SUMO ABC (15) / Regional sumo tournaments celebrate local wrestling talent


SUMO ABC (15) / Regional sumo tournaments celebrate local wrestling talent 


By Shuji Miki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior WriterSumo holds three grand tournaments outside
Tokyo — the spring basho in Osaka in March, the Nagoya basho in July and the Kyushu basho in Fukuoka in November. The banzuke rankings for this year’s Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament will be announced Monday, with the basho starting Nov. 8 at the Fukuoka Kokusai Center. As the final tournament, it is seen as a wrap-up of the year.
Cheering on local wrestlers is a deep-rooted tradition in the non-Tokyo tournaments. For the Kyushu basho, this would include rikishi from nine prefectures: Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Oita, Miyazaki, Kagoshima, Okinawa and Yamaguchi, which is in the Chugoku region.
Of the wrestlers on the banzuke for the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament, there were five in the top-tier makuuchi division who would be competing before a hometown crowd in Kyushu.
They are the ozeki Kotoshogiku from Fukuoka Prefecture; Yoshikaze from Oita Prefecture, who won 11 bouts as a top maegashira and received awards for both outstanding performance and technique; Sadanofuji of Nagasaki Prefecture and Sadanoumi of Kumamoto Prefecture, both of the Sakaigawa stable; and Chiyootori of Kagoshima Prefecture.
The former ozeki Kaio (now stablemaster Asakayama) hails from Fukuoka Prefecture and was wildly popular in his day. He was beloved nationwide, but his hometown Nogata showed particular affection for him, launching fireworks every time he won a bout during the six grand tournaments each year. Kyushu Railway Co. launched “Kaio” limited express trains.
There are strong ties between sumo and local and rural areas. During the height of sumo’s popularity, “jungyo” regional tours sometimes lasted 120 days a year. Even now there’s a saying that expresses fans’ enthusiasm for hometown wrestlers: “A local sandanme is more [popular] than an Edo ozeki,” meaning people favor a wrestler from their hometown even if he’s in the sandanme fourth-tier division rather than a Tokyo ozeki, the second-highest rank.
The practice has waned recently, but many wrestlers used to adopt shikona ring names with local flavor that included characters for local place names and natural landmarks like mountains, rivers and the sea.

CULLED FROM THE  JAPAN NEWS

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