Hatsu Day 13 Highlights

A flurry of make-koshi and kachi-koshi decisions today, as we grind our way into the final weekend of the Hatsu basho. Was it just me, or did we see a lot of rikishi revert to their best sumo form today? Maybe they are now, almost 2 weeks in, hitting their stride.

I spent some time wondering what a post COVID sumo world might be like. So many elements are long gone now. Jungyo, senshuraku heya parties, heya trips to onsen and the like. Can you imagine going from the cloistered, sequestered mode all of the athletes are in today, back to the way sumo worked in 2019? That day is coming, and I think it’s going to usher in a golden age of sumo in Japan.

There is talk today in the press that Japan may be forced to cancel their summer olympic games entirely. This would be a massive blow to Japan, after they have focused for years getting ready. It would also remove a career goal for Yokozuna Hakuho’s reasons for remaining active in the sport. It’s worth considering, but another one is what his COVID-19 infection has done to his body. While thus far it seems I have been spared the ravages of the pandemic, my friends who contracted it tell me they continue to feel diminished. A lot of it seems to do with problems keeping their blood oxygen levels up. For an athlete like Hakuho, it would be an enormous impediment. We should know by March, and we all hope we can see “The Boss” dominate the dohyo at least one more time before his years to come as an oyakata.

Highlight Matches

Akiseyama defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama was too eager moving forward following the tachiai, setting up an Akiseyama tsukiotoshi. As Yutakayama tumbles off the West side of the dohyo, Akiseyama is kachi-koshi.

Ichinojo defeats Sadanoumi – Today Ichinojo went back to being patient, strong and huge. A winning combo against most opponents. In doing that he completely robbed Sadanoumi of his sumo, and sent him to make-koshi. Ichinojo advances to 9-4.

Kotonowaka defeats Aoiyama – Points to Aoiyama who looked to put all he could muster into today’s sumo. For a majority of the match, Aoiyama was in control and fighting well. His drive to send Kotonowaka out ended with Kotonowaka slapping him down at the bales, giving Aoiyama his 8th loss, and he is make-koshi for January. Kotonowaka advances to 9-4.

Hoshoryu defeats Shimanoumi – Another fine “kitchen sink” match, where both contestants threw most known forms of sumo at each other. The match changed form a couple of times, and finished with a splendid Hoshoryu leg trip that took 4 attempts to work. That’s his 8th win after starting the basho with 5 consecutive losses; kachi-koshi for January.

Midorifuji defeats Myogiryu – Midorifuji shifted to the side at the tachiai, and Myogiryu covered his move and pressed the attack. With Myogiryu pushing him to the bales, Midorifuji got his hands around Myogiryu’s chest, rotated and put him on the clay. Kachi-koshi for Midorifuji in his top division debut.

Kiribayama defeats Terutsuyoshi – Injured Terutsuyoshi picks up his 8th loss, and is make-koshi for Hatsu. Someone thought there may have been a Kiribayama in Terutsuyoshi hair, so in come the Shimpan to take a look. It was ruled a clean hatakikomi, and Kiribayama advances to 7-6.

Tochinoshin defeats Kotoeko – Impressive that Tochinoshin was able to shut down Kotoeko’s offense and dictate the match form. With his right hand inside, Tochinoshin only had half of his favorite grip but went to work anyhow. Kotoeko flopped and flipped trying to break Tochinoshin’s grip, to no avail. Tochinoshin improves to 4-9.

Onosho defeats Meisei – Onosho kept his balance tighter than day 12, and kept Meisei centered to improve to 8-5 and reach kachi-koshi. When Onosho is able to execute that form, he’s tough to stop.

Akua defeats Kotoshoho – I watch this match and wonder. These two have a grand total of 5 wins between them, and 21 losses. The wins they gave up between them probably made half a dozen rikishi kachi-koshi, and here they are to see who is the least banged up and damaged of the two. The answer is Akua, but not by much.

Takarafuji defeats Tobizaru – I really enjoyed this match. Tobizaru pushes for all he is worth, and Takarafuji just keeps deflecting Tobizaru’s power away. Tobizaru starts to get tired, and they have some kind of odd hand contest. In desperation, Tobizaru tries to attack Takarafuji’s… neck? Seriously sir? As the second tick by, you can just see Tobizaru getting tired. Takarafuji? he can and will do this all day. I am quite impressed by just how much energy Tobizaru can muster. He must excel at butsugari. Completely spent, Tobizaru gets tossed out by Takarafuji for kachi-koshi as Takarafuji advances to 8-5.

Daieisho defeats Ryuden – Daieisho completely overpowers Ryuden. 11-2, maintains his share of the lead. Ryuden drops to 4-9.

Hokutofuji defeats Tokushoryu – that’s 3 wins in a row for Hokutofuji, who seems to have re-connected with his sumo once he hit the safety of make-koshi. That early Hokutofuji right hand to the shoulder is an indication that he’s running “his brand of sumo”. He improves to 5-8.

Mitakeumi defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki has gotten some fetish about attacking people’s faces and necks. Today he tries it against Mitakeumi, leaving his chest wide open. Mitakeumi responds “Don’t mind if I do!” and puts the pressure in. I counted 4 steps to the tawara and make-koshi for Mr. Fundamentals, with a matching kachi-koshi for the Mitakeumi. The Original Tadpole looked shaky in week 1, but managed to regroup in week 2. But with all of the san’yaku (save Takanosho) kachi-koshi, there is no chance for any of them to move up.

Takayasu defeats Tamawashi – Readers know I am not a big fan of Takayasu’s oshi-zumo, but he gets points for focusing center mass today. Tamawashi looked to me to be trying to set up a pull down with his face / neck attacks, and it went nowhere. Takayasu kachi-koshi today at 8-5, Tamawashi make-koshi at 5-8. He gets Daieisho on day 14.

Terunofuji defeats Endo – Endo can’t get any kind of body position to start his offense, and yet again Terunofuji stays solid, stays strong and waits for his opportunity. What a contrast from “generation 1” Terunofuji who would have resorted to a pulling attempt. He improves to 9-4, and that Ozeki bid is still very much alive for March.

Asanoyama defeats Okinoumi – Asanoyama, you puss bucket, where was that sumo on day 12? When Asanoyama can get the stance and grip he wants, this is what happens. The guy needs a solid plan B and C, and he’s a Yokozuna. He improves to 9-4.

Shodai defeats Takanosho – Shodai almost put his yusho bid squarely in the dumpster with that ill-conceived pull attempt as he had Takanosho moving back. I talk a lot about Kakuryu’s influence on Shodai, and mostly in glowing terms. But here he show’s us that the “Reactive Yokozuna” has imparted a bad trait as well. Takanosho charges ahead to cash the terrible bet Shodai placed, and it’s only another moment of cartoon sumo that saves the day for the Ozeki in blue. He improves to 11-2 and maintains par with Daieisho.

Hatsu Day 13 Preview

It’s early Friday in Tokyo. There are three days remaining in the Hatsu basho. With losses by both Asanoyama and Meisei on day 12, all focus shifts to Daieisho and Shodai. Shodai’s remaining 3 matches are far more challenging than Daieisho’s. But Shodai has already won a yusho, and can possible endure the mental pressure better. It will be a fascinating to watch the final three days unfold.

What is also starting to become clear is just how topsy-turvy March is likely to be.

Hatsu Leaderboard

In reality, unless something very odd happens today and tomorrow, only the two leaders will be in any position to vie for the Emperor’s Cup.

Leaders – Shodai, Daieisho
Hunt GroupAsanoyama, Terunofuji, Meisei, Ichinojo, Kotonowaka

4 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 13

Yutakayama vs Akiseyama – The winner of this match is kachi-koshi for Hatsu, so both should have the throttles wide open. Akiseyama snapped a 5 match losing streak with his day 12 win over Akua, so maybe he won’t be quite as discouraged as he had been. Could be a solid fight.

Ichinojo vs Sadanoumi – I worry that Ichinojo is abandoning him “Boulder” sumo now that he has his 8 wins. His day 12 kachi-koshi victory was good enough, but I hate to see him roll the dice on a pull. Sadanoumi is faster and more compact than Onosho, and I doubt it will have the same effect.

Kotonowaka vs Aoiyama – Aoiyama is dangerously close to a make-koshi now with 7 losses, and I have to wonder if he might muster the mojo to really put the power in the V-Twin attack for the last 3 days. Kotonowaka has 8 wins, and some rikishi back off the intensity just a bit once they reach kachi-koshi. Even if he wins, Aoiyama needs to “win out” to hit 8 from this score.

Shimanoumi vs Hoshoryu – Another match where the winner takes home kachi-koshi. I would like to see Hoshoryu use straight ahead sumo and fight this one out. Yes, I know henka is a legitimate sumo move, but it has gotten a bit stale going into day 13.

Midorifuji vs Myogiryu – First time match between these two, and I have to wonder how many katasukashi under shoulder swing downs we get in a single honbahso. I would say 15 is a good number, so do try to supply, Midorifuji! Myogiryu, at 6-6, seems to be getting into position for a Darwin match on day 15.

Terutsuyoshi vs Kiribayama – If Terutsuyoshi can some how manage to win his remaining 3 match and exit Hatsu with a kachi-koshi, it will be a most remarkable case of gamberizing. His left arm is for all intents useless, and he has been fighting with just his right hand. The fact that he has managed to dig out 5 wins going into the final weekend is a testament to this guys’ resourcefulness.

Tochinoshin vs Kotoeko – Kotoeko can still hit kachi-koshi if he can win 2 of his last 3 matches. His day 13 against Tochinoshin may be a solid chance to get one of them. Right now Tochinoshin is struggling to do any kind of sumo, offensive or defensive. I think his damaged knee is just not able to support much mobility at all, and his meager 3-9 record is the result.

Meisei vs Onosho – Day 13 can be redemption time for Onosho if he can bounce back from getting too far forward against Ichinojo and eating dirt day 12. He’s drawn Meisei who comes in with 8 wins, but he is not the kind to ease up into the final weekend. I expect that Onosho is going to be a bit more conservative with his balance, and these two should make for a fine oshi-zumo match. Meisei holds a 5-2 career advantage. An Onosho win would be kachi-koshi.

Kotoshoho vs Akua – Battle of the scratch and dent bin. We have Kotoshoho who has some undisclosed problem that has robbed him of his good sumo. He’s up against Akua, who sufffered a moderate bout of COVID-19 in December. A word from friends who had a similar outcome, their blood oxygen level is still below normal, and it’s tough to muster the energy to do much of anything. If true, this could spell big trouble for Hakuho in March.

Takarafuji vs Tobizaru – Oh good, I was wondering if we were going to get this tasty morsel. Mr optimum defense vs the flying monkey, and I will be really watching how Takarafuji works to shut down Tobizaru’s blistering combo attacks. The did it with great effect in their only prior match, which Takarafuji won. A repeat performance and that will be kachi-koshi for him.

Ryuden vs Daieisho – Ryuden has somewhat be-clowned himself with the pre-tachiai pelvic gyrations at this point. I guess he did it to distract his opponents, but it seems to mostly have distracted himself. He has yusho race co-leader Daieisho today, and I think he’s going to get knocked about and ejected in less than 10 steps.

Hokutofuji vs Tokushoryu – Ok, fine. Hokutofuji is probably going to win this one, and will continue his march toward 7-8 final record, going from straight losses to straight wins. I am sure there is a clever Japanese sumo term for this, but I can’t quite fight it out of my dilapidated brain-meat or the Internet. Some kind reader, please do add it to the comments if you know.

Kagayaki vs Mitakeumi – Kagayaki has never beaten Mitakeumi, and given the way Kagayaki is fighting this Hatsu, that won’t change today. Should this be the outcome, it will be make-koshi for Kagayaki with a complimentary kachi-koshi for Mitakeumi.

Takayasu vs Tamawashi – Twenty eight career matches between these two. This is another match where the most likely outcome results in a kachi/make-koshi pair. The other more interesting route would be a Tamawashi win, and both get guided toward Darwin matches on day 15.

Terunofuji vs Endo – Terunofuji’s sumo looks really good this January. When you take into account how poorly his knees are, it’s nothing short of amazing. He is seeking 10 wins or better, and his next stop could be giving Endo his make-koshi on day 13. They have only met once in the past year, and that was Aki where Terunofuji completely dominated him.

Asanoyama vs Okinoumi – Asanoyama, I am looking for you to revert to your calm, controlled and smooth form this match. His balance and foot work has been all over the place this basho, and it’s hurt his performance. Sure he’s kachi-koshi, and has cleared kadoban, but in a tournament with no Yokozuna, I expect he would be contending for the yusho at this point. An Okinoumi win would be kachi-koshi for him.

Takanosho vs Shodai – The heat is on Shodai, who must match Daieisho win for win to stay in yusho contention. His day 13 opponent, Takanosho, is no easy mark, and has take 2 of the last 3 from Shodai. Shodai will need to be at his defensive best to keep himself from handing the cup to Daieisho. Should Takanosho prevail, it will be kachi-koshi for him.

Hatsu Day 12 Highlights

The yusho race is down to two rikishi – Daieisho and Shodai. Meisei comes up just short in spite of a superb effort, and Terunofuji dismantles and ejects Asanoyama in a show of how much his sumo has improved. The burden is now on both leaders to keep winning, the first one to lose will likely forfeit the cup to the other. This is a much harder road for Shodai as he has to face all of the rikishi that Daiesho already beat in week 1. Should they both win their remaining matches, or lose the same number, it will be a playoff at the end of day 15 to see who takes the cup home. At this point, the schedule favors Daieisho, but Shodai has the operational advantage. Having already taken a yusho, the distraction of leading into the final days may not be as severe as it is for Daieisho. Either way, it should be a great final 3 days.

Highlight Matches

Akiseyama defeats Akua – For the first time in 6 matches, Akiseyama manages to get a win. The critical move for him was shifting his left hand lower for the final push. He improves to 7-5, and may still find kachi-koshi yet.

Kotoeko defeats Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi gets the early advantage, and charges a head. Kotoeko reverses position at the bales and drives forward for a come from behind win. He finishes the day 6-6.

Shimanoumi defeats Yutakayama – Shimanoumi with maximum effort today against Yutakayama. After a few probing thrusts from both men. Shimanoumi got a double inside grip just as Yutakayama tried to load up a throw. From that point on, it was Shimanoumi’s match. Both end the day 7-5.

Midorifuji defeats Aoiyama – I posed the question last night – could he make katasukashi work against Big Day? Why yes he did! Aoiyama was pounding away, but Midorifuji endured, got his position and gave that giant dumpling a quick trip to the clay. Midorifuji improves to 7-5.

Hoshoryu defeats Myogiryu – We get another day where Hoshoryu moves to the side at the tachiai, hopefully this is not his new favorite move. He rapidly gets behind Myogiryu and gives him a mighty shove to win. Hoshoryu improves to 7-5.

Kotonowaka defeats Kiribayama – Kotonowaka got his preferred grip at the tachiai, paused a moment, and drove forward for the win. Kiribayama tried for a grip change in all of that, but all it did was lessen the effort Kotonowaka needed to win. Kotonowaka gets his 8th win for kachi-koshi.

Tobizaru defeats Terutsuyoshi – An extreme mobility oshi-zumo fest, which seems to be common for any match with Tobizaru this January. This should have been a more even match, but Terutsuyoshi injured left arm prevented him from matching Tobizaru blow for blow. Tobizaru improves to 6-6, and may end up on the track for a Darwin match on day 15.

Kotoshoho defeats Tokushoryu – Kotoshoho finally gets his first win of the tournament, when Tokushoryu gets a little cheeky and tries what might have been ipponzeoi against Kotoshoho. It collapses with Kotoshoho on top as Tokushoryu belly flops. Kotoshoho shonichi at 1-11.

Ichinojo defeats Onosho – Ichinojo reads Onosho’s massive forward bias and just lets him roll forward, down and out. Not the greatest sumo to watch, but it’s kachi-koshi for Ichinojo at 8-4.

Takarafuji defeats Kagayaki – Takarafuji is the master at shutting down other people’s brand of sumo. He does it so well, and you can see it on display today. Kagayaki works to get his hands anywhere inside to start pushing, and Takarafuji just shuts him down. Takarafuji improves to 7-5.

Hokutofuji defeats Tochinoshin – There was that handshake tachiai again, and it’ finds Tochinoshin’s neck with great effect. Although Tochinoshin breaks that neck hold, Hokutofuji is inside and gets his pushing attack against Tochinoshin’s chest, taking him out three steps later. Hey, Hokutofuji? Where was this sumo last week? He improves to 4-8.

Daieisho defeats Meisei – Daieisho survives a close one, and I have to compliment Meisei on maximum effort on this match. He took a lot of punishment and stayed focused on opening up an attack lane. He found one when his right hand connected with Daieisho’s mawashi knot, and he went to work. Daieisho managed a save at the edge to squeak out a win. But that left hand in Meisei’s chon-mage…. Daieisho maintains his share of the lead at 10-2.

Okinoumi defeats Takayasu – No kachi-koshi for Takayasu, as Okinoumi had this one under his control from the tachiai. Takayasu worked hard to get back to an offensive position, and tried to finish with a throw. Okinoumi read all of this well, and shut it all down. Both end the day at 7-5.

Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Mitakeumi took away any chance for Tamawashi to use his preferred oshi-zumo approach, locking him up early and dancing him around. I think that match ended with a twist down (makiotoshi), which I have not seen in a good long while. Mitakeumi improves to 7-5.

Takanosho defeats Endo – Endo’s opening gambit fell apart today, and it was all Takanosho after that. At one point Takanosho was to the side of Endo, and bucked him out like a farm hand chucking a bag of grain. Takanosho improves to 7-5.

Shodai defeats Ryuden – Oh dear, the butt is back. Shodai gets a double inside grip in the first step, turning Ryuden into a piece of struggling baggage. With the win Shodai improves to 10-2 and maintains parity with Daieisho for the lead.

Terunofuji defeats Asanoyama – With Meisei down, Asanoyama is the only rikishi left who might challenge the leader duo. At least until Terunofuji proves yet again that Asanoyama can’t find a way to win against the kaiju. I love how calm and efficient Terunofuji is in this match, while Asanoyama seems to go into struggle mode almost at once. I know Terunofuji has no knees to speak of, but this guy’s sumo is so spot on right now. A well earned kachi-koshi for Terunofuji as he claims an Ozeki scalp.

Hatsu Day 12 Preview

We have a interesting race for the Emperor’s Cup, with Shodai and Daieisho both entering today with 9 wins. They have already faced each other in week 1, so we won’t get a yusho leader head to head match this week unless they are tied at the end of day 15. Both of them have matches that they are favored to win today, and I think we will carry this on into the final weekend.

Hatsu Leaderboard

Leaders – Shodai, Daieisho
Chasers – Asanoyama, Meisei
Hunt GroupTerunofuji, Takayasu, Onosho, Ichinojo, Yutakayama, Kotonowaka

4 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 12

Akua vs Akiseyama – I am interested to see if now that he has firmly secured make-koshi, if Akua will continue to win. The ultimate result of this would be a 7-8 result, and would probably keep him in the top division. Meanwhile, will Akiseyama get a 6th consecutive loss today.

Sadanoumi vs Kotoeko – Sadanoumi has to win 4 of the last 5 to stay in the top division, and thats a pretty tall order when he is facing healthy, strong opponents like Kotoeko, who needs 4 of the last 5 to hit kachi-koshi, though I would guess if is safe for now.

Shimanoumi vs Yutakayama – A win today would put Yutakayama at 8 wins, and I think he should be able to hit at least 9 at this rank, if he is healthy.

Midorifuji vs Aoiyama – I want to see Midorifuji apply katasukashi to Big Dan Aoiyama, which would be glorious, and could end up giving Aoiyama a pair of black eyes. This is their first ever match, so anything goes.

Hoshoryu vs Myogiryu – Both enter the day at 6-5, and are looking for 2 more wins in the remaining 4 days. Myogiryu won their only prior bout, but Hoshoryu is on a bonafide hot streak right now, winning the last 6 in a row, so I am thinking he will have the advantage going into day 12.

Kotonowaka vs Kiribayama – Kotonowaka win is kachi-koshi for him today. Kiribayama has lost 3 in a row, so it might not be out of consideration that he will prevail today and pick up his 8th.

Terutsuyoshi vs Tobizaru – Both of these two have a tendency to put a lot of energy into their sumo. But with Terutsuyoshi’s arm injured and bandaged, he is not nearly the same threat that he should be. Given Tobizaru’s mobility and aggression this week, I would say that its his match to lose.

Kotoshoho vs Tokushoryu – Can Kotoshoho (0-11) get even a single win this basho? this is getting really sad.

Ichinojo vs Onosho – the winner gets kachi-koshi, and if Ichinojo can remain calm and patient, there is no real way for Onosho to do very much to move him. This is in spite of his tendency to load up a huge amount of force in his forward motion. Stay strong, stay still Ichinojo!

Takarafuji vs Kagayaki – Takarafuji’s defend and extend mode of sumo confounds and defuses anything Kagayaki can cook up. Takarafuji holds an 8-4 career advantage over Mr. Fundamentals, and a Kagayaki loss today would mean he would need to win all of his remaining matches to reach kachi-koshi.

Hokutofuji vs Tochinoshin – Both are 3-8 before this match. They share a 5-5 career match record, and both of them are not fighting anywhere close to their optimum this January. To my eye, it seems that Tochinoshin lacks enough knee mojo to mount any kind of credible forward pressure, and maybe not enough for there to be much mobility based oshi-sumo from him as well. I am going to guess this is going to be Hokutofuji’s match today.

Meisei vs Daieisho – Possibly the most interesting match of the day, Meisei has never won a match against Daieisho in 4 attempts. But if he manages to gamberize and overcome his tendency to eat clay in a match against Daieisho, he will hand Shodai a chance to take the lead. Both men are already kachi-koshi, so this is all about running up the score.

Takayasu vs Okinoumi – Takayasu holds a clear (15-4) advantage over Okinoumi, and I am looking for him to extend that lead today. A Takayasu win will be kachi-koshi and a chance to move up to Sekiwake for March.

Tamawashi vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi seems to have gotten his sumo together, and he needs to win 2 of his last 4 matches to hit kachi-koshi. He and Tamawashi have a 24 match record, with Mitakeumi leading 21-3.

Endo vs Takanosho – Endo has had a bit of a week 2 fade dropping 3 of his last 4. Can he rally? He’s up against a fairly genki Takanosho, and I think he may struggle if he can’t get Takanosho to fight him chest to chest.

Ryuden vs Shodai – Shodai holds a 5-1 career match record against Ryuden, so there is a strong chance that we will see him at least keep pace with Daieisho, or take the lead should Meisei succeed in finally winning against the yusho co-leader. A Ryuden loss would be make-koshi for him. Hopefully no more cartoon sumo from Shodai today.

Asanoyama vs Terunofuji – Asanoyama has not had a single win against Terunofuji in 3 attempts. A loss today to the kaiju would effectively knock him out of the yusho race, but keep him 1 win behind Shodai and Daieisho.