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.