Samurai Dave: The Roving Ronin Report

Rambling Narrative of Travels, Thoughts, and Embellishments

Sumo: Asashoryu vs Hakuho – Yokozuna (Sumo Champion) Match at an outdoor sumo event

This is a little blast from the past – I was going thru some of my old archive footage and came across footage of an outdoor sumo exhibit from 2009 at Yasukuni Shrine that they do every April. I’ve gone to it a few times but only once got to see the two Yokozuna at that time face off against each other.

Usually you can only see Yokozuna fight each other on the last day of the tournament, a day which it is quite difficult to get tickets for so this was quite a treat. Yokozuna is a difficult position to reach and only a few ever reach it. There has been up to four Yokozuna at one time and there has been times when there has been none.

Asashoryu was Yokozuna from 2003-2010 and Hakuho has been one since 2007 so for only a short period of time could you see two Yokozuna compete since 2003.

For more sumo, check out this link to photos of Day 13 of the January 2012 tournament:

Sumo Photos

January 22, 2012 Posted by | 2009, asashoryu, japan, japanese culture, Sport, sumo, tokyo, yasukuni shrine, yokozuna, youtube | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Asashoryu Retires from Sumo Video Discussion

Long video discussing the retirement of Asashoryu, the yokozuna (sumo champion) of Sumo in Japan.

Asashoryu announced his retirement recently.

February 9, 2010 Posted by | asashoryu, Givemeabreakman, japan, news, Sport, Sports News, sumo, video, vlog, yokozuna, youtube | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sumo Falls – A Video Compilation of Sumo Falls, Tumbles, & Throws

If you thought sumo a sport of slow moving fat guys in thongs engaged in an aggressive shoving match, guess again.

As any follower of Sumo knows, Sumo wrestlers are fast, strong, and agile. They also know how to take a fall real well. And they get tossed around a lot.

The following is a series of falls, tumbles, and throws from several tournaments: Sept ’06, May ’07, July ’07 in Nagoya, and Sept ’07. There’s also scenes from an outdoor exhibition in April ’07.

I went early in the day for the Nagoya Basho and caught some of the junior wrestlers so this vid has wrestlers from the very top to the very bottom of the sumo hierachry.
 

Music by Seven Cycle Theory:
http://www.myspace.com/sevencycletheory

It’s up for votes on current tv:
http://current.com/items/88824331_sumo_falls_a_compilation_of_sumo_falls_tumbles_and_throws
Sign up and vote!

January 27, 2008 Posted by | asashoryu, Blogroll, heavy metal, japan, life, metal, music, rock, seven cycle theory, Sport, sumo, tokyo, travel, TV, video, vlog, wrestling, yokozuna, youtube | Leave a comment

Sumo – More Than Just Big Guys in Thongs

Sumo – More Than Just Big Guys in Thongs
On gaining respect for Japan’s oldest sport


Two titans squaring off

Sumo — quivering mounds of flesh set into sudden motion that is at once jarring and engaging. It’s the sport of gods, literally. However, it took me some time to appreciate sumo. Long before I made my way over to Japan, my image of sumo was not a very flattering one. To me sumo was a match where two nigh-immobile mountains of flab come together with all the speed of erosion to push one or the other slowly out of the small ring they were in. In short, fat guys in diapers having a shoving match — not exactly my cup of tea.


Impact!

The erosion of my entrenched stereotype began with my first encounter with sumo. This encounter came from the TV broadcasts of the January tournament during my first month in Japan. At that time I was waiting for my new job to start up so I was lean on funds. My entertainment was limited to cheap beer, Doritos and whatever was on TV in my cramped little gaijin house. I just happened to stumble upon the broadcasts of the sumo tournament in mid-January. I couldn’t understand anything on Japanese TV at this point (and I still don’t; but for different reasons). Sumo, though, was simple enough to follow.


A great handful of salt tossed high to purify the ring

What surprised me right away was the speed of these seemingly slow behemoths. They were shockingly fast and agile. Their speed dispelled the notion I once held that overweight Americans could compete in sumo tournaments. I used to think there was no reason to go to Japan to see a sumo match when similar sport could be had by throwing a free bag of potato chips on the floor of the local Wal-Mart. How wrong I was.


Sumo Wrestlers despite their bulk are remarkably flexible at times

For one thing, despite appearance, most sumo wrestlers actually have less fat than their average working countrymen. What lurks under the deceptive rolls of flab is muscle — a lot of muscle. Sumo wrestlers “work” hard to get big, unlike my rotund countrymen who accidentally get big by eating cheese doodles all day on the sofa while watching TV. The wrestlers want this bulk for two reasons — (1) to give their thrusts more power and (2) to cushion the impact of their opponent’s blows.

To achieve their dual goal of fat and muscle, sumo wrestlers keep to a strict regimen of exercise and eating. They start exercising early in the morning between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. and do this for several hours. The wrestlers only eat twice a day but these are large meals after which they sleep. Lunch is the biggest meal and they sleep for two hours afterwards.

Chanko-nambe is one of the main staples of a sumo wrestler’s diet. Chanko-nambe is a stew with no rigid ingredient list but a little bit of everything. It’s high in protein and consumed in great quantities to add the necessary girth a sumo wrestler needs.


Ahem! ….well, now!

Not all sumo wrestlers though are the gargantuan titans of blubber that may spring to mind. In the 1990s, this type of image was enforced by Akebono (235 kilograms/520 pounds) and Konishiki (264 kilograms /580 pounds) both huge wrestlers in their own right but not Japanese. The current yokozuna (champion) are two relatively lightweight Mongolians — Asashoryu and Hakuho. Both of them have put on the necessary weight and tip the scales at over 300 pounds but their bodies still look relatively in proportion.


David and Goliath Sumo-style

The strength of these portly wrestlers is not to be underestimated. Over the long history of sumo, there has been tales of incredible strength by these stout giants from lifting huge heavy bales of rice to cannon balls weighing several hundred pounds. It’s no wonder that for many Japanese at a time when the average body build was smaller than today that they looked upon sumo wrestlers as superhuman.


Getting rolled in the ring

Agility is another surprising aspect of sumo wrestlers. Anyone who follows sumo knows these wrestlers will not only use their bulk and strength to win a match but their agility as well. Sometimes, this can be simply moving out of the way at the last moment and letting their opponent go sailing out of the ring on their own steam. Other times, an agile wrestler will quickly move to the side at the moment of contact and bring his opponent crashing down to the ground with one quick thrust.


Falls, tumbles, and throws are quite common in Sumo

Sumo falls — this is another surprising element of sumo matches. The big guys tumble, fall or are thrown down quite a lot. Despite their weight and the force of their fall, the wrestlers usually get back up rather quickly. Back home, if a large fellow went down, they wouldn’t be getting up so readily. An ambulance and possibly a crane would be needed to get them back up. Sumo wrestlers train in falling because the frequency of falls and tumbles are rather high. It’s part of what makes the matches so exciting. The matches aren’t the slow-moving shoving matches I once ignorantly assumed they were.

From my first initiation into the world that is sumo, I have since acquired a great appreciation for this sport that is not only a sport but a religious ritual as well. I try to catch at least one day of sumo whenever the tournaments come to Tokyo, which is three times a year. As interesting as it is to catch sumo on TV, nothing beats the excitement of watching it live.


Ooooffff!!!!

January 27, 2008 Posted by | asashoryu, Blogroll, extreme sports, japan, Shinto, Sport, sumo, tokyo, travel, wrestling, yokozuna | 1 Comment

Rock the Vote II – Sumo Video “The Director’s Cut”

 This another video that I’ve upload to Current TV. It’s a “Director’s Cut” of my recent sumo video with a title sequence, 30 seconds of extended footage, and extra tidbits of information.

 If you feel like voting please go to:

http://www.current.tv/watch/61470061

register and vote!

Thanks!

June 23, 2007 Posted by | asashoryu, Blogroll, current tv, japan, life, media, news, Sport, sumo, tokyo, travel, TV, video, yokozuna | 2 Comments

Yokozuna Asashoryu Loses Chance to Win His 21st Tournament

This match on Day 13 of the May 2007 Tournament sank Asashoryu’s chances of winning his 21st Tournament while giving Hakuho the chance to win not only the tournament but promotion to Yokozuna as well. 

June 1, 2007 Posted by | asashoryu, Blogroll, japan, life, Sport, sumo, tokyo, TV, video, yokozuna | Leave a comment

Mongols Invade Japan – Sumo-style

Mongols Invade Japan Through Sumo
A New Champion is Chosen


From Reuters: Hakuho: the new Yokozuna – sumo champion

What in Xanadu Kublai Khan of Stately Palace Dome fame decreed and failed to do twice over seven centuries ago, two Mongolian sumo wrestlers have accomplished. They have conquered Japan, not in the way their brethren would have done long ago with sword and spear but through their wrestling skills, they have conquered the world of sumo and dominated the headlines in Japan.
Two Sumo wrestlers square off in Tokyo

After his second tournament win in a row, Mongolian-born Hakuho (real name Munkhbat Davaajargal) has been promoted to the highest rank a sumo wrestler can achieve – Yokozuna. For over three years only one wrestler has held onto that title alone – Asashoryu (Dolgorsuren Dagvadorj) also from Mongolia.


Bulgarian Sumo wrestler Kotooshu

In 2003 Asashoryu was promoted to Yokozuna. Since that time he so dominated the tournaments that no other wrestler was able to win two tournaments back to back during the same six tournament season in order to be qualified for promotion. There are six tournaments held every two months throughout the year. Since 2003, Asashoryu has won 18 of them, twenty all together in his impressive career. Asashoyru’s chances of winning his 21st tournament were dashed on Day 13 of the 15-day tournament when he lost his match.


Yokozuna Asashoryu holds tight

Sumo is a rigid hierarchical sport that wrestlers have to climb upwards for attention and salary. Along the way, a wrestler can be demoted if he doesn’t keep his average up. Once attaining the position of Yokozuna, however, there are no demotions. Unlike other contact sports with only one defending champion, sumo can have several Yokozuna competing in a tournament at the same time. There has been as many as four at one time and subsequently there have been tournaments when there were none.


Yokozuna Asashoryu hits the ground losing his chance to win another tournament

With Hakuho’s promotion, there are now two active Yokozuna which the sumo world hasn’t seen in over three years.

Sumo was once primarily a Japanese-only sport and the idea of a foreign Yokozuna was simply out of the question even when foreign wrestler began competing. Now there are more than 60 foreign wrestlers in the world of sumo. Another strong contender for the title of Yokozuna is Bulgarian wrestler Kotooshu (Mahlyanov Kaloyan Stefanov).


Fans throw cushions whenever a Yokozuna is defeated by a non-Yokozuna

Currently there are six other Mongolians in sumo’s top division – Kublai Khan’s vision finally coming to a realization, in sumo at least.


A Yokozuna in the making?

June 1, 2007 Posted by | asashoryu, Blogroll, japan, life, Sport, sumo, TV, yokozuna | 8 Comments

Setsubun – Devils Driven Out In Japanese Spring Ritual

Japanese Drive Out Devils in Spring Ritual
Setsubun Festival celebrated with a fanfare of bean-throwing exorcisms
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A pair of Japanese Devils terrorize kindergarteners

Once again devils have been driven forth from the homes and workplaces of the Japanese with a hand-full of tossed beans in the age-old rite known as Setsubun. Setsubun, which occurs on February 3, is kind of like Halloween, New Year’s, and Groundhog Day all wrapped into one with a little bit of Christmas and Madri Gras tossed in.

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Grasping hands reach for tossed packs of beans at Zojo-ji Temple in Tokyo

Originally, before the adoption of the Western Calendar, Setsubun was the day before the lunar New Year’s. Now it falls coincidentally one day after America’s Groundhog Day. On Feb. 2 Americans, in complete disregard for meteorological science, put their faith for the ending of winter’s cold weather in the auguries of a groundhog’s reaction to its shadow. If it sees its shadow, supposedly six more weeks of winter will follow but if not, spring will come early.

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A Priest blessing objects before a sacred fire

Setsubun is similar to Groundhog Day, without the groundhog and yet with the same desire of hastening an end to winter. Setsubun is seen as the beginning of spring despite February being the coldest month. Wishful thinking or grim humor could perhaps best describe the motives behind the Groundhog Day and Setsubun rituals.

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Sumo Wrestler Tossing Beans Instead Of Opponents

In modern times, we tend to forget how terrible winter could truly be in a time before convenience stores, central heating, and winter fashion. Today, winter means skiing, snowboarding, snowball fights, knee-high boots, and days off from school and work. In the past long winters could mean unbearable cold, famine, sickness, and death. It’s no wonder that these spring rituals were so concerned with bringing winter to a close as soon as possible.

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A Fiercesome Oni – Japanese Devil

With Japan’s version of Groundhog Day, the Japanese don’t have to worry over the precarious nature of an oversized skittish rodent to determine whether winter will end or not. It’s not the shadows of groundhogs that concern the Japanese. It’s the devils infesting their homes that they are worried about. Instead of calling upon the professional services of an exorcist, however, the Japanese take matters into their own hands.

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Buddhist Priests herald the arrival of the brave Demon-quellers

Japanese purify their homes and drive out any unwelcome invisible devils by tossing beans and shouting: “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” (“Devils out! Good luck in!”). This tradition comes from a Buddhist priest who over 1,000 years ago exorcised devils using beans. Some beliefs say that beans will make the devils go blind, so they flee before the beans hit them.

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The brave Demon-quellers ready to do battle with the dreaded Oni devils

Japanese devils, called oni, are a mix of indigenous spirits and old supernatural immigrants who came over with the introduction of Buddhism in the 6th Century AD. Unlike devils of Christian belief, who are entirely evil, Japanese devils can be both good or bad depending on their individual nature or the situation. Following the acceptance of Buddhism, oni devils became mainly associated with causing harm to humans through illnesses and natural disasters. More benevolent devils became the protectors of Buddhist institutions.

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The physical appearance of a typical Japanese demon is that of a large human-shaped creature with a mass of unruly dark hair from which two horns project. They have the requisite horrendously sharp teeth and claws that all monsters must have. Sometimes oni have extra eyes, fingers, or arms. Their skin color varies in hue with red, blue, and green being the most popular. The standard accoutrement of an oni is a cruel-looking iron-studded club of enormous proportions.

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Children vanquishing an oncoming red devil with beans

Oni are powerful creatures, often possessing an impressive array of magical powers. They can change their shapes, control the weather, or summon up fire, and yet a handful of roasted soybeans tossed in their direction can drive them off. If only the Catholic Church knew of this. Their exorcism rituals could be considerably simplified. The movie “The Exorcist” would have been over before the opening title sequence finished had someone just thrown some beans at Linda Blair the moment her voice started sounding funny. However, perhaps it is only Japanese demons who have this allergy to beans.

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Devils easily disposed of with one quick toss

In olden days either beans were not effective or no one knew about them, because there are many stories of oni terrorizing the countryside, killing and looting, and making off with beautiful maidens. They could only be bested by the bravest of heroes. Nowadays, they are symbolically and rather degradedly driven off by packs of bean-throwing kindergarten children. How the mighty have fallen!

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His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, enjoying throwing bean packets on Setsubun

This ritual of humiliation is carried out at a number of temples on February 3rd. Afterwards comes the mame-maki – the bean-throwing ceremony in which large crowds of people will gather to receive beans thrown at them by priests, sumo wrestlers and celebrities. Things get a bit hectic as normally stoic Japanese go wild grasping for beans and other cheap trinkets. It’s similar to the madness that consumes people at Madri Gras in New Orleans when they risk life and limb and possible life-term sentences for murder as they scramble to recover beads that cost less than a dollar thrown from festival floats.

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Mame-Maki: bean-throwing ceremony at Kishbyojin Temple

In Tokyo, the largest crowds of bean-seekers head to Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa and Zojo-ji Temple in Hamamatsucho. I went to Zojo-ji one year and watched sumo wrestlers and TV celebrities pelt the crowds with beans, candy, and washcloths. I saw on old lady get beaned in the head with a pack of beans thrown by a muscle-bound sumo wrestler. She quickly recovered, though, and bowled over a younger salary man in order to grab another pack of beans that landed by his feet. I came off much better than she as I only got hit in the head with a rolled-up washcloth. Had it been an orange like they throw at some temples, I might been sent into a coma and gone down under a swarm of bean-grabbing pensioners.

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Dangerous Mame-maki with oranges

In Shimokitazawa in western Tokyo, a small Setsubun procession is made not on Feb. 3rd but on the roving day before the lunar Chinese New Year’s. The long-nose Japanese goblin, the Tengu, is given the honor of throwing beans to drive away devils. The Tengu goblin is pulled along in a type human-drawn chariot. With him march the seven Japanese gods of luck.

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A few of Japan’s Seven Gods of Luck accompany a Tengu in his Devil-quelling mission

In another part of west Tokyo at Hosen-ji Temple in Nakano, Buddhist priest dress up as warrior monks from the Sengoku (Warring States) Period (15th – 16th Century). In sharp contrast to the peaceful doctrines of Buddhism, Japanese warrior monks donned armor and carried the deadly naginata into battle against rival sects and secular warlords.

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Warrior monks at a Setsubun Ritual who were often devils in their own right in the past

They proved to be more trouble to Japan than the devils. They became such a nuisance that in 1571, the great warlord Oda Nobunaga viciously destroyed one of the greatest strongholds of warrior monks at Enryakuji on Mt. Hiei, north of Kyoto. Nakano’s modern “warrior monks” are a little too long-in-the-tooth to cause much of a nuisance to anyone. Instead of throwing spears, they throw beans, oranges, and peanuts to the gathered assembly.

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Some Japanese Celebrities throwing beans at Zojo-ji Temple

In last year’s record-setting winter of low temperatures and heavy snowfall, the Spring ritual of Setsubun did not seem to have had much effect on the devils of winter. When the sun had set that day, the temperatures plunged drastically. A few days later it snowed again in Tokyo. Also in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania where every Groundhog Day people gather to watch the actions of Phil, the town’s famous Groundhog weather forecaster, the prediction was for six more weeks of winter. This year with the warm temperatures, it probably comes as no surprise that Phil predicted an early Spring.

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A Demonic Bag of Chips looks on in amusement as his bean-allergic brethern flee

The most important part of Setsubun is a reminder to eat healthy to thus ensure yourself of a life that is long, healthy, and hopefully Devil-free!

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Longnosed Tengu goblin driving away devils

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Strong Foes with an Achilles’ Heel to Health Food 
Vampires and Devils beaten by vegetables

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Japanese devils despite all their strength, meanness, and magical abilities seem to be easy pushovers if all that it takes is a couple of tossed beans to get rid of them. However, they are not alone in the supernatural world of night terrors with such an odd weakness. Further down the power scale but still a threat in its own right is the vampire of Western folklore. These undead dangers possess superhuman strength, unnaturally prolonged lives, the ability to change shape from bat to mist, and the power to hypnotize their victims before they drain them of their precious life blood. Vampires are notoriously difficult to kill and yet one clove of garlic will send these unholy terrors packing.

If one looks at the situation from both a folklore and medical point of view, one can that the devils and vampires represent not only bad luck but also bad health. Vampires with their pale skin and thirst for blood represent a kind of blood disease. Eating garlic promotes healthy blood circulation so garlic-eaters will never have to worry about becoming a vampire. With Japanese devils, beans represent good health and life. As part of the Setsubun ritual, people eat the number of beans that correspond to their age. Following these superstitious traditions, a person is actually ensuring their health and long life.



February 6, 2007 Posted by | asashoryu, Blogroll, demons, devils, festival, folklore, Groundhog Day, japan, life, mythology, Setsubun, Spirits, spring, sumo, tokyo, tradition, travel, vampire | 15 Comments