Quick Hatsu Review – Liam Loves Sumo

After a short break, I’m back with a short review of the 2019 Hatsu Basho. In this video, I briefly discuss the biggest ups and downs of the Hatsu Basho, surprises and disappointments, the Banzuke picture for the upcoming Haru Basho, and the big stories coming out of January.

I want to thank Bruce for encouraging me to post this to the front page. I’ve been brainstorming some new videos and content and I’m very excited to try them out.

Stay tuned, more sumo content coming soon!

Promotions to Juryo for Haru

“OMG, I’m joining my little bro in the salaried ranks!”

Via the Sumo Forum, promotions to Juryo have been announced. Four slots were open following retirements by Kisenosato, Takanoiwa, and Takekaze and impending demotion of Jokoryu. As expected, these will be filled by two brand-new sekitori and two returning ones. The newcomers are Kiribayama (Ms1w 4-3) and Ones To Watch Wakamotoharu (Ms3w 7-0 Yusho), Wakatakakage’s older brother. The men returning to the salaried ranks are Daiseido (Ms1e 4-3), back after 7 basho, and Takanofuji (Ms3e 5-2), the wrestler formerly known as Takayoshitoshi, back after 5 basho, who is joining his twin Takagenji in the second division.

Wrapping Up the Hatsu Storylines

Image courtesy of Nippon Sports

The Yusho Race

Congratulations to Sekiwake Tamawashi on his first career yusho! With a 13-2 championship following a 9-6 record at M2 in Kyushu, will the long-time sumo veteran be considered for an Ozeki promotion in March, and if so, what is his target number of wins? After today’s non-promotion decision (see below), who knows!

Kadoban Watch

After slow starts, Takayasu and Goeido rebounded with creditable 9-6 final records, and will once again be ranked O1e and O1w in Osaka. Injured Tochinoshin (0-5-10) will be kadoban at Haru, needing 8 wins to retain his Ozeki rank. The good news? He should finally be “promoted” from O2w to O2e after Kisenosato’s retirement removed the need to balance the banuke.

Takakeisho’s Ozeki Run

Today we learned that 33 wins in three basho while ranked in sanyaku isn’t always enough. There have been 38 prior instances of such performances in the six-basho era (since 1958), and 35 of them led to Ozeki promotion. Of the three exceptions, two overlapping ones involved Miyabiyama in 2006, and he is a special case, as he was trying to get re-promoted to Ozeki after being demoted from the rank 5 years earlier. The other instance was Baruto in 2009-2010, who was denied promotion after going K1e 12-3, S1e 9-6, S1e 12-3 with a jun-yusho. He responded by ensuring that he wouldn’t be overlooked again with a 14-1 jun-yusho in the March tournament. Can Takakeisho similarly force the issue in Osaka? By the way, Kisenosato’s retirement now means that there will be one fewer named rank on the next banzuke. Because the total number of Makuuchi rikishi is fixed at 42, there has to be one more maegashira slot, so 17e will reappear.

The Sanyaku

The two Sekiwake will retain their ranks at Haru. The only question is whether they will switch sides. As is often the case, the banzuke committee decisions make for confusing precedents. They used to regularly reshuffle the Sekiwake ranks based on their records in the most recent basho, just as they still do with the Yokozuna and Ozeki. But then the practice appeared to stop. For instance, after the 2017 March tournament, 8-7 S1e Tamawashi stayed on the East side, despite S1w Takayasu finishing 12-3. However, after winning the 2018 Nagoya basho, S1w Mitakeumi (13-2) was moved ahead of S1e Ichinojo (8-7). What made the difference? The extra victory, the yusho, or something else? If it was the yusho, we could see Takakeisho move down to S1w instead of up to the anticipated O2w.

The ripple effects of Takakeisho’s non-promotion include Mitakeumi moving over to East Komusubi, rather than up to West Sekiwake, and only one Komusubi slot opening up. Conveniently, there is only one strong promotion candidate: M2 Hokutofuji (9-6), who was the only rikishi of the ten ranked between M1 and M5 to finish with more wins than losses, and who will finally make his sanyaku debut after missing out despite going 11-4 at M3 in Kyushu in 2017.

Without a second open sanyaku slot, Kaisei will have to content himself with being the top maegashira. After that, the upper maegashira ranks are a mess. The next 10 spots on the banzuke will have to be filled with a mix of rikishi from the upper ranks who won’t be demoted far despite posting losing records, and those from down the banzuke who’ll receive overly generous promotions. The former group includes K1e Myogiryu (5-10), M1e Tochiozan (6-9), M1w Ichinojo (6-9), M2e Nishikigi (7-8), M3e Shodai (7-8), and M4w Okinoumi (7-8). The latter consists of M7w Daieisho (9-6), M9w Endo (10-5), M6e Chiyotairyu (8-7), and M6w Onosho (8-7). I’ll do my best to sort out their order in my upcoming regular banzuke prediction post.

The 7-7 Club

Half of this group succeeded in picking up their kachi-koshi, while the others lost to drop to make-koshi. Winning on the final day were M12 Meisei and M8 Asanoyama, while M15 Kotoeko and M5 Aoiyama ended the tournament on a down note.

Makuuchi Turnover

The five clear open slots—vacated by Daishomaru, Daiamami, and Kotoyuki’s demotions and Kisenosato and Takanoiwa’s retirements—are spoken for by Tomokaze and Daishoho, who clinched promotion with final-day victories, and Terutsuyoshi, Ishiura, and Toyonoshima, who dropped their final matches, but had already done just enough (in fact, Terutsuyoshi lost on four straight days after securing his kachi-koshi, while Ishiura closed the tournament with three straight losses). It will be exciting to see at least three Makuuchi debuts—the most since there were four in May of 2013.

Kagayaki defeated Yutakayama to become the last man in the top division to reach safety. That leaves the 6-9 M14 duo of Yutakayama and Chiyoshoma on the bubble. In the Juryo bout matching two promotion contenders, yusho winner Shimanoumi prevailed over Chiyomaru, likely eliminating the latter from consideration. Will Shimanoumi’s 13-2 record from all the way down at J11 be good enough to ensure a Makuuchi debut and force down Chiyoshoma? I’d say yes, but it’ll be a close call—after the last two basho, rikishi with 6-9 records at M14w just hung on to the final rung of the top-division ladder. They could also drop Yutakayama in favor of Chiyomaru, but this seems less likely.

Ura update

Ura leaving the dohoyo leaning on a sewanin after re-injuring his knee

Although the world of sumo usually keeps silent about injuries and the decisions behind them, leaving us fans to speculate, in Ura’s case, the fans are lucky, as there is an oyakata who keeps us relatively informed on the tragic ex-actrobat wrestler.

Inagawa oyakata is a member of Ura’s heya, and he tweets updates about him from time to time. The first tweet appeared on January 23rd:

Good morning. This will become known anyway, so I decided to just come out and tell.

The result of Ura’s medical examination this time is the same as his previous injury – a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Once he settles down, I will talk to him and try to inform you if there is anything to report

This was rather ominous. But today, during the various heya’s senshuraku parties, Inagawa oyakata came up with a new tweet:

Thank goodness… As it is something only the man himself can decide through his worries, all I can do is support him. But when we met, he immediately said “I’m having surgery, and work on my comeback once again”. I’m very happy. Everybody, we’ll be grateful for your continued support!

And I’m very grateful to Inagawa oyakata for these tweets. So the bottom line is: No intai at the moment, but also do not expect to see Ura in the upper divisions any time soon. Better luck this time!

Tamawashi Wins Hatsu Basho Yusho

Tamawashi Yusho Parade
Photo c/o @sumokyokai

With a final record of 13-2, Sekiwake Tamawashi of Kataonami-beya has won his first yusho in the 2019 Hatsu honbasho at the Kokugikan.

On Senshuraku, needing a win to clinch the cup (and the macaron, and the myriad other prizes) regardless of other results, Tamawashi saw off the challenge of Maegashira 9 Endo, winning by tsukiotoshi to seal the championship. Tamawashi is the fourth first-time winner in the past seven tournaments (following Tochinoshin, Mitakeumi and Takakeisho), and the second-oldest first time winner.

Remarkably, Tamawashi’s wife also gave birth to their second son on the day of his first Yusho, so we congratulate Tamawashi on an incredible day in his career and for his family!

The Hatsu basho championship originally looked to be heading the way of Dai-Yokozuna Hakuho, and despite some hairy moments, at 10-0 it seemed, as Bruce and I speculated on the latest Tachiai podcast, that a procession towards the legend’s 42nd yusho felt all but inevitable. However, in the second week, Hakuho’s injury problems told, and after successive losses, including Hakuho’s first ever loss to Tamawashi, the title race swung in favor of his fellow Mongolian.

Elsewhere, Inside Sport Japan have reported on their Instagram that despite racking up 33 wins over the past 3 basho, Jun-yusho grabbing Sekiwake Takakeisho will not be promoted to Ozeki. Apparently the nature of his final bout loss to Goeido meant that the NSK had not seen enough for him to be ready for sumo’s highest rank at this time.

Day 15’s results also mean that the sansho, or special prizes list has been confirmed as follows (following lksumo’s earlier post):

Shukun-sho – Outstanding Performance Prize
Tamawashi (first win)
Mitakeumi (fourth win)

Kanto-sho – Fighting Spirit Prize
Tamawashi (first win)

Gino-sho – Technique prize
Takakeisho (first win)

Congratulations again to Sekiwake Tamawashi! We now look ahead to a Haru-basho featuring two Ozeki runs, one kadoban Ozeki, and significant banzuke turnover, as spaces will need to be filled following the three intai that have occurred since the last banzuke was written.

Hatsu Special Prizes

The list of special prizes has been posted:

Shukun-sho (Outstanding Performance Award)
West Komusubi Mitakeumi
East Sekiwake Takakeisho (conditional)
West Sekiwake Tamawashi (conditional)

Kanto-sho (Fighting Spirit Prize)
West Sekiwake Tamawashi

Gino-sho (Technique Prize)
East Sekiwake Takakeisho

Mitakeumi defeated all three Yokozuna, two Ozeki, and both of the potential yusho winners. Tamawashi and Takakeisho won’t walk away empty-handed, but their shukun-sho are conditional, apparently on winning the yusho. It looks like no prizes for Kaisei or Endo even with victories on senshuraku.