What The Haru Results Mean for Natsu

The State of the Yokozuna

Yokozuna Hakuho (15-0) extended his own record by claiming an unprecedented 42nd top-division championship, a total equivalent to winning every single tournament for seven years. Hakuho is now ahead of second-place Taiho by 10 yusho, a number that by itself is generally considered the mark for Dai-Yokozuna status. Hakuho’s 15 zensho yusho is nearly double Taiho’s 8. There is a beautiful symmetry in winning all 15 bouts 15 times. That’s 225 victories in just his zensho tournaments—to put this in perspective, Kakuryu has 225 total victories as a Yokozuna!

It is concerning that in claiming this championship in a hard-fought match against Kakuryu, Hakuho injured his arm. Tachiai hopes that the cost was not too high, that the Dai-Yokozuna gets the necessary treatment and takes the time to recover, and that we will see him dominating on the dohyo again before too long.

Of the last 5 tournaments, Kakuryu sat out one, pulled out of two, and faded in the second week of the other two. He eked out the “Yokozuna kachi-koshi” of ten wins this time, and we’ll have to see how healthy and genki he is in May.

The State of the Ozeki

The big news, of course, is that we lose one Ozeki (at least temporarily) and gain another. Tochinoshin (7-8) will be ranked Sekiwake at Natsu, with a one-time shot to regain his rank with 10 victories. If he can get healthy, and that’s a big if, this should be doable. Many of us remember Kotoshogiku just missing out with 9 in his “Ozekiwake” basho. Sekiwake Takakeisho (10-5) will in fact be promoted after a very creditable Ozeki run of 13-2 Y, 11-4 J, 10-5. The promotion comes in only his 14th tournament in the top division, and Tachiai wishes him a long and successful career as Ozeki and possible future Yokozuna.

Goeido, who will take over the top O1e rank in May, had a great tournament at 12-3. His loss to Daieisho was basically an unfortunate inadvertent step-out, and his other two losses were to a rampaging Ichinojozilla and the zensho-yusho-winning greatest Yokozuna of all time. Goeido’s performance level would have been good enough to win many a recent tournament. Takayasu (10-5) also had a strong tournament despite fading at the end with three consecutive defeats. He lost to the same opponents as Goeido, plus Goeido himself and a promotion-seeking Takakeisho. These performances bode well for the future of the Ozeki corps.

The San’yaku Ranks

Ichinojo will be the East Sekiwake at Natsu. We’ve always known there’s a Yokozuna inside Ichinojo, but we weren’t sure it would ever be unleashed. If the big guy can maintain his focus and health, it wouldn’t be going too far out on a limb to suggest that he could make Ozeki by July, and even take a run at the next rank by the end of the year. Hopefully, this time Lucy won’t pull away the football. Tochinoshin will attempt to reascend to Ozeki with 10 wins from West Sekiwake.

Fighting spirit prize winner Aoiyama (M7, 12-3) will be East Komusubi, making his first San’yaku appearance since 2014. What about West Komusubi? The only solid promotion contender is former Ozeki Kotoshogiku (M8, 11-4), but his loss on senshuraku opens the door for East Komusubi Mitakeumi (7-8) to merely slide over to the West side.

The New Joi-Jin Maegashira

Who will hold the top 8 (or so) slots in the rank-and-file, which come with the dubious honor of getting pummeled by the named ranks? Two or three will go to the demoted San’yaku rikishi (Tamawashi, Hokutofuji, and possibly Mitakeumi). Four of the incumbents handed out 45 white stars among them and will be dropping far down the banzuke (yes Bruce, even Shodai, though not as far as Kaisei, Nishikigi, and especially Tochiozan). Ichinojo, of course, was in class by himself, and the only rikishi in the top eight to get his kachi-koshi. The other incumbents (Endo, Daieisho, and possibly Myogiryu) did enough to earn another spin in the meat grinder despite finishing with losing records. Joining them will be Kotoshogiku if he isn’t Komusubi, M5 Chiyotairyu, and likely one or both of the M6 duo Okinoumi and Abi, all 8-7.

The Make/Kachi Line

Of the eight rikishi going into senshuraku with 7-7 records, half were able to record victories: Chiyotairyu, Okinoumi, Abi, and Takarafuji. For three, failure to get to 8 wins had a considerable cost: loss of Ozeki rank for Tochinoshin, likely Juryo demotion for Chiyoshoma, and no Komusubi debut for Daieisho. In total, a whopping 10 rikishi finished the tournament with a minimal 7-8 make-koshi, one shy of the all-time record. This will play havoc with the banzuke-making for Natsu.

The Makuuchi <-> Juryo Exchange

The final-day results cleared up the demotion/promotion scenarios somewhat, but it’s still a mess. Victories by Kotoeko (M15w, 7-8) and newcomers Terutsuyoshi (M14e, 6-9) and Daishoho (M16e, 7-8) should be just enough to keep them in the top division.

Chiyonokuni (M12e, 0-0-15) and Yutakayama (M16w, 3-12) will be dropping deep into Juryo. Ikioi (M9w, 2-12) should be joining them in the second division after 39 tournaments in Makuuchi, unless the banzuke committee decides to draw the promotion line at two, with the clearly promotable Shimanoumi (J1e, 13-2) and Chiyomaru (J1w, 10-5), and deny borderline candidates Enho (J2w, 8-7) and Tokushoryu (J4w, 9-6). Shimanoumi should make his top-division debut at one of the highest ranks in recent memory.

That leaves three other demotion candidates: Ishiura (M15e, 6-9), Toyonoshima (M14w, 5-10), and Chiyoshoma (M17e, 7-8). I predict that Ishiura will survive despite sporting a demotable record, as the other two have stronger cases for demotion, and there are not enough legitimate promotion candidates to go around. Of the remaining duo, Toyonoshima has the worse combination of rank and record, while Chiyoshoma got his make-koshi at the very bottom of Makuuchi. They could keep both and deny the 4th promotion candidate (likely Tokushoryu), demote one and keep the other, or drop both and promote Takagenji (M4e, 8-7). I’m not sure how seriously to take the rumblings on Sumo Forum that the fact that the latter is a protégé of you-know-who might count against him. If Ishiura were to join the demotion crew, his spot would have to go to Wakatakakage (J5e, 8-7).

40 thoughts on “What The Haru Results Mean for Natsu

  1. This is going to take some chewing over. I worked through the numbers and thought that I had gone a bit bonkers when I saw my predicted rank for Shimanoumi (M8???), so I’m glad that you came up with something similar. I have Chiyomaru, Enho, Tohushoryu and Takagenji joining him in makuuchi with Ishiura hanging on by the skin of his teeth to deny Wakatakakage.

    • Yeah I don’t see how they put Shimanoumi any lower than 8w, as that would mean pushing him below the sorry likes of Kaisei and Nishikigi.

    • It’s also hard to see where they rank all the guys they /don’t/ demote, without having to promote someone with a losing record!

      • I’ve got Shimanoumi at M7W which felt high so glad it isn’t miles off. I reckon Ikioi could get lucky in order to prevent promoting those with losing records. First time attempt at guess the banzuke for me though so this is probably all wrong!

  2. Seeing Hakuho unable to use his arm after the bout gave me chills, I hope he learned from the Kisenosato disaster and will seek the best possible treatment immediately. I don’t expect him to show up for the next basho however.
    Takakeisho will make a good Ozeki as I don’t see him having trouble getting 8+ wins. But knowing him he will reach even further. Tochinoshin might join the Ozeki squad again after one basho at sekiwake but I have my doubts. Makes for an interesting storyline next basho though.

    • FWIW, Detroit Tigers first baseman (and future Hall of Famer) Miguel Cabrera tore his biceps muscle last May. He had prompt surgery and missed the rest of the season. He has returned this spring seemingly at full strength, playing a lot at first base and batting .360 with five home runs. Coincidentally, both Miggy and Hakuho had recently celebrated their 34th birthdays when their injuries occurred. Obviously, the physical demands of sumo are much different from those in baseball, but Cabrera’s example may provide some hope for Hakuho fans.

  3. Even though he lost, I’m glad Tochinoshin was allowed to “go out on his shield” while defending his rank. Kotoshogiku was denied that privilege thanks to a henka-ing Terunofuji. I hope The Bulldozer is granted the Komisubi rank, although it wouldn’t surprise me if he ended up at M1 either, especially with Mitakeumi’s final record.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if the banzuke committee uses dice or a dartboard to figure out the Joi Jin. Good grief!

    I would honestly be surprised if the line for Juryo promotions would be limited to two rikishi. If there were a bunch of 7-8 or even 6-9 records in the top division, that’s what I would expect. I can see Shimanoumi, Chiyomaru, and Enho being promoted. Unless, of course, the committee gets grumpy about “only 8 wins from a J2”. However, as you’ve mentioned, Chiyonokuni is going down and so is Yutakayama. Chiyoshoma was given an “extra spot” in the top division this division and he’s makekoshi. I don’t think they’ll promote Tokoshoryu, so anyone else further down the banzuke than him is also out of luck.

    Would the committee demote Toyonishima and keep Chiyshoma in the top division? Also, is there a precedent for having more rikishi move down into Juryo and have one less promoted from Makushita? That’s a potential solution, but it might not happen because we still have three Ozeki. Hmmmm. There’s a lot to ponder here!

    • I don’t think they’ll mess with the division boundaries, especially as in this case there are more strong promotion cases at the top of Makushita than clear demotion cases at the bottom of Juryo. I agree that two promotions/demotions is unlikely, as is six, but nothing between 3 and 5 would surprise me. Like I said, there’s a slightly stronger numerical case for demoting Toyonoshima, but I don’t know if there’s a special rule about demoting the last guy if he’s MK, and I haven’t been able to find a relevant precedent.

      • Solid Grail reference. Fun fact, it used to be bigger and less fixed in size as recently as the 1960s. Juryo would also have 20 ranks (40 rikishi). Not sure exactly when (or why) the current numbers became fixed.

      • Almost a solid reference…it would actually be,

        “Makuuchi is set at 42. The number of the rikishi shall be 42. 43 shall there not be, nor 41, except proceeding on the way to 42. $0 is right out.”

  4. And [doing a little dance] Aminishiki keeps his kesho-mawashi by having a kachi-koshi in the last day of the basho – the first in four tournaments. Irodori, Seiro, and the Makushita yusho winner Churanoumi are likely to be promoted – we’ll know in a couple of days – which means that Daiseido, Takanofuji (fmr. Takayoshitoshi) and unfortunately, Wakamotoharu will drop back to no-tsukebito status.

  5. Could this be the end?

    A career ending injury in the last move, of the last fight of the last tournament in Heisei era. A move that gave him his 42th yusho, 10 above the next best, his 15th zensho yusho, and all of this in the exact place where it all began.

    How poetic

  6. Definitely not Makuuchi for Wakatakakaze. Unfortunately he’s too low in the Juryo banzuke to be considered (see Gagamaru’s 8-7 in Osaka at J.e5 last year).
    I do hope they spare Chiyoshoma from demotion (me being a Kokonoe fan), although he’s been so inconsistent lately, but alas… negative score when you’re the last on the list, who could complain?

    • As a Chiyoshoma fan (yes we do exist), I’m glad to see him demoted: I’m fed up of his “underachiever and proud of it” attitude and a spell in the second division could be the metaphorical kick up the backside he needs.

  7. Let’s talk Jonokuchi …. Hattorizakura ends with a mind-numbing 0-7 at Jonokuchi #15. Considering that every one ranked below him had losing records (but not as bad), does he fall from his current rank or keep it?

      • Actually, if you look up the Shikihide stable, you will find that their one notable active rikishi is Hattorizakura. To call this guy an embarassment is an understatement. The #26 ranker (last) in Jonikochi went 1-0-6. He showed up Ikioi-style for his fight against Hattorizakura to notch his only victory.

      • Nuts? I doubt it. We have no idea what his life was like prior to sumo; I suspect this may be the best situation available to him — a place to live, a job to do, and even extremely minor celebrity as the losing-est active rikishi.

    • Hattorizakura will be fourth-lowest on the next banzuke, ahead of the three rookies who went winless in maezumo.

  8. This is a real mess again. I wouldn’t really know how to rank Chiyoshoma, Toyonoshima and Ikioi. I personally hope they stick to 3 demotees and send Chiyoshoma down, leaving Toyonoshima in Makuuchi. Fingers crossed for Giku to get the Komusubi spot;)

  9. Looking at your post and the thread at Sumo Forum, I think just about everyone has a different idea about both how many people will be demoted from Makuuchi and the order in which they will be. About the only constant is that the bottom of the banzuke will be very crowded and there isn’t much room to choose where to put the people you don’t demote.

  10. What a fantastic Basho! So many exciting fights and storylines! I have been checking and re-reading the Tachiai site many times per day…

    I can’t resist pointing out that after all the talk that he has been ‘found out’ and ‘is this the end for Abi’s brand of sumo?’ etc, my boy in fact recorded his second KK in a row! He will now probably be promoted back into the joi or thereabouts. YES ABI !!
    Sure he has his preferred double-handed tachiai and sure it would be better for him to diversify his winning techniques. But it is not at all clear to me why we should think he is any more ‘one-dimensional’ than many other mid-ranking top-division pusher-thrusters – e.g. Chiyotairyu or Shohozan etc. He is still only 24 and has only been in the top division a little over 1 year – so let’s cut him a little slack before declaring his style of sumo obsolete.
    [[Ok, sorry – rant over!]]

    One other thing – it looks like 9 of Ichinojo’s 14 wins were listed as either hatakikomi or tsukiotoshi. But my dim memory is that a least one or maybe two of his wins that are officially listed as ‘throws’ (uwatenage/kotenage) had a distinctly thrust-down-ish look to them. That must be some kind of record! Will the other rikishi learn ways to avoid this? Or has has he discovered a new, style of sumo that is neither oshi-zumo nor yotsu-zumo? It could perhaps be called ‘hataki-zumo’ and is probably only workable if you are 6′ 5″ and immovably strong.

    • If you look at the wins Abi has picked up, a lot of them were not convincing … or totally unnecessary giveaways by his opponents. This works and happens at a certain level, but if he moves up higher those will turn into losses. That’s why he needs a plan B.
      As for Ichinojo … his new found technique as very similar to Aoiyama, who has a lot of pull down wins too. Their body shape isn’t too far apart either. The difference is that Aoiyama does it all with thrusting and Ichinojo is perfectly happy to get a belt battle.

    • I think it’s important not to get too carried away in either direction about Abi’s performance. His 6 straight wins in the second week, were all against lower ranked opponents with the exception of Daieisho. And he even had a couple lucky misses mixed into the bargain.

      That said, as a fan of course I’m happy to see him get his kachi-koshi. But he needs to diversify his sumo. I don’t think necessarily that his style is obsolete and not speaking for Bruce, but I don’t think he necessarily does either. It’s just that it’s not what’s required to make a larger move. I actually think the comparison for Abi to Chiyotairyu and Shohozan is a bit harsh on Abi, because at 35, Shohozan is what he is, and Abi’s talent level is likely higher than Chiyotairyu. So the reason why we are critical of Abi is that it would be a shame for him to flame out into this M4 kind of character with occasional trips higher like Chiyotairyu, because if he can add to his sumo, his physical gifts and abilities mean he could likely become a san’yaku mainstay. Right now it would feel like his best case scenario is to turn into Tamawashi.

      • Savaros & Josh K: yes those are all totally fair and reasonable comments. I just couldn’t prevent myself from typing a little bit of biased/triumphant/relieved crowing when my beloved Abi pulled out his KK on the final day.
        Concerning his potential – of course I daydream that he will eventually make Ozeki or even… But hey, if he were to end up with a Tamawashi type career – i.e. a yusho plus regularly featuring in the lower sanyaku over many many years – I’m not sure I would describe that as ‘wasted potential’ or ‘failure to fulfil his natural talent’. I would describe that as a pretty good innings. Anyway, let’s wait and see how he looks in a few years if/when he has gained about 10-12kg and hopefully a string or two more to his bow.

        Concerning Ichinojo’s tall-man, pull-down zumo, you are certainly right about the similarity with Aoiyama. But I guess even with Aoiyama, when he goes for the pull down there is still that sudden tricky change of direction from forward to reverse and a sense of the matador pulling away the cape at the last moment. Whereas what Ichinojo was doing this basho kind of seemed genuinely different in that there was no sudden change of momentum. He just stands there implacably and then calmly crushes the opponent down on the spot. He often had the slightly puzzled demeanour of a man trying to fold down an awkward deck-chair.

        Can more knowledgable commentators than me remember other tall men favouring the pull-down/slap-down? According to sumodb, Akebono only won with hatakikomi 3.5 % of the time (compared with a base rate of 6.14%) and tsukiotoshi 1.16% (3.8% base rate). So the tallest yokozuna certainly did not tend to go that route.

        • I’m with you. I’m always happy for his success and I hope it continues. The frustration, technically and tactically is when you see him get the motor running but when he can’t make forward progress.

          I agree that a Tamawashi career would be a great career for any rikishi. There are so few rikishi to dream on in the top division though (as evidenced by the avalanche of make-koshi that we just endured) and he is certainly one of them. That’s not to say there aren’t tons of guys that I love watching, but when you think about who can be an ozeki or a yokozuna, he has the physical and natural gifts at least to be an ozeki, but he needs to become more of a technician. I have been thinking a lot about one-note ozeki lately in light of kotoshogiku, tochinoshin, takakeisho etc. Maybe Abi can still make it work but at the very least he’s going to need more variations on the theme. But I really do want to see him there.

    • Thanks for the link, George. I’m glad Hakuho received treatment, but I’m puzzled by the ‘probably torn’ remark. Surely a proper medical exam would include a diagnosis?

      (Although I spent 6 months getting physical therapy for bursitis before my Dr gave up and got me an MRI which revealed torn rotator cuff.)

      Good to see Hakuho has the sense to take time off to rest.

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