Does American Opioid Epidemic Influence Care In Japan?

 

Japan Times Opioid Article

Japanese taboo regarding the use of strong painkillers is the key difference in athletic injury care when compared with other countries. Many wrestlers with chronic joint injuries would face a life struggling with a delicate balance between managing pain and avoiding addiction. The United States’ well publicized opioid epidemic serves as a cautionary tale in how readily available and easily prescribed narcotics can lead to serious long term battles with addiction. This may be why some foreign wrestlers are seeking care in their home countries. It is notoriously difficult to obtain a prescription for the medicine and strict penalties hinder the importation of these medicines.

This is a very serious issue for athletes, even those in high school and even middle school. With athletics comes injury and often, surgery. When an athlete reaches the professional ranks, they often have numerous procedures under their belt to go along with any trophies earned along the way. A distant relative of Tachiai had a long, successful professional career in one of America’s four major sports. He continues to battle with his own addiction to opioids, a result of treatment for a score of injuries and resulting surgeries.

Two years ago, the Tachiai blog flew to Japan to visit relatives for a few weeks, just as news of the Julie Hamp scandal broke. Mrs. Hamp was just named as one of Toyota’s executives and as a female, her ascension brought wide news coverage. However, that coverage paled in comparison to the coverage of her fall when she was caught importing opioids hidden in jewelry boxes.

On the flight to Narita, my wife turned white as a sheet as she watched the news on the in-flight entertainment system. In our luggage was a bottle of opioids, prescribed to yours truly shortly before our travels because of another bout with kidney stones. Bringing these medicines into the country illegally carries very stiff penalties: up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines. For Mrs. Hamp, it cost her a job, her reputation, and several weeks in detention while her case played out.

My wife was terrified when we landed in Japan. I joked that, “at least we’re not in Taiwan, the airports there have big signs pronouncing in bold letters that you risk the death penalty for bringing drugs into that country.” She didn’t find me funny. It was also very interesting to see how her friends reacted when they heard her tell the story. The taboo is certainly real.

In the US, however, it is quite easy for doctors to turn to the morphine genie. When another pebble pops loose from one of my kidneys and begins to meander down to my bladder (the last one looked more like a shard of glass than a “stone”) holy crap that hurts. When I make it to the Emergency Room, I am inevitably treated with a morphine drip, a quick MRI scan to see where it is and how big, then I’m sent home with a prescription for opioids. Thankfully none of mine have been large enough to remove surgically. Perhaps that should be “unfortunately,” though, as it means I must let them find their way out, naturally.

My kidney woes crop up every couple of years so thankfully I don’t have to dance with the devil in the medicine cabinet because I don’t keep it around. I know it’s dangerous to have that stuff, especially with the kids around, so I rely on those IV drips at the hospital when I get the pain, which isn’t often. But athletes face this kind of treatment on a continual basis, particularly with chronic joint or muscle issues. If Terunofuji, Kotoshogiku, Aminishiki, and Osunaarashi were athletes in the United States, they would certainly be provided opioids on an almost continual basis. As a result, they would be in prime danger for opioid addiction. I believe this aversion to opioid treatment leads to many of the ongoing injury issues we witness basho after basho.

This is conjecture, but I believe the NSK feels that if the rules were loosened for rikishi, this would not only lead to addiction among wrestlers, it would bring yakuza back into the sport. With the door opened for sumo wrestlers to be routinely treated with opioid pain killers, inevitably some of those pills would trickle out of the stables and into the general population as athletes supplement their income.

Is a few days pain worth a couple of hundred dollars? This isn’t fantasy. This tradeoff is happening here in the US every day and my dad’s cousin is an example. And if the pills and pain can be traded, is it necessary to begin with? To me, this is where the danger of socialized medicine makes itself known, unnecessary tests and unnecessary treatment – including OTC and prescription medication – become rife when someone else is paying. It’s already an issue for deep-pocketed insurance companies and it becomes a bigger one for deep pocketed sovereign governments. (Ask the NHS.)

The first time I had a kidney stone, I was lucky enough to be at home. When the doctor handed me the oxycodone prescription, my dad (also a physician) reached over and plucked it out of my hands, ripped it up, and threw it away. “You won’t be needing that.” My dad’s a smart dude. I didn’t need it. I passed the stone later that day and it would be two years before my next stone. The risk of addiction and abuse is high, and so is the temptation to make a few bucks in the black market. Who’s to say a sekitori won’t start cutting his pills in half so he can trade the other half away?

According to the Japan Times, Americans consume 243.79mg of oxycodone per capita. Japanese consume the drug at the miniscule rate of 3.63mg per capita. Much of that treatment goes to cancer patients. But this article claims that even among cancer patients, there is a strong taboo when it comes to the use of opioids while in the US it is standard “palliative care” for terminal diseases.

(Note: I also wonder if this plays into the low birth rate as Japanese women do not seem to have the same access for epidurals…but I digress.)

Yokozuna Kisenosato May Join Summer Jungyo?

Kisenosato

Horrific If True

One thing to keep in mind, the Japanese sumo press sometimes is given to speculation, so take this one with a grain of salt. From Yahoo Japan comes a quote from the Tagonoura stable master. He states that injured Yokozuna Kisenosato my join the summer tour later during the month of August.

This could indicate that it has been decided to have him “heal naturally”, and that Kisenosato feels like he needs to be taking care of his Yokozuna duties. With Hakuho (fresh from a Mongolian golf course) the only Yokozuna on he tour, Kisenosato may have decided that he can put up with more suffering for the cause of sumo.

Readers should form their own opinion, but after 2 back to back kyujo tournaments, I would rather have a great Kisenosato in 2018 than a malfunctioning, one-armed Yokozuna at Aki. Hopefully, someone from the Sumo Kyokai and or the YDC will urge him to get medical repairs before engaging in more public displays of sumo.

Yokozuna Hakuho Enjoying Time In Mongolia

Following his yusho at the Nagoya basho, Yokozuna Hakuho has retired for a brief rest in his native Mongolia. Courtesy of twitter user azechiazechi, we have this nice video of the Boss sinking a putt in rather glorious fashion.

The summer Jungyo will start shortly, and Hakuho will be the only Yokozuna in attendance, as most of the rest of the upper champion ranks are out attempting to heal up from their various injuries and maladies.

This video begs the question: Have Hakuho and Yoshikaze ever faced each other on the golf course? I understand the man form Oita is an excellent shot.

Ozeki Terunofuji Facing Medical Challenge

Terunofuji

On the heels of reports of Harumafuji’s pending elbow surgery, there is also news about Ozeki Terunofuji. Terunofuji has suffered increasing problems with his knees, and underwent corrective surgery in June. It was likely too soon to place his newly repaired knees under competitive stress, but the Ozeki attempted to compete in Nagoya anyhow.

Now it is reported that the knee surgery did not provide relief, and he is weighing his options. One option, obviously, is to return to surgery and attempt additional corrections. The second is the Japanese favorite of letting it “heal naturally” and hoping for the best. If he returns to surgery, he is likely to be prevented from competing in the Aki basho. He is already carrying the probationary “kadoban” tag, and missing Aki would reduce his rank to Sekiwake, with a one time chance to reclaim his Ozeki rank with 10 wins. For the next 6 weeks, Terunofuji is sitting out the summer Jungyo tour along with stable mate Harumafuji.

This would represent a huge but dramatic gamble. A healthy Terunofuji is entirely capable of 10 wins or more, but if he is unable to regain full use of that knee, his career might be more or less finished anyhow. The crew at Tachiai deeply love that big kaiju, and sincerely hope that he is able to recover and excel once more.

Yokozuna Harumafuji Facing Elbow Surgery

Harumafuji

As pointed out by Tachiai reader Herouth, Yokozuna Harumafuji may need surgery on his left elbow. At Nagoya, Harumafuji competed with both elbows under two layers of bandages, and inner “black” bandage (which he prefers), and an outer white bandage which is required by the Sumo Kyokai.

From the Japan Times:

Yokozuna Harumafuji may require left elbow surgery, a move which would not only rule him out of the summer regional tour beginning this weekend, but also the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament in September, his stablemaster said Thursday.

“He has inflammation in his left elbow and can’t extend it,” stablemaster Isegahama said.

Harumafuji is set to miss part of the regional tour but could join up (later on) “depending on how it heals,” Isegahama said.

Isegahama, however, also spoke about the possibility of an operation and said Harumafuji “would not make it in time” for the Autumn Basho starting on Sept. 10 in Tokyo should he have to go under the knife.

This is the second time that Harumafuji has sought medical intervention in an attempt to resolve problems with his elbow, the prior time being May of 2015. Like many sumo veterans, Yokozuna Harumafuji is suffering under the cumulative damage of years of competition with no chance to allow mechanical injuries to completely heal.

Aki Juryo banzuke forecast

The promotions from Makushita to Juryo have been announced, and four rikishi will be moving up: Kizenryu, Kataharima, Daiseido, and the yusho winner Yago. Using highly complex mathematical algorithms and hours of CPU time, I have determined that this means that four guys will also be dropping out of Juryo, losing their sekitori status and going back to doing stable chores. It’s not hard to see that based on the Nagoya results, these four will be Satoyama, Rikishin, Tobizaru, and Kitataiki.

When I posted my Makuuchi banzuke forecast for Nagoya, Josh asked if the same prediction system would work for Juryo. The answer is largely yes (see the caveats below), so here is that forecast for Aki.

  East West
J1 Aminishiki Tokushoryu
J2 Sokokurai Daiamami
J3 Azumaryu Kotoyuki
J4 Toyohibiki Kyokutaisei
J5 Ryuden Kyokushuho
J6 Yamaguchi Hidenoumi
J7 Homarefuji Amakaze
J8 Kotoeko Tsurugisho
J9 Meisei Gagamaru
J10 Chiyoo Osunaarashi
J11 Chiyootori Kataharima
J12 Yago Seiro
J13 Terutsuyoshi Abi
J14 Kizenryu Daiseido

In red are the Makuuchi guys dropping down to Juryo, while the guys coming up from Makushita are in green. I still don’t see the logic in the Kaisei/Gagamaru swap for Nagoya, and Gagamaru would likely have ended up in a better spot for Aki had he stayed in Juryo.

Now the aforementioned caveats. I don’t have a great sense for how to place the newly promoted sekitori relative to either each other or the holdovers. Comments welcome.

At the top, J4e Myogiryu and J4w Aminishiki have nearly identical cases for promotion with 10-5 records. They should both be promotable over Tokushoryu, and there isn’t a great case to be made for demoting anyone else to Juryo. I opted for the by-the-numbers scenario of promoting Myogiryu and leaving Aminishiki at J1e, where he can hopefully get his kachi koshi at Aki to essentially guarantee promotion. The NSK could leave them both in Juryo and keep Tokushoryu (or, less likely, Sokokurai) in Makuuchi. Alternatively, they could demote Endo or Okinoumi and bring them both up, though this would be harsh and seems unlikely.

Yokozuna Kisenosato To Miss Summer Jungyo

Kisenosato-Dohyo-Iri

As reported today in Nikkan-Gendai Jiji News, Yokozuna Kisenosato will sit out the summer sumo tour of northern Japan. The Jungyo (literally, making the rounds) is a daily traveling sumo show that takes a set of some 50 rikishi to medium sized cities across Japan to bring sumo closer to the fans and the public, and is responsible for driving and maintaining sumo’s popularity.

His absence should be view as part of the larger program to heal up the very popular Yokozuna, and may be a sign that he will or currently is undergoing expanded medical treatment for what could be a career ending injury to his left pectoral muscle.

Corrected: Thanks to Herouth for catching the wrong link. I need to sleep instead of wading through Kisenosato news.  The other article is more focused on his injuries. You can find it here.

Meet Enho (炎鵬), Sumo Rising Star

As Josh pointed out before Nagoya, Miyagino heya has a few other interesting rikishi in addition to the mighty Hakuho. One person of great and growing fascination is Enho (炎鵬).

When you bag a yusho, they interview you on NHK! So above is Enho looking very happy and delighted to ace his second basho.

Enho has been in sumo for really 2 basho, plus one where he was doing the introductory Maezumo “lets make sure you know what sumo is” sessions. He has won the junior league yusho for each division he has faced. That translates into the Jonokuchi yusho in May, and the Jonidan yusho in Nagoya. Yes, thus far, Enho is undefeated.

Of course this won’t last, but it’s quite an amazing start to his life in grand sumo. Although he attended Kanazawa Gakuin University, he entered sumo at the bottom, rather than at a higher division as is common for some university rikishi.

For an example of his sumo, we have a video below from sumo media saint, One and Only, where Enho faces a much taller and heavier Masunoyama on the final day in Nagoya. It was not even close.

It’s likely that this guy will be in Sandanme as soon as Aki. We will continue to watch his progress and wish him good fortune and good health.

Nagoya Aftermath – How We See It

Goeido Down

Day 15 put an end to a Nagoya basho that marked a further evolution of a trend that started with Hakuho’s injury a year ago. At that time, it was clear that “The Boss” was damaged, and no one knew if he was going to be able to return. Hakuho has been such a dominant force in sumo for an extended period of time, and his internal presence at the top of the banzuke set the rules for every basho for years.

With his win at Nagoya, Hakuho has managed to achieve back to back yusho after surgery and an extended recovery period. How long will his new reign last? Hakuho hopes at least 3 years, as he has stated yet again that he wants to perform a dohyo-iri as part of the 2020 Olympic ceremonies immediately following the Nagoya basho. His achievement of coming back after most fans (and it turns out the YDC) thought he was done, drew comment from the committee in their post basho meeting at the Kokugikan. They have decided to give Yokozuna Hakuho a special award for breaking the all time wins record and being the Michael Jordan of sumo. I am going to assume he needs to buy a shed to keep all of this stuff in. Maybe he can have Ishiura build him one with parts from Tokyu Hands.

We are in a transitional period where the old guard is either fading or staging their last mad surge of glory. We now have the next generation (I call them Tadpoles, because they mostly share the same body shape), in Makuuchi, and they are getting comfortable at the higher levels of competition. We guess that would be one of the stories at Nagoya, and it turns out it was a big continuation of the evolution in sumo.

Winners

  • Aoiyama – Jun Yusho! Congrats, prepare for your brutal fisting at Aki.
  • Takayasu – You did not choke in your first Ozeki basho. Rest up that pulled groin and bask in the fact that your peers are both kadoban.
  • Tochiozan – Not sure where that came from, but please, can we have more of this version of Tochiozan? He’s great. Calm, calculating, patient. He dismantles his opponents methodically.
  • Onosho – Two basho in makuuchi, two 10 win results. That’s big stuff. Get in line behind Aoiyama at Aki, you get to play with the big guns.
  • Ura – Yeah, you ended up with a make-koshi, but you survived a trip through the upper ranks without doing too poorly, and you got your first kinboshi. Excellent work expanded your sumo repertoire! Go heal up that knee and come back healthy.
  • Tochinoshin – When your healthy, you can really unleash some great sumo. It was great to see you genki again. I just know you are one more tweak to that knee away from being a breath away from intai.
  • Nishikigi – Never give up, never surrender. Fighting spirit like yours makes the sumo world go ’round!

Losers

  • Goeido – Kadoban again? You won Aki 2016 in a clean sweep! You are a fantastic Ozeki when you are in your groove, but it’s getting harder for you to find that groove.
  • Kakuryu – The YDC is talking about Aki being your last chance. It had to happen some time, please get well soon.
  • Terunofuji – I hope you did not damage that freshly repaired knee. Sumo needs you big kaiju.
  • Kisenosato – No, you can’t “naturally” heal a torn pectoral. Get your giant self to a surgery and get rebuilt.
  • Okinoumi – I wish there were some way you could get that painful injury repaired without retiring from sumo.
  • Gagamaru – Again we ask, “what are you doing in Makuuchi?”
  • Ikioi – Everyone wants you strong and ready to fight. Do you have one last run in you?
  • Kotoyuki – Either you get healed up, or you fade away. The modern sumo schedule is brutal, and it’s tearing you apart.
  • Kotoshogiku – You continue to fade, your spirit is strong but your body is failing your sumo. You make me sad now to watch you fight.

Thanks to all the readers who gave us yet another record breaking month. We are eternally thankful for you spending part of your day with us, and we hope you tell your friends and family about the joy of sumo. Onward to Aki!

Sumo forum

A very short post while we are dealing with sumo withdrawal symptoms 🙂 I’m guessing many regular readers of Tachiai are aware of the sumo forum. For those who are not, I’d like to draw their attention to this masterful update on likely post-Nagoya promotions and demotions by our frequent commenter Asashosakari. This is the latest in a must-read series of posts during the latter stages of each basho.

 

Nagoya senshuraku update (spoilers)

Yesterday, I previewed the rikishi who had something to fight for on the last day. How did they do?

Hakuho: never a doubt! How did he ever lose to Mitakeumi?

Goeido, desperate for a win, was easily handled by “no gifts” Takayasu, who finally had his game face on again.

Tamawashi, desperate for a win, also seems to have lost his mojo, and will drop from his Sekiwake rank after 4 basho, and possibly (likely?) out of san’yaku altogether. He lost to Tochiozan, who should by all rights find himself in san’yaku, but as discussed in my previous post, there’s quite a logjam.

Mitakeumi beat Onosho in the battle for a special prize. Mitakeumi moves over to the East side, and Onosho joins the joi.

Aoiyama did what he needed to do, but so did Hakuho. If the schedulers have a sense of humor, these two will face each other on day 1 at Aki. Aoiyama joins the san’yaku hopefuls logjam. Yoshikaze is guaranteed a san’yaku slot, along with Mitakeumi, and most probably moves up to Sekiwake.

Tochinoshin’s loss may improbably keep him out of san’yaku despite an extremely impressive tournament at M2. Ichinojo reverted to poor form and missed a golden opportunity to move up from the mid-maegashira ranks. Ura broke his losing streak and should more or less keep his rank. M10e Chiyotairyu and M10w Shohozan both improved to 10-5 and will float way up the banzuke. Finally, Tokushoryu lost the “winner stays in Makuuchi” playoff to Nishikigi.

First peek at the likely Aki banzuke

This assumes no retirements.

Yokozuna ranks: no change. Hakuho 1e, Harumafuji 1w, Kisenosato 2e, Kakaryu 2w.

Ozeki ranks: “No gifts” Takayasu 1e, kadoban twin #1 Goeido 1w, kadoban twin #2 Terunofuji 2e.

Sekiwake: special prize winner Mitakeumi 1e, “extracurriculars” Yoshikaze 1w.

Komusubi: Tochiozan 1e/ “The Mountain” Aoiyama 1w.

I don’t think they’ll do it, but by the numbers alone, it wouldn’t be out of the question for Tochiozan to jump over Yoshikaze for the Sekiwake slot.

Conveniently, there are exactly 5 good candidates to round out the “joi for sure” ranks, M1e-M3e: Tochinoshin, Tamawashi, KotoshogikuHokutofuji, and Onosho. Yes, I do see Tamawashi falling all the way out of san’yaku alongside Kotoshogiku. Tochiozan and Aoiyama’s cases for promotion are just too strong to ignore. This is certainly controversial, as 7-8 Sekiwake have tended to only be demoted to Komusubi. So is jumping Tochiozan and Aoiyama ahead of Tochinoshin, who accumulated a less shiny record against a much tougher schedule. Will there be one open san’yaku slot or two, and who will fill them? This is much less straightforward for Aki than it usually is, and the banzuke may be less “by the numbers.”

From there, it’s slim pickings, with the next 3, quite likely to be pressed into at least some joi duty again given recent history, being Chiyotairyu and Shohozan, all the way up from M10, and everyone’s favorite new face, Ura, probably just moving over to the West side at M4w.

Down at the other end of the banzuke, Kaisei will be back in Makuuchi, and may jump as high as M12. He should be joined by Yutakayama, Asanoyama, and Myogiryu, with Aminishiki just missing out on promotion, who should be joined at the top of Juryo by the yusho winner Daiamami. I’m looking forward to Asanoyama’s Makuuchi debut. Dropping down to Juryo to make room should be Tokushoryu, Sokokurai, Kotoyuki, and  Gagamaru.

I’ll post full banzuke predictions for Makuuchi and Juryo as we get closer to Aki.

Nagoya Final Day Preview

Aoiyama2

It’s the last day of sumo until September, and frankly the Nagoya basho has been a lot of fun. As a fan, the unpredictable nature of this basho has kept me focused and looking for the next turn and twist on the road to the end. The road to the yusho has been rather straight the entire time. It’s been all Hakuho. I know that NHK and some in the press are attempting to fan the remote possibility that Aoiyama would challenge on the final day, it will come to naught. I am looking for Yokozuna Hakuho to once again lift the Emperor’s Cup just before I wake for my Sunday.

Even though the yusho is more or less settled, day 15 still has heaps of critical matches, as some rather important rikishi still battle to finish Nagoya with a winning record. This includes:

  • Goeido – I am sure he would rather not be kadoban again, so he must defeat Takayasu. Takayasu looks injured and distracted, so I am giving him better than even odds if he can boot up on 2.0 mode Sunday.
  • Tamawashi – His Sekiwake rank at stake, he needs to defeat a really strong Tochiozan. I am looking for Tochiozan to once again be calm, measured and methodical. This should be a really good match.
  • Daishomaru – They give him Maegashira 1 Takakeisho for the final day, so he really needs to work for this kachi-koshi.
  • Ichinojo (and Sadanoumi) – The schedulers seem to love doing this. Take two rikishi who are 7-7 the final day and make them fight for the winning record. Only one of these guys can get it.
  • Nishikigi – Readers will note I have been following Nishikigi closely the entire basho, as I think his struggle to re-affix himself to Makuuchi is a compelling story.
  • Arawashi – Also left begging on the final day. I do hope he can make it. His opponent is the already deeply maki-koshi Okinoumi

Nagoya Leaderboard

Leader – Hakuho
Bulgarian In Waiting – Aoiyama

What We Are Watching Day 15

Tokushoryu vs Nishikigi – Last chance for Nishikigi to pull this one out and stay in Makuuchi for the September basho. Tokushoryu has had a lousy basho but is probably safe in Makuuchi even with a 11th loss.

Ichinojo vs Sadanoumi – A very Darwin battle – Loser gets demoted and the winner gets promoted. If Sadanoumi loses, he faces a real chance of being sent back to Juryo. Brutal.

Yoshikaze vs Aoiyama – The schedulers finally give Aoiyama a tough match. Hopefully Yoshikaze will give him a vigorous battle. In the past, an effective combat (but disgusting) strategy has been to grab a handful of man-boob and start shoving.

Tamawashi vs Tochiozan – Will Tochiozan do Tamawashi any favors? Tamawashi really likes his san’yaku slot, but Tochiozan as never been afraid to run up the score. I am going to guess these two battle it out for real, and Tochiozan has a career 9-2 advantage over Tamawashi.

Takayasu vs Goeido – Goeido really needs this one, and he has the advantage of fighting an Ozeki that has seemed injured and a bit off his sumo. But historically Takayasu leads 15-8 over their career. An Aki kadoban Goeido would be a terrible thing, because Terunofuji is already kadoban.

Hakuho vs Harumafuji – The big battle to end the basho. On the chance that Harumafuji wins and Aoiyama, there would be an playoff bout between Hakuho and Aoiyama immediately following the bow twirling ceremony. Should this rediculous stunt take place, it may end painfully for Aoiyama.

Nagoya—what’s on the line on senshuraku

One day left!

Hakuho wins his 39th yusho with a win over Harumafuji, an Aoiyama loss, or a playoff win over Aoiyama.

Harumafuji is playing spoiler/fighting for Yokozuna pride.

Goeido is facing Takayasu with kadoban status on the line. Will Takayasu take it easy, or fight for Ozeki pride?

Tamawashi faces Tochiozan with his Sekiwake rank on the line. Tochiozan is first in line for the Komusubi slot vacated by Kotoshogiku but needs a win to lock it down, so there’s plenty of incentive on both sides.

Mitakeumi faces Onosho. Not too much on the line for either guy: Mitakeumi has defended his Sekiwake rank, isn’t starting an Ozeki run, and can at best move to the East side. Onosho probably can’t jump Tochiozan, Tochinoshin, and Aoiyama for a san’yaku slot, and may have already have locked down a special prize for the second basho in a row. Still, I expect a spirited battle between these two.

Aoiyama finally draws a real opponent in Yoshikaze. Yoshikaze has defended his Komusubi rank, and should move up to Sekiwake with a Tamawashi loss. Aoiyama will likely be at M1 in Aki win or lose, but obviously has lots of incentive to win.

If Tamawashi loses, he may drop all the way out of san’yaku, with Yoshikaze taking his place and opening up a second Komusubi slot. This slot would be Tochinoshin’s to lose, although Aoiyama is a contender win a win.

Kotoshogiku will complete his fall into the upper maegashira ranks, if he doesn’t retire. Of those not already mentioned, only Hokutofuji has earned a place in the joi. This still leaves some upper maegashira ranks to fill, and the best contenders are Ura (despite the losing streak), Ichinojo (who can still get his kachi koshi against Sadanoumi tomorrow), Chiyotairyu, and Shohozan.

Sokokurai looks Juryo-bound, with Asanoyama and Yutakayama currently on track to join Kaisei in promotion to Makuuchi. Tokushoryu and Nishikigi are on the bubble, and fight each other, with Myogiryu and Aminishiki vying to displace the loser in Makuuchi. How cool would it be to see Aminishiki back in the top division at age 38, after more than a year in Juryo?

Nagoya Day 14 Highlights

Takayasu-Harumafuji

It has been a rough morning in Castle Bermondsey, so I do beg forgiveness in being tardy with the update. Many of you will have seen the NHK highlight reel by now. For whatever reasons there seems to be a desire to keep Hakuho from claiming the yusho outright by now. I say this because Aoiyama has had a ridiculously easy schedule. Don’t get me wrong, he still won all of those matches fair and square. But compare this to some prior basho where anyone outside of san’yaku who was close to the leader group was given increasingly difficult matches until they fell away.

For example, you have a Maegashira 8 (Aoiyama) who is on a hot streak. So who does he get for day 14? A Komusubi? An Ozeki? Nah, lets pit him against a Maegashra 12. So there remains an outside tiny chance that Hakuho will lose to Harumafuji on day 15, and we will see The Boss square off against Aoiyama. Followed by several minutes of slow motion replay of Aoiyama’s pendulous man-mammaries swinging wildly as Hakuho batters his up and down the dohyo for sport.

In other news, Ura is now make-koshi, and it is for the best. He has many fans, and they seem to love their little wizard – he is lovable. But he was always going to go make-koshi the first time he faced the san’yaku battle fleet. In the grand scheme of things that would have been Aki, but due to injuries it was at Nagoya. He will come to rest down the banzuke, and with any luck be dominant down there and have a chance to not do further damage to that banged up knee. Trust me when I say, Ura will be back.

Selected Matches Day 14

Chiyonokuni defeats Sokokurai – Chiyonokuni’s rally is a great story coming out of Nagoya. After his turn in the meat grinder as Maegashira 1 during Natsu, he seemed to have started Nagoya down and unfocused. He was able to get his sumo together and return as strong as in the past, and lock down a winning record. Chiyonokuni is another rikishi we will likely see more good things from in the future.

Hokutofuji defeats Ishiura – Hokutofuji picks up kachi-koshi and will be a rank or two higher in Tokyo come September.

Onosho defeats Yoshikaze – Special prize for Onosho, I will predict. That would be two in a row for his first two Makuuchi basho. Yoshikaze looked like he was not quite fully spun up, and Onosho executed well.

Tochinoshin defeats Kotoshogiku – The big Georgain consigns Ojisan Kotoshogiku’s san’yaku rank to the past. Really nice execution by Tochinoshin in this match. His return to good form is a welcome development.

Tochiozan defeats Mitakeumi – No Ozeki run starting for Mitakeumi, there is always next time, but he will get to keep his Sekiwake rank. Tochiozan once again looked calm and worked his attack plan expertly.

Hakuho defeats Goeido – Goeido must beat Takayasu on day 15 to avoid the probationary kadoban status.

Harumafuji defeats Takayasu – Harumafuji once again deploys a tottari. Takayasu ends up looking even more hurt. This basho has really knocked him around, and I hope he gets a chance to heal up.