Aki Day 15 Highlights

It was a tadpole playoff for the cup, and you know I was overjoyed. Well done to all competitors who made the final weekend of the basho one to remember. Congratulations Mitakeumi on his second yusho!

Thus ends Aki 2019, which many fans (myself included) will consider a departure from what we have come to accept as normal. As the team at Tachiai have written in the past, in absence of strong ur-Rikihsi such as Hakuho in a basho, new heroes shall rise. If nothing else, the past 18 months in sumo has taught us that. Today we saw the second yusho for Mitakeumi. As with his prior yusho, he is on the path toward Ozeki again, and maybe this time he can finish the evolution. The departure of the “old guard” is accelerating now, and the field is being swept clean for a new order that will bring with it new rivalries, new defeats and new triumphs. It’s a great time to be a sumo fan.

It will come to no surprise to the readers of Tachiai that out of the new leaders, we find Asanoyama, Yutakayama, Takakeisho and Mitakeumi. These are rikishi we have been watching evolve, coming into the power band where youth, strength, stamina, skill and sheer determination create legends. But don’t expect the fading kings of sumo to go out without a fight. In fact I had expected this basho to be the one where Kakuryu and Hakuho were both genki and brutally beat the new generation at every turn. But perhaps the fade is harder and faster than I assumed, or maybe my timing is off.

Tachiai congratulates Mitakeumi on his second yusho, it was masterfully done, and your sumo continues to energize.

Highlight Matches

Chiyoshoma defeats Takagenji – Aannnnnd HENKA! (Like Hollywood, sumo seems addicted to crummy sequels)

Kagayaki defeats Azumaryu – Kagayaki stayed as low as he could, and stayed focused on center mass. Kagayaki really has not had his sumo “together” this basho, so I am wondering if he’s got some kind of injury that is disrupting his normally excellent form. The Azumaryu nostalgia effect is gone, and I think he’s going to be a candidate rebuild in Juryo.

Yutakayama defeats Shohozan – Yutakayama wins a yotsu match! Sort of an unusual form for these two to take, but I loved it. Check out Yutakayama’s footwork! He was employing almost a gaburi-yori attack there.

Onosho defeats Tsurugisho – I love the Onosho story for this basho. He came in still hurting from his surgery, his balance was poor, his sumo was disorganized. He put on his classic red mawashi that led us to label him on his first run up the banzuke “The Tadpole Red Menace”. After a fairly cold start, he closed with 6 straight wins to go 9-6. No knock against Tsurugisho, who opened 10-5 in his debut Makuuchi posting.

Enho defeats Sadanoumi – Enho tries, and eventually succeeds in getting a left hand inside grip, and uses that to run the table. What’s fun about Enho’s size is that he is small enough that his hips are about 4″ lower than Sadanoumi’s, so cocking the eventual shitatenage is rather simple mechanics for him. Enho will be mid-Maegashira for Kyushu, so some new opponents to test against, I can’t wait.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi tries for his favored arm-bar, but finds that the “death clench” works both ways. Terutsuyoshi grabs an arm and pulls him into a rarely seen sakatottari. Even if he is relegated back to Juryo, it’s wonderful to see Terutsuyoshi close out the basho with a great win and a great move.

Kotoshogiku defeats Tochiozan – Aannnnnd HENKA! Well, but it does not work, as Kotoshogiku is waiting for it. I don’t blame Tochiozan for trying it, he has to know he is facing demotion to Juryo, and would rather not end up there. And indicator of how hurt Tochiozan is would be how weak that henka attempt was.

Shimanoumi defeats Daishoho – Daishoho opened strong early, but Shimanoumi rallied and put him down. Both end with a miserable 5-10 recored for Aki.

Kotoyuki defeats Shodai – Shodai gets an opening to win a couple of times, but can’t make any of them pay out. Really sad to see him close out 3-12, but it was quite impressive sumo form Kotoyuki today, who threw everything he could at Shodai, and took the match.

Ishiura defeats Tamawashi – The first of our Darwin matches features a false start, as both want this one badly, and both suspect the other of a henka at the tachiai. Ishiura gets inside quickly, and robs Tamawashi of his mobility, and rapidly focus his pressure on his abdomen and advances. It’s over in a hurry, and Ishiura manages his kachi-koshi, and rescues himself from the growing log-jam of Juryo-qualified Maegashira.

Tomokaze defeats Chiyotairyu – I apologize dear readers, but am I ever tired of the reverse-gear sumo from Tomokaze. A win is a win, but it’s a shame to see so much talent and so much potential sidelined for this kind of sumo. Chiyotairyu ends with 2-13, the lowest finishing score for any man who fought day 15.

Daieisho defeats Kotoeko – Second Darwin match, and boy did these two really turn up the power. It’s a full hybrid battle-plan as they swap between yotsu and oshi at will. But Daieisho prevails and takes his 8th win. Fantastic sumo from both today.

Meisei defeats Asanoyama – Meisei surprises Asanoyama with his first ever win, and I can tell he put a lot of thought and prep into this match. Meisei when right hand inside at the tachai, and kept himself close to 90° to Asanoyama, not allowing Asanoyama to advance and push Meisei back. Of course Asanoyama pivots to correct that, and Meisei uses this rotational force to whip Asanoyama around and put him on the bales. As Asanoyama is focused on rescuing himself from that mistake, Meisei goes mae-mitzu, and goes in for the kill. Nice sumo Meisei!

Ryuden defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama fires up the big V-Twin power today, but he is lacking the forward pressure from his lower body to make it work. Ryuden figures this out and steps to the side, grabs an arm and pulls Aoiyama to the clay. Tough basho for Big Dan the man-mountain. I hope he can get his health back soon.

Hokutofuji defeats Takarafuji – Here it was again, it’s as if Hokutofuji’s lower body is working on its own. After grappling at the tachiai, Takarafuji actually defeats the upper body of Hokutofuji. But Hokutofuji’s lower body is not conceding a thing, and keeps him in the fight, off-balance with arms spread at the tawara. Takarafuji assumes that’s the end, but that lower body is still fighting, turns more or less on it’s own to square Hokutofuji’s hips against Takarafuji and drives. A moment later the upper body catches up and puts both hands on Takarafuji’s chest. Odd but amazing sumo from Hokutofuji today. He won the last 8 matches in a row.

Myogiryu defeats Abi – First match was inconclusive as they touched down / out together, and a torinaoshi was called. The second match, Abi tried to pull as Myogiryu went inside and pushed, giving the match to Myogiryu. Congrats to Myogiryu for coming back from kyujo and picking up 8.

Takakeisho defeats Okinoumi – Takakeisho goes for the armpits at the tachiai and never gives up the hold. Sort of a different attack style from the “wave action” one might expect, but it got the job done smartly.

Mitakeumi defeats Endo – Endo tried for a left hand inside grip at the tachiai, but quickly discovered this was a denshamichi match, Mitakeumi was in Shinkansen mode. The Tadpole playoff is a go!

Goeido defeats Tochinoshin – Goeido gets a excellent left hand outside grip and exploits Tochinoshin’s knee-less left leg with great effect. Tochinoshin has no power to stop the spin and push into the west side zabuton. I am really worried that Tochinoshin has nothing left in that knee, and we may not be seeing a graceful decline like we saw with Kotoshogiku.

THE PLAYOFF – Takakeisho’s propensity to push then pull at the tachiai has become easy to predict. Clearly Mitakeumi did, and figured if Takakeisho was going to give up forward pressure, he could take a trip to the tawara. Takakeisho realizes his opening gambit failed spectacularly, and tries to hold back Mitakeumi at the edge. But Mitakeumi lowers his hips and pushes, and wins.

Thank you dear readers for sharing your Aki Basho with us. We have had an absolute blast covering this tournament for the past two weeks. Be sure to stay with us as we cover the weeks leading up to the next tournament, November’s Kyushu basho.

38 thoughts on “Aki Day 15 Highlights

  1. Agreed about Tomokaze. This back-pedalling at the tachiai business could almost be called a “henka with bells on”. I’m not a fan.

    Great last day overall. Loved how Tochinoshin congratulated Mitakeumi after his victory.

  2. ….. just like to put in a word on behalf of Hokutofuji’s upper body. As the well-known lower body is saving him from tipping over, Takarafuji is actually starting to move back towards him, but the left upper body delivers a classic stiff-arm to Takarafuji’s chest, (a) checking the move and (b) providing a reference point, a kind of anchor to lean against (gad, talk about yer mixed metaphors) while turning back into battle. But yes, that does mean that the two halves are focused in different directions. Good for them, urrr, him.

  3. So happy to see Yutakayama back. If he can stay healthy, he’ll catch up with Asanoyama in no time.

    I hope Onosho hangs on to his red mawashi and Hokutofuji to his blue one :-).

    Great bout between Daieisho and Kotoeko. Daieisho is really strong and his balance is amazing. I think we will see him in the Sanyaku ranks next year.

    Congratulations to Mitakeumi on his second yusho! I hope he takes it seriously this time and goes all the way to ozeki.

    Thank you team tachiai for the excellent coverage!

  4. Well, turns out I got my wish: a playoff between Mitakeumi and Takakeisho for all the marbles! Something tells me this won’t be the last time we see these two facing off for the Yusho on senshuraku…

    The dynamic between them is interesting, to say the least. Mitakeumi came up earlier, won his first and second Yusho earlier, and on the whole seems like he’s got the higher ceiling when he’s performing at 100%… but Takakeisho made Ozeki much faster, and is far more focused and consistent from Basho to Basho. Even with the top rankers slowing down, the sport has a bright future as long as these two stay healthy.

    Congrats to Mitakeumi on an impressive Yusho (probably more impressive than his first) – while the henka against Goeido yesterday was a disappointment, I think two dominant wins against very tough opposition on Day 15 more than compensate. Here’s hoping the injury they’re reporting for Takakeisho isn’t anything too serious, and we get a rematch in November!

    • That denshamichi against Endo was so much fun. You can see Endo starting to unfurl his attack plan, and then in the blink of an eye, “oh crap oh crap – what?”

  5. We got the two best performers in the basho squaring off in the play off and we got an exciting match with about four shifts of dominance in about three seconds. If Takakeisho had been in position to deliver the full monty forearm club instead of the half-power pull to the back of the neck we would have had a different champion. I look forward to seeing Sunshine vs Thunder many, many more times.

    I felt a bit sorry for Goeido and (especially) Tochinoshin in the final match as no-one was really bothered about the contest and just wanted to get it over with. Like turning up to a festival and find that your booked to go on stage between AC/DC and Led Zeppelin. I really think that Tochi might be on his way out: if he gets 10 wins in November they should build a church.

    I liked Meisei getting ten wins even though it was at the expense of Asanoyama. DYK that Meisei has been relegated 7 times already? Every time he hits the wall he gets over it at the second or third or fourth attempt. That’s why he’s going to make it; as John Wayne said in The Searchers “there’s such a thing as a critter that’ll just keep comin’ on”.

    • “I look forward to seeing Sunshine vs Thunder many, many more times”. If reports of a serious muscle tear on Takakeisho’s left arm/chest/shoulder are true then the above sunshine vs thunder maybe completely one-sided in the future.

  6. I don’t want to enter into a silly internet debate about whether henkas are cool or not cool. But…
    I do want to suggest that there are henkas and then there are henkas…. Chiyoshoma’s henka today was a rather nifty flying member of the species, something that takes fair bit of skill and athleticism to pull off, and which frankly looked pretty awesome, whatever one thinks about the ethics of it. Plus it is courageous to the extent that it risks looking really stupid if it doesn’t work – witness poor old Tochiozan’s feeble attempt. (My beloved Abi’s essay in this form today was vandalised by yet another instance of interventionist refereeing from the gyoji.)

    • I fear that your (and my) beloved Abi resorted to that henka because he banged up a leg in his first bout today and didn’t feel he was up to his normal Abi-zumo. Note that after the matta’ed henka, Abi tried a hit-and-shift.

    • I really hope he keeps this lesson in mind from day one of the next basho instead of needing a reminder full of clay.

  7. The NHK World coverage cut all sorts of matches today in order to get in the playoff, trophy presentation and interviews, so I didn’t see everything.
    The Nishikigi bout was one where it should have been a matta (considering how gung-ho they’ve been).
    Meisei-Asanoyama: I wonder if deliberately tying a loose mawashi is part of a deliberate strategy? That cost Asanoyama the bout.
    Mitakeumi: I’m very happy for him. I do think he’d be even better minus a few kilos but he and Takakeisho looked like mirror images in terms of body type.
    Tochinoshin-Goeido. I really did want Tochinoshin to win but Goeido whipped him good.

    A shout out to all at Tachiai, the best damn sumo site on the web. I haven’t had so much sumo fun since I was a kid watching the Taiho-era.

    • What a wild ride! Many thanks to all the Tachiai crew who took turns at the wheel for these past two weeks. I started out feeling sad for the old guard and worrying about the future, but it’s looking pretty bright to me now. Granted, I have only been watching about three years, but I have never seen such a number of promising young rikishi it makes me hopeful! I did want Takakeisho to win, given everything he has pit into recovering from his injury. But Mitakeumi was so gracious in his acceptance including Takakeisho, and seeing his mother blow kisses put it over the top! I am very sad for Tochinosin, my favorite bear, but relieved at the same time. It’s painful to watch and it’s to his credit that he has enough skill to eke out what he did. Thanks to whoever it was that noted that he congratulated Mitakeumi (Bruce?), that was a classy thing to do, His future is good back in Georgia, regardless, but I sure will miss him.

      One question: Does anyone else think that Takakeisho should have gotten a fighting spirit prize?

      • I’m guessing the reason he didn’t get a prize is that they treated him like an Ozeki (who are not eligible)—basically, “you get your rank back, that’s your prize.” I’m willing to bet that had he been a regular Sekiwake, he would have had the same conditional prizes as Mitakeumi, and would have ended up with a kanto-sho.

  8. Thank you for incredibly coverage throughout the basho as always. It really is appreciated by sumo fans, even when we don’t have time to fully engage due to life being particularly busy at that time, but try to take a few minutes each day to scan through the thoughts and commentary on proceedings.

    Any news on Takakeisho’s possible injury? The way he clutched his chest reminded me unnervingly of Kisenosato back in 2017…

  9. Really sad for Tochinoshin. He is literally on one leg. Even then, barring some curled fingers and a miss-step, he’d be still ozeki. Good luck next tournament….

    Thoroughly enjoyed checking in everyday during this – and previous – tournaments. Well played folks, well played.

    • Giku didn’t have any knees but the loss of rank seems to have helped extend his career. I thought he’d go intai ages ago but he’s still got some mojo.

  10. Goeido was brilliant in flashes this basho – he must be feeling sick having passed this one up. I predict he will WIN in Kyushu! (been getting predictions wrong since 1978…..)

      • Goeidos problem is that he does well when he wins the tachiai and rarely recovers, when he doesn’t. I know he has that kubinage, but that only works every so often. He is too heavily reliant on his speed, which leads to the lack of consistency. He is no pusher/thruster and will lose an even belt battle to the other top rikishi more often than not.

  11. Congratulations team Tachiai for another terrific coverage that tremendously enriched the tournament. Happy to see my predictions for the 73th on the right path, after the ones for the 72th (Ichinojo and Terunofuji) failed so miserably.

  12. Jonokuchi #28 Otsuji was kyujo until the 14th day when he decided to drag his carcass onto the dojo and clean-up against who else but Jonokuchi #34 Hattorizakura and claim his only win.

    • This is the “Ryuden strategy”: no matter how knackered you are, turn up for one match in jonokuchi and you stay on the banzuke for the next basho.

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