This page features movement in the sumo world outside of the grand sumo tournaments.
Top sumo wrestlers left Japan on June 2 for Canada. Tournaments were held on June 6 and 7 at Vancouver Colosseum packed with 12,000 spectators on both days. Wakanohana performed a yokozuna ring entrance ceremony for the first time outside Japan, and the very first time during a sumo tour. On the first day, Akebono faced Musashimaru in the final bout, and the yokozuna shoved out the ozeki. On the second day, Takanohana and Wakanohana fought eachother in the semi-final. Takanohana was the one to proceed to the final bout. Musashimaru made it to the end again. Taka defeated the ozeki to face Akebono for the overall title in the Canadian tournament. Taka took a firm hold of Akebono's belt and walked him out for the victory. It's the first time since the Grand Sumo Tournament last autumn that Taka became the winner.
Former Konishiki's top knot is off
11,000 packed the Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan arena on May 30. It was a sellout crowd. The sole purpose was, of course, to see the former Konishiki who is now Sanoyama. Current juryo rikishi, Daishi, chanted the sumo jinku which was composed for the very day. It goes, "Push, Push Sali!" Sali is Sanoyama's nickname. Then Sanoyama appeared on the ring wearing a blue silk belt, and opposing him was the popular maegashira rikishi Terao. The former Konishiki gave thrusts, Terao moved away. Then the former ozeki caught Terao and walked him out the ring. It is said that this kind of performance is unusual at a retirment ceremony. The highlight of the event, the hair cutting ceremony was held in the middle of the dirt-packed ring. Konishiki fan club chairman was the first to snip a part of his hair off. The heaviest ever sumo wrestler was already moved to tears. In all, 320 people took part in the snipping. They included celebrity singers, former sumo wrestlers Kirishima, Takamiyama, Chiyonofuji, and current wrestlers Musashimaru and Akebono. Konishiki's father and brothers did the cutting too. The last one was Konishiki's stablemaster Takasago. Takasago chopped off the entire top knot. Both, stood up after the ceremony to bow to the spectators. While Sanoyama left the stage to have his hair mended, Wakanohana performed his very first ring entrance ceremony as a yokozuna at the Ryogoku Kokugikan. Sanoyama returned to the stage wearing a tuxedo and wearing lots of leis or flower necklaces. He spoke to the audience explaining how he was motivated to do well in sumo for his mother, and thanked the fans and his wife for supporting him during his tough times.
Michiyo's Note: Being one of many Konishiki fans, I was thrilled to watch the hair cutting ceremony and his retirement party all televised live on Japanese TV on 2 different commercial channels. I look forward to seeing Sanoyama on more TV commercials and make appearance in public in other ways! He is a guy with a wonderful sense of humor and charisma.
Wakanohana's first yokozuna purification ceremony
On a wet day on May 29, Wakanohana performed his first ring purification ritual as yokozuna at Tokyo's Meiji Shrine. He was looked on by more than 5000 people in the shrine's compound. Wakanohana was flanked by Takatohriki as dewsweeper and Akinoshima as swordbearer who both belong to the same Futagoyama stable. The new yokozuna wore a silk apron which he borrowed from his brother Takanohana. On top of it was the symbolic white knotted belt of the yokozuna worn for ceremonial purposes. The type of yokozuna ritual Waka took up was the shiranui-gata as opposed to the unryu-gata which Taka and Akebono uses. The yokozuna spreads both arms out as he slowly lifts his body in the shiranui-gata.
Wakanohana is Yokozuna
The Yokozuna Deliberation Council met on May 25 to decide whether or not to promote Wakanohana to yokozuna. 9 of its 11 executive members were present to hold the vote. All voted in favor of the promotion. Then on May 27, executive members of the Japan Sumo Association visited the Futagoyama Stable to officially announce Waka's promotion. Waka accepted it by using the phrase "kenninfubatsu" which means, he will overcome hardships with great patience. At 27 years of age, Wakanohana along with younger brother Takanohana are the only brothers ever to together hold the highest ranking in sumo.
Kyokudohzan's Retirement Ceremony
Ryogoku Kokugikan Sumo Arena was packed again for a hair cutting ceremony. The popular Kyokudozan sat before a crowd of 11,000 on the dirt packed ring at the Ryogoku Kokugikan Sumo Arena on Feb.11. 290 people went up on the ring to cut a couple of string of his topknot off, including New Fronteir Party leader Ichiro Ozawa. Now, Kyokudohzan will be able to concentrate on his career as a member of the House of Representative.
Michiyo's Note: He looked charming with his new hairdo. He's handsome, afterall.
Kirishima's Retirement Ceremony
The former Kirishima, who reached ozeki, or the second highest ranking in sumo had his topknot cut off. The ceremony was held at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan Sumo Arena on Feb.1. An astonishing 10,000 people were there just for this ceremony. Those who were close to the former star ozeki came on the ring, one by one, to cut a piece of his hair off. They included former baseball star, Tatsunori Hara, and Hawaiian born sumo wrestlers Akebono and Konishiki. Kirishima has since his retirement last year, took on the name of Shikoroyama and has begun coaching young sumo wrestlers.
The first women's sumo tournament
Women's sumo was officially held in Osaka on Jan.19. That's for the first time since the women's sumo federation was established in April 1996. 35 women took part in 4 weight divisions. Most, however, have never fought sumo. They have background in judo. The girls wore a mawashi or a sash belt over their leotard to fight bouts. A style alittle bit different from men's sumo. Anyway, this attempt is hoped to pave the way for making sumo an Olympic event in the near future.
Former great yokozuna is dead
The man dubbed the "glass yokozuna" during the 60s, died from hepatic insufficiency on Dec.8. He was 58. His real name was Tsuyoshi Togashi and passed his post sumo wrestling career as the stable master of a new stable called Kagamiyama. His ring name was Kashiwado. He shared stardom with Taiho. The first kanji of their names were arranged to represent the particular period in sumo. It was called the Hakuho Era.
Michiyo's note: I remember him as the almost threatening chief judge sitting beside the ring during the grand sumo tournaments. If a sumo wrestler missed the right timing to get up and fight, Kagamiyama oyakata would bark at him.
Mainoumi's last hope on staying in the sumo world
Mainoumi, who at the Kyushu basho is ranked number 4 in juryo, or the second highest of the 6 divisions in sumo, will be back on the ring. He has been out of sumo since the 2nd day of the Nagoya tournament in July after damaging his left knee. Konishiki's 274 kilo weight smashed it. Mainoumi has missed the entire autumn tournament too, so his standing in the hierarchy of sumo dropped one division. He is in danger of even losing his sekitori or high ranking sumo wrestler title if he misses the coming tournament. That's why he's forcing himself to fight without having completely recovered.
Takanohana is injured
It was reported that Takanohana pulled back a muscle near his spinal column during a local tour in Kanazawa on Oct. 15. After an examination on Oct. 23, it was discovered that the injury is worse than previously thought. That he would need 3 weeks to recover. Although he's recovering faster than planned, rumor is, he'll pull out from the coming Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament.
Kyokudohzan goes into politics
Great looking sumo wrestler, Kyokudozan has run in the general election for the House of Representatives on Oct.20. He was 10th in the proportional representation list for the New Frontier Party (Shinshinto) in the Kinki District. It was at 11:53 pm that NHK reported that Kyokudohzan has won a seat in the Japanese Parliament.
Kyokudozan's candidacy was made known on Oct.6. It's the first time that an active sumo wrestler took such action. Kyokudozan, ended the Autumn Tournament with 6 wins and 9 losses at the ranking of maegashira number 9. He is one of the lightest sumo wrestlers weighing 107 kg. He submitted his resignation paper to the Japan Sumo Association on Oct. 7, but it has been refused. He went to the association again on Oct. 22 to formally announce his retirement from sumo. In addition, he has received approval to go into politics under the name "Kyokudozan". He decided he will not wearing a kimono after Oct. 23 although his hair will be kept in a topknot until it will be cut off at his retirement ceremony scheduled in February.
Michiyo's Note: I've definitely got to keep an eye on this new politician. I have interviewed him, and found him to be a very charming person. I have no idea how he'll do in politics though.
Former Wakanohana I and Takanohana I leave executive posts
The father and uncle of today's star wrestlers Takanohana and Wakanohana stepped down from their executive posts. Futagoyama stable master lost power as the organizer of local sumo tours and Katsuji Hanada, the former yokozuna Wakanohana, as director of the Sumo Museum. This decision was annouced on Sept. 6. The moves are results of the recent tax scandal. It is said that the Futagoyama stable master failed to declare 300 million yen in income. The money involved his elder brother from whom he bought the rights to take over the stable. Thus in reality, they were both taken away from their posts. However, to save them from losing face completely, Sho Sakaigawa, chairman of the Japan Sumo Association has been considerate to make it seem like the two men decided to leave the posts themselves.
Record low applicants
The number of teenagers applying to become sumo wrestlers is usually quite low prior to the autumn tourney. Afterall, it's the beginning of the second school semester for students. The number this time though is a record low. Only TWO applied.
Post 1996 Spring Tourney News
Akebono has gained Japanese nationality. He's been officially notified so on April 22.This means he will no longer be American, Chad Rowan. He will be registered by his sumo name, Taro Akebono. He is the 4th Hawaiian sumo wrestler to become a naturalized Japanese. The pioneer was Takamiyama, who was followed by Konishiki and then Musashimaru. Only Japanese sumo wrestlers can in the future, run their own stable.
Konishiki was not able to take part in the local sumo tour after the main tournament.
He must have been in real bad shape. His legs are always a problem. Just imagine all the
weight those legs have to deal with.
Michiyo's Note: Konishiki's absense from the local tour has actually affected my business. The Japan Sumo Association has refused to allow Konishiki on my show, although he was willing to be part of it. Instead, Mitoizumi, also known as "salt shaker" came. Mitoizumi was introduced on my program on April 27, as the eldest active sumo wrestler. He will be from the May Summer Grand Sumo Tournament, replacing Kirishima who just retired at age 36. Boy, Mitoizumi is huge. He stands 194 cm. tall and weighs about 200 kg. He wasn't able to go through our studio door unless he ducked. I found him to be really down to earth and quite talkative. I asked him why he grabs so much salt and throws it up so high. He said, it is to make the purification ritual more effect in hope of casting out the evil spirit that brings him all sorts of physical discomfort, and also to get himself into the fighting spirit.
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