Friday, March 28, 2008


Once bitten...

An illustrious setting for the fraternal reunion: Murphy's bog-standard Irish bar in the armpit of Osaka. When I finish my Guinness, Joe offers to show me one of his fruity barman tricks: the chuck/catch glass behind back.

"Bet you don't believe I can do this, Danny boy," he announces, standing up and readying himself.

I maintain what I judge to be a non-sceptical silence, watch him perform said trick, then recommend as tactfully as possible that he go and get a dustpan and brush from behind the bar. Off he troops, comes back and sweeps up the broken glass with well practised action.

He takes the dustpan back. I go into the toilet. When I come out, there is a fresh layer of broken glass on the floor. It seems that Joe downed the remnants of his pint and had a second go at the trick whilst I was in the loo, with what success I may readily judge from the evidence scattered on the floor.

"Not a word," he says, heading past me to fetch the dustpan again. I maintain my I-am-cursed-with-an-absolute-twit-for-a-brother silence. It differs from my non-sceptical silence in some key areas, but I won't trouble you with the details right now.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Senshuuraku (part two)- How the west won

(As with most sumo vids, you have to wait a bit of a while for the action to start: try around 5m20s if you're in an indecent hurry- DM)


The last day of the sumo was something else entirely: got interviewed by some local-ass TV network in the line in the morning, the VMM produced a brilliant impersonation of a sumo in a post-match interview, answering with low sibilants which could have represented "desu" "sou desu" "sou omoimasu" or pretty much any other term of agreement in the Japanese language. Better still, sumos tend to pull these out even when they're being asked open-ended questions, to the frequent bafflement of reporters. Post-fight interviews are characterised by the mike havering in that no-man's land mid-way between reporter and wrestler as the former is unsure whether his interviewee is going to expand, or whether he ought to rephrase the question. Classic TV.

What's more, we got in early enough to watch some of the bumfights. Highlights were a couple of undercards from Asashoryu's stable: Asadoryu (nice name, card) and Minanosato, who made himself famous by ballsing up the bow-twirling ceremony last week (see previous post). I was particularly interested in the latter.

"Let's see if he chucks his opponent round the ring anything like he chucks the bow around the ring," I remarked to the VMM. He didn't, but he did at least mash out a victory over some other palooka.

More wrestlers came and went, as did the beers. Ama, 19-year old Russian Wakanoho and local boy Goeido (graduate of Neyagawa 4th JHS) secured those all-important kachikoshi 8th victories.

And, finally, the two yokozuna faced off. From the back of the gymnasium with a fair amount of beer impairing my vision, I got the impression that Hakuho had the advantage at the start: Asashoryu seemed to get upright a bit too quickly, perhaps remembering how he'd been side-stepped the previous year. Asa was driven back towards the bales, then, in the blink of an eye, it was over: Hakuho was standing at the bottom of the ring, wondering what on earth had gone wrong, Asa above, pumping his fist in celebration. And we were going mad up in the rafters.

And I thought to myself: thank god that taxi came along when it did this morning, otherwise we'd never have been in time to get tickets.


Sunday, March 23, 2008



Mwaha! Had an old-fashioned sleepover in the Casa Shinsai last night, for the sake of making it early to the Namba prefectural gymnasium and snapping up one of the few remaining tickets for today: the last day of action in the spring sumo tournament.

Unfortunately, what with alcohol and horror (of the film variety and otherwise) we slept in a wee bit later than anticipated and when we got to the gym the line was right round the corner. We were numbers 242 and 243 in a line of people queueing for an official ticket allocation of 240.

But we got tickets anyway. And now I'm chilling out in the net cafe before the action kicks off.

So, today the two yokozuna will fight for the grand prize. As with the New Year tournament, both are level (two losses each) so the winner of today's bout gets the cookie jar, one-shot deal.


Ama's opponent, Asasekiryu, loses his hinkaku and has a good old tug on Ama's topknot. Ama throws him down.

The Mongolians in general are a pretty slippery bunch: here's a juryo (Endsleigh) match that I was lucky enough to see on TV the other day. The victor (Hakuba) is another Mongolian with some pretty unorthodox moves (as per the action replay of the previous day's fight which is the first piece of action on this video). His opponent didn't seem too happy about it, either:

More Mongolian tomfoolery as Aminishiki earns himself a victory over yokozuna Hakuho which lacks not for bathos. No points for fair play here.


Minanosato, standing in for Asashoryu, has one to forget during the bow-twirling ceremony that concludes the day's action, accidentally letting go of the bow and sending it flying. As Asa's representative, this kind of slapstick doesn't reflect too well on the big man himself. Plus, Asa isn't well-known for his sunny disposition, so he probably beat the hapless Minanosato around the head and neck with the bow back in the changing room.

Asa lost his next two fights after this; don't disrespect the bow!


Right, time to head off to the gym! Go Asa!

Aminishiki is not Mongolian. He's from Aomori, home of apples and self-styled final resting place of Jesus Christ. Apologies to Aminishiki and Aomori.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Hinkaku jiji

I wish I'd thought of the shirts earlier: walking through Namba on the way to the spring grand sumo tournament it suddenly hit me:

"Aw man, we should have got Hawaiian shirts for cheering on Asashoryu."

(This in reference to the incident recently when he ended up telling a newspaper reporter to drop dead. The tabloids had a field day with that one. Then something even better came to me.)

"Or Mongolian football tops! Damn we'd be the... well, the second least popular gaijin in the place."

Of course, the football incident led to Asa's enforced two-tournament suspension, during which his baby-faced arch-rival Hakuho bestrode the world of sumo like a gelded colossus.

This time out, both Yokozuna are going strongly: at the start of day eight, which I went to see with the VMM and Nico, Asa was one of three wrestlers with perfect 7-0 records, Hakuho one win behind with 6-1, as were several others.


So, there's a well-oiled Dan sitting up at the back of the Osaka prefectural gymnasium; Asashoryu warming up down below. I lend my voice to the support.


"Hinkaku!" comes a voice from somewhere behind me. Hinkaku... ah, yes: refinement or good conduct, evidently referring in this case to Asa's lack of the former and paucity of the latter. The VMM glances over, then tells me that the cat-caller is some OB a few boxes away. Had to be an OB. Of course, what would a gaijin like me know about hinkaku and bushido and stuff like that...

A few seconds later, I give vent to another "Asashoryu" and the OB is there again with "Hinkaku!" a snide echo.

This cycle repeated itself a few times. Of course, I thought, drunken old bigots heckling the Yokozuna, a living god, as if he was some hack actor or stand-up comic are in a fine position to preach hinkaku. Kintama to that.

Deep breath, top of my voice:

"Hinkaku o towazu, Asashoryu ga ii!"
(Hinkaku's got nothing to do with it, Asashoryu's the best!)

I was rewarded with a few giggles from surrounding boxes and silence from the OB. Evidently, his banter wasn't up to anything more than single words. Shame that.

Down in the ring, Asa's opponent, Russian teenager Wakanoho, delighted and alarmed me in equal measure with a feisty display of insolence during the pre-bout stare-out.

The bout itself was over in about three seconds. Asa left the dohyo with an 8-0 record and, thanks to other results, sole possession of the tournament lead. Not much in the way of hinkaku, though.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008


Not up for the cup? What if...

Let's see: we have four Premiership teams in the last eight of the quote-unquote "Champion's" League. English football is going places, but...

This is three more than the number of Premiership teams in the FA Cup semi finals.

This being England's foremost domestic cup competition, one might reasonably expect to see the likes of Arsenal, Man Utd et al gracing the last four, but no: the sole representative of the Premiership in this year's competition's penultimate round is Portsmouth. The rest are teams from the Endsleigh, or whatever it's called this month.

Naturally, the above is likely to fuel criticisms that the FA Cup is losing its value as a competition with the big clubs more interested in their continental payday than doing away with the likes of Barnsley in midweek mud in front of football fans who still buy pies in this day and age.

(Yes, Barnsley are in the FA Cup semis also, beaten Liverpool and Chelsea in this season's competition.)

All very romantic, every dog has its day, etc. But how about the following: what if one of the Premiership's Champion's League qualifying spots (say: fourth place which is well off the pace) were removed and the winners of the FA Cup won the right to compete in the Champion's League?

Would the big clubs give their big names a day off for FA Cup ties if their Champion's league dosh was on the line?

Well, quite.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008


An extra-curricular perk

I have a cold or something. I woke up this morning with my head so blocked up that hearing in my right ear was impeded.

I grabbed my bag, indoor shoes and guitar and dragged myself off to school.

(Note: I always take my guitar to the elementary schools; I have been called upon to sing a number of ditties in class, including "on top of the world", "you are my sunshine" and other such timeless classics.)

When the headmaster materialised suddenly next to my desk with a guitar of his own and a bunch of sheet music, I had a suspicion that things were not about to get any better. It turned out that the second period was the goodbye concert for the departing 6th grade and the powers that be were desirous of my contribution to the non-music. I pulled my own axe out of its bag and strummed my way through a practice round with the head, secretly grateful that he was standing on my hearing-impaired right hand side, as his guitar was about as in tune as an aviary full of mad parrots.

Fortunately or otherwise, the head's tin ear also prevented him from noticing that I wasn't exactly making light work of the music. After the one practice round, he declared himself satisfied and disappeared, leaving me to squint at the music and wonder what the heck I was doing even coming to school today.

One lesson later, I was strumming as best I could through the tune in a sports hall full of children. Thankfully, there were keyboards and drums playing too, so nobody could really tell that I was anything less than Clapton.

And Dan lives to fight another day.

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