Kotoshogiku Welcomes 1st Baby Boy


Tachiai would like to congratulate Kotoshogiku on the birth of his first baby, a boy. Today’s news comes from Mainichi, again. Apparently Nikkei doesn’t want to cover sumo during Jungyo. Well, even during a tournament it falls under “Sports\Other,” so maybe my expectations are too high. Glad to see that Mainichi is covering it. Three articles from them today. This one is a great, easy headline. Now that I’ve spoiled the surprise of the headline, we may as well take a look at it:

琴奨菊に第1子の長男誕生「親孝行だ」

First thing’s first, Kotoshogiku’s shikona followed by hiragana “ni” because the baby was born to Kotoshogiku. When counting ordinal numbers (i.e. sequentially) Japanese often uses the character “DAI” (第) and follows up with the appropriate kanji for what you’re counting. Here we’re counting kids (子). “CHONAN” is the word for first son (長男). If you replace the second character (which means male) with the character for female (女), you get first daughter. The first character is usually translated as “long” but it also gets used as leader or “head” as in the head of an organization. The head of a company is the ShaCho, using that character.

Then Tanjo (誕生) is birth. If you study Japanese you learn the word Tanjobi (誕生日) which is birthday. This is an important word to know for anyone studying Japanese. Not just so you can celebrate your birthday, you can fill out immigration forms and other paperwork! If you know your bloodtype, you can even set up a social media profile or blog. If you think I’m joking, I’m laughing but I’m not joking.

「親孝行だ」

Lastly, remember yesterday’s “synergy”? How the sumo assistants, tsukebito, get a benefit from assisting sekitori by being able to train with them? Well, kids provide for their parents by respecting them and being dutiful…doing things, like not dying before their parents. His son decided to be born after the tournament, so Kotoshogiku said, “Oyakoko da.” If he’d been born during the tournament, 困ったね。

Introducing the Heya Power Rankings


takayasu-training
Where winning is born

Now that Haru is in the books, I thought it might be fun to dig back into the maths and introduce an equation to work out which of the Heya, or sumo stables, are the real power players at the top end of the game. If it looks like we’re on to something, then perhaps it’s something we can revisit after future tournaments as well. As this is our first post on the subject, let’s tackle the methodology and then we can get into the rankings for Haru and analysis. So, whose chanko nabe tastes the best?

Methodology

In order to work this out, I built a points system which can be loosely based around these Three R’s: Ranking, Results, Rewards. Very simply put, a heya should get points for the level at which their rikishi perform, the results they achieve, and the rewards which bring them glory. All good positive stuff.

Ranking

Points are awarded for fighting at the following ranks:

  • Yokozuna: 40
  • Ozeki: 30
  • Sekiwake: 20
  • Komusubi: 15
  • Maegashira 1-5: 10
  • Maegashira 6-10: 8
  • Maegashira 11+: 5
  • Juryo 1-7: 2
  • Juryo 8+: 1

I separated Maegashira and Juryo into separate points categories as rikishi at the various ends of these ranks tend to have vastly different schedules. Fighting at a Maegashira 2 rank and having to face the likes of Hakuho is a bigger accomplishment than fighting at Maegashira 14. And being Hakuho is an even bigger accomplishment. So the points should be awarded accordingly. This obviously could be scaled up to accommodate even lower ranks, but it makes sense to start awarding points based on the world of professional sumo.

Results

I added 5 points for scoring a kachi-koshi in makuuchi, and 3 points for achieving a kachi-koshi in Juryo. I did not subtract points for scoring a make-koshi. Again, the rationale here is that fighting at a particular rank is the achievement. Achieving success at that rank should be recognised. Achieving failure at that rank will be reflected by the lower rank the rikishi will receive in the next banzuke, and therefore the lower score that the heya will receive in these next rankings. So, theoretically, it takes care of itself.

Additionally, if you follow the above logic, it stands to reason that a rikishi competing at the top end of Juryo and achieving kachi-koshi and on the cusp of promotion (2+3 points) is fighting at a similar level to a rikishi at the bottom end of Maegashira rank who gets a make-koshi and is in danger of demotion (5+0).

Rewards

Here’s where we will create variance from month to month, with points being awarded for the following achievements:

  • Yusho (Makuuchi): 50
  • Jun-Yusho (Makuuchi): 25
  • Makuuchi Special Prizes: 10
  • Yusho (Juryo): 15

At the end of the day it’s really all about winning the big prizes, and these represent prestige. These are the people who have been the focal point of the two weeks that have passed, either because they have outperformed their level, they have challenged for the yusho, actually won it, won a big promotion up to the next level, or all of the above.

Haru-basho Power Rankings & Analysis

PowerRankings

What we’ve got above is a bar chart of January’s ranks vs. March, so that we can see for this first edition which stable is at the summit of the sport, who’s improved their standing, and also how the Haru basho might have negatively impacted stables. Here’s our inaugural top 20 chart, with their score in brackets:

  1. Tagonoura (130)
  2. Isegahama (125)
  3. Sakaigawa (60)
  4. Miyagino (50)
  5. Izutsu (45)
  6. Kokonoe (43)
  7. Oitekaze (38)
  8. Sadogatake (35)
  9. Kasugano (34)
  10. Takanohana (30)
  11. Oguruma (27)
  12. Kataonami (25)
  13. Kise (24)
  14. Hakkaku (23)
  15. Dewanoumi (20)
  16. Tokitsukaze (20)
  17. Tomozuna (19)
  18. Isenoumi (15)
  19. Arashio/Minezaki/Nishonoseki (10)

The headliner for the second consecutive basho is the Tagonoura-beya, headlined by Shin-Yokozuna Kisenosato‘s heroic yusho, and another prize-winning outing by san’yaku fixture Takayasu. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the dominant Isegahama is not far behind, off the back of several prominent rikishi towards the top end of the banzuke and a just-nearly performance by Terunofuji. We can probably expect to see these two stables in or near the top two for some time to come, especially if Takayasu is successful in his Ozeki run.

Taking the bronze medal this time, it’s Sakaigawa: a stable with a number of makuuchi wrestlers and featuring the Juryo yusho winner Toyohibiki, who we’ll see back in the top flight for Natsu. While it’s not impossible, Sakaigawa will have a challenge to hold onto a position in the top 3 in May. Goeido will need to chase a kachi-koshi to retain his Ozeki status, but they may lose 2 rikishi from makuuchi to Juryo with demotions, and the next best heya Miyagino will hope for a healthier outing from Hakuho and better returns from Ishiura as he tries to cement his place in makuuchi.

Looking at whose stock plummeted the most this month, you can’t look further than the first name on the list. With only one rikishi in the top 2 divisions, Arashio‘s prestige is wholly dependent at the moment on the performances of Sokokurai, whose gino-sho winning Hatsu was followed up with an 11 loss outing this time around. Solid but unspectacularly performing heya with a diversity of competitors (e.g. Kokonoe) are better able to insulate themselves from this kind of performance, and Arashio doesn’t have anyone else near the top divisions at the moment.

On the whole, this exercise has shown that out of all of the places that rikishi live and train, about a dozen are real players at the top end of the game, and another dozen are developing middling talent trying to gain a foothold in the professional ranks. The rest are in limbo, either unable to produce top level talent at the moment or simply in a transitional period where their top level participants have recently retired or been demoted while they try and bring through a new generation of rikishi with the ability to compete at the highest level.

Looking ahead to Natsu, I don’t think we should expect much change in the top 5. A few stables under the radar who might make moves one way or the other in the near future:

  • OitekazeEndo will move up, and may face a tougher schedule given that many of the rikishi in front of him this time out are staring at demotion. Meanwhile, Daieisho‘s due a promotion and Oitekaze’s quintet could be joined soon in the professional ranks by Iwasaki, who picked up a kachi-koshi at Makushita 3, and Daishoho, who made his brief Juryo debut in November and just put up 5 wins at Makushita 7.
  • Takanohana: As Andy noted earlier in the week, Takagenji is set for his Juryo debut at Natsu, and while Takanohana isn’t teeming with the sheer volume of rikishi that you might see at other stables, there are actually a couple more young wrestlers not far behind. Star man Takanoiwa‘s results have been volatile, but he has made a step forward in the past year which is that he’s now more able to cope with what the schedule throws at him at the lower end of makuuchi. Likewise, Takakeisho seems to be settling in well as a rank-and-filer and will move up the banzuke next time out.
  • Sadogatake: It’s tough to call a heya with such a rich history at the top level “under the radar,” but they’ll take a hit if Kotoshogiku does retire or show diminished performance following a soul-crushing nearly-basho in March, and it would be charitable to say that Kotoyuki hasn’t been at his best recently. He looked overpowered and out of sorts more often than not at Haru. Realistically the next wave of talent here is at least a couple of years away – there are a handful of journeyman rikishi at Makushita level already, but the next youngster showing serious promise looks to be 19 year old Kotokamatani who just finished up a 5 win basho at Sandanme 3 and is primed for already his second spell at Makushita having only made his tournament debut last January.

Kisenosato Wins Osaka


It’s tough to fathom, and a bit tougher to believe. On day 15, Kisenosato won his scheduled match against Ozeki Terunofuji. The match was precluded by yet another matta when Terunofuji false-started. After day 14, I am sure Kisenosato was buying none of it. At the tachiai, he employed Harumafuji’s mini-henka to deflect a portion of Terunofuji’s charge, which took him immediately off balance. Terunofuji recovered and locked up chest to chest with the shin-Yokozuna, but Kisenosato was able to maneuver him out for the win.

As the two leaders were now tied, there was a playoff once Harumafuji and Kakuryu fought to end regular matches. Once again Terunofuji jumped in early, resulting in yet another matta. Almost immediately, Kisenosato had Terunofuji pinned by the arm using his right arm (the one that is not injured) and was able to throw Terunofuji using kotenage. The fact that Kisenosato won using his non-favored side was a complete surprise, as Kisenosato is left side dominant.

Needless to say, the fans in the stadium, and indeed across Japan erupted in celebration that the Shin-Yokozuna was able to pull out a come from behind victory in spite of some significant performance limiting injuries. In regards to Terunofuji, he has a great future ahead of him, and his time (probably several) to hoist the emperor’s cup will come again.

I had quite a laugh at the end of the video, as they delayed the 6:00 PM news to cover the end of the basho.  This almost never happens, as there seems to be some kind of code that the 6:00 PM news must not be delayed.

A great write up on the tournament and the changing times in sumo can be found here. It’s a great time to be a fan.

Haru 2017: Wrap-up


Osaka treated us to a fantastic show. The build-up and thrilling denouement, capped off by the storybook ending makes this one to remember.

Senshuraku does not often live up to its billing as the climax of a sumo tournament. Often, the yusho race is clear heading into the final weekend and the winner is crowned a day or two early.

Let’s take another look at our storylines leading into the tournament.

#1: Kisenosato Yusho. Clearly, this is the story of the tournament. With Hakuho out of the picture and contenders dropping like flies in Week Two, it looked like a sure bet. Then, Darth Vader defeated him in battle and worse, took his fighting hand. With defeat the next day to an apologetic Kakuryu, the Emperor’s Cup was Terunofuji’s.

Terunofuji was even ready for the henka but Kise was still able to shift the young Ozeki off-balance, forcing a play-off. In the play-off, Kisenosato locked Terunofuji’s arm with his right and brought both wrestlers down (Teru first) to pick up his second straight tournament victory.

#2: Takayasu’s Ozeki run. So many wrestlers came into this tournament with Ozeki hopes. The path was easiest for Kotoshogiku but with his hopes dashed, Takayasu is now poised to be the next rikishi promoted to Ozeki. He finished on 12 wins with his only losses going to two yokozuna and Yoshikaze. He’s been in sanyaku for the past five tournaments, a strong run as not many have stayed in the lower sanyaku ranks for more than two. With 10 wins next tournament, he’ll be promoted. The question for next tournament, though, is will there be four Sekiwake? The three current sekiwake all secured winning records and Mitakeumi deserves a promotion after his strong 9-6 finish. Maybe Celina’s bracket will come true, after all?

#3: Hokutofuji makekoshi. Hokutofuji’s run of kachi-koshi tournaments has come to an end. He finished with a very respectable 7-8 record so while he will slide a bit, it won’t be far.

#4: Kotoshogiku demoted. The henka on Day 14 which sealed his fate will always be controversial. However, the fact is, Kotoshogiku was fighting on one healthy knee. His on-again, off-again relationship with kadoban status was untenable in the long term.

Well, at least he was able to get a winning record this time but he will need to start from scratch and get 33 wins in three tournaments to get back to Ozeki. The question now is, does he have it in him to continue to compete or will he retire, like Kotooshu? I’ve got nothing but admiration for guys like Aminishiki who carry on as long as they can. BTW, Aminishiki finished with a 9-6 record in Juryo.

#5: Goeido kyujo, kadoban. I know I continually harp on injured wrestlers battling and risking further injury. If they listened to me, we clearly wouldn’t have had this epic finish today because Kisenosato would be at home on his couch watching Terunofuji hoist the Emperor’s Cup. But for every spectacular finish, there are several guys who make my knees hurt to watch them get up there: Kaisei, Tochinoshin, Osunaarashi, Myogiryu. In Goeido’s case, as an Ozeki he could have used the luxury of not starting this tournament to try to fully recover but his competitive spirit (like Terunofuji for the past year) draws him to the dohyo. I hope he has a full, speedy recovery.

#6: Ura kachi-koshi. Ura debuted fairly high on the banzuke at Maegashira 12 but was still able to achieve a winning record (though barely). He only lost once to hatakikomi but a few times his unorthodox style clearly gets him into trouble at times. He will climb the banzuke in May and I’m eager to see how he fares. Will he and Ishiura take their approach to the next level? Or will their gimmicks serve to confuse and confound those at the bottom of the table?

#7: Wakaichiro kachi-koshi. We at Tachiai are excited to see Wakaichiro pick up his first winning record and look forward to seeing him promoted into Jonidan.

Day 15 Osaka Recap


sansho-osaka

Beyond The Yusho

In addition to one of the more dramatic ends to a sumo basho that I have ever witnessed, there was a lot of great action on the dohyo for the final day. As we highlighted earlier, a lot of rikishi were still battling to secure a winning record (Kachi-koshi), and bid for promotion on the May ranking sheet.

First and foremost, in the Yokozuna battle, Kakuryu was able to prevail over Harumafuji, and finish the tournament with 10 wins. While not earth-shattering, his double digit score puts him squarely in the territory expected for a Yokozuna. Harumafuji’s loss continues to worry, as it’s clear he was hurt most or all of Haru, and competed anyhow.

Special Prizes

  • Outstanding Performance / Shukun-sho: Takayasu (3rd shukun-sho, 8th sansho overall)
  • Fighting Spirit / Kanto-sho: Takakeisho (1st kanto-sho, 1st sansho overall)
  • Technique / Gino-sho: not awarded

I thought there were some great kimarite unleashed in Osaka, and the Gino-sho should have been awarded.

Match Results

Takayasu was able to beat Tamawashi in the battle of the Sekiwake, and pushed his record to 12-3. Firstly, don’t worry about Tamawashi, he finished 8-7, and will remain at Sekiwake for May. Takayasu, however, now only needs 10 wins in May to secure an Ozeki promotion. This also marks a shift, as in prior basho, Takayasu would have a big early winning streak, run out of gas, get a disappointing loss, and then proceed to continue losing. This time, he pulled out of his losing streak and racked up 2 additional wins.

Kotoshogiku, in what may be his final match as a sekitori, faced another veteran Yoshikaze. After a good tachiai, Kotoshogiku quickly established his favored inside grip, and applied his familiar hug-n-chug (gaburi-yori) to the Berserker, and rapidly had him out. Yoshikaze already had his kachi-koshi, and this was (possibly) a goodbye match. I was happy that Kotoshogiku could end on a high note, while Yoshikaze lost nothing.

Mitakeumi finished strong as well, defeating Tochiozan, and confirming he is a contender for higher rank soon. Since turning from a pure pusher-thruster into a hybrid mawashi / thruster, Mitakeumi has improved greatly. I expect that he may take another dip or two down the banzuke in the coming months, but he has the size, speed, strength and skill to be a sumo leader.

Endo was also able to secure a winning record on the last day, taking it from Tochinoshin, who needs to visit whatever clinic gave Terunofuji his legs back. Ura also was able to defeat Ichinojo through a rather clever use of leverage and balance. It was different enough, the judges called a Monoii, but eventually gave Ura the win. Ichinojo is so tall, I swear it took him 30 seconds to finish falling.

Lastly, thank you readers of Tachiai. You have made this our biggest Basho yet, and it’s been wonderful to have all of you spend time on our site, sharing our love of sumo.

Haru Day 15 Preview


dohyo-iri-15

Final Day Of the Osaka Tournament

It’s been a strange and crazy basho, and now we face the final day of competition. The yusho race had focused almost entirely on Kisenosato for the bulk of the tournament, but it’s now clear that bar some strange occurrence, Terunofuji will lift the Emperor’s Cup tomorrow. Prior to day 14’s henka against Kotoshogiku, most sumo fans would have cheered his return to glory, after more than a year of crippling injuries and constant pain.

Fans have commented on Tachiai, Twitter and Facebook that the henka is part of the sport. This is true, and there are times when it’s employment is kind of neat. What troubles me about day 14 is that Kotoshogiku was not going to be able to best Terunofuji’s kaiju mode. To me the henka this time smelled of cruelty. I restrain myself, I hope, from layering too many American / European idioms on what is a completely Japanese cultural phenomenon. But it was clear that Kotoshogiku intended to go out, guns blazing, giving his all every match. This was the match where his bid to return was to be lost, and he was not allowed to end with dignity.

So you may see some noise from the Japanese fan community about Terunofuji, and I worry, about the Mongolian contingent as a whole. This would be a huge mistake, in my opinion, as the Mongolian rikishi have hugely enriched the sport, and have done fantastic things for Japan and the Japanese people.

Key Matches, Day 15

Terunofuji vs Kisenosato – This one decides the yusho. If Kisenosato some how manages to win the first one, the two will fight a tie breaker after Harumafuji and Kakuryu fight the last match of the basho. Given that Kisenosato can’t really do anything with his left arm (and he’s left handed) it’s going to be a long shot. My hope is that Kisenosato can survive without additional injury, and Terunofuji does not do anything to further lose face.

Harumafuji vs Kakuryu – This bout has very little impact, save to see if Kakuryu can get to double digits this time. Both are out of the yusho race, Harumafuji is banged up and struggling. I hope no one gets hurt and both can recover soon.

Tamawashi vs Takayasu – If Takayasu can win this one, it means that he will need 10 wins in May to become Ozeki. It’s still a tall order, but a 12-3 record might also give him Jun-Yusho status for the first time in his career. Tamawashi will likely stay at Sekiwake for May, but needs wins to start making the case for promotion to Ozeki himself.

Kotoshogiku vs Yoshikaze – I hope both of these well loved veterans have some fun with this match. Both have kachi-koshi, and both are looking at retirement in the not too distant future. Kotoshogiku will try to wrap up Yoshikaze, and Yoshikaze will try to stay mobile.

Kachi/Make-Koshi

A number of rikishi go into the final day at 7-7, and will exit the final day either with promotion or demotion as their next move. This includes

Ishiura vs Takarafuji – First meeting between these two, Takarafuji already make-koshi

Endo vs Tochinoshin – Both at 7-7, the loser gets a demotion. Prior meetings are evenly split, but Tochinoshin is a shadow of his former self.

Daishomaru vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji has his first make-koshi of his sumo career, but Daishomaru has a chance of kachi-koshi if he can win.

Myogiryu vs Aoiyama – Should be an easy win for Aoiyama, Myogiryu already make-koshi

Ichinojo vs Ura – Maegashira 7 Ichinojo vs Maegashira 12 Ura. Ichinojo already make-koshi, Ura trying to stay in the top division. A huge mismatch in size and speed. This may be a strange one indeed.

Takayasu Recovers, Defeats Takarafuji


Bout Included Mawashi Malfunction

On day 14, Takayasu racked up his 11th with, an important addition for his quest to win promotion to Ozeki. The match featured a solid display of yotsu-zumō, but was halted by the Gyoji, as Takarafuji’s mawashi threatened to come un-done mid battle. As shown in earlier posts, the Gyoji stops the match, throws his gumbai over his shoulder and re-ties the offending garment.

This 11th win matters a great deal for Takayasu, as it means that he was able to set his disappointment over his day 11 loss aside, and overcome whatever worries he has for his friend Kisenosato and focus on his sumo, which he did well today. Sadly this victory gave Takarafuji his make-koshi, and he will face a small rank demotion for May. Takayasu will need at least 11 wins in May to secure Ozeki, and we think that if he stays focused and healthy, that goal is in reach.

Video thanks to Jason’s All Sumo Channel on YouTube, which is a Tachiai mainstay. Feel free to hit his tip jar, too!