28 March 2004

Sumo Results: Haru Basho, 2004

Mongolian Yokozuna Asashoryu ['morning green dragon'] clinched his second perfect 15-0 record in a row, while his countryman and Takasago stablemate Asasekiryu ['morning red dragon'] ended up in a 3-way tie for 2nd place with the two Ozeki, Kaio and Chiyotaikai. For further commentary, see Tom's post at That's News to Me. Here's a sample:
Finally, the yusho match. At the tachiai (start of the bout, or, perhaps better, "face-off"), Chiyotaikai started out with a furious tsuppari (slapping/arm thrusts to the upper body & face), driving Asashoryu back. Chiyo apparently thought he was on the verge of driving Asa back out of the dohyo (ring), or perhaps he merely thought tsuppari was his best/only chance of beating Asa, as he seemed to overcommit himself to that. Asa got in control of himself, side-stepped Chiyo's thrusts, and pushed him down to the dirt to claim his second consecutive zensho yusho [all-win tournament-win], the first time that's been down since Takanohana in 1994 (I think I already mentioned that, but it was in the preview, I think). Prior to Takanohana was Chiyonofuji (Chiyotaikai's stable head, FYI) in 1985. I believe the record for most consecutive bouts won is up in the 69 by Futabayama in 1936 and in the post-war era, 53 by Chiyonofuji (assuming this is accurate). Standing at 30 right now, Asa has a long way to go, but we shall see....

UPDATE: The champions list for all divisions is here. In addition to Asa the Mongolian winning the top division, Mongolian Hakuho wins juryo, the second-highest dvision, Bulgarian Kotooshu wins makushita, the third-highest division, and Minaminoshima (lit. "southern island) from Tonga wins sandanme, the fourth-highest division. Unsurprisingly, Asasekiryu took the Shukun-sho (Outstanding Performace Award) and the not-always-awarded Gino-sho (Technique Prize). All in all, not a bad basho for the gaikokujin [foreigners].
Hungarian szumo fans can check for detailed results at this page. And Japanese sports trivia fans can amuse themselves with this quiz, where we learn that the rank "yokozuna" did not appear on the banzuke until 1890, even though certain wrestlers were licensed to wear the yokozuna ('cross-rope') belt and perform the solo ring-entering ceremony now performed by those of yokozuna ('grand champion') rank for a hundred years before that. The "yokozuna" ceremony was invented by referee and promoter Yoshida Zenzaemon in order to make sumo worthy of performance before the Shogun Tokugawa Ienari in 1791, and the "yokozuna" rank was not recognized by the Sumo Association until 1909.

SOURCE: "The Invention of the Yokozuna and the Championship System, or, Futahaguro's Revenge," by Lee A. Thompson, in Mirror of Modernity: Invented Traditions of Modern Japan, ed. by Stephen Vlastos (U. of California Press, 1998), pp. 174-187

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