Natsu Day 8 Highlights

Kotoshogiku was a mere blip (blimp?) on Hakuho’s zensho radar. Likewise, Harumafuji relentlessly blasted poor Chiyoshoma into the second row as he stays on pace with Hakuho. Kisenosato outlasted Aoiyama but the difficulty he had pushing the man mountain over the straw bales reinforces the fact that he’s injured and should go kyujo. He’s not in the yusho hunt. He gains nothing with these wins over maegashira but puts himself at risk of prolonging his recovery. He’s already gotten the storybook yusho. He can afford to sit a few tournaments out and come back healthy.

Lemme Down, Dude!!

The match of the day, Yoshikaze vs Takayasu, was eye-opening. Takayasu followed through on a strong tachiai with a powerful choke hold. The Swedish Chef then whipped the rubber chicken’s neck forward, tossing him to the clay. The most surprising bout though, was the way Terunofuji utterly dismantled Mitakeumi. The rejuvenated ozeki wrapped his tree-trunk arms around the youngster, immobilizing the spring chicken, and then ushered the upstart out of the dohyo.

Endo’s capitalizing on his own good health. With the victory over Goeido today added to Terunofuji’s and Kisenosato’s scalps, he’s in prime position for his first winning record while ranked in the top of the maegashira. A year ago, his own injury forced him down into Juryo and now he’s a serious contender for a sanyaku slot. He’s looking better than Shodai at the moment.

Natsu Day 8 Preview

Sumo’s version of Hump Day is upon us and I like where we stand:

  • Hakuho and Harumafuji, undefeated and vying for the title
  • Takayasu’s Ozeki hopes are not just alive, but thriving
  • Kotoshogiku’s day of reckoning approaches
  • Wakaichiro Progressing; Faces Jonidan veteran, Takaseiryu
  • An exciting slate of bouts!
    1. Yoshikaze vs Takayasu
    2. Hakuho vs Kotoshogiku
    3. Terunofuji vs Mitakeumi

First of all, Takayasu versus Yoshikaze is my bout of the day. I just can’t put into words how excited I am to see these two fighting together with Takayasu not only chasing ozeki rank – but in yusho contention. Yoshikaze was built to be a spoiler; will he throw a wrench into Takayasu’s coronation?

Hakuho and Harumafuji look healthy and are fighting well. Both have been quite dominant and aggressive, with the exception of the one “almost henka” from Harumafuji…I believe against Daieisho on Day 5. I’ve got a few theories about that but no sense risking injury against a guy who should not even be at this level. Harumafuji will face Chiyoshoma for the first time so I’m expecting a quick sidestep/spin to check the box and move on to Day 9.

Hakuho, on the other hand, will face a desperate Kotoshogiku. If Giku loses tomorrow, he will be on the verge of makekoshi, and certain demotion to the maegashira ranks with Japan’s darlings, Kisenosato & Mitakeumi, waiting in the wings. After that, 5 more days of certain humiliation as he fights lowly maegashira for the privilege of staying in the upper ranks. And with Hakuho as dominant as he has been the last few days, as his own sumo has had to evolve, I’m not expecting him to let Giku get a bear hug to even try a hug-and-chug.

If he can keep him at arms length, battering him with slaps, I will be VERY curious to see how the sekiwake will react. As his lower body fails him, he needs more options with the upper body. Does he have it in him to go toe-to-toe in a street brawl? I want to see that so bad. To whom does Sadogatake beya turn if he retires? Kotoyuki’s been fizzling – with Myogiryu, Kaisei, and Tochinoshin – facing newly promoted Yutakayama.

Wakaichiro will face an interesting test tomorrow. Takaseiryu has spent almost four years in this Jonidan division. Never kyujo, just up and down with setbacks in between spurts of steady improvement. Not long ago he was at his highest position in the division, managing a 3-4 record at Jd5. He doesn’t seem to be a big guy if 112kg from the SumoDB is accurate. Is that what’s holding him back? With both rikishi close in size, it is certainly an interesting bout between experience and raw strength.

Natsu Day 7 Highlights

Our leaders remain the same: Hakuho and Harumafuji remain undefeated, and virtually unchallenged this week, with Takayasu now the lone contender chasing with one loss.

The bout of the day, Kisanosato/Mitakeumi lived up to the hype. The banged up Yokozuna helps to cement his legacy with these solid wins while the worthy youngster effectively demonstrates that he will be a leader in this league. With the simultaneous rise of Takayasu, the Filipino era may be upon us. Anyway, it helped that most of the makuuchi bouts were relatively quick contests, punctuated by oshidashi (push out) victories.

Bout of the Day

In clearly the best belt battle of the day, Mitakeumi’s charge put Kisenosato on his heels at the edge of the dohyo. However, the junior yokozuna proved his mettle by battling back to the center and patiently wearing down the up-and-comer and working him out of the opposite side of the ring.

Hakuho was just as effective, demonstrating that Daieisho’s rise was a fluke with a speedy, straight forward yorikiri. Daieisho faces makekoshi tomorrow as a result. Harumafuji made quick work of Yoshikaze, who seemed stunned after the yokozuna’s top-knot met his chin. After that powerful tachiai, everyone’s favorite pincushion had no counter-attack and was quickly ushered out.

Goeido may have closed the door on Kotoshogiku’s career. Not only was Giku’s thrusting unable to move Goeido backwards…Goeido was able to get Giku moving backwards despite the thrusts. The wily Sekiwake pivoted, forcing the kadoban ozeki’s back to the straw bales. A year ago, this would have been prime position for a hippity-hoppety jackrabbit force out but with Goeido’s own ozeki status on the line, he finished Giku off with a quick throw. Kotoshogiku is done. If he hangs on through this tournament, he has to fight Hakuho tomorrow and Kisenosato after that. He will surely finish with a losing record. The only question being, how far he will fall into the ranks of the maegashira?

Next week, he may be able to pick up some wins and finish with 5, 6, or even 7 wins. But best case scenario he will be in the top maegashira for July. It may even benefit him to fall FAR into the maegashira. If he loses most (or all) the rest of his bouts, and plummets with Daieisho into the middle ranks of the rank-and-file, he will not face sanyaku opponents in July. He could win against easier maegashira opponents. Will his pride allow him to slide that far, lose the extra retainers and status? Will he use that chance to heal his injuries, retool his game, and become a multi-dimensional wrestler? I would love to see him stay around, if his love of the sport is that strong, like Aminishiki.

Second place Takayasu got a quick, weird win against a Chiyoshoma who was trying, and failing, to do his best Ura impression. Chiyonokuni put in great effort against Tamawashi in an exciting bout, but lost his balance and got slapped down. Ura had Sokokurai completely befuddled. After he got pushed out, Sokokurai just stood there like, “what just happened?”

Honestly, most of the rest of the bouts were kinda “meh”. Tochinoshin was just too big and strong for Ishiura. Once he got the atomic wedgie going, the bout resembled those matches against little kids. Ichinojo was back to his lumbering, lethargic ways. Even Ikioi/ Uncle Takara was forgettable. I think I was just too anxious that they were going to call a matta against Ikioi. Everyone seemed to get out of whack and was a bit uncertain as the shinpan cracked down on getting both hands to touch the clay.

Natsu 2017, Day 1: Preview

Wow, it’s already time for Natsu basho! Bruce is actually there and I am supremely jealous. What I would give for some decent katsu right now…Getting back to sumo, though. Bruce noted that the schedule for the first two days has been posted.

My match of the day is Yokozuna Harumafuji vs Sekiwake Kotoshogiku. Very early on we’re going to see these two recent yusho winners go head-to-head in really a must-win situation for both. Harumafuji will want to show that he is healthy and put forth a strong basho to quiet the retirement speculation. Kotoshogiku, however, will want to put together an Ozeki run and will need to take as many scalps as he can. In this case, both are up against the wall.

Kisenosato vs Yoshikaze, on paper, is a great matchup. In reality, however, I just hope Kise is doing the right thing by not going kyujo. Endo/Terunofuji will be another interesting bout, along with Ikioi vs Hokutofuji. My mind, however, is on katsu (it’s lunchtime in the US).

Tokyo Tip #1: Ryogoku

There is a lot to see in Tokyo, so it’s hard to pick a place to start. A trip to Tokyo – sumo fan or not – is not really complete without a stop in Asakusa (浅草). However, the center of the sumo world is close by at Ryogoku. My favorite place in this neighborhood is the Yasuda garden.

The top of Kokugikan is visible in this picture, looking south. The pond has many nishiki-goi and turtles. There’s a pretty, red foot bridge and a small shrine hidden in the back.

You can reach Ryogoku via the JR Sobu line. It’s a couple of stops from Akihabara and close to Asakusa and Oshiage, home of the Sky Tree. The Yasuda garden is accessible by walking a block further north from the Kokugikan.

Nagoya Tip #1: Toyota Museum

Last summer, I had the distinct pleasure to travel to Nagoya to watch Harumafuji win on senshuraku. In response to several requests, I will definitely provide tips about Nagoya. But since I only spent a few days there, I don’t know nearly as much about places there as I do about Tokyo.

Nagoya was a great trip. Shinkansen was very fast, clean, and prompt. My wife and I had our two young children with us, so navigating Tokyo station with them (and luggage) was a challenge. But once we got to Nagoya, we were ushered around by either taxi or a friend of ours.

The sumo venue is right next to Nagoya Castle. I hear it is undergoing renovations in preparation for the Olympics in 2020. I will post about that soon. I have pictures. Also, I will post about the food. There are distinct culinary styles for Nagoya food. But first, I wanted to post about the real highlight of the trip: the Toyota Museum.

This was a fascinating experience. Some of you may know that Nintendo was actually started as a company that made Hanafuda cards. I actually have some Nintendo Hanafuda cards and will post pictures. Likewise, Toyota has a history in the textiles industry before making cars.

Toyota Museum Textile Machinery Pavilion

In the museum, you see the steady progression and advancement of the textile industry, starting with hand spun cotton and moving through modern automated spinning, weaving, loom technologies underlying cloth manufacturing. They have a hands-on demo where they take a ball of cotton and show you how it gets spun into thread.

From that huge room — which I spent far too much time in — they go to forging metal, then to pressing steel and making cars. It really is a great place to spend at least a few hours. I spent a whole day there with the kids. They’ve got more hands on demos of the manufacturing processes and little toys that the kids can make. We laughed when we found this giant piston with a museum staff member hiding, asleep, underneath. They’ve also got a robot band. There’s a restaurant there and a bit of an arcade for the kids.

Recommendations Threads: General Caveats

I want sumo fans to go to Japan and enjoy the sport (and the country) first hand. I also hope to expose more English speakers already in Japan to the sumo world. In that vein, I will offer my recommendations and encourage others to do the same. But, be open and frank with your relationship to the service and/or restaurant. Let’s face it, it’s very different to hear a recommendation from a customer, employee, owner or paid spokesperson. All I need to do is point at a supermodel and say, #FyreFestival, and you should get my point:

General recommendations and advise are always helpful, and I’ve got a few of those I’m going to share with you now. Don’t expect the same level of “food customization” that we have in the US.

Grilled Rooster Comb

The “Have it your way” philosophy just doesn’t seem to have taken off over there. In many cases, it’s easiest to do the “omakase” (chef’s recommendation), but have an open mind. And if you’re crazy like me, and open to eating stuff that even native Japanese don’t touch, like eel heads, 白子, 馬刺し, or grilled rooster comb, it should go without saying not to whinge afterwards. BTW, 馬刺し and grilled rooster comb are awesome. Just for the record.

So, I’m going to create a page for travel-related recommendations to focus on the four sumo venues: Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and Fukuoka. It will be in the menu bar next to the link to the Youtube video, for easy access. I know that finding posts on this site can be a bear, especially if the post was written a few months ago. But I want it to look nicer than what I’ve got for the “Japanese Lessons” page right now that’s basically just a series of links. It may start out that way but I’d love to have a way for people to share their own recommendations, and maybe even photos.

Also, Twitter is another great medium for sharing photos. Please Tweet to us or Instagram. I just signed up for Instagram on @tachiaiblog. I don’t have anything up there yet but will start sharing some of my sumo related pictures there.