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 It's a humorous introduction to the sport and though now the bits about specific wrestlers are pretty outdated (it was written just about when Taka/Waka were rising to fame) a lot of the observations are hilarious and spot-on (cute illustrations too).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.
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
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.