After a short break, I’m back with a short review of the 2019 Hatsu Basho. In this video, I briefly discuss the biggest ups and downs of the Hatsu Basho, surprises and disappointments, the Banzuke picture for the upcoming Haru Basho, and the big stories coming out of January.
I want to thank Bruce for encouraging me to post this to the front page. I’ve been brainstorming some new videos and content and I’m very excited to try them out.
That’s it folks! The rest of the team have done an excellent job of reporting the results, but there were a couple of interesting matches that took place on the final day. I will state that in many ways, that this basho was “odd”. In that we saw rikishi with multi-day hot and cold streaks, and many capable men significantly underperform their multi-tournament trends. I suspect that the influenza virus that is ravaging Japan has some part in this oddity, and that Osaka might be a better bellwether of the state of sumo. But the chaos virus (or whatever it was) certainly made for an interesting run.
As a reminder to all of you sumo fans, there is no jungyo between Hatsu and the the March tournament in Osaka, so news from the world of sumo may be a bit thin, yet again. I know things were very quiet over Christmas too, so I encourage everyone to pace themselves. Perhaps weekend binges of Kintamayama and Jason’s excellent coverage from this basho, and highlights of great tournaments of the past.
Lastly thanks to all of you readers for giving us quite the month (more on that in a few days), Tachiai’s oyakata, Andy, and everyone at Team Tachiai for making this Hatsu one to remember.
Kagayaki defeats Yutakayama – After a horrific start, Kagayaki found his sumo around day 10, and has been fighting with purpose ever sense. Today he gave Yutakayama a trip to the clay with a rather potent okurinage. Yutakayama’s meteoric rise was arrested following a disasters Aki, which saw him go kyujo for 3 days, and return to a series of daily defeats.
Meisei defeats Onosho – Very happy that Onosho was able to get his 8th win this tournament. Going in, it was stated that he was still recovering from knee surgery, and that being at Maegashira 6 was a good rank for him. With the extended break leading to Osaka, we hope he has time to further heal and strengthen his lower body. I predict with him in the joi-jin for March, he’s going to start taking a bite out of the upper ranks. Thought I really like Takakeisho’s sumo, Onosho is the stronger, more capable rikishi, and I am rooting for him to regain his health and show us what he is capable of.
Yoshikaze defeats Daiamami – As a die-hard Yoshikaze fan, this tournament has been another that is tough to watch. I don’t know what is plaguing one of the great competitors of sumo, but it seems most of Japan wishes him well, and hopes he can get better. Today’s match against Daiamami, Yoshikaze mustered enough genki to win against the damaged and depleted Daiamami. At least that’s something.
Hokutofuji defeats Aoiyama – Hokutofuji managed to finish with 9 wins, and with the joi-jin rikishi reduced to flaming hulks, I am going to assume Hokutofuji will take a sanyaku spot for March. He has huge potential, but I would love to see him make his sumo more efficient. Many of his body moves during a match are larger than they should be, and that excess movement opens avenues for him to be defeated. Aoiyama, as is sometimes the case, shows up and fights with strength every day, but some days is just 5% less than his opponents.
Shodai defeats Ichinojo – If Shodai ends up at any rank above Maegashira 4, I am going to lose my mind.
Nishikigi defeats Mitakeumi – Nishikigi continues to be sumo’s Cinderella story. His make-koshi was 7-8, so he may not be pushed too far down the banzuke. But a word to all the other rikishi: this guy went from sucking wind at the bottom of the banzuke to a credible upper Maegashira rikishi. He is a sort of sumo “everyman”, so I am sure his success motivates many to believe they can work to higher performance.
Goeido defeats Takakeisho – I have to remark again just how impressive Goeido’s rally from an 0-4 start has been. Many worried that he was headed for kadoban again, and it certainly looked that way. But in spite of his injuries and physical problems, he took in 9 wins by the end of it all. His win over Takakeisho was pure Goeido. He’s a speed monster who throws everything into an offensive opening gambit. He either blows you away or he’s in trouble. Takakeisho could not set up any kind of offense, and in desperation tried for some kind of pull down. Meanwhile the Goeido locomotive was screaming down the tracks with Takakeisho affixed to the front – next destination zabuton city.
The big story of day 14 is the Hakuho kyujo. The reason cited was a hematoma in the right knee and problems with the left foot. Hakuho also mentioned that problems began following his day 4 match with Hokutofuji, that featured some gymnastics on the tawara, and that the trouble has been steadily increasing. It is reported that the pain and discomfort had increased to where he could no longer sleep at night, and it was decided that he would withdraw from competition. All of that and he still had 10 wins.
Both yusho contenders won their day 14 matches, so it’s Tamawashi’s cup to take if he can win his final day match. Of course the sumo world wants to see an oshi-mega-match between Takakeisho and Tamawashi (Takakeisho beat him day 3) for the Emperor’s Cup, but the chances of that happening are not high.
Speaking of the Tadpole, with his 11th win day 14, he has a valid application to become Ozeki. We will find out next week if it will be accepted, or if the NSK will suggest that he do well in one more basho.
Highlight Matches (abbreviated)
Takarafuji defeats Daiamami – First kachi-koshi in a year, and the struggling Daiamami made him work for it. But after some truly pitiful performances in 2018, it’s good to see him back on the winning side.
Kaisei defeats Yago – Kaisei hits double digits, and will face Ozeki Takaysu on day 15.
Daieisho defeats Yutakayama – Daieisho picks up his 3rd consecutive kachi-koshi while dealing Yutakayama his 3rd consecutive make-koshi. The symmetry is lovely, unless you are Yutakayama.
Abi defeats Shohozan – Abi hits double digits, and he’s still working the same formula. Maybe that’s all we get from Abi.
Hokutofuji defeats Nishikigi – Hokutofuji locks in his kachi-koshi in this match that featured a good start, but Nishikigi lost traction, and fell for his 8th loss.
Endo defeats Tochiozan – Endo hits double digits, and will be the rikishi who has the task of trying to throw the yusho into an elimination match when he takes on Tamawashi on day 15.
Onosho defeats Ichinojo – Onosho still looks kind of shaky, and I am hoping he will continue to heal and strengthen heading into March. Onosho kachi koshi / Ichinojo make koshi.
Chiyotairyu defeats Myogiryu – The human cannonball racks up his 8th win for his first kachi koshi in 3 tournaments. Komusubi Myogiryu headed back to the rank and file for Osaka.
Takakeisho defeats Okinoumi – The magic 11th win, and our tadpole qualifies to be considered for Ozeki. But the right conditions on day 15 could also see him contest for the Hatsu yusho. A win day 15 would underscore his Ozeki bid, and he needs to win against Goeido to do it. Goeido has physical issues right now, but he had day 14 to rest with the fusen win over Hakuho, and he’s been looking strong and fast in week 2.
Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – Takayasu knew exactly what to do, and I can’t compliment him enough for quickly, efficiently and with minimal pressure getting Mitakeumi moving backward and over the bales. With any luck this will convinces Mitakeumi to not risk further damage to his knee.
Onward to senshuraku! Let’s see the Sekiwake fight for the cup!
There was a time, in the earlier days of sumo, when we were blessed with a dai-Yokozuna, named Chiyonofuji. He had been dominant for a long time, and people wondered how he could ever be bested. But as time marched on (and time is the great equalizer), the demands of sumo, and the damage it accumulates in the body, wore him down to the point where he become quite a bit more beatable. He still dominated, and still took most yusho, but being able to beat Chiyonofuji became the litmus test for passage to the top ranks.
Its tough to know what is ailing Hakuho right now, there are a number of options ranging from the surgery he had just a few weeks ago, to the influenza virus that seems to be touring Japan. But it’s clear that in the past few days that the Yokozuna is not at his best. Does this mean he is done for? I should think not. He already has a Yokozuna’s kachi-koshi, and he is disappointing nobody but himself right now. But his string of 3 straight losses has turned this Hatsu basho into the much desired brawl that sumo fans will enjoy.
Sadanoumi defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama provided most of the offensive power for this match, but Sadanoumi had the experience to stalemate his opponent until he was off balance, and applied a tidy uwatenage for the win. Yutakayama is dangerously close to make-koshi now, and this far down the banzuke it might cause him quite a bit of trouble.
Abi defeats Kotoeko – Abi adds some garnish to his kachi-koshi, while at the same time I am sure Kotoeko is wondering about which division he will compete in come March.
Daishomaru defeats Takarafuji – I admit that I am puzzled in that it seems that Daishomaru is starting to get some of his sumo back. It’s far too late to save him from Juryo, but I am interested to see him get inside of a surprisingly docile Takarafuji.
Ikioi defeats Kaisei – A somewhat heroic tale for Ikioi, who is pushing through quite a few injuries and problems to prevail no matter what and get his 8th win. The “thud” from the tachiai was probably felt out on the street.
Daieisho defeats Chiyoshoma – Another member of the walking wounded, Chiyoshoma, gets his make-koshi. There are a good number of rikishi in the bottom quartile of the Makuuchi banzuke who are make-koshi, and its going to make the promotion / demotion race a bit interesting this time.
Daiamami defeats Ryuden – The accidental head-butt at the tachiai seems to have briefly stunned or disoriented Ryuden, and he goes down for his 8th loss. His over-promotion at Kyushu seems to have impacted him, and we hope that the extended break (with no jungyo) following Hatsu will allow him and others to get their bodies and their sumo back in order.
Yago defeats Onosho – Yago finally finds his 8th win after 4 consecutive losses. Onosho seems to be struggling quite a bit after a fierce start to Hatsu. Again, given his recovery, he will be doing well if he can get his 8th win, which is likely in the final 2 days. There were a number of rikishi who seem to find traction problems with the dohyo today, and Onosho was a good example.
Kagayaki defeats Yoshikaze – A weird set of matches. The first one saw Yoshikaze more or less demanding that a matta be called, leading to embarrassing confusion among pretty much everyone. But the judges called for a do-over, and Yoshikaze lost a second time. Given how poorly he is doing, todays match just compounds the pain for his fans.
Aoiyama defeats Endo – Strong opening attack by Aoiyama, but as with Onosho, Endo looks like he loses traction and goes down.
Asanoyama defeats Okinoumi – This was all Asanoyama, and Okinoumi seemed to been completely out-matched. Asanoyama’s recovery from a horrible start to the basho is both dramatic and welcome.
Nishikigi defeats Shohozan – Shohozan’s matta / early launch did not seem to rattle Nishikigi, who delta Shohozan his make-koshi with good forward motion, and efficient application of force.
Shodai defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan also picks up his 8th loss. Shodai was able to get the inside position against Tochiozan, and wasted no time in standing him up and pushing him back. Shodai’s tachiai actually looked pretty good today.
Mitakeumi defeats Ichinojo – The injured Mitakeumi keeps the pressure on against the much larger Ichinojo, and once again Ichinojo goes soft at the tawara. This marks his 8th win, and given that he took several days off, and is fighting more or less on one leg, this performance is somewhat miraculous. With Myogiryu already make-koshi, Mitakeumi will at least be moving over to the East Komusubi lost for March.
Kotoshogiku defeats Myogiryu – This see-saw match had Kotoshogiku throw everything he could at the Komusubi, and eventually wore Myogiryu down. Multiple times, Kotoshogiku applied his hug-n-chug attack, but Myogiryu was able to escape. The end came with both men spent, but Kotoshogiku having just enough left to advance and heave Myogiryu out at the edge.
Tamawashi defeats Hokutofuji – Tamawashi keeps the pressure on with todays win. Another case where a rikishi (Hokutofuji) seems to have lost traction and hit the clay. To be clear, Tamawashi had the pressure on high, but Hokutofuji lost as much as Tamawashi won.
Goeido defeats Takayasu – Very impressive Goeido. He came from a miserable start, nursing arm damage, and has battled back to the brink of his 8th win, and he beat Takayasu to do it. Goeido used his trademark speed to get the inside position and prevented Takayasu from generating much offense.
Takakeisho defeats Hakuho – How many fans remember the first match between these two? That odd affair in Nagoya in 2017 that devolved into something akin to butsugari, where Takakeisho was attempting to use his nascent “Wave Action” attack, and Hakuho more or less said “Isn’t that cutie”. Day after day, hour after hour, Takakeisho’s attack modes have been refined, honed and improved. Each time he has tested against Hakuho, it was clear he was getting stronger, better. Today, on his 4th attempt, he prevailed. Takakeisho is now just one win away from a bid to be promoted to Ozeki, and to some extent this was his final exam. Hakuho’s loss gives Tamawashi the sole lead for the Hatsu yusho, with Hakuho and Takakeisho one win behind. Fantastic way to hit the final weekend of a basho.