Shamelessly stolen from a twitter post, because I could not find it on YouTube. Some highlights of the kinds of things going on during the summer jungyo, including shokkiri (aka you can’t do that in sumo), Kisenosato toting a baby to the dohyo for his dohyo-iri, and Goeido taking a practice match from Harumafuji. Oh yeah, and Onosho!
My Nagoya banzuke predictions turned out to be reasonably accurate. This last basho created quite a mess, and a less predictable banzuke––I don’t envy the guys who have to make the real thing, which we will get to see on August 28. I’m going to take a crack at it anyway.
No change in the Yokozuna pecking order after Nagoya. The real question is whether we will have more than one Yokozuna start, much less finish, the next basho. Takayasu takes over the top Ozeki spot after putting up the only reasonably solid Ozeki performance at Nagoya. Goeido and Terunofuji are both kadoban, and I hope Terunofuji can recover from his persistent injuries.
Usually, this part of the banzuke is relatively predictable. Not so this time. Kotoshogiku drops out of San’yaku for the first time since 2010. The only certainties are that Mitakeumi will hold the S1e slot, and that Yoshikaze will remain in San’yaku after going 9-6 at Komusubi. Otherwise, there’s quite a logjam for the remaining slots, and a lot of uncertainty as to who will end up where. The contenders:
Tamawashi, who went 7-8 at Sekiwake and will drop at least to Komusubi after four tournaments at the higher rank.
Tochiozan, who had a great tournament at 12-3 as maegashira 5, defeating an Ozeki and both Sekiwake along the way.
Aoiyama, the Jun-Yusho and special prize winner, who went an amazing 13-2 as maegashira 8, but didn’t beat or even fight anyone of note until his defeat of a fading Yoshikaze on the final day.
Tochinoshin, who more than held his own in the meat grinder as maegashira 2, fighting all the big guns and defeating a Yokozuna, an Ozeki, both Sekiwake and a Komusubi on his way to a 9-6 record.
By the numbers, I would rank-order the 5 contenders for the 3 slots behind Mitakeumi as Tochiozan, Yoshikaze, Aoiyama, Tochinoshin, Tamawashi, placing Tochiozan in the S1w slot, Yoshikaze and Aoiyama in the Komusubi slots, and leaving Tochinoshin and Tamawashi out in the cold. However, being in San’yaku confers certain privileges: Yoshikaze probably gets first dibs on the Sekiwake slot, and Tamawashi is unlikely to drop lower than Komusubi despite coming in last on the list above. Judging by past history, none of the performances were sufficiently strong to “force” the creation of extra San’yaku slots. So I’m going to go with the prediction below, much as it pains me to leave out Tochinoshin.
The Meat Grinder
I’m going to include the M1-M4e ranks here. Along with the San’yaku, this group makes up the “joi” or upper ranks, and regularly faces San’yaku competition (as we saw in Nagoya, the exact “joi” boundary is fuzzy, and changes during the tournament after withdrawals and, to some extent, based on performances to that point).
The meat grinder ranks actually acquitted themselves relatively well in Nagoya, unlike the disasters of the previous two basho. Tochinoshin and Hokutofuji both earned their kachi-koshi, and each deserves to be one rank higher up the banzuke, but there isn’t room. Onosho should find himself at M3 after two extremely impressive 10-5 tournaments following his Makuuchi debut. He seems unintimidated by anyone, and may hold his own despite his lack of experience. Chiyotairyu and Shohozan put up the only other solid records in the mid-maegashira ranks, and find themselves vaulting up the banzuke from M10.
The rest of Makuuchi was a mess of of make-koshi records, ranging from bad to worse, and some weak kachi-koshi performances among the lower ranks. This makes it difficult to come up with a fair and consistent rank order. Rikishi with 7-8 records in a weak field are especially hard to place, as their computed rank may suggest a promotion, which as far as I know is never done for kachi-koshi records. One can start by dividing the rikishi into groups of similar projected rank, and then worry about the order within each group.
Group 1, M4w-M5w: Ura, Shodai, Takakeisho.
Everyone’s favorite Ura managed a 7-8 record at M4e despite being thrown into the meat grinder prematurely and getting injured as a result. Shodai and Takakeisho each went 5-10 at M1. It would be reasonable either to place Ura at M4w, with the other two at M5, or to flip this order. Given that Ura went make-koshi, that he was under-ranked last basho, and that Shodai tends to get over-ranked, I have a feeling NSK will do the latter, despite Ura’s slightly higher computed rank.
Group 2, M6: Ichinojo, Kagayaki.
Ichinojo put up another lackluster performance, going 7-8. He should drop in rank, but there are no other reasonable contenders for M6e. Kagayaki has the best claim of the rest to M6w.
Group 3, M7-M9: Ishiura, Ikioi, Chiyoshoma, Takanoiwa, Chiyonokuni, Takarafuji.
A mix of poor records higher up the banzuke and better records quite far down the banzuke. Ikioi, Chiyoshoma, and Takanoiwa deserve bigger drops in rank, but Chiyonokuni and Takarafuji did not earn this much of a promotion. Ishiura actually has the best computed rank, and deserves the M7e slot, but since he went make-koshi (7-8) at M8w, he can’t be ranked any higher than that. The main question in this group is whether to place him at M8w, or move him below the two kachi-koshi guys, Chiyonokuni and Takarafuji. As with Ura, I’m opting for the lower rank.
Group 4, M10: Arawashi, Takekaze.
This is straightforward: M12 guys both went 8-7 and move up to M10.
Group 5, M11-M12: Daieisho, Chiyomaru, Daishomaru, Kaisei.
This order drops Daishomaru (M11w, 7-8) below Chiyomaru (M15w, 9-6), but keeps him above Kaisei, the top Juryo escapee.
Lower maegashira, promotions, and demotions
Sadanoumi and Nishigiki earned Makuuchi stays by going kachi-koshi. Endo and Okinoumi suffer big drops but should be safe. Gagamaru earned a quick return to Juryo and should fall far down the Juryo banzuke, while Kotoyuki also definitely earned a demotion. Yutakayama and Asanoyama should definitely join Kaisei in Makuuchi, one of them at the expense of Sokokurai. This would mark a Makuuchi debut for Asanoyama. I think that Myogiryu will claim the last promotion slot, which will be vacated by Tokushoryu, and that Aminishiki will just miss out on promotion.
Day 15 put an end to a Nagoya basho that marked a further evolution of a trend that started with Hakuho’s injury a year ago. At that time, it was clear that “The Boss” was damaged, and no one knew if he was going to be able to return. Hakuho has been such a dominant force in sumo for an extended period of time, and his internal presence at the top of the banzuke set the rules for every basho for years.
With his win at Nagoya, Hakuho has managed to achieve back to back yusho after surgery and an extended recovery period. How long will his new reign last? Hakuho hopes at least 3 years, as he has stated yet again that he wants to perform a dohyo-iri as part of the 2020 Olympic ceremonies immediately following the Nagoya basho. His achievement of coming back after most fans (and it turns out the YDC) thought he was done, drew comment from the committee in their post basho meeting at the Kokugikan. They have decided to give Yokozuna Hakuho a special award for breaking the all time wins record and being the Michael Jordan of sumo. I am going to assume he needs to buy a shed to keep all of this stuff in. Maybe he can have Ishiura build him one with parts from Tokyu Hands.
We are in a transitional period where the old guard is either fading or staging their last mad surge of glory. We now have the next generation (I call them Tadpoles, because they mostly share the same body shape), in Makuuchi, and they are getting comfortable at the higher levels of competition. We guess that would be one of the stories at Nagoya, and it turns out it was a big continuation of the evolution in sumo.
- Aoiyama – Jun Yusho! Congrats, prepare for your brutal fisting at Aki.
- Takayasu – You did not choke in your first Ozeki basho. Rest up that pulled groin and bask in the fact that your peers are both kadoban.
- Tochiozan – Not sure where that came from, but please, can we have more of this version of Tochiozan? He’s great. Calm, calculating, patient. He dismantles his opponents methodically.
- Onosho – Two basho in makuuchi, two 10 win results. That’s big stuff. Get in line behind Aoiyama at Aki, you get to play with the big guns.
- Ura – Yeah, you ended up with a make-koshi, but you survived a trip through the upper ranks without doing too poorly, and you got your first kinboshi. Excellent work expanded your sumo repertoire! Go heal up that knee and come back healthy.
- Tochinoshin – When your healthy, you can really unleash some great sumo. It was great to see you genki again. I just know you are one more tweak to that knee away from being a breath away from intai.
- Nishikigi – Never give up, never surrender. Fighting spirit like yours makes the sumo world go ’round!
- Goeido – Kadoban again? You won Aki 2016 in a clean sweep! You are a fantastic Ozeki when you are in your groove, but it’s getting harder for you to find that groove.
- Kakuryu – The YDC is talking about Aki being your last chance. It had to happen some time, please get well soon.
- Terunofuji – I hope you did not damage that freshly repaired knee. Sumo needs you big kaiju.
- Kisenosato – No, you can’t “naturally” heal a torn pectoral. Get your giant self to a surgery and get rebuilt.
- Okinoumi – I wish there were some way you could get that painful injury repaired without retiring from sumo.
- Gagamaru – Again we ask, “what are you doing in Makuuchi?”
- Ikioi – Everyone wants you strong and ready to fight. Do you have one last run in you?
- Kotoyuki – Either you get healed up, or you fade away. The modern sumo schedule is brutal, and it’s tearing you apart.
- Kotoshogiku – You continue to fade, your spirit is strong but your body is failing your sumo. You make me sad now to watch you fight.
Thanks to all the readers who gave us yet another record breaking month. We are eternally thankful for you spending part of your day with us, and we hope you tell your friends and family about the joy of sumo. Onward to Aki!
It’s the last day of sumo until September, and frankly the Nagoya basho has been a lot of fun. As a fan, the unpredictable nature of this basho has kept me focused and looking for the next turn and twist on the road to the end. The road to the yusho has been rather straight the entire time. It’s been all Hakuho. I know that NHK and some in the press are attempting to fan the remote possibility that Aoiyama would challenge on the final day, it will come to naught. I am looking for Yokozuna Hakuho to once again lift the Emperor’s Cup just before I wake for my Sunday.
Even though the yusho is more or less settled, day 15 still has heaps of critical matches, as some rather important rikishi still battle to finish Nagoya with a winning record. This includes:
- Goeido – I am sure he would rather not be kadoban again, so he must defeat Takayasu. Takayasu looks injured and distracted, so I am giving him better than even odds if he can boot up on 2.0 mode Sunday.
- Tamawashi – His Sekiwake rank at stake, he needs to defeat a really strong Tochiozan. I am looking for Tochiozan to once again be calm, measured and methodical. This should be a really good match.
- Daishomaru – They give him Maegashira 1 Takakeisho for the final day, so he really needs to work for this kachi-koshi.
- Ichinojo (and Sadanoumi) – The schedulers seem to love doing this. Take two rikishi who are 7-7 the final day and make them fight for the winning record. Only one of these guys can get it.
- Nishikigi – Readers will note I have been following Nishikigi closely the entire basho, as I think his struggle to re-affix himself to Makuuchi is a compelling story.
- Arawashi – Also left begging on the final day. I do hope he can make it. His opponent is the already deeply maki-koshi Okinoumi
Leader – Hakuho
Bulgarian In Waiting – Aoiyama
What We Are Watching Day 15
Tokushoryu vs Nishikigi – Last chance for Nishikigi to pull this one out and stay in Makuuchi for the September basho. Tokushoryu has had a lousy basho but is probably safe in Makuuchi even with a 11th loss.
Ichinojo vs Sadanoumi – A very Darwin battle – Loser gets demoted and the winner gets promoted. If Sadanoumi loses, he faces a real chance of being sent back to Juryo. Brutal.
Yoshikaze vs Aoiyama – The schedulers finally give Aoiyama a tough match. Hopefully Yoshikaze will give him a vigorous battle. In the past, an effective combat (but disgusting) strategy has been to grab a handful of man-boob and start shoving.
Tamawashi vs Tochiozan – Will Tochiozan do Tamawashi any favors? Tamawashi really likes his san’yaku slot, but Tochiozan as never been afraid to run up the score. I am going to guess these two battle it out for real, and Tochiozan has a career 9-2 advantage over Tamawashi.
Takayasu vs Goeido – Goeido really needs this one, and he has the advantage of fighting an Ozeki that has seemed injured and a bit off his sumo. But historically Takayasu leads 15-8 over their career. An Aki kadoban Goeido would be a terrible thing, because Terunofuji is already kadoban.
Hakuho vs Harumafuji – The big battle to end the basho. On the chance that Harumafuji wins and Aoiyama, there would be an playoff bout between Hakuho and Aoiyama immediately following the bow twirling ceremony. Should this rediculous stunt take place, it may end painfully for Aoiyama.
It has been a rough morning in Castle Bermondsey, so I do beg forgiveness in being tardy with the update. Many of you will have seen the NHK highlight reel by now. For whatever reasons there seems to be a desire to keep Hakuho from claiming the yusho outright by now. I say this because Aoiyama has had a ridiculously easy schedule. Don’t get me wrong, he still won all of those matches fair and square. But compare this to some prior basho where anyone outside of san’yaku who was close to the leader group was given increasingly difficult matches until they fell away.
For example, you have a Maegashira 8 (Aoiyama) who is on a hot streak. So who does he get for day 14? A Komusubi? An Ozeki? Nah, lets pit him against a Maegashra 12. So there remains an outside tiny chance that Hakuho will lose to Harumafuji on day 15, and we will see The Boss square off against Aoiyama. Followed by several minutes of slow motion replay of Aoiyama’s pendulous man-mammaries swinging wildly as Hakuho batters his up and down the dohyo for sport.
In other news, Ura is now make-koshi, and it is for the best. He has many fans, and they seem to love their little wizard – he is lovable. But he was always going to go make-koshi the first time he faced the san’yaku battle fleet. In the grand scheme of things that would have been Aki, but due to injuries it was at Nagoya. He will come to rest down the banzuke, and with any luck be dominant down there and have a chance to not do further damage to that banged up knee. Trust me when I say, Ura will be back.
Selected Matches Day 14
Chiyonokuni defeats Sokokurai – Chiyonokuni’s rally is a great story coming out of Nagoya. After his turn in the meat grinder as Maegashira 1 during Natsu, he seemed to have started Nagoya down and unfocused. He was able to get his sumo together and return as strong as in the past, and lock down a winning record. Chiyonokuni is another rikishi we will likely see more good things from in the future.
Hokutofuji defeats Ishiura – Hokutofuji picks up kachi-koshi and will be a rank or two higher in Tokyo come September.
Onosho defeats Yoshikaze – Special prize for Onosho, I will predict. That would be two in a row for his first two Makuuchi basho. Yoshikaze looked like he was not quite fully spun up, and Onosho executed well.
Tochinoshin defeats Kotoshogiku – The big Georgain consigns Ojisan Kotoshogiku’s san’yaku rank to the past. Really nice execution by Tochinoshin in this match. His return to good form is a welcome development.
Tochiozan defeats Mitakeumi – No Ozeki run starting for Mitakeumi, there is always next time, but he will get to keep his Sekiwake rank. Tochiozan once again looked calm and worked his attack plan expertly.
Hakuho defeats Goeido – Goeido must beat Takayasu on day 15 to avoid the probationary kadoban status.
Harumafuji defeats Takayasu – Harumafuji once again deploys a tottari. Takayasu ends up looking even more hurt. This basho has really knocked him around, and I hope he gets a chance to heal up.
Special Prize Contenders
Two more days of sumo until September, and the upcoming Aki banzuke promises to be a mad re-shuffle. But before everyone heads off to summer jungyo and awaits their next ranking, the final stanzas of Nagoya will play out. One thing yet to be revealed – the special prize winners. Below are some of my guesses on who could be eligible.
- Tochiozan – He has been on a huge roll this basho, and will finish with at least 10 wins. He has looked calm, strong and confident in every match, especially his crumpling of Ozeki Takayasu.
- Aoiyama – While he has yet to fight anyone in the higher ranks, his 11+ wins for the basho are likely to attract the special prize judges. Even thought I think any final day play off with Hakuho is unlikely and ill advised, he will likely end the basho with the jun-yusho, and for a rank and file Maegashira, that’s a praiseworthy accomplishment.
- Yoshikaze – When Yoshikaze is having a good basho, he is almost always in consideration for another special prize. The guy probably as a whole wall of his apartment with them. He will end with a 9+ win kachi-koshi from the very difficult Komusubi rank.
- Onosho – The kid has the juice, no doubt about that. He has been consistently excellent, and he is headed for the joi-jin in September. The day 14 Yoshikaze / Onosho match result may decide which of them gets a special prize.
- Tochinoshin – From the Maegashira 2 rank, he has defeated a Yokozuna, both Sekiwake and an Ozeki, plus will finish with kachi-koshi. This guy has been competing in spite of some really painful injuries, and this kind of record is a testament to his dedication to recover, and his love of the sport.
Nagoya Leader board
This is Hakuho’s basho to lose. The biggest threat is on the finally day, when he will face Harumafuji in the final match of the basho’s final day.
Leader – Hakuho
Chaser – Aoiyama
Hunt Group – Harumafuji, Tochiozan
2 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 14
Yoshikaze vs Onosho – I do strongly suspect the winner of this match will get the special prize nod. Onosho is going to be in the top 3 Maegashira ranks September, and it’s time to give him a taste of some of the rikishi he will face. A genki Yoshikaze is a great place to start, as he will discombobulate his opponent and then defeat them. Onosho has been quite resilient thus far, so I am keen to see how this goes. This the their first match.
Tochinoshin vs Kotoshogiku – The Kyushu Bulldozer needs to pick up both day 14 and day 15 matches. His record against Tochinoshin os 23-4, so he has history on his side. But Tochinoshin is looking very strong this basho, and it may be down to the big Georgian to end Kotoshogiku’s san’yaku standing.
Tamawashi vs Ura – I am looking for Ura to be in defensive mode, and for this to be a fairly easy win for Tamawashi. I agree and approve of this strategy, as Ura’s make-koshi is a function of his schedule now, and the most important thing to take away from Nagoya now (for Ura) is a body that can be healed enough to compete in the Aki basho in 7 weeks.
Tochiozan vs Mitakeumi – Tochiozan has never beaten Mitakeumi. I am sure Mitakeumi would like to pick up at least one more win in order to punctuate his remaining at the rank of Sekiwake. This match has interest because Mitakeumi’s style is somewhat frantic, while Tochiozan has been very controlled and methodical.
Hakuho vs Goeido – Interesting because Goeido tends to do whacky stuff when he is desperate. And he is quite desperate now. Doing wacky stuff in a match with Hakuho can have unexpected and sometimes amazing results.
Takayasu vs Harumafuji – I expect Harumafuji to handle this without much too much fuss. I would like to see Takayasu at full throttle for this bout (and his Goeido match tomorrow), but he seems injured, stiff and off his sumo.
Hakuho Takes The Record, Aoiyama Remains One Behind
Day 13 brought the long expected celebration of yet another record to Yokozuna Hakuho’s name. The sumo world is rightly celebrating the man and his great achievements. Hakuho’s excellence may have saved sumo on more than one occasion, and the fact that he continues to dominate the sport this far into his career is a testament to his love of all things sumo.
On the eve of his record achievement, the Japanese press began to talk of Hakuho taking a step he has resisted this far – seeking Japanese citizen ship and securing an enduring role in the sumo kyokai. Hakuho loves being Mongolian, but in the past several months, there has been discussions between the kyokai and Team Hakuho about his future. While we are all enjoying seeing the greatest rikishi in modern times continue to win match after match, the day when he will retire is not so very far away. What will sumo do to continue to bask in the publicity and excellence that Hakuho brings to the sport?
Meanwhile, the man mountain that is Aoiyama was declared the winner in a strange bout with Kagayaki. Rather than try to describe it, I encourage readers to watch it via Youtube (Kintamayama) or the NHK feed later today. With his win, he remains at 2 losses and is in a position to contest for the yusho against Hakuho should the Yokozuna manage to lose any of his upcoming matches against Harumafuji or Goeido. On the extreme outside range of likeliness, there is a bizzare chance that there could be a Hakuho / Aoiyama play off on the final day. Hakuho has an 18-1 record against Aoiyama, so it would likely be some kind of beating applied should it come to pass.
Chiyonokuni defeats Sadanoumi – Chiyonokuni’s turn around from a really crummy first few days has been dramatic. With his next win, he will secure his winning record and a likely return to the top half of Makuuchi for the fall basho. Both men landed solid mawashi grips early and it was a battle of strength. Several times Sadanoumi nearly shook him off, but Chiyonokuni was able to get him to the bales and lift him out.
Nishikigi defeats Okinoumi – Continued respect to Nishikigi, who is giving it everything he can muster every day. he is now one win from staying in Makuuchi. Nishikigi got inside early and applied the pressure. Okinoumi seems to have really faded, most likely due to injuries.
Chiyomaru defeats Daieisho – Excellent tsuppari battle that locks in Chiyomaru’s kachi-koshi and ensures he will not be back in Juryo in septepber.
Shohozan defeats Onosho – Big Guns picks up his kachi-koshi against Onosho. Although Onosho has been fighting well this basho, this match was all Shohozan from the start.
Tochiozan defeats Takarafuji – Tochiozan shows no signs of slowing down. He is now in double digit wins, and I would guess headed for a special prize. He has had an outstanding basho. Today’s match was another calm, focused effort by Tochiozan. He was able to get inside on Takarafuji, and controlled him from there.
Kotoshogiku defeats Ura – Ura does not even offer a stiff challenge to Kotoshogiku, and I suspect this was a strategic loss to protect himself from further injury. Kotoshogiku’s chances of kachi-koshi once again rise, and it becomes increasingly possible he can retain his san’yaku slot at least one more basho.
Yoshikaze defeats Ikioi – Ikioi really put up an excellent struggle, but like so much of this basho he came out the loser at the end. Ikioi has strength and skill, but his performance has been lagging as late. I would love to see him geanki once more.
Tochinoshin defeats Mitakeumi – In spite of the really great performance Tochinoshin has had the entire basho, he was unable to secure his winning record until today. The bout with Mitakeumi quickly went to the mawashi, and Mitakeumi could not out-muscle one of the strongest men in sumo. Mitakeumi now needs both final bouts to be wins if he wants to stake any claim towards a (in my opinion premature) Ozeki campaign.
Hokutofuji defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi is now in real danger of losing his Sekiwake rank for September, he must win both remaining matches for a minimal kachi-koshi to defend his position. Today’s bout was all Hokutofuji from the tachiai. Hokutofuji was able to take command, get the dominant pushing attack started and drive Tamawashi out.
Harumafuji defeats Goeido – Goeido is now in serious jepardoy of re-earning kadoban status. His only hope is a final day win against Takayasu. Harumafuji opened strong, and Goeido had no effective counter strategy to stop himself from being driven backwards out of the ring.
Hakuho defeats Takayasu – Well, that was different and kind of wild. Hakuho decided he was going to do a strong-man pushing contest with Takayasu, and won! The Boss deployed a fair amount of nodawa, which put Takayasu first on defense, then off balance, and finally the Yokozuna tossed Takayasu sideways to the clay. Tomorrow Hakuho faces Goeido.