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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, June 9, 2007

Hakuho had no choice for ring-entering ceremony style

Video: Preparing for this weekend's sumo

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Writer

GRAND SUMO TOURNAMENT

When: 4:30 p.m. today, 12:30 p.m. tomorrow

Where: Blaisdell Arena

Tickets: From $35 to $250 ($350 and $300 seats are sold out); available at Blaisdell Center Box Office, Ticketmaster and Times Supermarkets

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Yokozuna Hakuho takes on more than the rest of the 40-man field when the Hawai'i Grand Sumo Tournament opens its two-day run at 4:30 p.m. today at Blaisdell Center.

There is also the case of what some in the sport like to call the "Shiranui jinx" that sometimes seems to follow the career of those who are practitioners of that style dohyo iri.

As a newly-promoted member of the sport's highest rank, the Mongolian-born Hakuho will be performing the highly-ritualistic dohyo iri (ring-entering ceremony) in this and all future tournaments as long as he holds the rank. Today will mark his first rendition of it in the ring since he was promoted last week and, organizers say, the first time a yokozuna has debuted his dohyo iri outside of Japan.

Yokozuna have two styles for the ceremony, Shiranui and Unryu both named after 19th century practitioners to choose from and dedicate themselves to one or the other.

Hakuho dismissed the notion of a jinx and said his choice of styles was predicated by the tradition of the Miyagino stable, to which he belongs. In the Tatsunami group of stables, to which Hakuho's stable is aligned, the Shiranui is traditionally preferred.

But the Shiranui hasn't been the best of omens for a number of yokozuna. In some of the most extreme cases, Futahaguro got forced out of sumo after a scandal. Asahifuji won a single title and Kotozakura had only eight tournament appearances.

This is in contrast with the Unryu, whose leading practitioners have included three of the all-time winners, Taiho, Chiyonofuji and Kitanoumi, who had 87 tournament championships between them.

"Some people say there is a jinx but I don't know about that," said Maui's Jesse Kuhaulua, master of the Azumazeki stable. His protege, Akebono, used the Unryu style. "Is there a jinx? said Wai'anae's Musashimaru. "I don't know but that's what some people say."

Two of the major differences between the styles are the use of the arms and number of loops in the ceremonial white rope belt. For the Unryu, which is considered more offensive oriented, one arm is extended outward. Shiranui calls for the extension of both arms.

On the belt, Unryu has one loop and Shiranui two.

MIHARA RETURNS

Ross Mihara, an 'Iolani School graduate and former KGMB sportscaster who does English-language TV sumo commentary for Japan's NHK will team with former yokozuna Musashimaru on a two-week delayed telecast of the tournament.

KFVE will show a two-hour highlight program on June 24.

NO ROOF FOR MATCHES

The yakata (A-frame roof) that is seen on TV atop the ring in tournaments from Japan is not being used at Blaisdell. It was decided not to transport the six-ton structure here for the tournament.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com.