One for the Ages

Takakeisho & Takanosho - Takakeisho Victory Parade
Image via Sumo Kyokai on Instagram (@sumokyokai)

It has been a peculiar year in sumo – there’s no question about that. The Kyushu basho punctuated this in a number of ways.

We have often talked – on this site, on podcasts, on social media – about the “changing of the guard” currently underway in the sport. The latest basho offered a delightful confirmation of this in the championship victory by Komusubi Takakeisho.

Takakeisho’s victory was a disruption of the normal order of sumo: young, talented prospects will move their way through the lower divisions – but the big prizes are almost always won by established superstars. Even Mitakeumi’s yusho this year was a victory – especially under the circumstances – by a rikishi with an enormous fanbase who was heavily favored to go on an Ozeki run even before Tochinshin’s surprise ascendance earlier in the year. This “disruption,” however, is what turns talented prospects into superstars in their own right – it’s just that it’s something we only get to see every few years – at most.

But there’s another half of that earlier point: that talented youngsters, college veterans and other hot prospects, will usually have their fun in the unsalaried ranks. Taking that into account, not only was Takakeisho’s top division championship in this tournament special in its own right – especially in the face of the heavily favored Ozeki Takayasu – it was actually unique because all of the yusho winners from the bottom four divisions were returning veterans. As a result, in a rare and incredible coincidence, Makuuchi division winer Takakeisho was actually the youngest winner of any of the six divisions at the Kyushu basho:

  • Jonokuchi: won by Hatooka, a 24-year old former Makushita mid-ranker of Kise-beya. He was making his 12th basho appearance, and first full basho in a year.
  • Jonidan: won by Mitsuuchi, a 22-year old former Sandanme mid-ranker of The Onomatsu Group Jazz Combo Onomatsu-beya. This was his second consecutive yusho on his 9th basho, though he needed to come through a playoff against one of Sadogatake’s myriad prospects. Mitsuuchi is 3 months older than Takakeisho.
  • Sandanme: won by Ura, a 26-year old past and present scientific marvel who has been apparently explained by Neil DeGrasse Tyson as “wow,” prompting Vegas bookmakers to slash the odds on the next discovered element to be named Uranon, but only because Uranium is already taken. This was his fourth spotless tournament and second yusho – having coughed up two in playoffs to fellow future funster Hokutofuji, and his stablemate Shiba, who is in the midst of making his third sekitori promotion challenge.
  • Makushita: won by Sokokurai, a 34-year old injury-and-drama survivor of Arashio-beya, who rescued himself from a future as tsukebito to the Onami brothers. Generally liked despite just a single winning record* north of Maegashira 10. This was his fourth lower-division yusho in a 15-year sumo career.
    * edited thanks to an error spotted by commenter Savaros
  • Juryo: won by Tomokaze, a 23-year old big bopper from Oguruma-beya, who likes to push and thrust more than twist and shout. This was his 3rd yusho in 9 tournaments.
  • Makuuchi: won by Takakeisho, a 22-year old tadpole from Chiganoura-beya, his 1st top division championship and 5th such success at all levels.

This coincidence is obviously a rarity because it requires a young champion. It’s the first time it has been seen in sumo in over 11 years, since the third yusho from another 22 year old: then-Ozeki Hakuho. The person to do it before that? Ozeki Hakuho, with his first championship, a year prior. Takakeisho – who like many was a much more promising recruit than the famously unheralded future dai-Yokozuna – will be hoping that his ability to turn his early career momentum into a title, like his predecessor, will bring him similar results.

19 thoughts on “One for the Ages

  1. Just a little correction, Sokokurai had a kachikochi at M5w in hatsu 2016, exactly one year before his Jun-Yusho ;)

  2. Hi I’m here via Jason’s channel and am new to sumo. I have been watching the latest basho with my 6 year old son. Sumo is making for good father-son bonding time! He has become a walking encyclopedia and has given wee class talks on sumo at school. I’ve been enjoying the content on this site too.

    My question for all you sumo experts is where is the best place/channels to find coverage of the lower 5 divisions?

    Many thanks in advance

    • Miselet sumo is a Georgian channel that broadcasts the Abema Tv’s coverage of the lower divisions. It’s in Japanese, but each rikishi’s name is in also displayed in English (and in hiragana, which I find is a great way to learn and practice reading the Japanese alphabet. Kanji on the other hand…)

      P.s. Welcome to the wonderful world of sumo!

    • To watch live – you need Abema TV and a VPN to overcome the geo-blocking, and a bit Japanese or guesswork to get you through the program listing.

      If you don’t watch live then as Liam said, you can see it all at Miselet’s channel. Note that Miselet is a moving target. Since posting the broadcasts there is a clear copyright violation, they get shut down every couple of basho – and then restart the channel with a slightly different name (MISELET, MISELET Plus, MISELET Sumo and so on).

      There are a couple of guys who post their own videos rather than others’ copyrighted videos: The Hattorizakura Channel and the Sumo Channel (Formerly known as “One and Only”). They don’t post all the bouts – only a selection of them.

      During the basho I posted a daily “bouts from the lower divisions” column, mostly based on those two channels, with commentary. I hope I’ll be able to keep doing that next basho, but no promises.

  3. This was very entertaining. The idea of Takakeisho following in the footsteps of Hakuho just boggles the mind, though.

    • Certainly he had a very active upbringing in the sport and has accomplished much in his short years! I quite enjoyed this: “Encouraged by his father to eat hamburgers and French fries” – who wouldn’t want that!!!!

  4. nice one! and a big warm Tachiai welcome to Alex and wee Alex! you’ll find we’re quite the ecclectic mix of international sumo addicts

  5. Welcome in, Alex! This is a nice, little site started by uber-creators Andy and Bruce H, and maintained by other knowledgeable people, Josh K, Liam, Herouth, Iksumo,& pinkmawashi. All kinds of characters in here with differing insights to the world of SUMO we love, dude.

    Below is another Sumo-related site that I visit as well called which has a live streaming video link that is maintain by a gentleman named mbovosumo and another link to recap videos maintain by the wily Kintamayama:

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