Ones to Watch: Kyushu 17 Wrap-up

Above: Enho rounds off his tournament by escorting Akinohana off the dohyo.
Video c/o Asashosakari

Remember way back in September and October when we were shaking our heads in disbelief at “Wacky” Aki? How positively calm those days seem now. We took a week or so to collect ourselves following the conclusion of the unprecedented events of the Kyushu basho, but now it’s time to wrap-up our “Ones to Watch” series for 2017. Thanks to everyone who sent through kind words and their suggestions of future rikishi to follow – I think we’ll have a good list in store for Hatsu.


So, how did our picks do on the whole?

Kachi-koshi: 17
Make-koshi: 3
Yusho: 🏆🏆
Hattorizakura-watch: ⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️⚫️


Ms4 Mitoryu (Nishikido) – Mitoryu sealed his promotion to Juryo with a fine 6-1 record, justifying our selection as top pick in the Makushita ranks this time out. He’ll be ineligible for the list next time, but the much-vaunted rikishi will continue to be one to watch as he continues his progression and hopefully consolidates his place among the sekitori.

Ms7 Hokaho (Miyagino) – I was somewhat hopeful that Hokaho could continue his run, having scored winning records in every other basho in 2017. However the run stops here as he slumped to a 3-4 make-koshi courtesy of a final match loss against…

Ms11 Takayoshitoshi (Takanohana) – … who sealed his kachi-koshi in the same match. Takagenji’s twin will no doubt be challenged to follow his brother’s (who has managed to hold on to his place in Juryo) progress as he’ll see himself inside the top 10 Makushita ranks for Hatsu. The question is whether he can put together the run of consistency that could see him in promotion contention by mid-2018 – his mental makeup and application have been debated somewhat within the comments section of this site.

Ms12 Wakatakakage (Arashio) vs Ms22 Murata (Takasago) – Despite entering the tournament at a similar pedigree (just the odd loss separating them over their careers), the strength of schedule really told here. Wakatakakage was simply out-shoved against a selection of seasoned vets at this level en route to a 3-4 make-koshi, including the eventual yusho winner Tochihiryu. Murata on the other hand was able to bulldoze his way through the middle of the pack to a very strong 6-1 record that will see him promoted above his contemporary next time out and almost certainly into the top 10 Makushita ranks.

Ms14 Jokoryu (Kise) vs Ms14 Enho (Miyagino) – I felt there was a lot of spice in the Makushita 14 pairing as Jokoryu was the very last rikishi before Enho to achieve 3 consecutive 7-0 records to begin his career. With different goals at stake – Jokoryu’s late career fightback to the pro ranks, Enho’s effort to continue a blistering start to his career – both men valiantly achieved 5-2 records which will see them also placed in the Makushita top 10 in January.

It’s worth noting that Enho’s energy is absolutely remarkable, and currently his speed is the main trait that helps him overcome the massive size gaps that exist between him and most competitors. Additionally, he does a good job of keeping his opponents away from the mawashi, as once he’s locked up he’s fairly easy for larger, stronger rikishi to move around (as somewhat evidenced by his loss to the enormous Akiseyama, albeit a match where his arms rather than his belt were locked up). While he displays at times a composure beyond his years in the manner in which he dispatches much larger opponents, he also has suffered a few wild crashes off the dohyo, so we will hope that he stays healthy as he continues his development.

Ms26 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – I got this one a bit wrong, as I picked Ichiyamamoto as a bit of a sleeper yusho pick owing to the weak strength of schedule and his absolute tear up the banzuke to this point. He will continue his progression after posting a 4-3 kachi-koshi but we will want to see more next time. He displayed some good poise, despite being smaller than many of his opponents.

Ms50 Ryuko (Onoe) – A strong performance in his Makushita debut, putting up a 5-2 kachi-koshi, the odd loss coming to…

Ms52 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – … whose victory over Ryuko (in a match that probably could have gone either way, Nishikifuji slapping down Ryuko on the verge of being pushed out at the edge) sealed a 6-1 tournament in which both men coughed up the other losses to the promising Mongolian Kiribayama. Both Ryuko and Nishikifuji are set for strong promotions upward in January and we will continue to monitor their progress. It’s worth noting that Nishikifuji’s performance at Kyushu was a rare bright spot for the otherwise beleaguered Isegahama stable.


Sd13 Fukuyama (Fujishima) vs Sd16 Tanabe (Kise) – I’ve rated Tanabe as the better of these two for a while, having only lost to Enho in his career entering the basho (in fairness to Fukuyama, he’d only lost to Tanabe, but he wasn’t running into Enho). This time, Enho was in another division and Tanabe repaid this faith with a solid 5-2 record that bested Fukuyama’s narrow 4 win kachi-koshi. Tanabe’s showing should be good enough to earn him a promotion, while Fukuyama will likely need to take another crack from the top of Sandanme next time out. As an aside, this is the part of the banzuke where an awful lot of rikishi’s successes are dependent about how they do against the squad from Sadogatake-beya. Both of these guys ended up facing 3 Koto-men – as did Tomokaze and Wakaichiro.

Sd53 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – Tomokaze comes up one loss short of “doing an Enho” from his first three tournaments – he dropped one match in Aki, but stormed back with a zensho (via playoff) here that solidified his credentials as a bona fide prospect. His relatively low ranking in the Sandanme division means he should end up somewhere around the magical Makushita 30 mark at which another unprecedented zensho might clinch another promotion, but it is likely based on past precedent that he’ll fall just short of this mark.

Sd84 Kotokumazoe (Sadogatake) – Talking of the myriad prospects of Sadogatake-beya, Kotokumazoe reinforces his credentials after his lengthy absence from the banzuke with a third straight solid tournament. His 5 win record should fire him up another 30-35 positions next time out.

Sd85 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – There’s no getting around that it was a disappointing debut at Sandanme level for the Texan, who has vowed to do better next time out. While his 1 win performance in the final basho of the year was not what he or his fans were hoping for, we are excited to see him continue his progression and hopefully solidify his credentials upon his return to Jonidan where he has already shown solid skill in several previous tournaments this year.


Jd15 Shoji (Musashigawa) – It’s a second straight yusho for Wakaichiro’s stablemate, who will swap places with the Tachiai-favorite in January as he earns an automatic promotion that will see him placed somewhere between Sd20-30. As we noted in our lower division yusho wrap-up, Shoji sealed the deal with a final match win over Torakio with whom he is developing a nice little rivalry.

Jd49 Torakio (Naruto) vs Jd49 Sumidagawa (Naruto) – Torakio may yet get another chance to avenge his second straight yusho race defeat to Shoji at Hatsu, as his 6 win record will more than likely be enough to get him up to Sandanme (the last time it wasn’t from his level was 1975). So while they’ll likely work from opposite ends of the division, one wouldn’t bet against the big and strong Bulgarian getting matched up with Shoji again should both men dominate in their step up.

For Sumidagawa, Torakio’s massive stablemate, the goal at Hatsu will be consolidation and further progression after he netted a 4-3 kachi-koshi which some Tachiai commenters mentioned might be the height of his ambition with respect to his more esteemed aforementioned colleague.


Jk20 Amatsu (Onomatsu) – 27 year old Amatsu turned in a fine performance on his comeback to the dohyo after nearly 3 years away. He only suffered one blemish, with a 6 win record that will see him comfortably promoted in his effort to make it back to the Makushita ranks. As I remarked last time, it was disappointing not to see him matched up with the yusho winner Kotoseigo given they were only placed 2 spots apart on the banzuke.

Jk20 Hayashi (Fujishima) – Speaking of solid performances, top debutant “Mike” Hayashi turned in a 6-1 record, his sole loss coming to the yusho winner Kotoseigo. He will be promoted at Hatsu and we will continue to monitor his progress. He will likely be replaced as our “top debutant to watch” at Hatsu by much vaunted Mongolian Yoshoyama of Tokitsukaze-beya.

Finally, while we don’t technically list Hattorizakura of Shikihide-beya as “one to watch,” we certainly will continue to look for his results, and unfortunately he put up his ninth straight 0-7 tournament at Kyushu. This tournament saw him do what I guess we can call a reverse Futabayama, as he has passed the legendary Yokozuna’s run of 63 and run his loss streak now to 67 consecutive losses (his second loss this time out, against the debutant Takita, was particularly heartbreaking as it looked like a sure win until he got Aminishiki’d at the edge). Here’s an interesting stat if you’re a Hattorizakura fan: only 16 other rikishi have managed to stay on the banzuke while not winning for seven consecutive tournaments (without going banzuke-gai). All of the other 16 were kyujo at some point, though a few did put up legitimate winless tournaments over that period. The great Yokozuna Takanohana II is a member of that list in the injury-addled latter stages of his career, so I guess Hattorizakura can at least say they have that in common!

13 thoughts on “Ones to Watch: Kyushu 17 Wrap-up

  1. I am sure this question has been asked many times in many places but if the sport wanted to keep their wrestlers safer, wouldn’t mats in the area surrounding the ring make sense? The fighting area would still be elevated and the spectators could still enjoy the sight of people flying out of the ring. They would just be landing on a safer, softer place, Never happen, huh?

    • Something like a pole vault mat, or a high jump mat. I’d bevel the sides so the mats can lean flush against the dohyo. You’d need tiny stairwell mats on East and West; the yobidori could insert the mats after the rikishi mount the dohyou. If you were worried about impeding view, you could dig a trench around the dohyo and insert deep cushioning into the trench so it isn’t quite as high as the dohyo.

      It might slow things a bit, but surely worthwhile to prevent injuries?

      Here is a more elaborate idea: air mattresses, such as stunt men fall into when jumping off buildings. They can deflate/inflate between matches at the push of a button.

      Your idea?

      • Wow, you’ve really thought that out. Everything you mention makes perfect sense to ME. But it’s hard to imagine the powers that be would agree with any of this. Tradition seems SO important to the people in charge and there’s nothing traditional about air mattresses. Great ideas, though. I’m assuming it would take a plethora of those kinds of injuries to major wrestlers to get them to even consider it.

      • High jump mats etc. are designed to cushion distributed impacts, and would probably turn out to be serious knee and ankle wreckers because they give way far too much on feet-first impacts. IMHO, the only kind of mats that would make sense for sumo are the relatively sturdy ones they use for things like the horse vault in gymnastics.

        • Having never landed on a horse vault mat, I couldn’t say. :-) But it does give me yet another idea. I’ve never done it, but sometimes you high jump into mulch. (There’s probably a better name for it, but it’s essentially mulch.) I wonder if spreading the floor around the dohyo with mulch would be an improvement?

        • Agreed. There’s a reason their floor routines is not done on foam mats. I doubt many injuries are caused by, and would be cushioned from, impacting the floor.

          • So, the question remains—-can anyone here possibly imagine any of these ideas concerning ”safer sumo” ever being put into effect?

          • The primary use of padding around the ring would probably just be to make crashing off the dohyo a little less painful and reduce its contribution to the general wear and tear of rikishi. Actual injury prevention would certainly require more extreme measures such as the often-suggested lowering or widening of the dohyo, all of which are probably non-starters for practical reasons, and might not achieve all that much in any case. So, ringside WWE-style mats around the dohyo – firm enough to walk on but with enough elasticity to provide a bit of protection on impact – are probably the only thing that’s conceivable at all.

            In the end, the core problem is that sumo might be unique in the number of different ways that its competitors are hitting the ground. Head first, back first, belly first, feet first, arms first, straight on, sideways, flipped over…and all of that at a wide range of angles and velocities. Professional wrestling might indeed be the only place that comes close, but theirs are controlled impacts (as long as everything goes right, anyway). Sumotori don’t have the luxury of being able to plan how their bout ends. There’s surely *something* that would be superior to the near-concrete ground they’re currently hitting when they fall off, but I’ve always been skeptical that there are any obviously correct answers here. Just too many factors at play.

          • I doubt if anyone even keeps a statistic that says how many wrestlers are seriously hurt in their fall from the ring during an average basho.

    • While we are in a competition for rikishi-safety innovations, how about straps, something like those used in slacklining, hanging at a low angle on the sides of the dohyo? With some Japanese ingenuity, I’m sure they can even be made clear to disrupt the view as little as possible.

      Raise them before the match, lower at the end.

      As for tradition, it’s a known Japanese tradition to be innovative. And I’m not talking about consumer electronics or shipbuilding. I’m talking about traditional arts. If you watch NHK world regularly, you may see dozens of artizans who have been inventing new ways to do their art – there are new designs for fusama, new coloring for kokeshi dolls, new ways to glaze ceramics, improvements in husbandry of silkworms, new ways to weave and color kimono… and there have always been such innovations. The brightly colored mawashi we enjoy are an innovation. Building the dohyo without poles for the roof is an innovation to facilitate TV broadcasts, and the use of replays by shimpan is definitely an innovation.

      The problem is that we, as a bunch of foreign sumo fans who love talking, are not going to get to pitch our ideas to the NSK or put out the budget to test them.

  2. So Shoji is 3-0 over Torakio, and 2 out of the 3 times Torakio had Shoji up against the very edge, only to be reversed. No wonder Torakio was so visibly angry after their latest match.

    • It’s true. It’s crazy how fine the margins can be!

      Ultimately Torakio will get the better of him someday, and it’s good news for Torakio that his position will be good enough to almost certainly get him up to the next division for Hatsu. Certainly you can see a scenario where despite the discrepancy in rank, both could meet again on the final day or in a playoff should they start 6-0, and it is surely possible that the next one is won by Torakio.

      I think it will be a great rivalry to watch, but Torakio is going to be a fast mover and his progress will be exciting to watch regardless!

      • I’m not even sure if Shoji will be good enough for kachikoshi in high sandanme next time…I’ve yet to see anything from him that would make me confident that he’s of makushita quality. Wouldn’t surprise me if they end up in the same banzuke region for Haru, Shoji with a 2-5 and Torakio with a 5-2.

        (On another note, the promotion line in makushita is at Ms15, not Ms30.)


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