Osaka Day 15 Highlights

A smashing ending to the March tournament, it was a Yokozuna battle in the final match of the final day. Both of them fought well, and Hakuho prevailed. Congratulations to the dai-Yokozuna, Hakuho Sho, “The Boss” for his 44th yusho. In some future age, there may be a rikishi that can equal or succeed what Hakuho has done, but I can’t conceive of a time or a rikishi who could best the marks and records he continues to exceed.

It seems that with his day 15 win over Takakeisho, Asanoyama has been deemed worth of Ozeki promotion. This is excellent news as with a single, injured and now kadoban Ozeki, and two remaining Yokozuna both nearing the end of their careers, it was high time to promote someone. I recall that for both Tochinoshin and Takakeisho they held the promotion back for one tournament to check for “good performance”. They both made the cut the next basho, but I am glad that they were flexible given the situation. The new Ozeki is young, healthy and strong. He is a convert to yotsu-zumo and he continues to gain skill. Long time readers will note the tag, “Asanoyama ❤️ Sumo” that has adorned some posts featuring him. When he first entered the top division, he would bring the same positive attitude to the dohyo no matter who he faced. He could get completely whacked and thrown into the shimpan, he would mount the dohyo to bow, and you could just read his face. “Man, what a great day to do sumo! I can’t wait for tomorrow.” With that kind of attitude, there was little doubt he would find his way higher in time. Congratulation to the new Ozeki.

Highlight Matches

Ishiura defeats Aoiyama – Nice up and duck tachiai from Ishiura, it bought him some time as Aoiyama had to shift to chase him down, and delayed Big Dan’s opening attack. As Aoiyama closed in, Ishiura deftly landed a left hand grip, and kept the match on his terms. What a surprise to see these two go chest to chest, and an even bigger surprise to see Ishiura prevail with a yorikiri. Ishiura finishes Haru 9-6.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Daiamami – Second match in a row where the smaller rikishi opts for a mawashi battle, and scores a win. Just seconds into the match, Terutsuyoshi has morozashi, and hapless Daiamami can find no way to use his superior height and mass to any advantage. Terutsuyoshi finishes Haru 9-6

Shimanoumi defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu gave it a strong start, but when it was clear that Shimanoumi had the match in hand, Chiyotairyu eased up and took his 7th loss. Shimanoumi finishes Haru at 9-6.

Nishikigi defeats Sadanoumi – An uncharacteristically slow tachiai from Sadanoumi, and he allowed Nishikigi to land a left hand inside grip that quickly turned to morozashi. Nishikigi engaged a lift-and-shift attack for the win. Both finish Haru at 6-9.

Kotonowaka defeats Tochinoshin – A huge back and forth battle, which saw Tochinoshin struggle for grip and body placement. He allowed Kotonowaka to box him in early, and found himself without many paths to execute offensive sumo. The match ended when Tochinoshin bucked his hips to grab the left hand outside grip, and it looks like that bandaged right knee collapsed. Painful sumo to watch, without a doubt. Kotonowaka ends Haru with 9-6.

Kagayaki defeats Meisei – Our first Darwin match goes to Kagayaki. Mr Fundamentals kept Meisei centered, and kept his feet heavy, thrusting at all times. It’s the kind of sumo that we see from Kagayaki when he is dialed in, and he finishes Haru 8-7. This is his 3rd kachi-koshi tournament in a row, and the highest rank he has ever had a winning record over 15 days.

Tochiozan defeats Myogiryu – It does my heart good to see Tochiozan muster one last win in the top division before he possibly ends up in Juryo for the next tournament. To be honest, it was as much Myogiryu’s slippiotoshi as anything Tochiozan did, but the win still counts.

Ryuden defeats Azumaryu – Azumaryu had the early advantage in this match, but could not finish it in the opening moments. It was great to see Ryuden battle back, and inch at a time and slowly gain control of the fight. Really nice endurance, persistence and incremental sumo from Ryuden today. He finishes Haru 6-9.

Abi defeats Kaisei – Abi went for the double arm thrust, and quickly discovered Issac Newton was in control of this match. The mass that is Kaisei was in motion, and no amount of force that Abi could muster would have a meaningful effect. But Abi deftly moved aside and let momentum do 90% of the work, finishing Kaisei with a well placed shove. Abi finishes Haru 7-8.

Enho defeats Ikioi – This was Ikioi’s first encounter with Enho’s pixie magic, and for the uninitiated, it can be quite the shock. That shallow right hand grip look like it was painfully close to Ikioi’s dangly parts, and the fact that it was the subject of a torque and pull my have given Ikioi a moment of grave concern. The kimarite is listed as shitatenage, but could also be called (at least in English) a “twisting genital pull down”. Anyone with higher skill in Japanese want to take a crack at that for me? Enho ends Haru 6-9.

Onosho defeats Mitakeumi – I am very happy that Onosho ended Haru with a 9-6, and he looked very dominant today. But I was hoping that Mitakeumi would hit 11, and force a slot to open for him. But a week 2 fade has always been part of his sumo, and he lost 3 of his last 4 against the likes of Takanosho and Aoiyama. Onosho finishes Haru with a winning record and a special prize. I look forward to him being a harrier to the named ranks in the next basho.

Yutakayama defeats Chiyomaru – Our next Darwin match, “Big Unit” Yutakayama stood up to Chiyomaru’s thrusting attack, and returned it measure for measure. Unable to move that much mass, Yutakayama gave ground and let Chiyomaru’s naturally foward center of gravity do some of the work for him. Risky move for a backward-motion pull down, but Yutakayama made it work. The gumbai went to Chiyomaru, but a monoii reversed that and gave the win to the Yutakayama. He finishes with an 8-7 kachi-koshi, and I am eager to see him join Onosho in being semi-permanent members of the next generation joi-jin.

Tamawashi defeats Tokushoryu – Everyone wanted Hatsu yusho winner Tokushoryu to close out with a win, except for Tamawashi. Tamawashi has been fighting poorly this basho, but managed to overpower Tokushoryu and score his 6th win to finish Haru 6-9.

Okinoumi defeats Kotoshogiku – The final Darwin match was two long serving veterans, who must be starting to think, “I am getting to old for this”. Although Kotoshogiku was able to get his hug-n-chug attack running, his damaged knees cannot support more than a fraction of the attack’s full power. Okinoumi circled away and when Kotoshogiku slipped, Okinoumi followed through and took him to the clay. Okinoumi finishes kachi-koshi at 8-7.

Kiribayama defeats Daieisho – Daieisho came out strong and aggressive, pushing Kiribayama back to the bales in the first 3 steps. Facing an immedate loss, Kiribayama pivoted into a last ditch uwatenage, which found its mark and won the match for Kiribayama. He ends Haru 9-6.

Takarafuji defeats Endo – Takarafuji shut down Endo’s preferred weapon, the left hand frontal grip, and dispatched him shortly after the tachiai. Interesting variation from a rikishi who typically will prolong a match and wear his opponent down. Takarafuji ends with a well deserved 9-6 record, and Endo finishes Haru make-koshi at 7-8.

Shohozan defeats Hokutofuji – A Shohozan henka was only partially effective, but when the two re-engaged, there was a well placed face slap that seemed to distract Hokutofuji at the exact moment Hokutofuji wanted to get his left hand inside. Shohozan showed outstanding mobility and kept Hokutofuji from really setting up much offense, and finished Shohozan with a move to the side and a shove over the bales. Both end Haru with 4-11 records, and badly need to return to Tokyo and regroup.

Takanosho defeats Shodai – I think Takanosho surprised Shodai today. Takanosho had Shodai turned to his side and was pushing from Shodai’s left two steps after the tachiai. From that position, even the best struggle to defend. But Shodai had the sense to try a desperation throw as he was headed out. It failed and the win went to Takanosho, who finishes Haru with a blistering 12-3, and the fighting spirit prize.

Asanoyama defeats Takakeisho – Takakeisho worked hard to keep Asanoyama away from his belt, and for the most part it worked. But all of the time and effort on defense meant the Ozeki generated precious little offense, and he spent the majority of the match reacting to Asanoyama. Asanoyama stayed focused and exploited an awkward step by Takakeisho. The win seems to have clinched his Ozeki promotion while simultaneously sending Takakeisho into make-koshi, and kadoban. Head home and heal up, Grand Tadpole. We await your next tournament. Asanoyama finishes Haru 11-4.

Hakuho defeats Kakuryu – Both had a lot of action in this match, but the defining moment was Kakuryu attempting to change his grip, and Hakuho getting lower than I have seen him in several months and driving forward like some over powered battle crab. I am very happy to see Hakuho can still summon sumo like that at least once a tournament. He finishes Haru 13-2, and takes home his 44th yusho. I think this is the 3rd oldest yusho in history, as Hakuho is 35 years old now, and still able to dominate the sport.

With the Haru basho in the history books, we pause to thank our readers, the Japan Sumo Association, and the sumo work for 15 days of much needed distraction from the increasingly worrisome headlines of the world around us. Against all odds they successfully conducted and completed an intensive event spanning more than 2 weeks in an age of a virulent disease. Nobody got sick (that we know of), and everyone gave it their best in spite of an empty hall that, in the beginning, seemed quite spooky. I am personally quite grateful for the competition, and the spectacle of sumo. Thank you all.

35 thoughts on “Osaka Day 15 Highlights

  1. I am so incredibly happy about Asanoyama’s promotion!!! I have been tracking this young rikishi’s progress since he entered the Juryo division, and it has been wonderful watching him grow into such a talented sumotori! And now he has become an Ozeki, a promotion he very much deserves! Here’s hoping he can take his sumo to the next level and knock on the door of Yokozuna-ship! Congratulations Asanoyama-zeki!!!

  2. Laughed out loud: “ That shallow right hand grip look like it was painfully close to Ikioi’s dangly parts, and the fact that it was the subject of a torque and pull my have given Ikioi a moment of grave concern.”

    So they already promoted Asanoyama?! Wow, they didn’t waste any time. I am very happy and am confident that there won’t be any regrets.

    Takakeisho: how disappointing. A couple-three tourneys ago it looked as if he might develop a broader arsenal of techniques. But not any more.

    I agree with the congratulations to the Sumo Association. They pulled it off…in the middle of a pandemic!

    My thanks to you, Bruce, for your always amusing, thorough, highlight reels. I look forward to reading these every day. Also, thanks to all the other contributors to Tachiai. You’re all an incredible source of sumo knowledge and information. It’s much appreciated.

    • He isn’t promoted yet. There was some talk by the commentators that apparently this win would be deemed enough for promotion, but there has to be a meeting first and then an official announcement.

        • Usually those comments are well informed, but it isn’t official yet. If I read that name right, it was Kitanofuji making this comment. I just don’t get it together in my head, that this guy is 77 already ;)

          • It was in every Japanese media source (e.g. Hochi) about an hour after the basho ended. The stand-in head of the shimpan department, Sakaigawa, asked Hakkaku for a special meeting of the board to approve the promotion. If the shimpan department decided, the riji meeting is basically a rubber stamp.

  3. Thanks Bruce. A lot to feel happy for this basho: resurgence (of sorts) of the Yokozunae, Asanoyama’s consistency, up and coming Takanosho, Kiribayama & Kotonowaka, the Yusho charge of Aoiyama, Chiyomaru coming back to almost get kachi koshi. I was sad to see Tochinoshin in pain at the end and I hope he retires now with memories of a great sumo career. Stay safe and healthy everyone. Stay home x

  4. I saw one of Enho’s earlier grab and throws near the dangly bits get described elsewhere as a “kintamanage”, so for a twisting pull down I suppose it’d be a “kintamahineri”?

    All in all, a unique 15 days with some excellent sumo here and there. We got to see some interesting camera angles, a “new” kimarite (sending an opponent all the way to the masu seats – the “oshidash” as Kintamayama called it), and both Yokozunae lasted the entire tournament and decided things between themselves at the end – a sight which may be few and far between for a while until our first tadpole finally scales those heights.

    Asanoyama may be getting his Ozeki promotion a tad early just like Takakeisho, but he seems well-rounded enough that he’ll be able to grow into it and adapt his game when he needs to. I’ll be cheering him on.

  5. Echoing you and the other commentators, thanks to all .(Is there perhaps a Great Sumo Cat of the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium, or does our great feline sumo kami of the Kokugikan have long distance influence?)

    I remember when you used to tag Asanoyama as the Happy Rikishi, which indeed he was. (Though Chiyonokuni also seemed to have that zest for sumo, and he got called the Grumpy Badger – because of his hairline?)

    Thank you thank you all. Stay safe, be well.

    • The Great Sumo Cat holds sway on any surface of clay where two human souls do battle as the ancients did. Just of note, that kami is a rotating duty, currently occupied by Mugi, to whom we pay great homage.

  6. Kudos as always, Bruce, on outstanding coverage that lightened these dark times. You outdid yourself with that description of the Enho bout 😂Fortunately, there’s no need for Mitakeumi to force an extra slot, as 3 will open up, and my guess is he will be ranked all the way up at west sekiwake.

  7. Thanks so much for your colorful reports on this most unusual basho. It has been so interesting hearing new sounds and seeing new angles in live coverage, and then your commentary brings it all alive a second time. Kudos to the sumo association, and kudos to you!

  8. A bit further down Ura won his playoff and is probably headed to around Makushita 20, just outside of promotion range.
    Oshoryo, formerly known as Motobayashi, finished the tournament with a loss and a 2-5 record. I hope he learned his lesson and returns to his old name ;-)
    Nishikifuji had already claimed the Makushita yusho. He seems to be healthy again and maybe he can make it all the way to Juryo next basho. He should probably end up somewhere around Ms5.

    In Juryo Kotoshoho claimed the yusho with a victory on the final day and significantly outpaced Hoshoryo now, who went Kyujo on the final day and only finished with an 8-7 kachikoshi. With all the promotion candidates winning their final bouts, I guess we will have 6 promotions … Kotoyuki with an 8-7 from J1e, Wakatakagake, Terunofuji and Tobizaru with 10-5 from J2w, J3e and J4e, Kotoeko with an 11-4 from J5e and Kotoshoho with his 12-3 Yusho from J6e.
    Both Chiyashoma and Kotoyuki rebounded well winning 5 out of the last 6 to finish with an 8-7 kachikoshi, but I fear for CHiyoshoma that won’t be enough to return to Makeuchi. There are only 4 clear demotion cases (Tsurugisho, Azumaryu, Daimami and Tochiozan), so I guess Meisei didn’t only lose the darwin match but also his Makuuchi slot today. The other bubble candidates are probably Chiyomaru and Nishikigi. could also be that Tobizaru gets the short end of the stick. I think the one more win will mean that Kotoeko gets ahead of him in any case.

    Overall I found today a bit lacking, probably because after all that suspense building up, most things fell apart yesterday already. Endo never ceases to dissapoint me. Of all rikishi, he should be the one never having a problem with Takarafuji, but … I think he just lacks the winner mentality. The asanoyama vs. Takakeisho match was a bit wild or chaotic, however you wanna call it. Glad Asanoyama won, but he had better matches. The Yokozuna match wasn’t a dud, but it was far away from an epic battle. I’m surprised how well Hakuho rebounded this tournament and controlled this belt match. Seems when it matters most, he can still just ignore his bruises.
    The second huge disappointment was of course Mitakeumi. While I’m happy for Onoshos return to form and climb the ranks, that was just lackluster unmotivated sumo. You are never going to make it to Ozeki that way. Slightly dissapointed by Daieisho … he should have won that match, but Kiribayama has been a bright spot this tournament.
    It almost went unnoticed by me, that Okinoumi got a kachikoshi at M2. He showed some really solid sumo this tournament. curious to see how Sanyaku will turn out next banzuke. Despite the stellar performance by Takanosho I think that both Daieisho and Mitakeumi are ahead of him in the promotion queu. Assuming that Asanoyama gets promoted, that could just fit in nicely, but there could also be a case for Okinoumi going to Komusubi ahead of him.

  9. My sincere thanks to all at Team Tachiai for your excellent coverage of this most unique basho.

    More than anything else, what I take away from this tournament is the realization that I need to pay greater heed to Takanosho. The man has earned plenty of respect. And I think he deserves a clever nickname, Bruce!

  10. Endo seemed surprisingly apathetic with his san’yaku rank on the line. He appeared to put up the least resistance of anyone with something at stake on the final day.

    • I doubt any of them would ever admit to it (not everyone can be as honest as Tokushoryu was at Hatsu), but you have to wonder whether not having their adoring crowds affected guys like Endo above and beyond the already high weirdness level.

    • I think Endo sold out on seeking an inside belt grip, and Takarafuji did a great job of keeping his mawashi just a bit outside of Endo’s reach. As Endo overextended for his preferred grip, Takarafuji took advantage.

  11. I’m constantly amazed by how many fights Enho wins by throws when he is regularly outweighed by 100 pounds or more. Whenever I see him get a left hand grip I just assume some physics defying nonsense is about to occur.

    Takanosho really snuck up in me in this tournament. He didn’t necessarily do a lot that wow’d me but almost every fight, there he was with another win.

    I was pulling for Kakuryu but I have nothing against Hakuho. It was nice to see a Yokozuna vs Yokozuna match with such high stakes.

  12. NHK World stepped up their game for this basho. Their highlights show aired every match on days 1, 8, and 15 – coincidentally, the days they also did live sumo coverage. Here’s the breakdown of which rikishi got shown more:

    15 days: Hakuho, Kakuryu, Takakeisho, Asanoyama, Shodai, Hokutofuji, Endo, Daieisho, Okinoumi, Tokushoryu, Yutakayama, Mitakeumi, Enho, Abi, Onosho, Tochinoshin, Kotonowaka.
    14 days: Kiribayama, Takanosho, Chirotairyu, Ishiura, Aoiyama.
    13 days: Ryuden, Takarafuji
    12 days: Kagayaki
    11 days: Terutsuyoshi, Ikioi, Kaisei, Chiyomaru, Shimanoumi
    10 days: Myogiryu, Sadanoumi, Kotoshogiku
    9 days: Tamawashi, Tochiozan
    8 days: Shohozan, Nishikigi
    5 days: Takayasu, Meisei, Daiamami
    4 days: Tsurugisho, Azumaryu
    1 day: Hidenoumi

    • I give a lot of credit to NHK World for their continued outstanding coverage. I applaud that they have started to find avenues to show all of the matches.

      • Speaking of NHK World, here is their Day 15 Live video:
        https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/ondemand/video/2081018/

        Not only do you see the matches, but you see:
        – Hakuhi’s championship interview (which suffered from poor interview questions.)
        – The different and brief award ceremony for the winner
        – The awarding of the special prizes
        – A reflective speech by chairman Hakkaku.
        – A Shinto rite which included tossing the gyoji skyward to send the kami back to heaven.

        Normally, NHK doesn’t include all that, just the championship interview and a few of the awards to the winner.

        They keep these videos up for 15 days. Enjoy it while you can!

  13. As usual you and everyone else at tachiai did a great job of covering the basho, so thank you for all the work. One minor correction on today’s post: Tochinoshin was not held back one basho before being promoted to ozeki. In Kyushu 2017 Tochinoshin went 9-6 – but that was from M6W. The highest aite he faced was ranked M5. There is no way anyone is going to have that result counted in an ozeki promotion. So he got promoted after Natsu 2018, the first basho where his three results counted toward promotion. And sure, if Tochinoshin had won the 2018 Haru basho after winning the 2018 Hatsu basho he probably would have been promoted – but it would have not have been in spite of his Kyushu 2017 performance, not including it.

  14. Wakanohana (66th Yokozuna, Abema’s weekend commentator supreme) on seeing the Asanoyama/Takakeisho match: “This was good sumo… Takakeisho did well to survive Asanoyama’s grip. But Asanoyama’s ottsuke! He can do an ottsuke. This ottsuke gives him an opportunity for a second grip, but instead, he uses it for a strong push forward. It’s a good way to win”.

    The musubi-no-ichiban was an amazing exchange of makikae. Kakuryu is actually faster at the tachiai, and gets a quick grip. Migi-yotsu. Hakuho does a makikae. Hadari-yotsu. Hidari-yotsu? It’s not his form. Only, of course, he can fight both migi-yotsu and hidari-yotsu, and this gives him an advantage over Kakuryu. Kakuryu attempts his own makikae. Fails. But then Hakuho gets a second makikae for a morozashi. Kakuryu very quickly, again, does a makikae. But with his back to the tawara and with a makikae typically exposing one to loss of ground, Hakuho uses it to drive him forward because, after all, what Kakuryu changed into is still Hakuho’s strong form.

    It was then rather odd to see Hakuho break into pieces. He showed signs of pain all over, including during his interview. NHK’s announcer said politely that he was getting his breath back, but he was obviously in pain.

    What an odd senshuraku. No yusho parade. No fish lifting. No senshuraku parties. Hakkaku was very emotional during his speech. “I’m proud of every rikishi, every member of the association”. And you can see tears in Kakuryu’s eyes. Darn it.

    • They rate at which those two Yokozuna changed grip, it was like they were juggling. And yeah, Hakuho made it through that basho on grim determination, it seems. He excels at creating an air of invincibility, but he is a human soul at the end of every day.

  15. Excellent sumo on the final day. Hakuho and Kakuryu delivered a fantastic bout. Can’t wait for the next tournament!

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