Aki Day 15 Highlights

Day 15 was an absolutely fantastic day of sumo. In contrast to some previous tournaments, no one really phoned it in today. It seems that everyone found they had a bit of energy left in the tank, and they threw it all into their final match. It was possibly the best day of sumo, all around, of the tournament.

First and foremost, my congratulations to Shodai. I know readers of this blog think I dislike this fellow, but my complaints were always technical. His sumo was sloppy, and his tachiai was ineffective. But following his 3-12 record last Aki, he changed. These kinds of changes are never on accident, they are the result of hard, relentless effort. Yokozuna Kakuryu’s influence can now clearly be seen in Shodai’s sumo with one critical difference – Shodai does not yet suffer the chronic injuries that will soon usher Kakuryu into his post competition life. My compliments to Kakuryu for finding a proper student, and nothing but praise to Shodai for taking this knowledge and making it his own through relentless work, and I would guess toughening up some degree. Word has come that he will be minted Ozeki in the days to come, and I think if he can stay healthy, he will make a formidable Ozeki for years to come.

Several of today’s matches had the sad overtones of a goodbye. We may have seen final matches from Kotoshogiku and Shohozan. I continue to wonder how much longer Ikioi is going to endure as well. These mainstays of sumo have given their all to the sport, but it seems their bodies are telling their unquenchable fighting spirit that it is time to move on.

While the focus is (rightly) on celebrating Shodai’s yusho, and his elevation to Ozeki, it’s worth noting the Ozeki yusho drought continues. Both Asanoyama and Takakeisho finished with fine scores (10-5, 12-3) worthy of an Ozeki. But both must have considered this no-kazuna basho to be their best chance at starting the promotion process by taking the cup. For Asanoyama, the pre-basho pressure was huge, and I think it disrupted his focus, and cost him important early matches. I also cannot stress enough that the lack of degeiko, and frankly jungyo, with its mass joint training sessions among top division rikishi has degraded the fighting capabilities of the top ranks. This may be especially true for Asanoyama, whose Takasago stable does not have another Makuuchi ranked rikishi to spar against. Shodai has Yutakayama, and Takakeisho has Takanosho, and yes, I think it did make a difference.

Highlight Matches

Ichinojo defeats Chiyonoo – Ichinojo’s sumo returns for this final match of Aki, and it was good to see. I would think he could have dispatched Chiyonoo at the tachiai, but the match went to extra time after Ichinojo got his left hand outside grip and decided to let Chiyonoo try to out muscle him. Credit to Chiyonoo, he rallied twice, and survived holding up the boulder longer than I thought he could. Ichinojo gets his 8th win, and will remain in the top division for November.

Shohozan defeats Ikioi – Shohozan has been struggling the entire tournament, but today he threw everything he had left into this fight against Ikioi (their 15th match). Both are heavily make-koshi, and I would expect at least one of them to consider intai following Aki. Shohozan will be ranked in Juryo for November, and Ikioi is just too hurt to really compete. But just for a moment, it was 2014 again, and these two were genki and beating the tar out of each other. Thanks guys.

Hoshoryu defeats Sadanoumi – I am happy that Hoshoryu was able to secure his kachi-koshi in his first top division basho. But the fact he was relegated to a Darwin match when ranked at Maegashira 16 shows that he still has work to do. I think because of his family connection to Asashoryu, people put a lot of pressure on this talented young guy, and just maybe it impacts his sumo at time. With luck he will shake that off one day, and we will see what he is capable of in his own right.

Wakatakakage defeats Shimanoumi – Absolutely brilliant tournament from Wakatakakage, and I am a bit surprised they did not award him a special prize. He will be riding a big wave toward the top of the banzuke, and I hope he can endure the intensity of the competition. To many it looked like Shimanoumi won this match at first glance, but Shimanoumi had clearly stepped out even before his throw attempt had completed rotation. An 11-4 final score for the leading Onami brother.

Tokushoryu defeats Onosho – Outstanding 10-5 final for Onosho, and we should see him back in the joi-jin for November. It was a bit troublesome that he dropped his last 2 matches. He ended up tucked in against Tokushoryu’s enormous belly, and from that position, it’s tough to do much. With the belly in control, even the remainder of Tokushoryu was forced to go where the belly demanded, and that was putting Onosho out of the ring.

Ishiura defeats Ryuden – By all rights, Ishiura should be trying to mend that ankle, but he not only showed up, we saw Ishiura’s quality sumo today. I was really impressed that he could shut down Ryuden’s forward power, and hold him checked at the center of the dohyo while he set up that throw. Ishiura finishes Aki 4-11. With any luck, lksumo may give us a hint on if that may be enough to keep him in the top division.

Kagayaki defeats Kaisei – The second “Darwin” match had a tough to describe kimarite. Really maximum effort from Kagayaki to keep Kaisei from establishing his desired hold, and preventing the Brazilian from overwhelming him. That attempt to finish the match fell apart in spectacular fashion, with each man counter-rotating and falling back to back.

Takayasu defeats Meisei – Takayasu controlled the center of the dohyo, and kept Meisei reacting to his sumo. Unable to really maintain his footing, Meisei found himself drive out of the ring. Both finish with respectable kachi-koshi, and we will see Takayasu in the joi-jin for November.

Kotoeko defeats Takarafuji – Holy smokes, what a battle! The third “Darwin” match was a long running chest to chest contest between Takarafuji’s defend and extend sumo, and Kotoeko’s overwhelming drive to beat him no matter what. Takarafuji eventually had to settle for a left hand outside grip, but could not overcome Kotoeko’s defense. Excellent sumo from these two.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoshogiku – This might have been the final for Kotoshogiku. My thanks to Terutsuyoshi for not employing some punk move or henka against the former Ozeki, and let him go out fighting.

Enho defeats Myogiryu – It gave me a smile to see Enho finish out with a solid match like this. Myogiryu went in with a solid plan, but if Enho is dialed into his sumo, you are sometimes just along for the ride. Both finish with 6-9.

Kotoshoho defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi is another who seems to have lost about 30% of his power, and I have to wonder how long he will be able to keep up with the younger crop of rikishi who seem to be showing up in the top division, and coming into their own. Tamawashi had a big opening nodowa, but Kotoshoho just kept working forward, and overcame. A 10-5 finish for Kotoshoho – great stuff!

Hokutofuji defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin drove to get his left hand toward Hokutofuji’s mawashi, but could never connect. If you are Tochinoshin, and your main weapon gets shut down, what do you do? Why you pull of course! Hokutofuji is primed for that, puts the left hand death grip on Tochinoshin’s throat and moves him over the tawara.

Takanosho defeats Aoiyama – Impressed that Takanosho was able to resist Aoiyama’s initial attack. But I guess that if you share practice with Takakeisho every morning, you are used to getting a hundred or so kilograms of force applied to your face and shoulders. Takanosho focused center-mass and pushed forward for the win. Another solid 10-5 finish, and I am curious where that lands him in the san’yaku for November.

Daieisho defeats Okinoumi – Both end the tournament with more than 10 losses, and will be dropping out of the san’yaku. This match was dominated by Daieisho’s pulling effort at the close, which saw him galloping in reverse while tugging on Okinoumi’s head. Ok…

Kiribayama defeats Mitakeumi – Ah, Mitakeumi, the eternal Sekiwake. That last increment to Ozeki is outside of your grasp yet again. Mitakeumi was in reaction mode from the start today, and he let Kiribayama dominate the match. I am sure Kiribayama is delighted to return from kyujo and end the tournament with 9 wins, I just hope he did not permanently damage that left shoulder in the process.

Shodai defeats Tobizaru – A win here was all Shodai needed to finish his yusho run, and it was a great match. I have to compliment Tobizaru who contested strongly for the yusho in his first ever top division tournament. The opening gambit nearly overpower Shodai, and put Shodai’s heels on the tawara. Shodai rallied and bodily tossed Tobizaru nearly across the ring. Tobizaru grabbed an arm and reverse Shodai to the bales again, but an inspired pivot at the edge dropped Tobizaru as he lunged forward to finish Shodai. I would remind readers that, in my opinion, this is an early form of Shodai’s sumo, and a year from now, all of this stuff that looks rough and improvised may become polished and amazing to watch. I hope the Aki yusho winner and shin-Ozeki can stay healthy and compete with strength for many years to come.

Takakeisho defeats Asanoyama – Some might assume that with the yusho decided just minutes before, that this match would be anti-climatic. But to me it was quite informative in that Asanoyama, at the fundamental level, is a stronger and more versatile rikishi than Takakeisho. This was all about mental focus and stamina, and it seems, a bit to my surprise, that Takakeisho had more to bring to the dohyo today. I have not seen Asanoyama have to generate that much forward force in a long time, and it really distracted him from getting an effective hand hold, which is crucial to his sumo technique. With his offense disrupted, Asanoyama worked to break contact and re-engage. While that is solid sumo tactics, it merely set up Takakeisho’s penultimate attack. With all of that power now focused in Asanoyama’s chest through Takakeisho’s hands, Asanoyama found himself powerless to stop the fast run over the edge. Asanoyama has nothing to feel down about following this Aki basho, but I suspect he will assess his performance as falling short of expectations. Tip from an old man who has had wonderful successes in a few areas of life. Put the expectations aside, and enjoy what you are good at. When you can find a path to that, you will unlock your potential. You are an Ozeki, and the sumo fandom adores you. Have fun with it, like you did in your early days at the bottom of Makuuchi. The rest will take care of itself.

To our dear readers, thank you for spending the Aki basho with us. It’s been a blast covering this wide-open nokazuna tournament, and Team Tachiai appreciates you taking time to read and contribute.

32 thoughts on “Aki Day 15 Highlights

  1. if your informations about SHodai’s upcoming Ozeki promotion are correct, TAkayasu isn’t just in for a return to joi-in, but all the way to Sanyaku. It will probably be between him and Kiribayama, but normally that 1 additional win should outweight the one extra rank.

    Otherwise I agree with your comments. Asfunny as it sounds, my highlight today was probably the Takarafuji vs Kotoeko bout. That was really entertaining.

    Further down Ura beat Daishoho today, so irespective of the treatment to Fujiazuma and Azumaryu, both Ura and Naya should join Jokoryu and Takagenji on the way up to Juryo.

  2. Those were certainly a load of excuses for Asanoyama and his 8 wins.

    Congrats to Shodai. Even though I think it will be a while before (if) he can get to Yokozuna, he is the closest to it of the 3, right now.

    Congrats to Wakatakakage and Tobizaru as well, broke my heart to see him holding his tears.

  3. Well said, Bruce. Thank you to everyone who contributes to Tachiai.org. Having this website allows me to discuss and celebrate sumo with other fans while continuing to teach me about the sport and Japan in general. All of you should be proud of your efforts and what you’ve created here.

    Does Onosho have any other rikishi to practice with at his level? I’m wondering if that’s part of the reason for his improved performance this basho.

    I agree with Bruce about Terutsyoshi. It was honorable and admirable to perform “straight ahead” sumo against Kotoshogiku today. It was the least that an old warrior deserved in potentially his last match.

    I wonder if Enho had an “Ah, the hell with it” mentality today about his sumo and just went out and did what he knows works. Considering that we’ve only seen flashes of the sumo that he showed today, and the head nod that followed the win, I hope we’ll see more of that sumo from him in the next basho.

    After losing to Kiribayama today, I really do suspect that Mitakeumi is injured in some way. There’s zero reason that he should be losing to an opponent with a bum shoulder if he’s healthy.

    While I am elated for Shodai, I really empathize with Tobizaru. He barely held back his tears as he walked off of the dohyo. This was a huge, “I had him!” moment for Tobizaru and I hope he uses it to gambarize for the next basho. I suspect that a lot of people didn’t expect him to do as well as he did and he should be proud of his performance.

    I also agree that the pressure on Asanoyama was HUGE this basho and it wouldn’t surprise me either if that caused him mental problems for his first couple of matches. I do, however, think he’ll be fine and will perform admirably as an Ozeki in the future.

    As always, fans clamor at any opportunity to hope for the next Yokozuna and this basho was no different. I think that it is wise to give rikishi time to adjust to their new ranks when they’re achieved. I have no doubt that the rumblings about Shodai reaching sumo’s highest rank will start in earnest if they haven’t already. I hope that he can ignore them and focus on continuing to perform top quality sumo and maturing as a rikishi.

    • I agree with most of this comment, but I can’t concur that Mitakeumi lost to Kiribayama because he was injured. Kiribayama was carrying a torn shoulder and he beat Mitakeumi regardless, because he is a superior wrestler. I have always liked Mita, he seems like a lovely chap and has bucketloads of talent and charisma, but Kiribayama is the real thing. Of course this comment could look a little silly in a year’s time if Mita is basking in the glory of a third yusho and ozeki promotion while Kiribayama is struggling at maegashira 11, but we’ll see.

  4. If you are the kind of sick and twisted person who clicks on links named “Shocking MMA KO’s”, “Matador gored by bull” or “Horrifying rodeo accidents” I would urge you to track down today’s juryo bout between Chiyoshoma and Nishikifuji.

    Chiyoshoma needed the win to get back into maku’uchi and he was most definitely not going to take any chances by playing nice. At the tachiai he didn’t bother with any conventional moves, he just clocked Nishikifuji round the head with a mighty slap, the impact of which resounded around the Kokugikan. The crowd ignored the no-vocals rule with a “oooohhh”. Satisfied with the results of his efforts the doctor of dirty sumo repeated the dose: blam! “eeuurgh”; blam! “aaaarrrh”; blam! “oooowaahh”; blam! “eeeeyah”. By this point Nishikifuji was completely discombobulated and Chiyoshoma had no problems throwing him.

    If it’s not illegal, Chiyoshoma will do it. Everyone hates him and he don’t care!

    • LOL! just watched it – that opening forearm/elbow to the face is nasty!

      (Also, I noticed that Ura was not ‘pretty in pink’ today?! Hope that was just him superstitiously not wanting to jinx himself by donning his sekitori-battle-dress too soon…)

    • Like this but don’t have the button. Good to have a brawler going up to makuuchi to (probably) replace Shohozan. Sure we’ll be treated to the odd flying henka as well

  5. A million thanks to Bruce, Herouth and Leonid for your hard work every day. I await reading your reports as eagerly as I wait for Natto Sumo’s video in the morning (I live in France). Thanks guys. And next step Yokoshodai! 😁

  6. Absolutely spot on. It was great senshuraku action. You’re right that it frequently feels like the first half of makuuchi is guys with nothing to fight for who limp out for easy yorikiri or oshidashi. Today was action-packed. I do think you’re also right about the intai(s). I wonder how much the intai calculus is being affected by the COVID situation. Several ceremonies from this year have been delayed. With supporters’ attendance surely affected, I wonder if a few guys are delaying their exits.

  7. Very nice write up Bruce. This was the first time my sister and I stayed up and watched the live feed. It was really interesting. :-)

    It was wonderful to see Shodai win the tournament. This was well fought and earned.

    Nice to see Taka-bear making some improvements. I hope we see him back in sanyaku soon. (I miss seeing his “hulk/bear” posturing prematch)

    I love Ishiura. He is the first rikishi that I started rooting for – but man I wish he had sat out and let the ankle heel. I understand that he was trying to keep his position in Makuuchi, but it hurt to see him so hobbled. I hope he doesn’t drop too far.

    As much as my sister and I love Kotoshogiku – he of the perpetual sad expression – and will miss seeing him battle, it has become painful to watch him in the ring. Sorry to say, but may be it is time to hang up that mawashi and move to the next stage.

    Same for Tochinosin, but he’s got some pad before he drops out of Makuuchi. (fingers cross)

    I see that Chiyonocutie, sorry kuni, took Juryo. Good news indeed. Looking forward to seeing him back in Makuuchi.

    And Ura is fighting his way back up the ranks. (happy dance) We love love love Ura. Looking forward to seeing him back. I do hope he keeps the pink mawashi.

  8. Congrats to Shodai! A well deserved yusho and promotion. I have to say, as a Kakuryu and Takakeisho fan, I can’t but harbor negative feelings toward Tochinoshin. He seems to have zero regard to his opponent’s rank or yusho candidacy when performing his ever increasing henkas. Kakuryu fell victim in May 2019, and now Takakeisho.

    • The sad fact is he can’t deliver victories using his preferred yotsu style any more and so is resulting to pulls and funny business. Sadly I think he’s another rikishi who has at most a year left in the tank

    • I hope every one of his opponents from now on react to his henka the way Asanoyama did. It was like Ferdinand stung by a bee. Lovely to see, and making crime not pay.

    • Ah, you discount the distractions of a 3 year old on an aging mind riddled with ADD and dyslexia. I assure you, I have not yet begun to mangle the English language!

    • Many thanks as ever to the whole tachiai team for the wonderful, comprehensive coverage. Really appreciate the time you guys take out of your busy lives to deliver entertaining and insightful analysis which massively enhances my enjoyment of sumo.

      Bruce I don’t think you were the only one to find Shodai’s non performances a year or two ago somewhat frustrating, I certainly did. What a transformation, he’s looking like the real deal now. Right decision to promote him now given the yusho and consistency over the last 5 basho.

      I have to say I found the sumo a bit flat especially in the early stages, a function no doubt of the number of kyujo added to a number of rikishi walking wounded. But a rousing finish with a number of rikishi hitting their stride, shame they can’t go on for another week!

  9. Tobizaru’s tears were a killer. It looked to me though less like sadness or even (mostly) disappointment and more a release of stress he can’t possibly have imagined he’d be dealing with two weeks ago. The more stoic Wakatakakage showed something similar, on a smaller scale, after his bout.

    Speaking of Wakatakakage, what does this guy have to do for a special prize? 10-5 in first full outing in July, then 11-4 here and shut out. It was even announced before the bouts started that neither he nor Onosho would receive one, regardless of Day 15 outcome.

  10. Thank you so much, team Tachiai, for all the wonderful, informative, insightful, genial and good-humored commentary.

    I wanted Shodai and Tobizaru both to win! Sometimes I just have to chant “Like you both, don’t get hurt”. Big congratulations to Shodai. He did say a few bashos ago that he was fighting to hearten the people of Kumamoto, who were clobbered by heavy rains, and it worked.

    Very much looking forward to more of Tobizaru, Wakatakakage, Hoshoryu, Kiribayama and others.

    Kotoshogiku has given me much joy and I hope he finds joy in whatever is next for him. He is dignified even in loss.

    Best wishes to scrappy Shohozan and warrior Ikioi too.

  11. Well we didn’t get a play-off in the end, but at least the deciding match was a suitably thrilling end to the tournament. As has happened on the final day of previous tournaments, I did experience a slight liquid irritation to my eyes as the winner was decided – no doubt the result of staring for too long at a lap-top screen and perhaps an allergic reaction to Japanese whiskey….

    Props to Kotoshoho for being able to calmly prevail in an oshi battle against Tamawashi at the tender age of 21.
    And respect to Kotoeko for his titanic effort to beat Takarafuji

  12. Woah, I didn’t know about Kakuryu influence Bruce – makes sense as today was a real Kakuryu TM reactive sumo display. Shodai was a monster this basho – running over opponents and dunking his last 2 into the clay. Today he spoke about having to overcome his anxiety – I wonder if this has been the issue affecting his performance in the past? ps Love Tobizaru facial expressions hope to see lot more in the future!

  13. With a dominant Shodai, a healthy Takakeisho (for a change), and expected continued improvement from Asanoyama, I suspect that our days of M17 Tokushoryu championships have come to an end. And with talented up-and-comers like Takanosho, Kotoshoho, and Wakatakakage, sumo’s future is very bright.

    Thanks very much to Team Tachiai for providing a wealth of information and entertainment.

  14. Great reporting by Team Tachiai, as always. Very much appreciated. Great final day even though there was no playoff. The sumo playoff must be the most exciting fifteen or so seconds in sports. The next basho will be a real eye opener. It can’t wait. I’m curious if Wakatakakage, Kotoshoho and the other promising youngsters are ready to take the next step. There’s quite a lot of young talent in the top division at the moment but it’s hard to say who has the skill and consistency to become the next Ozeki.

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