Welcome To Aki!
After a long summer break, it’s time once again for sumo. Fans, keep in mind that for the first few days, all of the rikishi may appear a bit rusty. This seems to be common until about day 3, so don’t let yourself be alarmed. As everyone knows, there is a huge lack of Yokozuna this basho, and this has a lot of really fun implications for the tournament. Let’s take a look at a few.
Harumafuji is the sole survivor, and he’s in poor shape. The guy has the heart of a lion, but there is no way to deny that he has problems with both knees and both elbows. He competes by sheer force of will alone some days, and his will is indomitable. But I will point out that he tends to lose matches. I call him the “Kinboshi Machine” at times, because he seems to drop bouts to rank-and-file rikishi with some regularity. This means that we can expect him to be a yusho contender, but we can also expect him to drop several bouts. Will he actually finish the tournament? I hate to be gloomy, but I would not put it at higher than a 50/50 chance.
This is fantastic news for the Ozeki. Two of them are kadoban, and they no longer have to worry about winning matches against Yokozuna to make their 8 wins. They just have to defeat the lower San’yaku and the Maegashira for the most part. Terunofuji does not even have to face Harumafuji at all – double bonus! As a result I am going to say it is VERY likely that both Ozeki drop their kadoban status well before day 15. This is also a great opportunity for Takayasu. He is, for the most part, unhurt. With this mix of opponents, he is capable of winning the yusho. But for Takayasu, it’s all in his head. If he can stay focused and stay positive, he can make it happen.
For the lower ranks, it’s open season. They have more freedom to excel than in any basho in the last 2 years. In fact, I expect we are going to see an intensity unlike anything we have enjoyed for some time. It’s much easier to get double-digit wins when you are not going to face Hakuho, Kisenosato or Kakuryu.
So if you are wondering about the viability of the Aki basho – keep in mind you are likely more hard-core than 95% of the Japanese public, or you would not be reading Tachiai. Most of our readers love sumo, from the Jonokuchi up to the Yokozuna, and the start of a basho means it’s time for action. So buckle up, and let’s enjoy what might be a most unusual tournament.
One last note – with fewer daily Makuuchi matches, we overseas viewers get a greater percentage of the total bouts on our NHK highlight reel!
What We Are Watching Day 1
Honestly, I am watching all of it. But let’s discuss some of the big ones
Endo vs Okinoumi – These two are far down the banzuke at Maegashira 14. Both have been major rikishi in the past. Endo is coming off of surgery this past month, and Okinoumi has a chronic injury that cannot be repaired without ending his career. This will be a good exam on how far along in his recovery Endo is.
Ishiura vs Arawashi – Ishiura has been struggling to find a way to advance his sumo since his amazing initial basho in Kyushu last year. Arawashi is just plain strugging and is likely getting towards the end of his career. Arawashi holds a 4-3 edge in their career match-ups.
Ichinojo vs Takakeisho – Takakeisho took a brutal beating in Nagoya. A rikishi’s first time in the joi is often marked by double digit losses, but Takakeisho had to also endure one of the stranger bouts in recent years at the hands of Hakuho. He can start his road back to upper layers of the banzuke with a win over struggling giant Ichinojo.
Shodai vs Ura – Ura was hurt pretty severely in Nagoya. In fact he was on mandatory “light duty” during the summer jungyo, and it was not certain he would start Aki. But it seems that Mr Cherry Blossom is going to give it a go. He faces a man with the worst tachiai in Makuuchi. This will be a good early view in how well Ura’s knee has healed up.
Tamawashi vs Shohozan – Tamawashi was perhaps a bit too comfortable at Sekiwake, and his make-koshi in Nagoya relegated him down to Komusubi. So I look for him to battle back strongly. He faced “Big Guns” Shohozan, who holds a massive 11-1 series lead.
Chiyotairyu vs Yoshikaze – Another possibly really fun match. While many rikishi come in rusty and a bit slow to their first step, Yoshikaze is always dialed up to 11 in the first few days. In addition, he has delivered some really nice kimarite in his early matches over the past few basho, so I have hopes for day 1 against Chiyotairyu. Chiyotairyu though always gives Yoshikaze a good battle, but he is behind 3-5 in their career meetings.
Mitakeumi vs Onosho – Battle of the Tadpoles! We get to see the really wonderful Mitakeumi face off against hard charging newcomer Onosho. Onosho has yet to take a match form Mitakeumi, but Onosho is a man driven to win. I am hoping we can see some expansion to Onosho’s sumo this tournament. No better time than day 1.
Terunofuji vs Hokutofuji – Is Terunofuji healthy enough to compete? His pre-basho practice matches would seem to say yes. If we have a healthy Terunofuji, he can be counted on to deliver a lot of losses to his opponents. Even though Hokutofuji is not Kaio, he is a fierce competitor, and he knows that his own advancement relies on his being able to defeat top rikishi like Ozeki Terunofuji. interestingly enough, Hokutofuji won their only prior match.
Kotoshogiku vs Goeido – We will get to see if Goeido 2.0 is on line and available at last. Although Ojisan Kotoshogiku is a pale ghost of the Ozeki he once was, he can still put up a good fight if he can lock Goeido up and use his hip-pumping attack.
Takayasu vs Tochinoshin – Battle of the strong! Both of these men like to use their amazing strength to overpower their opponents, so it’s going to be great to watch them crank up the sumo in the second to last match of the day.
Tochiozan vs Harumafuji – Tochiozan is a bit of a sleeper, he has had a couple of amazing tournaments this year, and he finds himself at Komusubi, and draws Harumafuji for day 1. He has only defeated Harumafuji 8 times out of their 33 prior matches, so the upper hand goes to the lone surviving Yokozuna.