June 30th News Round Up

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Another news round up, as we are now one week away from the start of the Nagoya basho. Everyone who is going to participate is practicing now, and we are in the midst of inter-stable / ichimon cross training sessions and practice matches. In many cases, this is where people can start sizing up who is genki and who is not.

Sumo Kyokai

There are zero new recruits joining the sumo kyokai in Nagoya. This is a somewhat unusual situation, but in and of itself it’s not a cause for any alarm or assumptions that the Japanese public have given up their love for sumo. Today marked the dedication dohyo-iri at the Atsuta shrine. The party attending included shin-Ozeki Tochinoshin, marking the first time he has been of rank to participate.

Tagonoura Heya

First and foremost is Kisenosato. He looks like he is not even close to being ready. He lacks power, he lacks poise, he struggles against mid-tier Makuuchi rikishi. As someone who loves sumo and deeply respects Kisenosato’s commitment to the sport, this is painful to watch. But we can more or less assume that he won’t be competing. Takayasu, however, seems to have put his upper body injuries behind him, and has been fighting with gusto. We can expect him to enter and to strongly compete for the yusho.

Isegahama Heya

Our beloved kaiju, Terunofuji, once again went into surgery in a desperate attempt to repair his knees. It’s obvious that he is going to drop as far as he drops in a last ditch attempt to regain some kind of fighting form, and barring that some kind of mobility to use for the remainder of his life. Don’t look for his at Nagoya or Aki, I would say. Meanwhile, Harumafuji’s retirement is set for the end of September at the Kokugikan. Some elements of Team Tachiai may be in attendance…

Miyagino Heya

Dai-Yokozuna Hakuho took 38 practice bouts against rikishi of all levels down to Jonidan. He won 22 of them. He also called on Asashoryu’s nephew, Hoshoryu for 3 bouts. Speaking afterwards, Hoshoryu said, “”Glad to face the Yokozuna”. Hakuho stated, “It’ll be nice to hand over the baton to him”.

Sumo World Cup Group B

My prediction for this group is based largely on the fact that only two of them are likely healthy, Abi & Takarafuji. I see them fighting hard for the second slot.

The first qualification slot from this group will go to Hakuho. At full capacity, the GOAT is capable of 14-15 wins and a cinch for the yusho. Lately, it’s been rare to see him compete at that dominant level from Day 1 through Day 15 but when he’s able to compete he adapts his style and finds a way to win. We won’t really know the actual state of his conditioning until he mounts the dohyo but for this article, I think he will walk up there and find a way to win 11 or 12 bouts.

Takarafuji is a solid mid-makuuchi wrestler and should be good for kachi-koshi. I’m picking him to sneak into the second spot with 9 wins, though 8 could be enough. Unfortunately, I think that’s all one will need to qualify from this group. Abi is still in the joi and that will hurt his chances of advancing. The level of competition and risk of injury is so high, as we’ve seen as our tadpoles attempt to mature. He’s not the only one with the ambition and motivation to shoot for a position in the lower reaches of sanyaku.

Ishiura is at a low enough level, competing with banged up veterans to where he should be able to pick up 8-9 wins. However, his own condition has been questionable of late and I think he’ll be struggling to stay in makuuchi. Aoiyama and Kotoyuki have been in worse shape the last few tournaments, with apparent serious knee issues. Aoiyama has been scraping by with 8 wins but has not been looking good doing it. It seems these three are likely in the 6-7 win category.

I have a feeling this is the group where tie-breakers will be the deciding factor. My first tie-breaker will be the wrestler’s rank with the second tie-breaker being the average rank of his wins. Thus, beating a yokozuna will help while losing to a low level maegashira will hurt.

Tanabata Wishes

This post originates in quote-retweets I made of the relevant NSK tweets. Josh suggested I collate them into a post. So for the benefit of those who don’t follow my Twitter account, here is the collation:

tanabata

Tanabata is an ancient Japanese festival, celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month. Nowadays, it’s mostly celebrated on July 7th.

The main Tanabata custom is to write one’s wishes on a small piece of paper called “tanzaku”, hang the wishes from a bamboo – sometimes with other decorations – and then float the bamboo, wishes and all down a river or burn it around midnight or the next day.

This year Tanabata falls on Saturday, July 7th – the day before the Nagoya basho.

A couple of days ago, a rikishi-kai took place. “Rikishi-kai” is both the name of the meeting of sekitori taking place before each basho, and the body of sekitori itself. As a worker’s association, it’s pretty useless. But they have a fun meeting before each basho, sometimes raising money for charity, and sometimes just giving fans an opportunity to meet their idols and get photos.

Given the date Tanabata falls on, it’s no wonder that sekitori attending the rikishi-kai were handed tanzaku, and asked to write their wishes on them. Their wishes will be hung at the Dolphins Arena (the location of the basho) during Tanabata. Here is what they came up with:

Sokokurai: “I wish my injury to heal”. Ouch.

Yago (in an Oguruma yukata): “Promotion to Makuuchi”.

Seiro: “To aim for the top!!”. So, you wish to aim for the top or you wish to get to the top?

Hidenoumi: “Establish myself at Makuuchi”. No moro yo-yo for Mr. Magenta Mawashi, please.

Daishoho (in a Kakuryu yukata): “Promotion to Makuuchi”. Well, if a cute duck-face can get you there…

Takanosho: “Promotion to Makuuchi”. I hate to tell you this, but the gods can only arrange for a small number of promotions each basho. 😁

Takagenji and Shohozan kept their wishes a secret (they are showing the side with their names):

Daiamami (in a Fuji TV yukata? wow): “I want brand new kneecaps”. Ouch.

Up to Makuuchi, Hokutofuji wishes to advance to san-yaku:

Ishiura: “I want to make another child”. Heh, give your wife a little rest, will you? She just had a baby. Or is this just code for “I want to get some”?

Asanoyama (in the ever-popular Chiyoshoma yukata): “Double digit wins”

Nishikigi-mama: “Health above all”. Nishikigi for chairman of the board! Who’s with me?

Kyokutaisei (in a Hakuho yukata): “Have savings!!”. Let me guess, the guy is recently married. 😆

Chiyotairyu: “I need money”. Somebody please give the Kokonoe koen-kai a call. Help a poor rikishi, will ya?

Endo: “Get through the group stage”. Bruce claims this is about the Tachiai Sumo World Cup. I have a hunch he was talking about Team Japan in the FIFA World Cup. And he got his wish, though I wish those last 10 minutes would be erased from history.

(Yeah, yeah, derailed here).

Abi worrying what he should wish for. Yes, that’s his worried face.

Chiyonokuni (in the new designer Kokonoe yukata) wants to advance to sanyaku:

Shodai: “I want a watch”. I’m sure he’s not addressing the gods… You want Japanese make or Swiss make? I’ll bet many of his sashi-ire (gifts to rikishi… or prisoners…) in the coming weeks are going to be ticking.

Mitakeumi: “I want to become handsome”. Well, he is using the word “ikemen” which is a manly man kind of handsome. There has been an argument about this on Twitter, in which some of the ladies claim that he already has his wish, whereas I claim that despite his obvious sumo prowess and good nature, he looks like a carp in a mawashi.

Tochinoshin: “I want the yusho”. Well, duh!

Hakuho: “Win #1000”. He is referring to number of wins in Makuuchi – he wants to pass 1000. He won’t make it this basho, though, as he is still 17 or so short, and I’m sure he doesn’t want the gods to extend the basho to 17 days.

Finally, we end with the leader of the banzuke, the surprisingly genki yokozuna Kakuryu: “I wish not to be injured”. I’ll add my voice to that, Amen. Chuckle for coming up with a wish that requires no kanji (“kega” is written in hiragana or katakana more frequently than in kanji).

Nagoya News Round Up

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Thanks to Herouth, a number of news tidbits that have been bumping around on Twitter are tee’d up for us to enjoy. At present, all of the stables are in the Nagoya area, with rikishi working hard to tune up for the basho that starts in 10 short days.

Kisenosato

As we all know, perpetually injured Yokozuna Kisenosato is struggling to find a way to exit the active portion of his career with some element of dignity intact. He had been making good efforts in practice matches at the Tagonoura against Takayasu, and appeared to have some spark. Word today that during training he injured his right arm, but insists he is fine. Sadly the truth is it’s been more than a year since Kisenosato has really had intensive upper body training, and his muscles are now de-conditioned to some extent. With joint ichimon training over the next two days, we may get a preview of just how tough his situation is.

Hakuho

The Boss is taking practice matches against the like of Ishiura, Enho, Yamaguchi and Onokura. He ended the day with 14 wins and 2 losses. This (at least to me) indicates that the dai-Yokozuna may be in good fighting form by shonichi.

Goeido

During Sakaigawa’s degeiko, kadoban Ozeki Goeido took on Mitakeumi for a series of matches, finishing 14 wins and 3 losses. He stated that the problems with his left ankle have been resolved, and he is feeling positive about the upcoming bash.

Sumo World Cup Group A

Group A of the inaugural Sumo World Cup is headed by our reigning champion, Kakuryu. He’s the obvious favorite coming into Nagoya given his two consecutive titles and the uncertain injury status of his rivals, Hakuho and Kisenosato.

My only question is, will this be his first three-peat? It’s been a while since anyone displayed the type of form necessary to win three in a row. The last time was obviously Hakuho. But we have to go way back to spring 2015 when he won his 6th consecutive title. This was just before Terunofuji’s groundbreaking win. (Not sure whether I should “pour one out” or make the sign of the cross here.)

For Kakuryu, the expectation will be double-digit wins. I’m pencilling in 12 unless a health report comes in saying he’s less than 90%…which seems to be peak fitness for anyone, lately. It will be a rough second week with Hakuho hopefully back and two senior Ozeki trying to shed their kadoban status, and a third trying to prove his muster. If Kisenosato makes it that far, there’s one win in the bag right there.

This group is notable for the number of tadpoles who will be vying for that all-important second qualifying slot. Takakeisho is in the joi will be hurting after week 1. Daieisho is in a sweet spot behind the joi but will face solid competition. Onosho is in an even sweeter spot, still on his rise back from juryo. Given that post at M11, I’m favoring him for a good 9-10 wins, just enough to claim spot #2 in Group A for Amphibian.

Ryuden is my sleeper. After the last tournament he fell real far. But I don’t know how much mopping up he’ll do here since there’s a lot of solid talent down there. A few others are likely eyeing a special prize in July.

Lastly, Takanoiwa is a big question mark for me. I am sure he can get his kachi-koshi but unsure whether he will get 9 or 10 likely necessary to advance out of this group.

Thoughts?