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.

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