Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Behind the Curtain - November 2016

Ending the year of the Monkey, we’ve got a handful of rikishi stepping out from behind the curtain.  This is a bumper crop of young men, 2 are returnees to wearing the silk mawashi, and 3 first timers to the paid ranks. 

Our first returnee is Yamaguchi (Mk2e, 7-0 Yusho, Miyagino), an ex-college rikishi from Nihon University.  He’s been a rikishi for over 4 years now.  11 years ago, when he was 16 years old, he was the second rookie student to win the Japan High School Sumo Championship.  The only other rookie student to take the high school championship was Maegashira Kushimaumi.

Our second returnee is Ryuden (Mk2w, 4-3, Takadagawa), a 10-year sumo veteran.  He’s another ex-college rikishi from Nihon University.  For those readers new to sumo, you might see a trend and yes, Nihon University is one of the sumo rikishi “factories”.  When Ryuden was promoted 4 years ago, he discontinued his tsukebito role with Kisenosato.  Now, we can suspect he will return to that job.

Next there is Daishoho (Mk1w, 5-2, Oitekaze), another Mongolian rikishi, is a first timer to the paid ranks.  He’s part of the force that is Mongolian sumo, the highest represented country, besides Japan, in sumo.

Then there is Oyanagi (Mk1e, 4-3, Tokitsukaze-beya), an ex-college rikishi from another good sumo school, Tokyo University of Agriculture. Upon entering sumo, based on his college sumo record, he was placed at the Sandanme 100.  From there, he went undefeated in his first two basho, then back-to-back kachikoshi, landing him in Juryo, an incredible pace.  More incredible was when he was 17-0 at the Nagoya basho and needing one more win, to be automatically promoted to Juryo.  Unfortunately, Wakanoshima was able to defeat him, and put the brakes in his rise to the paid ranks until this Fukaoka basho.

Finally, there is Meisei (Mk3e, 4-3, Tatsunami), in his sixth year of rikishi, who just squeezed out from behind the curtain. 

Now one last thought on promotions for November, there are some pundits out there that believe we ought to have a 6th rikishi stepping out in front of the curtain.  Sakamoto (Mk3w, 4-3, Oitekaze) entered sumo at Makushita 15 due to his outstanding college sumo career, at you guessed it, Nihon University.  Since the first basho of 2016, he has gone 4-3 5 consecutive times!  With his trend, we will definitely see him in the silk mawashi in 2017.

Now with a handful of rikishi going up the banzuke, we need to have an equal number of rikishi falling down the banzuke.

Wakanoshima (J13w, 6-9, Shibatayama) had a losing record in Tokyo.  He is the same Oyanagi that squashed Oyanagi’s shot at 18-0.  His drop down the banzuke, contributed to the opportunity on the banzuke for Oyanagi to become a sekitori.

Kizenryu (J11w, 5-10, Kise) was another rikishi that could not manage 8 wins at the last tourney.  He’s been a rikishi since his debut at the Haru basho 2008. 

Asabenkei (J11e, 4-11, Takasago) will put his silk mawashi in the closet and put his cotton mawashi back on for the next basho. 

Fujiazuma (J14e, 5-10, Tamanoi) will go back to be someone’s tsukebito this tournament.

Toyonoshima (J8e, 0-0-15, Tokitsukaze) has been a sekitori for a dozen years.  Falling out of Juryo is harsh, giving up all the sekitori benefits, very harsh from over 12 years of the paid ranks.  Harsher still that he jun-yusho at the Shogatsu basho, followed by 2 makikoshi, and 2 outright absences.  Let’s hope he quickly recovers to climb the ladder back to the paid ranks in 2017.  He has the honor one of only three sekitori to who, to be able to enter sumo, took secondary physical exam and reached Juryo.

It was a wonderful year of sumo!  Can’t imagine what next year has in store for us.  See y’all next time, in the year of the Rooster!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Behind The Curtain - September 2016

With the Nagoya basho in our rear mirror, we have the Aki basho right around the corner.  Before we make that turn, we should take a look at the rikishi that have broken through to the paid ranks, and also those that had to take a demotion, returning to their tsukebito ways.  Let’s start with those turning their cotton black mawashi for a sleek silk mawashi.

Kizenryu (Ms1e 5-2) did more than enough to step in front of the curtain.  This is not his first time up to the sekitori ranks.  He has already fought 4 tournaments in Juryo.  He has spent the bulk of his sumo career in Makushita, 42 out of 50 basho.  Kizenryu hails from a famous sumo college, Nihon University.  At 31 years old, now is the time for him to make a real push into Juryo, cause time is against any rikishi after 30.  Coming into the Nagoya basho, he had won half his bouts by uwatenage.  Then in Nagoya, he won half with that kimarite.  It seems that really likes getting an outer grip throw.

Wakanoshima (Ms3w 5-2) is in the paid ranks for our upcoming tourney in Tokyo.  This is a return visit to Juryo for Waka.  Here is another rikishi over 30 and only a handful of tourneys in the paid ranks.  He needs to really drive hard to remain a sekitori and rise up the banzuke.  During the Nagoya tourney, he got to play spoiler to Oyanagi's 17-0 career start.  If Oyanagi would have defeated Wakanoshima on the dohyo, he would have got a 7-0 record, and being Ms15 or above, an automatic promotion to Juryo.  Instead, Wakanoshima beat him, ending his unabated streak.  Since entering sumo, Oyanagi is 17-1.

Dewahayate (J11e 3-12) took a huge tumble to put the black mawashi back on.  He as been as high as Juryo 9. At 27 years old, he still has time to add on to his 6 basho in Juryo. I suppose it will take him 2-3 basho to get back into the paid ranks.

Shimanoumi (4-11 J14w) is our final rikishi demoted to Makushita for the Aki basho.  His Juryo debut did not pan out as Shima would have hoped.  With an new shikona, changing from his family name shikonw of Hamaguchi, we all wanted him to get a kachikoshi in the paid ranks.  He will need a few basho to step back in front of the curtain.

It appears that Kitataiki (J12w 6-9) was extremely lucky to remain in the sekitori ranks.  You have not remember, he’s been a sekitori for 9 years now.  He is 33 years old, not sure how much for sumo his body can take it.  Let’s hope he can kachikoshi during the Aki basho, and continue as a sekitori.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Behind The Curtain - July 2016

The heat of the summer and the Nagoya basho go hand in hand.  With the summer heat, there will be 5 rikishi stepping out in front of the curtain.  There will be two first time sekitori, while three rikishi are returning to the paid ranks.  This time, the promoted rikishi, each represents a different sumo stable and a different sumo ichimon.

Daiki Ms1 West tallied up a 4-3 record to step out in front of the curtain for the Nagoya basho.  Daiki entered sumo the March 2015 basho with his fellow college rikishi, Mitakeumi.  Mitakeumi only needed two basho to get the paid ranks, since he entered at Makushita 10, as Makushita Tsukedashi, due to his outstanding record as collegiate rikishi.  Daiki started from maezumo to work his way to the silk mawashi in Nagoya.  He is from the Hakkaku beya, which is part of the Takasago ichimon

Hamaguchi Mw5 West squeeze out a 4-3 record, and with several demotions from Juryo to Makushita, he made a huge stretch to reach the paid ranks for Nagoya.  The rikishi at Mw6 West, Kizenryu, posted a better record of 5-2, yet he will remain behind the curtain for Nagoya.  Along with debut as a sekitori, Hamaguchi has taken a new shikona.  He will be listed as Shimanoumi on the July banzuke.  This shikona is made of kanji representing his hometown of Shima, in the Mie prefecture.  The other part of his shikona is taken from his oyakata’s fighting name, Higonoumi., hence Shima-noumi.  He trains at the Kise beya, which belongs to the Dewanoumi ichimon.

Kyokutaisei Ms2 West notched up a 5-2 record at the Natsu basho, allowing him to wear a silk mawashi again.  His first debut in Juryo was exactly 2 years ago at Nagoya  This will be his third time as a sekitori.  Kyokutaisei is from Tomozuna beya, that belongs to the Isegahama ichimon.

Onosho Ms3 West produced a perfect 7-0 record, and lost in the Makushita yusho in a playoff (yusho-doten).  On Day 10 of the Natsu basho, Onosho made an earlier appearance on NHK with a bout against Juryo sekitori Tamaasauka.  He defeated the veteran rikishi and basically sealed his promotion to the paid ranks.  

Oyanagi at Ms58 West was the other rikishi to finish at 7-0,.  Oyanagi entered sumo at Sandanme 100, due to his collegiate record.  He went 7-0 his first basho earning the Sandanme yusho.  At the Haru basho, he again went 7-0 giving him the opportunity to battle Onosho in the yusho deciding playoff.  Keep you eye on Oyanagi, he is blazing a fast track to the paid ranks.  He ought to be ranked in the top 15 slots in Makushita for Nagoya, meaning another 7-0 record and automatic promotion to Juryo!

Onosho first basho as a sekitori was in January 2015, with the 2016 Natsu basho being a one time visit behind the curtain.  He is a member of the Onomatsu beya, a stable in the Takanohana ichimon.

Kotoeko Ms4 West scored a 5-2 record, and slipped into the Juryo ranks for a 3rd time.  He belongs to the Sadogatake beya, which is a member of the Nishonoseki ichimon.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

For ‘Mamu’ Penitani, sumo has been the right choice By Ferd Lewis Honolulu Star-Advertiser May 9, 2015

NAKAMA, Japan >> Nearly three years later, Fiamalu "Mamu" Penitani still vividly recalls the disbelief in the college recruiter’s voice.

"When I told him I was going to Japan for sumo instead of the mainland to play football," he didn’t believe me, Mamo said. "He said, ‘Are you sure you’re not just chickening out?’"

"He thought I was making it up about sumo," Mamu said. "I don’t think anybody had ever brought up sumo before."

These days, his hair long, oiled and pulled tight in the sumo style, Mamu, a 2012 graduate of Waianae High, ponders his career choice, overlooking a traditional Japanese rock garden and the trappings of a sumo stable. "I still feel it was the right choice for me. It was something I felt I had to try."

You could call it something of the family business for the 20-year-old nephew and namesake of former grand champion Fiamalu Penitani, who won the Emperor’s Cup 12 times as Musashimaru in a career that ended in 2003.

When a tearful Musashimaru stepped out of the ring for the last time in Tokyo, it ended a nearly 40-year continuous run of sumotori from Hawaii that included Jesse (Takamiyama) Kuhaulua, Salevaa (Konishiki) Atisanoe, Chad (Akebono) Rowan, Musashimaru and George (Yamato) Kalima that competed in the top division of Japan’s national sport.

Not until Mamu’s debut in 2013, under the ring name "Musashikuni," had another prospect from Hawaii wrapped himself in the traditional mawashi and stepped into the hard-packed clay circle like the one he competes inSunday in the Summer Tournament in Tokyo.

In a sport where Hawaii exports once held a prominent place, Mamu tries to find success amid the Mongolians and eastern Europeans who have come to dominate.

There is a saying in sumo that treasure is buried in the dohyo (ring) for those strong, persistent and accomplished enough to find it. And the former Seariders defensive tackle, now a 6-foot-1 318-pounder, is determined to unearth his share.

His uncle, Musashimaru, did well enough that when he retired after a 15-year career he opened his own sumo stable, Musashigawa, and a group of restaurants. "It is impossible to follow in his footsteps," Mamu said. "But with his push and instruction, I’d like to be successful."

Mamu is one of eight trainees in the stable and among 656 sumotori currently active in the sport. He climbed well up in sandanme division, the third of sumo’s six divisions, with a 41-28 record, before suffering a foot injury that forced his withdrawal after two matches in the last tournament in March.

"He’s healed up and ready to go in Tokyo," Musashimaru said. "He’s looking strong."

As a youngster he glimpsed Musashimaru in a match on TV and wondered what all the fuss was about.

"My grandma told me that was my uncle and I was amazed," Mamu said. "When I was about 7, I visited him at his stable. Then, in high school, I started to think about sumo, but my uncle wanted me to finish school first."

Mamu said, "After I got to Japan and had my first matches, I knew it was right for me. It was the right decision. I love football, but sumo is where it is at for me."

Reach Ferd Lewis at or 529-4820.