18 November 2005

What was his name again?

Way back in the day when I was living in Iwate and spending a lot of my time lounging around in the free English library in the Iwate International Plaza, I found a funny little book called 'The Joy of Sumo' (by David Benjamin). It's a humorous introduction to the sport and though now the bits about specific wrestlers are pretty outdated (it was written just about when Taka/Waka were rising to fame) a lot of the observations are hilarious and spot-on (cute illustrations too).

I wasn't a big fan of sumo when I first read it and I hadn't yet been to my first match, but one thing that Benjamin said that really stuck with me was that in any sport, giving nicknames to the players creates a special connection to them. I think this is doubly true in sumo since so many of the wrestlers names when turned into English are just silly. Case in point: Kotomitsuki (琴光喜) means 'The Zither of Light and Joy'; not exactly a name to strike fear into an opponents heart. So when I started getting into sumo I also started giving nicknames to all the wrestlers who stood out in some way to me, either by skill, by strange mannerisms, or just an interesting face or physique. So without further ado, I present my sumo nicknames (in banzuke [ranking] order...

1) Asashouryuu (朝青龍): literally 'The Blue Dragon of the Morning'
He's the best of the best, and really needs no introduction so I usually just think of him 'The Man' or with a bit of a nod to Heinlein, 'The Man from Mongolia' or sometimes just 'Asa'.

2) Koto'oushuu (琴欧州): literally 'The Zither of a European State'
The newspapers love to call him 'Sumo's David Beckham' because he's a white dude and he's handsome (or at least what counts for handsome for a sumo) but I usually think of him as 'The Bulgarian Bomber' or 'The Bulgarian Bruiser' or sometimes 'The Bulgarian Brawler'; you get the picture...

3) Kotomitsuki (琴光喜): literally 'The Zither of Light and Joy'
(There are a lot of guys with Koto (meaning the 'koto' or Japanese zither) in their name and they're almost all from Sadogatake stable. It's a tradition in sumo for the wrestlers from the same stable to have names sharing a character, which (I think) is to honor a particularly illustrious forbearer or elder of their stable.) Anyway, the first time I saw Kotomitsuki all I could think was that he looked like an adorable giant baby, so I call him 'Babyface'.

4) Tamanoshima (玉乃島): literally 'Jewel Island'
I call him 'Weird Boobs Guy', umm... pretty self-explanatory I think

5) Futenou (普天王):literally 'The General Heavenly King'
He's also a blogger, so that's his nickname: 'The Blogger'. I've included a link to his blog. It's all in Japanese, but you can check it out if you want anyway.
  • Futenou's Blog

  • 6) Kakizoe (垣添): literally 'Fence Attendant' (WTF?)
    Whenever he loses a match he gets this cute little pout on his face, and looks for all the world like a kid about to start bawling his eyes out, so I call him 'The Crybaby'.

    7) Dejima (出島): literally 'Going Forth Island'
    His name sounds a little like 'Digimon' a Pokemon-like kids card game, so that's what I call him: 'Digimon'. (John was the first person to give him this nickname and it stuck)

    8) Iwakiyama (岩木山): literally 'Rock Tree Mountain'
    He's had his nose broken so many times that in profile it looks like he doesn't even have one. Therefore his sobriquet is 'No Nose'.

    9) Ama (安馬): literally 'Cheap Horse' or 'Safe Horse'
    'Cheap Horse' has got to be the stupidest fighting name ever; I love it! He's a scrappy little guy too, always pulling off crazy saves at the last minute, and he really deserves a more dignified title, but 'Cheap Horse' it is.

    10) Kokkai (黒海): literally 'The Black Sea'
    Foreign wrestlers often have names indicating where they're from and Kokkai is no exception. He comes from Georgia (the former Soviet Republic not the US State) which is on the Black Sea. His nickname also follows my pattern for European Wrestlers namely 'The *National Adj.* *Alliterative Warrior*'. Thusly, he is 'The Gurujian Grappler' (Gurujia, of course, being the Japanese pronunciation of Georgia).

    11) Tokitenkuu (時天空): literally 'Time Sky'
    He always looks so sad... I call him 'The Loneliest Mongolian'

    12) Rohou (露鵬): literally 'The Russian Phoenix'
    Same as Kokkai and Koto'oshuu, one of the new breed of Eastern European powerhouses. Known to all and sundry (or maybe just me and John) as 'The Russian Rumbler' or alternatively (and I do love Rohou and mean this is in the best way possible), 'The Ugly One'.

    13) Takamisakari (高見盛): literally 'Tall Lookout Peak'
    A perennial fan favorite, he's known in the media as 'Robocop' due to his outrageous pre-tachiai psyche-up routine. He's cute but not all that great of a wrestler, and for a while I thought he might be seriously mentally out-of-it until Luke suggested he might just be nearly blind (Luke has his own cruel nickname for him as well, but I won't publish it here) so I call him 'Blind as a Bat' (which is, I admit, not much better).

    14) Takanowaka (隆乃若): literally 'Prosperous Youth'
    Even though recently he can't seem to win a match (he's currently 0 for 6) I still love him. Ever since the first time I saw him at the Morioka Tournament (our eyes actually met momentarily; *swoon*) I've been smitten with him. I like to call him 'My Honey' and other such terms of endearment.

    15) Kotonowaka (琴ノ若): literally 'Young Zither'
    He's colossal (6'3", 399 pounds). Even though there are other wrestlers who are actually taller (Koto'oushuu is 6'8" if you can believe it), he *seems* the biggest presence-wise. Which is why I like to call him 'The Big M*ther F*cker'.

    16) Hakurozan (白露山): literally 'The White Russian Mountain'
    Younger brother of Rohou (there are lots of brothers in sumo apparently); he's unfortunately lost most of his hair at the ripe old age of 23, making him 'The Bald One'

    17) Tochinonada (栃乃洋): literally 'Horse Chestnut Ocean'
    'Gorilla' or 'Monkeyface', pretty self-explanatory. He's another of my favorite wrestlers, partly because he's one of the few who seems intelligent when interviewed after a match. He also looks really cute wearing his glasses and he has a nice smile.

    18) Kitazakura (北桜): literally 'Northern Cherry Blossom'
    Before the match each wrestler has their own little warming up routine that they like to do (Asashoryuu rotates on the ball of his foot, slaps his mawashi really hard and rubs his pits vigorously, Takamisakari shrugs his shoulders like a bull preparing to charge and then hits himself repeatedly in the face, Tamanoshima thumps himself once powerfully on the chest and on and on...) Kitazakura's thing is to basically up-end the entire box of salt into his hand and throw it in the air as though he was trying to seed the dohyou or something. Therefore I have dubbed him 'The Saltshaker'.

    19) Baruto (把瑠都): literally 'Grab Lapis Capital' 'Baltic'
    Young Kaido Hoovelson is from Estonia, hence the name Baruto (from Baltic). I've been struggling to find him suitable nickname as 'The Estonian Something-or-other-beginning-with-an-E' but to no avail. So for the moment he's just 'Balto', like the famous sled-dog... (suggestions welcome)

    20) Buyuuzan (武雄山): literally 'Warrior Hero Mountain'
    'The Hairy One' - self-explanatory

    21) Ushiomaru (潮丸): literally 'Tide Ball'
    Probably the cutest wrestler, I just wanna give him a big hug. He's so perfectly sweet and round; I call him 'Butterball'.

    22) + 23) Takanotsuru (隆の鶴): literally 'Prosperous Crane' + Touki (闘牙): literally 'Fighting Fang'
    Collectively known as the 'Momiage Brothers' or 'Mr. Momiage 1 and 2'. They both have luxurious muttonchops (in Japanese 'momiage') which the ringside commentators are sure to commentate on whenever they battle each other. They like to call it a 'Muttonchops Battle'.

    OMG! This turned out to be my longest post ever. I hope someone actually makes their way through to the end of it, although it seems doubtful. If you want to see what all these guys look like go to the 'Who's Who' section of the Sumo Association website by clicking
  • this link

  • Anyway Goog Niter to everyone, and be on the lookout for more sumo highlights, and hopefully also reviews of 'A Rabbit's Eyes' by Haitani Kenjirou and 'Oranges' by John McPhee.


    Day 5

    A lot of pretty standard matches today... I'll just give some highlights.

    Kotonowaka vs. Kyokushuuzan (琴ノ若ー旭鷲山) This was quite a long match by sumo standards, but the best part was that the two wrestlers in trying to get a decent grip on each other's belts spun around in a circle about 3 or 4 times almost like a dog getting ready to sit down for a nap... It was very funny.

    Kyokutenhou vs. Kakizoe (旭天鵬ー垣添) This was a quick match, and at first it seemed that Kakizoe had won, but then there was a monoii (refs conference) and they disqualified him because he grabbed Kyokutenhou's hair, which is a big sumo no-no.

    Tamanoshima vs. Kaiou (玉乃島ー魁皇) An embarrassing defeat for Kaiou on his home territory, and when he was doing so well too. I expect him to announce his retirement in the next bashou or so... (There was a nice interview with Tamanoshima [nickname: The Weird Boobs Guy] afterwards though, and he was surprisingly lucid. I think I'm developing a bit of a soft spot for Tamanoshima to tell the truth. I love his pre-faceoff routine; especially the vigor with which he thumps himself on the chest.)

    Asashouryuu vs. Miyabiyama (朝青龍ー雅山) Asa showed us once again why he is the only Yokozuna, by deftly avoiding Miyabiyama's bearhug then picking up the larger wrestler (Asa is 6'1", 315 lbs, Miyabiyama is 6'2", 392 lbs.) and manhandling him over the edge. You can love him or hate him, but you have to give the man credit, he really has it all : strength, speed, technique and a winning smile...

    Also for anyone who's interested there is an English version of the Sumo Association web page
  • here

  • Goog Niter.

    PS Tomorrow I should have a post up about some of the nicknames I have for the various (!) sumos.


    17 November 2005

    Day 4 of the Kyuushuu Tournament : 九州場所四日目

    I had originally planned to do a little write-up after each day of the tournament, but being the lazy b*stard that I am, I've decided just to do the write-ups on a more random 'when-I-feel-like-it' kind of basis. So we'll begin the tourny on day 4.

    A few interesting matches today:

    Tama'asuka vs. Kotonowaka (玉飛鳥ー琴ノ若): A pretty standard match, but unfortunately Tama'asuka broke his ankle and will be taking off the rest of the tournament.

    Kaiou vs. Hokutouriki (魁皇ー北勝力): Kaiou showed everyone he still has what it takes to be an oozeki, and basically took Hokutouriki apart before he even knew what hit him. It's good to see him back on track, even if he is kadoban (again).

    Chiyotaikai vs. Kakizoe (千代大海ー垣添): Chiyotaikai is back in (almost) peak form again too. He gave Kakizoe a taste of some pretty sweet tsuppari (or as the Japan Times invariably calls them 'his trademark arm-thrusts') before pulling him down and then tumbling halfway across the ring himself and finishing with a rather acrobatic half-somersault.

    Asashouryuu vs. Dejima (朝青龍ー出島): A good match, the only surprising thing being how long Dejima was able to withstand Asa's fearsome onslaught. Most everybody that goes up against the Man from Mongolia gets schooled within the first 5 seconds of the match, but Dejima hung on for a good 20-30 secs and even resisted an arm-throw or two.

    It's shaping up to be quite a good tournament, but I have to admit I miss Touki (闘牙). He's doing well in Juryou (3-1 so far) but since they don't show the Juryou matches on Sumo Digest, I haven't seem him and his magnificent side-burns recently. Also it's kind of sad that my boyfriend, Takanowaka (隆乃若) just keeps getting embarrassing beat-down after embarrassing beat-down. Gambare, Gambare, Taka! ( 頑張レ、頑張レ、タカ ! )

    That's it for now! Goog Nighter!

    PS Tsutaya has recently acquired the Poirot series, so I'm currently rejoicing in 4 DVDs worth of his Belgian glory...

    PPS The spellchecker (obviously) doesn't have any of the sumo names in its database, so it comes up with some pretty hilarious suggestions: Chiyotaikai=Chautauqua, Hokutoriki=History, Kakizoe=Kazoo, Asashouryuu= Assessor, Dejima=Deacon...


    15 November 2005

    Daikon (大根)

    I just saw the funniest news story ever on the TV.

    Apparently in the town of Aioi (相生市), a daikon (大根) started growing up out of the pavement at an intersection. The anomalous daikon became famous in the neighborhood and after a while word got around and people started coming from neighboring towns to see it. Until.... a few days ago some visitors showed up to see the daikon and it was gone! So the neighborhood association put up a message saying for whoever took the daikon to turn themselves in...

    And they did! The daikon was returned to the scene of the crime, but unfortunately having been plucked once it seemed unlikely that it would be able to be replanted.

    The best part of the story though was the interview with an old guy from the neighborhood.

    Interviewer: "So how do you feel about the theft of the daikon, sir?"
    Old Guy: "I think it's very sad, and I feel a little pissed off!"

    Goog Eveninger to all!

    P.S. I am so excited ! As I sat here typing this blog entry the door-bell rang and my first ever books were delivered from Amazon; COD!!!! Woo hoo!



    So I've been waiting for a month and a half for sumo season to start and it has, and I finally have a leisurely day off to spend just watching the matches and then maybe doing some laundry or some errands, and what do you know but the sumo is pre-empted by some stupid royal wedding. (Does anybody even give a crap about the Japanese royal family?)

    And, to top it off I went to pick up my bike from where I left it at the station and I find it's been frickin' carted away by the city and I have to go to Flowertown and pay almost ¥2000 to get my own bike back!!!!

    P.S. Except that apparently it wasn't and I had just forgetten where I'd left it.

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