Perhaps one day, one of the brothers can take their grandfather’s shikona in the paid ranks.

Ms1e Hakuyozan (6-1) hails from Yamagata prefecture and is only 23 years old .  Yamagata prefecture’s last shin-sekitori was Hokutokuniin back in 2008.  In an interview, Hakuyozan said his goal is to reach the same rank as his stablemaster, Takadagawa oyakata, AKA, ex Sekiwake Akinoshima.  His oyakata replied that he need to stretch further and reach the Yokozuna, just like another Fukushima rikishi, Yokozuna Kashiwado.

Ms3w Asabenkai (6-1) is from Kanagawa prefecture.  He is making his second trip in the paid ranks.  He had spent 6 basho in Juryo from his debut at the 2015 Kyusho basho, then dropping behind the curtain at the end of the 2018 Aki basho.  Asabenkai will be the sole sekitori from Takasago-beya on the Natsu basho banzuke.

With three rikishi going up, there will be three rikishi trading their silk mawashi for cotton.  J14w Ehno could manage 4 wins and will return to Makashita.  Since he started sumo at the 2017 Osaka basho, this is the first time he posted a losing record.  J14e Takayoshitoshi got 3 wins, and the he was the last 6 days of the tourney with an injury.  J7e Amakaze could also only get 3 wins and will join the others behind the curtain.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Behind The Curtain - March 2018

Once a year, the March basho is hosted in Osaka.  The tourney is held at Edion Arena Osaka, a short walk from Namba station.  At this tournament, we will see seven rikishi stepping out in front of the curtain.  Of the seven, we have three first-timers and the other four have put on the silk mawashi before.

East Ms6 Enho of Miyagino stable made a huge leap into juryo from six steps away from the curtain.  He did this with the bare minimum kachi-koshi, 4-3.  It was at 2017 Osaka basho where he first stepped on the dohyo for his maezumo.   He joined sumo along with his Kanazawa Gakuin University sumo club teammate, Masataka Tanabe. By the way, Tanabe is still using his family name for his shikona.  And he is nipping at Enho’s heels.  Like Enho, Tanabe has only recorded kachi-koshi results since his debut.

Unlike Tanabe Enho is now a sekitori, just one year after his maezumo.  He got here by getting three straight yusho in a row; at the Jonokuchi, Jonidan, and Sandanme divisions.  After that, it took just two tourneys in Makushita, posting records of 5-2 and 4-3.

East Ms7 Takayoshitoshi of Takanohana stable has reached the paid rank, with a respectable 5-2 record.  Having seven sekitori being demoted helped.  Interestingly enough, it was the final bout, against our returnee, Terutsuyoshi, which Takayo got his critical 5th win.  It took Takayo 5 years to step in front of the curtain.  His sumo debut was at 2013 Osaka basho.

East Ms1 Yago of Oguruma stable only needed 4 wins to cross the line into Juryo.  He did one better than Enho, it only took him five tourneys to do so, having debuted at the 2017 Natsu basho.
West Ms4 Akiseyama of Kise stable is a returnee.  He finished the 2018 Hatsu basho at 4-3.  He made his dohyo debut back at the 2008 Hatsu basho.

West Ms1 Terutsuyoshi of Isegahama stable posted a 4-3 to move up to the paid ranks for the second time in his 8-year career.  He spent the entire 2017 year in Juryo, and only fought in Makushita for the last basho.

West Ms2 Shimanoumi of Kise stable notched a 5-2 record at the Hatsu basho.  Like Terutsuyohi, he is also stepping out from behind the curtain for the second time.  However, unlike Terutsu, he only spent one basho at the paid ranks.  Here’s hoping he can manage to stay a sekitori a lot longer this time around.

West Ms3 Tobizaru of Oitekaze beya is another rikishi going to the paid ranks for a second.  And like Shimanoumi, he only lasted one basho at the paid ranks last Nagoya basho.

What goes up, must go down, and with seven rikishi moving up, there are seven moving down, including a couple fan favorites.  Toyohibiki, Ura, Osunaarashi (1-8-6), Yamaguchi (2-12-1), Tochihiryu (4-11), Akua (4-11), and Kizenryu (3-12) have been demoted down to Makushita for the Osaka basho.  

Of the stepping behind the curtain, a couple flat out did not step on the dohyo for the Hatsu basho.  Toyohibiki (0-0-15) and Ura (0-0-15) did not participate.  Worse still, Ura has not stepped onto the dohyo since Day 2 at the Aki basho.  Having been unable to compete, he continues to fall down the banzuke.

Ura will be in Makushita for the first time in two years next basho. He has stopped using crutches.  ”I am slowly rehabilitating myself. I still can't put much pressure on it but I'm training to get there eventually... March? I  go with the feeling that I can always do it.." he said. 

During the annual physical health check at Kokugikan,  he said, ”…I was happy because, during the grip tests, I managed to grip 70 kilos with my left hand, which is my most ever. (In 2016 he fractured a bone in his left hand and had surgery after which he managed 35 last year.) When I entered sumo, I managed 50 kilos, then 60, and it went way down again with that hand injury. I thought I could never return to my original strength. So if I can do the same with my knee, I hope to reach the same condition as before the injury. I want to return even stronger.”  Ura should return to the paid ranks in 2018.

Cherry blossom ought to be out by end of this basho.  And more sekitori will blossom as well, joining the paid ranks at the Natsu basho!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Behind The Curtain - January 2018

Happy New Year!!  Happy Year of the Dog, ‘bow wow’, or in Japanese, ‘won won’.  It would be nice to put behind us the “dog’s breakfast”, which we collectively experienced the week after the Kyushu basho.  What might have got lost in the noise, is that we will see 2 new sekitori step out in front of the curtain, along with 3 rikishi returning to the paid ranks.

Our first shin sekitori is Mitoryu - Ms4e 6-1, Nishikido-beya, Mongolia, who is 23 years old (makushita tsukedashi debut May 2017).  Interestingly his first sumo gig was Sumo World Championships for amateur sumo competition organized by the International Sumo Federation.  He won the Openweight at both the 2014 and 2016 tourneys. 

Our other new sekitori is Akua - Ms4w 5-2, Tatsunami-beya, Ibaraki, who is 27 years old.  Was he the beneficiary of Harumafuji’s intai?  We will never know, but we can see what happened on the banzuke, folks only move up when another rikishi moves down, or retires.  Interesting, his shikona has a cool story.  His oyakata supposedly got the idea for the name from the Aqua World public aquarium in Akua's hometown.  Akua followed the typical path into sumo as other of his countrymen.  He attended Tottori Johoku High School, and from there he entered Nishikido-beya.  One benefit of attending high school first is that their Japanese language are significantly better, after this years in high school

Moving on to our returnees, let’s begin with Kizenryu - Ms2w 4-3, Kise-beya, Kagawa, 32 years old, 8th promotion (joint all-time record).  He has been in and out of of the paid ranks since he debuted back in Natsu basho 2013. He is one of Ura’s preferred asageiko partners. Ideally all this practice with Ura has contributed to his ability to return the paid ranks an 8th time.  It must be noted that he hails from a famous sumo college, Nihon University, which only adds to his sumo portfolio.  Let’s hope he can keep climbing the banzuke ladder, making this his last promotion from Makushita.

Our next returnee is Daishoho - Ms3e 5-2, Oitekaze-beya, Mongolia, 23 years old, 2nd promotion.  Born in Sapporo, he took up skiing as a young boy, as he came from an area famous for its ski slopes. He also played basketball at school. However his father was an amateur sumo enthusiast and encouraged his son to try the sport.  In his third year of junior high he took part in the National Junior High School Sumo Championships, held in Tokyo.

And finally let’s congratulate our last returnee, Tochihiryu - Ms10w 7-0 Y, Kasugano-beya, Shizuoka, who is 30 years old, this is his 5th promotion.

As always, what goes up, something or someone goes down.  There is the 5 rikishi turning their silk mawashi for cotton.  Here’s a few of the rikishi stepping back behind the curtain.

Yago (J14w 7-8) .  This is only his 3rd tournament.  You may recall from our previous issue, Yago nailed a perfect 7-0 record and the Makeshita Yusho!  Again as a college sumo champion, he was allowed to enter sumo at the Makushita Tsukedashi 15 rank.  

Terutsuyoshi (J9e 4-11). He is 22 years old, 168cm, 115kg, is Isegahama’s lowest-ranked sekitori.  With his small stature and his bad knees, his body has not been able to manage the paid ranks level.

Daiseido (J12s 2-9)  Since changing his shikona from Sasanoyama, this is only the 2nd time he has posted a losing record.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Behind The Curtain - November 2017

All the rikishi have traveled south, to Kyushu, to participate in the last basho of this year in Fukuoka.  It is the last chapter / tourney of 2017.  Unfortunately there is little action regarding those rikishi switching to sekitori for November’s tournament.  There is one rikishi returning to the paid ranks.  There is one rikishi putting on the silk mawashi for the first time.  Let’s start with the rikishi debuting in the paid ranks this November.

Our first timer is Takanosho.  He was ranked Ms3e and notched 6 wins against just loss.   He belongs to Chiganoura-beya.  He is 22 years.  If you look for his name on previous banzuke, you will find him listed as Masunosho.  For the writer, I always find it cool when a newly promoted rikishi gets a new shikona.  It emphases the accomplishment the young man has achieved. 

His hometown is Kashiwa, Chiba.  Unrelated fact, Kashiwa is home of the professional soccer team Kashiwa Reysol.  More importantly the Kashiwa soccer stadium is where Ireland tied with Germany in the 2002 World Cup group play.  Apologies, the writer was there, so Kashiwa always brings back found memories.

Our returnee is Takagenji from Takanohana-beya, His hometown is Oyama, in Tochigi perfecture.  He is only 20 years old.  At the Aki basho, he was ranked Ms1e, on the fringe of the paid ranks.  He managed to squeak out from behind the curtain with a 4 win and 3 loss record.  This is his 2nd promotion to juryo.  His first appearance in front of the curtain was only at the 2017 Natsu basho.

What is really nice is that Takagenji is from Takanohana-beya.  There was a time, when Takanohana oyakata was assigned the jugyo manager role within the koenkai, that pundits commented that it would weaken Takanohana oyakata’s ability to train his rikishi.  Takagenji is an example that this predication was false.  Takagenji joins his stablemates Takakeisho and Takanoiwa as sekitori at Fukuoka basho.

If two rikishi step in front of the curtain, then two must step behind.  These two rikishi that turned in their silk mawashi for black cotton.

Kitaharima could only manage 5 wins, losing 10 bouts at the Aki basho.  From J12e, he will most likely have fallen back into makushita.  His highest rank was all the way to Maegashira 15, but it was a one basho visit.  At 31 years old, he may be running out of juice for sekitori level performance.  On average, 32 years old is the average retirement age of a rikishi.

Kizenryu lose 6 bouts, won 6 bouts, then had to drop out after that due to injury.  It is sad, cause if he could have stayed in and won 2 out of 3, he would not be in this article.  He has been in and out of of the paid ranks since he debuted back in Natsu basho 2013.  Like Kitaharima, he is long in the tooth, at 32 years old. 

In closing, please allow the writer to extend to all our readers a happy holiday!  I look forward to discussing rikishi stepping out from behind the curtain next year, the year of the dog!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Behind The Curtain - September 2017

The leaves are falling on the ground, and sumo is returning to Tokyo for the Aki Basho.  In addition to the tournament returning to Tokyo, for the final Tokyo basho of 2017, but we have a couple rikishi that are return from behind the curtain.

Kizenryuu Ms1 East tallied up a 4-3 to finally make it over the line and land back into Juryo.  This was his 3rd consecutive 4-3 record.  He posted 4-3 from Ms2 West, next 4-3 from Ms1 West, and finally 4-3 from Ms1 East.  This also the 7th time he has been promoted to Juryo, talk about elevator rikishi.  It should be expected that Kizenryuu can stay in the paid ranks a little longer.  He is one of Ura’s preferred asageiko partners.  You figure he must be getting better, since he gets to train with a superior rikishi. Kizenryuu belongs to Kise-beya.  He is from Kagawa prefecture.  He is 32 years old.

Kitaharima Ms2 East smashed out a 6-1 record to him back into the paid ranks.  His shikona is interesting.  The first kanji in his shikona is Kita or North, and it stands for Kitanoumi-beya, where he is a rikishi.  The second kanji, harima, is an ancient name for an area in the west of Hyogo prefecture where he is from.  In addition, as of the last basho, Kitaharima has had 829 consecutive matches in honbasho.  Kitaharima belongs Yamahibiki-beya.  He hails from Hyogo perfecture.  He is 31 years old.  Like his fellow rikishi Kizenryuu, this marks his 7th promotion to Juryo, yet another elevator rikishi.

In addition to these two rikishi putting their silk mawashi again, we have two rikishi who will be putting on a silk mawashi for the very first time.

Daiseidou Ms3 East produced a nice 5-1 record to step out from behind the curtain.  Since changing his shikona from Sasanoyama, he has had only one losing record.  Maybe he had ought have done that sooner, he has spent 32 basho in Makushita, a long slog in the unpaid ranks.  At 24 years old, he should have plenty of good sumo left in him.  Daiseidou belongs to Kise-beya.  He is from Aomori-ken, very famous prefecture for sumo rikishi.  Supposedly Aomori boys do good sumo from all the walking through deep snow.

Yago at Ms11 East nailed a perfect 7-0 record and the Makeshita Yusho!  What is even more impressive, he did this in only his 2nd tourney in sumo!  As a college sumo champion, he was allowed to enter sumo at the Makushita Tsukedashi 15 rank.  He posted a 5-2 record at that rank in May.  At this point, his shikona will remain Yago.  Yago belongs Oguruma-beya.  He is from Hokkaido, another prefecture with deep snow, get for future sumo rikishi to build up leg and core strength.  He is 23 years old.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Behind the Curtain - November 2016

Ending the year of the Monkey, we’ve got a handful of rikishi stepping out from behind the curtain.  This is a bumper crop of young men, 2 are returnees to wearing the silk mawashi, and 3 first timers to the paid ranks. 

Our first returnee is Yamaguchi (Mk2e, 7-0 Yusho, Miyagino), an ex-college rikishi from Nihon University.  He’s been a rikishi for over 4 years now.  11 years ago, when he was 16 years old, he was the second rookie student to win the Japan High School Sumo Championship.  The only other rookie student to take the high school championship was Maegashira Kushimaumi.

Our second returnee is Ryuden (Mk2w, 4-3, Takadagawa), a 10-year sumo veteran.  He’s another ex-college rikishi from Nihon University.  For those readers new to sumo, you might see a trend and yes, Nihon University is one of the sumo rikishi “factories”.  When Ryuden was promoted 4 years ago, he discontinued his tsukebito role with Kisenosato.  Now, we can suspect he will return to that job.

Next there is Daishoho (Mk1w, 5-2, Oitekaze), another Mongolian rikishi, is a first timer to the paid ranks.  He’s part of the force that is Mongolian sumo, the highest represented country, besides Japan, in sumo.

Then there is Oyanagi (Mk1e, 4-3, Tokitsukaze-beya), an ex-college rikishi from another good sumo school, Tokyo University of Agriculture. Upon entering sumo, based on his college sumo record, he was placed at the Sandanme 100.  From there, he went undefeated in his first two basho, then back-to-back kachikoshi, landing him in Juryo, an incredible pace.  More incredible was when he was 17-0 at the Nagoya basho and needing one more win, to be automatically promoted to Juryo.  Unfortunately, Wakanoshima was able to defeat him, and put the brakes in his rise to the paid ranks until this Fukaoka basho.

Finally, there is Meisei (Mk3e, 4-3, Tatsunami), in his sixth year of rikishi, who just squeezed out from behind the curtain. 

Now one last thought on promotions for November, there are some pundits out there that believe we ought to have a 6th rikishi stepping out in front of the curtain.  Sakamoto (Mk3w, 4-3, Oitekaze) entered sumo at Makushita 15 due to his outstanding college sumo career, at you guessed it, Nihon University.  Since the first basho of 2016, he has gone 4-3 5 consecutive times!  With his trend, we will definitely see him in the silk mawashi in 2017.

Now with a handful of rikishi going up the banzuke, we need to have an equal number of rikishi falling down the banzuke.

Wakanoshima (J13w, 6-9, Shibatayama) had a losing record in Tokyo.  He is the same Oyanagi that squashed Oyanagi’s shot at 18-0.  His drop down the banzuke, contributed to the opportunity on the banzuke for Oyanagi to become a sekitori.

Kizenryu (J11w, 5-10, Kise) was another rikishi that could not manage 8 wins at the last tourney.  He’s been a rikishi since his debut at the Haru basho 2008. 

Asabenkei (J11e, 4-11, Takasago) will put his silk mawashi in the closet and put his cotton mawashi back on for the next basho. 

Fujiazuma (J14e, 5-10, Tamanoi) will go back to be someone’s tsukebito this tournament.

Toyonoshima (J8e, 0-0-15, Tokitsukaze) has been a sekitori for a dozen years.  Falling out of Juryo is harsh, giving up all the sekitori benefits, very harsh from over 12 years of the paid ranks.  Harsher still that he jun-yusho at the Shogatsu basho, followed by 2 makikoshi, and 2 outright absences.  Let’s hope he quickly recovers to climb the ladder back to the paid ranks in 2017.  He has the honor one of only three sekitori to who, to be able to enter sumo, took secondary physical exam and reached Juryo.

It was a wonderful year of sumo!  Can’t imagine what next year has in store for us.  See y’all next time, in the year of the Rooster!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Behind The Curtain - September 2016

With the Nagoya basho in our rear mirror, we have the Aki basho right around the corner.  Before we make that turn, we should take a look at the rikishi that have broken through to the paid ranks, and also those that had to take a demotion, returning to their tsukebito ways.  Let’s start with those turning their cotton black mawashi for a sleek silk mawashi.

Kizenryu (Ms1e 5-2) did more than enough to step in front of the curtain.  This is not his first time up to the sekitori ranks.  He has already fought 4 tournaments in Juryo.  He has spent the bulk of his sumo career in Makushita, 42 out of 50 basho.  Kizenryu hails from a famous sumo college, Nihon University.  At 31 years old, now is the time for him to make a real push into Juryo, cause time is against any rikishi after 30.  Coming into the Nagoya basho, he had won half his bouts by uwatenage.  Then in Nagoya, he won half with that kimarite.  It seems that really likes getting an outer grip throw.

Wakanoshima (Ms3w 5-2) is in the paid ranks for our upcoming tourney in Tokyo.  This is a return visit to Juryo for Waka.  Here is another rikishi over 30 and only a handful of tourneys in the paid ranks.  He needs to really drive hard to remain a sekitori and rise up the banzuke.  During the Nagoya tourney, he got to play spoiler to Oyanagi's 17-0 career start.  If Oyanagi would have defeated Wakanoshima on the dohyo, he would have got a 7-0 record, and being Ms15 or above, an automatic promotion to Juryo.  Instead, Wakanoshima beat him, ending his unabated streak.  Since entering sumo, Oyanagi is 17-1.

Dewahayate (J11e 3-12) took a huge tumble to put the black mawashi back on.  He as been as high as Juryo 9. At 27 years old, he still has time to add on to his 6 basho in Juryo. I suppose it will take him 2-3 basho to get back into the paid ranks.

Shimanoumi (4-11 J14w) is our final rikishi demoted to Makushita for the Aki basho.  His Juryo debut did not pan out as Shima would have hoped.  With an new shikona, changing from his family name shikonw of Hamaguchi, we all wanted him to get a kachikoshi in the paid ranks.  He will need a few basho to step back in front of the curtain.

It appears that Kitataiki (J12w 6-9) was extremely lucky to remain in the sekitori ranks.  You have not remember, he’s been a sekitori for 9 years now.  He is 33 years old, not sure how much for sumo his body can take it.  Let’s hope he can kachikoshi during the Aki basho, and continue as a sekitori.