Natsu Day 7 Highlights

Sold Out/Sellout Banners at Kokugikan - Natsu 2019
The Natsu basho is sold out, and many of Tachiai’s friends make up the audience

As Bruce related, we’re happy that many Tachiai readers and friends of the site have descended on Ryogoku, especially this weekend, to join together and watch sumo. On a personal note, it has been great to see old friends and meet new friends, and I will be again in attendance Day 9. If you’re attending the basho as well, let us know!

Let’s get into the day’s action:

Quick Juryo Week 1 Update

It’s looking increasingly likely that we will have yet another top division debutant when the Nagoya basho rolls around. Takagenji quickly dismantled the promising Wakatakakage with a furious nodowa and tsuppari attack to move to 7-0 and retain sole lead of the yusho race, and close in on the last couple of wins to all but guarantee his promotion from Juryo 2. His brother Takanofuji also won down in Makushita to grab kachi-koshi and perhaps seal a quick return to Juryo, with the brothers a combined 11-0. Toyonoshima, now 6-1 following his straightforward win over Takanosho, also looks likely to make an instant return to makuuchi.

All but guaranteed not to make an instant return to the top division he occupied for so long is sumo mummy Ikioi, who scored a painful first victory which saw him collapsing in a heap off the side of the dohyo having narrowly pushed out Azumaryu. The gyoji’s call survived a monoii, which is probably more than could have been said about Isenoumi’s long time sekitori were a torinaoshi to have been called. The good news for Ikioi is that his sole victory almost certainly spares him the indignity of a (possible, small sample size caveats apply) demotion straight through the trap door to Makushita had he continued to draw a blank.

And now, for the top division, on a day that saw the legendary Kitanofuji again join the NHK commentary team…

Day 7 Matches

Ishiura defeats Chiyoshoma – It’s a double henka! Just kidding. It’s just Ishiura that henkas, which he attempts to turn into an arm-bar throw that doesn’t quite come off. The match then develops into some submarine sumo with both men quite low on one side of the dohyo, with Ishiura landing the better left hand grip on Chiyoshoma’s somewhat loose mawashi. Eventually Chiyoshoma changes stance which prompts Ishiura to pull the winning shitatehineri. We’ve seen Ishiura do that a few times in the past and it’s one of his better winning moves.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Enho – Here are two men who can’t even make one Ichinojo between them. Terutsuyoshi lands a strong right hand grip early on in this one, which Enho spends a second trying to work out how to break. Terutsuyoshi takes him on a mini Harumafuji style death spin before sweeping the Hakuho recruit straight down on his back, and it’s ruled a rare susoharai. Enho walks off the dohyo looking like he’s been buried in the beach, he’s 5-2 and Terutsuyoshi gets a much needed 3rd win.

Daishoho defeats Tokushoryu – With Nishikigi fighting Shodai, Daishoho got called up to the Kakuryu dohyo-iri so he must have been all kinds of excited to show off his brand of sumo today. It’s tough to say he needed to do it, as Tokushoryu moved him straight back from the tachiai, at which point he stepped to the side, gave a tug on the big Kise man’s shoulder and let gravity do the rest – hatakikomi. Daishoho takes the battle of the 2-3 men to move back to .500 on the basho.

Kotoeko defeats Sadanoumi – Kotoeko might be looking soon at his first top division kachi-koshi as he grabs a 5th win in a fairly unremarkable match. Sadanoumi starts by moving forward, but just can’t get a grip here. Kotoeko’s able to use a blend of mawashi work and finally, thrusting to win by oshi-dashi and deposit Sadanoumi in the lap of the shimpan.

Shohozan defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru’s 90s Geocities website background green mawashi inspires perhaps a little trepidation. Shohozan pulls after a cagey tachiai before the two lock up in the centre of the dohyo, and yet again in this basho, Chiyomaru finds himself in a grappling match. Shohozan is a slapper but better in this position, and manages to get both hands all the way around the big man on the belt. That’s fairly incredible. The bigger issue is actually moving him, which Shohozan tries a couple times with no luck. Chiyomaru tries to shake off Shohozan, but can’t manage a throw, and Shohozan simply runs the roly poly Kokonoe rikishi out of real estate and corrals him across the dohyo to take the win. Weird sumo.

Onosho defeats Yago – After a matta, the two bounce off each other and exchange pulling attempts. Unfortunately for Yago, Onosho actually lands his and picks up a fairly quick win. He’s 4-3, and Yago is now 3-4.

Shimanoumi defeats Kagayaki – Shimanoumi moves forward well from the tachiai, survives a couple very weak throw attempts and and an even poorer pull attempt from Kagayaki, and wins easily by a light oshidashi. It’s a 3rd win for the new makuuchi man which helps get his kachi-koshi mission back on track, and for “Tactics” Kagayaki it’s a disastrous 6th loss in 7. Fans of obscure stats will find it curious that we could soon see an absence of single kanji shikona rikishi in the top division for the first time in many years, if he doesn’t turn his act around.

Tochiozan defeats Tomokaze – Even tachiai, but it’s another lesson in top division sumo for the promising Tomokaze as Tochiozan sees him leaning forward and puts a firm hand on the back of the Oguruma man’s head and hits the firm hatakikomi. Both men are still “in the black,” but it’s Tochiozan that grabs his 5th win today.

Nishikigi defeats Shodai – It’s a slow motion tachiai as Shodai predictably stands up and it feels like Nishikigi is running for ages – even if it’s only 2 steps – until he makes contact with the Tokitsukaze man. Shodai implausibly moves forward well from this position, but does not land a belt grip and this is his key mistake, choosing instead to get in under the arms of Nishikigi. Moving backwards, Nishikigi pulls what is ruled a kotenage arm-lock throw that at first glance didn’t look massively different than a sukuinage.

Asanoyama defeats Yoshikaze – The violet shimekomi derby ends with a win for the man from Takasago-beya. Asanoyama rebounds from a loss and continues his strong tournament by taking control of the match after a fairly even tachiai. He attempts a grip on the back of Yoshikaze’s belt but only succeeds in untying it, but spares the fans an X-rated view by dispatching the Oguruma veteran with an oshidashi before the censors have to get involved. Asanoyama is up to 6-1 and very much still on the fringe of the yusho race for now.

Ryuden defeats Kaisei – Habitual line-stepper Ryuden seems a little off rhythm as it takes Kaisei ages to complete his pre-basho routine, so it’s no surprise when the matta addict commits another neutral zone infraction. He deploys an odd strategy here and allows Kaisei to take full control of proceedings, and his strategy is clearly to use the large Brazilian’s mass-inertia combination against him. At the very edge of the edge, Ryuden goes for the pull and very, very narrowly wins by hatakikomi as the two men crash into the crowd. Kaisei seems to have suffered a right arm injury as a result by Ryuden’s pull down, which was executed primarily with a pull of said arm after an initial tug on Kaisei’s head. Ryuden is 5-2 with Kaisei now 3-4, and it will be interesting to see what effect the injury may have on his attempts to get kachi-koshi from here.

Meisei defeats Myogiryu – Meisei in some ways looks like a young Myogiryu. There’s an almighty blast at the tachiai in this battle of 2-4 rikishi, but it’s Meisei that keeps moving forward. Despite a last ditch pull attempt from Myogiryu, it’s a quick and straightforward oshidashi for Meisei as he grabs his 3rd win.

Okinoumi defeats Takarafuji – Most of this match is much of a muchness, with the largely defensive Takarafuji trying in vain to find the impetus against a stubborn Okinoumi. Neither man can really get a decent grip, but eventually the man from Shimane-ken manages to get the Aomori native Takarafuji high, and with Takarafuji’s center of gravity raised, Okinoumi simply pushes – almost tipping – him over for a much needed 2nd win.

Abi defeats Endo – This pretty-boy battle has a properly zen Kotoshogiku looking like he’s ready to fall asleep on the side of the dohyo before the match. Hopefully he opened his eyes because this was over in a flash. After a matta (courtesy of Abi), the yobidashi gets forced into quick action on the run with the chikara-mizu barrel as a listless Endo gets thrusted out at the back corner by a trademark Abi attack. 5 wins for Abi, 5 losses for Endo.

Mitakeumi defeats Aoiyama – This is all oshi all the way. My computer tried to autocorrect that to Oshiogawa. The funny thing is that maybe not unlike the former Takekaze, Aoiyama entered this match looking for a quick pull-down. However, he was unable to execute and subsequently a little late to the party when it came to finding the type of brutal tsuppari for which he is better known and which did for Tamawashi earlier in the basho. His mistake here was probably not sticking with his more established brand of sumo from the start. Mitakeumi took a couple hits but simply weathered the storm, kept his balance and positioning and footwork on point and shoved the bigger man out. Very composed stuff again from Mitakeumi, who moves to 5-2.

Tochinoshin defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku enters this match with a 24-9 lifetime edge over his fellow former ozeki but very much the severe underdog. But that’s sumo. Tochinoshin’s right knee appears to have even more intense bandaging on it than usual. In a world starting to become dominated by pusher-thrusters, it’s refreshing to get two classic old fashioned belt guys to go at it, and they take it in turns.

Both land their favoured grips immediately – and Kotoshogiku loses his almost as quickly. Kotoshogiku gets a good run at the Georgian as he tries to get both arms inside, but just doesn’t have enough power in his gaburi-yori to finish the job. Kotoshogiku’s relative lightness on his feet is always his undoing, and that’s a perfect match for the power of Tochinoshin who as we know, loves to lift his opponents. As Kotoshogiku vaults up into the air, Tochinoshin pulls back on the throttle and launches his way across the dohyo. It’s 7-0 for the yusho challenger, who needs 3 from 8 to retake his rank and restore the Ozeki count to four for the first time since Kotoshogiku’s demotion.

Hokutofuji defeats Ichinojo – One way traffic, and it’s all the impressive Hokutofuji. The Hakkaku man has performed better than his record would indicate owing to a typically brutal week 1 schedule, but he easily gets the better of the enormous Mongolian Ichinojo at the tachiai. He lands his hands under Ichinojo’s armpits in an attempt to drive him back and keep him high, and apart from one desperation shove to the head by Ichinojo, two more shoves are all that’s in this match as Hokotofuji finishes the job quick smart. He’s up to 3 wins now and in with a shout of moving back up to san’yaku if he can finish the turnaround, while Ichinojo has 5 losses with a tough second week still to come and his rank very much at risk.

Goeido defeats Tamawashi – Both of these guys need a win, with Goeido needing it a little bit more after a rough couple of days and wanting to stay out of kadoban trouble following a good run over the last year. This isn’t particularly good sumo from Goeido, who tries in vain to get a grip, while Tamawashi tries to get Goeido to play into his style of thrusting sumo. Goeido seems to win this by as much sheer willpower as he has lost matches by earlier in the week – he fends off a couple brutal thrusts to the head and just manages to keep his offensive mindset and tendency active and engaged. He’s better on the front foot, and after an ugly series of thrusts, manages to get the oshidashi to move up to 4-3, with Tamawashi holding a mirror record.

Takayasu defeats Daieisho – If there’s a better oicho-mage than Takayasu’s then I’ll drink a bottle of binzuke. Takayasu once again gets the worst of the tachiai. His tachiai is confused, disjointed and just plain weird, as he seems to be totally missing a plan of attack. I don’t know what he and Araiso have been plotting for the last month at keiko, but surely this couldn’t have been the battle plan. In today’s case, he can’t even deploy his shoulder blast before Daieisho has his hands all over the Ozeki. Both men trade nodowa attempts, but Takayasu’s experience tells as he simply side steps a thrust to find Daieisho off balance, and just needs a simple push to get the oshi-dashi win. With respect to Daieisho, against a stronger opponent with more experience of san’yaku opponents, Takayasu would have been in real trouble today.

Kakuryu defeats Chiyotairyu – I kind of love Chiyotairyu’s salt toss, as if he’s just absolutely disgusted with the pile of salt. We get a matta here, followed by an incredibly straightforward win for the Yokozuna, moving forward en route to a perfect 7-0 record. Chiyotairyu started a ways back from the shiriki-sen, as if to get a run up to launch his famous cannonball tachiai. But, it would be foolish to expect the Yokozuna wasn’t prepared for the Kokonoe man’s one trick, and landed a quick right hand outside grip on Chiyotairyu’s mawashi before he could even get into the match. With his left hand pushing on Chiyotairyu’s chest, he simply escorted the junior rikishi out in a motion akin to a lazy butsukari session. Easy.

Natsu Day 2 Highlights

Natsu Basho Banner

Ladies, gentlemen, and rikishi, it’s time for Day 2 highlights! With the stateside team hobbled from accessing live sumo, I’m here in Tokyo and will make a good fist – nay, Aoiyama roundhouse slap – of the commentary today.

Day 2 Highlights

Dohyo-iri & broadcast notes: It’s interesting to see Japanese Nishikigi and Shodai rocking kesho-mawashi with a Mongolian flag on it, since they have to wear Kakuryu’s kesho-mawashi ahead of the Yokozuna’s dohyo-iri. Man of culture Ishiura, free from the burden of similar responsibilities owing to Hakuho being kyujo in this tournament, has a fresh and striking new “Carpe Diem” kesho-mawashi, provided by his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu friends. Kakuryu’s dohyo-iri is executed very nicely.

During the break, Takakeisho appears on TV for an interview in a Takanohana yukata – perhaps someone can make a Takamisugi yukata for him. The Japanese feed today featured someone called “Araiso oyakata” on co-commentary. Must be some new guy they’re testing out. Ross Mihara also points out that hiragana text of the rikishi names is now included in the NHK broadcast, which makes it easier for those learning Japanese to read.

Chiyoshoma defeats Daishoho – Chiyoshoma lands a slap but it’s otherwise an even tachiai, which is deceptive, due to Chiyoshoma’s (lack of) size relative to Daishoho. Chiyoshoma gets a decent grip on his compatriot with both arms inside, Daishoho can’t definitively break his grip and gets shuffled out. Workmanlike win, and one Chiyoshoma needed down at M17.

Ishiura defeats Ikioi – Ikioi in Juryo is just something I don’t want to talk about, but this is some high octane sumo and he appears at least a little more fit at the moment. Ikioi gives it a massive blast at the tachiai and Ishiura, as usual, tries a shift to the side. Ikioi really had the bearing of the smaller man, but Ishiura’s mobility is just too much and he’s able to pull out a yoritaoshi manoeuvre at the edge as both men go out. It’s a beautiful move. Ikioi seems pained by the decision and goes straight to the replay screen to see exactly how it lost it.

Tokushoryu defeats Terutsuyoshi – Bulbous Tokushoryu just dominates the smaller Terutsuyoshi. The best the wee man can do here is just give Tokushoryu a big hug. He tries to get in low, but Tokushoryu absorbs him, and uses his leg power to march forward with the Isegahama man locked up. Both men are now at 1-1.

Kotoeko defeats Enho – Enho gets in low and shifts to the right, and seems to initially try to set his legs for a tripping manoeuvre. Kotoeko has him sideways with a grip on the front and back of his mawashi and there’s just nowhere he can go, and Kotoeko marshalls him back – the winning move is oshidashi. Kotoeko worked out if you suffocate Enho’s mobility, he can be dominated. Both of these guys are 1-1 as well.

Chiyomaru defeats Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi is heavily bandaged and you wouldn’t have thought he’s just come off two consecutive yusho in the lower level. Chiyomaru tries his usual mix of pushes followed by pulldown attempts, but it’s not really working for him. Eventually the two men come to a grappling position, but Chiyomaru still wants absolutely no part of his opponent’s mawashi. He levers Shimanoumi up high by getting one arm in under his arm and uses his left to push up on his chest, and with Shimanoumi off balance, he finishes him off. It’s not especially elegant to watch, but that’s Chiyomaru.

Sadanoumi defeats Yago – Sadanoumi bounces off Yago at the tachiai like one of those rubber balls they used to make for bored kids. Yago is doing everything he can to keep Sadanoumi away from him – except he’s doing it moving backwards, and that’s a mistake. Eventually Sadanoumi’s tenacity pays off and Yago has nowhere to go. Sadanoumi gets in under his arms and one thrust is really all it takes at that point to finish the job.

Shohozan defeats Kagayaki – “Tactics” Kagayaki’s game plan seemed to be to match Shohozan, but they don’t teach what Shohozan does in textbooks. With Kagayaki focused on playing Shohozan’s furious slapping game, Shohozan uses both arms to fully lock up Kagayaki and completely blunt his attack. Kagayaki prolongs the inevitable at the tawara as long as possible, but he’s got nothing but homework to do. Big Guns Shohozan is now up to 2-0.

Onosho defeats Tochiozan – Onosho seems to cheat a bit over the shikiri-sen at the tachiai. Despite this, Tochiozan initially has the stronger forward movement, but after absorbing his hit at the tachiai Onosho turns on the thrusters and has this over in 2 or 3 shoves. Anticlimactic. Onosho is also now up to 2-0.

Nishikigi defeats Kaisei – This is a match that looked like it happened at about 15 frames per second. It’s an even, ponderous tachiai. Credit to Kaisei for trying to move forward, but Nishikigi takes a step back and tosses him aside in one smooth motion with a kotenage.

Asanoyama defeats Tomokaze – Beautiful, beautiful throw. Asanoyama pursues his left hand grip as if his name was Tochinoshin. As soon as he gets it, he immediately pulls the throw. Technically, this is a level of sumo Tomokaze won’t have experienced very much at the lower levels. 2-0 start for Asanoyama.

Shodai defeats Takarafuji – Which Shodai do we get today? Shodai stands up at the tachiai and doesn’t really move for about 10 or 15 seconds as he works instead on his arm placement. Eventually he moves forward and Takarafuji, off balance, gets flushed like a porcelain Takara Standard. Takarafuji is usually pretty decent defensively in these exact situations, as he’s better skilled than most at turning a match around from defensive positions with reactive sumo, but his left foot slips and it ends up fairly easy for Shodai.

Yoshikaze defeats Meisei – Meisei takes a running start at the tachiai, but he comes in with his head down. All that the wily veteran Yoshikaze needs to do is take the hit, pivot and let his younger opponent continue his forward movement straight onward into the first few rows of seats. Easy.

Myogiryu defeats Okinoumi – While there’s been a lot of grappling action today, few of the grapplers seem to want much to do with the mawashi. Okinoumi takes Myogiryu head on, neither man gets a belt grip, but Myogiryu is a little more adept in this more traditional wrestling stance and it’s one way traffic. Okinoumi is better on the belt, and Myogiryu keeping him away made this a much more straightforward matchup.

Ryuden defeats Abi – Ryuden gets a much better tachiai but after that it’s all Abi. If you’ve ever seen Abi, I probably don’t have to describe what happens: it’s the classic double straight arm attack. Abi will be upset with himself for coughing this up. He has Ryuden on the ropes and has a couple chances to put him away, but Ryuden often is at his best when he has his back to the tawara. He finds another lever to push forward back into the middle of the ring and Abi’s long legs simply collapse from under him. Ryuden got away with one there but his hair, as usual, is an absolute mess. This was probably the best bout of a straightforward day to this point, until…

Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Epic win for Mitakeumi. Tamawashi looks like he’s maybe lost a bit of thrust from his push and thrust game, but he gave it a lot here. The two men start with a bit of a tussle that has Mitakeumi penning Tamawashi back, and both men keeping each other at long-arms’ length. But when the two men separate, this match is always going to favor Tamawashi. And they do separate about 3 or 4 times, Tamawashi landing a slap and taking a charge at the komusubi. He charges about 4 or 5 times, but Mitakeumi uses his momentum against him and hits the pull down as he’s moving backward. Tamawashi will win this match 9 times out of 10 against a weaker opponent, but Mitakeumi is seasoned, skilled and composed enough to deal with it impressively.

Ichinojo defeats Chiyotairyu – This match initially looks like a bit of a wet blanket after the last one. But actually, they give it a good go. Chiyotairyu’s tachiai just doesn’t really work against the massive Ichinojo, he bounced straight back and ran out of ideas. There’s a bit of handbags, then Ichinojo gets a belt grip he decides he doesn’t really need and just moves forward and shoves the Kokonoe man straight out.

Tochinoshin defeats Daieisho – This one’s a quickie. Daieisho is a bit of an awkward customer for Tochinoshin because his particular style is the kind of sumo that Tochinoshin is vulnerable to generally. Daieisho desperately tries to keep Tochinoshin’s left hand from reaching its intended target, but Tochinoshin homes in on it and once he lands the grip, Daieisho is completely helpless. Tochinoshin has this match won, but picks up the little man at the tawara just for good measure and some good, clean, cheeky fun. 2 down, 8 to go in the Ozeki Challenge.

Goeido defeats Aoiyama – Great match. Aoiyama actually decides to go chest to chest with the ozeki in lieu of his usual twin piston pushing attack. I think this was a good game plan, because with his enormous frame, he’s able to blunt Goeido’s almost unmatched speed and offense from the tachiai. Goeido in worse form (physically or mentally) would have coughed this up, but he’s able to use the big man’s momentum against him and ends up pulling a beltless arm throw. It’s another really lovely throw, in the same bracket as Asanoyama’s from earlier. Goeido 2-0 and looking good.

Takakeisho defeats Kotoshogiku – Takakeisho’s tsukebito gives his back a vigourous scrub before he makes his way into the arena. Here are two guys with two of the most opposing styles you could wish to see. But really, are any of us that different? Kotoshogiku gives Takakeisho the eyes at the tachiai, and survives an early pull down attempt. This is the opposite of the Meisei situation from earlier, as this could have been over much sooner had Kotoshogiku not been watching his opponent. As it happens, however, the shin-ozeki stays centered, making sure his missed pull-down doesn’t create a vulnerable opening for Kotoshogiku to land any kind of grip. He takes control of the match against the former ozeki, landing a couple significant thrusts to the Sadogatake man’s chest and takes the win… and the head to head advantage 3-2.

Takayasu defeats Endo – Something looked not right to me about Takayasu as he prepared for the tachiai. But he got an opponent that was less prepared than he was, and decides to level a tsuki-oshi attack against the most popular Maegashira in the land. Endo would have had some chances to get back into this match given his superior mobility, but could never get his feet set. After Takayasu’s third wave of forward moving attacks it was inevitable that Endo’s fans 6 or 7 rows back were able to get some much desired face time. A dominant win in the end. Kind of like Bowser against someone playing Super Mario for the first time.

Kakuryu defeats Hokutofuji – Kakuryu just absolutely destroys Hokutofuji and there will be no sixth kinboshi today for the Saitama man. It’s possible this match lasted less than two seconds. Hokutofuji launches in from the tachiai, but Kakuryu turns all that energy back on him and returns it forward, getting one hand under his armpit and another one around his neck and winning with one shove. Hokutofuji keeps moving about 15 rows back before he has to turn around and come back and bow to complete the day’s action. Not much shame in that though, the Yokozuna looks in good form, and advances to 2-0.

Natsu Basho 2019 Dohyo Matsuri

Natsu basho Dohyo Matsuri

Today, I headed back to Ryogoku to witness the dohyo matsuri – the ceremony in which the dohyo is consecrated ahead of the new basho. As Bruce related, the dohyo is broken down and rebuilt for each tournament. The start of the tournament begins with this ceremony, which in a way officially declares the sacred ring open for the business of sumo.

The event was set to start at 9.50am, so I arrived in Ryogoku around 9.30. Apparently the event has become better attended in recent years, as the portraits for the two most recent yusho winners are also unveiled, but I did not expect to see a line wrapped literally around the block from Kokugikan:

Ryogoku Kokugikan - Crowd outside Dohyo Matsuri

In all, I would say around 2,000 people attended the ceremony, which was free for the general public. The weather was fantastic and warm, and the crowd was generally in a very good mood. Seats inside the venue were available on a first come first serve basis.

For someone like me who doesn’t typically have access to the lower bowl of Kokugikan to sit in box seats during a basho, it was a great opportunity to get to see the new dohyo up-close. As fans piled in behind the san’yaku rikishi who were in attendance, I did an end run around the perimeter of the venue so that I could land a seat about 5 boxes back from the dohyo and get closer to the action.

A yobidashi called the event to order at 9.58pm, and the total time of the event was about 25 minutes. Three gyoji entered the room to announce and administer the ceremony, during which a number of rituals were observed. The gyoji all wore enormous white (linen?) gowns over the top of the usual dress.

About 30 elders from the NSK were in attendance on the side of the dohyo (10 per side), with the san’yaku rikishi minus the injured Hakuho behind one set of elders. I’m not sure exactly who gets to attend but from the faces I was able to scan, it seemed to be a strong overlap with the shimpan department (if anyone knows if is or is not true, feel free to correct me in the comments).

San'yaku Rikishi at Dohyo Matsuri

I am not yet an expert in these rituals, but a branch was waved from the dohyo on all three sides in which the elders were sitting, a ceremonial cup was poured for each of the elders, and stakes were placed in all four corners of the dohyo. A scary moment did occur when the chief gyoji missed his chair entirely when sitting back down, and tumbled to the ground. He was helped back up by an attending yobidashi.

Natsu basho Dohyo Matsuri

Taiko drummers finished the ceremony by parading a lap around the outside of the dohyo. I saw them enter the room, but was still startled by the sound, which reverberated around the mostly empty Kokugikan.

Natsu basho Dohyo Matsuri - Taiko drums

The ceremony ended with the declaration that the dohyo matsuri had been completed and the basho could begin.

As I – as well as other fans – scampered forward from the box seats to attempt to get a photo of the newly consecrated dohyo, men with bullhorns shouted to the audience that the event was over and to leave the arena.Natsu basho consecrated dohyo

The work of setting up for the basho to begin on Sunday was already underway, and team members were milling to and fro around the venue to get things ready for showtime. While the torikumi for Day 1 had already been announced, it was not yet listed on the scoreboard in the venue, for example.

As I walked back outside, I noticed newly minted Komusubi Aoiyama doing an interview with local media:

Aoiyama interview at Dohyo Matsuri

We can presume he will be working hard this basho to do his style of sumo. Later, I was also passed by a quick moving Sekiwake Tochinoshin, who also had a reporter in tow:

Tochinoshin outside Dohyo Matsuri

He really is an enormous man.

Exiting the arena, I discovered the answer to one of our burning questions before every basho: which stable would be providing the chankonabe which is served every day at the tournament? The answer is as old as a thousand generations: a beaming Chiyomaru told us that this tournament’s “Variety Chanko” comes from the legendary Kokonoe-beya.

Kokonoe beya Variety Chanko featuring Chiyomaru

I made it back to the front of the arena just in time to see a group of workers taking down the massive yusho portraits which had been presented to Tamawashi (for winning the Hatsu basho) and Miyagino oyakata (for Hakuho winning the Haru basho). Unfortunately owing to the size of the crowd I wasn’t able to witness their actual presentation, but it was cool to be able to marvel at the portraits which we only see hanging from the rafters in Kokugikan (or in a few cases, in the nearby Ryogoku JR train station).

Yusho portraits at Dohyo Matsuri

And with that, the basho is underway. We have plenty of treats lined up at Tachiai this month – let’s get into the coverage!

Kisenosato Exhibit at Ryogoku Kokugikan

Sumo Museum - Kisenosato Exhibit Banners
Banners outside Kokugikan advertising the Kisenosato Exhibit in the Sumo Museum

While the name Kisenosato may have disappeared from the banzuke, the man himself continues to still be very much present in the world of sumo. Whether it’s making TV appearances or being visible at training in his new role as Araiso-oyakata, the man whose elevation to Yokozuna took sumo popularity to new heights continues to be a central figure within the sumo world.

Accordingly, merchandise and social media activations continue to be popular at honbasho, and the NSK has pulled another big look into the career of the 72nd Yokozuna out of the hat with a collaborative exhibit now taking place in the Sumo Museum inside of the hallowed walls of Ryogoku Kokugikan.

The Sumo Association has worked with the former Kisenosato to take items from his storied career on loan so that fans can get an up close look. The Museum is located near the entrance of Kokugikan, and is open from 10am to 430pm with free entrance on non-basho days (last entrance 4pm), and all day while the tournament is in session, with entrance restricted to ticket holders.

Unfortunately, photos are extremely prohibited inside of the museum. However, I went to Kokugikan today to have a look. With another sold-out tournament on the horizon, I figured this would be the best chance to savor the experience without having to battle the match day crowds.

Sumo Museum - Kisenosato Exhibit entrance
This is as far as you can get while taking photos – they are banned in the Sumo Museum

Items on Display

There’s no question the Association has done a great job working with Kisenosato to curate this exhibit. Those able to get to the exhibit will have a chance to see the following:

  • Kisenosato’s Unryu-style tsuna rope.
  • An akeni lacquer wicker trunk used by the Yokozuna.
  • A purple hikae-zabuton used by Kisenosato during a basho – these are the large cushions which you’ll see the rikishi sit on at the side of the dohyo while they await their turn to take the ring. Assistants take to make sure each rikishi’s personal hikae-zabuton is transported in and out of the main room of the arena before the rikishi enters from the shitakubeya dressing room.
  • Five sets of kesho-mawashi all used by Kisenosato and his attendants during honbasho and other events where he performed his dohyo-iri (ring entering ceremony). Some of these were quite stunning to see up close, particularly those that had one consistent design woven as a triptych across three aprons. Kisenosato’s collection featured a beautiful landscape scene, a striking red Mt Fuji against a black background, manga heroes, and more.
  • Tachi swords and kimono used by the Yokozuna.
  • A filthy old training mawashi, tabi (japanese style socks) and setta (sandals).
  • Photos from throughout his career:
    • His debut in sumo
    • Kisenosato with his former stable master Naruto (ex-Yokozuna Takanosato).
    • Kisenosato snapping Hakuho’s 63-match winning streak.
    • Deploying a kotenage while injured to beat Terunofuji in the epic playoff to seal his second and final yusho in Haru 2017.
    • His retirement and ascension to Araiso-oyakata
    • Visiting his supporters in Ibaraki Prefecture to thank them for their support during his career, and more.
  • Banzuke from throughout key moments in his career:
    • His banzuke debut in Jonokuchi, with a helpful arrow pointing out the tiny writing where he is listed under his original name Hagiwara.
    • His first banzuke at Maegashira, Ozeki and Yokozuna level, along with photos of him receiving those promotions.
  • A dark maroon shimekomi including the stiffened sagari cords with his shikona embroidered on the top – the craftsmanship that goes into even the small details is really amazing.
  • Goods and merchandise from throughout his career.

Visitors to the Sumo Museum at Kokugikan will know there is typically a TV in the room playing highlights of great moments from past basho. During the exhibit, this TV is playing all Kisenosato highlights, from his earliest moments before his hair was long enough for a top-knot all the way through to his retirement press conference.

Kisenosato/Araiso continues to be a hugely popular figure in the sumo world, so it is really great that the Association has continued to make efforts to curate events like this in order to provide moments for fans to connect with the sport.

The sport does and always will evolve. To be sure, not every retiring rikishi or even retiring Yokozuna will be afforded the treatment given to the 72nd Yokozuna Kisenosato, but the current exhibit is a fitting testament to his contributions to sumo. I would certainly encourage anyone visiting Tokyo in the near future to get over to the Kokugikan and check it out.

Natsu Sekitori Stature Update

 

Ichinojo
No prizes for guessing who came in heaviest in the latest weigh-in…

Unlike last year, this May’s Yokozuna Deliberation Council soken – an event held before the Natsu basho where rikishi work out in front of the YDC and are appraised thusly – was closed to the public. We had a friend in the media on hand, who furnished us with the media handout detailing the height and weight updates that were taken and published earlier in the week by the Sumo Association.

This is by no means incredibly “new news,” but I thought it would be fun to give a brief update on some easily digestible stats published from this document, in case anyone’s interested:

Height

Tallest rikishi (Makuuchi): Kaisei, 195cm. Closely followed by Ichinojo and Kagayaki, both 193cm.

Tallest rikishi (Juryo): Ikioi immediately becomes the tallest in the division upon his demotion, at 194cm. Closely followed by Takagenji, Kyokushuho, Azumaryu, all 191cm.

Shortest rikishi (Makuuchi): Enho, 168cm. Terutsuyoshi is just taller at 169cm, followed by Ishiura at 174cm.

Shortest rikishi (Juryo): Toyonoshima, 169cm. After him it’s all the way up to Daishomaru at 174cm and Tobizaru at 175cm.

Weight

Heaviest rikishi (Makuuchi): It’s Ichinojo and it’s not even close. He’s up to 227kg, which is a gain of 1kg from the previous weigh-in. After him, the next closest is Kaisei, at 204kg. So, it’s fairly astonishing that there’s a 23 kg difference (a quarter of an Enho) between the heaviest and second heaviest rikishi in the top division.

Heaviest rikishi (Juryo): Mitoryu now clocks in at an even 200kg. This makes him 1kg heavier than the next heaviest Juryo rikishi, Gagamaru.

Lightest rikishi (Makuuchi): No surprise here, it’s Enho, at 99kg (and according to the NSK he’s actually lost a kilo). Again, he’s followed by Ishiura (115kg) and Terutsuyoshi (116kg), who were both even.

Lightest rikishi (Juryo): Wakatakakage (125kg), followed by Kiribayama (129kg) and Tobizaru (135kg).

Biggest weight gain (Makuuchi): Chiyomaru added an incredible 8 kilos, and is now at 193. Asanoyama (177kg) and Chiyotairyu (198kg) both added 7kg. So, it will be interesting to see how they’re all moving.

Biggest weight loss (Makuuchi): Stablemates Tochinoshin and Aoiyama both dropped 5 kilos, landing themselves at 170kg and 193kg respectively. Veteran “Big Guns” Shohozan also shed 5kg, to end up at a more trim 137kg.

Averages

Average Makuuchi stature: 183.4cm, 163.9kg. On the whole this is a decrease in 2.3kg from the previous weigh-in. This means the average top division rikishi would be of a similar build to Goeido (184cm, 160kg) or Shodai (184cm, 165kg).

Average Juryo stature: 183.4cm, 159.8kg. While Juryo rikishi are 4kg lighter than their top division counterparts on average, the group did increase by 2.7kg on average. Much of that can probably be explaining by swapping in Ikioi for Enho. The average Juryo rikishi would be of a similar build to Takanosho (183cm, 161kg).

While these kinds of numbers don’t necessarily tell us a whole lot in isolation, they can be helpful when it comes to understanding the performance of a rikishi relative to his previous tournament, as well as and understanding of his potential physicality compared to others in the division.

Edit: Our friends over at Inside Sport Japan have shared a shot of the full list (in Japanese):