Thursday, April 5, 2012

New Sumo Blog

So, I just got a comment from a sumo fan who is living in Japan to learn Japanese. She's starting her own sumo appreciation blog. Would you like to check it out? It's going to be pretty sweet!

Thanks for the intro, Francesca! Wave to Hakuhou for me if you see him, will you?

Oh, and she does sumo doodles, too. Excellent!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sumo Delights

A friend of mine on Facebook found these gems while perusing a bookstore yesterday.

Baby sumo wrestler salt and pepper shakers. For just $18.99. Does every home need a set of these classic items? Probably. (The one in white is the lower ranked, by the way.)

Monday, April 2, 2012

New Ozeki Last Week

So, the rank below Grand Champion (yokozuna) is called Champion. (Imagine.) The sumo term is ozeki. Last week at the end of the March tournament in Osaka, the Nihon Sumo Kyokai (JSA) met in council and opted to promote Kakuryu to the rank of ozeki.

There breakdown of stats on Kakuryu can be seen here. He's a Mongolian, just like the yokozuna, Hakuhou is. He weighs 148 kilos, which translates for us on the English system as 325 pounds. Kind of a lightweight, as sumo guys go.

Meanwhile, I have this friend on Twitter, @kanryuyuu, who is a huge sumo fan and posts pics all the time. I asked if I could repost one of his pics, and he said yes.

Sumo and vending machines. Two things that are oh-so-Japanese. How perfect. Thanks, @kanryuyuu!

Friday, March 16, 2012

More Sumo in Texas

How do these things keep happening? Is the universe converging?

It kind of reminds of when my sister in law and I wrote a screenplay about Elvis coming out of hiding and admitting he was really Deepthroat, and THEN, the true identity of the Watergate informant revealed himself. Weird.

Now, I write this fun book about a Texan who accidentally becomes a sumo wrestler, and kaboom! We get these exciting news stories about sumo happenings in Texas. What are the chances?

So, now I read this article, courtesy of my sister, a Houston dweller, although she did not attend this fundraising event as it was only for men. Shrug.

The sound of 960 pounds of naked human flesh colliding at full speed is not easily forgotten, falling somewhere between a violent slap and a cringe-inducing crunch.
Just ask any one of the tuxedoed guests at the third annual Men of Menil event who showed up to watch four elite Sumo wrestlers compete for several sweat-drenched hours at Richmond Hall Thursday night.
The gender-specific event has become a popular annual fundraiser for the Menil, one that has the playful feel of a silver-haired boys club, if only for a single night. Organizers said it was the first time professional Japanese Sumo wrestlers have made an appearance in Texas.
Modeled after an antiquated male gathering known as a "smoker," Read More...

And you should read more because there are 30+ pictures of awesome sumo wrestlers in Texas!
Sumo wrestlers were featured at this years Men of Menil event Photo: Pete Holley / HC

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Sumo at the Rodeo

So, this picture proves the whole premise of my book: that Texas and sumo CAN mix.
Japanese Sumo wrestler Takuji Noro who competes as "Noro" rides a mechanical bull during a tour of The Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo Wednesday, March 7, 2012, in Houston. Photo: James Nielsen, Chronicle / © 2011 Houston Chronicle

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Not since 2006???

A Japanese sumo wrestler has not won the tournament since 2006. Seriously?

I guess we had the era of Asashoryu, and now it's Hakuhou, both of them Mongolian sumo wonders.

During January's basho, a Japanese wrestler, Kisenosato, was promoted to Ozeki (champ, the rank just below Yokozuna, which is Grand Champion, the highest rank in sumo.) For a while NO Japanese occupied the top two ranks!

In September after the basho in Tokyo, Kotoshogiku (another Japanese) was promoted to Ozeki, but before that, it was all foreigners.

The year 2011 was a rocky one for sumo and some fans lost their fire for the sport after a bout-fixing scandal. And there was the baseball scandal. And that came after the brutal 2007 beating of the Japanese recruit that resulted in his death.

Sumo needs to shape up! Shape up for the fans! Maybe with some fresh, native blood in the top ranks there will be an increased interest in the show. I hope so~

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tweeting Sumo

I followed a hashtag on Twitter -- #sumo -- and found a Tokyo sumo fan tweeting the result of his favorite match of the day. I retweeted it. He direct messaged me and said he's going to the Kokugikan tomorrow for the January Basho. Is that cool, or what? I told him to wave to Hakuhou for me. He got excited and said, "Hakuhou is my favorite!" He said he'd wave.

So, Hakuhou is going to get a vicarious wave from me tomorrow.

Totally feeling special right now.

Coming of Age Day: Seijinshiki

January is a great month to be in Japan. Each year they celebrate "Coming of Age Day," a festival for every child who has become an adult -- at age 20. The women wear beautiful kimonos, the men dress in suits. They attend parties, and best of all for us non-Japanese, they clog subway stations wearing their gorgeous garb.

Tonight I hooked into a fantastic photography site via Google Plus (my first foray into that social networking site, yikes!). This photographer, Dave, spent time in Tokyo shooting pics of the colorful day.

Check out his site!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Very Exciting News for Sumo Fiction Fans Everywhere

It's quite possible there is a world shortage of "sumo fiction" everywhere. The lack is almost so pervasive, I would guess, that most readers barely notice the lack.

BUT NEVER FEAR! Coming soon (as in Fall 2012 soon) to a bookstore to you: Big in Japan, the world's first novel with a sumo wrestler as the main-character/love-interest, a BLOND sumo wrestler, at that.

I am happy to announce that my long, long worked-upon novel has been selected for publication by Jolly Fish Press, and it will be in their publication list next fall. Big in Japan tells the story of an overweight nobody from Texas who ends up in Japan and accidentally becomes the world's first blond sumo wrestler. He must face down his biggest enemy and win the Emperor's Cup to save the girl, the "princess" of sumo.

Is the world ready for a sumo wrestler novel? Hang onto your mawashi, folks. It's coming at ya!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Shelly Idaho and Sumo

To answer my question of a couple of posts ago, "Why not in America?" my brother in law sent me this article. It proves sumo pops up in the most unexpected places. It has reached the heartland. And attracted some of the nicest people, according to the article in the Shelley Pioneer.

It's important to note that while in the U.S. the sumo organizations have admitted women wreslters (see story) it would be unthinkable in Japan.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sumo Novel!

It's been a long time coming, but I'm finally finished with a 2 year long project--a novel about Buck Cooper, a hapless obese Texan who goes to Japan and accidentally becomes the first blond sumo wrestler. Buck must oust his worst tormentor and win the Emperor's Cup to save the girl. It's Beverly Hills Ninja  meets sumo, fast paced action and lots of information about the exotic sport of sumo, and a little bit of a love story to boot. Er, geta.

Its working title is Big in Japan, and I'll keep things posted here as there is progress toward publication!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Comprehensive List (but dubious?)

I just went to check the results of the summer tournament in Nagoya. I've been crazy busy this summer, and I got behind on my sumo! (Shame on me.)

La-di-dah. Guess what is out there, and I never even knew?

It's a sumo results page for the entire year available on Wikipedia, bless it's unreliable-informational heart.

Here's the link. WIKIPEDIA SUMO RESULTS FOR 2011. Now you can click on over there and get the update on Hakuho and Kotooshu and Kaio, who announced his retirement after 23 years in sumo.

That's a lot of years in sumo!

Another cool stat from the Nagoya tournament last month was that a rikishi with a degree from Waseda University made it into juryo (the lowest tier of the professional level)  for the first time since 1933.

It sounds like a lot of guys in sumo just take the sumo-track in life and don't go after an education, so maybe this is a new thing.

Also, a former champ died, and he'd lived to the age of 72. His sumo name was Wakanaruto. It's good to know some of them live to a ripe old age--since their size looks like their life spans might be shortened by excess weight.

Just saying.

Monday, August 8, 2011


At the beginning of a sumo match, the rikishi stand on their respective lines and when the signal is given they make their tachiai, which is their first meeting/approach. Sometimes they slam right into each other and get in a headlock (or do a mawashi grab) and sometimes they start slapping each other first. It's kind of loud, and it looks like it hurts.

No fist punching is allowed. This is not boxing or a fight club. But the slapping is acceptable, even expected. Their bronze skin gets a short beating before the two competitors latch onto each other or truly attack. It looks like it stings.

Here's a link to a youtube video of a slap fight.

In the video you can see the slapping is fierce enough to actually send one guy out of the ring. Plus you can see the decor of the sumo arena. Cool video--thanks Snowleg, whoever you are.

Good stuff.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


I like the Japanese word chikara. It means power. I remember getting up early one morning in Japan and thinking, "Chikara nai." I have no power. I fell back onto my futon and went back to sleep. It happened quite a few times as I tried to bike up a steep hill in Nagano toward the Zenkoji temple. Chikara nai! The muscles in my thighs quivered. I had to just stop and let them rest.
Zenkoji Temple is on a hilltop overlooking Nagano
Chikara is a word used well in regards to sumo. Those rikishi are huge, and they are full of power! Seeing them slam into one another like Mack trucks going 100 miles per hour, it's just ... powerful!

At the beginning of each sumo match there's a lot of ceremony. One of the things they do is drink from a little bowl of chikara mizu, power water. Then they have a piece of chikara kami placed in front of their mouths. Power paper.

The water idea, I get. Drinking in the power of the Shinto gods. Great idea!

But the paper, that was a mystery. It took me a while to find an explanation, but what I gather is that the power paper is used to hide the mouth of the rikishi while he spits out the power water.

Yet another reason I love sumo.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Grace and the Rikishi

I was at a writing retreat this month and I saw a friend of mine, Deb. Deb is Japanese. She was so excited to tell me about her trip to L.A. a while back when she was able to attend a sumo tournament. I'm so jealous! She said, "The minute I saw the sumo wrestlers, I thought of you!"

I laughed--when people see sumo, they think of me. Ha haha.

Disclosure: I'm a 5 foot 1 inch white woman not really in a sumo weight class.

Another friend listening was perplexed as to why you'd want to attend such a thing, and wrinkled her nose.

Deb said, "They're amazing. They're so huge, you can't even believe it. But they've got a grace, almost a weightlessness. They float."

She also said it was easy to tell the guys who were just there for fun, who had no training. They stomped and lumbered and were gawky and clumsy and just fat. But the real sumo wrestlers weren't fat. They were taut and like helium balloons with strength.

Thank you, Deb. Very cool.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My 5K and the Sumo Wrestler's Marathon

I ran my first 5K this month. I'm no runner. At all. I hid in my neighbor's car during the track meet in junior high to avoid having to compete in the 880 relay. I know, I know. I let the team down.

But for some reason this year, I ended up running. Well, it was about the kid. He needed to do some running and didn't want to run alone, so I ran. But I didn't relish it. At first I could only do about a half mile walking then collapsed for the rest of the day. By the time our 5K race came along, though, I was THERE! I could do it, and I didn't even need an ambulance. Pretty cool.

I realize this is nothing, but it's something to me.

This morning I found this article that was also something:

400 Pound Sumo Wrestler Plans To Run L.A. Marathon

He’s got his heart set on finishing the Los Angeles Marathon–and winning a Guinness World Record. Kelly Gneiting, who calls himself the Fat Man, is a three-time national champion sumo wrestler who weighs in at just over 400 pounds. Hardly the light-on-your-feet body type of your traditional marathoner. Gneiting’s six feet tall and has a 60-inch waist. And he says he’s all athlete. “I honestly think I’m one of the best athletes in the world,” he tells the LA Times.

read more

Good for this guy! I wish I'd been there to cheer him on.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Why not in America?

My question is why isn't sumo more popular in America? I've wondered this a long time, ever since I started being a sumo fan.

I asked my sister this last night. She crinkled up her eyes and nose and winced and said, "Uh, maybe it's because most of us think it's kind of gross."


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Earthquake & Tsunami

So worried about my friends in Japan. I've been emailing with my closest friend Kitamura-san. She doesn't live in the north where the quake and tsunami happened, but her life has been affected nonethless. Her husband was missing after work during the power outages, and she spent a scary night. Her parents live in Nagano, and a secondary quake happened there. Fortunately, the Japanese are architecturally prepared for even large quakes, and no homes were damaged, although the quake was very large.

However, I have a cousin who just returned from Sendai. He says all his aquaintances but one are safe. He knew a person through an Eikaiwa (English instruction) class who was killed in the tsunami, and several people who lost their homes.

This whole thing is tragic.

I have full faith, however, that the Japanese people will pull together and work hard to get through it. They are amazing people, resilient, dutiful, diligent. My prayers are with them.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

More Bad News for Sumo

Well, today's news reported more bad headlines about sumo. It's been a rough year, what with the baseball-and-mafia betting scandal of last summer, Asashoryu's misdeeds and untimely retirement. Now, this: a bout-fixing scandal. And not just simple bout fixing. In fact, the scandal has the potential to reduce the ancient sport into nothing better than American television wrestling, play acting and show.

According to UPI news, text messages indicate that 13 sumo wrestlers were engaged in not just once but routine bout fixing. This revelation comes after years of suspicions, but now it's been confirmed thanks to the wonders of texting.

A photo like this...never happens. It's a bow of shame and apology.

I wonder what will happen next. Will there be a major housecleaning? If so, will it be sufficient to win back the trust of the fans? Or would even that be too little too late? Is sumo finished?

Very sad.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Black and White, and Grey

The mawashi loin coverings that the sumo wrestlers wear are either black or white. The amateurs wear white, and the pros wear black.

A lot of things in life are black and white.

And then there's some grey.

I just found a mindblowing blog. It's by Mike Weseman, and he's a sumo guru. He's met the actual wrestlers, hung out with them, really follows their careers. He writes the kind of blog I'd love to write if I had more time to dedicate to my sumo hobby and if I weren't a super-busy mom of five kids with a billion duties in that realm of life. He and some friends co-author the blog, and each of the guys has his own take on the sport.  They even post the latest news, by date. It's a super great resource. Check it out: SUMO TALK. Awesome blog.

But the blog post that has my head spinning is Mike's opinion on the fallout from last autumn's scandal. Yes, the JSA is going through the motions of ousting the yakuza (Japanese mafia) from the sport. Good news, right? Not to Mike. He writes in great detail why it's wrong for sumo to get rid of mob money, and why it could be the end of all the small stables.

Who'da thunk.

I'm not sure where I come down on that, but it is very interesting to me to read the other side of the story. It goes to show me that there are two sides to every story, even ones that seem like they're completely black and white.