Thursday, December 31, 2009

Behind the Curtain - January 2010

The Year of the Tiger has begun in Tokyo and with it begins the New Year Tournament at Kokugikan, where we will see not one, but two, newly promoted sekitori, make their debut from behind the curtain.

Ms1e Sokokurai (5-2) is only the second Chinese national to make it to the paid ranks since Kiyonohana way back in 1974. From Day 5 at Fukuoka, when he pulled a neat tsuridashi against Hochiyama, it looked like he would have little trouble getting the four wins necessary to break through the curtain. Of course this forecast was challenged when on Day 11 he played it safe, coming out a little cautious, giving Kurosawa the initiative, who make an all-out attack, giving Sokokurai a loss via hikiotoshi. But by Day 13, Sokokurai had 5 wins and the promotion locked up, with the benefit that he held the East #1 slot of Makushita.

Ms1w Miyogiryu (妙義龍) (5-2), formerly Miyamoto, won 4 straight, after going 1-2, to punch his ticket to wearing a silk mawashi for the first time. From the time he competed in sumo at Saitama Sakae High, it was obvious that one day he would enter Ozumo and be successful at it. In between, he attended Nittai University, doing well enough there that he earned himself a Makushita Tsukedashi qualification to enter below Makushita 15 at his dohyo debut in May. He notched up 4 straight kachikoshi results to make his sekitori debut at the first tourney of 2010. He has sanyaku hopes written all over, due to his hard work ethic, solid mental strength and just plain good sumo skills. Ozumo needs a new star, Miyogiryu might be just the guy!

These two step up to Juryo because two other wrestlers are falling down the banzuke, and behind the curtain.

Kotoyutaka J14w (4-11) fell apart after Day 10, losing his 5 last days. He first put on the silk mawashi at the Nagoya basho. He has the skill and size (146kg), we ought to see him out in front of the curtain by next Nagoya basho.

Daishoumi J10w (4-11), like Kotoyutaka, also fell apart after Day 10, losing his 5 last days. Perhaps the wear and tear of the first 10 days took its toll on Daishoumi. Since somewhat young at 25 years old, we should watch him climb quickly back in the Juryo division in 2010.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Behind the Curtain - November 2009

The leaves have all changed color in Nikko, just outside of Tokyo, and on the other end of Japan, in Kyushu, we will see the beginning of another sekitori, spending out from behind the curtain, along with one returnee to the paid ranks. The Fukuoka Basho will be the debut of a wrestler who may have what it takes to reach sanyaku.

Makushita Yusho winner – Gagamaru (7-0) Ms10e puts on the silk mawashi for the first time. He becomes the third sekitori from Georgia.

"I couldn't sleep last night because I was so nervous. When I heard of my promotion I was really happy. If I wouldn't have been promoted, I promised myself to gambarize next basho!", declared a happy Gagamaru. He lost his father in a traffic accident three years ago almost to the day. "I'm sure he's happy for me up there", he said, gazing into the distance.

Gagamaru, Oyakata Kise and Kise wrestlers visited the K International School in October, for their annual bazaar. There he said that he was very confident about getting kachi kochi in his Juryo debut.

Gagamaru did it by taking his first Makushita championship. The makushita yusho was decided in a playoff between two 22 years old foreigners Gagamaru and Kaisei, and Gagamaru was ablr to grab his juryo promotion with his second yusho in his career (he won jonokuchi in his debut basho).

In addition, we have one wrestler returning to the paid ranks. He debuted in Juryo at Nagoya but had a one basho visit behind the curtain.

Kotoyukata (4-3) Ms1e managed to get a majority wins to return to Juryo. It should be nice for Kotoyukata to return to his home prefecture as a 2nd time sekitori. His hometown happens to be in Fukuoka prefecture, the town of Tikuzyou.

What goes up, something goes down, especially in sumo, where someone just lose his slot in order for someone below to take his slot. In essence you can consider that Ms10e Gagamaru 7-0 replaced J12w Tokushinho 6-9 and that Ms1e Kotoyutaka 4-3 replaced J10w Sotairyu 5-10. Interestingly, Kise Beya has one wrestler step out from the curtain, in Gagamaru, while on the sametime, another wrestler must step behind the curtain, in Tokushinho.

Sotairyu fell 3 wins short at the Aki basho of continuing his kachikoshi streak. Before the Aki basho, he had 6 consecutive tournaments will a majority wins.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Behind the Curtain - September 2009

The colors of the leaves have not started to change here in Tokyo, but the Fall Tournament or Aki Basho is here. This tourney we have 5 men stepping out from behind the curtain. There are 3 new faces making their debut to the paid ranks and 2 guys we have seen before in the silk mawashi.

Ms1w Sotairyu 6-1 from Tokitsukaze-Beya is putting on the silk mawashi for the first time this September. He entered the dohyo for the first time back in the summer tourney of 2005. After 4 years, he enters the paid ranks. Sotairyu is also the 10th college wrestler for Tokitsukaze stable.

Sotairyu was the only low-ranker who did not change his shikona in January 2008 after the Tokitsukaze-Beya scandal and remains with the shikona given to him by the former Oyakata. "After the scandal I was so depressed I couldn't do any sumo. I thought of quitting and even consulted my parents on this". He is 115 kilos light, but "I'll move around furiously and get the fans all excited!" he promised.

Sotairyu joins 4 of his stable mates as sekitori representing Tokitsukaze stable: East Maegashira #7 Toyonoshima, West Maegashira #10 Tokitenku, East Maegashira #14 Shimotori and West Maegashira #14 Tosayutaka.

Ms2w Tokushinho 4-3, from Kise-Beya, must have breathed easier after Dejima’s retirement announcement, which sealed Tokushinho’s promotion to Juryo. He is the first guy from Asahi University to become a sekitori. It will also be his first tournament fighting in a silk mawashi.
Kise Oyakata explained, “I will have you know, young man, that new promotee Tokushinhou weighs 220 kilos.”

Tokishinho shared, "I'd like to see how I measure up today to the guys I did sumo with back in college and could never beat.”

Tokitsukaze Oyakata added, "At first, he couldn't do shiko or teppo or push ups.. He did serious training, but I felt it may take him more time to become a sekitori", said his Oyakata Kise. He is 25 years old and is 1.92 meters tall. "He looks like a tall tree to me", added the awe-yakata, who decided he will use a green mawashi. "I hope he utilizes his outside grip well and does 'big' sumo!", he summed.

It is said that last Basho Yamamotoyama met Tokishinho in the shitakuBeya and called out: "Get up (the ranks) quickly and let's ruuumble!!"

Ms1e Sagatsukasa 4-3 from Irumagawa-Beya, did not need to win his last bout in Nagoya, against, Toyazakura, cause he only need 4 victories to guarantee his return to the paid ranks, after a one Basho visit behind the curtain.

Ms2e Hoshikaze 4-3 from Oguruma-Beya got his promotion on day 12th in direct exchange bout with a uwatenage win against another Mongolian Hoshihikari. "I want to do strong, forward-moving, my own kind of sumo!" He joined sumo together with Kotooushuu. "Now that I'm closing in on him in the ranks, I'd really like to face him on the dohyo". He is known for having difficulties getting in sync with his opponents at the tachiai because of his over-enthusiasm. "I hope he becomes a rikishi who does a nice tachi-ai", said his Oyakata, Oguruma.

Ms4e Fukuoka 4-3, who is renaming himself to Okinoumi, again, is from Hakkaku-Beya and is our last man stepping out from the curtain, plus along with Sagatsukasa, our 2nd returnee to the paid ranks.

With 5 men rising to the Sekitori tier of sumo, and with Deijma opening up one slot, 4 men must fall to behind the curtain to make room. J13e Hoshihikari 5-10, J13w Kitazakura 3-12, J14e Kotokuni 1-14 and J14w Kotoyutaka 7-8 will drop to Makushita.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Behind the Curtain - July 2009

Summer is in full swing, the heat and humidity is draped over most of Japan, and during this time, men will step out from behind the curtain to accept their silk mawashi, in some cases, for the first time, and defend their elevated rank of Sekitori, the top of the sumo pyramid. This Nagoya Basho we will have two first time Sekitori and one returnee.

First to get a promotion for this July tournament is Tokusegawa, who is one of the almost 40 Mongolians in sumo. He is has the honor of being the very first wrestler to reach Juryo for the Kiriyama stable. Kiriyama Oyakata formed his stable 15 years ago, and now he has his first Sekitori, “That is good. I was beginning to wonder if I’ll ever see the day.” It took Tokusegawa 6 years and surgery on his right elbow to reach this milestone, “I knew that some day I’d get my chance.” During those 6 years, Tokusegawa did win his division twice, once Makushita and another time Sandanme. Let’s see if he can string together a good run and add a Juryo yusho to his resume!

Next there is Kotoyutaka is a man known for his sense of humor, smarts and overall sweetness, which is not always traits that comes to mind when you like about a sumo wrestler. He has been known to be quite the clown on the Jungyo tours. His wit has been on display on television, when doing an interview on of numerous wide shows with Kotomitsuki and Kotomisen, where he shutdown the obnoxious host with some seriously sharp retorts. Besides his skills off the dohyo, he also managed to get one Makushita yusho in his climb up the banzuke. Upon hearing of his promotion, Kotoyutaka remarked, “I’d like to send my very first salary to my parents, with the envelope still sealed!” His coach, Sadogatake Oyakata shared, “I remember how the old shisho (the deceased ex-Kotozakura) used to say to him ‘If you ever make it to Juryo I’ll walk around the eighborhood on my hands!” Now, wouldn’t that be a sight to behold.

Finally we have our returnee, Kitazakura from Kitonoumi stable. Surprisingly, after getting demoted back behind the curtain for his poor showing at Juryo 11, posting only 5 wins for the entire tourney, he did not retire has many predicted. Instead he fought behind the curtain, and at the rank of Makushita 2 West, he won the majority of his bouts, finishing 4-3, including a win against a Sekitori, Juryo 13 East Wakatenro. This did not get him back in front of the curtain, since he was bumped from getting one of the 3 open slots in Juryo by Sagatsukasa, Jumonji and Tamaasuka. So he went on to post another 4-3 result in the Natsu Basho at Tokyo, to earn him his return to the paid ranks. He is the 2nd oldest wrestler ever to earn a promotion back to Juryo, after the great Oshio.

To make room for these boys, someone must have retired or gotten sent back behind the curtain. At writing, the official standings are not release but it is very likely that Sagatsukasa will return to Makushita, limited his visit in front of the curtain to just one basho. Okinoumi will join him, along with Hoshihikari. Don’t forget, the promotion to Juryo are announced the first Wednesday after a tournament ends to give the wrestler time to find the money and get his silk kensho mawashi made, for his grand entrance via the tournament dohyo-iri (entering the dohyo) ceremony.

Behind the Curtain - May 2009

There is post Golden Week holiday buzz in the air, along with the sounds of a curtain fluttering in the wind. It is from behind this curtain that men of sumo step out into the glory of the sekitori rank, to collect their “ten gold coins,” and to enjoy benefits of lower ranked wrestlers as their attendants, 24 x 7. This Natsu Basho we have only previous sekitori return to the paid ranks.

Sagatsukasa is ranked at Juryo 14 East and spent the first two tournaments of 2009 in the Makushita division, having made his previous visit to the paid ranks at the Fukaoka Basho last November. This 27-year-old from Irumagawa-beya always does his very best since reaching Juryo the first time in November 2007. Expect him to remain in the paid ranks for the rest of 2009, and exceeding his top rank of his career so far, that of Juryo 9.

Jumonji gets slotted at Juryo 14 West in somewhat of comeback. We have not seen this guy in a silk mawashi since November 2007, the exact same basho that Sagatsukasa made his debut. At 33 years old, time is not on Jumonji’s side, but dropping out of the paid ranks due to an injured shoulder, then 18 months later getting back out from behind the curtain. Some feel that his style of sumo is mediocre. Representing Michinoku-beya, he managed to notch 510 Makuuchi bouts, yet never faced either a yokozuna or ozeki. He does come from a prefecture in Japan noted for sumo, Aomori-ken, so he has that going for him. It is unlikely that will be enough for him to once again reach his highest rank ever, Makuuchi 6, anytime soon.

Tamaasuka appears from behind the curtain at Juryo 13 West. Tama is a textbook elevator wrestler, in the past 6 basho, he was ranked Makushita, Juryo, Makushita, Juryo, Juryo, Makushita, respectively. So does this sekitori from Kataonami-beya have what it takes to remain in the paid ranks longer than 2 tournaments? Definitely! He is only 25 years old and has been has high up the ladder as Makuuchi 9, so the potential is there.

Three sekitori appear and three sekitori must disappear, that is of way of the sumo world. We have already read of the demise of Wakrin in our last issue, besides him, we have a retiring sekitori, and one wrestler demoted back to Makushita.

Yotsuguruma did not put together a winning record since he was promoted to Juryo back in November 2008. It appears he overstayed his welcome in the paid ranks. He needs to quickly get his act together, at 28-years-old, now is the time for him to get back in that silk mawashi and stay in it. A sumotori from Isenoumi-beya, he needs to put in extra practice to return.

Otsukasa decided that he would not return behind the curtain, instead at 38-years-old, he chose to hang up his mawashi and retire. Otsukasa was born February 18, 1971 and wanted to become a sumo wrestler since he was a little kid. Both his father and grandfather were huge sumo fans. He certainly managed to make his dream come true. He closed with a career record of 616-660-1, having spent 97 basho in sumo. Then later on, 3 and half years ago, that Kotonowaka retired, and that left Otsukasa the oldest active sekitori, until now. The title of oldest active sekitori now belongs to Tosanoumi.

WARNING - Waikele Premium Outlets, HI

My rent-a-car was broken into, in broad daylight, at Waikele Premium Outlet on the island of Oahu, on July 5th, between 1350 and 1455. At 1355 I placed my wife's shopping in the trunk. My golf clubs were in the trunk as well. The thieves must have been extremely fast, and just popped the driver's side door lock, pushed the trunk button, and cleaned the trunk out. No one was hurt, it was not my car, so it wasn't an extreme crime but it is sad and it is my wife's favorite place to shop on Oahu.

I emailed Waikele Premium Outlet asking them to install CCTV.

I was contacted by a detective at the Honolulu Police department, he explained that there have been a rash of break-ins and that there was even an eyewitness the previous week, where a car in the center lot was broken into.

If you shop there, be smart and assume your belongings are not safe in your car, and simply drag your shopping around with you, until you are done and ready to leave the Waikele Premium Outlet.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Watch Your Wallet at TOKYO ESSENTIAL BAR PANDA

Just wanted to share that last night, June 26th, I lost my wallet at TOKYO ESSENTIAL BAR PANDA. I was there for a farewell party, so it was a private party. I sat down two place, out front, collecting money, and then once inside for the last 40 minutes of the party. When I reached the 2nd party, I realized my wallet was gone, and worked my way backwards to TOKYO ESSENTIAL BAR PANDA. When I reached the place, it was empty, guess it is more of an afterhours joint, and the staff had not seen my wallet. I left my phone number. In Japan, a general rule of thumb is that lost wallets are returned. I canceled all my credit cards and ATM cards. The biggest hassle is my drivers license, especially since I need it to pick up a rent-a-car in 5 days, ugh. C'est la vie! But I did not get a good vibe from TOKYO ESSENTIAL BAR PANDA, so I am posting this to share with the world.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Behind the Curtain - March 2009

The second basho of 2009 will give us two sumotori stepping out from ‘behind the curtain’, a juryo debut and a returnee. Opening up the sekitori slots for these young guns is two wrestlers who posted identical 5-10 records to push them down the ladder and back ‘behind the curtain’.

Okinoumi (Ms1), last basho known as Fukuoka sumotori, took the makushita yusho in convincing fashion, notching a perfect 7-0 record at the New Year’s tournament. It has taken 4 years and 3 months from his debut in 2005 to reach the rank of juryo.

Not surprisingly, Okinoumi is from Okinoshima, an island off the Shimane perfecture. It is known for maintaining its traditional style of sumo called koten zumou. Koten zumou is sacred event that is held overnight.

It is not uncommon for a rikishi to change his shikona when he ‘steps out from behin the curtain’, but in this instance it seems that his father had suggested the new shikona even before the Tokyo basho. A reporter has commented that as Okinoumi moves up the paid ranks, he will become popular due to his good looks. Hakkaku oyakata has asked reporters not to say this, because he fears that Okinoumi will get overconfident. Hakkuka added that any strong rikishi should be popular with the ladies.

Kirinowaka (Ms2) is back in the paid ranks, after being a sekitori for 5 basho in 2008, he only needed a short 2 basho visit back ‘behind the curtain’, first at the Fukuoka tourney and then the New Year’s tourney, where is finished with a 5-2 record. The Osaka basho marks his 10th year in sumo, and at 25 years, he needs to stay in juryo to have a shot at makuuchi.

Tamaasuka (J12w) had a tough tournament in Tokyo, especially the 2nd half, where he lost 6 of the last 8 days, virtually guaranteeing him a trip back ‘behind the curtain’. Tama has been has high up the banzuke as Makuuchi #9, but since the last basho of 2005, he has spent the majority of his time in a cotton mawashi oppose to a silk one. At 26 years old, he is still relatively young but perhaps he just doesn’t have the edge he had back in 2005. He will need to rediscover this edge to get back out in front of the curtain.

Kitazakura (J11w) is an old timer for sumo, at the ripe old age of 37, he hasn’t had to wear a cotton mawashi since 2003, and it is surprising that he has not decided to retire. Then again, from 1999 to 2003, Kita made a total for five one time visit to makushita, so perhaps he believe this stay in the unpaid ranks will be limited to one basho as well.