Hatsu Day 15 Wrap Up

Abi Shiko

It was a satisfying end to a really tremendous basho. Over the course of the last 15 days, we have all enjoyed some really tremendous sumo in a tournament that once again featured only a single Yokozuna. Since the start of the Asashoryu era, much of each basho revolved around the absolute dominance of a pair of dai-Yokozuna. Tournament coverage was almost bifurcated along who the dai-Yokozuna would crush today, and then the battle for the remaining scraps.

For the past year or so, we have seen the emphasis shift. We continue to see an evolution, a “changing of the guard” in some sense, within the ranks of sumo. Rikishi who have been mainstays of Makuuchi for years or decades are making way for cohorts of healthy, strong and eager sekitori, ready for their time in the spotlight. While we are going to miss our long-time favorites, this basho helped us come to realize that the future of sumo is bright, and the next generation is going to continue to impress.

Look for 2018 to continue this trend, with at least one more Yokozuna headed for intai, and at least one more rikishi taking up the Ozeki rank.

As always, Tachiai will be along for the ride. We can’t help ourselves – we love sumo.

Highlights From Day 15

Daiamami defeats Aoiyama – Fairly straightforward oshi battle, with Daiamami picking up his 8th win, and keeping himself in Makuuchi for March. Aoiyama did not look amazing, but then he really did not need to pour it on for this match.

Nishikigi defeats Kyokutaisei – Nishikigi never gave up, stuck with it and managed to get kachi-koshi. That being said, he’s probably going to find himself down in Juryo soon if he cannot bring his performance up at least one notch. Nishikigi was slow at the tachiai, and let Kyokutaisei dominate the match right up until the final moments when Nishikigi rallied and forced Kyokutaisei out.

Asanoyama defeats Takekaze – I have been wondering what is wrong with the Oguruma team. I would guess they are suffering from the flu. All of them have been limping through this basho, and look to be in poor health. Hopefully by the time March rolls around, their health will return. Asanoyama stood Takekaze up at the tachiai, rolled left and guided the veteran to the clay. There is some discussion on if Takekaze will remain in Makuuchi, but I would think he will.

Ishiura defeats Kotoyuki – A pair of matta as each tried to smoke the other out on their tachiai plans. Yes, it was a raging henka fest that Ishiura got the better of. Kind of an uninspiring win, but a win nevertheless. Kotoyuki is make-koshi, but safe in Makuuchi for now. Ishiura will get promoted, but I am not sure his sumo will support his remaining at higher ranks. Train-train-train little muscle man!

Abi defeats Shohozan – Matta from Shohozan prior to the start, but the actual tachiai resulted in a slap-fest similar to day 14’s Tochinoshin match. Abi switched to double arm thrusts and started moving Shohozan back, and managed to turn him around and get behind. From here Shohozan is in serious trouble, and now struggling to recover while Abi continues to press the attack. Shohozan recovered for just a moment, but then it was all Abi. Nice win from the new Maegashira. I look for some wonderful sumo from him for the rest of the year.

Kagayaki defeats Shodai – This should have been a “gimme” for Shodai, but once again his weak tachiai cost him the match. Kagayaki moved forward aggressively from the line, and came in solidly underneath Shodai, lifting him under the arms. Though Shodai was able to counter and thrust Kagayaki back, Shodai’s feet were crooked, his hips high, and his lower body off balance. Kagayaki grappleds and marched Shodai out. This kind of match helps me think that Kagayaki has tremendous potential. His instincts are solid, and he does not hesitate to exploit even the smallest opening. Shodai needs more work.

Tochinoshin defeats Endo – This match was really all about Endo. Tochinoshin already had the yusho, but Endo needed to “win up” to stake a solid claim for the last remaining san’yaku slot. But Tochinoshin is genki enough for an entire heya, and although Endo gave him a good match, there was no stopping Tochinoshin. Endo has a great tachiai, coming in low and under Tochinoshin, who immediately grabs a hold of Endo’s arms and marches forward. Endo stops the charge at the tawara and nearly rolls Tochinoshin into a throw. Try as he might, Tochinoshin cannot land a solid grip on Endo, whose impressive flexibility and agility stymie the yusho winner time and again. Tochinoshin takes Endo to the edge again, and again Endo loads a throw that Tochinoshin backs away from. That final move puts Endo off balance, and sees him shoved out. Fantastic match from both men, very good sumo.

Chiyotairyu defeats Daieisho – Chiyotairyu gets his 8th win, against a much lower ranked opponent. This was a standard oshi match that was all Chiyotairyu (as it should have been). We will see Chiyotairyu at the top of the Maegashira ranks in March.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoshogiku – The day’s Darwin match. Winner advances, loser declines. This was actually a really solid match, with great sumo from both men. I had kind of wanted to see Kotoshogiku pick up kachi-koshi, but it seems the old Kyushu bulldozer is still on his way out to pasture. Takarafuji got a solid left hand inside grip early and kept Kotoshogiku bottled up. His first attempt to yorikiri Kotoshogiku was solidly beaten back, much to everyone’s delight. From there Kotoshogiku attempted to start the hug-n-chug assault, but sadly he can no longer generate the forward pressure due to his failing knees. Takarafuji turned him around at the tawara and took the win.

Ichinojo defeats Kaisei – If you want jumbo sized sumo, this match really packed the pounds. There was close to 1,000 pounds (yes, half a ton!) of rikishi fighting it out for one little shiroboshi. The fight was all Ichinojo: he got Kaisei sideways early and escorted him out. Huge, unbelievable turn around in Ichinojo the last two tournaments. This massive Mongolian has the potential to be a force within the san’yaku as long as he can stay healthy.

Arawashi defeats Takakeisho – Two real stories here, Arawashi was able to pick up kachi-koshi in spite of his debilitating knee injuries, and the mighty tadpole Takakeisho had a dud of a tournament. Takakeisho – he will be back, more fierce and determined than ever. This young rikishi is not ever going to settle for defeat, and I predict he will be invigorated by this deep make-koshi and the resulting demotion. Arawashi’s problems will probably require medical intervention, but as we have seen, the Kyokai and the Heyas don’t seem inclined to perform medical maintenance on their kanban rikishi. Kind of sick when I put it that way.

Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – Takayasu storms into a strong jun-yusho closer. This match is worth a watch in slow motion. Takayasu starts with the now habitual shoulder blast that leaves him on one foot and high. Mitakeumi is braced on his left foot and marching forward. Suddenly the Ozeki has had the tables turned, and his wild bull tachiai has left him open and vulnerable. Mitakeumi is thrusting strongly against the Ozeki’s chest, and it’s moving him backward. Takayasu tries to pull but fails. They go chest to chest, and Mitakeumi channels the kami of Kotoshogiku’s mawashi and starts gaburi-yori. Takayasu is moving backward, and in real trouble. At the tawara, he suddenly remembers his “real” sumo, and switches modes into the Takayasu of 2016 – right hand outside grip, he lowers his hips and marches. Mitakeumi is now moving backward, and in deep trouble. Watch the Ozeki’s feet as he attacks. Low to the ground, each step just grazing the surface of the Sotho, his hips down, his shoulders forward. THIS is Takayasu sumo. Thank you, oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, for bringing him back, even for a moment. Mitakeumi stops the surge for just a moment by planting his left foot. Takayasu, now back in his old, amazing mode, senses the weight shift and helps Mitakeumi follow through by rolling him to his left and down to the clay. Wonderful, wonderful match.

Kakuryu defeats Goeido – Please note that Kakuryu created almost no forward pressure in this win, and instead used Goeido’s reliable cannon-ball tachiai to power his exit. I continue to maintain that Kakuryu re-injured himself, and that is why we had a sudden cold snap from the sole remaining Yokozuna. Hopefully, with this senshuraku win, Kakuryu can keep the critics quiet for a few months. Way to survive, Big-K.

That’s it for Hatsu – what a great tournament it’s been. Thank you, dear readers, for spending your time with us. We dearly appreciate all of you and hope you will be with us in the lead up to March’s Osaka tournament.

32 thoughts on “Hatsu Day 15 Wrap Up

  1. Pretty sure Takekaze is going down to Juryo. There’s already a shortage of demotion candidates, with only Terunofuji and Aminishiki putting up worse performances at sufficiently low ranks, and four Juryo guys who are eligible for promotion, one of whom will get the short end of the stick even with Takekaze opening up a slot. I’ll have a full wrap-up later today or tomorrow.

    • A very odd feature of this basho was that everyone from M12w downward achieved at least 8 wins. The March banzuke will be quite a challenging task in the middle maegashira ranks. I’ll be very interested to see your projection.

      • It made the basho really interesting to me, and it was a lot of fun to cover. Not only where the bottom group of Makuuchi winning quite a bit, they were doing it with some solid and exciting sumo.

        • Agreed. When I saw the banzuke and saw all those young and youngish wrestlers down at the bottom my thought was “well they’re all going to be fighting each other and someone has to win” and concluded that at least half of them would probably stay up. I certainly did not expect all of them to survive. Even Nishikigi pulled out his usual last day win (for the fifth basho in a row) to heep his place.

          Abi and Ryuden were the pick of the bunch. Apart from their considerable skills I like the fact that they both have “old-fashioned” sumo physiques, rather the spherical types we have seen coming through of late. What’s the opposite of “tadpole”? Is this the dawn of the “salamander squad”?

  2. There were yusho play-offs in every division but makuuchi, and Jason’s got all of them up on his channel. The jonidan play-off loser has some Abi shiko stylin’ — not quite to Abi’s 140° but still impressive.

  3. Takayasu has to get at least 30 cm lower before I’d say he is back to his old self. Bend those knees, Ozeki!

    Aminishiki beats Hokutofuji. I wondered how Aminishiki in his state of health could do that. The answer: it was his first bout with Hokutofuji. And Hokutofuji didn’t do his homework. Aminishiki just got the nape of his neck and gave him one of his send-outs – the ones that don’t work at his own level because everybody already knows him.

    Aminishiki says it’s nice he could win even a little for his fans, and says that as long as he feels up to it, he will gambarize in Juryo. So surprisingly, no intai at the moment.

    The ghost of Terunofuji tried to put up a fight today. Sokokurai actually lifted him. He says that he will try to rebuild his body from zero. The fans who write comments on the Isegahama web site beg him to properly get treatment.

    Terutsuyoshi lost to Takayashitoshi. Too bad, the twins both won today. Takagenji thus went kachi-koshi and denied Hidenoumi the Juryo yusho, and Takayoshitoshi, by all accounts, gained sekitori status. The papers seem to say it’s the first time there are a pair of sekitori twins. But this means that Enho will probably have to stick to Makushita for at least another basho.

    Regarding Kakuryu, the papers today say squarely that he re-injured left ankle. It’s not his back. Anyway, I guess this is why he applied for a Japanese citizenship. Retirement is coming soon.

    • I don’t mind Enho staying in Makushita if that happens, honestly. It won’t hurt him to get some more experience under his belt before he moves up to the next level and it allows him to breathe a bit instead of the public trying to put a bunch of pressure on his shoulders to do well.

  4. I’m normally okay with henkas, but I completely abhor them when the the “flying rikishi” version is used when an opponent has demotion on the line. I hated it when Terunofuji did it to Kotoshogiku and I hated it when Ishiura did it today.

    • I never blame Ishiura for anything he does. He looks like a child in there compared with most of these behemoths. His forte is speed and the most efficient use of speed is the henka. He could henka 15 times a tournament and I wouldn’t complain one bit.

  5. Thank you everybody at tachiai for your amazing hard work, all of the posts are enjoyable and thorough, and make each basho even more entertaining!

  6. Hey Andy, Bruce, Herouth, LK, PM and commenters too,

    Thanks for the wonderful coverage of the tournament. Not only was it factual, it was fun and humorous.

    I find sumo just as fun to talk about as I do watching it. I love disagreeing about the appropriateness of a Henka. I enjoy making fun of wrestlers who try to grab Takarafuji by the neck. I enjoy learning the culture of sumo and Japan.

    I can pass on discussing Kotoshogiku’s Buttstrap.

    More importantly, I enjoy the sincere respect for how hard these athletes train and sacrifice to fight mono-a-mono.

    Keep up the good work. What a great start to 2018 to everyone.

  7. In the last few seconds of the NHK highlights they showed some images of Tochinoshin when he was an amateur…he looked waaay smaller than he does now. It’s amazing how much a person’s body can change with the right conditioning.

    • Frankly, it’s hard to believe he weighs in at more than 170kg right now. In his case it really is all muscle. Most rikishi who hit the 170 look a little chubby, and that includes 190cm and above wrestlers, like Terunofuji in his good days. But Tochinoshin is just a mountain of muscle.

  8. Nice to have an Aoiyama sighting today. (He was holding the flags in the car with Tochinoshin during their victory lap.) We haven’t seen much of him since his 13-2 tournament last year.

  9. My wife and I watched the entire closing ceremonies in Japanese. We got the idea, we think, about almost everything. Makes the Stanley Cup look puny! But will someone kindly provide further explanation of digging into the dohyo? Thanks.

    • Not entirely sure myself, but on the day before the basho, they consecrate the dohyo, and they embed some objects into it in order to seal the blessing. I am going to guess that they dig them back up before or after they toss the gyoji around to send the kami back to wherever it wants to go after it has graced the dohyo.

  10. Now it can be said…

    If you replay Tochinoshin vs Takayasu from Day 4,
    it looks like Tochinoshin’s heel goes out before Takayasu’s hand went down.
    I guess the call would be shini-tai on Takayasu.

    • You’re absolutely correct. I remember thinking the same thing in that moment. It’s odd to see the officials miss a call so badly. You’d think instant replay would never allow that to happen.

      • No no no. The gyoji had a clear view of Tochinoshin’s heel, and in particular, of the sand under it — they’re trained to look for scuffs there. Sand undisturbed = Tochinoshin win.

      • I know the shimpan get the benefit of the instant replay (in the form of a hotline to the video booth) during a mono-ii, but I don’t know if they have that while deciding whether to have a mono-ii in the first place. Tochinoshin – Takayasu didn’t go to the judges at all, which seems baffling to me.

        And shini-tai wouldn’t apply here on either side, since both rikishi were attempting a technique; oshi-dashi versus hatakikomi. It’s reserved for cases where the aggressor is pretty obvious, but that person technically touches down first (for example, putting a hand down to break one’s fall, or stepping outside the dohyo while the opponent is still mid-air on the way to the third row of spectators).

  11. Wonderful coverage as usual, a really exciting tournament. Super exciting to see Tochinoshin take a yusho, he certainly earned it, both in the last 15 days, and in the 4 years since his ACL injury. Great storyline.

  12. Watching the NHK recap of Day 15 and Abi’s “I did frighteningly well” got a literal snort out of me — he’s going to be fun to watch for a long time, I hope.

  13. The front-pagers have commented on Takayasu’s somewhat disorganized presentation on the dohyo this basho, and I agree that many of his victories this time out have appeared more chaotic and less commanding than his victories in other basho, particularly during his ozeki run. For all that, his result this basho is the best he’s ever achieved in makuuchi. Part of that is due to the injury-induced dearth of yokozuna-level talent, but even so, one doesn’t get twelve wins by accident — Takayasu kicked ass.


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