Natsu Day 14 Highlights

Edo or Tokyo? – The Classic Stylings of Asanoyama

Day 14 showed us another look at the future of sumo. We have been getting these a few times a year since Hakuho has gone into an on again / off again mode, and can no longer be counted on to dominate a basho. With Harumafuji out of sumo all together, the mainstays that would keep the lower ranks beat down have been removed, and new champions are free to emerge. We have moved from the homogenized “Every yusho is Hakuho” world into an environment where a hard working, dedicated and skilled Maegashira 8 can take the yusho. Our hearty congratulations to Asanoyama.

We noticed Asanoyama some time ago, and he distinguished himself early with his solid sumo, and his fantastic attitude. Every day he mounted the dohyo, no matter what the score, he was just happy to be doing sumo that day. Since his top division debut, I made and used the somewhat humorous tag “Asanoyama ❤️ Sumo”, but it really shows. Some time in the past year, he has dialed in a classic style that looks straight out of a 19th century wood block print, and has used it this May with great effect.

Congratulations to Asanoyama, it could not have happened to a nicer guy.

Highlight Matches

Toyonoshima defeats Ishiura – Toyonoshima picks up his 8th win, and more or less ensures that Ishiura will be headed back to Juryo. Ishiura is still struggling to enact a working pixie sumo formula, and Juryo is a fine place to sort that out once again. But Hakuho’s dream of having a dohyo-iri with Enho and Ishiura is on hold for a while longer.

Shimanoumi defeats Enho – After a cold start, Shimanoumi comes roaring back to score at least 9 wins for Natsu, and putting Enho on the make/kachi-koshi line. Enho is clearly still suffering from whatever happened to his right thigh, and it may have gotten worse in his day 14 loss.

Shohozan defeats Terutsuyoshi – That’s 2 of the 3 pixies with make-koshi records for May. The entire cohort faded into week 2, but I hope nobody thinks this is a repudiation of the pixie sumo style. They will be back after some tune-ups. But this many losing records at the bottom of the banzuke raises the question of who is going back to Juryo.

Daishoho defeats Tochiozan – Daishoho once again executes well, picking up his 9th win while giving Tochiozan his make-koshi. The match was really all Daishoho, who took the inside road at the tachiai, and did as he pleased with Tochiozan.

Kagayaki defeats Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi’s opening gambit fails, and he finds himself without workable defensive foot placement. Kagayaki plows ahead and bodily removes Sadanoumi from the dohyo for the win.

Yago defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi’s preferred arm-bar hold seems to have run out of gas at least for this basho. He manages to pin Yago’s left arm, but after consoldiatinlg his position, Yago uses a maemitsu grip to maneuver Nishikigi over and out for a loss.

Tomokaze defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma goes down to his 10th loss, and will be deep back in the Juryo pack for July. Tomokaze has one more day to secure his 12th consecutive kachi-koshi.

Abi defeats Meisei – I cringe now when I see a monoii in the top division. It’s like “What kind of nonsense is Onomatsu oyakata going to utter this time?”. They give the win to Abi, both men advance to a respectable 9-5.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tokushoryu – Out running Chiyoshoma in the race back to Juryo is Tokushoryu, who has looked absolutely terrible this basho. His sumo is so much better than this, and I just have to assume some new or old injury has limited him.

Tamawashi defeats Kotoeko – Tamawashi goes to double digits, and complicates the Nagoya San’yaku picture somewhat. His sumo is back to being strong, focused and able to overcome quite a bit. Will he he turn it up to 11?

Endo defeats Onosho – Did you see the point where Onosho is driving forward, and decides he wants to try to pull Endo down? Yes, that’s the moment where the match was lost. Endo is too sharp to throw that kind of opportunity away.

Daieisho defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru seemed to have zero power today, and Daieisho was fully charged. Solid center-mass thrusting attack from Daieisho for the win. Although he is make-koshi, his sumo is holding up well into the end of the second week.

Hokutofuji defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze’s sumo is completely broken right now. His style is usually fast paced strike-and-move combos that leave his opponents reacting, usually at least a half step behind. Whatever is plaguing you, Yoshikaze, we hope you can heal.

Myogiryu defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku held the advantage in this match until he got a bit too eager to close the deal, giving Myogiryu a narrow window to rally and execute a throw. Great kubinage in a tight spot from Myogiryu.

Okinoumi defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama decides to pull, and gets it stuffed in his mawashi by Okinoumi. Cut it out guys!

Mitakeumi defeats Takarafuji – Mitakeumi picks up his 8th win and secures a return to at least Komusubi for July. This match was all Mitakeumi, with him gaining the inside grip at the tachiai, staying low and just driving ahead.

Ryuden defeats Ichinojo – Ryuden picks up win 9 in this well executed match against Ichinojo, who is fighting better than I expected given his injury. I think we are just starting to see what Ryuden is capable of.

Shodai defeats Takayasu – Takayasu is a complete wreck this basho. He seems to have neglected the superior lateral mobility that Shodai brings to nearly every match, and finds his forward pressure against Shodai’s chest instantly transformed into a tumbling move into thin air.

Asanoyama defeats Goeido – Good sumo today from Goeido, but Asanoyama was better. Congratulations to overcoming both an Ozeki and an Ozekiwake to take the cup! His only losses where to hard core oshi-power rikishi (Tamawashi and Onosho) who shut down Asanoyama’s yotsu attack. Goeido took him on chest-to-chest, but Asanoyama kept low and focused his power forward.

Tochinoshin defeats Kakuryu – Well, can’t put it off any more. That henka had really no place at this level of sumo. I get why he did it; he’s hurt, he needed one more win to get back to Ozeki, and he thinks he was robbed day 13. He needed one more white star by any means he could get one. Kakuryu should have known this and made him eat it, but Kakuryu is himself at only about 80% genki, and is probably expecting the left hand outside followed by the sky crane. Welcome back to Ozeki Tochinoshin. If you don’t get your body back in fighting shape, you are going to be right back here again by Kyushu.

60 thoughts on “Natsu Day 14 Highlights

  1. I burst out laughing when Tochinoshin henka’d, because at the same time it was both ridiculous and completely fitting.

    Congratz to Asanoyama. There was some hype around the promotion of both he and Ryuden when they joined Makunouchi at the end of 2017 / start of 2018. It will be interesting to see whether they both become fixtures at the top of sumo.

    I get the feeling that the older Ozekis we have at the moment may well be replaced in the next year or two, as the rising younger cohort (Takakeisho, Mitakeumi, Asanoyama, Ryuden etc.) start making it more and more difficult for them to clock up 8 wins.

  2. If Tochinoshin finished the basho with only 9 wins he would have only himself to blame. Not the shimpan, not the video review guy, not the system.

    Just him.

    Referees are part of the game. It’s their job to make hard decisions and while they usually get it right, mistakes happen. No player or team ever lost “because of the refs”. They lost because they failed to score enough (or prevent scoring) to win. In a sumo context, (and combat sports generally) it’s your job to make the win definitive. Don’t leave it in the hands of the judges!

    Tochinoshin was 9-0 going into his match against Endo. As of day 14, he lost to an M2, M7 and M8. Endo is having a poor basho. Meisei? He’s done fine but should never have won against the like of Tochinoshin. At least Asanoyama took the yusho but his record and rank would never have indicated his performance this tournament.

    I’m very happy our Ozekiwake has now gotten his rank back and Chris Gould has a great take[1] on why the powers that be should consider reform of the kadoban system. I just think it’s important not to lose perspective.

    • Don’t overthink the henka.

      Tochi had only two chances left to regain ozeki rank, seems injured, and was against a tough opponent with a good track record against him. 23-3 in favor of Kakuryu!

      Revenge motive? Sticking it to the Man? Nah, too many other reasons to henka. (Although he did seem to be casting daggers at Asanoyama during the Asanoyama-Goeido bout. Blameless Asanoyama! Maybe he realized he was watching his chances of a playoff evaporate.)

      He’s not the first high ranker to resort to henka, and I doubt this is the last henka we see from him.

      Tachiai,great photo of Asanoyama; he has a great sense of color.

      Congratulations to Asanoyama. We can quibble about one of his wins, but he didn’t get 12-3 by being a bad wrestler. He’s talented and en fuego and hinkaku and not outrageous to think we may be witnessing a future yokozuna. May he stay genki!

  3. Somehow that lovely photo of Asanoyama with the parasol reminds me of Totoro with his umbrella. I am happy for him that he is fighting so well.

    I am glad that Tochinoshin regains ozeki status but I don’t like how he did it. If it’s supposed to be getting back at the refs for the call yesterday, that comes off as petulant (and no fair to Kakuryu).

    Best wishes to Asanoyama, and I hope Enho takes care of himself and heals up.

    • I just saw a report from Kintamayama on Sumo Forum that Tochinoshin’s knee was reinjured and has been giving him trouble. So, the henka is understandable as a move in desperation, but I can’t see it as something to celebrate as I see in many comments elsewhere.

      Thanks Tachiai for keeping the discourse thoughtful!

  4. “Whatever is plaguing you, Yoshikaze, we hope you can heal.” Oldest wrestler in the top level. Have they come up with a way to heal that?

    • Why yes! It’s a new medication called Oyakata. Yoshikaze has a dose waiting for him as soon as he wants to take it. I will guess he ends up in charge of youth sumo, and he’s going to be amazing at it.

  5. Not a true henka. Forward motion, contact on tachiai, no weird contortions. Half a henka. Let’s have a second consecutive day arguing interpretations and edge cases. Maybe I’ve been out in the sun too much today, but I’m ready to fight over this one. We need a video and statistical breakdown on what a true henka is. :)

    • I certainly did see someone refer to it as a HNH – “Harumafuji non-henka” is what I think it stands for. It’s when you go forward at the tachiai but twist your body so you can quickly reach around the opponent and push them out from behind, never really going to the side. That’s not precisely what he did (he’s probably not quick enough to do it as well as Harumafuji did) as he certainly wasn’t behind Kakuryu and was to the side, but it’s closer than a classic henka where you don’t go forward at all, like Ichinojo’s against the Ozeki in his Makuuchi debut, for example..

  6. I am really happy for Ryuuden. If he gathers more experience – and maybe technique – he will move up higher as I see. He’s very hard to push back.

  7. So Asanoyama is the champion. At the end of the basho he will have fought only 4 rikishi ranked above M5 – beating one ozeki, one sekiwaki (controversially), and losing to Tamawashi at M3. Tomorrow he fights Mitakeumi, at Komosubi. If he loses, can anyone seriously say he was the strongest rikishi in the basho? In contrast, Tochinoshin had 10, Kakuryu 9, Goeido and Tamawahi each 7 wins against M4s and above.
    It seems the schedulers have gone out of their way to give him an easy path. Quite bizarrely, they pitted him against Sadanoumi on day 11, who was only 5-5 at M13, at a time when Asanoyama was clearly in contention.
    I am not criticizing Asanoyama, he can only fight the men the schedulers put against him, and he fought well, but I really can’t take this very seriously as a fair sporting event.

    • I think it was always going to be a chaotic basho with Hakuho, Takakeisho and a swarm of others kyujo. This sort of thing has happened in the past, and everyone always gets a little anxious about it when it does happen. But I think that a new champion in a new era will resonate well in Japan and with many fans around the world.

    • I completely agree, but it’s what we’re stuck with. The only way around it would be to create a separate division with 16 rikishi and have them do a round-robin, and if one of them withdraws, then they give away a bunch of fusensho. If they withdraw midway having won a few, well, too bad for those that lost to them. But it’s not going to happen, if only because it would mean they’d have stablemates against each other or make it impossible for two rikishi of the same stable (or family) to be in the top division. So because they have to have extra rikishi to give the top rankers matches when there are withdrawals or same-heya clashes, it means they need a whole bunch more rikishi to make sure all those guys needed for the top rankers’ extra fights get reasonable tournaments as well, and if there’s only be 24 guys or so in the division, it would get really hard to make a legal schedule the last few days, so it has to be opened up a bit. Could they have less in the top division? Sure – there used to be as few as 34 in the 15-day 6 basho era, although it’s possible they may have expanded it precisely because of awkward matchups that they had no way around with so few rikishi available. Does it make sense that the second division is smaller? Not really. But it’s not going to change.

      Yes, Asanoyama should probably have faced a better opponent on Day 11. But at least since then he’s faced basically the best available, and most likely would have faced Kakuryu on Day 15 if there was any doubt remaining – the torikumi came out VERY late and clearly they were waiting for the results to come in and discuss what to do. They really don’t like to divert low-ranked rikishi up to the top and skip sanyaku matches unless they absolutely have to, and I’ll posit that they’re even more skittish of doing it now because of how long Hakuho has been dominant and allowed them to not need to worry about it. They probably figured Kakuryu or Tochinoshin would go on to 13 or 14 wins and someone in sanyaku would stop Asanoyama at 12 or 13. There were a lot of upsets that led to where we are now, one of which was a sketchy shimpan decision. If they were concerned about a relatively low-ranked hiramaku winning the yusho from a low rank, they wouldn’t have had a 10 minute mono-ii and reversed the gyoji decision to give him the win. They accept that it can happen, or else they’d start putting 6-0 rikishi anywhere in the division against sanyaku early on instead of sticking to their banzuke-determined opponents. Sometimes no one in sanyaku puts together a good 13 win tournament, particularly when there are injuries, and you can’t really stop someone low-ranked on a good run.

      • Ugh, used to being able to edit posts – if there’s a way I can’t find it. There’s a few errors I caught after I posted it, but I guess I need to review it completely before posting. Hopefully it still makes sense; some people may not even notice.

        • Fear not, the edit button got hidden during a wordpress upgrade, plus we have had to perform some mods to get the live-blog stuff working again. You are among good people and fellow sumo fans. No one should take you to task for typos, especially in a Bruce post, which typically have a few of its own.

          • I take myself to task over typos, primarily because one of my first comments on this site was that there were typos in the article.

      • One of the reasons I am a Japanophile is precisely because they do things differently so I don’t particularly want them to go to a 16-man round robin. These situations have developed in the past and the schedulers have usually managed to sort them out. This time not.
        My ongoing reaction very much does depend on the result of Asanoyama vs Mitakeumi tomorrow. I am actually hoping that Asanoyama wins. If not, I will be somewhat grumpy till the next basho.

  8. Glad to see the ever-smiling morning mountain take the trophies this time around, he absolutely deserved them. Also nice knowing that Ryuden and Abi are here to stay as well, as I’ve had my eyes on those two ever since they made it to the top division. Shoot for the stars, you two!
    The pixies have been in a rather sad and worrying state, especially during the second week, and I hope that Terutsuyoshi can somehow pick up another win tomorrow against a Daieisho who terribly outranks him. Seriously, some of the matchups these last few days can only be explained with the schedulers having a bit of a giggle.

    Now, Tochinoshin. What do I even say. I didn’t like what happened on day 13, nor did I particularly approve of how he reacted to it now. The man himself looked conscious enough of what he did, but I can’t help but feel a similar sense of bitter-ish amusement, as after that fated match of Terunofuji vs Kotoshogiku at Osaka 2017. Something this brazen and soul-crushing against someone who didn’t even have a part in what caused the whole thing has quite some entertainment value to me. Maybe I’m just a terrible person. But whatever, I think a lot of people have been too quick to either condemn or laud Tochinoshin now. It was petty, not pretty, and certainly not what I had hoped for when I saw the torikumi, nor is it a victory befit to be the one to see him back to his rank, but it is a perfectly legal move, and I don’t think an ozeki or yokozuna should be entirely above it. It’s a highly disruptive element that necessitates wrestlers to be wary and be reading their opponents before the bout even starts, so why should that be absent from the uppermost echelon?
    Hence there are always two people contributing to a loss by henka: the man who did it and the man who failed to see it coming. Kakuryu was there the day before, getting ready on the hanamichi as a defeated and grimacing Tochinoshin strode past him. As much as it sucks for him and as much as I like the quiet Mongolian, he had everything he needed to predict that desperate move and punish him dearly.

    Well, disappointment and enjoyment in about equal measure. Balance in everything. Wonderful.

    • For fun, watch the bout frame by frame if you can, before you get the Tochinoshin hit and shift, you can see what Kakuryu is trying as an opening gambit. I agree that it would have been a wonderful battle if they would have actually battled it out. Oh, and Nagoya? That week 2 Tochinoshin vs Kakuryu fight is going to be magical.

      • Was that an attempt for a quick double-hand inside? And I’m absolutely looking forward to Nagoya, the atmosphere alone will be brilliant, now.

  9. Congratulations to Asanoyama, well deserved.
    Noone can say he gained the yusho just because of the disastrous decision yesterday – this decision was not his fault and he also seemed to be not happy about it.
    It was really solid sumo every day, no matter that he didn’t face more sanyaku rikishi (how could he if they are kyujo or just not scheduled).

    Remember almost the same happened last year in Nagoya where the fans thought Mitakeumi was robbed, but after he won the yusho no one talked about it anymore.
    I understand this time the Tochinoshin fans were more outraged because they wanted him to win his #10 desperately needed to regain Ozeki by any means, so I hope they are happy now. I fully understand why he had to do the “henka” today but I’m not happy about it.

    Asanoyama has been among my most favourite rikishi since Nagoya last year when he won a special prize, and I was always wondering what kept him from getting better results.
    And, wasn’t it Tochinoshin who said a while ago he is now training with Asanoyama because he wants to improve his skills on the mawashi?
    So, all the best to our yotsu rikishi for his future career.
    When I root for someone, I also look at the personality, he seems to be a really nice guy (his heartwarming smile says it all).
    I’ve been to Tokyo last week and saw him every day when he left the Kokugikan, he was very nice to his fans, patiently having pictures taken or signing autographs, always with a smile, even on the day he lost. I must admit – actually I wanted to tell him that I hope for him winning the yusho, but this was on Friday when he lost, so I didn’t because I found it a bit insensitive telling him on that day.

    Thank you, team tachiai, for always keeping your reports and comments calm and objective, and for respecting the different opinions.
    Because this is Sumo – accept those special rules, or change it or leave it – that’s life, you can’t always get what you want.

  10. I don’t LIKE the henka, but I understand it, and I hope Tochinoshin wins on day 15, too, for the naysayers if nothing else. Kakuryu didn’t look mad, (he’s henka’d as a yokozuna and may have been thinking of throwing stones in glass houses,) and Tochinoshin during the interview sure seemed like he didn’t really want to talk about it… I wouldn’t be surprised if both men just wanted to put the bout behind them…until July, anyway.

    I really hope Asanoyama doesn’t have the same problem in July that Tamawashi seemed to have in March: after all of the obligations and such of a yusho winner, the latter couldn’t execute good sumo in the next basho because it had interfered with training. I would like to see plenty more yusho out of Asanoyama, after all.

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