Hatsu Story 3 – Harumafuji’s Long Shadow


With the new year’s basho about to begin, many sumo fans may feel the controversy around former Yokozuna Harumafuji is in the distant past. (In case there is one fan out there who does not know, Harumafuji was at the center of a controversy stemming from a night out with other rikishi in which he repeatedly struck Takanoiwa with his fists and a karaoke machine remote. The reaction to this regrettable incident included Harumafuji’s resignation from the sumo world.)

As the first five days of the basho unfold, we will see a new dynamic at play, as Harumafuji previously played a large role in shaping each tournament’s pace and outcome. True, he was usually good for a handful of kinboshi, but Harumafuji was a relentless competitor who delivered massive offense each time he mounted the dohyo. Without his participation in this tournament, we may see several differences even in the early days.

  • Increased Tadpole Dominance: So far, the league of up-and-coming rikishi has been storming the gates of the old guard. While four healthy Yokozuna would make life very hard for the younger Rikishi, many fans think that we may only get Hakuho for the full 15 days of Hatsu, and possibly not even that. This means that we may once again see the youngsters turn in solid, double-digit records from high Maegashira or San’yaku ranks. In the past, Harumafuji would tough it out and cull the next generation as much as he was able.
  • Increased Pressure on Hakuho: As noted in the earlier commentary, Kakuryu and Kisenosato are “on the bubble”. While both of them have put forth a mighty effort to be ready for Hatsu, there is a real threat that either or both of them are simply too hurt to continue. This could possibly leave Hakuho as the only Yokozuna for this tournament, or the only Yokozuna period. This would have the effect of motivating “The Boss” to continue to compete in spite of injuries that in the past would have put him to kyujo, knowing that Harumafuji would carry on. If that should happen, it might hasten the end of Hakuho.
  • The Battle For The Next Ozeki: The fight for the next Ozeki slot is already underway, with Tamawashi and Mitakeumi clear front-runners. But with the Yokozuna ranks thinned and possibly thinning more, Takakeisho and Onosho are primed to step up their sumo. Both Goeido and Takayasu have stabilized their performance somewhat, but neither of them are clear favorites to begin a campaign for the tsuna.

16 thoughts on “Hatsu Story 3 – Harumafuji’s Long Shadow

  1. Don’t forget Hokutofuji who is right up there with the rapidly rising rikishi!

    To what extent is Tamawashi’s age likely to work against him in terms of an Ozeki run?

    • Oh, there’s a whole write up about the next generation and who is doing what. If I can get some free time, it’s going up on the blog today or tomorrow.

      I am, in fact, quite interested in young Hokutofuji.

      • Good to hear that there is another Hokutofuji fan out there! I look forward to the post, thanks for the great Hatsu stories so far Bruce!

        • I am also a huge Hokutofuji fan! He has amazing technique as well as very gentleman like behaviour. I am always impressed by how deep his bows are, no matter if he wins or loses.

    • You could take your question about Tamawashi’s ozeki chances in a couple of ways. If a wrestler gets 33 wins over 3 tournaments he will get promoted whether he’s 33 or 18. On the other hand a lot of wrestlers i their 30s do tend to suffer from accumulated injuries which could derail an ozeki push for Tam. Actually,given the physical and mental states of those ranked above him, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Tamawashi goes very close to a yusho this time around.

      Feel free to come back and laugh at this coment when he goes 4-8 and then withdraws.

      • I don’t think it’s a bad shout at all – he’s been strong for most of the past 12 months. In November, whenever he mounted the dohyo, I almost expected him to win, so dominant was his sumo.

      • The other way to look at it is, if he couldn’t make Ozeki when he was at the peak of his fitness, why would he be able to do it now?

        It’s not a rhetorical question – some rikishi improve in skill at a rate that exceeds their deterioration due to accumulated injuries well into their thirties, and others benefit from particularly troublesome opponents going kyujo, intai, or simply dropping down the banzuke. But it’s something to think about when considering Tamawashi’s chances at an Ozeki bid. Is he notably better now than he was back in 2015 when he took the Komosubi spot for the first time, or even 2010 when he was first in the Joi? Is he better positioned than Mitakeumi (and the rest of the tadpole squad) to take advantage of the declining Yokozuna opponents?

  2. I’m hoping for some unpredictable outcomes and a tighter competition for the yusho this time around. With as few injuries and illnesses as possible, with flu season being as miserable as it is.

    Personally pulling for Mitakeumi and Takakeisho for Ozeki, or for an enraged Ichinojo to go on a rampage and take down Hakuho. Need to start off the new year right with some purple rain!

  3. I do not know how much I am going to enjoy this basho populated by fat Japanese midgets cheered on by a Japanese public resentful of the obvious superiority of the Mongolian wrestlers!I hope Hak wins all the bouts,I hopeTamawashi makes ozeki,I hope Terunofuji does well.Go Mongols,go!

      • And now their nonsense is on display for all to see. To anyone who might think otherwise, thus far we have let people have their say. But this kind of thing has me (at least) thinking of moderating comments.

    • I don’t begrudge you your Mongolian patriotism – goodness knows we have enough people here cheering on Wakaichiro based mainly on his heritage – but could you please tone down the insensitive language towards the Japanese?

      • So, there is a Wakaichiro “Hatsu Story” coming up before Sunday. My interest in Wakaichiro is only partially due to his heritage. He is uniquely qualified to answer a question I have had for a while.

        Given the number of young men in the US who play football (the smashy-bahsy kind), does the training and athleticism that comes from football training translate in any way to sumo?

  4. Onosho Will be quite soon Ozeki, i Think. And so Takakeisho. In fact, i hope Goeido will improve his performances(in the last two tournaments he had stabilized them)and can compete for the Tsuna title in one year. And we don’t have to forget that if Kise will be better with injuries, he is a real strong champion.


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