SUMO ABC No. 96 / Racetrack makes apt home for Tagonoura stable wrestlers

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Former yokozuna Kisenosato, now known as sumo elder Araiso, left, practices with a young wrestler in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture.

By Shuji Miki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior WriterDuring the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament, held in Osaka every March, new apprentices who will graduate from junior high, high school or university make their professional sumo tournament debuts.

For that reason, the spring tournament is also called the “shushoku basho” or “employment tournament.”

This year, 40 new apprentices passed the medical examination for entry to the professional sumo world. Their names are not on the banzuke ranking list for the spring tourney. They enter pro sumo at the level where bouts between unranked sumo wrestlers are held, the stage before bouts in the jonokuchi division. Their professional sumo names will debut on the ranking list at the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament in May.

There are six grand tournaments in a year, half of which are held outside Tokyo — in Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka. When the three grand tournaments are held in Tokyo, wrestlers go to Ryogoku Kokugikan from the stable to which each belongs. However, during grand tournaments outside Tokyo, they live in temporary accommodation called “shukusha” that is prepared by each stable.

There are 46 sumo stables today. Among them, the Tagonoura stable — to which Ozeki Takayasu and former yokozuna Kisenosato (now sumo elder Araiso) belong — has attracted attention this year as a peculiar stable in terms of the location of its temporary accommodation: the premises of the Sonoda Racecourse, used for horse racing in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture.

Apparently, the accommodation was built there through the personal introduction of an acquaintance of stable master Tagonoura (formerly Takanotsuru in the makuuchi division).

The stable rented the building of the fourth betting office at the racetrack to construct the accommodation. On the first floor is the dohyo ring, a thick pillar for training called “teppo bashira” used mainly for pushing, and other training areas. Living spaces for the sumo wrestlers and others from the stable are on the second floor.

As such accommodation has requirements such as a certain amount of space for the sumo wrestlers’ everyday lives, the racetrack seems to meet such conditions. The operator of the racetrack also makes use of this opportunity to promote the facility with a catchy phrase, “Please watch horse racing after seeing sumo practice sessions in the morning.”

Many sumo stables have been using temples and shrines as their temporary accommodations, including 20 stables this year. Company and factory premises prepared by the stables’ supporters associations are also candidates for temporary accommodations.

Until the racetrack became a temporary accommodation this year, the youth hostel at the Yanmar Stadium Nagai in Osaka, which the Shibatayama stable is using for its temporary accommodation, held the title of “unique” accommodation.

Miki is a sumo expert.

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