Tamawashi Wins Hatsu Basho Yusho

Tamawashi Yusho Parade
Photo c/o @sumokyokai

With a final record of 13-2, Sekiwake Tamawashi of Kataonami-beya has won his first yusho in the 2019 Hatsu honbasho at the Kokugikan.

On Senshuraku, needing a win to clinch the cup (and the macaron, and the myriad other prizes) regardless of other results, Tamawashi saw off the challenge of Maegashira 9 Endo, winning by tsukiotoshi to seal the championship. Tamawashi is the fourth first-time winner in the past seven tournaments (following Tochinoshin, Mitakeumi and Takakeisho), and the second-oldest first time winner.

Remarkably, Tamawashi’s wife also gave birth to their second son on the day of his first Yusho, so we congratulate Tamawashi on an incredible day in his career and for his family!

The Hatsu basho championship originally looked to be heading the way of Dai-Yokozuna Hakuho, and despite some hairy moments, at 10-0 it seemed, as Bruce and I speculated on the latest Tachiai podcast, that a procession towards the legend’s 42nd yusho felt all but inevitable. However, in the second week, Hakuho’s injury problems told, and after successive losses, including Hakuho’s first ever loss to Tamawashi, the title race swung in favor of his fellow Mongolian.

Elsewhere, Inside Sport Japan have reported on their Instagram that despite racking up 33 wins over the past 3 basho, Jun-yusho grabbing Sekiwake Takakeisho will not be promoted to Ozeki. Apparently the nature of his final bout loss to Goeido meant that the NSK had not seen enough for him to be ready for sumo’s highest rank at this time.

Day 15’s results also mean that the sansho, or special prizes list has been confirmed as follows (following lksumo’s earlier post):

Shukun-sho – Outstanding Performance Prize
Tamawashi (first win)
Mitakeumi (fourth win)

Kanto-sho – Fighting Spirit Prize
Tamawashi (first win)

Gino-sho – Technique prize
Takakeisho (first win)

Congratulations again to Sekiwake Tamawashi! We now look ahead to a Haru-basho featuring two Ozeki runs, one kadoban Ozeki, and significant banzuke turnover, as spaces will need to be filled following the three intai that have occurred since the last banzuke was written.

25 thoughts on “Tamawashi Wins Hatsu Basho Yusho

  1. Great write up Josh – I had a suspicion that they would slow Takakeisho’s ascent by at least one basho. While I am sure some sumo fans will be outraged, I am also certain that Takakeisho is headed higher no matter what. January / March / May / July – it’s going to happen. His magic number in Osaka is only 10.

    Although it was fairly risky to his long term health, Mitakeumi’s kachi-koshi (and special prizes) was quite impressive for a one legged man. I know he wants to join the Ozeki ranks as well, but his “8” mean that he is starting from scratch in Osaka.

    Tamawashi’s win only underscores that we are riding deeper into a transition era. Not that he did not earn that yusho (outstanding sumo from him), but that the forces that kept everyone else on the run are no longer able to dominate the top end of Makuuchi, and rikishi that would have been or could have been stars in any other era are getting their chance to shine.

    • I agree and I think it’s the right decision re: Takakeisho. Stepping to Tamawashi for a minute, he won because in a tournament when none of the ozeki or yokozuna were either consistent (Takayasu, Goeido, Hakuho) OR good (Tochinoshin, Kisenosato, Kakuryu), he was consistently good. We talk about the “evolution of sumo” and I think just like actual evolution you can have misconceptions. “Survival of the fittest” isn’t how it works, it’s “survival of the fit ENOUGH.” Tamawashi was fit enough, consistent enough, good enough. Even if you aren’t at the top of the food chain, you just have to be there to pounce when the guys who are drop their lunch. It’s how you can get 37 year old Kyokutenho winning a title or Aminishiki getting promoted back to the top division, just being good enough in the right moment.

      Takakeisho’s loss to Goeido I think shows exactly why that consistency is important. You need a head for the big moments, and he got shut down far too easily when his moment had gone, and he still had something to fight for. He will learn from it. His only problem is now everyone will have 2 more months to analyse him.

    • Re: magic numbers: I want to stress again that there is no rule or condition that says 33 wins over 3 tournaments makes you Ozeki. So there is no magic number. It’s true that there is correlation between 33 wins and Ozekihood, but that’s just a proxy for the real condition: consistent excellent performance. If Takakeisho gets this double digits but not quality wins, this condition will not have been met.

      As for Mitakeumi: I predict troubles in Haru. That injury is not going away. He’ll get deconditioned, and we may have a less severe Kisenosato story.

  2. Once Takakeisho failed to beat Goeido it didn’t take long for the decision to come out that he wouldn’t be promoted this time. Of course we don’t know whether it would have gone the other way had he beat Goeido, or if it had been decided regardless.

    Delighted that Tamawashi won, it’s a great story for him to win after such a long career and he seems like one of the good guys

    • I’ve read from a few sources that for the committee, a lot was riding on his performance in that final match

      However as the NSK is made up of a number of factions who all have their own thoughts and ideas, it’s possible we’d hear dissenting voices even if he did get the 34

      And I agree that especially in an era of what feels like increasing kyujo, it’s good to see a guy who’s never missed a match collect his rewards

      • From my abbreviated day 15 highlights to be posted a bit later –

        Goeido defeats Takakeisho – I have to remark again just how impressive Goeido’s rally from an 0-4 start has been. Many worried that he was headed for kadoban again, and it certainly looked that way. But in spite of his injuries and physical problems, he took in 9 wins by the end of it all. His win over Takakeisho was pure Goeido. He’s a speed monster who throws everything into an offensive opening gambit. He either blows you away or he’s in trouble. Takakeisho could not set up any kind of offense, and in desperation tried for some kind of pull down. Meanwhile the Goeido locomotive was screaming down the tracks with Takakeisho affixed to the front – next destination zabuton city.

  3. Were others surprised by the choice for Technique prize? I thought the technique prize was for a variety of techniques, not for executing a few techniques extremely well.

    • Fair point. Have just had a look and (while it’s not the only criteria), he did only have 3 winning techniques, none of which were rare, though you can argue that his deployment of some of them is certainly unique.

      If anyone’s wondering, the most diverse rikishi by techniques in this basho were Endo and Kaisei with 7 winning techniques each. If you’re going just on that metric, Endo would probably just about shade it as he was the only one to deploy either of the uwatedashinage (vs Chiyotairyu) or the rarer abisetaoshi (vs Sadanoumi) in the tournament.

      Other winning techniques only deployed once in this basho: Kotoeko over Kagayaki by amiuchi, Nishikigi over Mitakeumi by kimedashi, Hokutofuji over Takayasu by okuritaoshi (!!), Hakuho over Aoiyama by shitatedashinage, Ishiura over Chiyoshoma by shitatehineri, Goeido over Kotoshogiku by sotogake, Meisei over Kagayaki by tottari. Onosho also won over Aoiyama by hansoku (disqualification).

      • The Gino-sho is not so much about having a wide number of Technique’s, as it is about excellence of execution of the ones employed. See the four that Kotoshogiku has won, using his limited repertoire.

        Over the years, it has mutated into more of a Kanto-Sho+ type award, than a straight up Technique one.

  4. I think one thing that was a big factor for not promoting Takakeisho is that we currently already have three Ozeki. If, for example, Tochinoshin was kadoban and then didn’t get his kachi koshi, the road to promotion for Takakeisho would be a lot less daunting because there would be an “open slot”. Takakeisho’s inability to deal with anyone getting in close and/or grabbing his belt also probably is a large factor in the decision about his promotion.

    • Bear in mind that only a few years ago there were six Ozeki together: Harumafuji, Kisenosato, Baruto, Kotooshu, Kotoshogiku and Kakuryu (2012). In any case, an odd number is “not balanced”. But I agree with your last sentence: I think his single-dimensionality is the real problem.

    • It’s Kagayaki. The yusho winner will always have a flag bearer in the convertible with him. If there’s no other rikishi from the division in his stable (which is certainly not the case for Tamawashi as his stable only has two other, very junior rikishi), then it will be another rikishi from within his ichimon (group of stables). I believe he gets to select who it will be, but someone else can right me if I’m wrong.

        • Yeah, his chest is the feature everyone recognizes, not his face. When it’s covered, he could be anyone.

      • It doesn’t have to be Makuuchi, though. Hakuho had both Sokokurai and Enho in 2017/18. For that matter, it doesn’t even have to be the same ichimon (Sokokurai is not from the Isegahama ichimon). Of course, a Yokozuna who won 41 yusho may have more wriggle room around the traditions than a first-time yusho winner.

  5. Now that he has won a yusho, does this mean that Tamawashi will no longer be getting up to his usual mischief – slapping butts and tweaking nipples etc – during Jungyo, and will have to start acting all responsible and mature?
    Hope not . . .

    • Now that Tamawashi has won a yusho, no nipple is safe. As the saying goes, “When you are a star they let you do anything. You can even grab’em by the …. “

  6. Not only were Tamawashi’s mom and dad watching, not only was his second child born today ….

    I have never seen so many kensho envelopes at once!

    Here ends your superficial observation of the day. You’re welcome!

    • Were there a lot of kensho? I’m glad! I couldn’t see them clearly. Of course there always are for Endo matches….

      Very handy with a new baby to have some extra cash!

      • Oh yes, far more than usual. I think Kakyru and Hakuho’s kensho was rolled over to Tamawashi when they dropped out. Check out the NHK highlights tape, available on NHK’s website and probably you tube.

  7. Disappointing that Takakeisho will not be promoted to Ozeki this time, but he is talented and will become one soon enough. I’ve been impressed with him, and also Mitakeumi, ever since watching them debut in the top division.

  8. A great day for Tamawashi! His first yusho and a new son, and he got to share it all with his parents, too. Very happy to see him do so well. 🥰

    Thanks for all your coverage, Team Tachiai, I learn so much here.

  9. The NHK English translator expressed it as Tamawashi and his wife were both fighting in their own ways 😉 So happy for the guy, and that he was able to have his parents around for his victory. I hope this helps his heya’s recruiting, too.

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