Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Sumo Wrestling Books

A few years go I put together this list of English-language books on sumo wrestling. I am sure there probably have been a few more that have been released, but for the most part this is a nearly comprehensive list.  Almost all these books cover a similar amount of material, but all usually specialize in something more than the others (history, heya life, personal stories).  As you can see most were released in the 1980s and 1990s when sumo interest really took off overseas.  For the beginner fan I would recommend the Big Book of Sumo.

1. The Essential Guide to Sumo by Dorthea Buckingham (1994)
2. Gaijin Yokozuna by Mark Panek (2006)
3. Sumo from Rite to Sport by P.L. Cuyler (1979, revised 1985)
4. The Book of Sumo by Doug Kenrick (1969)
5. Sumo Wrestling by Bill Gutman (1995)
6. Grand Sumo by Lora Sharnoff (1989)
7. The Big Book of Sumo by Mina Hall (1997)
8. The Giants of Sumo by Angela Patmore (1990)
9. Rikishi: The Men of Sumo by Wes Benson (1986)
10. Takamiyama: The World of Sumo by Jesse Kuhaulua (ghostwritten by John Wheeler) (1973)
11. Dynamic Sumo by Clyde Newton (1994)
12. Sumo by Andy Adams and Clyde Newton (1989)
13. Sumo: The Sport and Tradition by J.A. Sargeant (Tuttle, 1959)
14. Sumo Watching by S.W.A. (1993)
15. Sumo: A Pocket Guide by Walter Long (1989)
16. Sumo: A pocket Guide by David Shapiro (Tuttle, 1995)
17. The Joy of Sumo by David Benjamin (1991)
18. Sumo by Lyall Watson "A Channel Four Book" (1988)
19. Sumo: A Fan's Guide by Mark Schilling (1994)
20. Grand Sumo Fully Illustrated by PHP Institute Inc
21. Sumo Showdown: The Hawaiian Challenge by Philip Sandoz
22. Jesse: Sumo Superstar by Adams and Schilling
23. Makunouchi Rikishi of the Showa Era by Clyde Newton
24. Sumo - Japanese Wrestling (Tourist Library 34)
25. I am a Rikishi by Reiko Yokono
26. Makunouchi Rikishi of the Showa Era by Clyde Newton

Saturday, January 23, 2016

1944 Kokugikan Set (S441)

I was doing some touch up work on this set and thought it would be good to share it here.  The S-Series of cards, or Kokugikan Cards, were produced to give fans an opportunity to have their favorite wrestlers of the day through these small card sets.  They were presumably sold as souvenirs at the Kokugikan (the building where tournaments are held in Tokyo).  At this time in Japan there was no TV so the only way to watch a tournament was to attend during one of the two annual tournaments in Tokyo or see the wrestlers when they went on tour around the country in between the tournaments.  Since there was no TV and most matches were broadcast on the radio, this would have been a handy set to have to visualize the wrestlers.

 The 1944 Kokugikan Set (S441) was produced towards the end of World War 2.  As you can imagine, cards/menko/bromides from during the War are excruciatingly/extremely rare to find.  The quality of this set is very low as you can see from the scans above and likely due to the very poor and worn out printing presses at the time.  Most all industry was focused on the war effort so any product that wasn't benefiting the war was likely produced in low numbers.  An unknown printer made this set, but the back of the box does say "Made in Aomi, Tokyo".  Aomi is a small area in southern Tokyo right along Tokyo Bay at the southern end of the Rainbow Bridge and this area was pretty much decimated in 1944/1945 during the fire bombing raids of World War 2.  Likely the company that produced this set was destroyed as well, but even more amazingly this set has survived all the bombing raids, reconstruction, and recovery during the 70+ years after the war.   Almost all of the S-Series sets came in small cardboard boxes like the one below.

This set does have one of the last known cards of the great Yokozuna Futabayama along with some really rare cards of low ranking Maegashira wrestlers whose only cards appear in this set.  I have the current checklist at 23 cards, but I have a feeling it should be 25 as a few high-ranking wrestlers are missing from my set (Sagamiiwa, Terunobori).

Friday, January 22, 2016

1976 Kodansha NST Sumo Stamp Set

  The 1976 Kodansha NST Stamp Set has had me intrigued for quite a few years mainly because it's been elusive and a difficult set to put together.  Single stamps from this 288-stamp set are almost nonexistent and packs and albums rarely come up for sale. If they do at all they are usually sold at a premium.  Unlike the baseball guys who have numerous stamp sets to choose from over several years, sumo collectors only have the 1976 stamp set so auctions will usually command high interest among collectors from around the world.

   Stickers/seals/stamps became popular in the 1970s likely due to the success of the Panini brand from Italy.  The sumo stamp set was among numerous different subjects produced by Kodansha NST (more on Kodansha later) during this time including baseball, animals, trains, tv shows and even Guiness Book of Records.  All sets came with an album that cost 200円 and with packs that came 8 stamps to a pack for 50円 a pack.  I also have several "sample" packs that were given to stores to be used as promotional giveaways and the store owner had the opportunity to write in his business's name on the back of the packs to guide kids, and their money, his way.  These came 3 stamps to a pack.  The stamps are approximately 2" x 3".

  The sumo set I own has been glued to the pages of an album aside from the handful of loose packs I've picked up along the way. Those will stay sealed....for now at least.  The front has a nice shot of Ozeki Takanohana who was extremely popular in 1976 and used on a lot of the packaging items(see below).

As mentioned in numerous blogs the stamps were intended to be glued into the album into their corresponding slot/area.  There is a little strip along the top where the glue was to be applied and so you could still flip the stamp up and read the tidbit of trivia and information that was usually printed there (see below with several open slots).

The set is broken up into 19 subsets, although none of the subsets are more difficult to complete than the others.

Here is the list of subsets:
- Combat Rivals
- Famous Rikishi of Eastern Japan
- Famous Tall Rikishi of the 36 Bales
- Our Heroes/Yusho Winners
- Jungyo Scenes in your Town
- Inside Takanohana's heya (stable)
- An array of Present Day Star Rikishi
- Kitanoumi's different winning kimarite (winning techniques)
- Famous Retired Yokozuna
- Inside Shitake Heya
- Dohyo Support Personnel
- Scenes from the Dohyo
- Edo Beauty / Sumo Nishikie
- Sansho Prize Winners
- Action Sequence of Clashing Star Rikishi
- Famous Light Rikishi of the 36 Bales
- Famous Heavy Rikishi of the 36 Bales
- Famous Rikishi of Western Japan
- Takanohana 9-piece Picture Puzzle

The back of the album had an order form for kids to order any single stamp for 7円 as well as a checklist as seen below to keep track of the individual cards they had.  This last page also explains the process for turning in 168 of your doubles for a special present.  What that special present is, I am not sure, but will have to do more research on that.

Here are scans of the front and back of a regular and sample pack.

The auction I purchased also had a full size copy of a reproduction poster that would have hung in the window of the toy shop.  It's quite attactive and I only wish it was an actually original instead of a copy.

I was quite curious on the NST brand and did a 30 minutes search trying to research the company.  I came up empty handed and really started examining the album more for clues as well as look at other albums from the different subjects.  As it's written on everything, the sumo stamps (as well as baseball stamps) were manufactured under the supervision of Baseball Magazine Sha (SSM) and issued/published by Kondansha International NST Project Office.  Kondansha International was the English-language publishing house of Kondansha, but there are no clues to NST Kikakushitsu (Project Office).  So the chase was on and I went out and researched other kikakushitsu organizations.  It turns out all the references I found dealt with the publishing world in the form of "Modern Project Office", "Parenting Series Project Office", "Kobe City Project Office" and "Neko Project Office", etc....  All of these project offices released a distinct set of publications.  Clearly the NST Project Office had the authority to use their logo instead of Kodansha so my guess is NST was a division of Kondansha that was tasked to produce the whole series of stamp sets (approximately 15-20 by my estimate) during this era.  Likely NST stands for something like Nihon Stamp Team, Nihon STamp.  I'm hoping someone else will be able to weigh in on this as well.

Friday, January 15, 2016

1959/1960 Maruichi Sagari 7 Sets (BC595/BC604)

Type 1: White Border
Type 2: No Border

Anyone watching the Hatsu Tournament?  It appears Yokozuna Hakuho is making another run at a championship!

This set(s) is one of the main reasons I love to collect, catalog, and checklist new sumo menko and cards.  I thought I had the set(s) figured out and then I dig up new information and found additional menko that proved my original research wrong.  I wish I could tell you that I have it all squared away in this blog, but I'll need to spend several hours now revisiting these sets and come up with new checklists which I'll post here and get in my next book edition.  I picked up this prize sheet several years ago and tucked it away, but dug it out again recently to double check I had my checklist up to date and to take a picture for reference.  Originally I had this set as the 1959 Maruichi Sagari 7 Set (BC595) (Note:  I believe Engel incorrectly lists these as a Maruya sets) with two types (with and without borders).  As I was reviewing the checklist with this prize sheet I noticed that some of the wrestler's fighting names (shikona) had changed and that the top prizes on this sheet were of only Kashiwado and Taiho who didn't really become popular until 1960 and beyond.  Then I noticed subtle differences between the Type 1: White Border menko and Type 2: No Border menko in terms of who is represented in each set indicating different release dates.  I remember Engel talking about border and borderless sets being released in different years so I went back and double check and he does mention borderless being issued a year earlier than bordered sets.  This very well may be the case here and I am thinking the Type 2 set is actually from 1959 and the Type 1 is from 1960.  (A great example of how Japanese sumo and baseball menko research helps and verifies each other)  I also translated what was at the top of this prize sheet and it has written "丸一新版相撲面子集" which translates as "Maruichi New Edition Sumo Menko Collection".  I take this as meaning an updated and new release of a previous edition.

This prize sheet is what you typically would see hanging up in the dagashiya.  It's approximately 24"x 36" and has 1/2/3 prize levels.  The 1st-level prize menko are large 8" x 11" and there are 3 of those.  The 2nd-level prize menko are six uncut sheets of 4 menko.  The 3rd-level prize menko are 16 uncut sheets of 2 menko.  In a 100 枚 taba pack that means almost a 1-in-4 chance of winning!  As with most prize sheets, the paper is very thin and starting to deteriorate.  Hopefully I can figure out how to preserve these someday, but at least the glue used to hold the menko on the sheet is still holding strong.

  These menko are very common to find in auctions probably because they were released so late in the menko boom and there was likely a lot of deadstock left over in dagashiya.  The set(s) show the rikishi in various poses and action shots agains a mostly solid background or on the dohyo and measure approximately 1.75" x 3.0".  Backs are printed in a blue ink and have the "Gu-Choki-Pa" mark in a circle at the top with the shikona down the middle and the 7-digit Fighting Number along the bottom.  The left column contains the rikishi's height and weight in kiograms and centimeters and the right column has the rikishi's prefectural birthplace and heya information.

Monday, January 11, 2016

1957 Tsuki 8-9-10 (BC5711)

  First, I want to thank the Japanese baseball card guys at their blogs for giving me a shoutout and a link to my blog here. Also, wanted to say thanks for the kind words and support from the folks that have already checked the site out. I've been poking away at trying to add new content on each series of menko you see on the left. That will be a work in progress for a while I think. This is my first post from my iPhone so we'll see how it goes. Definitely easier to do on my PC, but so far so good here.

   This set is one that had actually eluded me with "large" quantities of menko to build a good checklist off of until last year when I happened upon an small lot of them for auction. Then just a few months ago I discovered this gem of an uncut sheet.   For those that know me, I am a sucker for unopened boxes, uncut sheets, taba packs, and prize display sheets so I knew I had to have this one.  This set is the 1957 Tsuki 8-9-10 (BC5710) and is a color bromide menko series set. As you can see from the photos there are a variety of photos of the rikishi from them standing in there keshi-mawashi to photos of a bout to candid photos...all for the most part against a solid color background. The manufacturer of this set is unknown at the moment and we won't know until a taba pack or prize sheet is discovered. Backs are printed on grey cardboard stock of fairly good quality with blue ink.  There is an image of a gunbai or banzuke board depending on the menko and each menko has a unique back. The winner stamp on these is red and very difficult to find one with the stamp.  The checklist is probably close to complete around 20-30 menko, but it does contain all 4 Yokozuna of the era.  If you come across some of these pick them up as they are extremely rare to find. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

New Set - 1962 Osato Famous Stars Trump (G622)

1962 Osato Famous Stars Trump

   This is a set I have seen several times in the past few decades, but only recently did I pick up a sheet of the cards and checklist them.  It was made by Osato Gangu in 1962 and the sheet I have features 24 different sport and entertainment stars from the era (note: one card is duplicated on the sheet).  Osato made numerous card sets from the 1950s-1970s and most notably the 1975 Osato Sumo Wrestling Mini Card set.  The cards are printed on study cardboard stock and come in sheets of 25 cards in a 5x5 arrangement.  Gary Engel's Vintage Edition of the Japanese Baseball Card Checklist and Price Guide lists the set (JGA 149) at 44 cards and printed in 1962 or 1963.  The backs are printed in blue ink with a mosaic pattern around the Osato lion head and the fronts feature images of the famous star along with a playing card which is in a horizontal position on the card.  The front images are CYMK halftone printed with each card measuring about 1 3/16" x 2 3/8" and the entire sheet measuring 12" x 5 7/8".  Registration on my sheet is really good with only the blue color being slightly off top to bottom by .25 millimeters or so.

Distribution on these is unknown and likely sold by dagashiya in uncut sheets or potentially as a prize sheet for some other set.  It's possible that they might have been inserted in a children's magazine of the era too although all four sides of my sheet are nice and smooth indicating that they weren't necessarily attached inside a magazine.

                                                        Closeup of the halftone print dots

  Here is the checklist that I have compiled so far for this set:

Sumo Wrestling:
     - 4 of Clubs - Yokozuna Kashiwado
     - 5 of Diamonds - Yokozuna Taiho

     - 6 of Diamonds - Katsuya Nomura
     - 5 of Clubs - Sadaharu Oh
     - 8 of Diamonds - Masaichi Kaneda

Pro Wrestling:
     - 8 of Clubs - Rikidozan

American Movie Stars:
     - Ace of Clubs - 101 Dalmations
     - 9 of Diamonds - Jack Hawkins (Ben Hur)
     - 4 of Clubs - Charlton Heston & Sam Jaffe (Ben Hur)
     - 8 of Spades - King Kong
     - Ace of Diamonds - Steve McQueen (Wanted Dead or Alive (Kenju Mushuku))

American TV Stars:
     -7 of Clubs - Chuck Conners (Rifleman)
     - Queen of Clubs - Vince Edwards (Ben Casey)
     - 2 of Clubs - George Reeves (Superman)

Japanese TV/Movie/Music Stars:
     - 9 of Clubs - Kinya Kitaoji
     - Jack of Clubs - Hibari Misora
     - 4 of Diamonds - Unknown Samurai with Eye Cut
     - 3 of Clubs - Kayoko Moriyama
     - 3 of Diamonds - Raizo Ichikawa
     - 7 of Diamonds - Sayuri Yoshinaga
     - 6 of Clubs - Tomoko Matsushima
     - King of Clubs - Akira Kobayashi
     - 2 of Diamonds - Komadori Sisters
     - King of Hearts - Kinosuke Nakamura

Friday, January 1, 2016

1953 Kagome Rikishi 7 Set (R531)

Type 1: Red with Green
Type 2: Green with Red  

   Kagome Gangu Kaishi (Kagome Toy Company) produced several Rikishi Series menko sets between 1944 and 1957, but none rivals the size and uniqueness of the 1953 Kagome Rikishi 7 Set.  This set  was printed to mirror the 1953 Aki Banzuke and I consider it the absolute pinnacle of the sumo boom menko issues. The 1953 Set was truly colossal for its day in terms of size, quantity and quality of rikishi.  In fact, 7 of the modern day yokozuna and 4 of the modern day ozeki appear in this set at various stages in their career.  Furthermore, every other rikishi depicted in this set made it to at least komusubi except for Narutoumi!  This set can easily be compared to the 1952 Topps Baseball Set in terms of quality, impact, and star power.  Japan was finally recovering from its post-war economic depression and sumo popularity was reaching a new high due to television broadcasts and extra expendable income.

   The approximately 2.0 x 3.25 inch and 1/16 inch thick menko were the biggest size ever offered for individual sale. At 46 menko, it was also the largest set ever produced. One of the major design innovations that Kagome capitalized on was the superimposing of  actual photos of rikishi’s heads onto a drawing of their kesho-mawashi. The ink colors used on the menko front were extremely bright and vivid, and the backs sported a clean 3-column design that wasn’t cluttered.

   The artwork on the fronts is simple, yet representative of the actual kesho-mawashi.  One interesting printing technique that wasn’t identified until recently is the color reversal on every menko produced. In short, two versions of each menko were printed where the red and  green colors are swapped, resulting in a “red” version and “green” version.  Unfortunately, I didn't keep better auction records so I am uncertain as to why there were two different versions.  They could have been different due to regional distribution/production differences, it was intentionally done by Kagome to increase sales, or due to the strong demand they might have unintentionally swapped colors during a second or third print run.

   Let’s break down this set and explore some of the “firsts” and “lasts” in this set and find out why this is truly a sumo menko collector’s dream set.

40th Yokozuna Azumafuji (2854000) – The 1953 Aki Basho is the last basho in which Azumafuji competed healthy. He also won his 6th and final yusho this basho and never again obtained kachi-koshi because of injuries. He retired exactly one year later. This is the last menko of Azumafuji ever printed!

41st Yokozuna Chiyonoyama (1390520) – A nice early yokozuna menko of Chiyonoyama.

42nd Yokozuna Kagamisato (4798310) – Kagamisato’s yokozuna debut menko!  Kagamisato was promoted to yokozuna only two basho before this and this is his first ever yokozuna menko!

Ozeki Yoshibayama (43rd Yokozuna) (1942001) – Yoshibayama’s last ozeki menko!  Yoshibayama was promoted to yokozuna two basho later.

Ozeki Tochinishiki (44th Yokozuna) (4785020) – Tochinishiki’s last ozeki menko!  He was promoted to yokozuna at the beginning of 1955.

Ozeki Mitsuneyama (3842740)

Sekiwake Asashio (46th Yokozuna) (5894170) – Asashio’s sekiwake debut menko!

Sekiwake Matsunobori (8432450) – Matsunobori’s debut menko! (first menko ever printed of him!)

Komusubi Wakanohana (45th Yokozuna) (7504320) – Wakanohana’s last komusubi menko! He was promoted to sekiwake the next basho.

Komusubi Tokitsuyama (2532021) – Tokitsuyama’s debut menko! (first menko ever printed of him!)

Maegashira 1E Kitanonada (1420401) – Kitanonada’s debut menko!

Maegashira 1W Otachi (8452010)

Maegashira 2E Shimizugawa (9825421) – Shimizugawa’s debut menko!

Maegashira 2W Dewanishiki (7904210) – Dewanishiki’s debut menko!

Maegashira 3E Kuninobori (7005000) – Kuninobori’s debut menko!

Maegashira 3W Nayoroiwa (6432150) – This former ozeki’s last menko ever printed!

Maegashira 4E Tamanoumi (5290120) – Tamanoumi’s debut menko!

Maegashira 4W Wakasegawa (9024510) – Wakasegawa’s debut menko!

Maegashira 5E Narutoumi (6532410) – Narutoumi’s debut menko!

Maegashira 5W Shinobuyama (6428000) – Shinobuyama’s debut menko!

Maegashira 6E Kotonishiki (6849240) – Kotonishiki’s debut menko!

Maegashira 6W Orochigata (7148920)

Maegashira 7E Kotogahama (5200129) – Kotogahama’s debut menko!

Maegashira 7W Wakabayama (8450759)

    At 48 menko in a master set (both Type 1 and Type 2), it was also one of the largest sets ever produced.  Its fun and challenging to try and build the master set because of the color variations and scarcity of the menko.  Fortunately, almost all menko are well-centered and many are still in decent condition because of the thickness and durability of the material.  If you have the patience and the financial resources, it’ll be a very enjoyable, educational, and rewarding challenge. These menko are not exceptional hard to find on the auction market which alludes to their popularity and large production quantities.  Expect to pay around $200-$250 to assemble the set and don’t expect a complete set to hit the market anytime soon.  Menko came in boxes of 200 with 8 different rikishi per box so 25 menko of each rikishi per box.  Kagome really pulled off a zensho-yusho with this set!

Picture 1: The 40th-46th Yokozuna. Note red and green versions on
Azumafuji, Chiyonoyama and Wakanohana.