The Yamawaro: A Legend of Japan

With mere hours before Kyushu Basho starts, I figured I’d kill some time by doing a write up on the Yamawaro, the namesake of this blog. Some of you may have thought that this was a shikona or just a random Japanese word, but it is, in fact, a legendary entity from Kyushu (how situationally appropriate) in Japan.

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An artist’s (Matthew Meyer) depiction of the yamawaro.

Yamawaro are minor mountain deities. They are short, covered in hair, walk upright, and have a single eye in the middle of their foreheads. Yamawaro are very good at mimicking sounds in nature as well as human speech and songs. But, the most imporant thing about yamawaro is that they love sumo. They are, in fact, considered to be better at sumo than any human can be.

So, at the end of the day, the blog is named after a sumo-wrestling mountain spirit with one eye and a skill for mimicry.

If you’d like to learn more about the yamawaro, consider visiting the amazing Yokai.com. It is run by the talented Matthew Meyer who researches and illustrates yokai from all across Japan. He has two books in print with a third on the way. Be sure to swing by and check it out.

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Legends of the Dohyo – 2 – Ayagawa Gorōji

Ayagawa Gorōji

Ayagawa Gorōji

Personal Information

  • Birth Name – Ayagawa Gorōji
  • Date of Birth – Circa 1703
  • Place of Birth – Tochigi Prefecture, Japan
  • Date of Death – March 14th, 1765 (62 years)

Professional Information

  • Debut – N/A
  • Shikona – Ayagawa Gorōji
  • Heya – N/A
  • Height – 6’7″ / 2 m
  • Weight – 330 lb / 150 kg
  • Promoted to Yokozuna – Circa 1915
  • Retired – N/A
  • Career Record (Win/Loss) – N/A
  • Career Record (Yusho) – N/A

Ayagawa Gorōji came from the Tochigi prefecture and is recognized as the second yokozuna. In 1717, he received his promotion to ōzeki and, according to sumo folklore, he was the strongest rikishi in the Genbun era.

Despite being famous in Edo, Kyoto, and Osaka, precious little is known about Ayagawa’s career in sumo. It wasn’t even until 150 years after his death that he was recognized as a yokozuna by the twelth yokozuna Jinmaku Kyugoro.


This information was taken from Wikipedia and Sumo Database.


Ayagawa Gorōji

Joy of Sumo

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When I first started watching sumo, I had pretty much no idea what to make of it. I was intrigued, but I was confused as all hell (and the language barrier with the commentators did not help). Eventually, I found my way to r/Sumo which pointed me to the beautiful book that you see above: The Joy of Sumo by David Benjamin.

What a read. Not only did this book form the basis of my sumo education, but it did it in a hilarious and endearing way. David Benjamin is a talented writer with a good voice and is a pleasure to read. Whether you’re new to the sport or a wily veteran, this book is worth the time it takes to read it.

If you ever have a chance to read it, I’d strongly recommend that you do so.

Legends of the Dohyo – 1 – Akashi Shiganosuke

Akashi Shiganosuke

Akashi Shiganosuke – Yokozuna #1

Personal Information

  • Birth Name – Akashi Shiganosuke
  • Date of Birth – Circa 1600
  • Place of Birth – Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan
  • Date of Death – Circa 1649

Professional Information

  • Debut – 1624
  • Shikona – Akashi Shiganosuke
  • Heya – N/A
  • Height – 8’6″ / 2.58 m
  • Weight – 406 lbs / 184 kg
  • Promoted to Yokozuna – Circa 1900
  • Retired – 1643
  • Career Record (Win/Loss) – N/A
  • Career Record (Yusho) – N/A

Though formally recognized as the first yokozuna in sumo history, the actual existence of Akashi Shiganosuke is disputed. According to sumo folklore, Akashi first took part in a sumo tournament in 1924, in Yotsuya, Tokyo. He was such an instant star that sumo organizers were able to charge admission to the event for the first time ever.

By 1900, Akashi was such a legendary figure in sumo that when Jinmaku Kyugoro (the 12th yokozuna) began to compile a list of yokozuna, he put Akashi at the top of the list. Despite this honor, Tanikaze Kajinosuke (the 4th yokozuna) was the first rikishi to receive a yokozuna license and to perform the yokozuna dohyo-iri, so he is often regarded as the first “official” or “real” yokozuna.


This information was taken from Wikipedia and Sumo Database.


Akashi Shiganosuke

Banzuke Shoushin

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Good evening, friends. I was doing some work on my other blog tonight (The Table of Starry Wisdom) and I stumbled across something that I think is pretty cool. Below you’ll find the files for a free, print and play tabletoptop game called Banzuke Shoushin. Here’s an information dump about it from Board Game Geek: “Banzuke Shoushin (番付昇進 ‘Rise through the ranks of sumo’) is – as the name already indicates – a sumo wrestling career simulation game. Hence, it does not focus on individual bouts (even though hundreds of fights are simulated during the game), but on the whole of a rikishi’s (sumo wrestler) career. There are 12 rikishi in the game, but only a small number of those are player-controled; the others are ‘automated’, i.e. controled by the game. The game is intended to be played by a very small number of players or solitaire. In principle it could work with up to 6, but it is recommended for 2 or 3 players. During a single game year, rikishi first train, which means that they improve their skills in 1 or 2 of 5 different areas of skill (endurance, strength, weight (yes, that’s a skill here…), speed, technique). In the meanwhile their oyakata (stable masters, comp. coaches) try to improve their spirits, which works like a 6th skill. After training the basho (tournament) begins. A whole year of sumo (6 basho) is condensed into a single tournament (of 45 bouts) in the game. Every bout is decided by the match tactic and a number of dice. Rikishi can try to influence the match tactic such that it matches their strongest skills (or the opponent’s weaknesses). After the basho the banzuke (ranking) is adjusted, rikishi age one year, and some retire (forcibly or voluntarily).Playing one game year takes about 45 to 60 minutes, most of which is taken up by the tournament. Consequently, simulating a 10-year sumo career will take up to 10 hours. It is, however, easy to store away the game in between years, and thus to play the game in many different sessions spread out over a longer period of time.”

Banzuke Shoushin – Bookkeeping Charts

Banzuke Shoushin – Components

Banzuke Shoushin – Rules

Enjoy!

Samurai Spirit – Sumo

I stumbled across a great documentary about Sumo on YouTube the other day.  Here are the videos that comprise the documentary as a whole. (And, incase you were wondering,  “Samurai Spirit” was a TV documentary series from NHK World that focused on the traditional martial arts of Japan. If you’ve got time to kill, the other installments are also pretty interesting.)

Reconstruction Time

Hey, everyone. I apologize that it has been an eternity since I posted here, but I’m going to be getting back at it in the next little while. That being said, there’s going to be some changes going on. The biggest of these changes is the widening of the scope of content to include not only sumo, but other topics from Asiatic cultures as well. It will make posting here more regularly much easier for me.

Other changes will include new pages being added to the blog, the complete restart of the Yokozuna spotlights, and much more.

Also, for those of you who might have forgotten, the Natsu Basho started today so make sure to watch it when you can.