Kyushu Day 3 – A Kise Crisis, A Tadpole Dance

How long is Kisenosato going to keep that hair?

It’s day three, and it’s clear that this basho is taking a completely different direction than the previous one. The Yusho question should, perhaps, be kept for a later part of the basho, as anybody with 0-3 at the moment can still theoretically win 12 and take the cup. But it’s already clear that the dominance of the upper echelon, which caused the entire banzuke to flip over last time around, has evaporated, and we have early signs of a free-for-all.

But we start at the bottom. The first bout of the day was between two hapless and winless rikishi. One of them had to take a white star from this bout, and Chiyomaru, starting with a morotezuki (double handed push) followed by a quick hatakikomi was the lucky man. Arawashi‘s legs simply can’t move forward. He couldn’t cope with the quick change in the position of his center of gravity, and dropped like a stone.

Daiamami and Meisei, the next pair, both hail from the Amami Oshima island in Kagoshima prefecture. That island is actually closer to Okinawa than to mainland Kagoshima. And yes, Daiamami is named after it. Meisei is fighting fiercely this basho, but although he had his right hand inside first Daiamami managed to insert his as well, lifted Meisei’s left arm high and neutralized him, then pushed him out. Meisei looked rather frustrated at the end of the bout. Yoritaoshi.

The bout between Daishomaru and Chiyoshoma was a bit odd. Daishomaru gets Chiyoshoma’s back and pushes him down pretty quickly, but although Chiyoshoma touches the ground quite clearly, the bout continues and Daishomaru chases him outside the ring, confusing the Japanese announcer – and myself. It was a tsukiotoshi – that hand touch is what counted, not the following exit. I guess Chiyoshoma’s copy of “1001 Sneaky, Dirty, Devious Sumo Moves Which Are Not Actually Cheating” (thank you for that, Tigerboy) also has an appendix about “Moves Which Are Cheating But Worth Trying Anyway”.

Onosho clashes into Takanosho, then quickly pulls and tries to pull Takanosho down. The Chiganoura man is stable on his feet. Onosho tries again. Fails. At this point Takanosho has got a better positioning and starts to attack and lift Onosho, including a nodowa which was more of a face-hugger. Takanosho gets his first win by yoritaoshi.

Aoiyama tries the same tactic Onosho has – starts with some tsuki-oshi, then attempts to pull Endo down. But he doesn’t make the mistake of trying it again. Instead he goes forward and paws Endo until it looks like he volunteers to step over the bales rather than have his pretty face redesigned. Tsukidashi.

Okinoumi is the faster off the Tachiai, enveloping Chiyonokuni almost immediately. Chiyonokuni would have preferred a tsuki-oshi bout but he does have yotsu abilities and even attempts a gaburi-yori, kotoshogiku-style. At this point Okinoumi lifts him by the belt and neatly performs a shitatenage.

Sadanoumi tries to get a migi-yotsu on Yutakayama, but Yutakayama manages to slip out of his “sashi” (arm insertion) and the two go into serious windmill action. Sadanoumi nearly loses balance and compensate by lifting a leg – it almost looks like an attempt at a forbidden high kick, but it isn’t aimed at Yutakayama. Yutakayama tries to use that loss of balance and gets Sadanoumi to the bales, but Sadanoumi recovers, and somehow manages to turn the tables, push Yutakayama to the same exact bale, and yori-kiri him without a belt hold.

Kotoshogiku gets Daieisho into his favorite hold and is ready to start the pump action. Daieisho, however, lifts the former Ozeki. Not the kind of construction crane lift Tochinoshin lives by, but enough to prevent Kotoshogiku from having any traction with his feet. Kotoshogiku’s gaburi may seem to be powered by his pelvis, but it is in fact his legs that transfer all the power, and with his feet barely touching the ground, Daieisho is the one who ends with the yori-kiri.

In yet another meeting between winless rikishi, Ikioi smartly crashes into Takarafuji. However, despite Ikioi’s attempt to lock his armpit, takarafuji manages to slip in his left hand and find his mawashi. At this point it’s just a question of how much power Takarafuji has. The legs – not so much. So he gives up the attempt at a force-out and instead goes for a shitatenage and his first win.

Abi, alas, is not showing us any of those mawashi skills he supposedly tried to develop during the Jungyo. He goes for his usual morotezuki. Shohozan also starts with a tsuppari attack, but Abi’s reach is greater, and so he has the upper hand – literally, as this ends with him pulling and slamming Shohozan with an uwatenage.

There is not much to say about the TakanoiwaKagayaki bout. Takanoiwa throws himself into Kagayaki and successfully defends against Kagayaki’s left – but then Kagayaki, who is a little too forward, simply slips. Slippiotoshi, officially tsukiotoshi. And yet another Chiganoura sekitori wins the day – first win for Takanoiwa.

Chiyotairyu, starts his bout with Asanoyama with his usual booming clash. Asanoyama is a yotsu man and tries to get inside on the big Kokonoe man, but Chiyotairyu’s tsuki attack blocks him again and again – until he finds himself out. Oshidashi.

Yoshikaze hits Shodai low and seems to have the better Tachiai – which is not surprising with Shodai – but as he tries to get inside Shodai again and again gets his arm away and secure his own hold, but then realizes that he has moved far enough forward that he can simply shove Yoshikaze powerfully, and that would be enough to get him out. Yet another oshidashi.

The smallest of the tadpoles, Takakeisho, faces no challenge in Ryuden, after downing a Yokozuna and an Ozeki. Ryuden is quickly dispatched by the angry bowling ball. Another Chiganoura win – by tsukidashi this time.

A little trivia item about Takakeisho: When he received his first kensho, he was asked by the press what he intends to do with it. He said “I’ll give it to my tsukebito, who has been supporting me all this time – though I have to give some to my oyakata”. His dissimilarity with Takayoshitoshi is not only in their outward appearance.

Tamawashi lands a nodowashi on Ichinojo right out of the tachiai, and doesn’t his hand off the Sekiwake’s throat until Ichinojo – who isn’t giving up easily this time – simply can’t go anywhere but across the tawara. I’m sure Ichinojo will not be able to sing for at least a week – which may not be a bad thing:

Ichinojo’s Singing Voice

Most of the next bout is actually Mitakeumi sliding his arms under Nishikigi‘s valiantly locked armpits. This takes a few seconds, and then with the morozashi thus achieved he quickly dispatches of the Isenoumi man. A reminder to you: Nishikigi said in his pre-basho interview that he is aiming to be a Yokozuna. Having challenging goals is important.

Welcome back, Kaisei. You have three seconds to spend on the dohyo, because it’s getting late and all. Clash. Push. A half-hearted pat on the back, and Kaisei finds himself eating dirt. Hatakikomi. I don’t think Takayasu broke even one bead of sweat. Takayasu now the only one in the top two ranks with a 3-0 record.

By rights, Tochiozan should not have been much of a challenge for Goeido. But as Goeido charges into and sweeps him to the tawara as Goeido does, Tochiozan sidesteps, lifts a leg ballerina-style, then just hangs there on tip-toe, while Goeido tries to rebalance and fails. I’m not good at kimarite, so I have no idea why this was called a sukuinage. I guess there is just no official kimarite for winning by sidestep.

Myogiryu proves himself a dangerous opponent this basho – considering how long ago it was that he was in the joi. His tactic is, quite sensibly, to keep Tochinoshin away from his mawashi. He keeps the Ozeki high by leaning against him diagonally, and having his arms right under Tochinoshin’s armpit, shortening their reach. With his left he is having a fumbling battle which he rather wins. However, the downside of this tactic is that, as I said, he is leaning on Tochinoshin. Eventually the Georgian takes a few steps backwards, Myogiryu has his legs trailing behind him, and Tochinoshin survives by letting him drop down.

What’s next? The musubi-no-ichiban, Kisenosato vs. Hokutofuji. We had most of the tadpole corps win by now (with the exception of Onosho). Can Hokutofuji join the rest? He is facing a Yokozuna with two losses already and dignity on the line.

Well, it seems that the Yokozuna is trying to attack with the left side that he no longer has. It may be the pressure causing him to revert to what’s familiar to his body. I don’t know. But a weak ottsuke against Hokutofuji’s strong right – it’s not working. The Yokozuna is too high. Hokutofuji keeps low and keeps pushing at Kise’s left chest with his strong right, making sure he stays high. He even attempts a tottari for a fraction of a second there. By the time the Yokozuna starts attacking with his right, it’s too little and too late. Hokutofuji plants his head in his chest. Adding a nodowa with his left hand. He manages to get the Yokozuna’s right side away from him again, and has his right under the Yokozuna’s left arm, and then – well, to me it looked like a kotenage, but the shimpan call it a tsukiotoshi, so what do I know. All I know is that the Yokozuna is rolling on the dohyo, with his third consecutive loss. He is only the seventh Yokozuna to start a basho with three straight losses. And the last one who did so was Asahifuji (the current Isegahama oyakata) in 1992, and he retired the next day.


There is a lot of speculation going on as to what Kisenosato is going to do now. Clearly, in the past this would be a reason for immediate retirement – that’s what Chiyonofuji did (with only two losses) and that’s what Asahifuji did.

But in recent times it has become a matter of norm that Yokozuna find a hitherto-unknown injury (it’s not as if they don’t have enough real ones for the doctor to be honest – they just usually keep them from public knowledge), and go kyujo.

Only, earlier this year the YDC warned Kisenosato against exactly this sort of thing. “If you are not absolutely 100%, don’t start the basho. We do not want to see you go kyujo in mid-basho again”.

I believe this warning to Kisenosato is also the reason why Kakuryu opted not to start the basho at all, rather than try anyway. It seems the rules have slightly changed. So what are the options?

  • He can still try the old trick of going kyujo and hope that the YDC will be forgiving, as they don’t have a spare Japanese Yokozuna. This seems to me to be beneath his dignity, but I don’t know how much pressure he will be under.
  • He can injure himself purposefully. Nobody is going to say he can’t leave in the middle if he actually breaks a bone. This is, of course, very risky.
  • He may choose the old-fashioned mid-basho retirement.
  • He may choose to stay the entire basho – there are still enough days for him to get a kachi-koshi, and even if he doesn’t, it may not be the end. Wakanohana Masaru, Takanohana’s brother, once stayed through a basho despite injury and had a make-koshi. He handed his resignation after the basho, but the NSK decided not to accept it, and he lingered as Yokozuna – but not for long. So Kisenosato may do the same, especially given that he is sole Yokozuna and it will be considered a show of responsibility.

I personally think the last option is the most sensible. He may yet win 8 bouts. That’s not a Yokozuna kachi-koshi, but it will be tolerated if it is done in the name of responsibility to the spectators. And if he has a make-koshi – he’ll have to hand in his resignation. And then it’s not up to him – the pressure will be on the shoulders of the NSK.


Note: I do not have the time for two posts today, so I will have to forego the lower division report. I leave you the Juryo digest, though. If you haven’t seen Enho’s bout on Kintamayama’s reel, don’t miss it! Also Gokushindo’s first win, Toyonoshima, Tobizaru… Juryo is great!

12 thoughts on “Kyushu Day 3 – A Kise Crisis, A Tadpole Dance


  1. Yago had to be watching the Arawashi-Chiyomaru bout and thinking, “they left me out of the top division for these guys?”

    Points to Daishomaru for fighting until the bell–we’ve seen too many rikishi let up when they think the match is over, only to end up on the losing end.

    Onosho was looking so good until he reverted to pulling.

    Goeido held only a 24-14 edge against Tochiozan going into their bout, so the outcome is not such a surprise. Kintamayama: “Tochiozan has seen The Matrix many times” 😆

    I wonder what happened to Kise between the basho. The 10-5 at Aki didn’t seem like a mirage. Granted, he had some close wins in the first week, and maybe they’re all just breaking the other way this time, but the man who bested Tochinoshin, Mitakeumi, and Kakuryu shouldn’t look overmatched against Myogiryu and Hokutofuji. The fact that he only holds a 26-15 edge against tomorrow’s opponent, Tochiozan, who is 3-0, is not encouraging.


  2. It may be early, but what if this is as good as it gets for Kisenosato?

    I really feel sorry for him! The 10-5 record in September was lucky.
    He is losing badly. The long break was not enough for him to find a way to compensate for the loss of power on his left side.

    If he stays, he will have to face a strong Tochiozan tomorrow and Tochinoshin, Ichinojo, Kaisei, Mitakeumi, Goeido, … at some time!
    The way he lost the first bouts, he will get injured.

    What are the chances for him to make a real comeback?


    • I agree with Sergiu about Kisenosato’s Aki result. His wins over Takakeisho and Chiyonokuni were particularly jammy. Physically, I don’t think he can get any better, which means he can’t perform at yokozuna level any more. As I think I’ve said before on this forum, my feeling is that his pride will not allow him to put up with repeated humiliation.


  3. Myogiryu and Tochiozan have surprised me but Sadanoumi’s performance has just been out of this world. I don’t remember him being this good.


    • I know, right? He was ranked as high as M1, but that was over three years ago. Since then, he’s generally hung around the bottom half of the banzuke, with two trips to Juryo. He hasn’t had a double-digit win total in Makuuchi since his debut tournament in 2014.


  4. kisenosato is well past expiry
    at least he is giving it his all on the way out, bless him

    did not look like his best effort from ryuden
    here’s hoping l’il takakeisho’s coming opponents put a little more into it


  5. Wikipedia tells me that Tochiozan and Goeido were rivals from high school all the way up to the top division. I actually think that absent injuries they’d prove to be quite close in skill with perhaps a bit of an edge for Goeido. Tochiozan may be less resilient than Goeido in the face of injuries, plus he has less to lose if he bounces around the banzuke.


  6. I’ve read that Kisenosato was never really known for, eh, how to phrase it…”mental resilience,” I guess? Like you have guys like Hakuho who can undergo just about any pressure and let it roll off of their backs, (granted I’m so new to sumo I’ve no idea what or how long it took Hakuho himself to get to that point, and that trait has certainly been a double-edged sword for him,) but I think Kise REALLY feels the pressure of being the SOLE Japanese yokozuna, the first in so long, etc., and now he’s the only one competing, with a rough start to boot.

    I do think September showed what he’s CAPABLE of, physically. How much of Kise’s current struggles are between his ears? Even in the roughly year-and-a-half of sumo I’ve seen, I’m continually amazed how much of the match seems to happen inside the craniums of the rikshi. IMHO, it’s the only reason Ichinojo isn’t at least an Ozeki.


    • Well Herouth summed it up perfectly, Kisenosato has no left side anymore. That is a problem as opponents this basho seem to be much better prepared for it. Also you can’t get all the training of the years quickly out of your body. In close situations you act instinctively the way you learned over so many years and that means that Kisenosato will be prone to act on his weak side when he shouldn’t.
      It’s true that he hasn’t been the mentally strongest rikishi over the years, but I think this is more a case of him having a glaring weakness which his opponents abuse and he hasn’t found a way around that yet.

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