Kyushu Banzuke Crystal Ball


image

Like every tournament, Wacky Aki will have reshuffled the wrestlers’ ranks. The new banzuke for Kyushu won’t be announced until October 30, two weeks before the start of the basho on November 12. But if you want to get a good idea of where your favorite rikishi will end up being ranked, without having to wait a month, you’ve come to the right place. The banzuke forecast below should be accurate to within one or at most two ranks. There’s one real wildcard this time around, where the forecast might miss wildly, but we’ll get to that later in the post.

Upper San’yaku

Y1 Harumafuji Hakuho
Y2 Kisenosato Kakuryu
O1 Goeido Takayasu

As the only Yokozuna to start, finish, and win the tournament, Harumafuji takes over the top spot, switching places with Hakuho. The other three Yokozuna retain their rank order relative to each other. As the only Ozeki to finish Aki, as runner-up no less, Goeido takes over the O1e rank, switching places with Takayasu, who will be kadoban at Kyushu. And of course, we are down to two Ozeki: Terunofuji will drop to Sekiwake for Kyushu, with one chance to reclaim Ozeki status with double-digit wins. Whether or not he’ll be healthy enough to participate, much less get double-digit wins, is an open question; the same goes for Takayasu, who will need 8 wins to retain his rank.

Lower San’yaku

S1 Mitakeumi Yoshikaze
S2 Terunofuji
K Kotoshogiku Onosho

Mitakeumi and Yoshikaze both did just enough at Aki to retain their rank, each going 8-7. They will return as Sekiwake 1e and Sekiwake 1w, respectively. Terunofuji appears at the slightly unusual rank of S2e. Both Tamawashi (7-8) and Tochiozan (6-9) will vacate their Komusubi slots after failing to get their kachi-koshi. Among the higher-placed rank-and-filers, only Kotoshogiku and Onosho earned double-digit wins, and will take over the Komusubi slots.

Upper Maegashira

M1 Tamawashi Chiyotairyu
M2 Takakeisho Tochiozan
M3 Hokutofuji Shohozan
M4 Chiyonokuni Ichinojo
M5 Takarafuji Arawashi

This group is a mix of upper-ranked rikishi who are dropping in rank, but not very far (Tamawashi, Tochiozan, and Hokutofuji) and those in the upper half of the maegashira ranks with the strongest performances at Aki. Depending on the health and participation of the San’yaku ranks in Kyushu, some or all of this group will make up the joi. A case can easily be made for switching the positions of Hokutofuji and Shohozan.

Mid-Maegashira

M6 Chiyoshoma Daishomaru
M7 Tochinoshin Shodai
M8 Takanoiwa Chiyomaru
M9 Endo Ikioi
M10 Daieisho Kaisei
M11 Aoiyama Asanoyama

Twice as many kachi-koshi as make-koshi records in this group. Daishomaru, Endo, and Asanoyama make big jumps up the banzuke after earning double-digit wins at Aki. Conversely, the injured Tochinoshin and Aoiyama take big tumbles. This group also contains the underperforming Shodai and Ikioi. A case can be made for dropping Shodai (and, less likely, Tochinoshin) below Takanoiwa and Chiyomaru, and for dropping Ikioi below Daieisho and Kaisei.

Lower Maegashira

M12 Kagayaki Takekaze
M13 Okinoumi Aminishiki
M14 Kotoyuki Ura
M15 Nishikigi Myogiryu
M16 Daiamami

This group contains one of the worst performers at Aki, Kagayaki, as well as two rikishi who narrowly held on to their places in Makuuchi: Okinoumi and Nishikigi. It also contains the four rikishi who should be promoted from Juryo: top-division returnees Aminishiki, Kotoyuki and Myogiryu, as well as the amusingly named newcomer Daiamami Genki—may he live up to his family given name in his Makuuchi debut. These four take the places of rikishi demoted to Juryo: Ishiura, Tokushoryu, Yutakayama, and Sadanoumi.

Now, the wildcard: our favorite pink-sporting rikishi, Ura, who badly aggravated his already injured knee and had to drop out after two days and only one win. Based on a very limited history of similar cases, I placed him at M14w. I’d be surprised to see him ranked much higher, and he could be ranked as low as M16e, or even demoted from Makuuchi altogether, in favor of marginal promotion candidate Homarefuji. Of course, Ura’s participation in Kyushu is a huge question mark at best, but being ranked in the top division would limit the rate at which he drops down the banzuke if he sits out one or more tournaments.

For a Juryo forecast, I don’t think I can do any better than point you to predictions made on SumoForum by frequent Tachiai commenter Asashosakari and others.

十両の妙義龍が結婚発表 6月に第1子誕生


Alright people, I’m resurrecting the Japanese sumo headlines with a twist: no translation in the title. Basically, I want to challenge you all to try to find the meaning from the headline alone. Occasionally I retweet stuff from Japanese press and am curious how many of the English language followers can pick up the meaning. Today’s article came from the Mainichi Newspaper.

This one is easy. There are only a couple of sumo terms but the rest of the headline is fairly basic. First thing’s first, let’s decode sumo vocabulary. In this case, there’s only two sumo terms,
1) 十両 is Juryo division.
2) 妙義龍 is Myogiryu’s shikona.

Next, let’s go for level 1 terms.
6月 = June
第1子 = First child
誕生 = Birth

Then, the only thing left are a couple of level two terms.
結婚 = marriage
発表 = announcement

Grammar points:
誕生日: (Tanjyobi) is a beginner word meaning “birthday”. Before you even start seriously learning kanji, you often get taught to recognize this.
結婚式: (Kekkonshiki) is another term, meaning wedding, you also learn to recognize before you really learn the meaning of the individual kanji. The key here is that without “shiki”, “kekkon” means marriage. So in this headline he announced his marriage.
の is often a sign of the possessive. In this case, “Juryo’s Myogiryu” or “Myogiryu of Juryo”.
武士道: (Bushido) is the way of the warrior. And the “Bu” looks a lot like the “shiki” from the above kekkonshiki. This is why learning Japanese throws me for a loop. So many characters look similar.

“Juryo’s Myogiryu announces his marriage; [their] first child was born in June.”

So, Congratulations to Myogiryu. He married his high school sweetheart. They weren’t permitted to date in high school because he was committed to sumo. But they started dating about six years ago and she helped him recover from his injuries. (I wonder if this is the injury when he got KTFO by Hakuho). They will have the ceremony next June.

Well, that was unexpected


A little introduction…

Hello! You might have seen me posting on here as “Fluffiest” or on reddit as “acheiropoieton”, but I’ll stick to “pinkmawashi” for the sumo commentary (yes, I am an Ura fan, but mostly I’m just very fond of the colour pink).

As a relative newcomer to sumo, I’m thrilled to be able to contribute to the Tachiai blog. I don’t intend to post a great deal – I’m mostly here to proof-read and to chip in when another perspective is wanted. Now, on to what this post is about:

A retrospective on the Wacky Aki

From a certain perspective, there was nothing wacky about it. We started out with “anyone can win this basho” and ended up with the yusho going to the one Yokozuna and the jun-yusho to the one Ozeki. But the road we took to get there was a rollercoaster.

There were worries from the very start. It transpired early on that Kakuryu would not be competing, and shortly afterwards that first Kisenosato and then Hakuho were out as well; and everybody knew that Harumafuji would be struggling with persistent injuries. Further down the banzuke, Aoiyama – the previous year’s jun-yusho winner – dropped out, as did Sadanoumi. With crowd favourites Endo and Ura also both recovering slowly from past damage but competing anyway, injuries were on everyone’s mind.

Day five

A third of the way in, and the injuries had become a plague, the win-loss pattern appeared totally unpredictable, and the “wacky Aki” nickname seemed very apt. Two of the Ozeki corps who were expected to do the heavy lifting in the absence of three Yokozuna – Takayasu and Terunofuji – had dropped out due to injury, as had Ura who should really not have been competing in the first place. Ozeki Goeido lost his first bout to a henka, then won two more matches with henkas of his own, earning the disapproval of the crowd. Harumafuji seemed to be in a bit of a poor state, looking dreadfully nervous before his match with Tochiozan, only 2-3 at this early stage and looking more tired by the day (at around this point, talk of intai bubbled up from the internet like gas from a swamp). The lower San’yaku were doing no better, with Yoshikaze and Tochiozan only able to pick up their first wins on day five, and Mitakeumi suffering lightning-fast slap-downs on the first two days and struggling to reach 2-3 by way of an injured Tochinoshin. Tamawashi was also on 2-3 but at least looking like he was putting in the effort (having suffered one loss due to a slip, one to his nemesis Shohozan aganst whom he has a dismal 1-12 record, and another due largely to a nagging twisted ankle after the previous day’s victory over Takayasu). Meanwhile, the unlikeliest of candidates were doing splendidly: Onosho, ranked high enough to face San’yaku competition for the first time, was undefeated (something of a rarity – a new rikishi’s first encounter with the San’yaku is usually a series of demoralizing defeats and a trip back down the banzuke to regroup). Chiyotairyu found his relatively simple and direct style served him nicely, delivering four quick, decisive wins. Kotoshogiku had apparently decided to prove he’s not ready to retire yet and also picked up four wins (admittedly, one from a henka and one from Harumafuji thinking the bout was a matta). Will we see a yusho from an unexpected quarter? Will the San’yaku ranks be thrown into complete disarray? Will Harumafuji even make it to the end of the tournament? Perhaps more to the point, will the field thin even further from injuries?

Day ten

Fast-forward another five days, and the picture is quite different. Goeido leads in the yusho race (with only him and Chiyotairyu having managed their kachi-koshi!), and despite employing very reactive, backward-moving sumo in the tournament’s first half – to much disapproval – he seems to have gotten into the swing of things and become the unstoppable force who we love to watch. And yet, the spectre of those two henkas hangs in the air, and a yusho victory would feel tainted by a performance that many say is unbecoming of an Ozeki. And what about the triumphant young ‘tadpoles’? Well, Chiyotairyu looks dominant at this point. That simple and direct style has won bouts against rikishi with far more apparent versatility, just because Chiyotairyu executes it with such speed, power, and instinct. It even flattened Onosho in a very one-sided bout, the first of a series of three losses that would see the enthusiastic red-mawashi-clad youngster drop from contention in the yusho race. Aside from these two, the rest of the Yusho chase group consists of M8 and lower wrestlers (who, while well on the way to a satisfying and rewarding kachi-koshi, seem unlikely to claim the Emperor’s Cup as they are sure to be matched up against tougher and tougher opposition if they keep winning). The yusho is Goeido’s to lose – although everyone knows he’ll face Harumafuji on the last day, and Onosho and Chiyotairyu continue to look like convincing competition. Harumafuji has picked up a little after a rocky start, Mitakeumi is in peril since he needs three more wins and hasn’t faced anyone above Komusubi yet, and Yoshikaze has had a startling return to form and not dropped a single bout since his initial run of four losses. But for now, the spotlight is on Goeido.

On a more subdued note, Aoiyama and Sadanoumi have returned to the competition, although by this stage both are make-koshi, with Aoiyama managing a single win and Sadanoumi none. Aoiyama might have done better if he hadn’t been fed to Harumafuji and Goeido straight off the bat, but he is in the Joi according to his ranking and would be expected to face them both at some point.

The conclusion

By day twelve, the banzuke looks… well, rather odd. In the lead: Goeido. In pursuit: Ten other rikishi. Three days to go, and either you do not have your kachi-koshi yet, or you are in contention for the yusho. Amongst that hallowed chase group: Kotoshogiku, who many people said should retire last basho. Harumafuji, who some people said should retire last week. Endo, proud owner of one working ankle. Onosho, newcomer to the Joi. Asanoyama, newcomer to Maegashira 16. I start to wonder what kind of parallel sumo world I’m looking at. It’s a far cry from Nagoya, that’s for sure.

Something astonishing happens on day thirteen. Every single person in the chase group, except Harumafuji and Asanoyama, loses their bout. And since their opponents (Yoshikaze and Daiesho respectively) were also in the chase group, there could be no worse outcome. Luckily for keeping things interesting, Goeido blew it too. This match is one to remember – for a while, it seemed Goeido had left the early basho’s reactive, retreating sumo behind, but here he seems unwilling to charge into Takakeisho, preferring to circle around with deft sidesteps. And then he slips on the clay. It’s not an unforced error, and Takakeisho absolutely deserves credit for pushing the Ozeki onto the defensive (he got that credit in the form of the shukun-sho), but that slip changed the course of the basho. And after that rocky start, the lone Yokozuna is suddenly back in the spotlight.

On day fourteen, there are – technically – sixteen rikishi with a chance of winning the Yusho in a kind of absurd thirteen-way playoff, although that would require Goeido to lose to Takanoiwa and Harumafuji to lose to Mitakeumi. Lovers of chaos cross their fingers.

You know how this ends (and if you don’t, go and watch the matches rather than reading about them). On day 14, Asanoyama finds that he simply can’t deal with Onosho’s onslaught. Goeido stays cool and collected through two mattas, goes on the attack for the whole bout against a Takanoiwa who seems determined to play the dodging, retreating, pull-down defensive role that Goeido himself took earlier in the tournament, and scores a win despite teetering on the edge of a fall several times. Mitakeumi and Harumafuji meet in a cracking tachi-ai, Mitakeumi gets both his hands to a powerful inside grip and converts it into a perfect mori-zashi. The crowd’s intake of breath is audible to the cameras. They lock up for a while, Mitakeumi seemingly wondering just what to do now that he has such a commanding grip… and then Harumafuji somehow borrows the strength of the three absent Yokozuna and carries him out of the ring.

On the final day, it comes down to those two. I, personally, would not begrudge Goeido the yusho, despite those henkas on days three and four. He has exhibited excellent sumo and been a joy to watch at other times. His losses came from one henka, one slip, and Shohozan (who is a force of nature at times). But Harumafuji has without question been the more aggressive rikishi, and between that and little moments of grace – like catching Tochiozan’s head for safety at the conclusion of their first bout, or ensuring Shohozan didn’t fall from the edge of the dohyo – have me (and probably everyone else) cheering for the Yokozuna. He’s clearly not at 100% – there was a very real chance he’d skip the basho entirely, were it not for the absence of the other three Yokozuna – and he’s already shown he can make mistakes. He needs to win twice, while Goeido only needs to win once. And he only goes and does it.

So, yes, in the end, the only Yokozuna in the competition took the yusho, and the only Ozeki took the jun-yusho. But what a road we took to get there!

Time To Bring Back Kōshō Seido?


Ura-Injured

Please note, the post below is opinion and commentary, rather than factual. I am an American living in America, and a sumo fan. I have no means to change or influence the sumo association in any way.

It was clear before the start of Aki that professional sumo had arrived at a difficult point in its long and glorious history. Many of its brand-name / kanban rikishi in various stages of injury and recovery, and many headliners were not going to appear. Then as if to punctuate the predicament, several other rikishi with strong public followings dropped out of the tournament before the first weekend. At least one of them may not recover enough from his injuries to return.

With our coverage of the Aki basho complete, the time has come to discuss, as a group of outsiders, if it’s time for sumo to bring back Kōshō Seido.

Kōshō Seido was a system that allowed rikishi to be declared injured, and gain a level of demotion protection for a single basho cycle. This granted a rikishi injured during a basho a larger period of time for medical treatment and rehabilitation, it was worried that the system was open for abuse. In the case of someone like Ura or Kisenosato, it is clear they have suffered a significant injury. The diagnosis and recommended treatment describe a multi-month cycle of surgery, physical therapy and gradual re-introduction of athletic competition. In the current sumo world, there is no time in the schedule to allow for such a process to reach its natural conclusion.

A poster boy for the utility of Kōshō would likely be Egyptian sumotori Osunaarashi. Once a fierce competitor of the Makuuchi ranks, a series of injuries that were never allowed to completely heal have rendered him unable to compete effectively as a sekitori. It is undoubtable that a recovery period would have helped him, and prevented his injuries from compounding. It raises the core question – is it in the best interest of the sport of Sumo to maintain the health and viability of its top athletes, or supplant them as they degrade with a crop of fresh faces?

Given the glaring reality of star sumotori in disrepair, Is it time for the the Sumo Association consider a return of Kōshō Seido?

Please chime in with your thoughts in the comment section.

Road Trip! Sumo Wrestlers Face Full Jungyo Schedule


Barely a week after getting off the roller coaster that was Wacky Aki, our favorite sumo wrestlers will begin their Fall (巡業 – Jungyo) promotional tour. Bruce has mentioned the grueling schedule but Tachiai’s analysis provides more context to how challenging that schedule will be.

Fall Jungyo Tour

We mapped the Fall tour which consists of 22 different event sites that the crew will visit over the month of October, tracing a winding, 2500 kilometer journey across the breadth of southern Honshu, from Chiba to Hiroshima. No venue is visited more than once. Although there are three days in Osaka and two in Hiroshima, each site is in a new city within them. Add in stops in Yokohama, Fuji, Nagano, Kyoto, Nara…Holy crap, this is my next vacation itinerary!

This schedule does allow many of the Japanese rikishi to pay visits close to their hometown (shusshin 出身. The tour will pass through Ibaraki, home of Kisenosato and Takayasu. Ishikawa is home to the resurgent Endo and a leg in Shimane prefecture may help recharge struggling Okinoumi. Additionally, Goeido and Ikioi lead the Osaka contingent and Mitakeumi is from Nagano.

To give it some context, Josh, helped me liken these tours to breaking bands who sometimes play more than 120 gigs a year. But Hakuho has done this for more than a decade. It’s a hard life. There’s little “off-season” time to be with family. And for the foreign wrestlers, Jungyo brings you no closer to home. However, bands do have the extra hurdle of international tours; traveling extensively in the US and Europe with the occasional jaunt to Japan and other Asian countries with Western music scenes (I’m not talking Justin Beaver tours where he can take 20 months off and play a few gigs at big cities).

Since these wrestlers put in such rigorous work, I hope to bring more coverage of these tour dates in the intervening month between hon-basho (本場所).

Aki: Sekitori Rememberance


wakanoshima_rikishin

With the Aki 2017 basho now in the rearview mirror, let’s pay tribute to two rikishi and former sekitori who announced their retirement during the tournament.

Wakanoshima (former Juryo 7)

Wakanoshima (latterly of Shibatayama-beya) finished his career with a kachi-koshi in Makushita. The 32 year old took the long and winding path to achieve sekitori status, entering the banzuke as a 15 year old in 2000. He managed 7 basho at Juryo level over his career, across four separate trips to the professional ranks.

While Wakanoshima never scored a yusho at any level, he did manage to put dirt on familiar recent makuuchi names like Chiyonokuni, Chiyomaru, Ichinojo, Kagayaki, Shohozan… and he loved to face Ishiura, beating the latter five times out of six career matchups. The rikishi his career tracked most closely with was another Juryo yo-yo man in Kizenryu, and the pair split their 18 career match-ups evenly. He might be one of few men who can look back on their career and brag that the great Ozeki Takayasu never got the better of him, having bested one of sumo’s popular men in both bouts, in Takayasu’s younger days.

Wakanoshima, real name Fumiya Saita, finishes his career with 398 victories in the dohyo, and let’s remember him appropriately, with a sukuinage win over his longtime foe Kizenryu:

 

Rikishin (former Juryo 10)

We have often covered the battle that rikishi must endure to remain healthy, and so it is very sad to wave goodbye to the promising 21 year old and appropriately named Rikishin, who reached Juryo this year. He retires due to injury.

Another rikishi who started as a 15 year old, Rikishin’s achievement where so many others have failed in reaching the professional ranks should be commended. While his career was short, he still managed do to battle with several names with which Tachiai readers will be familiar. His greatest foe might have been Nagoya Juryo winner Daiamami, whom he bested on 3 of their 5 meetings.

Rikishin, real name Tatsuki Kubota and of Tatsunami-beya, finished his career with 158 victories. He also managed one division championship in his career, scoring a zensho yusho in the Makushita division in Nagoya three years ago. Here he is, dominating a Tachiai-favorite in Osunaarashi, marching him along the straw bales before finishing him off:

 

We wish both men the very best!