Natsu Recap Heading Into Final Week


Eight days of the Natsu basho are in the books; seven days remain. We’ve seen a lot of exciting sumo, and more is in store, as almost everything is still in play. Only Ozeki hopeful Tochinoshin has come through the first week unscathed, and only vastly over-promoted M3 Yutakayama (previous career-high rank: M11) has yet to record a victory, despite some valiant efforts, and should occupy a slot in more comfortable banzuke territory in Nagoya.

The Yusho Race

Each of two the active Yokozuna only has one blemish on his record, and both are very much in the yusho race at 7-1. They trail only Tochinoshin, who has yet to face Hakuho or Kakuryu. The matches among those three may well prove decisive, though there’s plenty of time left for wrenches to be thrown into the works. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the other 7-1 rikishi, M11 Chiyonokuni, isn’t really going to figure into the yusho race by the final weekend, but if he keeps winning, he can make things interesting, as can someone in the six-man 2-loss group.

The San’yaku

As Bruce noted, the Ozeki corps is in sorry shape. Injured Takayasu is absent and will be kadoban in Nagoya. The one competing Ozeki, Goeido, has lost 3 in a row and 5 of the last 6 to drop to 3-5. He can only afford two more losses if he doesn’t want to join Takayasu on “probation”, has yet to face any of the “big three”, and I wouldn’t install him as a big favorite against Ichinojo tomorrow, or Mitakeumi, or his likely remaining maegashira opponents (Shodai and Kotoshogiku?). We can only hope Tochinoshin wins the requisite number of his remaining matches (somewhere between 2 and 4) to earn promotion and shore up the depleted second-highest rank!

In lower San’yaku, Endo’s very sad injury will open up a Komusubi slot. Tochinoshin’s promotion would open up a Sekiwake slot. The other Sekiwake, Ichinojo, is 4-4, and has shown us both unstoppable sumo and his old habit of giving up with only token resistance. He needs 4 more wins to defend his rank and 3 to stay in San’yaku, and has yet to face the two Yokozuna, Goeido, or Mitakeumi. The other Komusubi, Mitakeumi, is 5-3, and if he can avoid one of his recent second-half fades, he has a good chance of moving back up to Sekiwake.

It’s way too early to predict how the upper maegashira ranks will shake out, especially with some of them already having faced all of their San’yaku opponents and others just starting to do so, but the 6-2 trio of Shodai, Kotoshogiku, and Ikioi currently has the inside track for San’yaku promotion.

The Demotion Zone

Uncle Sumo, Aminishiki, is in the worst shape at 1-7 and with no room for error at M16w. He would need to win out to stay in Makuuchi, which would take a miracle. Ishiura and Arawashi are also not looking good with their 2-6 records, although they have plenty of bouts left to improve their fortunes.

Everyone ranked M5 or higher is safe from demotion, with the exception of luckless Yutakayama, who seems certain to pick up the one win he needs in the last 7 days. Also safe after eight days are Takarafuji, Daishomaru, Chiyonokuni, Kagayaki, Yoshikaze, Chiyomaru, and Hokutofuji (who seems to be back from the dead). I will update this list as the remainder of the basho unfolds.



14 thoughts on “Natsu Recap Heading Into Final Week

  1. Excuse me if this is a dumb question, but, once the rankings come out, doesn’t each wrestler pretty much know who he is going to fight over the next 15 days? I realize he won’t know the order of the opponents but can’t Hakuho, for instance, safely assume he’ll face all the guys at the top plus the 9 or 10 top-rated rank-and-filers, and should never see a Maegashira 15 or 16? Do Yokozuna ever find themselves wrestling a very low-ranked Maegashira?

    • Doesn’t happen very often, but it can if a low-ranked guy is in yusho contention late. For example, at Aki 2007, Hakuho, already a Yokozuna, fought Goeido, then M14.

      • Thank you, I see, but there haven’t there been times recently where a lower ranked Maegashira was in contention very late in the tournament and still never was pitted against a Yokozuna at the end?

        • There are a lot of factors that go into scheduling late in the tournament; I don’t think there are any hard-and-fast rules. The schedulers have to take into account rank, performance, what would make for an exciting match, and how to winnow down the yusho contenders.

      • For instance if chiyonokuni wins the next 4 (unlikely I know) he’ll probably get scheduled against or more of the big 3 for the final 3 days.

        • They’d probably start by pitting him against one of the better-performing upper maegashira, and then ratchet up the caliber of the opposition from there if needed.

  2. Haven’t we seen Aoiyama and Kaisei in the hunt in recent tournaments and I don’t recall those guys seeing the best of the best on days 13 and 14. If that’s the case, couldn’t a lower ranked guy win a tournament and never wrestle a Yokozuna?

        • Also Kyokutenho had to face Kotooshu (Ozeki at the time) on day 14 and Goeido (then Sekiwake) at day 15, so they brought him up. Day 14 had Kisenosato, Kyokutenho and Tochiozan tied for the lead. Kisenosato had to wrap up his Ozeko schedule on day 15 vs Baruto. Think they pulled him as high as they could.

  3. Thank you for the nice responses. I wasn’t trying to be argumentative. I was just puzzled by such things and looking for answers. Thanks again.

  4. I’m wondering if we’re in for a cascade of intai rikishi after this basho. If the rumored Kisenosato intai happens, potential other candidates are Aminishiki, Arawashi, Terunofuji, and maybe even Aoyiama depending on injuries.
    Unless something really weird happens, we’re going to have Tochinoshin as an Ozeki with the two other kadoban members of that group because there’s very little stability at the top of the banzuke right now.

    • Arawashi and Aoiyama? I’m struggling to recall many foreign rikishi who decided to quit while they were still ranked high enough to draw a paycheck. (Unless one owned a kabu and thus had a different kind of paycheck lined up.)

      Looking through the full list, I think only Kyokushuzan and Aran qualify. And both had extenuating circumstances, Shuzan having plenty of business waiting for him back home as the Mongolian sumo pioneer and Aran with his cancer scare and his stable shutting down.

  5. As much as I love Ishiura (I have a soft spot for the obvious under dog), I’m starting to suspect that he just doesn’t have what it takes to stay in Makanoichi (? probably misspelled) for more than one or two basho. I love watching him when he pulls out the techniques.

    No, no, no demotion for Uncle. Another under dog, for a different reason. I can hope that he can hold out until after his 40th. (puppy dog eyes) ((which is very hard for a cat to do))


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