John Gunning

Japan Times Sumo Column Request

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As you might have noticed my column in JT has increased to weekly. I’ve got stuff I can write about but that level of regularity means there is an opportunity to do columns on pretty much anything sumo related.

What do you want to see covered? I’m talking outside the obvious interviews with rikishi, basho previews etc. Are there parts of the sumo world you want to know more about? Stuff that doesn’t get covered much like the place that makes mawashi or historical sumo locations etc?

I don’t have a strong preference myself so I’d rather write about things people are interested in.

The big / current sumo stories will continue to be dealt with. This is more of an opportunity to throw some light on the lesser known parts.

Thanks in advance.

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What is life like for a low ranking non-rikishi - the yobidashi, gyoji, etc

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Posted (edited)

Kesho-mawashi.  History, parts (front, back, fringe, belt, etc.), structural /decorative conventions.

Edited by Asojima
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the Yoshida Clan's history in sumo.

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Food, and which heyas specialize in which foods. Chanko, yes, but which heya is famous for making the best meals?

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Posted (edited)

Koenkai. How does this work for an individual rikishi, and what sort of support does a heya receive.  Does a popular sumo retiree take along his support group when he takes over a new or existing stable?  And does a heya support group look out for a veteran rikishi who might be facing retirement with few prospects?

 

 

Edited by Yamanashi

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Scouting

What does a scout search for in a prospective rikishi? How many times they observe them doing sumo? Do the scouts attend to local events or events abroad? How these young athletes being recommended by someone are being evaluated?

Injuries at Kokonoe-beya

At some point of time there were so many rikishi harboring an injury during the time of ex-Chiyonofuji so there should be something about his training regiment or way of disciplining his deshi to account for so many and often injuries. If it were a mere coincidence, how about what type of medical care a heya in general provides etc.

 

Jungyos

What is the decision making process in terms of which cities to be visited and where to exhibit sumo trainings and sumo matches? How the international jungyos come about as ideas, when are these organized etc.

 

Smaller stables

A feature on smaller heays where they do not have any sumotori or very limited number of rikishi all together. What is life like? What are the issues? How they receive any support etc

 

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Shikona stories

Forbidden or unacceptable shikona - apart from those in use and toshiyori names, and those owned by other heya like Taiho

Kanji forbidden in shikona, regardless of reading - the obvious are those for death 死 亡 and loss 負 and suffering 病 痛

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Some really great suggestions here, another thing I'd be interested in is life after sumo for those rikishi who don't really "make" it / go on to be oyakata.

But yes kind of seconding @Fukurou and @Kintamayama , definitely very interested in heya life and what goes on "behind the scenes" in a heya. I'd like to add Tokoyamas to Yobidashi and Gyoji too 

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Onna-zumo.  After I saw Wakamidori mentioned in another thread this really piqued my curiosity.  Some people here have referred to it having been considered akin to 'mud-wrestling' in Japan in terms of his past entertainment value, but this lady had obviously earned the respect of her male peers so it can't have been that cheap a spectacle.  

 

How does one choose a heya?  Sometimes there are family connections or one is scouted, but if one is totally new to it, how does the selection process work?  Can you audition for a few at the same time, have a trial live-in period to see how you fit there...?  What factors would you take into account when selecting one?  The oyakata, the size, wanting to train with a particular sekitori already there...?

 

Family life of rikishi.  There have been a few features on Japanese TV focusing on the family lives of sekitori and spending a day with their wives and kids.  This sort of insight would be interesting to learn more about - do they need to seek permission from their oyakata to get married?  Does one need to be of a certain rank and what happens if a married rikishi drops below sekitori; does he have to move back into the dorms at the heya?  In fact exploring adjustment to losing rank and its accoutrements would be an interesting feature too.

 

Okami-san, both in terms of their role and some of the individuals, who have some really cool achievements in their own right.  There seems to be little coverage of their existence in the English-speaking press.  

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First -- congratulations for the raised frequency of your column!

Second -- besides seconding the ideas of previous posters in this thread :

  • Medical care -- how much of it is at the discretion of the heya, can the Kyokai intervene at other times than at the annual health check, how much care can a rikishi get by himself?  Obviously, health problems are kept secret from other heyas, but that should not result in rikishi not getting proper care, and an Oyakata is not a doctor...
  • what makes a yokozuna's tachi special? Are there prescribed decorations, etc.? -- Must it always be carried by his tachimochi, when not (apart from in official NSK pictures), are there superstitions about the naked blade getting exposed?
     
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Posted (edited)

Yatagarasu has already touched on this but I've always wondered what life is like for a borderline juryo/makushita rikishi - do they constantly have to move in and out of the dorm and their own sekitori space, how do they cope with their salary coming and going.

Mods, this clearly not a "non-sumo related" thread - could  it maybe be moved to Ozumo Discussions?

Edited by ryafuji
typo
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7 hours ago, Kawabata said:

Some really great suggestions here, another thing I'd be interested in is life after sumo for those rikishi who don't really "make" it / go on to be oyakata.

But yes kind of seconding @Fukurou and @Kintamayama , definitely very interested in heya life and what goes on "behind the scenes" in a heya. I'd like to add Tokoyamas to Yobidashi and Gyoji too 

I would too. I just couldn't think of the names of other positions that have rankings  :-)
 

5 hours ago, Yatagarasu said:

Family life of rikishi.  There have been a few features on Japanese TV focusing on the family lives of sekitori and spending a day with their wives and kids.  This sort of insight would be interesting to learn more about - do they need to seek permission from their oyakata to get married?  Does one need to be of a certain rank and what happens if a married rikishi drops below sekitori; does he have to move back into the dorms at the heya?  In fact exploring adjustment to losing rank and its accoutrements would be an interesting feature too.

Okami-san, both in terms of their role and some of the individuals, who have some really cool achievements in their own right.  There seems to be little coverage of their existence in the English-speaking press.  

Adding another idea, we know the wife of the Oyakata has a role in sumo (Okamisan). Do the wives of the rikishi have any role, beyond standing by their man?  I'm thinking along the lines of helping Okami-san with some of her stuff (under her direction), anything like that?

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On 4/18/2018 at 07:42, Kintamayama said:

Food, and which heyas specialize in which foods. Chanko, yes, but which heya is famous for making the best meals?

Slightly OT, but I would totally be up for a sumo cookbook, with official recipes for chanko and side dishes/specialities from each heya or from famous rikishi.  Wouldn't mind trying one or two of Tamawashi's cookie recipes.  

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On 18/04/2018 at 14:42, Kintamayama said:

Food, and which heyas specialize in which foods. Chanko, yes, but which heya is famous for making the best meals?

Ask Kototsurugi, he has eaten at every one of the heyas. 

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On 4/18/2018 at 08:16, orandashoho said:

Medical care -- how much of it is at the discretion of the heya, can the Kyokai intervene at other times than at the annual health check, how much care can a rikishi get by himself?  Obviously, health problems are kept secret from other heyas, but that should not result in rikishi not getting proper care, and an Oyakata is not a doctor...

It seems to me that proper medical care requiring surgery or least lenghty periods of rest has been avoided in order to keep rikishis from falling too far down the banzuke. Oyakatas are not doctors yet they seem to make medical decisions that should only be provided by qualified health professionals. Is the power of the oyakata so strong that final decisions regarding the health of rikishis in his heya lie solely with him? 

In addition, I would like to hear more about the prevalence of chronic brain damage or CTE among retired rikishis due to many years of head to head contact. John has mentioned this in the past and from what I understand, it could be as prevalent as it is in retired Americnan pro footballl players. 

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deep background on sekitori.  helpful background on rising rikishi.  in those stories, personal stories, something that makes them seem like regular folks.  ideally, these stories would be based on face-to-face interviews.  i can find all sorts of stuff online, but unless i am looking in the wrong place, in-depth stories are few and far betweeen.

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The daily problems of being big in japan. I have never seen "fat" japanese people in movies/tv shows/documentaries/pictures outside of sumo. I think this is the result of japanese anti-obesity laws. Anyway, what brought this question to my mind are many, many pictures of rikishi wearing slippers/sandals/zori that are waaay too small, their heels basically hovering over the ground behind the soles. Given the complexes japanese have with shoes/feet, why do they seem to be unable to provide their national treasures with fitting zori?

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Fat, round, Japanese especially those over 40 are not uncommon nowadays. Special stores for bigger sized Japan-based people have been around for quite some time. Younger, school-aged, Japanese - tall and overweight (especially girls) - could be seen much more often  than let's say 30 years or so.

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Given that your column is weekly, you could perhaps consider reserving a once-monthly slot for a special feature on a particular rikishi or other NSK member and go into real depth on their day-to-day lives and aspirations et cetera et cetera.

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35 minutes ago, I am the Yokozuna said:

Fat, round, Japanese especially those over 40 are not uncommon nowadays. Special stores for bigger sized Japan-based people have been around for quite some time. Younger, school-aged, Japanese - tall and overweight (especially girls) - could be seen much more often  than let's say 30 years or so.

Maybe not uncommon, but the numbers are vanishingly small compared to US/Mexico or most european countries. However, a chubby student is something different than a full grown sumotori. May i remind you, that the makuuchi average is more than 160kg? And most of them aren't the shortest, too.

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Posted (edited)

What would be fascinating are interviews with some of the former stars, former greats, but Japanese ones whose feelings and opinions on sumo aren't always easily accessible to an English-speaking audience. Guys like Mainoumi and  Kitanofuji (at the top of the wish list), and all sorts of coaches, and oyakata, as well as former committee/council members, and media personalities too. Pick the minds of Uchidate, Yaku Mitsuru, Demon Kakka. The former Futeno and Homasho. An ocean of content.

Edited by Otokonoyama
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10 hours ago, Benihana said:

 Anyway, what brought this question to my mind are many, many pictures of rikishi wearing slippers/sandals/zori that are waaay too small, their heels basically hovering over the ground behind the soles. Given the complexes japanese have with shoes/feet, why do they seem to be unable to provide their national treasures with fitting zori?

My understanding is that zori and geta are actually supposed to be worn this way, for both men and women.  Your heel is meant to hang over the back and the 'thong' not wedged in between your toes otherwise they are difficult to walk in.  This is particularly the case for geta - if you were to wear geta to 'fit' it would actually skew your centre of gravity.  Nonetheless, I do find it hard to look at rikishi wearing zori that look like they are barely on!  

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Another idea for a kind of "follow-up" article, I'd love to see an in-depth interview with Kyokutaisei now that he has debuted in Makuuchi as a kind of follow up to the "Normal Life" film (the ending of which made it seem very much like he was immediately leaving sumo). As a wrestler that was so extensively covered through that documentary, I think it'd be fascinating to know what happened after they finished filming (and also what he thought and thinks now of the portrayal) and what the rest of his journey to the top division was like. I hope I am right to assume that there are a fair few people that have followed him more closely than many other rikishi, and from earlier in his career, due to the film.

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