Haru Day 15 Highlights

The Haru basho is a wrap! Day 15 closed out the tournament with some decent matches, and a couple of worrisome developments. While there will be plenty of talk about promotions and demotions in the days to come, the real story to me is just how much of the Makuuchi division was make-koshi this time (25). Sumo is in fact a zero-sum sport, but to see so many rikishi underwater at once is quite the throwback to an earlier time, when the giants of sumo were all healthy and active.

Now that the spoiler buffer is out of the way, we bring you the news. Yokozuna Hakuho took the cup for his 42nd yusho, his 15th zensho yusho. In the process he injured his right arm, enough that he was not able to move it following his match with Kakuryu. How bad is it? I would say bad enough. From a wild guess, it could be a pectoral injury or a bicep injury. Hopefully unlike Kisenosato he will seek immediate attention. We may not see “The Boss” for a while.

Takakeisho was able to win against struggling Ozeki Tochinoshin, to pick up his 10th win. Ounomatsu Oyakata and Hakkaku Rijicho have confirmed that Takakeisho will be promoted to Ozeki this week, and I think the sumo world is quite happy about that. The stone-faced Takakeisho, who it seems had kept his emotions in check for this whole time, finally realized that he had reached a significant goal, and succumbed to the moment.

Tochinoshin will be demoted for May to a Sekiwake rank, or in this special case, we call it Ozekiwake. With 10 wins he will regain his Ozeki rank. We know that a healthy Tochinoshin can clear 10 wins, especially if Hakuho and some of the others are in less than stellar condition. But the question comes down to Tochinoshin’s injuries, and how much they limit him. Sadly, Tachiai took a look at Tochinoshin’s history when he was on the cusp of promotion, and forecasted this scenario with fairly good accuracy.

Highlight Matches

Shohozan defeats Chiyoshoma – I think Shohozan was certain that Chiyoshoma was going for a henka, and so Shohozan launched early (a clear matta) but took a moment to slap Chiyoshoma and launch him into the east side zabuton. When the match started, Chiyoshoma tried a leg sweep, but Shohozan was unphased. He cased Chiyoshoma down and personally welcomed him to make-koshi, and Juryo.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Ikioi – Ikioi had no business being on the dohyo after day 5, yet here he is doing “dead man sumo”. The good news is that maybe, just maybe, Terutsuyoshi with 6 wins can stay in Makuuchi. This is in part due to the wholesale make-koshi outbreak in the bottom ranks. 6-9 from Maegashira 14 should normally punt you back to the 2nd division, but there are so many bad records at lower ranks ahead of him, it’s possible that he stays.

Ryuden defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku’s special prize was contingent on a day 15 win, and he could not overpower Ryuden, who picked up win #10 to finish Haru with double digits. Sometime around day 12, Kotoshogiku’s stamina just seemed to fade out. 11 wins is his best finish since his yusho in 2016, and it was a great basho for both of these rikishi.

Kotoeko defeats Asanoyama – Asanoyama loses the last 5 in a row to end with a make-koshi. Kind of an epic collapse on his part – injury? stamina? Bad batch of takoyaki?

Aoiyama defeats Tomokaze – The winner of this match took home the kanto-sho / fighting spirit prize. Tomokaze did well in his first top division basho, but Aoiyama was completely dialed into his sumo this March, Tomokaze attempted a pull down early, but Aoiyama rallied and showed Tomokaze what that salt basket looks like… up close.

Abi defeats Kagayaki – Abi gets win #8 on the final day, and we can assume that Abi-zumo will not evolve for a while longer.

Okinoumi defeats Yoshikaze – As expected, Okinoumi was able to pick up his kachi-koshi in his match against Yoshikaze today. Yoshikaze was very low at the tachiai, and Okinoumi did not give him a second chance.

Chiyotairyu defeats Myogiryu – Some different sumo from Chiyotairyu today, and his choice of mawashi sumo at the open nearly cost him the match, but with his feet sliding back toward the bales, he changed course and poured on the oshi-yaki, which Myogiryu could not answer. Chiyotairyu gets his kachi-koshi.

Ichinojo defeats Daieisho – 14 wins in frequently more than sufficient to take a yusho, but for Ichinojo it was only good to take him to runner-up against a Hakuho zensho campaign. His sumo this basho has been formulaic, but oh so effective. Can he continue to make it work for him? Next chapter is written in May. This is his second Jun-Yusho, with his first being his 2014 debut tournament where he turned in an impressive 13-2. We expect him to join Tochinoshin at Sekiwake for May.

Mitakeumi defeats Nishikigi – Mitakeumi finishes with a minimal, 7 loss, make-koshi. He has a number of issues to address including his knee injury and his difficulty in carrying the “big” matches. Interestingly enough, its possible both both Komusubi (Hokutofuji also finished 7-8) may have an odd demotion path, as there are not that many rikishi who are making the case for joining the san’yaku.

Shodai defeats Tamawashi – Both men end the tournament with 5-10 records, and the Shodai’s rally is just as big a story as Tamawashi’s collapse. I do tend to rip on Shodai, mostly because he has really enormous potential that he just can’t seem to capitalize. Perhaps his rally in Osaka will give him new confidence that will show itself in Tokyo this May.

Takakeisho defeats Tochinoshin – This match was won at the tachiai. Takakeisho delivered his first push, inside, at the moment of contact. You can see Tochinoshin impotently reach for that left hand mawashi purchase as his torso is propelled to the rear by the force of Takakeisho’s impact. Unable to deliver offense, he finds himself immediately under “wave action” attack. Tochinoshin allowed Takakeisho to dictate the form of the match, and lost. Takakeisho takes his Ozeki rank, and picks up the Gino-sho technique award. At just a pip over 22 years of age, we are looking at the future of sumo in this young man. His sumo is fairly one dimensional, and that is his biggest risk to maintaining the Ozeki rank. But we congratulate Takakeisho for persistence, hard work, and the courage to get it done.

Goeido defeats Takayasu – Some of the best Goeido sumo since Aki 2016, where he went undefeated and took the cup. When Goeido is healthy and focused, like he was in Osaka, he is a great example of a rikishi with absolute focus on offense. Again Takayasu went for the shoulder blast at the tachiai, so that is 2 attempts, 2 losses. I continue to think Takayasu is in a transitional state, and we are going to possibly see it result in a step change to his sumo that could see him bid for higher rank.

Hakuho defeats Kakuryu – Exceptional sumo from both men, this is the kind of match you would expect from two Yokozuna, one of them being the best that has stepped on clay in my lifetime. Three times Kakuryu forced an opening that gave him a shot to win, and three times Hakuho shut him down. The big worry is that the final shitatenage seems to have injured Hakuho’s arm. Both men fought well this March, and both of them are worthy to be considered the top men in sumo.

With that, we bring to a close our daily coverage of the Haru basho. What a great adventure it has been, and we have enjoyed sharing our love of sumo with you, our treasured readers. Join us in the coming weeks as we cover the promotion of Takakeisho to Ozeki, and events leading up to the Natsu basho in Tokyo. [but first, stay tuned for a post later today wrapping up the Haru storylines and making some predictions for Natsu -lksumo]

42 thoughts on “Haru Day 15 Highlights

  1. Sumo is in fact a zero-sumo sport :) – I think there is lots of sumo in sumo!

    PS – I know you meant zero-sum which for anyone not aware, means somebody has to win and somebody hs to lose.

  2. Possible muscle tear scenarios:

    1. Hakuho undergoes surgery, does his rehabilitation, and comes back to Natsu 2020 so as to meet the Olympics deadline out of kyujo status. Chances of him actually getting a Yokozuna kachi-koshi after a year of absence are slim.
    2. Hakuho does not undergo surgery. Instead he goes kyujo for the duration it takes him to get his Japanese Citizenship, then retires.

    I’m sure he’d like to try scenario 1, but at age 35, his chances of actually making it are slim.

    • I will be curious to see what kind of news emerges on Hakuho’s injury. It could be a tough situation.

      • Be sure that I’ll be sifting through the Japanese news daily. Whether anything will turn up… that’s a different question.

    • as an alternative to this dark forecast, surgery for the possible bicep tear with sufficient recovery to take a basho before olympics
      hakuho is by no means a kisenosato and we can reasonably picture much better scenarios than the kise’ miserable extended exit, neh?

      the takakeisho anointment bodes the kind of sumo we’ve seen for so long with other recent ozeki appointeds
      on the other hand, we may see unshackled ichinojo with his yokozuna level presence and performance taking command into the coming era

      many thanks again to all writers of team tachiai
      great insights and fun throughout


      • Neither of my suggestions follows the Kisenosato route. In the one, he takes that surgery, which Kisenosato didn’t, in the other, he decides it can’t be done – and goes kyujo simply because he can’t retire before he gets the Japanese citizenship. In neither scenario does he try to live with the injury and compensate for it with the rest of his body, as Kisenosato did. He knows full well he can’t do it – he is smarter and more realistic than Kisenosato.

        • Kisenosato also had the pressure of being a rare Japanese Yokozuna, which he talked about in his retirement conference. Hakuho doesn’t have to worry about that.

        • I think the whole of sumo learned a tough lesson at Kisenosato’s expense. Hopefully Mitakeumi decides he could use some treatment. Hopefully Ikioi decides he could use a complete rebuild.

          • Well, they both ignored the Kisenosato lesson completely and did this basho regardless of their ailments and injuries. The whole sumo world… learned nothing it seems. Hakuho personally is acting like a professional athlete and takes care of himself as much as he can as a Yokozuna. Oh, and Chiyonokuni deserves a nod of respect.

        • agreed
          far more capable than kisenosato in multiple respects

          this is why my vision for hakuho includes possibilities brighter than failure to kachi-koshi or even to mount the dohyo again
          after the steady excellence he’s delivered through his career, it seems premature to count him out so quickly

          we haven’t even heard what the injury is yet

  3. Thank you for your always stellar coverage! All of your contributors teach me more about sumo, guide me in nuances to watch for when I rewatch that days matches, and make me giggle at your turns of phrase.
    Takakeisho is one of my favorites – fighting hard and gulping air like a tadpole out of water after. My first thought on seeing him was I hope dude sleeps with a CPAP! He truly earned his Ozeki status. And what a performance from Ichi! Can he do it again in Natsu?
    We’re fortunate to be watching in the time of Hakuho, the greatest rikishi of all time (GROAT??!?). But I’m really worried about that right arm. Likewise I hope some real medical care can be given to Mitakeumi’s knee and poor broken Tochinoshin. Ikioi should look into that singing career.
    BTW what does Raja P say at the end of his NHK Highlights – it sounds like kokeenyo. My Japanese is pretty much limited to sumo and food!

    • Many rikishi sleep with CPAP, including, I believe, Hakuho, Daieisho, Takarafuji. So I think the chances are slim that Takakeisho is not sleeping with one with his breathing issues.

      Raja probably says “gokigenyo”. It means “farewell”.

  4. If it is, as it appeared to me to my eyes, a biceps tear (having suffered one myself)–if Hakuho does not undergo surgery in a week’s time, it will not be reparable. Fully recovery time is at least 6 months if he does not re-tear it in rehab. With no surgery, he can compete, but will lose about 30-40% strength in that arm. Either way–this may well be the end for the boss. If that is so, what better way to go out—on the winning move for a Zen-Yusho in his final basho. If this had happened at any other time, he would not only have not won, but not be able to even finish the tournament. Hopefully it is not what it looked to be, and I am wrong.

    • What a prospect – going for the rest of your life with 60-70% strength in your once mighty arm. Hope he has the surgery and makes a great recovery. I’ll keep checking in here to see what happens.

    • Exactly what I was thinking. Every time I hear of a bicep tear (power lifter, professional athlete etc.), it almost always is accompanied by stories of problematic or failed rehab, and a permanent loss of strength that needs to be compensated for. I worry that it might be the last we see of the GOAT, but if anyone has the genetics and drive to recover after surgery, it would be Hakuho.

  5. Ikioi seemed very pissed off with Terutsuyoshi – angrily waved off his offer of help and seemed still angry when he pulled his own sagari when he left the dohyo.

    • I can understand Ikioi’s anger, but Terutsuyoshi’s tactics made sense in this case, in which Ikioi’s only hope of winning was to load up a huge blast at the tachiai.

  6. I try not to see symbolism where there is only coincidence, but Hakuho cradling that arm and in obvious pain… in the final match of the Heisei era (about 2/3 through that match if the video is any indication, and yet powering ahead)… oy vey. Too fraught.

    Thank you for keeping us posted, Herouth.

  7. You can see the amount of respect Hakuho gets from the all the comments here. The best of his generation. The best EVER! He is the G.O.A.T…hopefully he can truly rebound from this concerning injury. As of now, it is pure speculation. When the yusho winner needs assistance lifting the Emperor’s Cup and the other tourney prizes…it doesn’t look good right now. But don’t count Hakuho out just yet. Let’s wait and see.

    And I agree with Bruce — The basho was really exciting! Ichinojo was SO CLOSE! Just looking ahead…I wonder what craziness await us at the May, Natsu basho?

  8. In this basho Ichinojo, or whoever is coaching him,unveiled a set of moves specifically designed to combat the low, fast, powerful oshi-sumo approach which has become the flavour of the decade. By combining his natural advantages in height, strength and sheer bulk with nimble footwork he has become the tadpole-killer.

  9. When someone like Shohozan starts with a clear (and probably intentional) matta, then needlessly shoves his opponent off the dohyo into the crowd, can there be no consequences? If I was king of sumo, I’d declare his opponent the winner as a penalty against Shohozan for his atrocious sportsmanship. Or am I misinterpreting what happened?

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but it sure looked like Yoshikaze simply handed Okinoumi his kachi-koshi. Yoshikaze’s tachiai lacked force, then he offered little resistance to Okinoumi’s attempts to pull him out.

  10. Thanks to all of you! I haven’t been able to participate much but have been following the commentary daily, at least. A few comments: Hakuho has nothing to prove at this point and here’s hoping he gets and follows the best medical advice. Tochinosin- just too damn sad. He has always been a favorite of mine, but clearly his victories last year had a steep price. Congratulations to Takakeisho who has also been a favorite. Bruce may have his Tadpoles, but my husband and I have the “Nicelys,” which is roughly the same idea. So whenever Takakeisho would win, we say. “How are you doing Takakeisho?” “Nicely nicely, thank you!” For those of you who have never seen it:

    So, Takakeisho is definitely doing nicely nicely now!

    PS For a break from sumo and/or real life, watch the whole movie sometime.

  11. In all the hurly-burly of Hakuho’s 15th zensho and Takakeisho’s ozeki promotion I’d just like to take a moment to appreciate Goeido’s skill in that win. Takayasu has taken him to the edge of the ring so he has nowhere to retreat. Takayasu has a strong left inside grip and Goeido knows that there’s no escape until that grip can be broken. He pulls back his right arm and then does a shift to his left; this brings him more in line with Takayasu’s center. His weight is moving to his left; his right foot lands as he continues to transfer his weight; as his left foot comes down he transforms his leftward momentum into counterclockwise rotation of the hips and smashes Takayasu in the short ribs with his right hand, delivering all of the momentum he generated with the weight shift. This blow hits Takayasu as he’s trying to come forward and disrupts his structure; he bounces forward and to his right with both feet(!) in the air. He lands fully engages with Goeido but his center of mass is much much higher. Goeido brings his right hand back to his mawashi and scrapes Takayasu’s grip away as he twists counterclockwise and moves to his right, removing himself from Takayasu’s path while pushing him over with his right hand.

  12. I’m not too surprised by Shodais recovery. He simply had much easier opponents after day 9. The only “surprise win” here would be today vs Tamawashi, who had an off tournament. Next basho Shodai shouldnt see much of Sanyaku opponents, so he will probably rack up a good score again.
    I truly hope Ichinojo can keep up this form, whether he finally overcame some health issues or just reconnected with his sumo. Looks like we will see a new Ozeki for Aki. There are very few tough match ups for him, especially with Hakuho probably being out a number of basho (I hope he will not participate in the first post Heisei basho, even if he promised that before).
    Aside from Ichinojo Goeido was the biggest positive surprise this basho. 15 days of consistently stong sumo is something we usually don’t see from him.
    I’m really looking forward to Iksumo’s prediction. I feel there is a serious chance for a Sanyaku return for Giku, unless Mitakeumi is only demoted by half a position, Ichinojo and Aoiyama are oviously locks for promotion.
    The other end will also be interesting I think we will see 4 demotions and 4 promotions with Shimanoumi (where is that guy suddenly coming from), Chiyomaru, Enho and Tokushoryu.
    In Juryo I fear Wakamotoharu will go back down. There are 3 clear promotion cases in Churanoumi, Irodori and Seiro and only 2 clear demotion cases with Daiseido and Takanofuji. So 5-10 at J10 probably won’t be enough to stay.
    Somehow I jinxed both Sokokurai and Arawashi by praising their solid sumo in the first 10 days. Both somewhat faltered the last 5 days. Luckily I said nothing about Takanosho, who very nicely recovered from his injury. My biggest suprise however was that Gagamaru managed a kachikoshi.
    Hoshoryu will probably end up at Ms5 next basho. Will be interesting, if he can keep up his kachikoshi streak. With Naya and Kototebakari two of his “class mates”, who had been fallen a little behind, are keeping pace with kachikoshi on their own.
    Lots of interesting stories to follow for may basho ;)

  13. I’ve seen a film series promoting injections of stem cells to cure, or much improve, anything from creaky knees to a lifetime of ongoing pain from extensive professional football injuries. I know Japan’s medicos have been doing stem cell injections for diseases, and wonder if, or why, this hasn’t been tried for sumo injuries like Hakuho’s.

    I confess that every time I see Takakeisho, even though he’s mawashi’d and mostly fur-less, I can’t help but think of the fat groundhog, his front paws working furiously, trying to dig under my mother’s house.

    ( https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ee/Groundhog-Standing2.jpg )

  14. The Hakuho-Kakuryu bout was a well-rehearsed and nicely performed choreography (a waltz perhaps?), but I wouldn’t call it great sumo


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