And the best basho of the 2010 decade is…

Admittedly, this article could have taken place at the end of last year. But slowly putting myself in the mood for the final basho of the year, I was thinking of past great sumo moments, and wanted to switch from an internal monologue to a broader discussion with you guys, sumo fans.

So my question is: in your opinion, which basho of the past decade would you consider as “the best” ?

Before we start, I’d like to point out the fact that this article will be purely subjective, and does not aim to be scientific or exact. I myself haven’t seen several basho from the beginning of the 2010 decade, so it’s likely I missed some great moments along the way!

I’d like to thank once again Jason Harris for his awesome coverage during the past decades, and his videos I took the liberty to upload here.

The favorites

1. Natsu basho 2012

Had this basho taken place somewhere between 2018 and 2020, the final outcome would not have appeared that weird. But back in 2012, that basho was truly an anomaly.

Seeing an under-par Hakuho losing to Aminishiki on shonishi quickly made it clear the yusho would be up for grabs.

The eventual winner, Kyokutenho, started indifferently, with a 2-3 record after five days, whereas the ozeki were largely disappointing. All, except one: Kisenosato, who had a comfortable two win lead after ten days. But Kisenosato being Kisenosato (and Tochiozan being Tochiozan)…

To sum up this basho, I could of course have selected the playoff, but Kisenosato’s final bout, against Baruto, impressed me quite a lot. The Estonian’s stubborn resistance at the edge, even though nothing was at stake for him at this point, is stunning. Kisenosato’s inability to finish the big guy off is all the more painful.

May 2012, day 15: Kisenosato v Baruto

2. Osaka 2017

Definitely one of the blockbusters of the 2010 decade. The Osaka basho 2017 is the tale of three men, one yokozuna, one ozeki and one sekiwake. Two months ago, all three were ozeki. Kisenosato got promoted to yokozuna, Kotoshogiku could not save his ozeki rank, whereas Terunofuji entered the basho being sadly kadoban yet again. And all three entered the dohyo in fine form.

The shin-yokozuna pleased a delighted crowd, day after day, winning the first twelwe bouts. Terunofuji’s knees seemed to finally let him produce his A-game, having lost just once in the process. Meanwhile, Kotoshogiku grabbed eight wins, and has to win the last two in order to complete what an ozekiwake wants to do: getting his ten, and reaching sumo’s highest rank again.

The rest is already part of the legend: an injury ending career, an infamous henka, a forgettable showing up on day 14, and a playoff of the crippled.

This time, I definitely chose to show the playoff, and not to bring further images of that Kotoshogiku – Terunofuji bout.

Osaka 2017, playoff: Kisenosato v Terunofuji

3. Hatsu basho 2019

My personal favorite, and the perfect definition of sumo chaos.

I can’t help but introducing that event with the usual pre-basho “bold prediction” thread from Grand Sumo Breakdown. Feeling that the upper ranks were far from their best, I predicted a total of no more than 30 wins, for all ozeki and yokozuna combined – that included Goeido, Takayasu, Tochinoshin, Kakuryu, Hakuho and Kisenosato, so an average of five wins per rikishi! Jason thought I was losing it; I held on my prediction. How many wins did those six eventually get? 30.

Back to chaos. First of all, this was Kisenosato’s last basho. After an encouraging 10-5 in September of last year, the injured yokozuna could not grab one single win in November or in January, and had to call it a day.

Kakuryu and Tochinoshin also did not end the tournament – with two wins for the yokozuna, zero for the ozeki. Goeido and Takayasu got their kachi koshi, but varely more (9-6 for both).

What about Hakuho? During the first days, he miraculously saved himself from seemingly hopeless situations – not without a bit of help of Tochiozan, who self destructed once again. Hakuho’s desperate fight against Hokutofuji was a particular highlight. He snatched the win, but injured his knee in the process, as we were to know several days after.

After the first days scares, the dai yokozuna seemed as good as ever – Herouth advised his stable to book a fish in advance, as Hakuho entered the last third of the basho with a two win cushion. From there, the yokozuna’s knee could not stand the effort anymore, and the basho ended up – of course – with a surprise winner.

I enjoyed Takakeisho’s win over Hakuho :

January 2019, day 13: Hakuho v Takakeisho

The outsiders

There were, of course, many more delightful sumo moments to enjoy during that decade. I remember Kisenosato’s fine effort on his quest for his first yusho, in May 2013, where he won the first thirteen bouts before succumbing to Hakuho and ending the basho 13-2.

Kotoshogiku’s unstoppable gaburi was fun, back in January 2016. After getting his kashi koshi as soon as on day eight, things became serious when he defeated Kakuryu, then showing Hakuho and Harumafuji who the boss is. His 14-1 yusho was stunning; perhaps even more than Goeido’s zensho yusho in September 2016, where  Hakuho was kyujo.

January 2016, day 11: Hakuho v Kotoshogiku

The Aki basho 2017 was symbolic in more than one way. The basho almost became a no-kozuna, as the only remaining yokozuna, Harumafuji, was seriously struggling with his elbow (how many no-kozuna have we witnessed since ?). It was also the Mongolian’s final yusho, before his sudden retirement a few weeks after. That basho was yet another anomaly – the last rikishi to win a yusho having sustained four losses was Musashimaru, in 1996.

Goeido’s meltdown was truly shocking – he had a three lead cushion to Harumafuji at some point. All in all, this basho’s scenario was really entertaining, much to Jason’s delight. 

Aki basho 2017, playoff: Goeido v Harumafuji

Jason would surely single out the Aki basho 2012, too. It saw Harumafuji’s second zensho yusho in a row, which prompted a fully deserved yokozuna promotion. On the other hand, Herouth might stress out Kakuryu’s yokozuna promotion, which took place in March 2014.

Aki basho 2012, playoff: Hakuho v Harumafuji

I would finally recall 2019’s Aki basho¸ which was really fun too, with many yusho contenders, and an enjoyable sekiwake duel between Takakeisho and Mitakeumi.

The Aki basho has definitely been entertaining during the past years. Would you pick one of the previous editions as your last decade’s favorite basho?

10 thoughts on “And the best basho of the 2010 decade is…

  1. Nagoya 2016. I was there in person, with the family. My mother-in-law later informed us that my daughter and wife were on TV. Harumafuji won, defeated Hakuho on senshuraku. This wad back in the days when yusho parades were still a thing, and I’m pretty sure Terunofuji accompanied him for the ride…the good ole days before karaoke remotes…

  2. Hatsu 2014: It all comes down to the top two lads, musubi-no-ichiban on senshuraku, Y Hakuho v O Kakuryu. Kakuryu forces play-off. Hakuho pulls it off.

  3. Great idea for an article. (And I loved all the youtube footage!) I am not knowledgable enough to have a firm opinion, but I am very keen to learn what other tachiai readers think…

  4. March 2019. It was my first time following sumo (in preparation for a trip to Japan in May) and I was blown away by Hakuho. It seemed like he decided to win with a different kimarite each day, just to provide a challenge for himself. That was the last time he was able to dominate to that degree, so I’m happy to have discovered sumo just in time to see it.

  5. Osaka 2017!
    That’s the basho that got me hooked on sumo. Before that I had watched occasional highlights on NHK. But then came the final days of Osaka. What drama. Say what you want about Kisenosato, but his victory in Osaka is the stuff of legends.

    • Yeah. Since then I thought: put that into a movie, and spectators would be like: “come on, it can’t be so in real life” 😁

    • I agree. Kisenosato capturing the yusho after a devastating injury to his favorite offensive weapon is just classic sumo.

  6. In retrospect I would like to give it to Hatsu 2010, the first basho of the decade and the last one featuring Asashoryu and Hakuho. Even thought Hakuho beat Asashoryu on Sesnhuraku the Yusho went to Asashoryu. Just rewatching this wild brawl, there simply hasn’t been anyone else capable of giving Hakuho this kind of fight during his genki years.
    Then there was obviously Kyushuu 2010 … WIth Hakuho having consecutive four consecutive Zensho-Yusho and being on the verge of taking the all time longest win streak from Futabayama, he was beat on day 2 by no other than Kisenosato, then a Maegashira in a great bout. Hakuho finished the tournament with his 5th Yusho of the year and a 14-1 record. And if that wasn’t enough, both Giku and Kise got promoted to Sekiwake after this tournament, which ultimately started their trajectory to Ozekiness.

    I have never been a particular fan of either Harumafuji nor Kakuryu, so my highlights focus on other rikishi. In that sense I want to give first mention to a guy who looked absolutely brutal in the early 2010th and was a favorite of mine, but unfortunately his career never took off to his full potential due to injury. If you think that Tochinoshin is strong, watch some footage of Baruto. Hatsu 2012 was the first and only Yusho by Baruto.

    Getting back to and being a long term Giku and Kise fan, Aki 2011 was a great basho. Many might not remember, but 2011 was a great year for both of them. After their promotion to Sekiwake Kisenosato only fumbled once in Natsu with an 8-7 score while scoring double digits all other tournaments this year, but Giku went double digits for all basho that year, which I believe was the only time in his career he managed that. It all culminated in the Aki tournament, where they both finished with a 12-3 score. Obviously some bastard called Hakuho had to steal the Yusho picking up one more win, but falling prey to both of them. Kise lost to Giku, Baruto and Harumafuji. Giku lost to Kakuryu and Tochiozan, then tied things on day 13 with a win over Hakuho, but fumbled it on day 15 with a loss to Baruto. Giku got promoted to Ozeki after the tournament, Kise followed suit after the next one.

    Kyushuu being a good place for Kisenosato in 2013 he beat both Yokozuna Hakuho and Harumafuji. Unfortunately he lost to Aminishiki and Goeido and finished with a 13-2 score. Especially the loss to Aminishiki was beyond unnecessary and had to really sting, because Harumafuji only picked up that one loss against him and won the tournament with a 14-1 score

    Fast forward to 2016, another great year for both of them. Giku won the Hatsu including one of his rare wins over Hakuho and only losing to his buddy Toyonoshima, who got a Jun-yusho and a promotion to Sekiwake afterwards. Sadly that was Toyonoshimas last healthy tournament. This being the first Japanese yusho after what felt like a million of years, the importance of this tournament can’t be overstated. Kise was on a tear the whole year after this. 13-2 Jun-Yusho in Haru and Natsu behind only some guy called Hakuho. In Nagoya he beat Hakuho, but lost the Yusho decider against Harumafuji for a Jun-Yusho with a 12-3 score. Aki was his off tournament with a 10-5 score and the tournament where Goeido went ham for a Zensho-Yusho. Back to Kyushuu he managed to not win the tournament despite beating all three Yokozuna (and yes, all genki) thanks to fumbling it to Endo and Shodai in week one. The loss vs Tochinoshin was inconsequential at that point, as Kakuryu finished the torunament with only one loss to Kisenosato. Little flash back to 2013, however it also somewhat silenced the critics about him not being able to stand up to the Yokozuna.

    From a personal fan perspective, it would probably be any of the bashos January to may 2017. The way looked pave for a great 2017 and indeed being in Japan at that time and able to visit Hatsu basho its probably my favorit tournaments just for that reason. There was an incredible hype around Kise at that time. Hatsu got Kise his first Yusho and well deserved promotion to Yokozuna. Haru looked even brighter until that ultimately career ending injury, but was an incredibly dramatic tournament with his only Yusho as Yokozuna in a play off against Terunofuji. Finally in May after not being able to obtain tickets (due to the servers being perma down and everything sold in 15minutes), I was able to attend the Senshuraku party to celebrate the still unofficial Ozeki promotion of Takayasu and even have a quick chat with Kise. Given that I was completely unaware of this kind of party and literaly only googled it after hearing about it during the live broadcast that day, that surely marks one of the most memorable moments for me.

    The rivalry between Hakuho, Harumafuji and Kisenosato just made so many great torunaments in the first part of the decade. Strangely enough Kakuryu despite being a Yokozuna was always more like a dark horse to me. He lacked a bit of consistency and often genkiness. I can’t really see any tournaments after 2017 even getting close to this. I know it has been chaotic and entertaining and enjoyable, but ultimately the epic battles we witnessed back then are still lacking a bit. I hope that void will be filled with new rivalries forming now.

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