Hatsu Day 15 Highlights

How do you like that? The last man on the banzuke beat the only (mostly) healthy Ozeki to win the Emperor’s cup on the final match of the final day. The resulting yusho interview and all ceremonies were so refreshingly genuine and unrehearsed as to give a western sumo fan like myself a giant ear to ear grin. Kise heya also had the returning fan favorite Ura pick up a yusho down in Jonidan. I predict monster hangovers and smiles that last a month.

The long term sumo fan might as: “What the hell happened?”, and rightfully so. If you have the lowest ranked man on the banzuke take the cup, that means either your ranking system is completely broken, or your talent just can’t quite seem to get its act together and execute orderly sumo. I would say that right now, in this transitional era, its double handfuls of both. Some of you readers may recall a post with a chart that showed the demise (around 2019-ish) of the current Yokozuna / Ozeki corps. I was roasted in comments for that one, but… here we are. There has been so much rank churn in the last 2 years that its tough to field a decent crew, and its nearly impossible to predict who is going to be hot and who is going to be cold in the next tournament.

The Yokozuna and Ozeki corps normally have the task of beating everyone Sekiwake and below day after day. With only one Ozeki, it’s a bit much, and so just about everyone is at the same level, and are able to rack up double digit wins if they are on a hot streak. If you place these same rikishi in the Hakuho / Harumafuji / Kisenosato / Terunofuji era (when they were competing and healthy), nobody is going over 11 wins if you are not at least a solid Sekiwake. So this kind of wild “Anyone can win” basho is going to be the new normal until sometime late in 2021 (I think) we will stabilize a new Ozeki / Yokozuna corps to keep the Maegashira from running up the score.

For Takakeisho, this was a huge missed opportunity, and sadly he knows it. A yusho at Ozeki when both Yokozuna are out and may be out for March as well was a path to the rope. Regardless of what the Grand Tadpole may say, his eye is on that prize. But I can already see from lksumo’s predictions that March is setting the stage for something. We can count on Takakeisho working on what to do when his opponent gets a mawashi grip until it is no longer a lethal move against him.

Highlight Matches

Kotoshogiku defeats Tochiozan – Kotoshogiku seems to surprise Tochiozan by generating quite a bit of forward pressure, and when Tochiozan switches to trying to pull, Kotoshogiku simply ad advances for the win. The Kyushu Bulldozer ends with a mild 7-8 make koshi.

Kiribayama defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru comes out strong against Kiribayama’s upper body, but a failed pull attempt by Kiribayama unbalances Chiyomaru enough for Kiribayama to get behind and drive him out with an okuridashi. 11 wins in your debut basho, nice work Kiribayama.

Tsurugisho defeats Terutsuyoshi – With that damaged knee, I am impressed that Tsurugisho was able to finish 6-9. Sure it’s a make-koshi, but I am going to guess he can stay in the top division. I hope he can get that thing repaired in time for Osaka. Terutsuyoshi lost his last 4 in a row. Need to work on that…

Kaisei defeats Chiyotairyu – Our first Darwin match goes to Kaisei because sometimes being enormous is a valid sumo strategy. Once Kaisei gets his battle hug on Chiyotairyu, he can’t do much except try to find an escape.

Sadanoumi defeats Kotoeko – We see it again today, Kotoeko cannot generate any forward pressure. Is it his back? His feet? His knees? To the Juryo barge with you sir! Recover and come back when you are genki.

Ikioi defeats Takanosho – Second Darwin match – the grizzled scar mass known as Ikioi won 6 of his last 7 to finish kachi-koshi. Today’s match was a chaotic mess of push and pull, and frankly Takanosho could have (should have) put him down a couple of times. But congratulations to Ikioi for a remarkable comeback.

Takarafuji defeats Shimanoumi – Really simple match, it’s Takarafuji who takes control at the tachiai, and directly escorts Shimanoumi to the nearest exit.

Kagayaki defeats Enho – Kagayaki hits double digits with his no-frills, fundamentals based sumo. He was horribly under promoted from Maegashira 13 to Maegashira 11 with another 10-5 record in Kyushu. Hey banzuke committee – as we say at Tachiai, “What the hell was that?”. Watch this match carefully, I am really impressed how Kagayaki has changed up his sumo for this bout, and how he is able to put pressure center mass against a much smaller opponent.

Okinoumi defeats Azumaryu – The next Darwin match goes to Okinoumi, as Azumaryu’s opening gambit failed and left him exposed to Okinoumi’s drive to the inside. From there it was all Okinoumi who finishes with a kachi-koshi.

Tamawashi defeats Ishiura – Denshamichi sumo. Ishiura tried a face slap tachiai and had no plan b.

Shodai defeats Mitakeumi – I know Shodai is a bit broken up about not taking the cup, but he had a fantastic run, and his sumo was a couple of notches better than we have seen from him before. But what is a bigger deal to me is that Mitakeumi finishes make-koshi. He was unable to hold an upper Maegashira rank this tournament. Some detractors will likely put it on some personal failing of his, but no arch competitor like him has this kind of 2 tournament slide without a physical problem. Please heal up Mitakeumi, we need you back.

Yutakayama defeats Hokutofuji – We predicted this match would have a lot of fight to it, and these two are in great form this January, and they delivered a solid match. I look forward to both of them ripping up the upper ranks in Osaka. My congratulations to Yutakayama for getting 11 freaking wins, coming off of injury, a drop to Juryo and recovery. Stay healthy, the party is about to start.

Myogiryu defeats Tochinoshin – Speaking of drop to Juryo, I think that Tochinoshin is headed that way in 2020. It was always a race against when that knee would be re-damaged, and we can see from his performance in January that is may be gone for good.

Endo defeats Shohozan – Endo denies Shohozan his kachi-koshi after Shohozan clearly wants to grab high and attempt a pull down at the tachiai. Endo is too low, too powerful and too fast forward to leave Shohozan any room to work, and he is out in a hurry. Endo, some great “plan a” sumo this January, but your “plan b” sumo needs work.

Daieisho defeats Abi – Abi with a double digit make-koshi makes all the kappa goofing off on the banks of the Sumida river cry. But he’s been hurt and had no time to train up for this basho. Today, Abi could muster no forward motion against Daieisho, so he is more or less spent for now. I hope he comes back genki for March.

Takayasu defeats Aoiyama – Takayasu won this one through superior lateral mobility. I do hope Takayasu has some sumo left in him, but I am going to guess that as long as that left elbow is weak, he’s going to be mid-Maegashira at best.

Asanoyama defeats Ryuden – Asanoyama finishes double digits at Sekiwake 1 East, and keeps an Ozeki bid alive for March. That Ryuden fake matta / cheap hit routine is very stale and covered with smelly fungus. Please put it away. I am going to assume that he got Asanoyama a little fired up, because Ryuden gets captured early, and driven to the edge. Rather than a simple, safe step out, Asanoyama pushes for a body slam into the salt basket. Asanoyama shows far greater hinkaku than I would have. I would have grabbed a handful of salt and sprinkled it on his mage as punctuation.

Onosho defeats Goeido – Wow, look who ripped up two Ozeki relics this basho (he beat Tochinoshin day 2). I know some commentators have doubts about Onosho, some of which are quite valid, but he’s coming to the joi-jin, and if he can keep away from his ring rust problem, he’s going to have a chance to really disrupt some people’s sumo.

Tokushoryu defeats Takakeisho – Takakeisho started close and got closer to Tokushoryu, which genuinely gave Tokushoryu a wide open invitation to execute his preferred form. Once you get Takakeisho chest to chest, he’s not packing a large amount of offense, and it was clear he was going to struggle. The biggest worry is I saw Takakeisho’s knee move oddly in that final fall, and it would really be a shame if the last functioning Ozeki yet again was injured in the last match of a tournament. Congratulations to Tokushoryu, what an amazing 15 days of sumo from you. Completely unexpected and unprecedented.

Note to Tachiai ReadersWe have had an absolute blast bringing you coverage of Hatsu – both from Japan and our normal locations. Thank you very much for sharing this wild basho with us, and we invite you to check back in the weeks ahead as we prepare for Osaka.

41 thoughts on “Hatsu Day 15 Highlights

  1. Amazing basho! Sad to see Goiedo being called likely for the last time ozeki at the entering ceremony, but time takes its toll. He was a long serving ozeki under the most dominant yokozuna ever. Last time when i was so excited about the winner it was back in the days when Musashimaru made Yokozuna in 99. Talk about party like its 99 :)
    It was the most memorable tournament for years!

  2. All right, it must be said. This is the line of the day: “…makes all the kappa goofing off on the banks of the Sumida river cry.” (It made me laugh!)

    This was an absolute blast of a basho with Takakeisho broadening his repertoire, Enho becoming much more than a novelty, Asanoyama chugging right along in an upward trajectory and Daieisho, Onosho and Shodai all becoming threats on the dohyo.

    And then, of course, there’s Tokushoryu. Hearty congratulations to him for an amazing accomplishment. And he really beat Takakeisho in one hard fought match with some incredible sumo. I hope nobody brings up the “he had an easy road” claim because if winning from the M-17 position is so simple, this wouldn’t be the first time in (approx) 120 tourneys for it to happen. (Last time was in the year 2000, so 20 years ago. 20 x 6 tournaments/year = 120).

    I wonder what Hakuho and Kakuryu are thinking. Shoulda stayed in?

    And a big thank you to Tachiai on the best write-ups and all-encompassing coverage (and historical insight).

    • It’s possible for Tokushoryu to have achieved a major accomplishment and to have benefited from an easier road than usual. Similarly, I don’t think anyone’s arguing that it’s simple, just that it was not as difficult as one might ordinarily expect. It may well be that winning from M15-M17 only happens 1% of the time, but would happen 0.5% of the time if the committee was more serious about challenging the low-ranked makuuchi contenders.

      My hope is that if anyone lower than M8 is at 8-0, they’ll at least start being presented M1-M5 wrestlers for the next 3 days, or until they are no longer leaders. If they’re still in or tied for the lead after day 11, that’s when they should start facing san’yaku or other maegashira contenders.

      That said, having an M17 winner will hopefully help shake up a stodgy old institution a bit.

  3. I’m not as upset as I was yesterday for Takakeisho, not after his miserable fail in handling Tokushoryu.

      • Humans usually grow through failure and setbacks. The Grand Tadpole is still evolving. 2020 is a big year for him, just stay tuned.

        • a big year for all of us, amidst the changing tides
          may be worth noting, something about making a silk purse … seems extraordinarily apropos

          no matter how desperate the system is to have yokozuna and how expectant fans may be, manufacturing one has proven to be counterproductive, unsustainable, and damaging to sumo

          same holds true for ozeki, also well demonstrated over the last decade
          elsewhere perhaps ‘fake it until you make it’ is an encouraging confidence builder, but for sumo and sumolovers, this is not supportive counsel; it’s a bad, bad idea

  4. Along with the weakness above and strength below, a third factor is the questionable scheduling made by the Kyokai. Leonid had a comment in another thread that contrasts the schedule given Ichinojo when he started 10-1 from low maegashira vs that given to Tokushoryu. Night and day.

    *Edit: Leonid also mentioned Takatoriki. Both fought a mix of strong sanyaku.

    • Ichinojo seems to be an very bad shape, maybe he shoudl take some time off and get back in shape. That massive weight he carries around seem to wreck his hip/lower back. I was sure that he would make Ozeki by 2020, wrong call i guess.

    • That’s true. I wonder whether they saw Ichinojo as a threat to win, but simply couldn’t bring themselves to take seriously a rikishi at M17W, and assumed that two or three bouts at the end against tournament leaders would be enough to derail him. Will this result influence their decisions in the future, or are they complacent about it?

      • Well, in terms of the broader view of the NSK, I would assume the following. The tournament was entertaining, and had plenty of interest and climatic moments. Someone interesting walked away with the cup. I am sure that they are going to call it a success and move on to Osaka.

        In terms of what I am assuming are some of their deeper goals, Takakeisho needs more work, they need to construct a dignified exit for 2 Yokozuna this year, and they are going to continue to ignore sumo’s rising popularity outside Japan.

    • Thank you for sharing that. It’s not a surprise. Goeido did not have a crappy score because he no longer loves sumo. That re-constructed ankle is barely working, and he needs to decide if he wants to roll the dice a few more times, or exit the sport while he can still walk like a regular human being. It’s a tough time for him, and I expect he will step down following Osaka (his home town).

  5. Thrilled that this basho was wacky in all the right ways and good, solid sumo was (finally) on show. March can’t come soon enough if more of this is on offer. To the wrestlers, rest and heal and come back ready to rumble. Bring it on, 2020!

  6. This was the first basho I’ve ever followed and it definitely won’t be the last. Thanks for running a site that helps break down the barriers to understanding this crazy sport.

    Not gonna lie. I chuckled to myself a little bit when Ryuden got squashed like a bug. Someone wasn’t into his bullshit.

  7. Well, I don’t care what anyone else thinks about this ‘transitional period’ or the current quality of sumo c/w the era of Asashoryu & Haramafuji or the era of Chiyonofuji etc…. This tournament was totally thrilling and brilliant and Tokushoryu’s win was the most perfect, dramatic, against-the-odds awesome conclusion, which – I freely confess – may have caused my eyes to moisten slightly*.

    Many many thanks, as ever, to the Tachiai team. I am trying not to think about the 6 desolate weeks ahead. I know it’s greedy and needy but… can we pretty please get lots of Jungyo coverage?

    (The moderate quantity of whiskey I consumed may also have contributed to this strange optical discharge…)

  8. I was really surprised that TAkakeisho almost seemed to look for a belt battle. It’s not the first time this basho and while he has greatly improve this aspect of his game, it’s still his weak point. I wonder if that is a result of that injury still affecting him substantially.
    Nevertheless, Tokoshuryou earned that victory. He might not had to fight the same quality of opponents like other lower maegashira in a similar position, but that was to a large part due to a lack of strong Sanyaku this basho.
    Overall todays bouts were a bit lacking, but that was compensated by the dramatic climax. Watching the Yusho interview, I’m actually glad that Tokushoryu won. I think Shjodai’s would have been quite similar to the usual Endo interviews;)
    Little bit sad that Toyonoshima seems to fade away in Juryo. I wsas hoping to see him again in March or May, but maybe this was his last tournament already. Also sad that Naya missed the chance for promotion. I would actually like to see him compete for 15days. He has some great bouts and then some silly ones. He might actually benefit from fighting every day. Next Basho he will probably be about the same rank with both Motobayashi and Roga. Will be interesting to follow.
    I’m also interested in Iksumos forecast of the Makuuchi promotions. Terunofuji clinched his ticket to stay in Juryo today I think. Both Wakatakagake and Daishoho lost to avoid promotion. On the other hand both J2 ,Hidenoumi and Kotonowaka, won their final match to finish 8-7, though Kotonowaka should have lost his a dozen of times. Tomokaze went from M3 to J1 last basho with an 0-15, so it looks like both Kotoyuki and Meisei are just on the bubble for demotion.

    • My guess at the moment is that Nishikigi and Daiamami will be the only promotions. Kotoeko is an obvious demotion. Then it’s either Meisei or Kotoyuki, though Shimanoumi might not be 100% safe. I don’t think 8-7 at J2 is compelling enough to push anyone down. Of course, if Goeido actually retires as has been rumored, that could simplify things a bit.

      • I am also looking forward to your summary and predictions. I have Shodai, Hokutofuji and Endo all landing at komusubi (assuming that Goeido stays in).

  9. When the banzuke came out I remember we described Tokushoryu as a “4-A” player; he would always be a serious force in the minors but wasn’t quite good enough to make an impact in the major league. We were half right I suppose.

  10. Tokushoryu’s win made me crack up with a laugh of delight, like the day Enho lifted Abi out. And from his interview, what a sweetie-pie.

    And glad Shodai will at least get more respect now – I have to root for the Kumamoto/Kyushu guys. Yay Kotoshogiku for almost a kachikoshi too!

    I enjoyed this basho. It’s like the yokozuna lid came off the pot and the popcorn is popping and flying all over the kitchen, and it’s fun.

  11. Was that not a rather obvious matta by Kagayaki that didn’t get called? Enho certainly seemed to think so.

    On the other hand, I’m not at all sure that Ryuden’s matta was fake. Watch it again. Ryuden flinches once, then rocks back, then fires again for the matta. If it was fake, then why did he pull himself back the first time?

    Much gratitude to Team Tachiai for all of your hard work, good humor, and insightful commentary!

  12. I decided to start tracking who is appearing on NHK World’s Grand Sumo highlights each day, starting with this tournament. The results of how many days each rikishi appeared are as follows and includes fusen-sho mentions:

    15 days: Takakeisho, Goeido, Asanoyama, Takayasu, Abi, Daieisho, Endo, Hokutofuji, Mitakeumi, Shodai, Enho, Tochinoshin
    14 days: Myogiryu, Terutsuyoshi
    13 days: Takarafuji, Ryuden, Kagayaki
    12 days: Okinoumi, Shohozan, Aoiyama, Yutakayama, Tokushoryu
    11 days: Takanosho, Kiribayama
    10 days: Tamawashi, Onosho, Chiyomaru
    8 days: Ishiura, Chiyotairyu, Kotoshogiku, Tochiozan, Kaisei
    7 days: Meisei, Sadanoumi, Azumaryu
    6 days: Ikioi
    5 days: Kotoeko
    4 days: Kakuryu, Shimanoumi (he was the last to get highlighted, on day 9)
    3 days: Hakuho,
    2 days: Tsurugisho
    1 day: Kotonowaka (Juryo 2, day 2)
    No days: Kotoyuki

    • I keep hoping that the NHK World will come to grips with the desire to have all matches. If Natto and Kintamayama can do it, I know they can too, as I am sure the NHK World team are leagues better than what we amateurs can produce.

      • So true. Natto is up within the hour with all matches (as well as Juryo) yet we have to wait 8 hours for nhk’s abbreviated highlights.

  13. Crazy stuff.

    Thank you once again Team Tachiai for the superb coverage, as usual.

    Should Goeido retire now, will it be as an Ozeki or a Sekiwake. In that case, are we going to see the rare M18E in Osaka?

  14. I was jumping around my living room when Tokoshoryu defeated Takakeisho, I was so thrilled! I haven’t been this excited by a win since Chris Froome went on an 80 km solo breakaway to win Stage 19 of the 2018 Giro d’Italia and take the race lead.

    I’m so happy for Tokoshoryu, it’s a wonderful story and he handled his unexpected prominence so well. I honestly thought the NSK would find a way to ensure such a low-ranking rikishi wouldn’t win. Credit to them for scheduling Tokoshoryu against Shodai and Takakeisho, though, they gave him the chance to prove himself and he well and truly did.

    Thanks for your coverage here and all the insightful comments from fellow fans, it adds so much to following sumo. Now to hold out till Osaka …


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