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.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Behind The Curtain - July 2016

The heat of the summer and the Nagoya basho go hand in hand.  With the summer heat, there will be 5 rikishi stepping out in front of the curtain.  There will be two first time sekitori, while three rikishi are returning to the paid ranks.  This time, the promoted rikishi, each represents a different sumo stable and a different sumo ichimon.

Daiki Ms1 West tallied up a 4-3 record to step out in front of the curtain for the Nagoya basho.  Daiki entered sumo the March 2015 basho with his fellow college rikishi, Mitakeumi.  Mitakeumi only needed two basho to get the paid ranks, since he entered at Makushita 10, as Makushita Tsukedashi, due to his outstanding record as collegiate rikishi.  Daiki started from maezumo to work his way to the silk mawashi in Nagoya.  He is from the Hakkaku beya, which is part of the Takasago ichimon

Hamaguchi Mw5 West squeeze out a 4-3 record, and with several demotions from Juryo to Makushita, he made a huge stretch to reach the paid ranks for Nagoya.  The rikishi at Mw6 West, Kizenryu, posted a better record of 5-2, yet he will remain behind the curtain for Nagoya.  Along with debut as a sekitori, Hamaguchi has taken a new shikona.  He will be listed as Shimanoumi on the July banzuke.  This shikona is made of kanji representing his hometown of Shima, in the Mie prefecture.  The other part of his shikona is taken from his oyakata’s fighting name, Higonoumi., hence Shima-noumi.  He trains at the Kise beya, which belongs to the Dewanoumi ichimon.

Kyokutaisei Ms2 West notched up a 5-2 record at the Natsu basho, allowing him to wear a silk mawashi again.  His first debut in Juryo was exactly 2 years ago at Nagoya  This will be his third time as a sekitori.  Kyokutaisei is from Tomozuna beya, that belongs to the Isegahama ichimon.

Onosho Ms3 West produced a perfect 7-0 record, and lost in the Makushita yusho in a playoff (yusho-doten).  On Day 10 of the Natsu basho, Onosho made an earlier appearance on NHK with a bout against Juryo sekitori Tamaasauka.  He defeated the veteran rikishi and basically sealed his promotion to the paid ranks.  

Oyanagi at Ms58 West was the other rikishi to finish at 7-0,.  Oyanagi entered sumo at Sandanme 100, due to his collegiate record.  He went 7-0 his first basho earning the Sandanme yusho.  At the Haru basho, he again went 7-0 giving him the opportunity to battle Onosho in the yusho deciding playoff.  Keep you eye on Oyanagi, he is blazing a fast track to the paid ranks.  He ought to be ranked in the top 15 slots in Makushita for Nagoya, meaning another 7-0 record and automatic promotion to Juryo!

Onosho first basho as a sekitori was in January 2015, with the 2016 Natsu basho being a one time visit behind the curtain.  He is a member of the Onomatsu beya, a stable in the Takanohana ichimon.

Kotoeko Ms4 West scored a 5-2 record, and slipped into the Juryo ranks for a 3rd time.  He belongs to the Sadogatake beya, which is a member of the Nishonoseki ichimon.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

For ‘Mamu’ Penitani, sumo has been the right choice By Ferd Lewis Honolulu Star-Advertiser May 9, 2015

NAKAMA, Japan >> Nearly three years later, Fiamalu "Mamu" Penitani still vividly recalls the disbelief in the college recruiter’s voice.

"When I told him I was going to Japan for sumo instead of the mainland to play football," he didn’t believe me, Mamo said. "He said, ‘Are you sure you’re not just chickening out?’"

"He thought I was making it up about sumo," Mamu said. "I don’t think anybody had ever brought up sumo before."

These days, his hair long, oiled and pulled tight in the sumo style, Mamu, a 2012 graduate of Waianae High, ponders his career choice, overlooking a traditional Japanese rock garden and the trappings of a sumo stable. "I still feel it was the right choice for me. It was something I felt I had to try."

You could call it something of the family business for the 20-year-old nephew and namesake of former grand champion Fiamalu Penitani, who won the Emperor’s Cup 12 times as Musashimaru in a career that ended in 2003.

When a tearful Musashimaru stepped out of the ring for the last time in Tokyo, it ended a nearly 40-year continuous run of sumotori from Hawaii that included Jesse (Takamiyama) Kuhaulua, Salevaa (Konishiki) Atisanoe, Chad (Akebono) Rowan, Musashimaru and George (Yamato) Kalima that competed in the top division of Japan’s national sport.

Not until Mamu’s debut in 2013, under the ring name "Musashikuni," had another prospect from Hawaii wrapped himself in the traditional mawashi and stepped into the hard-packed clay circle like the one he competes inSunday in the Summer Tournament in Tokyo.

In a sport where Hawaii exports once held a prominent place, Mamu tries to find success amid the Mongolians and eastern Europeans who have come to dominate.

There is a saying in sumo that treasure is buried in the dohyo (ring) for those strong, persistent and accomplished enough to find it. And the former Seariders defensive tackle, now a 6-foot-1 318-pounder, is determined to unearth his share.

His uncle, Musashimaru, did well enough that when he retired after a 15-year career he opened his own sumo stable, Musashigawa, and a group of restaurants. "It is impossible to follow in his footsteps," Mamu said. "But with his push and instruction, I’d like to be successful."

Mamu is one of eight trainees in the stable and among 656 sumotori currently active in the sport. He climbed well up in sandanme division, the third of sumo’s six divisions, with a 41-28 record, before suffering a foot injury that forced his withdrawal after two matches in the last tournament in March.

"He’s healed up and ready to go in Tokyo," Musashimaru said. "He’s looking strong."

As a youngster he glimpsed Musashimaru in a match on TV and wondered what all the fuss was about.

"My grandma told me that was my uncle and I was amazed," Mamu said. "When I was about 7, I visited him at his stable. Then, in high school, I started to think about sumo, but my uncle wanted me to finish school first."

Mamu said, "After I got to Japan and had my first matches, I knew it was right for me. It was the right decision. I love football, but sumo is where it is at for me."

Reach Ferd Lewis at or 529-4820.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Behind The Curtain - January 2016

The first basho of 2016 is a special event for a pair of rikishi, stepping out in front of the curtain for the first time in their careers.  While another pair of rikishi make at return visit to the paid ranks.  Shogatsu basho is always special, with some women coming to Kokugikan wearing traditional kimonos.  It is a wonderful basho to bring in the New Year!

Tsurugisho, formerly known as Abiko, notched a very nice 5-2 record in the Fukaoka basho, from the top of Makushita, Ms1e.  He is a rikishi from Oitekaze beya  Tsurugisho performed his mae sumo at the same basho two years ago.  It must be nice coming back here the 3rd time as a sekitori.

Chiyoshoma did outstanding last basho, recording a 6-1 result from Ms3w.  He hails from the Kokonoe beya, which will give him an edge, since there are several Kokonoe rikishi in Juryo, who he will not have to face.  He is a native of Mongolia who started sumo over 5 years, finally reaching the paid ranks.

Dewahayate squeezed by with a 4-3 record sitting at Ms4e.  As the first kanji in his shikona poitns out, he is from Dewanoumi beya.  Dewahayate’s hometown is town of Okazaki, in Aichi prefecture.  He is another long time rikishi, and making his 3rd visit to Juryo in the last 2 years.  

Some of the sumo pundits have commented that Shotenro should have been promoted instead of Dewahayate.  Shotenro posted 6-1 at Ms6w.  You could factor in the win by Shotenro against Juryo rikishi is worth more that a win in the Makushita division.  One does not know exactly what was doing through the mind of the Japan Sumo Association’s mind, when awarding the promotions from Makushita.

Chiyonokuni posted a respectable 5-2 score from Ms4w at the Fukaoka basho.  He is yet another rikishi from Kokonoe beya.  During the match-fixing scandal in 2011, he got a helpful bump up to the paid ranks.  He did great there, working his way all the way to Makuuchi for Shogatsu basho 2014.  Later, in 2014, he started slipping down the banzuke, till falling behind the curtain after the Aki basho in 2014.  This basho is his returned to the paid ranks, after falling as far as Sandanme.

For the record, Shiba Ms31w defeated Ura Ms54w in a Makushita yusho playoff.  Unfortunately neither rikishi was ranked Ms15 or above, otherwise, they would have been given automatic promotion to Juryo.