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Mak Tatton

Inside Tamanoi beya

Set nestled amidst the downtown backstreets of Tokyo's north-eastern Adachi Ward lies the home and stable of Ozeki / Sekiwake Tochiazuma.
Across the 'traditional' northernmost border of Tokyo that is the Arakawa River and roughly 2km from Kita-Senju's entertainment district lies the old 3 storey building. Providing board and shelter at any one time to around 25 young rikishi all gunning for glory and hoping to climb sumo's ladder to the Makunouchi division, Tamanoi is one of sumo's big 3 in terms of rikishi numbers.

The stable, or heya, was established in 1990 by Tomoyori Tamanoi, father of the present Ozeki and himself a one time sanyaku sekitori, he reached sumo's upper elite in the late 60s, at one time attaining the 3rd highest rank of Sekiwake and, in the process being the original holder of the shikona (Fighting Name) of Tochiazuma.
Having claimed an Emperor's Cup just once during his own career (January 1972) however, the former Sekiwake has long since poured his energies into training the up and comers with son already surpassing father by claiming 2 top division titles; the most recent in November 2003 at the Kyushu tournament where he beat Yokozuna Asashoryu on the final day to take the trophy. To date Tochiazuma thus remains the last Japanese sekitori to beat the Mongolian Grand Champion.

Not really luxurous premises

The building, rumored to be superceded in the not too distant future by a new purpose built facility a couple of kilometers away in the Nishi Arai area of the ward, itself presents a genuine image of the true grit and simplicity which often produces some of the best rikishi the sport has known.
A far cry from the all mod-con equipped stables often found in the sumo heartland of Ryogoku, Tamanoi has little to boast of with but a standard dohyo, limited living quarters and a weight training 'area' that is more often seen by passers-by as either a bicycle parking area or a garbage collection point - the alley adjacent to the building.
With the first floor dohyo the standard size and set below an 'L' shaped wooden and tatami viewing platform, post practice the raised area on which observers traditionally seat themselves often serves as a relaxation-cum-food preparation-cum-interview area and it isn't unusual to see younger rikishi sat around talking or having their hair oiled in the afternoon hours preceeding the evening meal.

The second and third floors are all occupied with living and administrative quarters whilst the heya's kitchen and eating areas are to be found to the rear of the dohyo practice area. Cramped to the extent that some foodstuffs are kept on the street outside the door, tradition and focus on the purity of the sport itself, along with the hopes of personal advancement to the upper echelons of the banzuke are factors far more evident at Tamanoi than at the its more modern cousins elsewhere: a factor the supposed move to newer buildings will hopefully not diminish.

Only one sekitori, but also young promising rikishi

Tamanoi currently has just one sekitori, Ozeki Tochiazuma, out of a total of around 25 rikishi. Several Makushita rikishi are showing promise with Yoshiazuma pushing for Juryo promotion in May and Tooyama looking to improve on a good finish in Osaka in March.

Tamanoi has quite a reputation for recruiting young rikishi from Brazil. The most successful Brazilian to date was former Juryo sekitori Kuniazuma who retired from the sport in March 2004 due to injury. The current Brazilian is the 22-year-old, 160kg Christiano de Souza who claimed 3rd prize in last year's Brazilian national sumo championship and is an accomplished judoka.

Of the Japanese rikishi, perhaps the most promising of the lower ranks is (Kazuyoshi) Shibuya. Still aged 17, Shibuya has already reached the Sandanme division in little over a year since entering the sport. Similar success in rising through the Makushita ranks will hopefully see him entering Juryo in 2005.

Visiting Tamanoi beya

Those wishing to visit to visit Tamanoi Beya to watch morning practice should telephone, in Japanese, the day before to check practice will actually take place. You should be prepared to arrive by 7am. Practice usually runs till about 9:30 or 10am.
As with visiting all stables, upon arrival, a bow of respect to the stable master who, if present at Tamanoi will be sat to your left as you enter is advised. A young referee (gyoji), probably to your right, will then offer you a zabuton.
Talking above a whisper, flash photography and eating and drinking are not permitted.

Address: Tokyo, Adachi-ku, Umeda 4-12-14
Tel: 03-3852-4333
Homepage: (Japanese only)

pictures :

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