Welcome to Tachiai’s day by day coverage of the 2021 Kyushu basho, happening once more in the Fukuoka Kokusai Center after a 2 year break, thanks to COVID 19. In an effort to return to something closer to normal, Grand Sumo went back on the road this year, an the Japan Sumo Association has set up shop in western Japan for the duration of the November tournament. Team Tachiai is looking for Terunofuji to dominate this tournament, provided his knees can stay healthy. We are looking at the return of Abi and Shohozan to the top division, and we expect them to bring a lot of action to the bottom half of the banzuke.
Today’s matches are mostly lateral fights. M15e fight M15w, and so on. Given how the banzuke turned out this time, it leads to some interesting contests:
What We Are Watching Day 1
Kaisei vs Shohozan – Both of these guys are grizzled vets who continue to compete into their 30s, with Shohozan clocking in at 37. They occupy the last two rungs on the banzuke, and it will be interesting to see if either of them can hit 8 wins this November. I would guess both of them are not going to be able to remain in the top division for too many more tournaments. They have 21 career matches.
Akua vs Sadanoumi – Akua traditionally struggles in the top division, but I can always hope that he finds a way to stick around this time. He has a 4-0 career record over Sadanoumi. Sadanoumi likewise returns to the top division after at 10-5 finish from Juryo 3. He has not been ranked in Makuuchi since January.
Chiyomaru vs Abi – Abi returns after a 3 tournament suspension in 2020 for violating COVID containment protocols, then blasting his way back through Makushita and Juryo. His sumo has not changed much, and I think he may struggle against Chiyomaru today. He has only beaten the round on once in 4 tries, as I think the might ballast belly of Chiyomaru greatly blunts Abi’s preferred strategy.
Kagayaki vs Chiyonokuni – I keep wondering what happened to Kagayaki. He has gone from solid mid-Maegashira to a steady patrol of the lower ranks. In most cases this is down to some injury, and as is usual, there’s no word that has reached me what it could be. I think he is going to struggle today against Chiyonokuni, who has won the last two in a row over Kagayaki, who brings an advantage in both height and weight to this match.
Yutakayama vs Tochinoshin – I had somewhat higher expectations for Yutakayama in September, but for him it came down to a day 15 Darwin match that he won against Chiyotairyu. He’s facing off against progressively less capable Tochinoshin, who has racked up a series of single rank demotions for series of 7-8 make-koshi results. Tochinoshin has never lost to Yutakayama, so this match might be a good indication on if the former Ozek, Tochinoshin, has managed to get some strength back in his knee.
Ishiura vs Hokutofuji – During our pre-basho podcast, there was agreement among the crew that Hokutofuji, if he is healthy can do a lot of damage this far down the banzuke. He fell from Maegashira 2 to Maegashira 12 after going kyujo in September. Hopefully his injury is healed, and he’s ready to bring the big fight to the dohyo today.
Kotonowaka vs Terutsuyoshi – Like Hokutofuji, Kotonowaka took a significant dive down the ranks after going kyujo with a 3-7 score. If he is healthy, he will also probably dominate the majority of his matches this November. He has an even 3-3 record with Ishiura, with Kotonowaka having a 3-1 score against him across all of 2021.
Chiyotairyu vs Hidenoumi – Hidenoumi had one very good basho in Makuuchi with his 10-5 return to the top division after 3 years in Juryo. Since then it’s been three consecutive make-koshi scores. Things are not going much better for Chiyotairyu, who has only one kachi-koshi so far in 2021.
Aoiyama vs Tobizaru – Also in the “one kachi-koshi in 2021” club we find both Tobizaru and Aoiyama. This stat comes as some surprise to me, as I remember it was Aoiyama with an 11-4 jun-yusho in march. It’s Aoiyama with a big pushing attack vs Tobizaru with mobility.
Kotoeko vs Chiyoshoma – Would you believe that Chiyoshoma has only had one make-koshi in 2021? He had a solid string of 8-7 finishes before his 5-10 blowout in Aki. Things are not going to start in his favor, as he has a 4-10 career deficit against Kotoeko.
Ura vs Tamawashi – Looking at some of the sumo polls across the internet, people still adore Ura, and I am sure they are hoping he can do well this November. He’s not taken a single match against Tamawashi (0-2). Tamawashi tends to find his attack point, and dump a lot of thrusting power into his opponent’s body. Ura has the flexibility to absorb more of that than most, but he has yet proven he can convert that evasion into any kind of winning sumo against Tamawashi.
Shimanoumi vs Hoshoryu – Hoshoryu’s debut in September at the top of the rank-and-file (M1e) did not end too badly, with 3 days kyujo and a final 5-10 record. Most rikishi struggle at this rank their first time, and with him now at Maegashira 5, he’s presented with a chance to regroup and consolidate his sumo. This should be a rowdy, even match with Shimanoumi to start Kyushu.
Takayasu vs Endo – A twenty match career history between these two fan favorites. Both of them are capable of fighting at much higher rank, but are ranked this November at the lower end of the joi-jin. Endo will attack with precision, and Takayasu will be all over the place. Takayasu’s higher mass and inhuman endurance give him the edge, as it is possible to wear Endo down.
Takarafuji vs Myogiryu – Myogiryu is another rikishi with a very tough 2021 record, with some big make-koshi scores, and a stunning 11-4 jun-yusho in at Aki. He’s up against journeyman Takarafuji on day 1, and fans are waiting to see if Myogiryu can continue his September hot streak.
Ichinojo vs Okinoumi – Okinoumi’s 10-5 finish for Aki was his best tournament record in 4 years. As yet another member of the “Grizzle of veterans of sumo” club at 36, he is probably thinking about winding down a really impressive career. But he’s got to fight “the boulder” today, who has taken up residence in one of the Komusubi slots, and is daring the rest of sumo to try and dislodge him. Ichinojo holds a 7-2 career advantage in their match ups.
Takanosho vs Meisei – Takanosho had a tough 5-10 make-koshi in May, and has appeared to struggle since. As with most of these step changes in performance, you can likely chalk it up to some kind of injury. I would love to see him back in his san’yaku form, and hope he’s healed up this November.
Mitakeumi vs Onosho – Someone in the scheduling committee loves these tadpole matches as much as I do, and we are treated to one on the first day. History says that Mitakeumi is going put the junior tadpole down without much fanfare, but Onosho has been slowly improving his balance. But Mitakeumi has taken 5 of their last 6 matches.
Wakatakakage vs Takakeisho – I would love to see Takakeisho back in his more aggressive, dominant form. But I worry a combination of his escalating weight and his on again / off again neurological troubles has limited his sumo. Wakatakakage is definitely the underdog in this contest, but he is young, eager and looking to claw his way to higher rank. He only has one make-koshi in 2021. Should be a good fight.
Shodai vs Daieisho – I want to see big, strong, healthy Shodai this November. None of this “barely enough” sumo. Get that “wall of daikon” going early and just hustle everyone over the bales with a overwhelming barrier of giggling pasty flesh. Daieisho’s answer to that gambit will likely be to slap the daylights out of the Ozeki, and the mystery is what drives me to watch sumo.
Terunofuji vs Kiribayama – Kiribayama! Welcome to the named ranks. Your reward is to be the Yokozuna’s first opponent. We know you have tried 4 times to defeat him and have yet to succeed, so you may be looking at a rough start to Kyushu. Keep your fighting spirit up, and enjoy the dance with the kaiju!