Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Behind the Curtain - November 2013

Halloween is over, the koyo is spreading across Japan, and it is time for the last tournament of 2013, along with the last chance for rikishi to step out from behind the curtain. There is a very small number of rikishi doing this, just three, one debut and two returnees.

Higonojo, Makushita 4 West, Kise beya, spent all of 2012 and the first 5 tourneys in 2013 sitting in the single digits of Makushita, and finally he breaks through to wear the white mawashi. He has competed in 35 tournaments, yet as a former college sumo wrestler, he has taken the fifth longest to make it to Juryo. Of the wrestlers who debut on the dohyo in November 2007, Higonojo is the very first to reach the paid ranks. And another data point, he is the 108th former amateur sumo collegian rikishi.

Kotomisen, Makushita 2 West, Sadogatake beya, first stepped out from behind the curtain at this year’s Nagoya basho, but could only manage 6 wins, returning to wearing the cotton mawashi for Aki basho.

Kimurayama, Makushita 3 East, Kasugano beya, spent the first three tournaments in the paid ranks, but suffered a horrendous 3 win tourney, landing himself back in Makushita for the previous 2 tourneys. Kimurayama’s first trip in the paid ranks was back in January 2008. He came into Juryo blazing, notching a 12-3 in only his second tournament as a sekitori and took the Juryo Yusho! He stayed a sekitori a little longer because of the May 2011 Technical Examination tournament, which is when numerous rikishi retired due to the match-fixing scandal. For example, his record was only 7-8 but he went up the banzuke from Magashira 17 to Magashira 15. An interesting fact, he is the only wrestler in the top three divisions from Wakayama Prefecture.

For these 3 to raise to sekitori, 3 had to fall to sumotori. Kitaharima, Takanoyama, and then Baruto’s intai opens up another slot for one more rikishi to wear the silk mawashi.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Yokohama Police Welcome

August 12, Monday, 2013.  My wife's 5th day in the Yokohama area.  She
drove me to the train station, Motomachi-Chugakai, probably for the
last time.  Why?  Cause the Yokohama police gave her a ticket for
taking a right turn (, that we have taken
everyday coming home since August 7th.  We have need no sign.  It is a
right turn only lane, but yet, it is illegal in the morning.  We are
new to town, my wife did not know, but the police still gave her the
ticket.  I want to hear from other people in the Yokohama area, is
there a problem here?  Are the Yokohama Police a little overboard?
Comment here!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Behind the Curtain - July 2013

The rainy season has ended in the lower half of Japan, the summer school holidays are just around the corner, so it is time to head for the miso capital of the world, and enjoy the Nagoya Basho. This tourney we get to enjoy the introduction of 4 first time sekitori to the dohyo, along with a single returnee.
Let’s start with the first African born sekitori in the history of sumo, Otake beya’s Osunaarashi or "Great Sandstorm," the makushita yusho winner with the perfect record of 7-0, fighting from Mk7e.

"To be the only one makes me happy," said the 21-year-old Otake stable wrestler, whose real name is Abdelrahman Ahmed Shaalan.

As reported in the Kyodo News on May 29th, “Shaalan was introduced to the sport by a friend and was absorbed by watching video clips of former yokozuna Takanohana. Shaalan first tried his hand at sumo at the age of 15. He won a bronze medal at the 2008 world junior sumo championships.”

The Otake stablemaster decided to take in Osunaarashi after being impressed that the Egyptian was willing to come to Japan not long after the disastrous earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear crisis, the Asahi Shimbun said.

Osunaarashi is described as having a powerful frame, at 6-foot-2 and 319 pounds, but is lacking the flexibility required to do the ceremonial leg raising and stomping on the ring.

He is a Muslim and will have to juggle fasting and training during Ramadan, the Asahi Shimbun noted.

“I am confident that I can overcome my challenges," he told the Asahi Shimbun reporter. "I want to become a wrestler who represents Arab and African nations.”

Otake beya must be happy to have a sekitori for the first time since Roho retired back in September 2008.

Next in our new face line-up, hailing from Shikoroyama beya, Seiro, notching a 5-2 result, from the highest rank in makushita, Mk1e, who is interesting he is now a sekitori, who was born during the Heisei era (January 8, 1989 – present). He joins his fellow stablemate, Homasho, as ex-Sekiwake Terao’s 2nd sekitori.

Moving on to a man that has been at it for many years, from Sadogatake beya, Kotomisen, posting a 5-2, fighting at Mk2w. Koto first stepped on the dohyo way back in 1999; 4 basho in Jonokuchi, 23 basho in Jonidan, 31 basho in Sandanme, 26 basho in Makushita, simply incredible! 7 other rikishi have been promoted to Juryo 6 times. One has been promoted 7 times, Kitazakura. One has been promoted a record 8 times, Sumanofuji!

Our final newcomer to wearing the silk mawashi, from Oitekaze beya, Endo, finishing 5-2, fighting from Mk3e, having started at Mk10, due to his accomplished in college sumo, Endo first enter the ring in March 2013. He had his very first appearance against a sekitori on May 22, resulting a very lively discussion with the nearby yobidashi, since he had no clue exactly how to perform the chikaramizu.

He is also the first sekitori for Oitekaze since Daishoumi retired from sumo back in November 2011.

It is also worth noting that he is currently fighting under his family name. We could see a new shikona on the banzuke for July. At 143 kg and 184 cm, and back-to-back 5-2 results, expect to see a lot more of this rikishi.

We conclude with our only returnee for the Nagoya tournament, from Tamanoi beya, Yoshiazuma, getting 4-3, while ranked at Mk1w, he is a textbook example of an elevator sekitori, since this is the 6th time he will be stepping out from behind the curtain; 1st time- 2007.11; 2nd time - 2011.01; 3rd time - 2011.11; 4th time - 2012.03; 5th time - 2013.01 and Nagoya makes six!

Surprisingly, this is not a record; there have been 7 other rikishi that have accomplished this feat! On top of that, one rikishi has done this 7 times, Kitazakura. But that still is not the maximum times a rikishi has stepped out from behind the curtain, over their entire career. The record holder goes to Sumanofuji, who has traded in his cotton mawashi for a silk one, 9 times!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Behind the Curtain - May 2013

Spring is in full glory, although moving closer to the annual rainy season, and we get to celebrate the arrival of not only good weather but the debut of two new sekitori, along with two returnees to the paid ranks of sumo!

Our first debut did it in brilliant style at Osaka basho, but posting a perfect 7-0 record, taking the Makushita championship and moving out from behind the curtain, at Makushita East 7, to put on the silk mawashi for the very first time. Kizenryu, formerly known as Kamei, hails from Kise-beya and will be fighting in Juryo this tourney. With both sumotori sitting at 6-0, Kizenryu had to defeat Takakiho to secure his perfect 7-0 record.

Kizenryu debut back at the Haru 2008 basho. At the beginning of his sumo journey, he skyrocketed to Makushita but putting together a 20-1 record over 3 tournaments. But then he hit a wall, and sat in Makushita for 3 years. But in 2012, he got things moving upwards again with 5 kachi-koshi out of 6 tourneys. At 28 years old, he still has some mileage left and we should enjoy him in Juryo for a few years.

Our other debut is from Kokonoe-beya, Chiyoo, who posted 5-2 from the rank of Makushita West 5. Chiyoo entered the dohyo for the first time in March 2010. Chiyoo will join his stable mates, Chiyootori & Chiyoarashi in the paid ranks, bringing Kokonoe oyakata's sekitori total to 4, since Chiyotairyu and Chiyonokuni are in Makuuchi.

On the other side of things we have two sumotori returning to Juryo. First is the just mentioned Chiyoarashi, who posted a 6-1 record, fighting at Makushita East 4. Originally promoted to the paid ranks for the Aki basho in 2011, he only fought in Juryo for 2 tournaments, before dropping down to Makushita for all of 2012. But after missing the New Year's entire 2012 tourney, he posted consecutive kachi-koshi to return to the paid ranks. It seems that Chiyoarashi is a healthy inter-beya rival of Chiyonokuni. Hopefully the success of Chiyonokuni will push Chiyoarashi to continue his climb up the banzuke.

Finally our last returnee is Kitaharima from Kitanoumi-beya, who notched a nice 5-2 record fighting from Makushita East 1. Kitaharima broke into Juryo for the first basho of 2012 and fought in Juryo all of 2012, but 3 make-koshi in a row dropped him behind the curtain. In response, he has posted 2 consecutive kachi-koshi to return to Juryo. Kitanoumi oyakata will be pleased that he now has 3 sekitori, with Kitaharima joining Nionoumi in Juryo and Kitataiki in Makuuchi.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Behind the Curtain - March 2013

Sumo has arrived in Osaka, for the now that the cherry blossoms are beginning to bloom, and the cold winter has exited the stage, it is time for one rikishi to become a sekitori for the first time, along with two rikishi returning as sekitori.

First of all, it takes more than a great performance at the New Year basho to get ranked in Juryo. There needs to be others who fail to win the majority of their bouts or that outright leave sumo, to open the slots of above you to fill.

Big time fan favorite, Takamikasakari fell out of Juryo and went directly to intai, ending his entertaining career on the dohyo. Hochiayama and Kagamio also failed to win 8 and will slide down to the unpaid or low paid, rank of Makushita.

These three slots helped Tochihiryu to debut on the dohyo in Osaka as sekitori, as well Mongolians Oniarashi and Sensho to return to the silk mawashi wearing division.

Tochihiryu has been a mainstay in the top makushita ranks, being in the upper half since three years and in top ten for the last nine basho, and this basho the 25-year-old rikishi from Shizuoka finally had the breakthrough to get to juryo, making it six sekitori from Kasugano-beya next basho. He crowned the basho with a win over Chiyoarashi, making it the first 6-1 basho in three years for him.

Tochihiryu of Kasugano-beya, is the only Japanese national to step out of the curtain this tourney. Tochihiryu's aim for this basho is kachi-koshi. His kesho-mawashi will show the design of his Hiryu high school badge.

Interestingly enough, as you know, a sekitori gets the privilege of having a private room, no longer living in the one room dorm that all rikishi behind the curtain live in. But his heya has no enough single rooms for their sekitori. Already of Aoiyama and Tochinowaka share one room; and Kimurayama lives with his family in his own home.

In Tochihiryu's entire career, he has managed to get a yusho in the Sandanme division, twice, way back at this Osaka basho in 2007 and then at the 2009 Nagoya basho.

Onirashi from Ashiyama-beya has spent the summer last year in Juryo, both at Nagoya, where he debut as a sekitori, and the Aki Basho. Now he is back in the paid ranks for the hanami season. He was the Makushita champion at Kokugikan with a perfect 7-0 record, his first yusho ever!

Sensho from Shikihide-beya had debut as sekitori at Osaka last year, but quickly fell back behind the curtain since. He has had a respectable run so far, notching on Makushita yusho in November 2011 and one Sandanme yusho in October 2010.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Musashimaru decides to 'ganbatte,' open his own stable

By Ferd Lewis

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 16, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 06:44 a.m. HST, Jan 16, 2013

Musashimaru performed his last ring ceremony during his retirement ceremony on Oct. 2, 2004.

Even for someone who is 6 feet, 3 inches and 320 pounds, what Fiamalu Penitani embarks upon in the next stage of his sumo career is considered a big step.

The former Waianae High football player, who gained fame and fortune as grand champion Musashimaru, will become the second foreign-born sumotori to open his own stable in Japan's centuries-old national sport and plans a Hawaii presence.

"I can't wait to get going," Penitani said by phone following a training session at the Fujishima stable in Tokyo, where he coaches.

The 41-year-old Penitani, who competed for the Musashigawa stable from 1989 until 2003, will take over the rights to the Musashigawa name Feb. 4 when the current owner, the former Mienoumi, retires.

"It is a very big move and a prestigious (stable name)," said Jesse Kuhaulua, who, as Azumazeki, became the first foreign-born stable operator in 1986. Kuhaulua, who coached Akebono (Hawaii's Chad Rowan), retired in 2009 after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65.

Penitani, who followed Akebono as the second foreign yokozuna in 1999, said he will lease and renovate another stable property on the outskirts of the Ryogoku sumo district to house and train his understudies. Penitani and his wife will live on the top floor of the three-story building, with the sumotori on the second floor. The bottom floor will be for training. He said he hopes to have the stable operating by summer.

Penitani said he has already recruited three prospects, "and I need to get one more before I get started."

They include a nephew, Fiamalu "Mamu" Penitani, a 2011 Waianae High graduate. The nephew, who is 6-3 and 308 pounds, was an offensive lineman for the Seariders. He has been training in Japan for about six months.

Musashimaru debuted in 1989 amid the so-called "Hawaii boom," during which more than 20 sumotori from the islands competed in Japan. There have not been any active sumotori from Hawaii since 2003 and the ruling Japan Sumo Association now has a cap on foreigners, with one permitted per stable.

Originally upon retirement Penitani, like other eligible sumotori from Hawaii — Akebono, Konishiki (Salevaa Atisanoe) and Yamato (George Kalima) — had little interest in opening his own stable. But, in time, he said, "I began to think that since I'm going to live here, I might as well try it."

Penitani said he talked to Kuhaulua about stable ownership "and he told me, ‘Ganbatte (go for it)!' "

Musashigawa-beya 4-27-1 Higashi-Nippori Arakawa-ku, Tokyo