Senshuraku is always a fun day of sumo. I have had the good fortune to attend a few of them, and in the day before COVID, there would be a genuine festival atmosphere among the fans in attendance. The day starts in the afternoon due to the short schedule, and the fans show up mostly before Juryo gets underway. There are ceremonies, awards presentation, some singing, and the whole things ends with a gyoji being tossed into the air.
Looking at video from Tokyo, its clear the sumo fans are trying to carry on as close to customary is possible, while in the middle of a state of emergency. I can only hope the time when it all goes back to it’s wild, raucous natural form is close at hand.
With most of the make / kachi-koshi already decided, today’s matches were more for ranking in July than anything, at least until we got to the finals, where Takakeisho defeated Terunofuji in the final match, forcing a playoff. This was the spot that I think the oyakata were curious about, Terunofuji had shown losses in Makuuchi playoffs in the past. Some had declared he lacked the mental toughness to really come back from a situation like what had just happened on the dohyo, to be able put it behind him and face it as a brand new match.
But we can now assume the remake of Terunofuji was extensive and meticulous, and he dispatched Takakeisho in the first 10 seconds, to claim his second consecutive yusho, and set the stage for an attempt at Yokozuna promotion in July. He becomes the first rikishi since Futabayama to win two consecutive yusho starting from Sekiwake. As mentioned over the course of this basho, he is the only man putting up Yokozuna grade results right now, and he is doing it consistently.
Ishiura defeats Kotonowaka – Ishiura continues his perfect record against Kotonowaka, overwhelming him at the tachiai. Kotonowaka did give it his all, but he finished dumped to the clay by Ishiura’s shitatehineri. I know Ishiura has some injuries he is working around, but he finishes strong with 2 straight wins. Both end Natsu wit 7-8.
Daiamami defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki got a double inside grip at the tachiai, but struggled to do anything with it. They both paused for a while, thinking it through. When Kagayaki dialed up the pressure, Daiamami turned and swung Kagayaki down to pick up his 7th win. Kagayaki really needs to regroup and return to his good sumo.
Chiyoshoma defeats Shimanoumi – The only Darwin match, and really Shimanoumi, were you drinking rather than watching old Chiyoshoma matches? If you were not sure how to find them, there are plenty on Jason’s sumo channel and the always golden Kintamayama. While everyone in the sumo world was looking for a henka, including everyone who read Tachiai’s day 15 preview, it seems Shimanoumi was not. Chiyoshoma improves to 8-7 and is kachi-koshi while Shimanoumi is make-koshi at 7-8.
Takarafuji defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru defaults to slap and tug sumo on days that end in “Y”, and Takarafuji knew what to do with that. Chiyomaru can bring some intensity, but he can’t keep it going for long. So Takarafuji stayed stabled, kept his sumo efficient and rode out the storm. As Chiyomaru tired, Takarafuji took control, ending with an oshidashi push out. Takarafuji improves to 7-8 for May.
Kaisei defeats Tochinoshin – I was half wondering if we were going to see a straight up yotsu battle from the start, and indeed we did. The Tochinoshin of old had the brute power to lift and carry Kaisei about, but with his bum knee, that is now a distant memory. Kaisei consolidated his grip, dropped his hips and pushed forward with power to finish Natsu 9-6.
Akua defeats Hidenoumi – Akua attempted a giant haymaker slap, which was only partially effective. In response Hidenoumi locked up Akua in a rather awkward position, robbing him of any use of his left hand. It looked like it was all Hidenoumi, but Akua managed a throw at the bales to rescue the match. Both end the tournament at 5-10, with Akua declared captain of the Juryo bound barge of the damned.
Chiyotairyu defeats Onosho – Onosho went for the mega-thrust during the tachiai, and did not keep his eyes on Chiyotairyu. Chiyotairyu stepped to the side and slapped Onosho down. Chiyotairyu improves to 10-5 for Natsu, while Onosho is make-koshi at 7-8.
Kiribayama defeats Tsurugisho – Kiribayama got his preferred grip in the tachiai, and Tsurugisho struggled to do anything other than try to stay steady. Kiribayama improves to 6-9 for his final Natsu score.
Terutsuyoshi defeats Aoiyama – Terutsuyoshi tried a jump to the side, and if the intent was to get inside and against Aoiyama’s chest, it worked brilliantly. With Aoiyama’s thrusting attack unavailable, Aoiyama was at the mercy of his smaller opponent. After a few struggles to consolidate his position, Terutsuyoshi unleashed the throw, bringing Aoiyama down. Terutsuyoshi finishes 7-8 for Natsu, winning 6 of his last 8 after a terrible start.
Hoshoryu defeats Tobizaru – Tobizaru was the early aggressor, but could not really control the match. Hoshoryu rallied and drove Tobizaru from the ring, but not into the fans, to the great disappointment of many. Hoshoryu finishes 7-8.
Okinoumi defeats Meisei – Meisei delivered a strong tachiai, but Okinoumi wrapped him up, shut him down and rolled him to the clay with a kotenage. Okinoumi finishes May 9-6.
Tamawashi defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji puts up quite the pre-tachiai show, but today Tamawashi went hard into Hokutofuji’s chest, and just never slowed down. It was 3 steps to the bales, and Hokutofuji was out. Tamawashi finishes Natsu 7-8.
Kotoeko defeats Wakatakakage – Kotoeko continues his dominance over Wakatakakage. Wakatakakage launched hard at the tachiai, and was pushing well on center-mass. But Koteko pulled and leapt to the side, sending Wakatakakage to the clay. Both end Natsu with 9-6 records.
Daieisho defeats Myogiryu – Daieisho managed to find one last win this May, in a tournament I am sure he wants to put behind him. Myogiryu offered only token resistance, and it was over. Both end 6-9.
Mitakeumi defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo seems to have settled on his “Boulder” defense for this match, and Mitakeumi was not impressed. There was a moment when Ichinojo had an opening, but for whatever reason decided to thrust against Mitakeumi’s head, leaving his body wide open for the push that sent him over the bales. Mitakeumi finishes the tournament with 10-5, and a likely return to Sekiwake in July.
Takanosho defeats Takayasu – Takanosho chose to test Takayasu’s endurance, which was a fun decision. But it did not take him long to understand this would never be in his favor. Fortunately for Takanosho, he had no locked up with the former ozeki, but managed to stalemate him at arm’s length. Through some well timed lateral moves and a deflection sumo, he managed to get above an over-extend Takayasu and thrust him down. Takanosho ends the tournament at 5-10.
Shodai defeats Endo – I know there was a minor hype bubble around Endo these past two days. He had some sharp sumo and played spoiler better than anyone could have imagined in act 3. But Shodai, on the verge of losing his 7th match, remembers his Acme tools, somehow re-asserts his balance when he is on one foot, and just body bumps Endo completely off the dohyo. Shodai ends 9-6, and Endo is not going to be able to participate in any playoff. Nice ottsuke, Shodai. More of that please.
Takakeisho defeats Terunofuji – A solid “Stand him up and slap him down” gambit from Takakeisho send Terunofuji face first over the tawara, taking Takakeisho to 12-3, and tying up the yusho race in the final match. This was the moment of discovery – we had seen the Terunofuji of old mentally crumble at this point.
Playoff match – Terunofuji keeps his balance over the arches of his feet, and stays stable. Takakeisho tries a hit and shift strategy a few times, but Terunofuji knows if he remains upright, owns the center of the ring and waits, he can get his hands on Takakeisho and own the match. This comes on the 4th merge, and Terunofuji returns the favor from the first match, slapping down Takakeisho from the side and taking his 4th Emperor’s cup. Well played to both of the Ozeki, and congratulations on a tournament well fought.
With that, Tachiai’s daily coverage of the Natsu basho is complete. Thank you, dear readers, for sharing our love of sumo, and reading along with us each day.