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mikawa

Featured Club / Dojo - Uto Junior Sumo Club

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Part 1 - The Spirit of Kumamoto

Located in Uto City in central Kumamoto, Uto Junior Sumo Club (宇土少年相撲クラブ) have been around for more than 40 years now, and are currently the strongest sumo club in Japan. They currently have 29 club members in all (20 in primary school, 9 in middle school), and their coach is called Sonoda Shigeru (園田 茂).

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Sumo clubs traditionally have keiko sessions on 2 days each week, but such is the dedication to sumo in Kumamoto that Uto Junior Sumo Club actually have keikos on 4 separate days, with middle school students practising daily. No wonder they've been able to produce some very talented rikishi over the years.

Their dominance during the past few years started with the 23rd Wanpaku Tournament, when the Uki Team, made up of Furukawa Haruki (古川 晴貴, semi-finals), Yamatake Ryo (山嶽 涼, quarter-finals) and Muramoto Yusei (村元 佑成, runner-up) won that year's team competition. All 3 are members of the Uto Junior Sumo Club.

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During the tournament, Yusei's win in the last 16 against Kamatani Masakatsu (鎌谷 将且), Sadogatake Oyakata's son, is one of the key bouts that year (from 6:06):

Meanwhile, in the Grade 6 competition, Haruki's shock win against former Wanpaku Yokozuna Nagao Yuki (長尾 勇気) is one of the most famous bouts in Wanpaku history. Before that year's tournament, Nagao Yuki had his sights all set on taking revenge against Shinpo Kyoya (新保 杏也), the defending champion, only to meet his match in his first bout (from 1:50):

Fast forward to the 29th Wanpaku Tournament, when 3 younger members of the club, Kusano Naoya (草野 直哉, quarter-finals), Hanaoka Masaki (花岡 真生, winner) and Kawazoe Fuma (川副 楓馬, runner-up), completed the same feat, this time with a record-equalling points tally.

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In his first bout, Fuma faced a very tough opponent in Ishida Hiroto (石田 洸斗), the Kansai champion, and a kid who's even bigger than he is. Fuma showed incredible determination and tactical awareness in that bout, which would prove to be one of the most exciting bouts that year (from 43:01):

Fuma would have gotten the Fighting Spirit Prize that year (if there was one) for his semi-final bout against the Kyushu champion, Sakae Ryusei (栄 龍征), and an opponent he knows very well from regional tournaments. After the bout, Fuma was so excited with the win that he punched the air in celebration, only to be told off by the gyoji for that. Notice the stare from his clubmate Hanaoka Masaki when Fuma stepped off the dohyo, as if to say "you serious bro?" (from 20:39) Speaking of, Masaki's bout in the final against Sakamoto Hirokazu (坂本 博一), Tokitsukaze Oyakata's oldest son, is a Wanpaku classic (from 29:45), as was Hirokazu's semi-final bout against Honda Rikiya (本多 力也), from 23:11:

The kids from Uto Junior Sumo Club would repeat this feat the following year by winning the team competition at the 30th Wanpaku Tournament as well, this time with Hanaoka Masaki (花岡 真生, winner), Kawazoe Fuma (川副 楓馬, quarter-finals) and Honda Gotaro (本田 豪太郎, quarter-finals).

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Fuma's quarter-final bout against Ochiai Tetsuya (落合 哲也) was another Wanpaku classic (from 25:36), as was the semi-final between Hanafusa Kai (花房 海) and Sakae Ryusei (栄 龍征), from 35:35. Incidentally, Ochiai Tetsuya was featured in a short report from the jungyo last year, where he received compliments from Hakuho himself.

Although the Uki Team only managed a 6th place finish at last year's Wanpaku Tournament (being let down by their newest member, Ote Kira 大手 希星, who lost in his first bout against Onozawa Ayato 斧澤 亜矢斗, a talented youngster from Iruma, Saitama), Fuma and Gotaro both achieved very good results in the tournament, getting to the semi-finals and quarter-finals respectively.

Edited by mikawa
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Part 2 - One Step Short, Again...

The National Club Championships (全国少年相撲選手権大会) is an annual competition, usually held in October, to decide the country's best sumo club/dojo. Each club/dojo puts out teams of 5 rikishi, with one each in Grade 3 (or lower), Grade 4 (o.l.), Grade 5 (o.l.), Grade 6 (o.l.) and middle school. It is a test of a club/dojo's overall strength and depth, as you can't win the competition with just one top-class member.

Back in October 2013, 79 teams from all over Japan gathered in the Kokugikan Stadium to compete in the 10th National Club Championships. Uto Junior Sumo Club breezed through the 2 qualifying rounds, and what happened next shows how strong they were that year:

Last 32: 5-0 vs Okazaki City Sumo Club (Aichi)

Last 16: 4-1 vs Komatsuryu Dojo - Yoshioka (Tokyo)

Quarter-finals: 4-1 vs Nakadomari Sumo Club (Aomori)

Semi-finals: 4-1 vs Kashiwa Junior Sumo Club (Chiba)

In the final against Tsugaru Sumo Club from Aomori, here's what should happen, based on their individual results:

Honda Gotaro (本田 豪太郎) vs Hasegawa Keiji (長谷川 恵司): Honda to win, as he frequently reaches the quarter-finals of national competitions

Kawazoe Fuma (川副 楓馬) vs Kosaka Yusei (古坂 裕聖): Kawazoe to win, as he was runner-up in that year's Wanpaku Tournament

Hanaoka Masaki (花岡 真生) vs Narumi Shoma (鳴海 匠馬): Hanaoka to win, as he is the defending Wanpaku Yokozuna

Kusano Naoya (草野 直哉) vs Koseki Takudo (小関 拓道): Koseki to win, as he is the defending Wanpaku Yokozuna

Kawakami Ryuko (川上 竜虎) vs Echigoya Tomoki (越後谷 知樹): Kawakami to win, as he is the defending Middle School Yokozuna

In theory, Uto Junior Sumo Club should win this match comfortably by 4-1 (as they have done throughout the tournament). However, here's what actually happened:

From left to right: Narumi Shoma, Hasegawa Keiji, Kosaka Yusei, Koseki Takudo, Echigoya Tomoki

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Back Row: Hanaoka Masaki, Kusano Naoya, Kawakami Ryuko

Front Row: Kawazoe Fuma, Honda Gotaro

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In February 2015, at the 5th Hakuho Cup, Uto Junior Sumo Club (competing under the name Kawakami Dojo 川上道場) once again dominated their opponents on their way to the final, where they faced Nakadomari Dojo from Aomori. It should be noted that this Nakadomari team includes members from Tsugaru Sumo Club, as Tsugaru were suspended at the time due to their coach using violence during keiko.

Again, here's what should happen, based on their individual results:

Honda Gotaro (本田 豪太郎) vs Narita Rikido (成田 力道): Narita to win, as he is the defending Wanpaku Yokozuna

Kawazoe Fuma (川副 楓馬) vs ???: Kawazoe to win, as he reached the quarter-finals in that year's Wanpaku Tournament

Hanaoka Masaki (花岡 真生) vs Narumi Shoma (鳴海 匠馬): Hanaoka to win, as he is the defending Wanpaku Yokozuna

Kawazoe Keita (川副 圭太) vs Koseki Takudo (小関 拓道): Kawazoe to win, as he was the middle school champion in that year's Hakuho Cup

Tsuzawa Taichi (津澤 太一) vs Ishioka Mikiya (石岡 弥輝也): Ishioka to win, as he reached the semi-finals in that year's Middle School Championships

In theory, Uto Junior Sumo Club should win this match by 3-2. Once again, here's what actually happened:

One year later, at the 6th Hakuho Cup, Uto Junior Sumo Club (again competing under the name Kawakami Dojo 川上道場) once again dominated their opponents on their way to the final, where they faced Team Mongolia. This is what happened:

Such star-studded line-ups, and yet so unlucky in finals.

Edited by mikawa
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Part 3 - Names for the Future

Uto Junior Sumo Club have produced many a talented rikishi over the years, with members seeing success at Wanpaku, Middle School, High School, College and even Ozumo. Here are some of the names to watch out for presently and in the future.

Shodai Naoya (正代 直也), Ozumo

Middle School Championships: Winning Team

All Japan Student Sumo Championships: Winner

All Japan Sumo Championships: Winner

Ozumo: Maegashira 2 last basho (12 straight kachikoshi since joining Ozumo)

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Furukawa Haruki (古川 晴貴), Nihon University, 3rd year

Wanpaku Tournament: last 16 (Grade 5), Semi-finals (Grade 6)

Middle School Championships: Winner

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Furukawa Takahiro (古川 貴博), Nihon University, 3rd year

High School Championships: Runner-up

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Yamatake Ryo (山嶽 涼), College, 2nd year

Wanpaku Tournament: Quarter-finals (Grade 4), Quarter-finals (Grade 5), Last 32 (Grade 6)

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Muramoto Yusei (村元 佑成), College, 1st year

Wanpaku Tournament: Runner-up (Grade 4), Last 32 (Grade 6)

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Kawakami Ryuko (川上 竜虎), High School, 3rd year

Wanpaku Tournament: Last 32 (Grade 4), Quarter-finals (Grade 5), Qualified (Grade 6)

Hakuho Cup: Winner (Middle School)

Middle School Championships: Winner

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Kawazoe Keita (川副 圭太), High School, 2nd year (right in photo, alongside his younger brother Kawazoe Fuma)

Wanpaku Tournament: Last 32 (Grade 5)

Hakuho Cup: Winner (Middle School)

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Tsuzawa Taichi (津澤 太一), High School, 1st year

Wanpaku Tournament: Last 64 (Grade 4), Last 16 (Grade 5), Semi-finals (Grade 6)

Middle School Championships: Last 16

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Kusano Naoya (草野 直哉), Middle School, 3rd year

Wanpaku Tournament: Last 32 (Grade 4), Semi-finals (Grade 5), Quarter-finals (Grade 6)

Middle School Championships: Last 32

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Hanaoka Masaki (花岡 真生), Middle School, 2nd year

Wanpaku Tournament: Qualified (Grade 4), Winner (Grade 5), Winner (Grade 6)

Primary School Championships: Winner (Grade 4), Last 16 (Grade 5), Quarter-finals (Grade 6)

Hakuho Cup: Last 16 (Grade 6)

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Kawazoe Fuma (川副 楓馬), Middle School, 1st year

Wanpaku Tournament: Runner-up (Grade 4), Quarter-finals (Grade 5), Semi-finals (Grade 6)

Primary School Championships: Winner (Grade 6)

Hakuho Cup: Winner (Grade 6)

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Honda Gotaro (本田 豪太郎), Grade 6

Wanpaku Tournament: Quarter-finals (Grade 4), Quarter-finals (Grade 5)

Hakuho Cup: Semi-finals (Grade 3)

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Ote Kira (大手 希星), Grade 5

Wanpaku Tournament: Qualified (Grade 4)

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Edited by mikawa
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