Hatsu Basho Wrap Up and Predictions


What a great basho with an unexpected champion. Below, I will go through the various tiers of Makuuchi (and upper Juryo) and assess the performances, as well as what they likely mean for the Haru banzuke reshuffle (as usual, a full “banzuke crystal ball” post will follow once I’ve had a chance to more carefully digest the results).

The Yokozuna

At Haru, we should see Kakuryu atop the banzuke, followed by Hakuho and Kisenosato. Although he faded with 4 straight losses after a 10-0 start before recovering to beat Goeido on senshuraku, Kakuryu did enough to justify his rank. I would give him a solid B. Hakuho (re)injured his toes, and gets an Incomplete. Kisenosato had to pull out due to underperformance rather than injury after racking up 4 losses in 5 days and handing out 3 kinboshi. It’s not clear what the way forward is for him. A generous D–.

The Ozeki

The two Ozeki will swap sides in Osaka, with Takayasu fighting from the more prestigious East side. His 12-3 record is by far his most impressive in 4 tournaments as Ozeki, although he has to wonder what might have been in this wide-open basho. Any tsuna talk is highly premature, but if he can build on this performance, we may hear it in the near future. A–

The other Ozeki, Goeido, looked strong out of the gate but then went 4-7 over the last 11 days, ending with a minimal kachi-koshi. He avoided going kadoban by the narrowest of margins. A gentleman’s C.

The Old Lower Sanyaku

This highly touted group did not exactly distinguish itself, only managing 23 wins among the four of them. As a result, we should see almost complete turnover in the Sekiwake/Komusubi ranks. The one holdover is Sekiwake Mitakeumi, who started 7-0 but then went 1-7 the rest of the way to maintain his rank by the narrowest of margins. Some of this can be chalked up to tougher second-week opposition, but it’s hard to excuse losses to Arawashi, Shodai, and Okinoumi. This is Mitakeumi’s 6th consecutive tournament in Sanyaku, all of them alternating 9-6 and 8-7 records. He will have to find another gear before the often-mentioned Ozeki run can materialize. Still, he stays at Sekiwake. B–

The rest of the group put up disastrous performances. Instead of starting his own Ozeki run, Sekiwake Tamawashi went 6-9 and will drop out of Sanyaku. It’s not clear what was wrong with his sumo, as he looked like his own formidable self on some days, and went meekly on others. The good news is that he should only drop to M1, and will have a chance to fight his way back up with a solid record in Osaka. C–

Shin-Komusubi Takakeisho had a typical shin-Komusubi rough tournament, going 5-10. He should stay in the joi in Osaka, falling to around M3. C– His friend and fellow Komusubi Onosho faired even worse in his second go-round at the rank, picking up only 4 wins before withdrawing with an injury. No miracle kachi-koshi finish this time. He should drop to around M5. D+

The New Lower Sanyaku

Joining Mitakeumi at Sekiwake will be the yusho winner, Tochinoshin. While there are many reasons to doubt he can replicate his amazing performance going forward, I’ll go out on a limb and say that if he accumulates 11-12 wins in each of the next two tournaments, we’ll see him at Ozeki. A+ Also rejoining the named ranks with a bang at Komusubi is Ichinojo, who really turned things around in the last two tournaments. If he can continue to bring convincing sumo to the dohyo, his size and skill could also see him at Ozeki before too long, although of course this is what was said about him after his amazing Makuuchi debut in 2014. A

Who gets the other Komusubi slot? The man who probably gained the most on senshuraku, sumo Elvis, Chiyotairyu. The big guy needed to win on the last day and have both Kotoshogiku and Endo lose, and this is exactly how things played out. The last and only time Chiyotairyu was ranked this high was also in 2014, and he’s spent most of the intervening time among the lower maegashira ranks, with 3 Juryo stints, so it’s good to see him climb the mountain again. A

The Joi

The upper maegashira ranks in Osaka will see more permutation than turnover. Based on the thinness and health issues of the Sanyaku, I’m going to generously extend the joi boundary down to M5. These ranks should look something like this:

M1 Tamawashi (S) Endo (M5)
M2 Arawashi (M4) Kotoshogiku (M2)
M3 Takakeisho (K) Takarafuji (M6)
M4 Shodai (M4) Shohozan (M9)
M5 Chiyomaru (M9) Onosho (K)

In addition to the aforementioned fallen Sanyaku rikishi, we have Kotoshogiku and Shodai treading water with their minimal make-koshi records and a pair of C‘s. Endo (A–) and Arawashi (B+) move up within these ranks. Takarafuji (B+) moves up from just below the joi, while Shohozan (A–) and Chiyomaru (A–) make some of the biggest moves up the board.

Dropping out of these ranks are Hokutofuji and Yoshikaze, who both had disastrous 4-11 tournaments, good for a pair of D‘s, along with Okinoumi (C–).

Makuuchi Promotions and Demotions

As has already been mentioned, the 8 lowest-ranked rikishi all earned winning records. For Ishiura, Asanoyama, Nishikigi, and Daiamami, this saved them from demotion to Juryo, but without much of a cushion for Haru. Daieisho, Yutakayama, and the newcomers Abi and Ryuden should move up into solid mid-maegashira territory. Yutakayama in particular is to be commended for turning things around in his third Makuuchi tournament by going 9-6, after his previous two appearances each ended in 4-11 records and quick returns to Juryo.

Dropping down into the M13-M17 ranks and fighting for survival in Osaka will be Ikioi and Sokokurai, who narrowly staved off demotion.

As a result of the solid performances at the bottom of the banzuke, not a lot of slots will be open for promotion. Dropping down to Juryo are Terunofuji, who desperately needs to take a page from Tochinoshin’s book, and Aminishiki. Also joining them will be Takekaze, the only rikishi among those who desperately needed a senshuraku win to not get it. Their slots should be taken by Myogiryu, Hidenoumi, and most likely Aoiyama, with Kyokutaisei just missing out on making his Makuuchi debut despite doing enough for promotion in most tournaments.

25 thoughts on “Hatsu Basho Wrap Up and Predictions

  1. thank u yet again for another comprehensive coverage. will make Osaka very interesting. have fingers crossed that Yoshikaze overcomes whatever has been plaguing him these last few basho (but in particular this Hatsu). and as for promotions – Kyokutaisei gambarre!!!! hoping for another great tournament from my Hokkaido boy to get a well earned and deserved maegashira slot

  2. Nice but u failed to mention my fave weird rikishi kotoyuki, who shud stay about where’s at..
    Abi is legit. Chiyotairyu won all the rest of his bouts after starting bad like maybe 6 consecutive wins wen he did his massive tachiai blast and strong pushing and thus saved his rank.
    This sport is truly survival of the fittest

    • True, I didn’t have much to say about the mid-maegashira guys who’re staying mid-maegashira: Kaisei, Kagayaki, (Chiyo)shoma/nokuni, Tochiozan, Kotoyuki, Daishomaru.

  3. I am very curious to watch the next 3 basho, as I don’t see us exciting the “One Yokozuna hanging by a thread at day 15” pattern any time soon. At least not until we get a fresh Yokozuna. All 3 of the current crop are banged up, and one good injury away from intai.

    Could Takayasu do it? Yes, he could. But his new “wild sumo” is a recipe for a big fat mechanical injury.

    I continue to puzzle at Mitakeumi. He’s got all the pieces in one spot, but he can’t quite pull them together. I guess this is a lack of experience in some way. I am happy that he is persisting in San’yaku. I will also point out that the catalyst for Takayasu’s Ozeki run was a make-koshi at Kyushu 2016. He got fired up and pushed, and overcame.

    I worry about Yoshikaze. He was only a fraction of himself this tournament. He can punch out and join the NSK any time (he owns a kabu), but I love watching him fight. I hope he can fix up whatever damage or illness was plaguing him.

    Fans – Banzuke decision day is Wednesday! So we will find out who is bumped to Juryo fairly soon!

    • me too Bruce – have been worried about my fave green mawashi all tournament, mind you when he toppled 2 x yokuzuna and 1 x ozeki you would have heard me squeal/shout/laugh the house down! have been silently weeping ever since. he has been missing a big ‘something’ this hatsu – whether it’s the debilatating flu doing the rounds that’s dragged him down; maybe something else sapping his energy levels; or maybe he’s just plain exhausted and has hit a big wall. whatever the reason, i hope he finds the necessary time to heal fully (either physically or mentally) – it’s making me very sad….. 🙁
      that said….. what’s a ‘kabu’ ?? 🙂 Den

    • I think Andy’s right and Mitakeumi knew he wasn’t 100%, so he didn’t push things hard to avoid going kyujo. I’m not really sure about Yoshikaze either. I read reports of the flu going around, so that might have been the problem.

      We can discuss Takayasu as a Yokozuna, but he really hasn’t gotten settled as an Ozeki yet. This basho is an indication that he’s mentally gotten there, but now we need to see more consistency from him at that rank (and have him stay healthy).

      It wouldn’t surprise me if both Kisenosato and Kakuryu go intai before the end of the year. Kisenosato has given himself one more chance to perform well and I think Kakuryu has realized that he can’t stay fully healthy through a basho anymore. Hakuho remains an enigma. He’ll arrive at the next basho with enough time to practice a different tachiai and have healed his toes. We’ll have to see how both hold up.

    • A kabu is a share in the sumo kyokai. Or more precisely, it’s the right to use a specific toshiyori name. Toshiyori are not necessarily coaches. They are members of the kyokai and get a salary until they retire on the mandatory retirement date. There are some non-toshiyori employees like sewanin etc., but the only way to be a member of the kyokai is to have a kabu.

    • It’s one of the many problems we are having with WordPress lately. I hope it will get sorted soon. Personally I hate flat discussions (which is one of the reasons I don’t participate in the sumo forum).

      • Each to their own. I’m not particularly a fan of threaded comment sections actually because it’s impossible to predict where new comments will show up, but flat view and no quoting feature is the worst of both worlds. Looks like the posts have been re-threaded now, in any case. Thanks to whomever was responsible for fixing it!

        • Yes, we are fighting a mutant beast that somehow spawned in our WordPress instance. You may have noticed that link embedding broke too, along with “likes” and many other features. We are working to repair.

  4. A J1w getting kachikoshi and not being promoted? Kyokutaisei would have a reason to feel very aggrieved if that happened and I think he should get the nod over Hidenoumi. In any case,I would always prefer to see a new face in makuuchi. They both deserve promotion but I can’t see them dropping Sokokurai.

  5. Beyond Tochinoshin’s great run, the story of this tournament has to be the loss of true Yokozuna’s to carry the torch for the top end of the banzuke. Seems like yesterday we had four to point to, and now through rampant injuries, what do we have? Half a Kakuryu? On the flip-side, the newcomers at the bottom were great fun to cheer on. To see that mix of nerves and an eagerness to prove themselves each day, and then for them to actually hold their own, was often more exciting than the “match of the day” later in the program.

  6. My sister and I finally saw the final day (been down with a bug). Great job by Tochinoshin, a well deserved win. TakaBear was looking better towards the end.

    We were trying our hand at predicting the next rankings as we watched the final bouts. I am amused to see that some of our guesses are nearly in line with these. We both think that “Hulk” will jump to Sekiwake and NoJo will go in to the open Komosubi slot. I am hoping to see Mr. Biceps (Ishiura) move up to M-10W but that may be shooting high with only a 9-6 record, 10 maybe too high – M12 perhaps? I’ll be sorry to see Uncle drop down to Juryo, we’ve devolved a fondness for him. Maybe the fact that his actual bouts were a draw will only drop him to M16?

    Good wishes to the injured rikishi to get strong and healthy in the spring.

    • i like yours and your sister’s predictions – bet you’re both not wrong! or very very close to the mark.
      am liking some of the new nicknames! and i share your good wishes to all the injured rikishi 🙂