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.