Natsu Banzuke Crystal Ball

I started writing these prediction posts exactly a year ago, so this will be my seventh banzuke forecast for Tachiai. The accuracy has varied from basho to basho, though I think it’s fair to say that the forecasts give a very good idea of roughly where each rikishi will land—in most cases, within one rank or closer.

Upper San’yaku

Y1

Kakuryu

Hakuho

Y2

Kisenosato

O1

Takayasu

Goeido

No changes here from the Haru banzuke.

Lower San’yaku

S

Tochinoshin

Ichinojo

K

Endo

Mitakeumi

With his 7-8 record, Mitakeumi will lose his Sekiwake rank, but should only fall to Komusubi. Tochinoshin moves over to the East side, while Ichinojo moves up to Sekiwake. Endo finally gets his San’yaku promotion, and is a sufficiently strong candidate with his 9-6 record at M1e that I have him on the East side, although the banzuke committee could certainly switch him and Mitakeumi.

Upper Maegashira

M1

Tamawashi

Kaisei

M2

Abi

Shohozan

M3

Daieisho

Yutakayama

M4

Chiyoshoma

Ikioi

M5

Shodai

Kotoshogiku

What’s certain is that there will be a lot of turnover in this area of the banzuke, as with the exception of Shohozan, everyone in the M2-M5 ranks checked in with a losing record, and only Shodai limited his losses to 8. Many in the ranks immediately below this group also did not distinguish themselves, meaning that we have to reach far down the banzuke for viable promotion candidates. Exactly how this will play out is much less certain, as there are many possible scenarios, and the considerations going into them are complex.

Let’s start with the easy part. Both Tamawashi and Kaisei did well enough to earn promotions to San’yaku, but since there are no open slots for them, they will have to be content with the top maegashira rank. Abi and Shohozan are the only plausible candidates for M2, although their ordering is uncertain. Abi will jump 5 ranks, and will join the joi in only his third top-division basho after earning 10-5 records in the first two. Similarly, Daieisho is the only plausible candidate for M3e. He will also jump 5 ranks, matching his highest career rank.

From here, things get complicated. The next best numerical score belongs to Shodai, but he can’t take the M3w slot due to his make-koshi record at M4w. The best he could do would be to remain at his current rank, though it’s more likely he gets a minimal demotion to M5e. Kotoshogiku could technically  be only demoted from M3e to M3w, but given his 6-9 record, this seems overly generous, and he should really be ranked below Shodai. The next best candidate for M3e is none other than Yutakayama, whose 10-5 record could vault him 8 ranks up the banzuke, all the way from M11.

If we put Shodai and M5e and Kotoshogiku right below him at M5w, who fills the M4 slots? The choice is between the next two strong kachi-koshi records, which belong to Chiyoshoma (9-6 at M10) and Ikioi (11-4 at M14), and the other two high-rankers due for big demotions, Komusubi Chiyotairyu (4-11) and M2 Takarafuji (5-10). My forecast favors the guys moving up the banzuke over those moving down. If the banzuke committee agrees, six out of the ten rikishi in this group would be moving up at least 5 ranks!

Mid-Maegashira

M6

Chiyotairyu

Takarafuji

M7

Chiyomaru

Ryuden

M8

Yoshikaze

Hokutofuji

M9

Kagayaki

Daishomaru

M10

Okinoumi

Daiamami

M11

Chiyonokuni

Takakeisho

At Natsu, this area of the banzuke will serve primarily as the landing zone for higher-ranked rikishi who achieved make-koshi records ranging from just below .500 (Yoshikaze, Kagayaki, Okinoumi, Chiyonokuni) to horrific (hello, Chiyotairyu and Takakeisho). The only bright spots are Ryuden, who moves up from M9 with a minimal kachi-koshi, and the Oitekaze stablemates Daishomaru and Daiamami, who vault up and out of the demotion danger zone with their 9-6 and 10-5 records.

Lower Maegashira

M12

Asanoyama

Arawashi

M13

Ishiura

Sadanoumi

M14

Takekaze

Tochiozan

M15

Aoiyama

Kyokutaisei

M16

Aminishiki

Kotoeko

M17

Gagamaru


The bottom of the banzuke is complicated by the fact that there are 6 Makuuchi rikishi who earned demotions by the usual criteria (in order from most to least deserving of demotion: Hedenoumi, Kotoyuki, Sokokurai, Onosho/Nishikigi, and Myogiryu), but only 3 Juryo rikishi who clearly earned promotion: Sadanoumi, Takekaze, and Kyokutaisei. Aminishiki is borderline, and the next two best candidates, Kotoeko (10-5 at J8) and Gagamaru (8-7 at J5), are ranked too low to be normally considered for promotion with those records. Obviously, the numbers moving up and down have to match. What to do?

My initial inclination was to demote Nishikigi in favor of Aminishiki, and save Onosho (who was kyujo) and Myogiryu. Over on the sumo forum, Asashosakari suggested that they could instead demote Onosho and save both Nishikigi and Myogiryu. The solution I’m currently favoring, given how poor their records were, is that both Nishikigi and Myogiryu will be demoted, as will Onosho. I’m guessing that the banzuke committee will be more likely to promote kachi-koshi Juryo rikishi with insufficiently strong records (after all, this has happened in the past) than to keep in the top division rikishi who failed to defend their places there. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see this play out in any number of ways. We’ll find out on April 26th!

 

Ones to Watch: Haru 18 Wrap-up

EDION Arena Osaka Lower Division Match

Tachiai readers please forgive me, as I was so pre-occupied trying to get folks to Osaka so that I forgot to wrap-up a few loose-ends of our Ones to Watch coverage! So let’s dig into it.

As usual let’s start with some high level stats on how our picks performed. At Kyushu we managed 17 kachi-koshi against 3 make-koshi, but slipped to a 12-8 record at Hatsu. How did we do at Haru?

Continue reading

Winds of Change – 1 Year Ago In Sumo

It’s Sunday, maybe you have some free time and you are a sumo fan. I have been missing some of my favorites, who have faded from the top division. So I am going to share this 22 minute long example of just how much sumo has changed since Osaka last year.

Sumo is always evolving, but this was in fact a monumental turning point for the sport it seems.  A year later we can see recognize the seeds of change in this video.  The triumph, the defeat, the raw emotion

Another Embarrassing Sumo Incident

Maizuru

Frankly, I did not want to report this story at all, as it’s a demonstration of stupidity. But now that it has gone global and is busy giving sumo yet another black eye, it’s unavoidable.

During the spring Jungyo tour’s stop in Maizuru, the mayor of the town was on the dohyo speaking and collapsed. Many people rushed to the dohyo to help, including medical professionals that were present to enjoy a day of sumo. They applied CPR and first aid techniques to sustain the mayor until he could be transported to the hospital. The Mayor is going to be ok, it seems. The quick work and skillful application of medicine saved the day. That’s the good part of the story. Now the stupid.

Several of the highly trained medical professionals were women. Did they care that the dohyo is supposed to be a sacred place were women were not allowed? Hell no! These were dedicated healers. A fellow human was in peril, and they were going to go save him. So far, only slightly stupid. Oh, but then one of the younger gyoji took to the PA system and directed the women to leave the dohyo. Not once, but several times. Of course, it was captured on video, of course it was posted to social media.

Sumo loves to be a sport of unchanging and unyielding tradition. As a westerner my perspective is not the Japanese perspective. As I mention at least once per basho, most of us in the west are outsiders to this land, this culture and this sport. But at some point, common sense had to have kicked in. Look here, Sumo Association of Japan, if you want to make sure no women doctors or nurses try to rescue the hurt and injured from your sacred space, you are going to need a set of medical folks who are on call.

Chairman Hakkaku rightfully apologized later, stating “It was an inappropriate response in a life-threatening situation,”. Damn straight Hakkaku. Furthermore, it was an unforced error and loss of face for a great sport that has been greatly degraded over the past year. For the chairman to try and pass this off on the inexperience of the young gyoji is inexcusable.

The only clear winners here are the mayor of Maizuru, who lived to see another sunrise, and Takanohana, who through a majestic stroke of luck is no longer the biggest asshole in sumo for a few days.

Again, I am an outsider, but I am going to guess that my favorite sport is going to suffer a well-deserved set back in the people’s hearts from this pointless insult.

Video at this link

Comments Closed

PLEASE NOTE

Comments for this post are now closed. Some great and thoughtful discussion from our highly-valued readers, but we were swerving into things like trans-gender issues that have nothing to do with sumo. Thank you for understanding.

Japan Times – Kakuryu Feature

japantimes-logo

Noted sumo commentator and NHK media figure John Gunning has another excellent article in the Japan Times, taking a close look at Yokozuna Kakuryu, the Osaka basho, and some insightful discussion on sumo’s near-term future. An excerpt below, but go to the Japan Times and read the whole thing.

The quality of the sumo is not reflective of the quality of the man, however, as Kakuryu is both widely respected and admired by people inside the sport. A self-starter without any personal experience in, or family connection to Mongolian wrestling, Kakuryu originally wanted to be a basketball player but decided to try sumo after seeing countrymen Kyokushuzan and Kyokutenho on television.

A letter outlining that desire, translated into Japanese by a friend, impressed Izutsu oyakata (sumo elder) enough for him to give the then 16 year old a shot.

Of special interest to myself is his discussion of the conclusion of the current Yokozuna dynasty. As many fans, the only rikishi who could step up to constantly hold a Yokozuna slot is recent Ozeki Takayasu.

It is likely that if Takayasu were to take the rope now, he would struggle. But it would relieve the pressure on his senpai, Kisenosato. Kisenosato may in fact be beyond repair physically, and his retirement would be a blow to a sport already embroiled in negative press. A Takayasu yusho would allow everyone to move past the scandals and negative coverage. But of course, this would require Takayasu to actually win the cup. With Hakuho likely back in Tokyo, and Kakuryu eager to defend his yusho, a Natsu tournament win would seem a tough goal to reach.

Heya Power Rankings: Haru-Natsu 18

 

Kakuryu-Happy
Winning feels good, and feeling good is cool.

It’s not an April Fools joke: the Heya Power rankings are in (earlier than usual)! We love charts over here at Tachiai, and during the Haru basho, it was cool to note some of other contributors prognosticating in the comments what bearing the various results might have on the newest ranking sheet. I’d reiterate that this post is mostly for our own interest and fun, to see which stables are impacting the top end of the banzuke, rather than anything being paid attention by people within the sport itself. Our own Bruce put his bets on a nice jump in the standings for Oitekaze-beya. Was he right? Well let’s get into the bar chart and the “Billboard” style Top 20 ranking format:

HeyaPowerRankings_2018_04.png

Bruce was indeed right, because Bruce is a good sumo pundit. Let’s look at the Top 20 chart in slightly more verbose terms:

  1. (+6) Izutsu. 95 points (+50)
  2. (-1) Tagonoura. 90 points (-5)
  3. (+2) Oitekaze. 65 points (+19)
  4. (-1) Sakaigawa. 60 points (even)
  5. (+6) Tomozuna. 55 points (+32)
  6. (-4) Kasugano. 50 points (-44)
  7. (-3) Kokonoe. 48 points (-1)
  8. (-2) Miyagino. 36 points (-9)
  9. (-1) Takadagawa. 21 points (-9)
  10. (-1) Dewanoumi. 20 points (-5)
  11. (+4) Tokitsukaze. 20 points (even)
  12. (+8) Kise. 20 points (+4)
  13. (**) Minato. 20 points (+5)
  14. (-2) Isegahama. 19 points (-2)
  15. (-5) Shikoroyama. 17 points (-7)
  16. (-3) Hakkaku. 16 points (-4)
  17. (+-) Oguruma. 16 points (-3)
  18. (-4) Kataonami. 15 points (-5)
  19. (+-) Isenoumi. 15 points (-3)
  20. (**) Nishonoseki. 15 points (+2)

(legend: ** = new entry, +- = no movement, higher position in the previous chart breaks the tie)

Movers

Izutsu-beya hits the summit for the first time, after Kakuryu’s ultimately comfortable yusho win. He is a Yokozuna and he won the yusho, and you get a lot of points for all of that action the way we calculate it. While the stable is almost empty behind Kakuryu, that has been the case for many years and Izutsu-oyakata is still about 8 years from mandatory retirement. They did add a tiny 16 year old named Bando Jinki in the last year, but he may be one to wash rather than ‘one to watch.’

That all said, what makes me feel good about this model is the way that it rewards stables that have a number of strong performers. Oitekaze-beya is that kind of heya (and Kokonoe would be that kind of heya if they could find this kind of consistency). Yes, Endo won a special prize and had a great tournament and will finally be in san’yaku and there is going to be a lot of cheering. But the stable had seven men in the top 2 divisions accumulating points here, and five of them grabbed kachi-koshi. The other two (Tsurugisho and Tobizaru) were towards the wrong end of Juryo where the stakes are lower anyway, so the stable top-loaded its best records.

The fan-and-rikishi-favorite, former-Kyokutenho-and-now-Tomozuna-oyakata’s heya also scales new heights owing to a thrilling yusho-and-ultimately-jun-yusho-challenge from the Kaisei mammoth. I probably should have tacked on a couple more points here, because in a sport where you don’t always get a lot of face, the Brazilian has been giving some wonderful reaction shots of late (Abi and Ikioi are also members of that club). Kaisei will be finally joined by movie-star Kyokutaisei in Makuuchi at Natsu. The schedulers did the Hokkaido man few favors at Haru by way of repeated call-ups to test his readiness, so he may well have a good chance to stick in the top division. Kyokushuho has been stuck back in Juryo for a year now, and there’s nobody coming up behind him imminently, so it’s going to be on the top two men’s shoulders to keep the good times rolling.

Let’s also talk about Sakaigawa-beya for a minute. Despite the fact that Goeido hasn’t won on Day 15 since September of 2016 (his yusho tournament), he’s actually managed to put together a fairly consistent if unspectacular run of results to keep himself out of kadoban recently. Admittedly, this is probably somewhat helped by the absence of many of the top men of the banzuke, but you can only beat what’s in front of you. Usually, the stable which wins the Juryo yusho gets a bit of a drop off in the following tournament as we award 15 points for that achievement. However, there’s no drop here as both the Hatsu winner (Myogiryu) and Haru winner (Sadanoumi) come from the stable. Our man lksumo believes that Myogiryu is going to dodge the demotion bullet, so the three sekitori will need strong performances to maintain the heya’s position on our chart after Natsu.

Despite their fall, I’m charitably going to include Kasugano-beya in this section. Asking for a repeat yusho was a lot and they were always bound for a big drop, but they are hanging in there at the top end in light of another very strong performance from Sekiwake Tochinoshin and his latest special prize. They could even be due another bounce in the next couple months if his Ozeki run is in fact successful.

Losers

We’ve talked a lot about the sea change that is (slowly) taking place atop the banzuke, and the three stables I’m going to mention here include two that didn’t even make the chart this time.

First of all, the fall of Isegahama continues. This is probably the bottoming out of their ranking as they just have too many sekitori competing at the moment. With 3 men in Juryo and another 2 in Makuuchi next time out, I just can’t see the performance getting lower, especially if Terunofuji can right the ship and challenge for the Juryo honours. Also, Takarafuji was better than his 5 win record at Haru, and even if he’s in for a stiff demotion, he hasn’t had a make-koshi at Maegashira 6 or lower in over 4 years. Additionally, we may see the next wave of Isegahama rikishi challenge for Juryo later this year: while, yes, there are plenty of rikishi in the stable stuck in Jonidan quicksand, Nishikifuji and Midorifuji are on a fast track for fun times.

The question will be whether their strength in numbers restores the stable to the force it was just a half year ago, or a stable like Kise or Kokonoe that’s big on numbers but low on prizes. The road to the former case would seem to run through Terunofuji redeploying his inner Kaiju, Terutsuyoshi making the next step in his development to move up a division and Nishikifuji and Midorifuji establishing themselves as sekitori (Midorifuji will also need to add some heft). And the other case? Well, that’s what you get if all of the above doesn’t happen, and Aminishiki retires.

The other two aforementioned stables are the former powerhouse Sadogatake and the beleaguered Takanohana. Sadogatake, which has an incredible number of rikishi in the lower divisions, hasn’t seen the reinforcements arrive for the struggling Kotoshogiku and Kotoyuki yet, and Kotoeko just hasn’t managed to put together a run for Maegashira promotion. He will have his best shot in some time at Natsu, but it may only serve to offset the continuing declines of the other sekitori in the heya.

As for Takanohana-beya, we gave nil points for the debut of Takayoshitoshi after his assault-inspired half-kyujo tournament, and the limping out of the tournament from Takakeisho was perhaps a metaphor for performances there and elsewhere. The stable combined to go 22-28-10 in the upper tiers, and unless Takakeisho can put together a storming return to sansho-grabbing form or someone can win a yusho in Juryo, it’s unlikely the stable will trouble these charts again soon.

Booking Your Trip to Experience Sumo in Osaka

EDION Arena Osaka Exterior
The EDION Arena in Osaka

Wherever you are around the world, you’re probably fortunate enough to catch at least a few of the day’s sumo highlights from NHK World. But as many of us here at Tachiai have been fortunate enough to experience, there is no comparing the highlights (or even the extended live broadcast) to actually being in the arena. But sometimes, just planning the trip is unbelievably exhausting! So I put together, as part of a new series on Tachiai, a walkthrough to cover the essentials of planning your trip.

Each of Grand Sumo’s four tournament cities provides a unique and interesting experience. Today I’m going to tell you, in painstakingly explicit detail, how I put my trip together to Experience Sumo at the EDION Arena in Osaka. If you have more questions, please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments section below – your questions will help other Tachiai readers experience sumo as well! Click through to read more after the jump… Continue reading

Haru Wrap-up and Predictions for Natsu

The Haru basho is in the books, and while the final day was filled with exciting bouts, the results did not make it easy on your humble prognosticator. Both the Sanyaku picture and the Makuuchi/Juryo exchange scenarios are quite muddy.

The Sanyaku

In the upper ranks, Kakuryu has solidified his standing as Yokozuna 1e with his fourth yusho. We hope that he is even more recovered from his injuries for Natsu, and that he is joined by at least one if not both of the other Yokozuna. Reports say that Hakuho is participating in the spring jungyo and that his toes are much improved. No word on Kisenosato. Both Ozeki got their kachi-koshi and so don’t have to worry about their rank in Natsu. There’s some talk about Takayasu being on a Yokozuna run with consecutive 12-3 jun-yusho, but I don’t buy it.

The Sekiwake ranks are also clear. After today’s bout between the two, Tochinoshin will move over to the S1e slot vacated by Mitakeumi, while Ichinojo will take over Tochinoshin’s current slot. With his 10-5 record following his 14-1 yusho at Hatsu, Tochinoshin is now on a legitimate Ozeki run, and will need at least ten wins at Natsu to claim sumo’s second-highest rank.

Komusubi is where things get complicated. There are four rikishi who each deserve to hold one of the two slots: Sekiwake Mitakeumi (7-8), M1e Endo and M1w Tamawashi, both 9-6, and M6 Kaisei, 12-3. In recent years, a 7-8 record at Sekiwake has guaranteed a demotion to no lower than Komusubi. An M1e with a 9-6 record has never missed out on promotion, and neither has an M6 with a 12-3 record (although there are fewer instances of the latter). An M1w with a 9-6 record missed out once—none other than Tochinoshin after the 2015 Natsu basho, under similar circumstances. I think this will play out as Endo making his Sanyaku debut at K1e, Mitakeumi falling to K1w (although they could easily switch sides), Tamawashi getting a hard-luck minimal promotion to M1e, and Kaisei rising to M1w. Tamawashi can’t jump over Endo with the same record, and none of the records are strong enough to force the creation of an extra Komusubi slot. It’s possible, but seems highly unlikely, that Kaisei would get the Komusubi slot over Endo.

The New Joi

Apart from the two strong M1 performances, the upper maegashira ranks returned to being the meat grinder, with only Shohozan earning a winning record. This should elevate him to M2, where he will be joined by Abi, who more than held his own at M7 in his second ever top-division tournament. Beyond that, it’s hard to find worthy candidates for the M3-M5 ranks. Daieisho and Yutakayama will be making big moves up the banzuke into the joi-jin, with Daieisho likely equaling and Yutakayama far exceeding their previous highest ranks. Chiyoshoma and Ikioi are the other candidates to move up into this range, while Shodai, Kotoshogiku, Chiyotairyu, and Takarafuji have claims to having their demotions not drop them below M5.

The Bottom of the Banzuke

Hanging on to spots in the M13-M17 range, and fighting again for survival at Natsu: Ishiura, Tochiozan, Aoiyama. Definitely demoted to Juryo: Hidenoumi, Kotoyuki, Sokokurai, Nishikigi (whose luck has finally run out after 5 basho in Makuuchi, always ranked M13 or lower, and never performing better than 8-7). The spots vacated by this quartet will be taken by Sadanoumi, Takekaze, Kyokutaisei, and Aminishiki. Yes, Uncle Sumo is back, and joined by the other elder statesman, Takekaze, both returning after one-tournament visits to Juryo. Sadanoumi returns after 3 basho away, and does it in style as the Juryo champ, while Kyokutaisei makes his long-awaited Makuuchi debut after narrowly missing promotion last time.

There are two other rikishi whose records would normally get them demoted. One is Myogiryu, who struggled to a 6-9 record at M15w and lost to two Juryo rikishi, including Aminishiki on senshuraku. The other is Onosho, who was kyujo (0-0-15) at M5w, which has always resulted in demotion since the kosho seido system was abolished. However, there’s a dearth of additional promotion candidates in Juryo. With several contenders near the top of the Juryo banzuke dropping to 7-8 on the last day, you’d have to reach all the way down to J8 Kotoeko (10-5) or way over-promote J5 Gagamaru (8-7), so Myogiryu and Onosho might dodge the bullet.

Haru Final Day Highlights

Kakuryu Yusho.Parade

You might not know it by watching the matches today, but it was the final day of the Haru basho. Across the torikumi, everyone was fighting with some of their best sumo of the tournament. It was one of those days where it will be a good idea to seek out Jason’s All Sumo Channel or Kintamayama on YouTube to see all the bouts, and not just the highlights from NHK.

Highlight Matches

Aminishiki defeats Myogiryu – It’s kind of magical to me that we may see Uncle Sumo back in the top division yet again for Natsu. This guy should be an inspiration to everyone to stick to their dreams and keep working. Good things happen for those who refuse to give up. The match starts with a henka-matta, so Uncle Sumo needs to re-set and goes for a simple hatakikomi.

Daiamami defeats Yutakayama – Daiamami gets to double digits, but Yutakayama really made him earn it. A close-quarters thrusting match in which both men stayed low and kept applying the pressure. Daiamami closed the deal when he finally got inside on Yutakayama and drove forward.

Chiyonokuni defeats Hidenoumi – Chiyonokuni reminds us that he is a real battle machine with his energetic win over Hidenoumi. He finishes make-koshi, and we have to wonder what it will take for him to get his sumo to the next level.

Chiyoshoma defeats Nishikigi – Chiyoshoma’s leaping henka results in an airborne uwatenage. Go watch it! It’s amazingly acrobatic.

Ryuden defeats Asanoyama – Ryuden secures kachi-koshi on the final day. Asanoyama took him to his chest out of the tachiai, and from there it was a struggle. Multiple times Asanoyama went to throw Ryuden, but Ryuden somehow found a way to block the uwatenage. Great, great sumo from both.

Okinoumi defeats Aoiyama – After a strong start to the basho, Aoiyama faded down the stretch. Part of this may have been from the fact that he started facing much higher ranked rikishi, and some of it may be some unreported injury or just plain exhaustion.

Kagayaki defeats Ishiura – Ishiura tries a straight ahead fight, and can’t find a way to blunt Kagayaki’s forward drive. Ishiura seems to have forgotten some of his sumo from a year or two ago, or maybe his opponents are just much bigger / tougher now.

Abi defeats Daishomaru – A leaping hatakikomi at the edge gives Abi the win after a monoii. Impressive ring sense there! For his second tournament in a row, Abi is able to rack up double digit wins.

Kaisei defeats Ikioi – Sadly Ikioi could not pick up the special prize, but he has nothing to apologize for this basho. Even with a bandaged head, he met Kaisei with vigor and strength. But there is a lot of Kaisei to move, and even for Ikioi, it was a tall order. Ikioi has been progressively more injured each day of the basho, so I hope he goes and heals up.

Daieisho defeats Shodai – Even though he is make-koshi, Shodai seems to have found his sumo. Daieisho knew when to put him off balance and send him across the tawara. I do hope that Shodai can focus on returning in this form for the start of Natsu. He still has massive potential if he can get his sumo under control.

Kotoshogiku defeats Hokutofuji – Both men are deeply make-koshi, but you would never know it from watching their bout. This was one of the better matches of an already awesome day. The two men were chest to chest for most of the match, but neither seemed to be able to employ their favorite sumo attacks for more than a moment. In the end, it was Kotoshogiku who set up his hip-pump attack and ended the match.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoyuki – Is anyone surprised? Kotoyuki ends the the basho with a single win.

Yoshikaze defeats Arawashi – Arawashi needs to go heal. Yoshikaze finishes 7-8.

Tamawashi defeats Chiyomaru – Tamawashi is likely back in San’yaku for May, and will try again to muscle his way to his preferred Sekiwake position. Chiyomaru, meanwhile, is headed for the buffet table.

Shohozan defeats Endo – It takes a powerful tachiai from Shohozan and a couple of quick thrusts to put Endo the Golden back and out. Shohozan is kachi-koshi on the final day, after an alarming cold streak starting on day 6.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tochiozan – This looked like a Tochiozan win, and the gyoji gave the gumbai to Tochiozan, but then the sideburns of Chiyotairyu called out to the spiritual world, and the shimpan rose to their feet in abeyance. The monoii did not so much give the match to Chiyotairyu, but more to his sideburns. What did we learn here? Chiyotairyu must never remove his sideburns again. Whispered legends say that the kami that inhabits them is the same that gave Takamiyama his might, and they will only live in the facial hair of one who is worthy. [What. –PinkMawashi]

Tochinoshin defeats Ichinojo – Two enormously powerful rikishi test each other’s strength. After Ichinojo decided to lift Tochinoshin, he decided he was done playing and dialed his muscles to “Hulk” mode, finishing the boulder. With his 10-5 record, Tochinoshin has started an Ozeki campaign. Protect that knee, sir!

Mitakeumi defeats Goeido – Mitakeumi seems to have given Goeido 1.5.1 a solid match, and dropped the Osaka favorite on his backside in the middle of the ring. His sumo against both Ozeki has been great to watch. Maybe he is on the cusp of elevating his technique after all?

Takayasu defeats Kakuryu – The initial call by the gyoji went to Kakuryu, and it looked like Takayasu may have injured his right leg and maybe even re-damaged his right thigh. But just before they hand Kakuryu the kensho diorama of Osaka-jo, the shimpan decide it’s time to review it. The replays show Kakuryu’s heel touching out, so it’s torinaoshi time, with Takayasu limping. This time, Takayasu centers the Yokozuna and drives forward with his considerable strength. Kakuryu can’t plant his feet to defend, bringing the match and the basho to an exciting end as it’s Takayasu who hoists the kensho fort from the gyoji’s gumbai.

2018 Haru Special Prizes Announced

Kaisei

With the 2018 Haru Basho set to wrap up in a few short hours, the sansho selection committee has convened and announced the recipients of the special prizes this March.

Following another impressive showing this Basho, Tochinoshin has received his second consecutive Shuken-sho for Outstanding performance. Fellow Gaijin rikishi Kaisei will take home the fighting spirit Kanto-sho for his remarkable tournament, that saw him go undefeated until Day 9. Kaisei’s Day 15 opponent, Ikioi, will also receive the Kanto-sho if he can defeat the Brazillian tomorrow.

Finally, Endo, who with 9 wins coming into Senshuraku looks poised to join the San’yaku for the first time in his career come May, is the recipient of the Gino-sho technique prize.

Update: With his loss today, Ikioi has failed to qualify for his Kanto-sho special prize.

Haru Day 15 Preview

Macaroon
Time To Hoist The Giant Macaron of Victory And Call It a Basho!

And so we come to the close of a most enjoyable tournament. It ends with a satisfying result, and with the Sekitori corps advancing well along the path. The Tadpole league took a body blow, with Onosho not starting, Takakeisho going kyujo, and Mitakeumi ending up make-koshi. The veterans had much to celebrate, with Ikioi and Kaisei racking up double digit wins, Endo clearly on the mend, and Tochinoshin still potent. The Freshmen are finding their footing now, and I expect some great challenges by the time we get to kyushu, with the first of that cohort looking to enter san’yaku for their introductory make-koshi.

The match preview is brief on this final day, as most questions have already been settled, but I am sure there will be some good sumo for all the fans.

Haru Leaderboard

Yokozuna Kakuryu Wins the Haru Yusho!

What We Are Watching Day 15

Aminishiki vs Myogiryu – The mind boggles! Uncle Sumo, who if he wins is kachi-koshi, and possibly headed back to Makuuchi for Natsu, faces off against Myogiryu, who is already make-koshi and probably headed to Juryo. Go Uncle Sumo!

Daiamami vs Yutakayama – I think it would be fun if Daiamami ended up with 10 wins, but he’s going up against a very genki Yutakayama. It’s a tough climb, but I think Daiamami has a good chance.

Asanoyama vs Ryuden – You would think that the Maegashira 9 Ryuden would be favored to pick up his final win, and his kachi-koshi, over a Maegashira 13 opponent. But Ryuden has never won against Asanoyama.

Kagayaki vs Ishiura – Can Ishiura henka another win? He just needs one. Kagayaki, can you spare a white star for a brother rikishi?

Abi vs Daishomaru – This battle of the 9-5 Freshmen has a lot of potential for good sumo. Its a challenge for Daishomaru to get inside Abi’s enormous reach, but it will be easiest at the tachiai.

Kaisei vs Ikioi – Both men 11-3, both of them must be genuinely proud of their performance this tournament. This match will probably decide a special prize, and a slice of the jun-yusho. Well deserved, both!

Daieisho vs Shodai – Tough to think that with all of the energetic beatings Shodai has suffered this basho that he still has a chance at kachi-koshi. I have a soft spot in my heart for the guy, and I do hope he picks up his win here.

Kotoyuki vs Takarafuji – Both men in the 10+ loss club. Maybe they should just spread out a checkered square of cloth between the shikiri-sen, and enjoy rice-balls and sake instead.

Endo vs Shohozan – Shohozan wants that 8th win, and he’s going to really have to work for it. Endo is kachi-koshi, but he’s keen for 10 wins at his highest ever rank, giving him a firm launch into San’yaku. Endo leads the series 5-2.

Ichinojo vs Tochinoshin – This has a lot of potential. As we say from Hatsu, Tochinoshin can actually lift Ichinojo, so what will the Boulder do? Who would not love to see an Ichinojo henka? It would be like seeing Mt. St.Helens sing opera.

Mitakeumi vs Goeido – History favors Goeido, but Mitakeumi showed some real painful sumo to Takayasu on Saturday. Hopefully Mitakeumi knows that Goeido is going to come out hard, fast and low.

Kakuryu vs Takayasu – Both of these guys are very chaotic in their sumo. I would expect Kakuryu to allow Takayasu to take the lead until he over-comits, and then it’s time for an Osaka clay norimaki.

Haru State of Play Day 14 Update

The Yusho Race

This is settled. Congratulations to Yokozuna Kakuryu.

At least a share of the jun-yusho will go to the winner of tomorrow’s bout between Kaisei and Ikioi, both 11-3. Presumably at least the winner, and possibly both, will also get a special prize? The winner could be joined by Ozeki Takayasu if he can defeat the just-crowned champion in the final bout on senshuraku.

The Sanyaku

Mitakeumi battled valiantly today but came out on the losing side, dropping to 6-8 and relinquishing his Sekiwake rank. Hello, Sekiwake Ichinojo! Tomorrow, Mitakeumi will try to cushion his fall against Goeido. A win, and he drops to Komusubi. A loss, and he’s out of sanyaku altogether for the first time in seven tournaments.

Current (and future) Sekiwake Tochinoshin battles future Sekiwake Ichinojo tomorrow. Tochinoshin leads the career series 10-5, but it’s been very even recently. Both looked in good form today, and while the matchup is always one to look forward to, a double-digit win total is also on the line, as both men’s records stand at 9-5. For Tochinoshin, reaching double-digits would put him in a good position for promotion to Ozeki with a strong performance at Natsu. Ichinojo could get an Ozeki run of his own going with a third straight 10-win tournament. One final wrinkle: I’m not sure if a win by Ichinojo might jump him over Tochinoshin to the East side.

It seems like Endo’s 9th win today may have clinched his long-awaited promotion to the open Komusubi slot, though I’m not absolutely sure a 9-6 record at M1 beats a 12-3 record at M6 should Endo lose and Kaisei win tomorrow. Endo can make sure by beating Shohozan and reaching double-digits. The other Komusubi slot comes down to Mitakeumi (who would lock it up with a win), Kaisei, and Tamawashi, who takes on Chiyomaru.

Special Prizes

These seem a little unpredictable. Does Tochinoshin get one for being the only one to get dirt on the yusho-winning Yokozuna? Kaisei, Ikioi, and Yutakayama would seem to have a claim with double-digit-win performances, and Daiamami and the winner of AbiDaishomaru have a chance to join them.

The Demotion Zone

Today’s victory takes Tochiozan to safety. Myogiryu won today, but to stay out of Juryo, he must win again tomorrow against none other than Aminishiki, who remarkably has a chance at a top-division return with a victory. Nishikigi may or may not be able to save himself with a win, and his chances don’t look great against Chiyoshoma, who has looked much better and whom Nishikigi has yet to defeat in 4 attempts.

The three definite demotions are Sokokurai, Kotoyuki, and Hidenoumi. (Onosho’s fate is unclear, though a 0-0-15 record at M5 or lower usually leads to demotion.) The three definite promotions are Sadanoumi, Kyokutaisei, and Takekaze. Five or six additional men in Juryo have a shot with a win tomorrow.

Haru Day 14 Highlights

Goeido - Kakuryu

As much as I hate to do this, I am putting a buffer up for people who cry about “spoilers” in a live sport they watch on delay. Some great sumo, especially from Mitakeumi and Ryuden today. Sadly for Mitakeumi, he’s dropping from his Sekiwake slot. It remains to be seen if he drops from san’yaku completely, but he really put forth excellent sumo in today’s match.

But the headline is Yokozuna Kakuryu’s 4th yusho. He earned it in spite of injuries and pain. He mounted the dohyo every day and battled with skill, guile and strength. He has been excellent in all of his matches, and thus far only dropping one match. As his only loss was to the prior yusho winner, there is no shame in that at all. With any luck, his detractors will be silent for a year or so. With Kisenosato possibly un-repairable, and Hakuho amazing but unreliable, Yokozuna Kakuryu may be the only rope-holder to oversee our dawning transitional era.

Highlight Matches

Kyokushuho defeats Nishikigi – Juryo visitor Kyokushuho is still one win shy of his kachi-koshi, but he was in good form over the struggling Nishiki, who is himself headed back to the Junior League for May.

Ikioi defeats Ishiura – Ikioi mounts the dohyo with a giant bandage over his right eye, looking like Franken-Ikioi. Does the crowd care? Hell no! It’s the home-town dashing and handsome rikishi, even if parts of him are taped together. Ishiura, to his credit, tried to give him a straight up fight, but Ikioi moved forward strongly, and kept Ishiura in front of him. [Ikioi is now an amazing 11-3 and will hopefully take home a special prize. –PinkMawashi]

Daiamami defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki charged forward strongly, and actually looked like he would deliver his second win of the basho. He had Daiamami pinned against the tawara, but then somehow just ran out of gas as Daiamami charged forward and won. I am unsure what kind of misery Kotoyuki suffers, but he seems to be fairly hopeless at this point.

Yutakayama defeats Asanoyama – Yutakayama certainly looks dialed in now, hitting his 10th win with one day to go. He completely dominated Asanoyama in today’s match.

Chiyoshoma defeats Aoiyama – The formula for winning over Aoiyama is to keep moving and get him to chase you. Chiyoshoma had this one down cold, and eventually the man-mountian had Chiyoshoma grab his arm and pull a throw. Chiyoshoma picks up his kachi-koshi, which was well earned today.

Daieisho defeats Chiyonokuni – Some impressive defense from Chiyonokuni, as Daiesho delivered some powerful nodowa at the edge. Chiyonokuni ends the match with a make-koshi, and Daiesho with his kachi-koshi.

Kaisei defeats Daishomaru – It can be fun to watch big-man sumo like this. Daishomaru gets bold at the tachiai and charges face first into the giant meat balloon that is Kaisei, and lands with a wet smack. With his face still embedded in Kaisei’s expansive upper torso, the giant Brazillian goes for an westward stroll, taking the now trapped and helpless Daishomaru along for the win. We can expect a big move up the banzuke for Kaisei in May.

Abi defeats Kotoshogiku – Abi’s henka is perfectly timed, and defeats Kotoshogiku’s only possible attack. But wait! (you say) – Bruce, you complain about Ishiura’s henkas! Yes, it gets old fast when a rikishi uses that as their go-to weapon. But in this case, it’s the correct way to blunt Kotoshogiku’s obligatory offensive opening. Well executed and correctly deployed. Abi goes to 9 wins.

Ryuden defeats Arawashi – Good gravy what a match this one is! The men lock up into a battle for grip at the tachiai, with Arawashi pinning Ryuden’s arms time and again. But Arawashi has control and works with what he has, backing Ryuden up to the bales strongly enough that Ryuden’s heels are dangerously close to being out. But Ryuden recovers! Arawashi advances strongly again, a second time Ryuden is a centimeter from being out, but rallies to the center of the dohyo. Stalemated, Arawashi is out of energy, and Ryuden backs him up and out. Excellent sumo from them both. Miraculously, Ryuden can still achieve his kachi-koshi.

Takarafuji defeats Kagayaki – Straightforward match at first, Takarafuji gets the gumbai, but then the shimpan want to talk it over, fairly late in the post-bout ritual. The judges decide on a torinaoshi, which Takarafuji wins by letting Kagayaki fall to the dohyo.

Endo defeats Hokutofuji – Endo now with 9 wins after this bout with a struggling Hokutofuji. The match featured Endo and Hokutofuji trading attempts to slap or thrust each other down, with Endo’s superior ring sense helping him time his third attempt to be at the edge, where Hokutofuji had no room to recover. Endo is headed to San’yaku for May, and the valiant Hokutofuji is make-koshi and desperately needing to re-group.

Tamawashi defeats Shohozan – As expected, it was energetic! Both men were landing a lot of powerful blows on each others neck and head, grabbing each other’s arms and generally carrying on in an aggressive sumo fashion. Shohozan seemed to have the advantage, setting the pace and moving forward while Tamawashi kept giving ground. The win came at the tawara when Tamawashi twisted to his right, guiding Shohozan down and out.

Ichinojo defeats Shodai – The super genki Shodai was not able to show up today, but he did a reasonable job against the man that NHK commentator Hiro Morita calls “The Mongolian Behemoth”. Fans started to worry that Ichinojo had re-injured his back due to his soft performance the day prior, but he was large and in charge today, getting Shodai airborne for the win.

Yoshikaze defeats Chiyotairyu – I am very pleased to see Yoshikaze fighting well again. I had some serious worries during week 1. Chiyotairyu opened strong, pushing Yoshikaze back, but then they go chest to chest, and Yoshikaze starts to control the match. He did a great job of keeping the massive Chiyotairyu high and unable to generate forward pressure.

Tochinoshin defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru left the dohyo today not only without a hope of kachi-koshi, but also without Tochinoshin’s meaty left leg, which he had planned as a victory snack. Tochinoshin still has an outside hope of continuing his Ozeki bid by winning his match against Ichinojo tomorrow.

Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – Possibly Mitakeumi’s best match of the basho [Possibly the best match of the basho, period –PM], and sadly it gave him his demotion from the Sekiwake slot he has enjoyed for many tournaments. If this is not a wake-up call to Takayasu, I am not sure what is. Mitakeumi had him contained, restrained and for a time, in pain. All the Ozeki could do was react to the next contortion Mitakeumi placed him into and struggle to escape. Even when Takayasu managed to escape Mitakeumi, the Sekiwake re-secured control and kept the punishment coming. But Mitakeumi got too eager, ended up off balance and thrust down. The difference between Sekiwake Mitakeumi and Maegashira Mitakeumi is the ability to finish Pooh-Bear off when you have him at your mercy. [Mitakeumi’s match against Goeido tomorrow may determine whether he falls to Komusubi or Maegashira, so we’ll all be watching that one closely. –PM]

Kakuryu defeats Goeido – You have to wonder if Kakuryu is THE master of reactive sumo. Goeido must know that somewhere in his poorly formatted flash drive. Why do you advance strongly into the guy you KNOW is going to make you pay if your weight is not centered over the arches of your feet? Herouth tells us from inside EDION that she may have been the only soul cheering for the Yokozuna in the Ozeki’s home-town. But Kakuryu shows us that he is every bit a Yokozuna, and takes his fourth yusho.