Crime and Punishment – Board Meeting Summary

Yesterday, the NSK board convened. After a couple of meetings in which the newly elected board was set up and various toshiyori were assigned duties, it was finally time to deliberate the penalties of various trouble makers.

Takayoshitoshi and Takanohana

Takayoshitoshi and Takanohana

As you may recall, in the middle of the basho, shin-juryo Takayoshitoshi decided to beat up his tsukebito in front of many witnesses, and was pulled out of the basho as a result. His punishment for the deed is a suspension for one basho. He will not do the spring jungyo and will forfeit the Natsu basho. He is allowed to practice at his heya.

This of course implies a sharp drop in rank. Maybe even as far as sandanme.

The stablemaster of every trouble rikishi also has to bear punishment for his part in raising and guiding his deshi improperly. However, in Takanohana’s case, there was more – he has continued his games with the NSK and played hooky from the arena. He wasn’t around when the twin did the deed, and he should have.

There was a faction in the NSK – allegedly the Nishonoseki ichimon – which called for him to be suspended from all activities this time. This would have prevented him from actually guiding his deshi, and may have required fostering them temporarily to other heya in his ichimon. However, the Takanohana ichimon begged for a lighter sentence, and eventually the board decided on yet another demotion. He now has the lowest possible rank for a member of the NSK: toshiyori.

The Minezaki scandal

We haven’t mentioned this story in a post so I need to fill you in. A short time before the Takayoshitoshi story broke, it was announced that a rikishi from Minezaki beya has beaten up a junior on four separate occasions, some of them after the Harumafuji scandal. The junior rikishi retired as a result, but the story only came to the knowledge of the stablemaster from a letter sent by the former rikishi’s father. He promptly reported it to the NSK and they announced it publically after verifying it with the parties involved.

The names of the parties have not been revealed by the Japanese press, but only one rikishi retired from that heya recently: Kaigo. As for the assailant, a single rikishi from Minezaki beya pulled out of the tournament following the publication: Arawashi’s tsukebito, Hikarugenji. Connect the dots.

And his punishment was decided yesterday as well. He, too, will be suspended from one basho. Again, a drop in rank is implied. Hikarugenji was sandanme 25 in the Haru basho.

Minezaki oyakata was docked 10% of his salary for the next two months.

The Osunaarashi wrap-up

At the time of the announcement of the Osunaarashi scandal, his stablemaster served as a trustee. This means that he was not considered a member of the NSK and could not be punished (though through some regulation gymnastics, he could still keep his heya…)

However, in yesterday’s meeting he was docked 10% of his salary by his own request. At the same opportunity, he also declared that he will not be holding a danpatsu-shiki (ceremonial cutting of top-knot) for Osunaarashi. Indeed, the former rikishi is already shorn.

Commentary

The punishments seem extremely light. Yet another demotion for Takanohana, after he clearly didn’t repent following the previous one and indeed said he does not accept nor understand it? It remains to be seen if the former dai-yokozuna will quit his attention-seeking behavior and start on a more constructive path.

As for the two violent rikishi, what message does that send to parents who send their kids to professional sumo? “Nothing has changed. Your kid may well be beaten up if a senior doesn’t like the way he makes the chanko. There is no incentive for the seniors to keep their hands in their obi.” After Hakkaku declared that stopping violence in sumo is the top item on his agenda, I would have expected a more severe punishment.

An old Jewish saying goes: “He who is kind to the cruel ends up being cruel to the kind”.

Booking Your Trip to Experience Sumo in Osaka

EDION Arena Osaka Exterior
The EDION Arena in Osaka

Wherever you are around the world, you’re probably fortunate enough to catch at least a few of the day’s sumo highlights from NHK World. But as many of us here at Tachiai have been fortunate enough to experience, there is no comparing the highlights (or even the extended live broadcast) to actually being in the arena. But sometimes, just planning the trip is unbelievably exhausting! So I put together, as part of a new series on Tachiai, a walkthrough to cover the essentials of planning your trip.

Each of Grand Sumo’s four tournament cities provides a unique and interesting experience. Today I’m going to tell you, in painstakingly explicit detail, how I put my trip together to Experience Sumo at the EDION Arena in Osaka. If you have more questions, please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments section below – your questions will help other Tachiai readers experience sumo as well! Click through to read more after the jump… Continue reading

Promotions to Juryo announced

Today, the banzuke meeting took place. The full banzuke will not be published until shortly before the next basho, but as usual, promotions to Juryo are announced ahead of time, to allow new promotees to get ready with their paraphernalia.

Wakatakakage with Arashio oyakata

Newcomers to Juryo:

  • Wakatakakage, Arashio beya
  • Hakuyozan, Takadagawa beya

Returning:

  • Asabenkei, Takasago beya

Wakatakakage hails from Fukushima, and in his promotion interview, he vowed to do his best for the sake of the Fukushima residents who suffered in the great Tohoku disaster. He says he got a kimono and obi from the previous Fukushima “representative”, Sotairyu, who retired in Hatsu 2018, symbolically continuing in his footsteps.

Hakuyozan, when asked about his goal as Sekitori, said he wanted to reach the same rank as his stablemaster, Takadagawa oyakata [That is to say, Sekiwake. –PinkMawashi].

Hakuyozan

The stablemaster himself laughed and said he was aiming too low. Eventually they agreed that he should follow in the steps of Yokozuna Kashiwado, who hailed from Yamagata, Hakuyozan’s home.

With three promoted, three will be demoted. The demoted rikishi have not been announced, but obviously two of them are Enho and Takayoshitoshi. The third one will probably be Amakaze. If, like myself, you are wondering why ranked J7 he will be demoted rather than one of the low rankers with a make koshi (e.g. Tobizaru at J13), well, Amakaze had a very poor performance (3-12), and I’m told he was scheduled on senshuraku against Asabenkei, specifically to determine whether they should trade places. Amakaze lost, Asabenkei got the promotion, thus Amakaze goes.

Congratulations to the new (and returning) sekitori, and personally, if indeed Amakaze is the unlucky ex-sekitori, I hope to see both him and Enho back in their Kesho-mawashi soon.

Haru Jungyo!

With Haru Basho now in the rear view, time for Jungyo! The Iki Thump tour officially kicks off on April 1 at the Jingyu Kaikan in Ujinakanokiricho. No, I did not just step on my keyboard but thanks for asking.

So, for those of you unable to get your fill of sumo during the last fortnight in Osaka, there are still opportunities to watch your favorite wrestlers in action…maybe. There have also been a lot of injuries, including those to Nelly, I mean, Ikioi so we do hope they get a chance to recover. For those on the path to recovery – Onosho? Ura? – I wonder if this may be a nice way to ease back into the routine, though with Ura now in the depths of Makushita, I doubt it. But wouldn’t that be a way to keep the sport in the headlines and off the “other sports” tabs on Japanese news sites? A full list of dates is available on the Sumo Kyokai website.

LocationDateVenueLatLong
伊勢神宮奉納April 1, 2018三重県伊勢市宇治中之切町15234.462801,136.7185575
中津川市April 2, 2018岐阜県東美濃ふれあいセンター中津川市茄子川1683-79735.4579753,137.4655545
堺市April 3, 2018大阪府 堺市金岡公園体育館 堺市北区長曽根町1179-1834.570691,135.506387
舞鶴市April 4, 2018京都府舞鶴文化公園体育館舞鶴市上安久420番地35.4550923,135.3378189
姫路市April 5, 2018兵庫県 姫路市立中央体育館 姫路市西延末9034.8212194,134.6699379
宝塚市April 6, 2018兵庫県 宝塚市立スポーツセンター総合体育館 宝塚市小浜1-1-1134.8022502,135.3606516
刈谷市April 7, 2018愛知県 ウィングアリーナ刈谷 愛知県刈谷市築地町荒田1番地35.0193854,137.0078769
静岡市April 8, 2018静岡県 草薙総合運動場体育館(このはなアリーナ) 静岡市駿河区栗原19-134.9883592,138.4245477
掛川市April 9, 2018静岡県 東遠カルチャーパーク総合体育館 掛川市大池225034.7854244,137.9991479
伊那市April 10, 2018長野県 伊那市民体育館メインアリーナ 伊那市西町5834-835.839454,137.9414958
東御市April 11, 2018長野県 東御中央公園第一体育館 東御市鞍掛177-236.3623777,138.3453912
草加市April 12, 2018埼玉県 草加市スポーツ健康都市記念体育館 草加市瀬崎6丁目31-135.8126413,139.8168489
川崎市April 13, 2018神奈川県 川崎市とどろきアリーナ 川崎市中原区等々力1−335.5873118,139.6453032
藤沢市April 14, 2018神奈川県 秋葉台文化体育館 藤沢市遠藤2000-135.3887615,139.4420105
高崎市April 15, 2018群馬県 高崎アリーナ 高崎市下和田町4丁目1-1836.3160485,139.0106099
靖國神社奉納April 16, 2018東京都 靖國神社相撲場 東京都千代田区九段北3-1-135.6945115,139.7405352
柏市April 18, 2018千葉県 柏市中央体育館 柏市柏下73柏市民文化会館横35.8675563,139.9833309
柏市April 19, 2018千葉県 柏市中央体育館 柏市柏下73柏市民文化会館横35.8675563,139.9833309
町田市April 20, 2018東京都 町田市立総合体育館 町田市南成瀬5-1235.5359736,139.4770061
八王子市April 21, 2018東京都 エスフォルタアリーナ八王子 八王子市狭間町1453-135.6397614,139.2903041
青梅市April 22, 2018東京都 青梅市立総合体育館 青梅市河辺町4丁目16-135.7807013,139.2821679
取手市April 24, 2018茨城県 取手グリーンスポーツセンター 取手市野々井1299番地35.9191301,140.024319
笠間市April 25, 2018茨城県 笠間市民体育館 笠間市石井2068-136.3853014,140.2442122
越谷市April 27, 2018埼玉県 越谷市総合体育館 越谷市増林2丁目3335.9026965,139.8114681

Haru Wrap-up and Predictions for Natsu

The Haru basho is in the books, and while the final day was filled with exciting bouts, the results did not make it easy on your humble prognosticator. Both the Sanyaku picture and the Makuuchi/Juryo exchange scenarios are quite muddy.

The Sanyaku

In the upper ranks, Kakuryu has solidified his standing as Yokozuna 1e with his fourth yusho. We hope that he is even more recovered from his injuries for Natsu, and that he is joined by at least one if not both of the other Yokozuna. Reports say that Hakuho is participating in the spring jungyo and that his toes are much improved. No word on Kisenosato. Both Ozeki got their kachi-koshi and so don’t have to worry about their rank in Natsu. There’s some talk about Takayasu being on a Yokozuna run with consecutive 12-3 jun-yusho, but I don’t buy it.

The Sekiwake ranks are also clear. After today’s bout between the two, Tochinoshin will move over to the S1e slot vacated by Mitakeumi, while Ichinojo will take over Tochinoshin’s current slot. With his 10-5 record following his 14-1 yusho at Hatsu, Tochinoshin is now on a legitimate Ozeki run, and will need at least ten wins at Natsu to claim sumo’s second-highest rank.

Komusubi is where things get complicated. There are four rikishi who each deserve to hold one of the two slots: Sekiwake Mitakeumi (7-8), M1e Endo and M1w Tamawashi, both 9-6, and M6 Kaisei, 12-3. In recent years, a 7-8 record at Sekiwake has guaranteed a demotion to no lower than Komusubi. An M1e with a 9-6 record has never missed out on promotion, and neither has an M6 with a 12-3 record (although there are fewer instances of the latter). An M1w with a 9-6 record missed out once—none other than Tochinoshin after the 2015 Natsu basho, under similar circumstances. I think this will play out as Endo making his Sanyaku debut at K1e, Mitakeumi falling to K1w (although they could easily switch sides), Tamawashi getting a hard-luck minimal promotion to M1e, and Kaisei rising to M1w. Tamawashi can’t jump over Endo with the same record, and none of the records are strong enough to force the creation of an extra Komusubi slot. It’s possible, but seems highly unlikely, that Kaisei would get the Komusubi slot over Endo.

The New Joi

Apart from the two strong M1 performances, the upper maegashira ranks returned to being the meat grinder, with only Shohozan earning a winning record. This should elevate him to M2, where he will be joined by Abi, who more than held his own at M7 in his second ever top-division tournament. Beyond that, it’s hard to find worthy candidates for the M3-M5 ranks. Daieisho and Yutakayama will be making big moves up the banzuke into the joi-jin, with Daieisho likely equaling and Yutakayama far exceeding their previous highest ranks. Chiyoshoma and Ikioi are the other candidates to move up into this range, while Shodai, Kotoshogiku, Chiyotairyu, and Takarafuji have claims to having their demotions not drop them below M5.

The Bottom of the Banzuke

Hanging on to spots in the M13-M17 range, and fighting again for survival at Natsu: Ishiura, Tochiozan, Aoiyama. Definitely demoted to Juryo: Hidenoumi, Kotoyuki, Sokokurai, Nishikigi (whose luck has finally run out after 5 basho in Makuuchi, always ranked M13 or lower, and never performing better than 8-7). The spots vacated by this quartet will be taken by Sadanoumi, Takekaze, Kyokutaisei, and Aminishiki. Yes, Uncle Sumo is back, and joined by the other elder statesman, Takekaze, both returning after one-tournament visits to Juryo. Sadanoumi returns after 3 basho away, and does it in style as the Juryo champ, while Kyokutaisei makes his long-awaited Makuuchi debut after narrowly missing promotion last time.

There are two other rikishi whose records would normally get them demoted. One is Myogiryu, who struggled to a 6-9 record at M15w and lost to two Juryo rikishi, including Aminishiki on senshuraku. The other is Onosho, who was kyujo (0-0-15) at M5w, which has always resulted in demotion since the kosho seido system was abolished. However, there’s a dearth of additional promotion candidates in Juryo. With several contenders near the top of the Juryo banzuke dropping to 7-8 on the last day, you’d have to reach all the way down to J8 Kotoeko (10-5) or way over-promote J5 Gagamaru (8-7), so Myogiryu and Onosho might dodge the bullet.

Haru Final Day Highlights

Kakuryu Yusho.Parade

You might not know it by watching the matches today, but it was the final day of the Haru basho. Across the torikumi, everyone was fighting with some of their best sumo of the tournament. It was one of those days where it will be a good idea to seek out Jason’s All Sumo Channel or Kintamayama on YouTube to see all the bouts, and not just the highlights from NHK.

Highlight Matches

Aminishiki defeats Myogiryu – It’s kind of magical to me that we may see Uncle Sumo back in the top division yet again for Natsu. This guy should be an inspiration to everyone to stick to their dreams and keep working. Good things happen for those who refuse to give up. The match starts with a henka-matta, so Uncle Sumo needs to re-set and goes for a simple hatakikomi.

Daiamami defeats Yutakayama – Daiamami gets to double digits, but Yutakayama really made him earn it. A close-quarters thrusting match in which both men stayed low and kept applying the pressure. Daiamami closed the deal when he finally got inside on Yutakayama and drove forward.

Chiyonokuni defeats Hidenoumi – Chiyonokuni reminds us that he is a real battle machine with his energetic win over Hidenoumi. He finishes make-koshi, and we have to wonder what it will take for him to get his sumo to the next level.

Chiyoshoma defeats Nishikigi – Chiyoshoma’s leaping henka results in an airborne uwatenage. Go watch it! It’s amazingly acrobatic.

Ryuden defeats Asanoyama – Ryuden secures kachi-koshi on the final day. Asanoyama took him to his chest out of the tachiai, and from there it was a struggle. Multiple times Asanoyama went to throw Ryuden, but Ryuden somehow found a way to block the uwatenage. Great, great sumo from both.

Okinoumi defeats Aoiyama – After a strong start to the basho, Aoiyama faded down the stretch. Part of this may have been from the fact that he started facing much higher ranked rikishi, and some of it may be some unreported injury or just plain exhaustion.

Kagayaki defeats Ishiura – Ishiura tries a straight ahead fight, and can’t find a way to blunt Kagayaki’s forward drive. Ishiura seems to have forgotten some of his sumo from a year or two ago, or maybe his opponents are just much bigger / tougher now.

Abi defeats Daishomaru – A leaping hatakikomi at the edge gives Abi the win after a monoii. Impressive ring sense there! For his second tournament in a row, Abi is able to rack up double digit wins.

Kaisei defeats Ikioi – Sadly Ikioi could not pick up the special prize, but he has nothing to apologize for this basho. Even with a bandaged head, he met Kaisei with vigor and strength. But there is a lot of Kaisei to move, and even for Ikioi, it was a tall order. Ikioi has been progressively more injured each day of the basho, so I hope he goes and heals up.

Daieisho defeats Shodai – Even though he is make-koshi, Shodai seems to have found his sumo. Daieisho knew when to put him off balance and send him across the tawara. I do hope that Shodai can focus on returning in this form for the start of Natsu. He still has massive potential if he can get his sumo under control.

Kotoshogiku defeats Hokutofuji – Both men are deeply make-koshi, but you would never know it from watching their bout. This was one of the better matches of an already awesome day. The two men were chest to chest for most of the match, but neither seemed to be able to employ their favorite sumo attacks for more than a moment. In the end, it was Kotoshogiku who set up his hip-pump attack and ended the match.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoyuki – Is anyone surprised? Kotoyuki ends the the basho with a single win.

Yoshikaze defeats Arawashi – Arawashi needs to go heal. Yoshikaze finishes 7-8.

Tamawashi defeats Chiyomaru – Tamawashi is likely back in San’yaku for May, and will try again to muscle his way to his preferred Sekiwake position. Chiyomaru, meanwhile, is headed for the buffet table.

Shohozan defeats Endo – It takes a powerful tachiai from Shohozan and a couple of quick thrusts to put Endo the Golden back and out. Shohozan is kachi-koshi on the final day, after an alarming cold streak starting on day 6.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tochiozan – This looked like a Tochiozan win, and the gyoji gave the gumbai to Tochiozan, but then the sideburns of Chiyotairyu called out to the spiritual world, and the shimpan rose to their feet in abeyance. The monoii did not so much give the match to Chiyotairyu, but more to his sideburns. What did we learn here? Chiyotairyu must never remove his sideburns again. Whispered legends say that the kami that inhabits them is the same that gave Takamiyama his might, and they will only live in the facial hair of one who is worthy. [What. –PinkMawashi]

Tochinoshin defeats Ichinojo – Two enormously powerful rikishi test each other’s strength. After Ichinojo decided to lift Tochinoshin, he decided he was done playing and dialed his muscles to “Hulk” mode, finishing the boulder. With his 10-5 record, Tochinoshin has started an Ozeki campaign. Protect that knee, sir!

Mitakeumi defeats Goeido – Mitakeumi seems to have given Goeido 1.5.1 a solid match, and dropped the Osaka favorite on his backside in the middle of the ring. His sumo against both Ozeki has been great to watch. Maybe he is on the cusp of elevating his technique after all?

Takayasu defeats Kakuryu – The initial call by the gyoji went to Kakuryu, and it looked like Takayasu may have injured his right leg and maybe even re-damaged his right thigh. But just before they hand Kakuryu the kensho diorama of Osaka-jo, the shimpan decide it’s time to review it. The replays show Kakuryu’s heel touching out, so it’s torinaoshi time, with Takayasu limping. This time, Takayasu centers the Yokozuna and drives forward with his considerable strength. Kakuryu can’t plant his feet to defend, bringing the match and the basho to an exciting end as it’s Takayasu who hoists the kensho fort from the gyoji’s gumbai.

2018 Haru Special Prizes Announced

Kaisei

With the 2018 Haru Basho set to wrap up in a few short hours, the sansho selection committee has convened and announced the recipients of the special prizes this March.

Following another impressive showing this Basho, Tochinoshin has received his second consecutive Shuken-sho for Outstanding performance. Fellow Gaijin rikishi Kaisei will take home the fighting spirit Kanto-sho for his remarkable tournament, that saw him go undefeated until Day 9. Kaisei’s Day 15 opponent, Ikioi, will also receive the Kanto-sho if he can defeat the Brazillian tomorrow.

Finally, Endo, who with 9 wins coming into Senshuraku looks poised to join the San’yaku for the first time in his career come May, is the recipient of the Gino-sho technique prize.

Update: With his loss today, Ikioi has failed to qualify for his Kanto-sho special prize.

Haru Day 15 Preview

Macaroon
Time To Hoist The Giant Macaron of Victory And Call It a Basho!

And so we come to the close of a most enjoyable tournament. It ends with a satisfying result, and with the Sekitori corps advancing well along the path. The Tadpole league took a body blow, with Onosho not starting, Takakeisho going kyujo, and Mitakeumi ending up make-koshi. The veterans had much to celebrate, with Ikioi and Kaisei racking up double digit wins, Endo clearly on the mend, and Tochinoshin still potent. The Freshmen are finding their footing now, and I expect some great challenges by the time we get to kyushu, with the first of that cohort looking to enter san’yaku for their introductory make-koshi.

The match preview is brief on this final day, as most questions have already been settled, but I am sure there will be some good sumo for all the fans.

Haru Leaderboard

Yokozuna Kakuryu Wins the Haru Yusho!

What We Are Watching Day 15

Aminishiki vs Myogiryu – The mind boggles! Uncle Sumo, who if he wins is kachi-koshi, and possibly headed back to Makuuchi for Natsu, faces off against Myogiryu, who is already make-koshi and probably headed to Juryo. Go Uncle Sumo!

Daiamami vs Yutakayama – I think it would be fun if Daiamami ended up with 10 wins, but he’s going up against a very genki Yutakayama. It’s a tough climb, but I think Daiamami has a good chance.

Asanoyama vs Ryuden – You would think that the Maegashira 9 Ryuden would be favored to pick up his final win, and his kachi-koshi, over a Maegashira 13 opponent. But Ryuden has never won against Asanoyama.

Kagayaki vs Ishiura – Can Ishiura henka another win? He just needs one. Kagayaki, can you spare a white star for a brother rikishi?

Abi vs Daishomaru – This battle of the 9-5 Freshmen has a lot of potential for good sumo. Its a challenge for Daishomaru to get inside Abi’s enormous reach, but it will be easiest at the tachiai.

Kaisei vs Ikioi – Both men 11-3, both of them must be genuinely proud of their performance this tournament. This match will probably decide a special prize, and a slice of the jun-yusho. Well deserved, both!

Daieisho vs Shodai – Tough to think that with all of the energetic beatings Shodai has suffered this basho that he still has a chance at kachi-koshi. I have a soft spot in my heart for the guy, and I do hope he picks up his win here.

Kotoyuki vs Takarafuji – Both men in the 10+ loss club. Maybe they should just spread out a checkered square of cloth between the shikiri-sen, and enjoy rice-balls and sake instead.

Endo vs Shohozan – Shohozan wants that 8th win, and he’s going to really have to work for it. Endo is kachi-koshi, but he’s keen for 10 wins at his highest ever rank, giving him a firm launch into San’yaku. Endo leads the series 5-2.

Ichinojo vs Tochinoshin – This has a lot of potential. As we say from Hatsu, Tochinoshin can actually lift Ichinojo, so what will the Boulder do? Who would not love to see an Ichinojo henka? It would be like seeing Mt. St.Helens sing opera.

Mitakeumi vs Goeido – History favors Goeido, but Mitakeumi showed some real painful sumo to Takayasu on Saturday. Hopefully Mitakeumi knows that Goeido is going to come out hard, fast and low.

Kakuryu vs Takayasu – Both of these guys are very chaotic in their sumo. I would expect Kakuryu to allow Takayasu to take the lead until he over-comits, and then it’s time for an Osaka clay norimaki.

Haru State of Play Day 14 Update

The Yusho Race

This is settled. Congratulations to Yokozuna Kakuryu.

At least a share of the jun-yusho will go to the winner of tomorrow’s bout between Kaisei and Ikioi, both 11-3. Presumably at least the winner, and possibly both, will also get a special prize? The winner could be joined by Ozeki Takayasu if he can defeat the just-crowned champion in the final bout on senshuraku.

The Sanyaku

Mitakeumi battled valiantly today but came out on the losing side, dropping to 6-8 and relinquishing his Sekiwake rank. Hello, Sekiwake Ichinojo! Tomorrow, Mitakeumi will try to cushion his fall against Goeido. A win, and he drops to Komusubi. A loss, and he’s out of sanyaku altogether for the first time in seven tournaments.

Current (and future) Sekiwake Tochinoshin battles future Sekiwake Ichinojo tomorrow. Tochinoshin leads the career series 10-5, but it’s been very even recently. Both looked in good form today, and while the matchup is always one to look forward to, a double-digit win total is also on the line, as both men’s records stand at 9-5. For Tochinoshin, reaching double-digits would put him in a good position for promotion to Ozeki with a strong performance at Natsu. Ichinojo could get an Ozeki run of his own going with a third straight 10-win tournament. One final wrinkle: I’m not sure if a win by Ichinojo might jump him over Tochinoshin to the East side.

It seems like Endo’s 9th win today may have clinched his long-awaited promotion to the open Komusubi slot, though I’m not absolutely sure a 9-6 record at M1 beats a 12-3 record at M6 should Endo lose and Kaisei win tomorrow. Endo can make sure by beating Shohozan and reaching double-digits. The other Komusubi slot comes down to Mitakeumi (who would lock it up with a win), Kaisei, and Tamawashi, who takes on Chiyomaru.

Special Prizes

These seem a little unpredictable. Does Tochinoshin get one for being the only one to get dirt on the yusho-winning Yokozuna? Kaisei, Ikioi, and Yutakayama would seem to have a claim with double-digit-win performances, and Daiamami and the winner of AbiDaishomaru have a chance to join them.

The Demotion Zone

Today’s victory takes Tochiozan to safety. Myogiryu won today, but to stay out of Juryo, he must win again tomorrow against none other than Aminishiki, who remarkably has a chance at a top-division return with a victory. Nishikigi may or may not be able to save himself with a win, and his chances don’t look great against Chiyoshoma, who has looked much better and whom Nishikigi has yet to defeat in 4 attempts.

The three definite demotions are Sokokurai, Kotoyuki, and Hidenoumi. (Onosho’s fate is unclear, though a 0-0-15 record at M5 or lower usually leads to demotion.) The three definite promotions are Sadanoumi, Kyokutaisei, and Takekaze. Five or six additional men in Juryo have a shot with a win tomorrow.

Haru Day 14 Highlights

Goeido - Kakuryu

As much as I hate to do this, I am putting a buffer up for people who cry about “spoilers” in a live sport they watch on delay. Some great sumo, especially from Mitakeumi and Ryuden today. Sadly for Mitakeumi, he’s dropping from his Sekiwake slot. It remains to be seen if he drops from san’yaku completely, but he really put forth excellent sumo in today’s match.

But the headline is Yokozuna Kakuryu’s 4th yusho. He earned it in spite of injuries and pain. He mounted the dohyo every day and battled with skill, guile and strength. He has been excellent in all of his matches, and thus far only dropping one match. As his only loss was to the prior yusho winner, there is no shame in that at all. With any luck, his detractors will be silent for a year or so. With Kisenosato possibly un-repairable, and Hakuho amazing but unreliable, Yokozuna Kakuryu may be the only rope-holder to oversee our dawning transitional era.

Highlight Matches

Kyokushuho defeats Nishikigi – Juryo visitor Kyokushuho is still one win shy of his kachi-koshi, but he was in good form over the struggling Nishiki, who is himself headed back to the Junior League for May.

Ikioi defeats Ishiura – Ikioi mounts the dohyo with a giant bandage over his right eye, looking like Franken-Ikioi. Does the crowd care? Hell no! It’s the home-town dashing and handsome rikishi, even if parts of him are taped together. Ishiura, to his credit, tried to give him a straight up fight, but Ikioi moved forward strongly, and kept Ishiura in front of him. [Ikioi is now an amazing 11-3 and will hopefully take home a special prize. –PinkMawashi]

Daiamami defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki charged forward strongly, and actually looked like he would deliver his second win of the basho. He had Daiamami pinned against the tawara, but then somehow just ran out of gas as Daiamami charged forward and won. I am unsure what kind of misery Kotoyuki suffers, but he seems to be fairly hopeless at this point.

Yutakayama defeats Asanoyama – Yutakayama certainly looks dialed in now, hitting his 10th win with one day to go. He completely dominated Asanoyama in today’s match.

Chiyoshoma defeats Aoiyama – The formula for winning over Aoiyama is to keep moving and get him to chase you. Chiyoshoma had this one down cold, and eventually the man-mountian had Chiyoshoma grab his arm and pull a throw. Chiyoshoma picks up his kachi-koshi, which was well earned today.

Daieisho defeats Chiyonokuni – Some impressive defense from Chiyonokuni, as Daiesho delivered some powerful nodowa at the edge. Chiyonokuni ends the match with a make-koshi, and Daiesho with his kachi-koshi.

Kaisei defeats Daishomaru – It can be fun to watch big-man sumo like this. Daishomaru gets bold at the tachiai and charges face first into the giant meat balloon that is Kaisei, and lands with a wet smack. With his face still embedded in Kaisei’s expansive upper torso, the giant Brazillian goes for an westward stroll, taking the now trapped and helpless Daishomaru along for the win. We can expect a big move up the banzuke for Kaisei in May.

Abi defeats Kotoshogiku – Abi’s henka is perfectly timed, and defeats Kotoshogiku’s only possible attack. But wait! (you say) – Bruce, you complain about Ishiura’s henkas! Yes, it gets old fast when a rikishi uses that as their go-to weapon. But in this case, it’s the correct way to blunt Kotoshogiku’s obligatory offensive opening. Well executed and correctly deployed. Abi goes to 9 wins.

Ryuden defeats Arawashi – Good gravy what a match this one is! The men lock up into a battle for grip at the tachiai, with Arawashi pinning Ryuden’s arms time and again. But Arawashi has control and works with what he has, backing Ryuden up to the bales strongly enough that Ryuden’s heels are dangerously close to being out. But Ryuden recovers! Arawashi advances strongly again, a second time Ryuden is a centimeter from being out, but rallies to the center of the dohyo. Stalemated, Arawashi is out of energy, and Ryuden backs him up and out. Excellent sumo from them both. Miraculously, Ryuden can still achieve his kachi-koshi.

Takarafuji defeats Kagayaki – Straightforward match at first, Takarafuji gets the gumbai, but then the shimpan want to talk it over, fairly late in the post-bout ritual. The judges decide on a torinaoshi, which Takarafuji wins by letting Kagayaki fall to the dohyo.

Endo defeats Hokutofuji – Endo now with 9 wins after this bout with a struggling Hokutofuji. The match featured Endo and Hokutofuji trading attempts to slap or thrust each other down, with Endo’s superior ring sense helping him time his third attempt to be at the edge, where Hokutofuji had no room to recover. Endo is headed to San’yaku for May, and the valiant Hokutofuji is make-koshi and desperately needing to re-group.

Tamawashi defeats Shohozan – As expected, it was energetic! Both men were landing a lot of powerful blows on each others neck and head, grabbing each other’s arms and generally carrying on in an aggressive sumo fashion. Shohozan seemed to have the advantage, setting the pace and moving forward while Tamawashi kept giving ground. The win came at the tawara when Tamawashi twisted to his right, guiding Shohozan down and out.

Ichinojo defeats Shodai – The super genki Shodai was not able to show up today, but he did a reasonable job against the man that NHK commentator Hiro Morita calls “The Mongolian Behemoth”. Fans started to worry that Ichinojo had re-injured his back due to his soft performance the day prior, but he was large and in charge today, getting Shodai airborne for the win.

Yoshikaze defeats Chiyotairyu – I am very pleased to see Yoshikaze fighting well again. I had some serious worries during week 1. Chiyotairyu opened strong, pushing Yoshikaze back, but then they go chest to chest, and Yoshikaze starts to control the match. He did a great job of keeping the massive Chiyotairyu high and unable to generate forward pressure.

Tochinoshin defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru left the dohyo today not only without a hope of kachi-koshi, but also without Tochinoshin’s meaty left leg, which he had planned as a victory snack. Tochinoshin still has an outside hope of continuing his Ozeki bid by winning his match against Ichinojo tomorrow.

Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – Possibly Mitakeumi’s best match of the basho [Possibly the best match of the basho, period –PM], and sadly it gave him his demotion from the Sekiwake slot he has enjoyed for many tournaments. If this is not a wake-up call to Takayasu, I am not sure what is. Mitakeumi had him contained, restrained and for a time, in pain. All the Ozeki could do was react to the next contortion Mitakeumi placed him into and struggle to escape. Even when Takayasu managed to escape Mitakeumi, the Sekiwake re-secured control and kept the punishment coming. But Mitakeumi got too eager, ended up off balance and thrust down. The difference between Sekiwake Mitakeumi and Maegashira Mitakeumi is the ability to finish Pooh-Bear off when you have him at your mercy. [Mitakeumi’s match against Goeido tomorrow may determine whether he falls to Komusubi or Maegashira, so we’ll all be watching that one closely. –PM]

Kakuryu defeats Goeido – You have to wonder if Kakuryu is THE master of reactive sumo. Goeido must know that somewhere in his poorly formatted flash drive. Why do you advance strongly into the guy you KNOW is going to make you pay if your weight is not centered over the arches of your feet? Herouth tells us from inside EDION that she may have been the only soul cheering for the Yokozuna in the Ozeki’s home-town. But Kakuryu shows us that he is every bit a Yokozuna, and takes his fourth yusho.

Haru Day 14 Preview

Chiyomaru
If I win, yes, that big meaty leg is mine!

It is with great celebration that we welcome the final weekend of the Haru basho. It’s been fun and exciting for fans around the world, and it’s been our pleasure to have been along for the ride. Yokozuna Kakuryu has one job to do – if he wins just one of his two remaining matches, he claims his fourth yusho. But to accomplish that, he needs to beat either Ozeki Goeido or Ozeki Takayasu. Can he do it? I think he will. Kakuryu has looked better this basho than in any I can remember in recent years, and it’s possible that if he has his medical problems solved, he may be the one the Kyokai depends on for a time. I expect that Hakuho is going to pace himself, and Kisenosato may be a lost cause.

What has really surprised me about this tournament is that no rikishi were able to take advantage of the open promotion lane. The expected candidates (Mitakeumi, Ichinojo, and Tochinoshin) could not muster the endurance and strength to maintain the performance needed over the first 13 days. Should Hakuho return genki and well, it could be months before we see another basho with a single, somewhat damaged Yokozuna holding court.

Even more puzzling is that Ozeki Takayasu did not exploit this opportunity to push for his first Yusho. His sumo has become somewhat chaotic and uncontrolled, and I think it’s really kept him from the next step forward in performance that it would take for him to make a bid to be Yokozuna.

Haru Leaderboard

Leader: Kakuryu
Hunt Group: Takayasu, Kaisei, Ikioi

2 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 14

Ishiura vs Ikioi – I am hoping that the slippery Ishiura receives some brawny sumo training from hometown favorite Ikioi on day 14. Ishiura is still pushing for kachi-koshi, but I think a good rough defeat would be instructive. Double points to Ikioi if he catches Ishiura doing a henka and makes him regret it.

Daiamami vs Kotoyuki – As a sumo fan, I wonder what is going on with Kotokuki. The guy has 12 losses going into day 14. I get that he is hurt, but why not go kyujo at that point? You could at least take a chance to heal. But Daiamami has a chance to get 9 or 10 wins, and I don’t think Kotoyuki is going to be taking this one.

Asanoyama vs Yutakayama – Another yama battle, this one between two of the bright and hopeful Freshmen, who are both already kachi-koshi, so this is to see who gets closer to the joi, and chance to be beaten to a pulp during May’s Natsu basho.

Chiyoshoma vs Aoiyama – As much as Chiyoshoma dearly wants to pick up his kachi-koshi today, Aoiyama still seems to have a lot of aggression to work out of that massive body. Where he seems to get into trouble is chasing after his opponents and getting maneuvered into tight spots. Word to the man-mountain, let the little Mongolian fellow come to you!

Chiyonokuni vs Daieisho – Chiyonokuni seems frustrated, as frustrated as only a grumpy badger can ever be. He’s all the way down at Maegashira 10, but he’s still getting used as a washcloth daily. He’s one loss away from make-koshi, but I think with his back against the wall like this, he may find the fortitude to win. Daieisho needs one more win to move to mid-Maegashira for Natsu, so he’s eager to go. Chiyonokuni holds a 4-1 career advantage.

Kotoshogiku vs Abi – Sure, why not? Abi is like some sumo doll with slinkies for joints going against the aging and poorly maintained Kyushu bulldozer. If Kotoshogiku can keep Abi in front of him (no easy task), it’s all bumppity-bumppity bump. But Ojisan Kotoshogiku can be out-maneuvered many times.

Arawashi vs Ryuden – Ryuden needs to win both his remaining bouts to get a kachi-koshi. He is not quite the powerhouse he was at Hatsu, but he has turned in a fairly solid basho. Arawashi has a ton of battle damage and either needs to be dry docked or turned into an artificial reef.

Kagayaki vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji: The hardest working double-digit-loss rikishi in all of sumo-dom. His case is truly one for the epic bards of Iceland. Kagayaki’s about right at Maegashira 8 for his sumo right now, so he’s not a lock to get his 7th win today.

Endo vs Hokutofuji – Future and long anticipated san’yaku rikishi Endo is going to be seeing if he can run up the score. Hokutofuji gave fading Mitakeumi an energetic scrum today, and seems to have recovered some of his sumo. I like the chances for this bout being full of well executed technique, with swooning grandmothers and cheering salarymen.

Shohozan vs Tamawashi – Winner kachi-koshi. Both of them like to beat victory out of their opponents, with Shohozan being more of a “low-rider” model. Tamawashi looked lost in his day 13 match against a degraded Yoshikaze. Hopefully Tamawashi is not injured.

Ichinojo vs Shodai – I would love to tell you that our Boulder is going to pick up the soft and squishy Shodai like a plush toy, stick his enormous thumb in his mouth and waddle back to the shitaku-beya for a long cuddle and some ice cream with his favorite pony. But someone turned Shodai from stink bug to holy hell. God only knows how this one is going to turn out, as Shodai wants one more shiroboshi.

Yoshikaze vs Chiyotairyu – Did I see a flash of the Berserker day 13? Was that the spirit of some blazing warrior of old that overwhelmed Tamawashi “the Jackhammer”? Dare I hope that he is getting over whatever problems plagued his first week? Or will the kami-infused sideburns of might power Chiyotairyu to victory in the name of a dozen empty, stacked soba bowls left on the counter of Ryogoku Bandai at midnight?

Chiyomaru vs Tochinoshin – Ever since he was accused of cooking and eating Ura in a quest for more calories, Chiyomaru has had his eye on Tochinoshin’s uninjured leg. At long last the hungry man will face the Hatsu Yusho winner in single combat, winner eat all. Sadly for Chiyomaru, he’s never beaten Tochinoshin, so his only hope is to show up hungry.

Takayasu vs Mitakeumi – Hey, Takayasu Pooh-Bear. Your senpai was a fan of jun-yushos, and it was kind of sad. I know you think the sun shines out of his mawashi’s rear flap, but it’s no way to go through life, son. This was your chance to hoist the hardware and rack a portrait. Mitakeumi, time for you to regroup and think about why you want to be Sekiwake. Sure, the chicks dig a san’yaku man, but either get to some double digits like your opponent did, or go practice you Chanko recipe for later.

Kakuryu vs Goeido – Easily today’s most calamitous bout, no one at Tachiai central is certain who is going pull whom down how many times. There is a non-zero chance that we may see a startup fault in GoeiDOS and he ends up in “Bouncy Castle” mode again. Meanwhile Kakuryu needs to avoid both the henka and the cannonball charge from Goeido. Big K is convinced he is Mr. Genki now, but Goeido can not only win this one, but the risk of injury to the lone surviving Yokozuna is very real. Loss + Kyujo would cause a ruckus in the sumo world unlike any seen in many years.

Day 13 – Highlights and a Look at Effective Hatakikomi

Apologies for the Day 13 update coming so late. As Leonid mentioned the yusho race is pretty well locked up now heading into the final weekend. Kaisei’s big day against the yokozuna was a bit of a dud as Kakuryu won by backing up. If anyone has a hope of challenging at this point, it’s probably Takayasu if the stars align on Sunday, though he’s probably gunning for a jun-yusho. Today, he went head-to-head with fellow Ozeki Goeido in a lesson on how to pull effectively. When Goeido landed on his belly, accelerated into the ground by Takayasu shoving his head, Takayasu was headed out but clearly still had his left foot in. In fact, he had his hand on Goeido’s head while Goeido was still standing on his side of the dohyo. He wasn’t going to leave this to chance.

Now, let’s go into a bit of a time warp and back up to the bottom of the banzuke. Myogiryu is fighting to stay in Makuuchi and today took out his frustrations on poor Meisei, visiting from Juryo. I think this was the best sumo I’ve seen from Myogiryu this week. Nishikigi, on the other hand, offered token resistance, doing his best blocking sled impression as Kotoyuki walked him out of the ring. Ishiura took a knee, handing Daiamami his kachi-koshi.

Yutakayama surprised Aoiyama and the rest of the stadium with a valiant win. He had Aoiyama on the ropes but the man-mountain came charging back…a wee bit over-zealous? Yutakayama by yorikiri. Ikioi will earn a special prize this tournament and I will not be surprised if he wins 12. He’s got Ishiura tomorrow and hopefully will know well enough to do his best Shodai impression at the tachiai. Today, he took out Chiyonokuni in a brief slugfest. It seemed like at the end Chiyonokuni tried to pull but ran out of room. The fact is, this match was all about hatakikomi. There were about 4 or 5 attempts at different points. However, why try when your feet are ON THE TAWARA? You’ve got nowhere to go! Takayasu’s was still close and he started a full 6-7 feet forward. Pull when you’re on the other guy’s realestate.

If you want to see a beautiful uwatenage, Chiyoshoma’s today versus Daishomaru was a great example. Chiyoshoma got hold of Daishomaru’s belt, spun him like the Tazmanian Devil, and dropped him on his butt. Beautiful. Asanoyama picked up his kachi-koshi in another hard fought bout versus Okinoumi. Great example of shitatenage, the lower arm throw, a cousin of the upper arm throw. The difference is in the position of the arm over or under the opponent’s arm. In this case, Asanoyama’s arm was in tight against Okinoumi, with Okinoumi’s arm outside. Chiyonouma had his arm on the outside of Daishomaru’s arm.

Backing up, Ryuden did his best Kotoshogiku impression, beating Hidenoumi by hug-n-chug. Giku, meanwhile, beat Daieisho by…yorikiri. Tochiozan needs to sit on a couch. Straight back, eased off the dohyo, grimacing, by Takarafuji. Kagayaki staved off make-koshi by drawing injured Arawashi. Yoshikaze got in low against Tamawashi in a show bout where Tamawashi didn’t show.

Endo got his kachi-koshi today against Chiyomaru. He tried to go in for the belt but Maru was having none of it. His tsuppari attack was relentless until Endo dodged and let Chiyomaru fall. Again, Endo did this with tons of space behind him. It was Chiyomaru against the tawara. Obviously, he’d need to get momentum going the other way, so Endo just let him. Belly-flop-otoshi.

To finish things off, Abi picked up the Ishiura bug and henka’d Chiyotairyu. Shohozan used the Ichi-No-Show brand blocking sled for a quick yorikiri. Mitakeumi saved his best sumo for Hokutofuji? OK… He’ll need more of that in the closing weekend to save his sanyaku slot. Tochinoshin will also be under the gun this weekend if he wants promotion to Ozeki. He tried the kachiage against Shodai but stayed way too high and off balance after it failed. Shodai didn’t exactly “go low” more like he kept Tochi “high” and walked him off the dohyo.

I’m looking forward to the final weekend. As Leonid’s post mentioned, there’s a lot of movement and a lot still up in the air, even though the yusho is almost set. Also, I’m eager to see where yo-yo Iki-yoi will finish.

Haru State of Play Day 13 Update

The Yusho Race

The torikumi committee’s Kaisei gambit didn’t pay off, as Kakuryu had the big Brazilian down on the dirt in a fraction of a second in a highly anticlimactic bout. In retrospect, Mitakeumi might have given the Yokozuna a bigger challenge. As it is, Kakuryu (12-1) now leads Takayasu, Kaisei, and Ikioi by 2 wins with two days to go.

Tomorrow, the Yokozuna can clinch the yusho with a victory against Goeido. Their career record (27-12) favors Kakuryu by slightly more than 2:1, and he has the big prize on the line, while Goeido is fighting for (ahem) pride, so I’d give the Yokozuna even better odds. Should he lose, and if any of the chasers win, then Kakuryu would need to beat Takayasu, against whom he’s 12-6, on senshuraku to avoid a playoff. [We at Tachiai.org are not betting against the Yokozuna. –PinkMawashi]

On Day 14, Takayasu faces Mitakeumi, who took advantage of the schedulers’ gift to break a 5-match losing streak and get an all-important 6th win, and who will be highly motivated to try to hang on to his rank, or at least a place in sanyaku. Kaisei drops back into the maegashira ranks to face Daishomaru, while Ikioi goes up against Ishiura.

The Sanyaku

Tochinoshin picked up his 5th and arguably his worst loss of the tournament today, as he was simply beaten by Shodai in a belt battle – a huge letdown after yesterday’s huge win, perhaps? He faces Chiyomaru tomorrow and likely Ichinojo on senshuraku, and needs to win both to carry a credible Ozeki run into Natsu. Ichinojo went meekly today against Shohozan, and seems satisfied with his 8 wins, which should see him at Sekiwake if Mitakeumi loses another bout.

With his win today, and losses by Kaisei and Tamawashi, Endo takes a clear lead in the race for the first open sanyaku slot. This is Endo’s first kachi-koshi in ten tries from a rank of M4 or higher, and we may finally see him break through into the named ranks. He faces Hokutofuji tomorrow, and probably Shohozan, Shodai, or Abi on senshuraku.

Remaining intra-sanyaku bouts (my predictions for Day 15):

Day 14: Takayasu vs. Mitakeumi; Kakuryu vs. Goeido

Day 15: Tochinoshin vs. Ichinojo; Goeido vs. Mitakeumi; Kakuryu vs. Takayasu

The Demotion Zone

With his win today, Daiamami earned his kachi-koshi and a place in the top division for Natsu. Tochiozan still needs a win, Nishikigi lost today and needs one or two, while Myogiryu staved off demotion with a win but still needs to win out.

Wakaichiro Loses Day 13

Texas rikishi Wakaichiro lost his final match of the Haru basho on day 13 to Fujitaisei. His final performance was 3 wins, 4 losses for a make-koshi. Chances are quite high that he will return to Jonidan for Natsu in May in Tokyo. I have noticed an interesting pattern to Wakaichiro’s performance: his Tokyo tournament performance is typically a step above what he turns in when he is on the road, so I am going to guess he will have a strong showing in May.

It’s also worth noting the rather sturdy bandage securing his right elbow, and the tape on his right knee, which may indicate an injury that limits his sumo. So we will wish him well, and eagerly wait his return to the dohyo in 6 weeks, hopefully renewed, healed up and ready to win.