Natsu Day 15 Highlights

With everything but 2 Darwin matches decided, it was a nice step down in intensity from the prior 14 days of action. What a great tournament! An odd fact, the winning score for both Makuuchi and Juryo was 14-1, that’s some power! Speaking of the Juryo yusho, it features a playoff between Gonoyama and Ochiai that was a scorcher.

Even though he lost his day 15 match, we expect the formalities around Kiribayama’s promotion to Ozeki to start in the coming week. We encourage sumo fans to keep an eye on that process, as it has been a while since we minted an Ozeki (Mitakeumi was the last one, in January of 2022).

Congratulations to Yokozuna Terunofuji on your 8th yusho. Coming back from serious injury and corrective surgery, this was a big hill to climb, and you made it happen. Nothing but acres of respect for your dedication to the sport and your competitive spirit.

Highlight Matches

Mitoryu defeats Tohakuryu – Sort of a ridiculous match to me, Tohakuryu really could not do much of anything to Mitoryu, who chucked him aside to win by hatakikomi. Mitoryu gets a final win before boarding the barge for Juryo.

Asanoyama defeats Tsurugisho – I have read some fans on social media citing that Asanoyama, getting a final score of 12-3 and being in the yusho race did not get a special prize. I would say “get used to it”. He’s a former Ozeki who got punished, and they are not going to go easy on this guy – ever. It will either make him wilt away, or make him incredibly tough. I can’t wait to find out which one. When the two lockup at the tachiai, the difference in sumo posture is quite shocking. As soon as Asanoyama can land that left hand on Tsurugisho’s mawashi, he is done. One last win for Asanoyama and he is 12-3, and headed much higher in the ranks.

Kagayaki defeats Hokuseiho – Kagayaki gets one final win, and if that somehow translates into him staying in the top division, I am going to lose all hope. Hokuseiho faded out in week 2, losing 5 in a row. Sure, he was a lower rank and file guy fighting the san’yaku, but he should have been able to rally today to get rid of the last man on the banzuke. How did Kagayaki defeat the “immobile” Hokuseiho? Hokuseiho’s foot placement was about an good as mine would be, maybe he just did not feel like putting in too much effort as he already had his 8th win.

Takarafuji defeats Ichiyamamoto – Takarafuji wins one more. You can see Ichiyamamoto trying to get his sumo going, but he just falls apart. Takarafuji grabs his head and flings him to the clay, finishing 5-10.

Kotoeko defeats Ryuden – I continue to admire Kotoeko. He needs one more win for kachi-koshi, and he’s all forward power and sharp offense today. He manages to yorkikiri Ryuden into the second row of the zabuton section to secure his 8th win and finish Natsu kachi-koshi.

Hiradoumi defeats Chiyoshoma – I think Chiyoshoma was surprised to find Hiradoumi inside with a morozashi by the second step. Chiyoshoma attempted an escape, but Hiradoumi deployed a leg trip and brought him down, finishing Natsu at 9-6.

Takanosho defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu had the stronger offense today, and I am not sure why he decided his path to victory was trying to pull Takanosho down. Such a move is always a gamble, because the rikishi initiating the pull releases forward pressure. Takanosho new exactly what to do, and ran Myogiryu by oshitaoshi, finishing Natsu 7-8.

Aoiyama defeats Hokutofuji – Aoiyama gets a fortunate hand placement, and immediately employs the katasukashi to bring down Hokutofuji just as Hokutofuji is charging forward to push Aoiyama out. The final win brings Aoiyama’s score for May to 5-10.

Daishoho defeats Kinbozan – That was too slow to be considered denshamichi, but Daishoho marched Kinbozan directly back and out for a quick yorikiri. Hopefully Kinbozan can recover for July. Daishoho ends the tournament 6-9.

Nishikigi defeats Onosho – Nishikigi goes for the battle hug at the tachiai, Onosho succeeds in blocking him, but shows poor foot placement when executing an ill advised pulling attempt. Nishikigi knows just what to do, and runs Onosho down to win by yoritaoshi, finishing 9-6. Eight (8!) consecutive wins for Nishikigi to conclude Natsu. What happened to this guy?

Sadanoumi defeats Nishikifuji – Nishikifuji has no effective offense and is quickly removed from the ring by Sadanoumi’s oshidashi. He completes his 15 days with just 3 wins; a final score of 3-12.

Tobizaru defeats Tamawashi – Excellent evasive sumo from Tobizaru. I note that he was able to keep his thrusting attack mostly center mass the whole time he was dodging just about everything that Tamawashi was trying to employ. Each time Tamawashi went for a thrust, or to grab Tobizaru for a pull, he was no longer where Tamawashi was aiming. Our first Darwin match ends with Tobizaru kachi-koshi at 8-7, Tamawashi make-koshi at 7-8.

Takayasu defeats Kotoshoho – The battle of the kyujo features Takayasu attacking then releasing forward pressure as Kotoshoho falls forward. A hikiotoshi win, and Takayasu finishes Natsu 3-12.

Oho defeats Midorifuji – I counted twice that Midorifuji was on the cusp of winning this one, just to have Oho battle back. Oho is then able to grapple Midorifuji, and eventually Midorifuji works himself into a jam by trying to get lower and lower to get under Oho to attack. When he’s too low to recover, Oho brings him to the clay with a hikiotoshi. 11-4 final score for Oho, including an amazing 7 consecutive wins in the final week.

Abi defeats Ura – These two were both expecting some manner of complexity in the tachiai, and there was non. As a result, Ura was low and worked lower as he tried to counter Abi’s thrusting attack. The challenge with this kind of position for Ura is that it’s tough to keep your balance, and Abi was able to catch him out of step, and push him out of the ring. The final Darwin match ends with Abi kachi-koshi at 8-7, Ura make-koshi at 7-8.

Mitakeumi defeats Shodai – Excellent focus from Mitakeumi, he ensures all power is headed to center mass. Shodai has no answer, and is first stood up, then pushed out in this battle of the former Ozeki. Mitakeumi with a final win at 9-6.

Kotonowaka defeats Meisei – Ah, Meisei. He was one part of the lead for the yusho race, then 6 consecutive losses took him to a 8-7 kachi-koshi. Good enough if you ask me. Meisei did seem to melt under Kotonowaka’s attack, and maybe those losses for Meisei are thanks to some injury. Kotonowaka finishes Natsu 8-7. Meisei does end up with the Shukun-sho (Outstanding Performance Award).

Daieisho defeats Wakamotoharu – Daieisho shows that standing between him and his 10th win is not a safe place to be. This may be the first time this basho we see him really uncork the intensity of sumo that won him a yusho in January of 2021. Wakamotoharu is lucky if he still has all of his dental work, as Daieisho finishes 10-5. Wakamotoharu is awarded the Gino-sho (Technique Prize).

Hoshoryu defeats Kiribayama – Future Ozeki Kiribayama gets captured, passivated and tossed like a salad by Kiribayama in his last match of the tournament. That was some over the top intensity from Hoshoryu, and he needs that every day. Both end with respectable 11-4 records, and Kiribayama ends with the Gino-sho (Technique Prize). Anyone else notice that all of the special prize winners lost their matches today?

Terunofuji defeats Takakeisho – I have no clue what Takakeisho was trying to do here, but the whole match was a disorganized mess. He had a double inside “grip” on Terunofuji for a moment, then went mad trying to pull the Yokozuna. It’s ok, he cleared kadoban, and he’s going to be back in July. Terunofuji’s final score is 14-1.

Thank you, dear readers, for following along for the last 15 days. Team Tachiai has enjoyed bring you are coverage of the 2023 Natsu basho, and we hope you will follow along as we wait for the formalities of Kiribayama’s promotion to Ozeki. This concludes are daily coverage of the May tournament. Thanks for sharing our love of sumo!

26 thoughts on “Natsu Day 15 Highlights

  1. Has there ever been a playoff in Juryo with 14-1 scores before?
    At least I was not able to find any.

  2. Hi Bruce, thanks a lot for your daily articles.
    We enjoyed it as much as the sumo fight itself.

  3. Massive thanks to everyone at for guiding us through this basho! At least one of the Darwin matches today was fun – Tobizaru and Tamawashi. I also really enjoyed Oho and Midorifuji. WMH’s interview made me sad and he really took a tumble today, I hope he stays injury free and returns even more strongly in Nagoya! I will surely be keeping an eye on Hiradoumi and Meisei after their performances this time.

  4. This is the first tournament I’ve been able to watch in at least a year…and, yeah, I’m happy. Fantastic sumo with me exclaiming out loud in delight at least once or twice a day.

    Today? Daieisho. Wow! He blew Kiribayama away. Just trounced him.

    Terunofuji: Tremendous work. Today’s bout was a piece of cake but he faced some tough competition earlier.

    I’ve been reading Tachiai regularly even when I wasn’t able to watch so I know the names but this is the first tournament for me to see: Hokuseiho, Kiribayama and Wakamotoharu (and a few more). I now am a believer in Tachiai’s refrain that good things are about to happen.

    Disappointments: Takakeisho. I’ve never been much of a fan but he’s lucky to skate through.

    Shodai: the less said the better.

    Abi: he sure looks like he gained a LOT of weight since I last saw him.

    Asanoyama: this is my guy. I never realized he wasn’t popular before (perhaps blinded by my own fandom) but the NHK commentator repeatedly expressed amazement that finally, with his comeback, Asanoyama is becoming a popular rikishi. I retain my confidence that he’ll become Yokozuna.

    Thanks to all at Tachiai. The sumo knowledge (and wit expressed in the daily bout write-ups) is second to none.

  5. Terenofuji is strong and dominant, worthy Yokozuna.
    Takakeisho hurt no doubt about it, hope he recovers soon.
    Kiribayama the new Ozeki, enjoyed his fights, only disappointment is his Henka in this basho.
    Hoshoryu funny guy, staring and other gimmicks, he will be Ozeki next basho, he is technically strong.
    Daieisho also has strong chance for his Ozeki run next basho. He has the fight in him, just need consistency.
    Wakamotoharu another Ozeki candidate.
    It’s really funny just the start of this basho we were fearing that there may be zero Ozeki, but by the end of next Basho, we may have 5Ozekis :)
    Ura and Tobizaru are Entertaining as usual. Love Ura for his impossible moves.
    Feeling sad for the fujis, hopefully we may see Takarafuji in Makuchi for another couple of bashos. Hokutofuji is a mystery, he have the potential to defeat anyone, if he is in form, but again the issue is consistency.
    Also this basho had a lot of Henkas, it’s like ignoring the sumo fans, when we are anticipating a good fight and to see a side step and a push, it’s frustrating.
    Hokuseiho may be bit passive, but he is strong and have a great coach, so he will be a good rikishi.

  6. Thanks Bruce et. al for great tournament coverage! Just wanted to mention that of the many things I liked this tournament, the CROWD was my favorite part. For the first time in a long time, the crowd felt really really into it. Clearly the rikishi gave them something worth cheering for, but to hear and see that enthusiasm was just so great. Quality tournament in so many ways.

  7. Thank you Bruce and everyone else for the wonderful content. I’ll be delighted to see Kiribayama get promoted. And nice to see Takarafuji hang in there for one more basho at least.

  8. Thank you so much, Bruce and all of Team Tachiai, you are indispensable and delightful.

    Daiesho, yikes! I hope Wakamotoharu is okay.

    And whoa, Hoshoryu! “Just because you are getting to Ozeki before me, don’t think I can’t pick you up and slam you down” (like a potter getting the air of clay before working it, or a baker taking their frustrations out on the bread dough they’re kneading).

    Saw a huge swathe of crowd waving towels for Takarafuji, which did my heart good.

  9. Thank you Bruce and team tachiai, I look forward to your wrap ups each day and appreciate that you take the time to write with wit and sumo knowledge.

  10. Just want to add my thanks to Bruce, Andy, lksumo, Josh K and anyone else in Team Tachiai.
    Can’t wait for July…

  11. Many thanks for the daily coverage, and not just of the top level – always informative and entertaining. For a banged-up, stop-gap yokozuna Terunofuji is really carving out his own niche as a worthy holder of the rank. Be interesting to see how he is eventually comes to be regarded as a yokozuna – he’s doing a mighty job.

  12. I have a question: Why was Oho, at 11/4 overlooked? I guess Asanoyama is fine for the Yusho runner up but that’s all he’s going to get – just have to get used to him not getting anything until it’s a Yusho?

    Wow – that Juryo Championship bout should not be missed!

    Thanks again for the great job everyone!

    • In terms of special prizes? There was some discussion of one for Asanoyama, but the votes weren’t there, and they said they really wanted to see 13 wins from a former Ozeki and yusho winner ranked so low. Oho never came up, but that’s not surprising. 11-4 is a good score, but it’s quite common not to get a special prize for one, and there was nothing especially notable about his performance.

      • Thank you – sorry for the late response. I thought Oho, 11-4 Plus 7 consecutive wins in week 2 would mean something – guess not!

        • I think if someone is new to Makuuchi even 10 wins can be worth a special prize, but Oho had his 7th tournament and at quite a low rank. The same score line at M7 (which would be a career high for him) might be different.

  13. Thanks again for the excellent coverage and commentary. Lots of good stuff this tournament.

    Takakeisho proves once again that his fighting spirit far exceeds his physical capability.
    Terunofuji proves once again that his fighting spirit is at least equal to his physical capability.
    Perhaps the oft-discussed transition period at the top of makuuchi is coming to a close with a new crew of sekiwake (and hopefully future ozeki).
    There are exciting rikishi to watch below san’yaku. I don’t expect Tobizaru, Kotoeko, or Ura to win a yusho, but I am sure I want to tune in when they step up on the clay.
    We’ve seen a lot of rikishi bouncing between upper Juryo and lower Makuuchi. This time it’s different. The Juryo promotion group should be very interesting and may complete the period of transition.

    And questions that will make Nagoya interesting.

    Is Asanoyama good, or good enough to make it back to Ozeki given what appears to be a more talented san’yaku than on his last trip up the banzuke.
    Will any of the sekiwake on ozeki runs stand out enough to make it, or will the strong group at the top grind each other enough to keep them all from promotion?
    Will Hokuseiho wake up one morning and realize he has two arms?
    Will we see the departure of group of familiar faces as age, injuries and fresh competition mount? (I miss the incredible defensive battles Takarafuji treated us to not that long ago!)

    Plenty of good stuff to anticipate for Nagoya!


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