This spring’s Jungyo tour is quite the working holiday. The troupe of warriors will travel to 25 different locations over the course of a month, possibly the most ambitious (or nightmarish) tour on record. I find the prospect fascinating, as if MLB Spring training would leave the comforts of balmy Florida to swing by Durham, NC, Austin, TX, Nashville, TN…
Herouth‘s updatesnot only give me the needed dose of sumo between basho, but also a dose of their personalities and interaction with fans that gets lost in the shuffle during honbasho. Josh has been able to enjoy a jungyo event and I am very jealous. I encourage any Tachiai readers who live in Japan or happen to be visiting these areas to attend a jungyo and share what you can of your experience.
Congratulations to our Ozeki Prediction Contest winners! @GhostVindaloo and @davidaconrad correctly chose Goeido, Takayasu, and Takakeisho as the May Ozeki cohort…and in the right order.
A lot of interesting work has gone into crowd predictions of the future…particularly around financial markets but sports are more interesting, no? So with that in mind, way back in February, I asked Twitter and on the blog, how many ozeki will we have? It turns out, the crowd was right! I was way wrong, as usual, choosing 5. *DO NOT bring up yu-SHODAI. Terrible pun; even worse prediction.*
Entering Haru Basho, there was a lot of uncertainty around this, with Tochinoshin’s kadoban status, and two possible ozeki runs in the offing from recent Emperor’s Cup winners, Takakeisho & Tamawashi. Come to think of it, Tochinoshin may also qualify as a recent yusho winner, but with his injury clearly hampering his success and the inability to sit out January or March to heal, the probability of his demotion was high.
Though Tamawashi’s putative ozeki run was over after the first few days, Takakeisho’s promotion and Tochinoshin’s demotion came down to their epic senshuraku matchup in a spectacular winner-take-all fashion. Perhaps the “Super Unknown” of this banzuke lineup was the lineup order between Goeido and Takayasu, in which case hometown hero Goeido did not disappoint. He put together a great 12-wins to solidify his Ozeki 1 East status for May.
Sumo Stew is hitting up NYC again at the Japan Society. For those sumo fans lucky enough to be in NYC…(but not lucky enough to be in Osaka)…enjoy chanko and some beers while the yusho race comes to a head.
On the torikumi for Day Two, there is one match-up that sticks out: Takayasu vs Mitakeumi. This is the only bout among two Makuuchi Day One winners. All of the other bouts feature a winner versus a loser, except for Yutakayama/Chiyomaru…but Chiyomaru is visiting from Juryo.
Takayasu has the advantage in the head-to-head matchups, with 11 wins and 5 losses. Takayasu should win over the injured Mitakeumi. However, the same was said of Kakuryu, so let’s look deeper into what tomorrow’s bout offers.
There’s a bit of contrast in styles here with Takayasu more of a belt specialist than Mitakeumi. Takayasu has a wide ranging skill set, effective with hatakikomi, throws, and oshi- and tsuki- weapons in a virtual Batman utility belt. He has beaten Mitakeumi three times with throws so we can expect him to fight for a good belt grip.
The Komusubi comes in losing more frequently to yorikiri than any other kimarite. In contrast to the ozeki, who has 10 more years of experience, almost all of Mitakeumi’s bouts come down to straight forward yorikiri and oshidashi. He clearly favors oshidashi over yorikiri, though. Today’s surprise win over Kakuryu should give a glimpse into an effective strategy with that weakened knee: keep Takayasu off the belt and hopefully off balance.
A few other big story lines to follow in tomorrow’s action:
Hakuho vs Endo: The GOAT was not challenged today by Hokutofuji. Endo’s nerves may have gotten the best of him against Goeido. Will Endo relax and offer resistance, or will Hakuho walk into Day 3 without having to break a sweat?
Kakuryu vs Kaisei: Kakuryu put a lot of pressure onto himself with the wild loss against Mitakeumi. John Gunning made a good point that seeing Kakuryu retreat would be a really bad sign. We didn’t see retreating, but spinning and uncertainty.
Goeido vs Hokutofuji: The Ozeki looked solid against Endo until the slip at the end. Hokutofuji was just a mess (I would be, too, tbqh). Let’s hope both shake off the ring rust by tomorow.
Tochinoshin vs Myogiryu: Myogiryu loses 14% of his bouts to hatakikomi and Tochinoshin seems to want a new weapon. An incredible 51% of his wins come by yorikiri and hatakikomi, or a throw may be quite effective.
Takakeisho vs Nishikigi: This is a firecracker battle. If I hadn’t already circled Takayasu against Mitakeumi, this would be my match of the day.
Ichinojo vs Shodai: All kidding aside, Shodai is a long way from challenging for a yusho. But the Ichinojo from today could easily be in the horse race next weekend.
Yago vs Ikioi: Ikioi blasted Shohozan today and I am looking forward to seeing this ferocity tomorrow. Yago will have his hands full with the veteran.
Is it just me or does it look like Kagayaki lost weight?
Both men are 15+ year veterans of osumo, and both have had their share of struggles, competing in Maezumo again to start the year as both had fallen out of sumo from kyujo tournaments. Neither had remarkable performances in maezumo, the Kokonoe Chiyooume 2-4 and Higohikari going 1-5.
Chiyooume is from Tokyo and has won 256 bouts over a career spanning almost 90 tournaments. He fought under the name Kaneko until his promotion to Sandanme in 2014. He clearly favors yotsu-zumo, with nearly 40% of his wins from yorikiri, followed by 12% uwatenage.
Higohikari, on the other hand, is from Kumamoto and has been a bit of a journeyman, starting at Mihogaseki beya, moving on to Kise, then Kitanoumi, and back to Kise beya. He’s also picked up more than 200 wins over his career but it’s been 12 years since these two have fought, last time both were using different shikona. His sumo style is more balanced than his Kokonoe opponent, actually winning most matches with hatakokomi but also quite a few with oshidashi and yorikiri.
So, what’s the tale of the tape? It looks like Higohikari should come into this with the strategy of keeping Chiyooume off his belt. In their three previous matches (way back in the ’00s!) Chiyooume won two by yorikiri while Higohikari’s sole win back in 2004 was by oshidashi.
When I first planned this article, I was going to write about the Abi/Aoiyama matchup. That one will be interesting in itself as both have the same oshi style. It’s liable to be a real slapfest. But in their one bout from last year, Abi won really quickly. He seemed to gain the advantage with a nodowa, right off the bat, and then backed Aoiyama out. Will Higohikari try to replicate this with his own aggressive oshi-attack (perhaps leading to a pull-down if the plum over-commits)? Or will Chiyooume persevere, establish a solid belt grip, and toss Higohikari to the clay? We’ll find out in a few hours.