Hatsu Week Two Storylines

With the first eight days of the January tournament in the books, here are the storylines we’ll be following as the concluding week unfolds.

The Yusho Race

Yokozuna Hakuho (8-0) leads by one in his quest for a record-extending 42nd yusho. He is chased by a trio of lower-ranked rikishi with 7-1 records: M8 Kaisei, M13 Yago, and M15 Chiyonokuni. Still in the hunt at 6-2 are the two Sekiwake, Takakeisho and Tamawashi, as well as M6 Onosho and M12 Meisei. Hakuho’s opponent tomorrow is M4 Kotoshogiku, aganist whom he is 55-5 on the dohyo. Barring further withdrawals, the Yokozuna’s remaining opponents should include the two remaining Ozeki, the two Sekiwake, and two maegashira—probably Okinoumi and either Chiyotairyu, Onosho, or Kaisei, depending on their performances in the next couple of days.

Kadoban Watch

How many of the Ozeki will be able to reach the eight wins required to not have their rank on the line in March? With today’s absence, Tochinoshin is mathematically unable to do so, and will need to accumulate eight wins in Osaka. After today’s losses, Takayasu will need to go at least 4-3 the rest of the way, while Goeido needs a 5-2 finish. Given their current form, this will be touch-and-go, even with the depleted field. A key bout tomorrow is Takayasu vs. Tamawashi. The two have met often, and their career series is nearly even at 11-10 in favor of the Ozeki, who reversed Tamawashi’s earlier edge by winning all five of their meetings last year.

Takakeisho’s Ozeki Run

The shin-Sekiwake picked up right where he left off in Kyushu, dropping only two bouts (to Mitakeumi and Tochiozan) on his way to a 6-2 record. With 11 wins likely needed for promotion, he needs a finish of 5-2 or better, which probably means running the table against his remaining maegashira opponents and picking up at least one victory against the three remaining Ozeki and Yokozuna. The quest continues tomorrow against M2 Nishikigi (4-4), who gave the Sekiwake a scare on senshuraku in what ended up being his yusho-clinching victory in Kyushu.

The Sanyaku

Takakeisho is enjoying a strong basho in his debut as Sekiwake, while Tamawashi looks set to defend the rank he seemed to own for a while before a five-basho hiatus. Mitakeumi’s unfortunate injury makes it unlikely that he’ll stay Komusubi (he’d need to return and pick up three victories against a tough slate of opponents), and Myogiryu (3-5) needs a near-perfect finish to make his return to sanyaku last more than a single tournament. It’s thus likely that either two or three slots in the named ranks will open up, depending on whether or not Takakeisho moves up. There is a lot of competition for these slots, and too many bouts are left to forecast how it will play out, but currently M1 Ichinojo (5-3) and M2 Hokutofuji (5-3) have a lead on the rest of the pack.

Makuuchi Turnover

Normally, the number of demotions from the top division has to match the number of promotions from Juryo. However, we have the unusual situation of two retirements (Takanoiwa and Kisenosato) opening up two extra slots in Makuuchi, so there will be two more promotions than demotions. The only near-certainty right now is that M16 Daishomaru (0-8) will be going down to Juryo after a three-year run in the top division. Fellow M16 and heya-mate Daiamami (2-6) looks most likely to join him; among the other maegashira, M12 Kagayaki (1-7), M14 Chiyoshoma (3-5), and M15 Kotoeko (4-4) have the most work left to do.

Who is likely to take their places? J1 Terutsuyoshi (6-2) leads the promotion race by a sizable margin, and needs two more victories to clinch a top-division debut. Fellow M1 Daishoho (4-4) should join him if he can finish with a winning record. At the moment, J3 Ishiura (5-3) and J6 Chiyomaru (6-2) are in the best position to benefit from the extra openings in Makuuchi. Also in contention is J5 Toyonoshima (5-3), with undefeated Shimanoumi making a push from all the way down at J11. The veteran Toyonoshima has been in sumo since 2002, rising as high as Sekiwake, a rank he last held in March of 2016 before injuries dropped him into Makushita. Shimanoumi, about whom I didn’t know much until now, entered sumo in 2012, rapidly rising all the way to Makushita 4 (and picking up a Sandanme yusho along the way) before sitting out five basho and dropping all the way back to the lowest Jonokuchi division. Upon his return, he made quick work of Jonokuchi and Jonidan, with two 7-0 basho and two yusho, and then spent three years fighting through the Makushita wall, followed by five unremarkable tournaments in Juryo. Shimanoumi seems to be having a breakthrough basho, and perhaps someone who follows the lower divisions more closely than I do call tell us more about him, and what’s been different in this tournament.

19 thoughts on “Hatsu Week Two Storylines

  1. Is Daishomaru injured? Before Kyushu he looked in reasonably decent form for a while. He looked less good at Kyushu and now has not looked close to winning all of the Hatsu Basho

    • Seems the most likely explanation, but we rarely hear anything about the injuries of anyone outside the upper ranks unless they’re obvious and/or lead to kyujo.

  2. Wutevr b.a. skillz ryuden wuz supposed to have ain’t showing which sux cuz I wanted to pull 4 him but I’ll transfer my fandom to kaisei now

  3. Yay for me remembering something! I was like shin-Sekiwake?? Then I was like “Right…I remember asking what shin meant when added before a train station (i.e shin-Osaka) and it clicked! “new”…yay neurons firing!

      • It’s a balance…you don’t want to explain every word or the posts would get tedious (obs you aren’t explaining what a “Sekiwake” is) but it’s a good general reminder that maybe a term rarely used could use an explanation.

  4. I would be so happy if Toyonoshima returned to Makuuchi. I’ve been affectionately calling him “Dad” because not only is he a family man, but he has the most magnificent dad bod of all time.

  5. Out of curiosity, who out of Hakuho’s remaining opponents could potentially defeat him? He’s already had some shaky bouts and has won at least two of them by the skin of his teeth. So, it’s definitely a possibility.

    • I am not sure there is a good bet over any other…he will face Kotoshogiku, Okinoumi, Goeido, Takayasu, Takakeisho, Tamawashi and somebody else (Onosho? Kaisei?)…I guess I’d have to go with Takakeisho or Tamawashi…I don’t think he will go 15-0 but it could be anyone who takes him to 14-1 (my guess as his final score)

      • Here are Hakuho’s head-to-head records vs the remaining opponents. Takayasu: 17-2; Goeido: 37-6; Takakeisho: 3-0; Tamawashi: 13-0; Okinoumi: 20-1. That’s a combined 90-9. At this point, the most likely 6th opponent might be Chiyotairyu, against whom Hakuho is 9-0. He’s 12-0 against Kaisei and 2-0 against Onosho. So I’d say he’s something like a 10:1 favorite in each of his remaining bouts, making 14-1 and 15-0 roughly equally likely.

  6. Does the slot opened up by Kisenosato’s retirement really count as an extra free slot in makuuchi? Aren’t the maegashira ranks fixed at 16 or 17, and don’t the yokozuna and oozeki ranks count as being an “extra” class with not really counting as normal makuuchi?

    • Yes, his retirement frees up a slot. It’s not the maegashira ranks that are fixed, it’s the number of wrestlers in the whole division that is fixed (42). So if anyone retires from makuuchi, it opens a slot. Takanoiwa’s retirement opens a slot for someone from Juryo. Juryo is also fixed so that means a couple of more people will be able to fill in from Makushita. I think the total sekitori is 70? Since the number of sanyaku slots varies, the total number of maegashira varies. I imagine if there were 5 sanyaku wrestlers (one yokozeki), there would be 19 maegashira ranks (if my math is right). With 4 Yokozuna and 4 ozeki along with 4 Sekiwake/Komusubi, there would be 15 maegashira ranks.

      • Oh yes, I remember a similar thing now from when I got a banzuke from an ex-sumo wrestler who opened up a ramenya later in Kagoshima. :) If I remember correctly, on the banzuke the makuuchi fits always on the top row with the sanyaku slots having determined widths and the maegashira distributed evenly in the remaining space. The last part wouldn’t be necessary if makuuchi could have a varying amount of rikishi. Thanks for the explanation!

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