Kyushu Basho - Day 4

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November 14th 2007
Published: November 17th 2007EDIT THIS ENTRY

For those of you who don't like sumo; tough luck - we're turning up the temperature a couple of degrees today, so you might as well stop reading and hit the next journal link a few times... I started out a little bit earlier this morning (which translates to approximately 1 pm...) with the intent of having a "chance encounter" with some rikishi on the way to the arena. I had noticed a few lower ranking rikishi leaving after their bouts, walking down the street in their robes and sandals. Rikishi waiting at bus stops, sending SMS on their cell phones or waiting to cross the street. There is something appealing about how they blend into the cityscape. So with a little bit more time on my hands it didn't take long until I could zoom in on two fine specimen. I did my flawless bow, self-introduction and asked to take a photo. That was the easy part... placing myself and two rikishi in the same shot required a little bit more effort! As you can see from the photo the weather continues to be nice, blue sky and fresh air. You can almost feel a little bit of autumn in the air.

The arena still has a lot of empty seats, and I don't see that many recurring faces. Except for those two girls I initially thought to be the special Kitazakura fan club, but they since widened their scope. Can't be too fussy about rikishi I guess. In front of me was another gaijin sumo lover, who had spent some 30 years in Japan already. He gave me some useful pointers and mentioned that some of the beyas (sumo stables) on location here in Fukuoka welcomed visitors to drop by in the mornings and watch the training matches. An idea quickly grew in my head to seek out Kataonami beya and try to lend some support to my hero Tamanoshima. Unfortunately the plan has a big hole in it. "Morning". All my efforts to get up early (pre-eleven) this week have so far failed miserably, and for some reason I still cannot manage to go to sleep until early in the morning. Is this what life at old age will be like? Anyway, moving on...

Today's bouts really included a scandal. I didn't notice it as it happened in front of my eyes, only later when I studied the photographs did I see that the wrong winner was called in the match between Ama and Chiyotaikai. This is pretty striking. It may be one thing that the gyoji will sometimes point out the incorrect winner, sometimes he will simply have an unfavourable position. However, he is usually quickly corrected by at least one of five shimpan, sumo-elders placed ringside on all four sides of the dohyo (It is the head of the presiding shimpan that keeps ruining sumo photos worldwide with its silhouette in the lower section of the images). However, none spoke out. Further on, all matches are video recorded, instant replay is always available form a number of angles. I can't help but feel that the whole sumo association turned a blind eye to the outcome of this match, Ama was the rightful winner. Even worse, the "win" was awarded to ozeki Chiyotaikai, who now holds a flawless score of 4-0 and as such is currently in the lead of the tournament. And with the two grand masters being Mongols it is no great secret that a lot of Japanese really long for a fellow countryman to break into their dominion. However, were a match like this to weigh in in a possible basho win there would be even more bitterness in the international sumo community. One cannot disregard that from time to time, questionable actions and decisions do harm the reputation of the Japanese Sumo Association. You can see the full range of events that I captured here.

As the day's bouts were finished I decided to skip the subway and walk back to Tenjin instead. On my way over here I had noticed that when walking from Gofuku-machi subway station to the Kokusai Center i was crossing the avenue Showa-dori, which rang a bell, it is the main street just outside my hotel. So instead of going southwest and then northwest via subway I might as well walk due west which would also be a more interesting trip. I hadn't passed more than a few blocks when I did an interesting discovery. A little restaurant with a sumo caricature outside. This must be a nabe place! For those that do not know, chanko nabe is a highly nutrient soup mix which is the staple diet of all rikishi. Among their duties, the younger rikishi have a lot of housework to perform in their beyas. This includes cleaning and preparing the nabe for their elders. This is one reason why many rikishi also develop a fine sense of cuisine and many retired wrestlers have since opened restaurants at the end of their careers. In this particular instance I entered into a small shop-like eatery with only two tables. I did my best to communicate that I wanted some kind of nabe using my hideous broken Japanese but it worked fine. At first I got a little cold starter with pieces of squid, seaweed and cucumber while the chef prepared the food. It seemed I was one of a few customers at this time so the staff could give me a lot of attention.

After a little while a big pot with various raw ingredients was brought out and put on a little boiler on the table. It contained some kind of meatballs, fish or squid buns, lettuce, carrots, tofu, melon, three different kinds of mushrooms and noodles. I also got a little pot with some kind of green powder to add flavour as I saw fit. It went fine with the food but I noticed that after a while I must have overdosed on it because the soup turned kinda salty.

So how does chanko nabe taste then? Well, it's great! And no doubt fattening too. I shocked myself by emptying the whole pot. Guess I won't be having any meals for the rest of the week. While I was dining the chef came out and chit-chatted with me. We talked about sumo for a while and he told me that some of the makuuchi stars were friends of his. Oh, they used to stop by here sometimes I wondered. Then it hit me. Of course this big guy was not an ordinary chef, he was an ex-career rikishi. It turned out that he retired some ten years ago, at the time he was fighting in the juryo division under the shikona (ringname) Shigenoumi. Looking through his little place revealed all sorts of sumo memorabilia including photographs taken with Takamisakari and Musashimaru. I couldn't believe my luck at stumbling into a place like this! If you are ever in town for the basho, do yourself a favour and head on down to Showa-dori and turn west and look for this excellent place on the righthand side!

Additional photos below
Photos: 32, Displayed: 26


By any means necessary...By any means necessary...
By any means necessary...

Sumo isn't always a beautiful sport, but Kitazakura (JW4) perseveres and Hochiyama (JE2) has to accept defeat
Iwakiyama (JE1) and Otsukasa (JW3) getting to know each other better...Iwakiyama (JE1) and Otsukasa (JW3) getting to know each other better...
Iwakiyama (JE1) and Otsukasa (JW3) getting to know each other better...

One might say that sumo is a full contact sport. Also notice the shocked face of the ringside shimpan to the right...
Hakuba (JW2) with a nice decorationHakuba (JW2) with a nice decoration
Hakuba (JW2) with a nice decoration

You might remember this from yesterday's bout with Kitazakura (JW4). Ironically, since Kitazakura was the winner of the previous bout on this day, he was the one to serve the water of fortune to Hakuba.
Really, get a room you two...Really, get a room you two...
Really, get a room you two...

Again!? Tochinohana (JE3) and Toyozakura (JW1) exercising some fine sumo...
A gyoji announces the next days fightsA gyoji announces the next days fights
A gyoji announces the next days fights

Before the start of the makuuchi division the fresh line up is announced for the coming day's matches. The pairings are not exclusively dependent on rank, but decided in unison by the elders. For example, two rikishi from the same beya will not normally face each other.

The gyoji has raised his gumbai. This pose communicates to the rikishi that the warming-up is finished and that it is high time to earn the day's pay. In this instance Kokkai (ME13) is mere seconds from being out-yorikiried by Kasuganishiki (MW16)
Unidentified Sumo ObjectUnidentified Sumo Object
Unidentified Sumo Object

Few can throw themselves out of the ring so vigourously and uncontrolled like Tosanoumi (ME11). Really, I cannot recall how many times I've seen him end up on his back like a turtle. In this match, Kakizoe (ME14) merely has to play the toreador

Wakanosato (ME8) seems to have forgotten which sport is being performed in the dohyo. Hokutoriki (ME10) may want to try the technique of the crane next...
Yoshikaze (MW10) sends Takamisakari (MW8) out of the tournamentYoshikaze (MW10) sends Takamisakari (MW8) out of the tournament
Yoshikaze (MW10) sends Takamisakari (MW8) out of the tournament

Takamisakari (in blue) is inches away from receiving a hairline fracture costing him six weeks of R&R
Takamisakari (MW8) limps out of the dohyo (and later the tournament)Takamisakari (MW8) limps out of the dohyo (and later the tournament)
Takamisakari (MW8) limps out of the dohyo (and later the tournament)

Unfortunately this was the last sign of "Robocop" at Kyushu basho as he limped out after a bad landing. He made the first casualty of the makuuchi division. At any given basho, there is always a handful of rikishi who fail to complete the fifteen days of the tournament, and no pardon is given. Their rankings will suffer as a result and some may even be stripped of rank or placed in a lower division.
Takekaze (ME5) in troubleTakekaze (ME5) in trouble
Takekaze (ME5) in trouble

Although locked in intense battle, Goeido (MW6) is about to score his third win of the tournament
Crash landingCrash landing
Crash landing

Kakuryu (ME3) and Kyokutenho (MW4) remind everyone why it is dangerous to be a front row spectator
Tokitenku (MW3) gives up the ghostTokitenku (MW3) gives up the ghost
Tokitenku (MW3) gives up the ghost

Asasekiryu (SekW) proved too though an opponent... this time

17th November 2007

Oh man !!!!!!
Miyabiyama - the man who gave weightlessness a face (surprisingly enough)
18th November 2007

Japanese dictionary wanted!
Great pictures! Feel I have to study Japanese harder however.
22nd November 2007

Terrific Photos
What an amazing series of Sumo photography! Excellent! :)
3rd August 2009

Your chance picture
Hi, I was researching some Kyushu basho stuff because I want to go this year. Been everywhere else so might as well try. I came across your blog & how exciting to see your "chance picture" is with two of my best friends. They are from Onomatsu beya. On the right Kurosawa & left Keno. It is a small world afterall!! I enjoyed your pics too & I may stop by Shigenoumi's chanko place while I'm there.... but I'm usually exhausted after 8-6 of sumo every day for 15 days!!! Take care,Viki
18th May 2010

terrific humour
I had to cry from laughter, sensational power in using english

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