Natsu 2019 – Tachiai’s Experience In Tokyo

Ryogoku JR Station and Kokugikan at Sunset
The sun sets on another honbasho

The Natsu basho is always a special time for me. Both this year, and last year, I’ve spent a significant amount of time in Tokyo around the May tournament, and been fortunate enough to enjoy some fantastic sumo experiences and meet with some great people. In this post, I’ll share a bit about what I encountered over the past several weeks in Japan’s capital city.

New Tachiai experiences

First of all, I’m happy to share that I will be bringing a number of pieces of new content to the site in the coming weeks before the Nagoya basho. I attended keiko at Onoe beya with John Gunning, and later met one of Onoe’s new oyakata, and former sekitori Satoyama, who asked me to share some news with our readers, which will be coming in a later post.

Onoe beya Keiko
Keiko at Onoe beya. Former sekitori Tenkaiho (Hidenoyama oyakata) looks on.

Additionally, backed by some fantastic questions from our readers, I spent an hour and a half with one of the voices of NHK’s sumo coverage, none other than popular broadcaster Murray Johnson. We had an amazing conversation, and I’m excited to bring it to you soon. And as a surprise for our readers, I met up for coffee and chocolate cake with luminary of the digital sumo world, the one and only Kintamayama. We had a similarly in-depth conversation that will be making its way to these pages soon (and we may even sneak some audio snippets into a future Tachiai podcast, so if you haven’t subscribed now, do it). I also, of course, got to visit my first sumo art exhibit, and my first dohyo consecration ceremony, the dohyo matsuri. Check out this post if you want to learn more.

Finally, I’m happy to say that I got to meet so many members of the Tachiai community. Natsu is a very popular tournament for sumo tourism – the weather is fantastic and the early summer time makes it a convenient moment for many fans to visit Tokyo. Jason Harris of Jason’s All Sumo Youtube Channel hosted a brilliant meet up during the tournament, where many Tachiai community members were present. Our reader and friend El Zeno produced fantastic Black Panther movie inspired Wakaichiro shirts, and it was a great chance to meet up with our friends at BuySumoTickets, who continue to provide so many of our readers with access to live sumo.

It was also wonderful again to link up with Tachiai contributor Nicola – please follow her work on the Tachiai instagram! – who has shared literally gigabytes of original photos that we are working to bring to the site in the near future. And I’d like to give a special shoutout to friend of the site Melissa, who along with her partner shared a box with me at my final day of the tournament – it was wonderful to have some great conversation and take in the basho with some very serious sumo fans!!

Ryogoku Kokugikan Panoramic View from Box C masu
A panoramic view of Kokugikan, from the “Box C” masu section.

The Live Experience

I could probably write several posts on this, so I’ll keep it somewhat short. The live experience at Kokugikan continues to be the reason why so many folks make the trek from far and wide. There simply is nothing like experiencing sumo in the building that goes some way to making the sport as special as it is.

Special new “Reiwa” era merch has been produced, featuring the san’yaku of the first basho of the Reiwa era. Tochinoshin’s upcoming re-promotion has rendered these immediately out of date, but the NSK is clearly working to capture the enthusiasm of this new period. I would also add that like many of our readers who visited Kokugikan during this basho, I wore a Tachiai t-shirt with pride, and many locals (including vendors!) were very interested to find out where I got it. The well-received shirts can, of course, be purchased from Tachiai’s shop!

Kisenosato / Araiso arrives at Kokugikan
Kisenosato / Araiso arrives at Kokugikan

The Kisenosato exhibit at the Kokugikan drew massive numbers – and also as much enthusiasm as the man himself when he made his way into the public areas of the arena, as he did on several occasions. I witnessed mass hysteria greet the 72nd Yokozuna as he entered the building, and he continued to make a string of increasingly popular media appearances. His commentary has been praised from many quarters.

Natsu was the first tournament where I was able to watch from one of the “masu” box seats on the first floor. It was a very new experience for me, as I managed to score seats in the “Box C” section. The sight lines were still very good, though if you’re looking for a pure view and can’t manage to obtain the very rare and expensive seats nearer to the dohyo, I might recommend the Arena A seats on the second level.

For me, the box experience was almost less about seeing sumo and more about living the live sumo experience. It was the first time I had been at a basho where I hadn’t been surrounded by folks who look or talk like myself, and whether that’s good bad or irrelevant, there can be no denying that it created an incredibly different atmosphere for me and a very different experience on the whole. A year ago, I hadn’t even taken my first Japanese lesson, so it was a very rewarding feeling not only to be able to have basic conversation with the Takayasu-loving locals in the next box at points throughout the day, but also to be able to cheer for and share the rikishi that I love to follow (even if those were in some cases met with quizzical looks!).

Kokonoe Beya Variety Chanko - Natsu 2019
Kokonoe beya’s “variety chanko,” served during the Natsu basho

Of course, it’s impossible to talk about sumo without talking about food. Kokonoe beya delivered the tournament’s helping of tasty “Variety chanko” for fans to sample. This tournament also marked the debut of the new Takakeisho bento box, which I experienced and will review in a later post. Of course, with Tochinoshin poised for an ozeki return, there won’t be a shortage of rikishi-inspired meals for us to continue to indulge at the venue in future.

Asanoyama arrives at Kokugikan
At the end of it all, one man stood alone.

The Tournament, The Trophy, The Winner

I can’t say that on the days that I attended it really felt like there was a momentum or a story building behind Asanoyama – it was still early enough in the tournament that his first week, like that of many other well performing Maegashira every basho, could be corrected with a gruelling week 2 dance card. But he does have a growing number of die-hard fans in attendance at the tournament, and his cheer towel is one of the better sellers.

I have to say I agreed a lot with Bruce’s thoughts on the presidential visit and the trophy. It was impossible to escape conversation about this with virtually any english-speaking sumo fan or pundit in Tokyo. It was a moment of intrigue that has to do as much with the person as the politics – that is to say everything and nothing. This is because frankly, wherever you sit on the political spectrum or what you believe – everyone just didn’t know what would happen. How would it work? What would it be like? Kokugikan is a very security-free venue, which makes it part of the charm. So, this conversation piece certainly added to the sense of occasion.

Hungary Tea Cup trophy
The great tea cup of Hungary: unique, and staggering

I also concur with Bruce that I am happy for there to be some kind of American trophy. It’s not the one I would have made – personally, I long for the creativity of the giant macaron or the tea cup, I love those things. But, we have seen such a growing affinity between Americans and sumo over the past few years – this site is testament to that. So for there to be any trophy from America, well, it’s a nice feeling. Perhaps in future years America can do something like contributing a gift from the home state of the president, much in the way other countries supply yearlong supplies of beer or gasoline.

It’s important for us to keep the focus on sumo though, and I’m happy and relieved that we experienced a tournament that delivered that yet again. To our new followers who may have just discovered this world: welcome! We’re happy to have you. And to our friends of the site and long time readers, I’m excited to continue partnering with everybody else to create more content for the site! Thanks for sharing the experience with us.

Natsu Day 15 Highlights

Enho Gives Everything In His Day 15 Match With Shohozan
Image courtesy of friend of Tachiai, NicolaAnn08 on Twitter

Described by one friend as “Anti-climatic”, day 15 in general was a study in how many rikishi were hurt and fighting poorly vs a small core who managed to stay healthy. The schedulers threw in a good number of “Darwin Matches” where both rikishi were 7-7, and one walked away with winning record, the other with a losing record and demotion. The atmosphere in the Kokugikan was off, as vending machines were taken off line, there were hour long lines to be screened to enter, and there were protective guards everywhere. But some solid sumo did take place, and the final day of the Natsu Basho went off without a hitch.

As expected, US President Trump did appear with Prime Minster Abe, and both handed trophies to Asanoyama who looked happy, overwhelmed and just a little bit uncertain. President Trump was courteous, and at times appeared very happy (handing over the Presidents Cup) and bored (during some of the matches). If the President or any of his staff find themselves taken with the notion of sumo, I strongly recommend reading Tachiai, watching Jason and Kintamayama, and listening to Grand Sumo Breakdown during the next 2 months to be primed for what should be an epic battle in Nagoya.

We are all eagerly awaiting lksumo’s crystal ball post due up later today, but I can say that this basho was a death march for far too many rikishi. A few big names were missing, and the ones who hung in there were fighting well below their normal capabilities. I think this basho greatly underscored just how tough it is to keep a group of 40 or so rikishi healthy, fighting and fit.

Highlight Matches

Chiyoshoma defeats Ikioi – Chiyoshoma delivers a slap and a pull to drop Ikioi to 4-11. Is this the end of Ikioi as we know him? Clearly he is still too hurt to fight effectively. Its tough to see long time favorites go out banged up and down.

Shohozan defeats Enho – The first of the Darwin matches, Shohozan threw in all of his unsavory behavior including multiple matta (one with a full charge and slap) before the match could get underway for real. When the match did finally start, it was a wild brawl with Enho dodging and weaving at his best, but Shohozan was clearly in charge. The two went chest to chest, and Enho struggled to get leverage over the larger Shohozan, but “Big Guns” remained upright and stable, while Enho became increasingly tired. Eventually Enho’s attacks left him too low, and Shohozan helped him to take a face full of Natsu clay. Huge effort by Enho, and typical crummy attitude from Shohozan, but he did pick up his 8th win.

Onosho defeats Chiyomaru – Second Darwin match, Onosho’s propensity to put too much pressure in front of his ankles was no worry with Chiyomaru’s mass to push against, and Chiyomaru found himself without any room to work, or any chance to move to the side.

Kagayaki defeats Ishiura – Both men end the basho 5-10, with Ishiura likely headed to Juryo. Ishiura lost the last 5 consecutive matches, and is in dire need to regroup. The entire Pixie contingent looks to have faded through week 2, as Enho also lost his last 6 consecutive matches, after a strong start.

Tomokaze defeats Sadanoumi – Another Darwin match, Tomokaze lets Sadanoumi come to him, then employs superior strength and stability to overpower, lift and eject Sadanoumi. Tomokaze has yet to endure his first make-koshi of his professional career.

Meisei defeats Daishoho – Meisei has over-performed this basho, finishing with a 10-5 record, and a solid win over Daishoho. Meisei took a mae-mitsu grip early, and never gave an inch.

Shodai defeats Kotoeko – Shodai finishes with double digit wins, after finishing Osaka with double digit losses. I think his sumo looked better, and his opponents were in worse condition this tournament. I insist if this guy could improve his tachiai, he would be a force of sumo.

Tokushoryu defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze puts forth an effort to win on the final day, but the amount of force he can put into any move seems to be just a fraction of his normal. This comes after double digit wins in Osaka. His performance is either on or off the past 18 months, and I have to wonder if he’s starting to eye that kabu now.

Shimanoumi defeats Takarafuji – Two time Juryo yusho winner Shimanoumi came roaring back from a middling start to win his last 6 in a row, and end with at 10-5 record. That was a lot of Makuuchi jitters and ring rust to scrape off, but once he settled in he produced some solid sumo. He may find himself in a tougher crowd in Nagoya.

Abi defeats Tamawashi – Two false starts by Abi left him a bit slow at the tachiai, but he still landed his double arm shoulder attack, and used Tamawashi’s lateral move to send him arcing into the clay. Both men end Natsu 10-5, and Abi receives the Kanto-sho.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tochiozan – This bout was a mess, it featured a solid forward start from Chiyotairyu, followed by a lateral collapse that saw the big Kokenoe man hit the clay, but win because Tochiozan had already stopped out.

Daieisho defeats Terutsuyoshi – Both rikishi end Natsu make-koshi, with Terutsuyoshi following a cold start to the basho with a week 2 fade. There are a good number of rikishi at the bottom of the banzuke with really terrible records, and it may be another log-jam in the demotion queue that sees some incredible banzuke luck bestowed on the least terrible of the lot. Will that include Terutsuyoshi?

Endo defeats Yago – Endo catches Yago’s tachiai, lets him begin to push and then drops him to the clay. Simple, easy, effective.

Kotoshogiku defeats Okinoumi – A fairly traditional Kotoshogiku hug-n-chug win, but his hip pumping was less focused than normal, and it took quite a bit of time and effort to finish Okinoumi. Both men end the basho with losing records.

Hokutofuji defeats Nishikigi – Hokutofuji’s “Handshake Tachiai” pays off as Nishikigi puts all of his hopes into grabbing a piece of Hokutofuji’s mawashi, and comes up with air. Left without anything to hold on to, Nishikigi is quickly propelled out for an oshidashi loss.

Mitakeumi defeats Asanoyama – Many fans will declare this a bellwether match, as it shows that Asanoyama did not have the mettle to be the Natsu champion. They may have a point, but that’s not how honbasho works. Mitakeumi is able to enact his preferred sumo strategy, and try as he might, Asanoyama cannot get into the grip and foot placement we have seen him use to rack up 12 wins prior to today. Does this foreshadow Asanoyama’s upcoming opponents in Nagoya? Probably, yes.

Ryuden defeats Aoiyama – Ryuden finishes with double digits, and I have to say his sumo was dead on this tournament. Aoiyama was only a fraction of his normal strength by this stage of the tournament, and Ryuden masterfully absorbed everything Aoiyama delivered in terms of tsuppari.

Ichinojo defeats Myogiryu – When Ichinojo is “on” he turns his opponents into rag-dolls and tosses them around at his leisure. This happened today with Myogiryu, who looked like an play-thing in a giant’s toy box.

Takayasu defeats Tochinoshin – Both of these rikishi are fighting hurt, and are only at a fraction of their expected power and speed. Takayasu takes a big chance going chest to chest against Tochinoshin, but rather than set up the sky crane, Tochinoshin oddly decides to try and pull Takayasu, which was all the Ozeki needed to rush forward and take Tochinoshin to the clay. Yeah, Tochinoshin is clearly hurt, and that was crap sumo compared to his first week performance.

Kakuryu defeats Goeido – They made a good match of it, no shady moves, no cheap sumo here, the top two surviving rikishi finished the day with a solid yotsu match that saw the Yokozuna take his 11th win.

That’s it for our daily highlight coverage. Thank you, dear readers, for sharing the Natsu Basho with us!

US President Trump Presents The “President’s Cup” to Asanoyama

Following presentation of the Emperor’s Cup and the yusho banner to Asanoyama, the staff at the Kokugikan attached a stair to the west side of the dohyo, for Prime Minister Abe to present the Prime Minister’s cup. This was followed almost at once by US President Donald Trump, who presented the first “Presidents Cup”.

A large silver cup with gold trim, and an eagle taking fight at the top of the lid. Big, brash, and maybe a bit gaudy, it fits America to a T. As an American sumo fan, I was beaming a huge smile, in spite of my skepticism about my government, that someone finally decided to take this step. After many times when an American took the yusho in the 20th century, we at long last have made a visible memento of our country’s involvement in this wonderful sport.

Natsu Day 14 Highlights

Edo or Tokyo? – The Classic Stylings of Asanoyama

Day 14 showed us another look at the future of sumo. We have been getting these a few times a year since Hakuho has gone into an on again / off again mode, and can no longer be counted on to dominate a basho. With Harumafuji out of sumo all together, the mainstays that would keep the lower ranks beat down have been removed, and new champions are free to emerge. We have moved from the homogenized “Every yusho is Hakuho” world into an environment where a hard working, dedicated and skilled Maegashira 8 can take the yusho. Our hearty congratulations to Asanoyama.

We noticed Asanoyama some time ago, and he distinguished himself early with his solid sumo, and his fantastic attitude. Every day he mounted the dohyo, no matter what the score, he was just happy to be doing sumo that day. Since his top division debut, I made and used the somewhat humorous tag “Asanoyama ❤️ Sumo”, but it really shows. Some time in the past year, he has dialed in a classic style that looks straight out of a 19th century wood block print, and has used it this May with great effect.

Congratulations to Asanoyama, it could not have happened to a nicer guy.

Highlight Matches

Toyonoshima defeats Ishiura – Toyonoshima picks up his 8th win, and more or less ensures that Ishiura will be headed back to Juryo. Ishiura is still struggling to enact a working pixie sumo formula, and Juryo is a fine place to sort that out once again. But Hakuho’s dream of having a dohyo-iri with Enho and Ishiura is on hold for a while longer.

Shimanoumi defeats Enho – After a cold start, Shimanoumi comes roaring back to score at least 9 wins for Natsu, and putting Enho on the make/kachi-koshi line. Enho is clearly still suffering from whatever happened to his right thigh, and it may have gotten worse in his day 14 loss.

Shohozan defeats Terutsuyoshi – That’s 2 of the 3 pixies with make-koshi records for May. The entire cohort faded into week 2, but I hope nobody thinks this is a repudiation of the pixie sumo style. They will be back after some tune-ups. But this many losing records at the bottom of the banzuke raises the question of who is going back to Juryo.

Daishoho defeats Tochiozan – Daishoho once again executes well, picking up his 9th win while giving Tochiozan his make-koshi. The match was really all Daishoho, who took the inside road at the tachiai, and did as he pleased with Tochiozan.

Kagayaki defeats Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi’s opening gambit fails, and he finds himself without workable defensive foot placement. Kagayaki plows ahead and bodily removes Sadanoumi from the dohyo for the win.

Yago defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi’s preferred arm-bar hold seems to have run out of gas at least for this basho. He manages to pin Yago’s left arm, but after consoldiatinlg his position, Yago uses a maemitsu grip to maneuver Nishikigi over and out for a loss.

Tomokaze defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma goes down to his 10th loss, and will be deep back in the Juryo pack for July. Tomokaze has one more day to secure his 12th consecutive kachi-koshi.

Abi defeats Meisei – I cringe now when I see a monoii in the top division. It’s like “What kind of nonsense is Onomatsu oyakata going to utter this time?”. They give the win to Abi, both men advance to a respectable 9-5.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tokushoryu – Out running Chiyoshoma in the race back to Juryo is Tokushoryu, who has looked absolutely terrible this basho. His sumo is so much better than this, and I just have to assume some new or old injury has limited him.

Tamawashi defeats Kotoeko – Tamawashi goes to double digits, and complicates the Nagoya San’yaku picture somewhat. His sumo is back to being strong, focused and able to overcome quite a bit. Will he he turn it up to 11?

Endo defeats Onosho – Did you see the point where Onosho is driving forward, and decides he wants to try to pull Endo down? Yes, that’s the moment where the match was lost. Endo is too sharp to throw that kind of opportunity away.

Daieisho defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru seemed to have zero power today, and Daieisho was fully charged. Solid center-mass thrusting attack from Daieisho for the win. Although he is make-koshi, his sumo is holding up well into the end of the second week.

Hokutofuji defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze’s sumo is completely broken right now. His style is usually fast paced strike-and-move combos that leave his opponents reacting, usually at least a half step behind. Whatever is plaguing you, Yoshikaze, we hope you can heal.

Myogiryu defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku held the advantage in this match until he got a bit too eager to close the deal, giving Myogiryu a narrow window to rally and execute a throw. Great kubinage in a tight spot from Myogiryu.

Okinoumi defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama decides to pull, and gets it stuffed in his mawashi by Okinoumi. Cut it out guys!

Mitakeumi defeats Takarafuji – Mitakeumi picks up his 8th win and secures a return to at least Komusubi for July. This match was all Mitakeumi, with him gaining the inside grip at the tachiai, staying low and just driving ahead.

Ryuden defeats Ichinojo – Ryuden picks up win 9 in this well executed match against Ichinojo, who is fighting better than I expected given his injury. I think we are just starting to see what Ryuden is capable of.

Shodai defeats Takayasu – Takayasu is a complete wreck this basho. He seems to have neglected the superior lateral mobility that Shodai brings to nearly every match, and finds his forward pressure against Shodai’s chest instantly transformed into a tumbling move into thin air.

Asanoyama defeats Goeido – Good sumo today from Goeido, but Asanoyama was better. Congratulations to overcoming both an Ozeki and an Ozekiwake to take the cup! His only losses where to hard core oshi-power rikishi (Tamawashi and Onosho) who shut down Asanoyama’s yotsu attack. Goeido took him on chest-to-chest, but Asanoyama kept low and focused his power forward.

Tochinoshin defeats Kakuryu – Well, can’t put it off any more. That henka had really no place at this level of sumo. I get why he did it; he’s hurt, he needed one more win to get back to Ozeki, and he thinks he was robbed day 13. He needed one more white star by any means he could get one. Kakuryu should have known this and made him eat it, but Kakuryu is himself at only about 80% genki, and is probably expecting the left hand outside followed by the sky crane. Welcome back to Ozeki Tochinoshin. If you don’t get your body back in fighting shape, you are going to be right back here again by Kyushu.

Natsu Day 13 Highlights

My Thoughts Exactly, Ma’am

Dear Sumo – What the hell was that? It’s time to set Onomatsu oyakata in a corner as he is a menace to orderly sumo. This is not the first time he has completely bumbled a call, and left everyone upset and more than a little confused. Tradition and seniority my broad, hairy Scottish backside. This guy is a disaster.

For those of you who many not know, head shimpan Onomatsu oyakata made a howler of a call in the match between Asanoyama and Tochinoshin that very well may cost Tochinoshin his return to Ozeki. In the final moments, Tochinoshin’s foot is on the tawara as he swings Asanoyama to the clay, and in what may be the longest monoii in the modern era, they gave the win to Asanoyama. Was Tochinoshin’s sumo extra sloppy today? It was – his foot placement was poor, his ring sense was nowhere to be found. But that decision is going to offend plenty of sumo fans, and not just readers of this blog.

Highlight Matches

Wakatakakage defeats Ishiura – The highest ranking Onami brother visits the top division to give Ishiura his make-koshi, and possibly send him back to Juryo once again to sort out his hot and cold running sumo.

Sadanoumi defeats Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu worked his tail off to get back to the top division only to turn in a double-digit make-koshi. Tokushoryu is actually a skilled, talented and experienced rikishi. For long term fans it’s sad to see him fade this hard. Back to Juryo with him.

Shimanoumi defeats Kotoeko – After a cold start that saw Shimanoumi lose 3 of his first 4, he rallied to a kachi-koshi in fine fashion. This fellow won the Juryo yusho two times in a row, and has managed to get his 8 in his debut Makuuchi tournament.

Daishoho defeats Shohozan – Daishoho racks up his 8th win against a listless Shohozan, who is getting close to his 8th loss now.

Onosho defeats Chiyoshoma – Is Chiyoshoma finally going to Juryo again? Another loss and he goes to double digits, which is fine with me as he seems hurt and needs to throttle back his competition and recover.

Kagayaki defeats Yago – Yago lost this when he decided, “Hey, lets pull!”. This has happened a lot this basho. A strong, competent rikishi is executing a great attack plan, suddenly tries to pull his opponent down and loses the match by throwing away his forward pressure to the pulling move. Yago, get it together man!

Nishikigi defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi launches a leg pick, but Nishikigi expertly shuts it down and gives Terutsuyoshi a face full of Natsu clay. Great attack move, excellent defense move. I loved this match.

Meisei defeats Enho – The big news here is that it looks like Enho may have injured his right thigh, as he was limping badly following the match. Meisei is one win away from double digits this basho, and he has been fighting much better than his normal.

Chiyomaru defeats Yoshikaze – The Yoshikaze the fans love is simply not in right now. Chiyotairyu did a great job of executing his usual sumo with great effect. I did like his move to arrest Yoshikaze’s impending fall at the end of the match.

Tamawashi defeats Kotoshogiku – Maybe this is why everyone is trying a pull right now. They see Tamawashi stick one on Kotoshogiku to hand him his 8th loss. Yes, I was wishcasting Kotoshogiku to kachi-koshi this tournament and maybe return to San’yaku for Nagoya.

Hokutofuji defeats Daieisho – Hokutofuji’s handshake tachiai pays off today, and completely disrupts Daieisho. Daieisho exits the dohyo with his 8th loss but has a win over an Ozeki and a Sekiwake to show for his posting to the joi-jin.

Ryuden defeats Mitakeumi – What tactic lost this match for Mitakeumi? Oh yes, he decided to try to pull Ryuden down. To be fair, I think Mitakeumi is still fighting hurt, and Ryuden is really fighting his best ever. Still 2 more chances for Mitakeumi to pick up his 8th win, but the traditional week 2 Mitakeumi fade is well in effect.

Aoiyama defeats Abi – This mess was a triple decker sloppy joe with extra sauce. Everyone was all over the place, and it was anyone’s guess who was going to lose first. Arms, legs, mawashi flying everywhere. I guess Abi exited first…

Asanoyama defeats Tochinoshin – The match that shall live in infamy. An embarrassment of a sumo contest, not that either competitor did anything wrong. I mean that 7 minute monoii. Points against Tochinoshin for having almost no forward pressure, trying to pull Asanoyama and that quarter-assed kotenage attempt at the bales. I am going to guess that we are not seeing the sky crane because our glass cannon Tochinoshin is once again hobbled with an injury.

Ichinojo defeats Endo – When Ichinojo is genki, this is what you get. I watch this match and it’s like Endo is some kind of doll that Ichinojo is playing with. The level of force that goes into even his casual movements must be enough to overpower any normal rikishi. Good lord, what a brute.

Goeido defeats Shodai – No cartoon sumo for Shodai today, no chance to move laterally and inject chaos vectors into his opponent’s battle plan. Goeido does a masterful job of containing Shodai to keep him centered and in front.

Takayasu defeats Kakuryu – Anyone else breathe a sigh of relief on this one? Takayasu gets his 8th with a well timed side step of Kakuryu’s charge.

Now just think – if that call in the Tochinoshin match had not been botched, we would have Ozeki Tochinoshin in a 3 way tie for the yusho heading into the final weekend. Everyone say thanks to Onomatsu oyakata for being a block-head today.

Natsu Day 12 Preview

After day 11, it’s going to be a crazy run to the finish. For the most part I expect it to be down to Kakuryu and Tochinoshin now, unless one of them gets (more) hurt. I think both Ozeki will make their 8, but it’s clear they are not at 100% this basho, and are just looking to survive. I would urge Takayasu to take special care with Abi today, he could very well surprise you.

Speaking of surprises, for reasons that we can never know, Ichinojo returns to the dohyo today. Already make-koshi, I am going to guess he is looking to soften the drop down the banzuke for July. I doubt his knee is any better, but as we have seen many times, a rikishi will return hoping a few more wins will help, and just cause himself more problems. He is, however, welcome fodder for the rotation through the top ranks.

Natsu Leaderboard

How’s this for novel – Asanoyama sits alone atop the leader board! I am quite sure they will find some opponent that will put dirt on him once or twice, but for a young guy like him, this is quite an event! With both Ozeki losing day 11, they fall off the pace and only Kotoeko remains 2 behind the leader.

Leader: Asanoyama
Chasers: Kakuryu, Tochinoshin
Hunt Group: Kotoeko

4 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 12

Tokushoryu vs Takagenji – With Ichinojo back, the banzuke imbalance has returned, and we will see a visitor from Juryo. Today it’s the runaway yusho leader for Juryo, Takagenji. I am going to assume that Takagenji will make his Makuuchi debut on July, and we will see “Cab Forward” Tokushoryu back in Juryo.

Enho vs Onosho – Enho is still farming for #8, and this is going to be an interesting match for him. Onosho is big, round, and tends to move a lot. He has balance issues these days, so there is that to work with. But should Onosho be able to connect with his pushing attack, 99 kg is not going to take a lot of force to get headed skyward. First time ever match for these two.

Chiyomaru vs Tomokaze – Both men are at 5-6, and I have to think that the advantage is going to go to Tomokaze, mostly due to his better foot placement and balance. Chiyomaru will come out strong, slapping and swatting at Tomokaze. All Tomokaze has to do is stay upright and moving until Chiyomaru runs out of steam.

Shodai vs Tochiozan – Shodai going for kachi-koshi today against the veteran Tochiozan. Shodai showed a lot of endurance, balance and strength against Shohozan on day 11, and I would assume that Tochiozan will focus more on center-mass than Shohozan did.

Ishiura vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze is make koshi already, but I doubt he has given up, no matter how rough his sumo looks. Ishiura wants to be more mobile than his opponent, but Yoshikaze is typically excellent at move and strike sumo.

Myogiryu vs Nishikigi – Both rikishi are 4-7, and the loser walks away make-koshi. Myogiryu comes directly from a kinboshi against Yokozuna Kakuryu, maybe he will bring some of that fighting spirit to this match.

Asanoyama vs Tamawashi – Yusho race front runner Asanoyama faces a master of oshi-zumo today, and chances of Asanoyama leaving the dohyo with win 11 are fairly slim. Should Tamawashi prevail, it would mark his kachi-koshi.

Hokutofuji vs Endo – Another “loser gets make-koshi” match between two rikishi with a lot of potential who could not seem to muster their winning form this basho. Endo holds a 4-2 career advantage, and I think that will carry on in day 12 action.

Daieisho vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi finds himself 2 wins short of his 8th, with 4 matches left. I am sure he wants back in the Sekiwake slot, but his sumo has seemed a notch lower than some of his better performances in the past year.

Ichinojo vs Aoiyama – Clash of the Titans. All we need now is Russel Crowe to shout “Release the Kraken!”. This much mass in motion on the dohyo, I think the chances are high that one of these rikishi is going to get hurt. Ichinojo holds a 7-3 career advantage.

Meisei vs Tochinoshin – The Ozekiwake needs one more to resume his role at sumo’s second highest rank; can he take #10 from Meisei? It’s a first-time meeting between these two.

Abi vs Takayasu – Takayasu’s sumo is back in chaos mode, and that is good news for Abi. A Takayasu who tries to start a match with a bull-charge and a shoulder blast really works well for Abi-zumo. A win today would make it 8 for Takayasu.

Goeido vs Takarafuji – Goeido holds a 13-5 career advantage over Takarafuji, but where Takarafuji seems incredibly patient, Goeido seems to lose patience about 10 seconds into any match, and tries anything that comes to mind. Goeido will try to close the day on win 8 at the tachiai.

Ryuden vs Kakuryu – I do hope that the loss to Myogiryu re-focused the Yokozuna, and that we see him revert to his winning form. Ryuden’s sumo is certainly ascendant, but I have confidence that Kakuryu will be able to stalemate him for a time, find a mistake, and exploit it for the win.

Natsu Day 11 Highlights

We all knew that with Hakuho out, it was going to get wild, and while there had been some fun days leading up to the start of act 3, the opening day of the final third of this basho decided to unleash the unexpected, and take this tournament into overdrive.

For starters, the Ozeki corps, including the Ozekiwake, ate clay today in matches that saw their opponents deliver better sumo than they could. Furthermore, Yokozuna Kakuryu paid the price for one of his “bad habits” by delivering a cherished kinboshi to Myogiryu, summoning the zabuton rain at the Kokugikan.

However, Asanoyama won, leaving the Maegashira 8 in sole possession of the lead at the end of day 11. I will state that this guy deserves at least a special prize. His sumo has been dead on since the start, and so far he is not showing any fade into week 2. Now the pressure of being the leader rather than the underdog may crack him as soon as tomorrow, but I think it’s an indication that Asanoyama is going to be one of the stars of sumo in the new era.

Highlight Matches

Chiyomaru defeats Kotoeko – Today Chiyomaru’s sumo was working, and he completely disrupted Kotoeko’s attempts to attack or evade.

Yago defeats Daishoho – A very evenly balanced shoving match that saw no clear advantage until Yago dropped his hips and put more travel in his oshi.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Tochiozan – Terutsuyoshi’s effective submarine-tachiai allows him to lift Tochiozan by the mawashi and charge forward for a much needed win.

Chiyoshoma defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki looks completely lost in this match. His oshi attacks are focused high, when he runs out of ideas he takes Chiyoshoma to his chest, and that is where he really shut down. I am going to guess that Kagayaki ends up deeply make-koshi.

Tomokaze defeats Enho – Some nice gymnastics out of Enho today, especially recovering his footing and balance after Tomokaze nearly pushes him into a seated position. I still assume Enho will hit kachi-koshi before Sunday.

Nishikigi defeats Tokushoryu – Once again, Tokushoryu’s cab-foward design causes him to have huge trouble slowing his forward momentum. Nishikigi uses this today with great effect.

Asanoyama defeats Sadanoumi – In the first “What the hell was that” moments, the shimpan call a monoii, and then completely confuse everyone, including themselves with their resulting narrative. They eventually called the match for Asanoyama, after explaining how Sadanoumi was the winner. From the replay, it’s clear Asanoyama had won the match, and they knew it too, but could not communicate it.

Meisei defeats Ishiura – Meisei gets lower, stays lower and pushes harder to take the match. Ishiura still has some work to do.

Shodai defeats Shohozan – The whole time, Shodai is far too high, but his feet stay stuck to the clay, and he wears Shohozan down, and then finishes him off. Good job Shodai!

Shimanoumi defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze manages some offense today, but it’s only a fraction of what he is capable of, and Shimanoumi shoves him from the dohyo. Yoshikaze make-koshi.

Takarafuji defeats Onosho – There probably should have been a monoii on this one, but after the Asanoyama debacle, I am guessing the shimpan did not want to further confuse matters with a rambling, babbling explanation that left everyone puzzled and anxious.

Tamawashi defeats Chiyotairyu – Solid Tamawashi sumo today that ends with a Chiyotairyu slippiotoshi. Tamawashi takes the initiative at the tachiai, and Chiyotairyu is left struggling to keep his balance.

Okinoumi defeats Daieisho – When you watch this one, pay attention to Okinoumi’s feet. I love how they barely leave the clay. That’s excellent defensive sumo skill on ample display.

Kotoshogiku defeats Hokutofuji – After a matta, Kotoshogiku sets up his favorite hold and applies the hug-n-chug with great effect. Hokutofuji seems likely to end up make-koshi, and he needs to refine his sumo to effectively operate at this rank. I have confidence he will get there.

Endo defeats Mitakeumi – Endo gets mae-mitsu early, and has firm control of the match, Mitakeumi backs away and attempt to load a throw, but the pivot fails and leaves Endo behind him in control.

Abi defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin’s triumphant 10th win is delayed as Abi employs his best Abi-zumo with devastating effect. It seems Tochinoshin ramped up the forward pressure the counter Abi’s expected double arm thrusts, and Abi turned that forward lean into the seed of the winning hatakikomi.

Ryuden defeats Goeido – Goeido got into trouble when Ryuden landed his right hand grip and used it to keep Goeido leading forward to compensate. This was not Goeido doing crappy sumo, this was Ryuden really doing fantastic sumo.

Aoiyama defeats Takayasu – Frankly some of the best sumo I have seen from Aoiyama in a year or so. He was low, he was relentless and he never let Takayasu really enact any offense.

Myogiryu defeats Kakuryu – Kakuryu gets stalemated, loses patience, decides to pull, and Myogiryu is waiting for it. Excellent planning and execution by Myogiryu, and I am sure Kakuryu is chiding himself for falling into his bad sumo.