Why Am I Dreading the Natsu Basho?


Like all sumo fans, I am eager for the next honbasho to get underway, yet in many respects I am apprehensive about the upcoming tournament. Many of the trends Tachiai identified early and have been dutifully covering are continuing to unfold, with both positive and negative aspects. Sure, I will be cheering as I watch day 1, but I worry Natsu is a preview for just how ugly things will be in the second half of the year.

In Yokozuna land, there is the clear indication that Kisenosato will sit out yet another basho. The man has his pride, and as Herouth mentioned a few weeks ago, there are some indications he may be preparing to announce his retirement from the sport. This is a natural result of his career ending injury sustained at the Osaka basho in 2017. If we consider things with honesty, there was never a very large chance that even with surgery that pectoral muscle would ever again support Yokozuna class sumo. Even the Great Pumpkin seems to be taking it seriously now. Why do I dread this? Once again, a segment of the sumo world (mostly in Japan) will erupt into a festival of complaints about Mongolians and other foreigners in the sport. Having lost their Japanese Yokozuna, some commentators may become insufferable.

But there’s a bright spot, right? Hatsu yusho winner Tochinoshin is moving to make his case to become Ozeki? That’s full of awesome, right? The Tochinoshin story is fantastic from a fan and from a blogger perspective. The man is a walking testament to never giving up and overcoming any obstacle. But he would be yet another foreign born rikishi at the top of the sport, further fueling the tribalist influences that sometimes are on display in sumo-fandom. He is also 30 years old with a bum knee. While It would be awesome to see the man from Georgia achieve the exalted status of “Great Barrier”, I get a sick feeling this is going towards a calamitous end.

Ok, so give the Japanese public a fresh Japanese Yokozuna and all is well, right? Sure, but then Takayasu shows that he’s banged up and probably needs to sit one out. His sumo devolved to where he was using his tachiai to ram one shoulder or upper arm into every opponent, and no one should be surprised that they are now injured. We will find out soon enough how bad it is, but don’t be surprised if Takayasu spends part or all of Natsu on the bench.

Don’t get me wrong, by the time that we are entering the final weekend, the Natsu basho will be a grand and epic arc of fantastic sumo. But as we get towards the middle of this transitional period, it can be a bit tough to watch the carnage.

Onward to Sunday!

19 thoughts on “Why Am I Dreading the Natsu Basho?

  1. I’m in full agreement with all of Bruce’s opinions. We are in for an exciting, memorable, yet, possibly, heartbreaking two weeks. Let the games begin. Are we not entertained?

  2. I am a bit scared about what might happen with Kisenosato. I would really love for him to make it back in and at least get 8 solid wins, or 9. Some good news from him would be a big relief. At the same time, I know that he might not be up for it yet, and I don’t want him charging into the Natsu basho just to end up having to retire. I would rather him take all the time he needs and come back than come back recklessly and retire. It may be though that he’ll have to retire by the end of the year, and that things are over, but I’m just hoping for the best. Kisenosato’s career has been so bittersweet.

    • Kis hasn’t shown any indication that he can return to form. None. He’s simply not that guy anymore. I love him but I’m assuming he’s done. Eight or nine wins seem absolutely impossible. Hope I’m wrong.

    • 8 or 9 wins arent considered enough for a Yokozuna. This is why they pull out of tournaments once theyve lost 3-4 times.
      10 is the bare minimum, which is allowed for a couple of Basho. Then, at that rank, you are expected to be able to fight for the Yusho (which means 12+ wins).

      • Yeah, I agree that double digits wins are what is needed here, but I could envision a scenario where Kis has a stellar opening week and wins 6 of the first 7 and then falters against better completion in the second week. He would complete the tourney with 8 or 9 wins. But that’s obviously, best possible scenario at this point. And might not be good enough to keep his career afloat.

      • Harumafuji and Kakuryu both had multiple tournaments with 9-6 records at the rank of Yokozuna, and while it wasn’t the best, JSA didn’t force them to retire from it. I think that Kisenosato getting a 9-6 would be good news for fans and himself that he can at least win. Maybe if he could work off that and if it gave him the confidence that he needs to recover “fully”

        • You are right, but directly after several Yusho or Jun-Yusho. In Kisenosato´s case it wouldn´t be enough.

  3. The tragedy for Kisenosato is that this injury has robbed him of what should have been the peak of his career, with his two yushho wins signalling he would be Hakuho’s main rival for some time.

    I’m really excited about the prospect of a Tochinoshin ozeki run. It may all end with an injury but that could have happened if he remained at maegashira. It’s going to be fun while it lasts!

    The point around the lack of local love for non Japanese rikishi is interesting. Inevitably there will be a patriotic desire for home born rikishi to succeed. However sumo is unique in the way the foreign born participants speak the language perfectly (as far as I can tell!) and adopt the customs and traditions of the sport and of Japanese society. To all intents and purposes the foreign rikishi have become Japanese. But if course that is not a widely recognised concept in Japan.

    Regardless of the desire for a Japanese Yokozuna, I don’t think Takayasu has demonstrated he is going to be the answer. I really hope he doesn’t get promoted out of desperation as that would do the integrity of the sport a massive disservice.

  4. Sumo seems in good health from attendance point of view in Osaka. Maybe we’ll get another Wacky Aki!

  5. Takayasu is born-and-raised Japanese, has a fully-Japanese parent, but he doesn’t “look” Japanese. The first time I laid eyes on him, I actually thought he was another foreign-born wrestler, Fillipino. I wonder if the fact that he still “looks” non-Japanese will “count” as far as the Japanese fans are concerned. Will they still see it as a “foreigner” winning a yusho? I have no idea what it’s like to be biracial in Japan, I admit.

    I want to see Tochinoshin do well, but I’d rather see him stay in the sport longer, even if that doesn’t mean being able to push as hard as an Ozeki run might require. Same for Takayasu gunning for Yokuzuna. I was afraid almost as soon as I saw how long it took Kis to get up in March of last year that that injury was going to be career-ending, and that was the first basho I’d ever watched, so it didn’t really take a trained eye to see…

    On a totally unrelated note, what in the world got the face out of Kis that we see at the top of this post? XD He’s not a huge facial-expression guy, at least in NHK World’s highlight reels… That’s kind of the face I made when I realized in January that Tochinoshin might just win it all =-p

    • Janet, I’ve seen that look from him before. When the wrestlers are doing their pre-match ritual, I’ve seen him staring at his opponent with that ”wide-eyed look” on his face. I always enjoy it. I have no idea if it means anything at all.

  6. Hey, cheer up! Endo is finally making his San’yaku debut, Mitakeumi might bounce back, and the kids are all right: Abi, Daieisho, Yutakayama are all in the joi, and at their career high ranks. Plus it sounds like we might get a very genki Sekiwake/Boulder Ichinojo.

    • It’s going to be interesting to see just how genki Ichinojo is this time. He fell away a bit last basho despite doing enough for his promotion.

      Also going to be interesting seeing Onosho wipe the floor with the juryo boys!

  7. On the plus side… for the first time in 2018 it’s Hakuho time. That’s always a good thing :)

  8. I am suddenly no longer dreading this tournament! My fears are when guys compete at a diminished capacity. With Takayasu and Kisenosato announcing their kyujos early, I’m suddenly much more genki for this one!

  9. Looking forward no matter what. Just forked over $25.00 per month for TV Japan. Now it’s 2 AM or bust for the next fortnight. Cheers.

  10. Rooting hard for genki Ichinojo and one-fervently-hopes-genki Tochinoshin (please, sir, keep that knee taped up properly!), but heartsick re Kisenosato. I really do feel like this is it for him, to the detriment of this basho. (The highlight of a basho’s yokozuna matches should not be “oh, excellent, Hakuho refrained from tsuppari at the tachiai today,” but it feels like that’s how it’s going to be.) And come throooough tadpoles!!!


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