I want to extend a huge thank you to Nista for finding this gem and posting it in the comments of Herouth’s Day 6 Summary. This bout features the first ever meeting of Kozakura and Yabuoka. Bouts like this are amazing and should be broadcast free internationally to promote sumo. (It’s preferable to watching re-runs of the news and documentaries.) Anyway, I’m not going to offer much in the way of preview or commentary on the bout, but I will offer a little background on the two participants. I hope you enjoy.
Kozakura is a 22-year-old from Ibaraki prefecture, like Kisenosato, and Takayasu. His shikona, 小櫻 means little cherry blossom but he uses an old variant kanji for sakura. Instead of the more commonly used 桜, he uses 櫻. He is a member of the Tatsunami stable, whose top rikishi is the recent Juryo sensation, Meisei. This stable is led by former komusubi Asahiyutaka. While still young, Kozakura’s sumo career began seven years ago and he has been bouncing between Jonokuchi and Jonidan. He reached his highest rank of Jonidan 47W in September of 2015 but has been on a long slide back into Jonokuchi. Despite the great effort, this loss is one of three so far. This 1-3 record so far means he will need to win out in order to get a kachi-koshi. Two more wins, though, may arrest the slide and have a chance at rejoining Jonidan.
Yabuoka, on the other hand, is a 19-year-old whose sumo journey began this year when he joined the Fujishima stable. This stable is lead by former Ozeki legend Dejima, now Onaruto Oyakata. He’s from Osaka, like Goeido, Ikioi, and Daishomaru, and is still fighting under his real name, Yabuoka Kazutaka. Oka means “hill” and is a common kanji used for place names and people’s last names – like Fukuoka. It’s an important one to know for Japanese learners. After a great spring which propelled him into the midst of Jonidan, the youngster has dropped back into Jonokuchi. He’s clearly skilled and has a lot of heart, but at a mere 87kg, he will be trying to gain mass to advance. He is 2-1 so far this tournament. One more win may earn him a spot back in Jonidan, but he’ll surely want to pick up a few more.