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?

Kisenosato Starts Training For Nagoya

kisenosato-workout2

On the 26th (Tuesday that is), Kisenosato took up some basic practice routines at the Tagonoura temporary base camp in Nagoya. He only did basic exercises and acted as the dead weight for butsukari. The article mentions that he hopes to start training matches on Wednesday the 27th against lower ranked opponents. Fans everywhere are wondering what Kisenosato’s end-game could be, and how long he will prolong his quite possibly tragic return to the dohyo.

For those of you with some kanji skill, feel free to have a look at the original text.

Introducing the Sumo World Cup

This year, the final week of the World Cup will overlap with the first week of the Nagoya basho. In honor of the World Cup I’ve decided to introduce the Sumo World Cup as a “meta-basho”. This tournament will equate to the “Group Stage” with the top 2 finishers in each group moving on to the next round in September. I’ve had to institute a few key differences. Mainly, there are 6 rikishi in the groups instead of four. This is because there are 42 wrestlers in makuuchi. I’ve also added the 6 top wrestlers from Juryo to round out the groups at 48.

If this doesn’t work out, we will never speak of it again. Rather than head-to-head matchups, this only makes sense to take the wrestlers’ overall records instead. I have got to say, my Group A favorites are Kakuryu and Onosho. In September, the winner from Group A would face the second place survivor of Group B (Takarafuji?) and the winner of that match-up would continue to the Group of 8 and so on. The ultimate winner would be crowned in March…if this doesn’t end up as pointless as the CONCACAF Champion’s League.

Nagoya Banzuke Prediction Postmortem

Now that the official banzuke is out, it’s time once again to review how my predictions fared.

The San’yaku

Here, my forecast was right on the money: all ten slots were predicted correctly. There was some talk about whether Shin-Ozeki Tochinoshin would leapfrog the two incumbent kadoban Ozeki, Goeido and Takayasu, in the standings. Instead, as predicted, he begins his Ozeki career at O2w (the additional wrinkle here is that he is placed on the less prestigious West side, leaving the O1e rank empty, in order to balance the two sides).

It was clear that the Sekiwake ranks would be occupied by Ichinojo and Mitakeumi, although there was some question about the order. As predicted, the incumbent, Ichinojo, is ranked ahead of Mitakeumi, who is returning to the rank after spending a tournament at Komusubi, despite Mitakeumi’s better win total (9 vs. 8) and head-to-head victory over Ichinojo. Also as forecast, the Komusubi slots are occupied by Tamawashi and Shohozan, neither of whom is a newcomer to the rank. Shodai has to settle for M1e, and is in pole position for any potential San’yaku openings should he achieve kachi-koshi in Nagoya.

The Rank-and-File

Here the forecast record is a lot more mixed. Of the 32 maegashira ranks, I correctly predicted 16, and for 11 of these I also got the side correct. Of the other 16 predictions, 13 were off by one rank, typically as a result of a switch between two consecutively ranked rikishi (e.g. 10w Nishikigi and 11e Aoiyama) or a more complex local rearrangement.

This brings me to the three more substantial misses. Two that could have been anticipated resulted from the banzuke committee’s noted bias against promotions from Juryo. I tried to take this into account by dropping Onosho and Kotoeko, who by my formula should have been ranked M8 and M11, to M9 and M12, respectively. The banzuke committee was much harsher, ranking the two M11 and M14. This is especially surprising to me in the case of Onosho, a recent Makuuchi mainstay who was only back down in Juryo for a single tournament due to injury and won the yusho with an impressive 12-3 record from J1, but nevertheless got treated like someone making his top-division debut. (I’ll note parenthetically that I correctly forecast the three promotions, Onosho, Kotoeko, and Meisei, who occupies the final M16w rung, and the corresponding demotions of Takekaze (J1e), Daiamami (J2e) and Aminishiki (J4w)).

This brings us to by far my biggest miss in this or any previous forecast, by a whopping five ranks, and one where I find the banzuke committee’s decision completely baffling. M3 Yutakayama, after putting up a disastrous 2-13 record, finds himself demoted only 6 ranks, landing at M9. My forecast had him at M14, which one could argue was slightly harsh, but even M11 would have been extremely charitable, and M9 is beyond generous. For comparison, the next-worst-performing rikishi, Ryuden, was demoted 8 ranks despite a slightly better 3-12 record. Perhaps the quality of Yutakayama’s losses was taken into account, although this is not something the banzuke committee generally engages in. It’s hard to argue that his ranking is simply a consequence of good banzuke luck, as several rikishi with kachi-koshi or minimal make-koshi records deserve to be ranked ahead of him. If anyone has an explanation, I’d love to hear it.

 

Nagoya Banzuke Posted!

banzuke-day

The banzuke for the July tournament is live on the Sumo Kyokai web site. Some notable results:

  • Mitakeumi back in Sekiwake. He let Tochinoshin rush past him and pick up Ozeki. Time to gamberize, king tadpole!
  • Tamawashi back in San’yaku at Komusubi East. I bet it’s time for celebratory cookies Kataonami heya.
  • Shodai at the front of the meat grinder at Maegashira 1 East.
  • Abi and Takakeisho ready to slug it out in the joi at Maegashira 3.
  • Kagayaki is at Maegashira 4, a new career high and his first time in the joi. Time to see if Mr Fundamentals can dance with the big men.
  • Endo’s incredible banzuke luck, only busted down to Maegashira 6 after a meager 3 wins at Komusubi in May.
  • Onosho returns to Makuuchi at Maegashira 11. I predict this young man is going to tear the lower end of the banzuke a new one this basho.
  • Kotoeko lands solidly in the top division at Maegashira 14 East. I am really (once again) liking the look of the level of competition at the bottom of the banzuke.
  • Ishiura holds on to the top division at Maegashira 15 East.
  • Ryuden sinks like a stone to Maegashira 15 West after 3-12 in May from M7 E.
  • Hokutofuji is clinging to the tiniest scrap at the corner of the banzuke at Maegashira 16 East.

Of course I would be remiss if I did not also mention that Wakaichiro is back in Sandanme at SD 94 West. Given his steady improvement, I predict he will fare better this time.

I am sure our resident prognosticator (lksumo) will review his own performance shortly, but in the mean time, head over the the NSK web site and enjoy.  Tachiai’s coverage of the Nagoya tournament starts now!

Nagoya Yokozuna Report

Kakuryu

It’s banzuke Sunday in the western world, and while the sumo fans eagerly await to see who came out on top, or how their guess the banzuke entry scored, let’s take a look at the top end of the Nagoya ranks. The Yokozuna have had their problems this year, and Nagoya may continue to underscore the tremendous change at work in sumo’s upper ranks.

First up is sumo’s top man for Nagoya, the unexpectedly genki Yokozuna Kakuryu. A year ago, if you had told me that Kakuryu would take back-to-back yusho and supplant Harumafuji as sumo’s anchor Yokozuna, I would have considered it unlikely. But he has somehow managed to get his body healthy and his fighting spirit aligned. His sumo looks quite good, and as long as he keeps from going for pulls, he tends to prevail. Kakuryu’s sumo is highly reactive. In most matches his approach is not to conquer his opponent at the tachiai, but rather to put up a strong defence and keep his opponent stalemated, waiting for a mistake. These mistakes almost always appear and Kakuryu is without peer in detecting and exploiting even the smallest error in his opponents. After his Natsu yusho, he suggested that he would like to see if he could achieve 3 consecutive titles, which would be remarkable for a man who many (myself included) suggested a year ago hang up his rope due to lack of competition. Prospect – Surprisingly Positive.

Yokozuna Hakuho is the Michael Jordan of sumo. There has never been any rikishi as dominant as he has been, and in all likelihood, none of us will live to see a day when some future sumotori surpasses his records. But his cumulative injuries are starting to impact his ability to compete. Specifically, repeated injuries to his big toes have robbed him of some speed, agility and power. Furthermore, the YDC has admonished him to change up his tachiai, which frequently features a slap to his opponents face. Hakuho has struggled with that guidance, and the lack of that first disorienting blow seems to have thrown his sumo off at least a half step. His performance during Natsu was a respectable 11-4, but his supporters wonder how much longer “The Boss” can keep going. His biggest issue in May was mental. His father had just died a few weeks before, and it clearly impacted the dai-yokozuna’s mental state. Hakuho’s father was his own larger than life figure, and was likely a driving force in his son’s life. Anyone who has lost a parent can attest to the mental impact it can have. But I suspect he took ample time during the summer break to come to terms with the loss, and his mental state will be nothing short of amazing for Nagoya. Prospect – Grim Determination To Win.

In 2017 the world welcomed the first Japanese-born Yokozuna in a generation. Many had their doubts about him, as he was promoted on his first yusho. He silenced all doubters with his outstanding performance the following tournament, winning his second yusho, and finishing in spite of a grievous injury that haunts him to this day. Sadly, since Osaka 2017, Kisenosato has failed to complete a single tournament. Fans have been rightfully depressed that a rikishi who would refuse to even miss a single day of practice would be sidelined indefinitely. As his kyujo tally mounted, he eventually reached a 7th excused tournament, matching Takanohana’s longest absence. For such a proud man, the strain of making the record books in such a inglorious manner must eat at him hourly. Fans have noticed in the past few weeks that he has been taking practice matches with his old training partner, Ozeki Takayasu. They have done this in the past, and it seems to have been mostly for show. But a rumor has been running around sumo fandom that Kisenosato has come to terms with the scope of his injury, and will retire shortly. But rather than fade out a defeated man, he will instead don the rope once more, and go out guns blazing in competition. Personally, reflecting on that outcome and the career of Kisenosato it would make perfect sense. It may not be Nagoya, but it will be before Kyushu. Prospect – Unlikely – or- Davy Crockett at the Alamo.

As we pointed in our Ozeki report, with two Ozeki pushing for 8 wins to relieve kadoban status, the pressure from the top of the banzuke on the rest of the san’yaku and the upper Maegashira will be enormous. Two or possibly three active Yokozuna all hunting wins could spell unrivaled carnage at the top of the banzuke. For fans of sumo, this means some of the most thrilling competition possibly in several months.

Nagoya Ozeki Report

goeido-21

With just over two weeks until the start of the Nagoya basho, Sumo’s ozeki corps is under pressure to deliver wins all round. The two incumbent ozeki are both kadoban, and the shin-ozeki, Tochinoshin, comes in nursing a hurt wrist. As a zero-sum sport, each win that the ozeki need comes at the expense of some other rikishi’s march towards kachi-koshi.

First up is the likely Ozeki 1 East, Goeido. With only 3 wins at Natsu, it’s tough to think of this man as the top Ozeki in sumo today. After injuring his ankle during the Osaka basho in 2017, he underwent surgery to have his joint rebuilt with pins and a lot of luck. While it seems to have kept his foot from falling off, he has mostly struggled to execute the kind of sumo that gives him winning records. When he is on his game, Goeido is a fast, brutal rikishi of pure offense. But we suspect he is still trying to find a way to keep his injured ankle together by any means he can muster. He comes into Nagoya looking to overcome his 8th career kadoban. While a healthy, strong Goeido running GoeiDOS 2.X is more than up to that task, he will have to overcome some fierce competition from the rest of the san’yaku to get to the safety of 8 wins. Forecast – Questionable.

But then we come to Takayasu, the likely Ozeki 1 West. Takayasu did not compete at all during Natsu, citing upper body injuries that were likely sustained due to changes he made to his sumo following the injury of his training partner and companion Kisenosato. During the second half of 2017, Takayasu’s sumo increasingly relied on a wild, flailing style that incorporated-a maxed out kachi-age at the tachiai. Being enormous and as strong as a C53 class locomotive can take you quite far when you are willing to go brutal at the open. Sadly his body suffered and his injuries were too much for him to compete in May. Now he heads to the balmy basho in Nagoya trying to overcome his 3rd foreshortened tournament of his Ozeki career, and erase his second kadoban. Recent press reports have featured Takayasu and an injured Kisenosato practicing in front of hundreds of spectators, with good effect. Some of this may simply be PR for the Yokozuna, as it seems most of the san-ban had been prior to the past four basho. Forecast – Hopeful.

Shin-Ozeki is a great slot, especially if it’s apparent that you finished your Ozkei bid with increasing momentum and increasingly powerful sumo. Ozeki 2 East Tochinoshin comes to the Nagoya dohyo as possibly the most powerful man in the Ozeki ranks. He can easily carry either of his fellow ozeki around like furniture, planting them in harmonious spots outside of the dohyo for optimal feng-shui. The worrying aspect is his repeated reports of injury to his wrist sustained during the final week of Natsu. This, naturally, limits his “lift and shift” sumo by removing his ability to transfer his enormous strength to his opponents mawashi. However, it’s reasonable to assume that Kasugano will have him squared away in time for shonichi. I personally hope that a strong rivalry between Tochinoshin and Takayasu takes root, which could help propel both of them to higher performance. Forecast – Rather-genki.

With two kadoban ozeki, it’s going to be time for both Takayasu and Goeido to dial it up to 11, but there is also a very real risk of losing at least one Ozeki this basho. Goeido has been teetering on the edge for quite some time. Takayasu may still be injured, but feel he is out of options. But with Tochinoshin bringing fresh blood and fresh sumo to the Ozeki ranks, Nagoya promises to step up the intensity of upper rank competition.

John Gunning on Keiko

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Sumo commentator, sports photographer and friend of Tachiai John Gunning has put together another excellent piece for The Japan Times.  This article explores keiko; the intense, exhausting and repetitive regimen of sumo training.

A choice section of the article:

After each group has finished their bouts, they do a pushing practice with another wrestler acting as deadweight. This is known as butsukari-geiko and is the toughest part of training.

Already exhausted, you can be forced to push someone over and back until you collapse. This is called kawaigari — literally tender loving care — and even the name alone is enough to send chills down a wrestler’s spine.

Yokozuna Harumafuji once compared it to the verge of death, and having been on the receiving end I fully agree.

As always, head to The Japan Times and read the whole thing.

Nagoya 2018 – Tadpoles Rising?

sumo-frogs

Natsu 2018 was a fun ride of a basho, featuring the minting of a new Ozeki, and a long suffering Yokozuna beginning to come into his own.  For our fans, we all noted that one of our favorite groups – the tadpoles – were in rough shape. Both Takakeisho and Onosho had gone kyujo during Osaka and had been tossed unceremoniously down the banzuke. In the case of Onosho, it was all the way to Juryo, landing with a wet, flabby thump.

But as sure as the sun rises, our brave tadpoles came croaking back with gusto.  Onosho blasted his way to a 12-3 Juryo yusho, doing so even without the radiant power of his red mawashi. Takakeisho suffered some early ring-rust, starting the basho 2-5, then he went on to beat all challengers with sumo that improved daily, finishing the tournament with a respectable 10-5 record. Keep in mind, both of these rikishi were coming off of injuries, and may have not been at full tournament power.

Coming into Nagoya, fans should expect the tadpole army, led by Mitakeumi, Takakeisho and Onosho, to be a dominant force for the duration of the basho. Mitakeumi was bypassed by Tochinoshin on his rise to Ozeki, a slot that Mitakeumi has coveted, but the lead tadpole just can’t seem to take the next step up in his sumo. He trains hard, and is dedicated to his craft, but he is somehow just an inch short each time.

Takakeisho finished strong in Tokyo, but his sights are set on the San’yaku again, and he is ready to hunt. Our own forecast banzuke has Takakeisho at Maegashira 4 alongside Kagayaki, just inside the joi. I like this rank for Takakeisho, and I think he is going to play spoiler here. Note to fans, we have not seen him unleash “Wave Action Tsuppari” since January, perhaps due to injury.

We have Onosho at Maegashira 9, where I expect him to be a wrecking ball on the lower end of the banzuke. In fact, it’s possible that he could be counted in contention for the yusho at the end of act 2.  This would be an interesting situation, as many folks lower down the banzuke who seem to be winning a lot have little chance of actually beating a Yokozuna or Ozeki – whereas Onosho has demonstrated his ability to surprise any rikishi on any day.

Nagoya 2018 should be an excellent season for the amphibians, and we will be watching closely as they battle their way through the tournament.

Significant Earthquake in Osaka

There has been a magnitude 5.9 earthquake in Osaka. It had an intensity of low 6 out of 7 on the Japanese scale, with an intensity of 5 out of 7 in Kyoto. At least 1 fatality has been reported, people trapped and sporadic fires. There are images of furniture moved or damaged, and some light structural damage.