Bad news hit the Winter Tour early as both Kirishima and Takakeisho went to the hospital and were forced to limit their participation with flu-like symptoms. Terunofuji was already kyujo. Hoshoryu then also fell victim at the Kikuyo stop. As they say in show business, “The Show Must Go On.” And for the time being, the stars of the show are the native Kyushu wrestlers, such as Sadanoumi, Hiradoumi, and everyone’s favorite Emo-zeki, Shodai.
While researching these venues, I was particularly struck by Yatsushiro’s Myoken Festival featuring a procession of horses and a half-turtle/half-snake called a “ga-meh.” Much of the festival actually occurred during Kyushu basho, and the highlight was on November 23rd — just before the basho’s final weekend as the drama was building between Kirishima and Atamifuji. Nonetheless, Yatsushiro may have been chosen as the first stop on the tour because of the importance of this festival, which concluded on December 1, as well as being Takakento’s hometown. If you have a spare 4.5 hours (since there is no hon-basho, I know you do) there is great footage of the 2019 event to see above. Better yet, if you are ever in Kyushu for the tournament, you might want to check out the Yatsushiro Myokensai for yourself!
On December 4, the tour stayed in Kumamoto prefecture but shifted over to a town called, Kikuyo. and then headed down to Miyazaki. Judging by the short video above, our favorite wrestlers were able to enjoy amazing food, especially wagyu beef. Miyazaki prefecture awards the Makuuchi yusho winner (Kirishima) with a head of their famous cattle as well as a ton of fresh produce.
In Oita, visitors would also be able to check out the Oita Prefectural Art Museum (OPAM). Running from November to January 21, is a very interesting exhibition, “Thermae: Ancient Rome, Japan, and the Joy of Bathing.” I am sure Takakeisho checked it out while they were in town. Guided tours on some days are offered but likely in Japanese, only. From here, it’s back to Kasuga in Fukuoka. I imagine that is to pick up more Amaō strawberries and mentaiko (presented as yusho prizes from the prefecture and city of Fukuoka).
The wrestlers ended up this weekend in Nagasaki for two tour dates, Sasebo-city and Omura-city. Unfortunately, a few wrestlers are kyujo from the final Nagoya event, including Kinbozan, Takakento, and Chiyosakae. Hopefully everyone’s health cooperates as we enter another week of this tour. Sasebo city has an Open Data portal which I will be exploring for the next week, as well as Hirado. As I mentioned before, Ehime in Shikoku is next on the Jungyo calendar. The tour will then head toward Osaka on its way back to Tokyo.
The tournament is over but we know that the Makuuchi yusho is not the final sumo thing for the year. There was still quite a bit of news coming out of Fukuoka this week and I wanted to take a moment to cover that in this news brief. Yes, we had the final tournament results and top division special prizes but we also had a group of retirements, Juryo promotions, and we now turn to Winter Jungyo!
Kyushu Hardware Distribution
As far as the yusho, we got a thrilling showdown between Kirishima and Atamifuji on Day 14, which Kirishima won, convincingly. Then he defeated Takakeisho on Senshuraku to seal his 13-2 title and claim the Golden Macaron. Ichiyamamoto, Kotonowaka, and Atamifuji won Fighting Spirit prizes. No technique prize was awarded and only Atamifuji had a shot at Outstanding Performance but he would have had to win the yusho.
In the lower divisions, we have an interesting group of yusho winners. As Leonid covered previously, the Juryo title was claimed by Kotoshoho. He had a tough go of things in the top division but has surely reclaimed a spot there with an exciting victory over Onosato (actually two). The video below has a replay from their playoff, as well as footage from the yusho award ceremony. As Leonid also covered, Satorufuji won the Makushita yusho. Daishoryu, Dairinzan, and Aonishiki won the Sandanme, Jonidan, and Jonokuchi titles, respectively.
The Kyokai announced seven wrestlers who retired during the tournament.
Daijo debuted in 2007 and reached Makushita for the first time in 2013 before falling back into Sandanme. He climbed back into Makushita two more times, in 2017 and 2018, peaking at Makushita 43. Kototakuya debuted in 2018 and cracked into Makushita in the summer of last year, spending much of his career in Sandanme, and much of that career in the wild pandemic era. Kirizakura called “time” on a career that began in the Spring of 1999. At 176cm and 92kg, he fought his entire career in the lower divisions, peaking at Sandanme 69 in May of 2011 (a rather contentious time).
Chiyoshishi‘s retirement was known prior to the basho as a result of the unfortunate underage drinking scandal during the Aki Jungyo. Tamanowaka began his career in 2018, peaking in Jonidan. Young Itoga had a short sumo career, starting in May of this year, and retiring after clinching his first kachi-koshi in September, and promotion to Jonidan. Similarly, Raikisho made a short effort, spending much time banzuke-gai and peaking in Jonidan.
Leonid was spot on with his predictions for the Juryo promotions. Takerufuji and Oshoumi have earned their first-time promotions while Hakuyozan and Tochimusashi return.
Winter Jungyo Preparations
The winter jungyo tour kicks off tomorrow in Yatsushiro, Kumamoto. This first week of the tour will hop around Kyushu with dates in Kumamoto, Miyazaki, Oita, and Fukuoka prefectures before spending next weekend in Nagasaki. Afterwards, they will pop over to Shikoku in Ehime, before going back to Honshu at Hiroshima and spending a few days around Osaka, Hyogo, and finally closing out the tour on Christmas Eve in Tochigi. From there, we’ll surely see a lot of New Year holiday events back in Tokyo. I’ll give weekly updates of the tour events and the holiday happenings leading into Hatsu basho!
Congratulations to Ozeki Kirishima on a somewhat quiet but powerful 13-2 yusho! In the end, he finished two victories clear of his closest pursuers (Sekiwake Kotonowaka and rank-and-filers Atamifuji and Ichiyamamoto), and a similar performance at Hatsu could give us a new Yokozuna! With the November results in the books, let’s take our customary preliminary look at how they’re likely to reshuffle the rankings ahead of the January tournament.
Yokozuna and Ozeki
For now, Yokozuna Terunofuji will retain his position at the top of the banzuke. The Ozeki will get reshuffled based on their Kyushu win totals, with the new order being Kirishima (13-2), Hoshoryu (10-5), Takakeisho (9-6).
S1e Daieisho (9-6) and S2e Kotonowaka (11-4) successfully defended their ranks, while S1w Wakamotoharu (6-9) will be a maegashira in January. Daiesho has 19 wins over the past two tournaments, so mathematically he needs a 14-1 to hit the 33-win benchmark for Ozeki promotion, but his 60 wins in 2023 (trailing only Kiribayama’s 62), with four double-digit performances, could lower his target. Kotonowaka is in a stronger position, with 20 wins over two basho, and could get there with 12-13 wins in January.
The revolving door at Komusubi will continue, with neither Abi (6-9) nor Hokutofuji (5-10) able to hold rank. Their spots will go to former Ozeki Takayasu and fan favorite Ura, who will finally make his san’yaku debut! With Wakamotoharu’s demotion and no strong claims for extra san’yaku slots, the named ranks will shrink to 8, and M17w will reappear on the banzuke.
This area of the banzuke will feature the trio demoted from san’yaku (Wakamotoharu, Abi, Hokutofuji), some well-performing maegashira (Atamifuji, Midorifuji, Gonoyama, Ryuden), and some holdovers with losing records who did just well enough to stay (Tobizaru, Shodai, Nishikigi).
This worked out very cleanly after Day 15 results. Kitanowaka, Kotoeko, Roga, Tohakuryu, and Nishikifuji have demotable records and will be fighting in the second division in January. And there are five rikishi with clear promotion cases to take their place: Kotoshoho, Onosato, Bushozan, Shimazuumi, and Aoiyama (7-7). Oh, and Kotoshoho won his third Juryo yusho, defeating Onosato in a playoff rematch of their regulation bout, which also went to Kotoshoho.
Juryo – Makushita Exchanges
Four Makushita-Juryo exchanges are clear. Hakuyozan, Takerufuji, Oshoumi, and Tochimusashi will swap places with Hakuoho, Hitoshi, Azumaryu, and Takakento. One other exchange is possible—Chiyosakae or Tenshoho could be sent down in order to bring up Tsushimanada—but I am guessing that the incumbents have done just enough to avoid getting pushed down by a 4-3 Ms4w, despite the fact that Tsushimanada won his Day 15 “exchange bout” with Takakento [EDIT: the four exchanges are now confirmed, with Tsushimanada indeed missing out].
We’ll find out about the Juryo promotions in a couple of days; for the rest, we’ll have to wait until the banzuke is released on Christmas!
The action of the past fortnight comes down to these few matches. It’s been a wild, entertaining ride. We came into the tournament with several storylines but those shifted during the tournament. We end with a strong class of Ozeki, a few contenders, and a crop of impressive young wrestlers beginning to develop.
Atamifuji is quickly becoming a favorite. After a rather timid debut to the division, he is establishing himself in this second go around. But he is not destined for the lower rungs of Makuuchi. He has been a player in the yusho for two consecutive tournaments. Two jun-yusho, and the accompanying special prizes suggest he will find a home in sanyaku. He will have new rivalries, perhaps Kotonowaka, Gonoyama and others.
Meanwhile, the newbies at the Ozeki rank, Kirishima and Hoshoryu, are finally establishing themselves with solid tournaments…Kirishima with potentially his second yusho. We will not have a kadoban Ozeki in the New Year and we have a couple of guys who might be able to start their own Ozeki runs.
But we can talk about that later, for now, let’s get to the action.
Nishikifuji (6-9)defeated Kagayaki (5-10). Kagayaki charged forward sending both to the floor. A mono-ii was called but it was determined the bout was too close to call. In the rematch, Kagayaki quickly secured an overarm grip with his left hand but Nishikifuji dominated with his right hand inside. He was able to press forward and force Kagayaki out. Yorikiri.
Hiradoumi (9-6) defeated Kitanowaka (5-10). Kitanowaka wouldn’t let Hiradoumi inside by using powerful tsuppari. But Hiradoumi caught him pitched too far forward and pulled him down to the ground. Hikiotoshi.
Ryuden (10-5) defeated Tsurugisho (9-6). Ryuden forced Tsurugisho into reverse. Tsurugisho stepped out gingerly. Yorikiri.
Oho (8-7) defeated Mitakeumi (8-7). Oho cornered Mitakeumi resisted forcefully at the bales, resulting in a brief stalemate. Mitakeumi used his left hand to sweep through Oho, likely attempting a twisting throw but this forced both to tumble out. Gunbai Oho. No mono-ii. Oshidashi.
Myogiryu (6-9) defeated Tomokaze (7-8) Tomokaze did not like Myogiryu’s nodowa, so he pulled to escape. Myogiryu pursued and pushed him out. Oshidashi.
Roga (5-10) defeated Endo (5-10). Endo pressed forward and seemed to have good control until he tried to shift his grip to a double-inside. Roga locked up Endo’s right arm in an armbar and pulled, forcing him to the ground. Kotenage.
Ichiyamamoto (11-4) defeated Kinbozan (8-7). Ichiyamamoto gets a Fighting Spirit Prize with the win. And win he did, with a quick slapdown. Remember Kinbozan hurt his arm/shoulder yesterday. He didn’t have much in the way of offense today. Hatakikomi.
Churanoumi (9-6) defeated Midorifuji (9-6). This was a very active bout. Churanoumi’s early plan was a pull and slapdown. But Midorifuji kept his balance and charged forward forcing Churanoumi to backpedal. Churanoumi realized he needed to change up his plan so he pressed forward and secured Midorifuji’s belt with his right hand inside. Midorifuji tried to use a kotenage but Churanoumi countered by wrapping his right foot around Midorifuji and then pressing forward. Oshidashi.
Gonoyama (8-7) defeated Shonannoumi (7-8). Darwin Match. Shonannoumi forced to reset, then Gonoyama jumped early. Finally the combatants leapt in sync. Shonannoumi pulled but Gonoyama’s forward churning sumo won, in the end. Oshidashi.
Sadanoumi (8-7) defeated Tobizaru (7-8). Darwin Match. Sadanoumi tried to end it quickly with a throw but Tobizaru slipped from his grip. Tobizaru could not press Sadanoumi forward so he pulled but Sadanoumi pursued well. Yorikiri.
Takayasu (10-5) defeated Tamawashi (9-6). Takayasu was a bit slow with his tachiai, and Tamawashi a bit eager, so he false started. When they got the timing right, Takayasu pulled and shifted directions, letting Tamwashi’s momentum carry him off the dohyo.
Meisei (4-11) defeated Tohakuryu (5-10). Tohakuryu pulled, again. Meisei caught him out and pressed forward. Tohakuryu’s pulling brand of sumo will be sent back to Juryo. Oshidashi. Regular readers will be familiar with my disdain for this type of sumo but new readers may wonder, “Takayasu literally just won with pulling sumo but you don’t give him crap. What gives?” Fair enough. But Takayasu can do what Takayasu wants. He’s not defined by his pull. He uses it as a tool…one of many. Tohakuryu is discovering that if the pull is your “brand of sumo,” a Makuuchi opponent will be prepared to let you run yourself off the dohyo. Tohakuryu seemed to be relying on this one tactic far too much to be successful here.
Shodai (6-9) defeated Takarafuji (6-9). Shodai pulled and Takayasu pushed. Gunbai to Takarafuji. Mono-ii. They decided they went out at the same time so they ordered a torinaoshi, rematch. In the rematch, Shodai may have saved himself by switching his grip to a morozashi, double-inside grip. Once he secured that, he countered Takarafuji at the edge and then pressed forward, pushing Takarafuji over the bales. Oshidashi.
Ura (8-7) defeated Hokuseiho (7-8). Darwin Match. Ura slipped from Hokuseiho’s grasp and locked onto Hokuseiho with an arm bar, spun him around and then drove forward pushing him over. Oshitaoshi.
Nishikigi (7-8) defeated Hokutofuji (5-10). Hokutofuji charged forward strongly but a bit blindly as Nishikigi dragged him forward and down. Hatakikomi.
Asanoyama (4-4-7) defeated Abi (6-9). Strong Abi-zumo met stronger Asanoyama. Abi was driving into Asanoyama’s face but Asanoyama got pissed off and reared up, driving into Abi from the side. This redirected Abi’s attack into the void…and let gravity do the rest. Tsukiotoshi.
Wakamotoharu (6-9) defeated Onosho (3-12). Yorikiri. A matta probably should have been called but wasn’t. Wakamotoharu drove Onosho quickly out. This bout will be forgotten since it was relatively meaningless but it’s another case of, “fight until you hear the gyoji.” This only becomes an issue when it happens in a big match and someone thinks they should have had a matta.
Kotonowaka (11-4) defeated Atamifuji (11-4). Atamifuji won a Fighting Spirit prize, unconditionally but Kotonowaka’s is conditional on a win here. Atamifuji’s Outstanding performance prize is conditional on a yusho, so he’d have to win here, have Kirishima lose, AND defeat Kirishima in the subsequent playoff. But in the end, Kotonowaka met Atamifuji head on and then shifted to the right, letting Atamifuji flop to the floor…aided by a gentle push from the left hand. Hikiotoshi.
Hoshoryu (10-5) defeated Daieisho (9-6). Daieisho went through all that cupping for nothing. Hoshoryu got inside Daieisho’s cannons quickly, wrapped him up, and forced him over the edge. Yorikiri.
Kirishima (13-2) defeated Takakeisho (9-6). Kensho applause. Takakeisho slow-rolls his tachiai. Matta. Kirishima met Takakeisho head on at the tachiai but quickly shifted right, and Takakeisho fell forward. Kirishima hits 13 wins and walks away with a fat stack of kensho to fund his yusho party.
Congratulations, Kirishima! And Congratulations Atamifuji and the other Sansho winners!
On the data front, it’s clear that we are in a new era of sumo. The aged, dominant veterans of the past few years have joined their elders in blue jackets (and even a few black hakama). It will take quite a bit of time to build up another set of great rivals. But we have certainly noticed how many “first time bouts” there have been every day this tournament. I’ll try to quantify that a bit better and see if we can trace that metric back through the past twenty years or so. I will not be surprised if this is near a peak for the most “first time bouts”.
My hypothesis is that the “Hakuho era” was not just down to him. He had great rivalries with Harumafuji, Kisenosato, Kotoshogiku, Kakuryu…guys who faced him, and each other, over and over for more than a decade. The key is, those guys were at the top and consistently defeating the guys who would fly in and out of their lives for the first 10 days of the tournament…before this half-dozen guys would set upon themselves basho-after-basho for years. I think that we will need time to see another class of legends and great rivals establish themselves in the division and we are just seeing the first few sprouts of those new rivalries.
While we fete Kirishima on his yusho, we should also celebrate the successes of these young up-and-comers because they will be carrying the sport for the next decade.