Overnight US time, Tagonoura beya sumotori Takayasu Akira was promoted to Ozeki, sumo’s second highest rank. As with these promotions, messengers from the Nippon Sumo Kyokai arrived at a hotel conference room that had been configured for a formal ceremony in front of the press.
Westerners may find it interesting there are microphones on the floor, but once the messengers arrive, members of both the stable’s party and the NSK’s party assume a deeply respectful saikeirei bow during both the announcement and the acceptance.
But like so many things in the wonderful country of Japan, once all of that formal stuff is over, it’s time to celebrate. To the delight of many fans, Yokozuna Kisenosato was present for the celebration (among many others). Kisenosato and Takayasu have been long term training partners and stable mates, and it is my opinion that neither would have reached their current rank without the other’s constant support.
At the conclusion of every basho, the sumo kyokai award a series of special prizes. They are intended to recognize rikishi who have over-performed and achieved greatly in the basho. At the end of Natsu, 4 special prizes were awarded, and all but one went to members of the San’yaku.
Tagonoura riskishi Takayasu has ben grinding towards an Ozeki bid for the past year, which is generally recognized to be 33 wins across 3 basho for consideration. The actual promotion determination is made by the Nihon Sumo Kyokai, who consider a number of factors such as suitability and long term prospects of continued high performance.
His first bid to achieve 33 wins ended in make-koshi, and demotion, during the Kyushu basho in November. Interestingly enough, internet sumo guru Kintamayama in fact predicted Takayasu’s make-koshi. The set back did nothing more than challenge Takayasu, and it seems that he and Kisenosato sequestered themselves for nearly endless practice. Both of them benefited greatly from this period of intense training, as both have been promoted within the following 6 months.
The committee met immediately following the Natsu basho, and agreed that Takayasu’s bid had met or exceeded qualifications, and he has been promoted to Ozeki. The messengers will arrive Wednesday morning Japan time (Tuesday PM US time) to officially notify Takayasu and the Tagonoura stable. Anticipation in the Japanese press now is swirling around what acceptance phrase he will use, which many see as indicative of what kind of spirit he will bring to his Ozeki career.
With this promotion, Tagonoura beta will have a level of parity with Isegahama, who have both Yokozuna Harumafuji and Ozeki Terunofuji. Having two rikishi at such high levels of skill helps both of them stay sharp and competitive, and as we have seen with Kisenosato, having Takayasu as a sparring partner was essential to brining his sumo along to Yokozuna levels.
During Takayasu’s career up to this point, he has been a special-prize winning machine. His tally includeds:
His performance has been truly a cut above, and he should make a strong Ozeki if he can keep himself uninjured.
Tachiai congratulates the shin-Ozeki, and we look forward to many years of Ozeki Takayasu bringing his strength sumo to all challengers.
Sumo fans may note that after most basho, there is a tour of regional cities by a cadre of available sumotori. They demonstrate their practice techniques, some of the culture and activities around sumo, and even sing songs! We have written on this in the past, and it’s known as Jungyo, literally “Making the rounds”.
But after Natsu, there is no Jungyo. The rikishi have 6 weeks to train with intensity, to undergo medical care, fly home to wherever that may be, or just take care of business. There are a handful of Makuuchi rikishi I am going to scan the press for daily, in hopes of catching some news:
Kisenosato – This guy needs surgical help. If he goes under the knife now, he could be back in fighting form in time for Aki. I really want him to be able to perform, as he would make such an awesome counterbalance to the resurgent Hakuho. The cultural counterpoint between the brash, enthusiastic Mongolian showman vs the quiet, almost bookish, but overflowing with confidence and strength Japanese master craftsman would be such a wonderful story arc.
Harumafuji – Not sure there is much that can fix his chronic undercarriage problems. He plays, perhaps, the most critical role in sumo right now. That of “the Hammer”. On any given day he can wipe out even Hakuho. He is explosive, relentless and driven to succeed. No one can advance to or survive San’yaku unless they can face him on the dohyo and put up a decent fight. As such, I hope there is something that can be done to get him well. I don’t see anyone in Makuuchi that might be able to take over this role.
Goeido – This guy is still not 100%, and frankly I don’t know if he ever can be once he had his ankle rebuilt out of lego and superglue. I would be delighted if he never went Kadoban again.
Terunofuji – The knee-less wonder somehow managed to keep on the offensive during Hatsu, even though it was clear to everyone that each day the pain in his knees became worse. When he is healthy he is an unstoppable beast of an Ozeki, and that’s very good news for sumo. Surgical knee treatment is very much hit or miss, so I don’t blame Terunofuji for seeing if there is some way to avoid it.
Okinoumi – This guy has been competing in spite of a very serious personal injury that would require surgery and about 4 weeks hospitalization to resolve. Would he still be able to compete once they are done with him? I don’t know. But it’s brutal to watch him mount the dohyo and get pummeled daily. I can’t imagine how brutal it is for him.
Tochinoshin – He’s in the same boat at Terunofuji. That knee has been his bane for a while now. With it working and healthy, he fights at at least upper Maegashira level. Hurt he’s day by day between upper Juryo and mid Maegashira. It would be great to see him return healthy and not face any further leg and foot problems.
Osunaarashi – I wish we could pull this guy out of sumo for a few months and let him get healthy. He’s another dauntless competitor whose spirit won’t give up, but his body seems to be failing him. But such a move would likely end his career effectively. But out of everyone on this list, he seems to possibly be the most in need. He has not been healthy for several basho now.
As always, we accept tips in the comments section if you read something that helps us know and share with the world how these or any rikishi are faring over the next 6 weeks before we start Nagoya basho.
Thank you to all the sumo fans who chose to spend part of their day with us. We are eternally grateful for what is our biggest basho, and our biggest month ever. We would be nothing without the support of our readers and fellow fans of sumo. The site and all that goes into it is a labor of love between a handful of people. Why do we do it? Because we all think that sumo has global appeal, and the catalyst for broader enjoyment of sumo is media presented in a native language for fans outside of Japan.
So thank you, we will continue to report, but at a reduced intensity, until we ramp up again in June for what will be a barn-burner of a basho in Nagoya.
In completing his perfect yusho, Yokozuna Hakuho has made it clear that he is back in form and ready to resume his reign as the dai-Yokozua. It’s been a long, difficult road for Hakuho. After he injured his foot in Nagoya, he chose to miss Aki and undergo an operation to reconstruct his big toe and to fix parts of his knee. The recovery was not easy. The surgery and immobility afterwords had a bigger impact than I am sure he expected. As a result he has been under performing for months.
In that period, we have seen some rikish who would normally be eking out kachi-koshi scores here and there truly excel. This is in part because to top predator (and some of his cohorts) have been under performing, in culling rikishi from the ranks.
You can think of it this way, for Hakuho to get to 15 wins, the rest of Makuuchi had to absorb 15 losses. With Hakuho kyujo, someone else got those 15 wins. Everyone’s score increased. You got to see Kisenosato finally make Yokozuna, you got to see Goeido take a zensho yusho. You got to see Kakuryu rack up (at last) a yusho himself. It’s been a great year without a Hakuho. But now he is back, and he is genki and he is ready to rule once more.
A sign of that include his late pushes after a match have returned, so maybe he feels he is fine and will stay fine, and he is free to be Hakuho the great. This has huge implications for sumo for the next year or two. Specifically the other Yokozuna and anyone wishing to follow Takayasu up the Ozeki trail.
For a long time nobody but Hakuho could yusho. When he is / was healthy he is / was unstoppable. We saw that again here during Natsu. Is he back to that level? He wants you to think he is, to be sure. But is he? Maybe? But it’s clear that the one armed Yokozuna needs a repair job if he wants to contend once more. It would be brutally sad if Kisenosato had to follow Kakuryu into a series of revolving kyujos due to a combination of untreated and unresolved injuries, and a mighty, nearly unbeatable uber-sumotori at the top of the heap.
Chiyonokuni finished 2-13. He’s much better than that, and I think he still has a lot of promise. He just peaked hard when a lot of other sekitori were flailing, and he got caught in a storm of beat downs by everyone. He will recover, he will be back. He’s one to watch.
Okinoumi & Takarafuji finished 3-12. Both are old for rikishi, both have various performance limiting injuries. This is one of the problems with Makuuchi at the moment, its full of guys in their 30s. As a pure meritocracy, it’s full of people who can win, and those that can’t win go away over time. We are in one of those times, but because of the way the banzuke works, it could take a long time before fading veterans make way for the up and coming hard chargers.
Daieisho, Aoiyama, Takekaze, Toyohibiki, Myogiryu & Yutakayama finished 4-11. You might expect there to be a brutal banzuke thump down for these rikishi, but for every down there must be an up. And many of the pressure from the lower ranks you might expect did not materialize due to near absolute parity in Juryo. 13 Juryo wresters ended with 8-7 or 7-8.
Matches That Mattered On Day 15
Ura defeats Daishomaru – Ura does a reverse tachiai. You can rightly ask “what the hell was that?”, but hey! it worked! Was it a henka? No, not really. Was it strange? Yes. I thought I saw Daishomaru smiling and maybe giggling a bit over what had just happened, but then I had already had a glass of sake, so who knows.
Tochinoshin defeats Toyohibiki – Kind of sour ending by back to back henkas from Tochinoshin. I am going to guess he re-injured that mummified knee, and that’s why he henka’d his last two matches.
Ishiura defeats Takekaze – Ishiura gets to be Hakuho’s standard bearer – very happy for Ishiura, he pulled out a kachi-koshi on the last day. He has some work to do, and hopefully a healthy Hakuho can provide some assistance. His deshi needs some upgrades.
Tochiozan defeats Shohozan – Both end with 6-9, both are in the older crowd that is lingering around, due to lack of pressure from Juryo. Don’t get me wrong, Makuuchi is good sumo now, but it could and should be better. But right now Juryo is kind of broken for some reason I have not figured out. There should be a crop of early 20’s rikishi who stand these old guys on their ear daily, but that is not happening.
Hokutofuji defeats Yoshikaze – Hokutofuji joins the joi next basho, I would assume. It will be time to see if the up-and-comer has the mojo to really make a stand against the San’yaku. With a healthy Hakuho, it could be a blood bath again (as the basho were before he was hurt a year ago). Yoshikaze at this point is just running up his personal score. While we fans out side Japan mostly focus on what the NHK video shows us, it’s important to note that inside the sumotori community, everyone loves Yoshikaze, and I predict that once he retires and exercises his kabu, he is going to be a very big deal in sumo management indeed.
Shodai defeats Mitakeumi – Whatever they put in Shodai’s chanko the last few days, do keep it up! Next basho, we get Shodai back in the joi, and it’s bloodbath time for him, too!
Kotoshogiku defeats Ikioi – Well, that was like the Kotoshogiku of old. We should all enjoy it while it lasts. It’s sort of sad to see him fade, but I guess he is still calling his own outcomes, so I praise his persistence. Ikioi is still hit or miss, but then he has been for a while now.
Tamawashi defeats Goeido – Goeido 1.0 came back for old time’s sake. Now that Kadoban is lifted for a few months, he can afford to be unfocused. Please go get rested, ready and strong Goeido. Nothing would confound the critics and delight the fans more than a second basho full of Goeido 2.0. Who knows, you might even convince Hakuho to retire…
Terunofuji defeats Takayasu – I love the Kaiju when he’s on his sumo. Although I am a ginormous Takayasu fan, it was very good to see Terunofuji deploy all of his moves against the man who will be Ozeki. Even to the point of crushing his arms, which we have not seen in some time. People use to be afraid of facing this guy because they would leave the bout hurt. If Kisenosato can be restored to working order, Takayasu will make a great Ozeki. But while he is training on his own (like he was the for the past 2 months) he is vulnerable. The two are a team, and together they will excel.
Hakuho defeats Harumafuji – Kind of one for the ages. It was a great match, especially the series of moves Hakuho used to change the dynamics of the match and get Harumafuji un-stuck and moving backwards. Given Harumafuji’s re-injury to his ankle, I think he put on a hell of a performance. My complements to both men
What a great tournament we just had! To me, what stood out is the large number of outstanding performances throughout the banzuke, from Hakuho‘s zensho yusho all the way down to Onosho‘s 10-5 record in his Makuuchi debut. Terunofuji got his Jun-yusho, and would have been in contention on the final day if not for his early hiccups on days 1 and 2. Takayasu handled the pressure and will be ozeki in Nagoya. Tamawashi may have started his own ozeki run, and has been fighting at that level. Mitakeumi and Yoshikaze held their own in San’yaku, and Shodai, Takakeisho, Tochinoshin, Hokutofuji, Ikioi, and Ura all put up great numbers in the maegashira ranks.
We don’t get the official Nagoya banzuke until June 26, but here are some early thoughts on the top and bottom of the banzuke.
The yokozuna ranks should get reshuffled as follows:
We will have 3 ozeki: Terunofuji, Goeido, and Takayasu.
Tamawashi will keep his sekiwake rank, and Mitakeumi should join him.
Yoshikaze will keep his komusubi rank, and I think Kotoshogiku did just enough to only drop down to the other komusubi slot.
We should have a strong new crop of upper maegashira, who may even fare better than their predecessors at these ranks:
At the other end of the banzuke, Yutakayama, Myogiryu, and Toyohibiki will find themselves in Juryo, replaced in Makuuchi by Sadanoumi, Chiyomaru, and Nishigiki. I think Kaisei will just barely hang on to the top division at M16. They could swap him with Gagamaru, but what would be the point?
Full banzuke prediction to come once I’ve had some time to digest Natsu.