Nagoya Storyline #4: Juryo Promotions

There was a slew of Juryo promotions this tournament. All five of these wrestlers will find going full time to be a challenge, only Takanofuji has been in Juryo before (we’ll get to that). Are they up for it? Instead of 7 bouts spread over the fortnight, they’ll be battling every day.

Kotokamatani marked the occasion with a new shikona, Kotonowaka. As Herouth mentions below, it’s his father’s shikona. His father reached Sekiwake claiming seven special prizes and eight kinboshi over his career, including Nagoya 1996 with wins over Takanohana AND Akebono.

Matching that legacy requires steady progress, one tournament at a time. From J14W, there’s no room for makekoshi. Kotonowaka the younger began his career in 2016 with the Jonokuchi yusho. He progressed quickly from there, with no makekoshi records until makushita. He’s a balanced wrestler, capable of winning on the belt or with pushing/thrusting techniques though he favors the belt.

Kizakiumi’s amateur success granted him a head start when he decided on the heya life. He started at the bottom of sandanme last year. Like Takakeisho, he’s a strict oshi-battler, winning 80% of his bouts in oshidashi. He’s yet to win a single bout with yorikiri.

Ichiyamamoto debuted in March 2017, and like Kotonowaka, claimed the Jonokuchi yusho in his first tournament, rocketing into makushita by September. He’s an oshi pusher-thruster but has been able to win a few on the belt. I would say that he’d need to perfect that technique to have success beyond this level…but Takakeisho and Abi belie that thought.

Ryuko debuted in the same tournament as Ichiyamamoto. Ryuko failed to pick up the yusho because of his DAY ONE loss to Ichiyamamoto in a dramatic, evenly contested, two minute long endurance bout, shown below in the video from the Japan Sumo channel on YouTube.

Vengeance came, as Herouth covered it late last year, when Ryuko played the old, “I’ve got your leg” trick that Enho’s been playing on people lately. Thus far, only those two bouts in this rivalry but I have a feeling there will be many more, again from the Japan Sumo channel.

Lastly we’ve got Takanofuji, formerly known as Takayoshitoshi, Takagenji’s twin brother. He was briefly in Juryo in March of last year…before he beat his tsukebito. Herouth’s article describes the eventand another describes the punishment. Well, after shedding his old shikona and hopefully the entitled, violent attitude he won last tournament’s Makushita yusho. He’s a straight-forward yotsu grappler without – ironically – his brother’s ability to brawl.

Nagoya Storyline #3 – The Makushita Joi-Jin

Some readers are wondering – what is a “Joi-Jin”? In general, it’s the top 10 or so ranks of any lower division, and in the case of Makushita for Nagoya, it’s jam-packed with some rather potent rikishi. Some of them are veterans pushing hard to return to sekitori status, others are up and coming youngsters fighting their way up the banzuke. As we have said before on Tachiai, the top end of Makushita, especially during week 2, is where some of the most flat out, 110% sumo takes place. We expect Nagoya, given who is in the joi for Makushita, to be especially frantic.

It’s important to note that unlike the top 2 divisions, matches go by pairing rikishi who have the same record for all 7 of their matches. So after the first match, all of the 1-0 will fight other 1-0, and all of the 0-1 rikishi will pair off with other 0-1 fighters. This narrows down the 100-200 strong divisions into a workable yusho elimination bracket by match 6 or so in most cases. Because of the vigorous competition in the Makushita joi, many of its members count themselves blessed if they can simply exit the basho with kachi-koshi (4 wins). Lets take a look at who is in the joi this time.


There are quite a few notables here

Seiro – Long time Juryo mainstay Seiro finds himself the top man in Makushita after a 7-8 make-koshi at Juryo 14. A simply 4 wins will put him back in a kesho-mawashi for September.
Irodori – A 6-9 in his Juryo debut in May put him back in Makushita, like Seiro, he needs both a kachi-koshi and some poor performance at the bottom of the Juryo banzuke to return.
Daiseido – After finishing 3-12 at Osaka, he dripped out of Juryo far enough down into Makushita that 5-2 finish at Natsu could take him no higher than Makushita 2.
Hoshoryu – Some readers get frustrated when we mention this, but this fellow is in fact former Yokozuna Asashoryu’s nephew. He has been plugging away with excellent speed / agility sumo, and he’s on the cusp now of a promotable rank. This guy, if he can stay healthy, is likely a future star.
Churanoumi – Former Nihon University athlete, he’s won 3 yusho (including a 7-0 Makushita yusho in Osaka) and already been in Juryo twice.
Chiyootori – Long-serving Maegashira, he has been plagued by injuries and is now fighting to try to return to the salaried ranks. At one point in 2018, he was ranked in Sandanme, but has been fighting back.
Wakamotoharu – After a Makushita yusho in January, and a 5-10 debut as a sekitori in Osaka, this Onami brother is outside the range to likely be promoted with a simple kachi-koshi, he’s going to have to run up the score.
Chiyonokuni – Did you wonder where Makuuchi mainstay Chiyonokuni ended up after he brutally injured his knee? Right here, in the briar patch. A healthy Chiyonokuni can take these guys to the cleaners, but I am going to guess he is lucky to be at 75%. It could get ugly.
Naya – Another young, up and coming rikishi from a sumo family, he has been on a slower upward trajectory than his rival Hoshoryu, but his sumo is coming to gether very well. He’s not at a promotable rank unless something crazy happens, but his last 2 tournaments featured 6-1 records.
Akua – I have to admit, I really like Akua’s sumo. I want to see him march ahead on the banzuke, but his accumulated injuries seem to have capped his performance.
Kototebakari – Another young man on a rocket ride up the banzuke, this 19 year old rikishi from Chiba has only had one make-koshi in his professional sumo career.

As you can see, even looking into a handful of these rikishi, there is a lot of talent, and a lot of drive to win. It’s going to be tough staying up to watch the top Makushita matchs, but I suspect for Nagoya, there may be a lot of great sumo action to follow from this group.

Nagoya Storyline #2 – Four Ozeki

The July bashso marks the first time since Hatsu 2017 that the banzuke features 4 Ozeki ranked rikishi. Hatsu 2017 was a tumultuous basho, featuring both the demotion of kadoban Ozeki Kotoshogiku after his dismal 5-10 record, and elevation of Kisenosato to Yokozuna following his 14-1 yusho.

Prior to that, there had been 4 Ozeki on the banuzke starting in July of 2015, which Terunofuji appeared at the rank of Ozeki for the first time. For many modern fans, this was the “Good” era of sumo, with a strong group of high performance rikishi in the named ranks who kept the rank-and-file sufficiently crushed to the point there was little possibility of anyone else contending for promotion.

While having 4 Ozeki on the banzuke could make for some great sumo in week 2, fans have their doubts that we will actually see 4 compete. Shin-kadoban Ozeki Takakeisho has been slow to start training for the basho, and he may not be genki enough to effectively compete. Fans cheered Tochinoshin’s return to Ozeki following his 10-5 score in May, but as one reader correctly labeled him, he is a “Glass Cannon” that is prone to performance limiting injuries.

We are in a different era than the days of summer in 2015. Hakuho is reaching the end of his magnificent reign as dai-Yokozuna, and Kakuryu is always hit-or-miss. Fans are right to look to the Ozeki ranks for signs of another Yokozuna in the future, but with Goeido closer each tournament to aging out, Tochinoshin struggling to keep his body healthy, and Takayasu seemingly stuck in his sempi’s habit of jun-Yusho, there are no likely candidates.

Things to watch for:

  • Goeido is probably genki this July. With no jungyo he probably trained a lot, and will show up fast, strong and ready. I like his chances this time.
  • Takayasu is back to marathon training sessions with Araiso Oyakata. Will it help? I think it left his sumo at Natsu vague and confused.
  • Tochinoshin looked strong, confident and brutal at Natsu, but his stamina was only just enough to get him to 10. I would expect him to rack another 10 in Nagoya as long as that foot stays healthy.
  • Takakeisho, as reported above, is not healthy yet. Coming in kadoban means he needs 8 or face demotion to Ozekiwake for Aki, and a mandate to win 10. A healthy Takakeisho can win 10, but it’s a gamble on how long it will take that knee injury to resolve.

Happy 36th Birthday Toyonoshima!!


Image result for toyonoshima

Tachiai would like to wish big papa Toyonoshima a very happy 36th birthday today! A longtime sumo veteran, Toyonoshima is set to return to the top division at Nagoya, and I know myself and many others would like to see him have a much better Makuuchi tournament than his 5-10 make koshi at Haru earlier this year. Here’s hoping Toyonoshima’s birthday wish is answered, and that we will see him hold on to his spot in the top division for some time to come! Bring on the little cakes!!