Haru Day 15 Preview

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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!

Yokozuna Harumafuji Defeated By Sekiwake Tamawashi

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Clinches Kachi-Koshi With Important Victory

In a further sign that the current Sekiwake ranked rikishi are on a path towards higher ranks, Tamawashi bested Yokozuna Harumafuji in a fast, aggressive bout. This victory gave Tamawashi his much needed kachi-koshi, signaling he will retain the rank of Sekiwake for his third consecutive tournament. Tamawashi cannot necessarily be considered to be in contention for promotion to Ozeki yet. He can only, at best, reach 9 wins this tournament, which would not make a strong case for promotion. But the ability to survive and even thrive in sumo’s toughest rank speaks volumes about his skill and tenacity.

It’s also noteworthy that there were multiple reports of heckling from the crowd directed towards Yokozuna Harumafuji. I am going to assume that it’s in response to Kisenosato’s injuries following the day 13 match with Harumafuji, and Tachiai hopes that Japanese sumo fans are just blowing off a bit of steam. The last thing sumo needs is some manner of endemic anti-Mongolian theme.

Yokozuna Kisenosato’s Second Defeat

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Competed In Spite Of Painful Injury

In a move that surprised many, Yokozuna Kisenosato decided that he would not withdraw from Haru, and in fact mounted the dohyo to face Yokozuna Kakuryu on day 14. After Friday’s injury, many in the sumo press as well as myself expected Kisenosato to be barred from further competition by his doctor. Sumo association officials were very tight lipped about the exact nature of his injury and his condition. In information from the Japanese press (thanks to Kintamayama):

“This morning we had a chat about various things. He said he would like to participate today. He is strongly motivated.,” said his Oyakata Tagonoura. His condition? “He can move. There are two days left and there other other rikishi. He is a bit better than yesterday.. I’ll watch today’s bout and if it’s really bad we might have to reconsider..But if he will be OK he will appear on the last day as well. He will of course be doing the Yokozuna dohyo-iri and will move his body” added the Oyakata, not divulging much.

With Kisenosato’s loss, Terunofuji steps into sole the lead in the yusho race. The championship will be decided on day 15, when the injured Kisenosato faces Terunofuji in the second to last bout of the day. Tachiai hopes that Terunofuji has all of that henka nonsense out of his system, and faces Kisenosato like an Ozeki.

Kotoshogiku’s Ozeki Bid Ends

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Terminated by Terunofuji’s Henka

In on of the most disappointing 5 minutes of sumo of my life, Sekiwake Kotoshogiku’s bid to reclaim his Ozeki rank, and likely retire on a high note, ended when Terunofuji chose to employ a henka rather than give the fading rikishi an honest fight. The match had trouble getting started, with Terunofuji coming off the line prematurely, and matta was called.

On the restart, Kotoshogiku launched into the tachiai, but found that Terunofuji had leapt to the side. Thus ends a valiant effort by a long serving rikishi to end things on a high note. The crowd in Osaka was shocked, and I might say insulted. Everyone assumed that Terunofuji was going to win this bout, but they wanted to see him win via strength and skill. The expression on the crowd’s faces on the image above speak volumes.