Natsu Day 11 Highlights

Tochinoshin-salt

Day 11 presented no surprises, but had some solid sumo for fans to enjoy. Thankfully Hokutofuji is kyujo, and hopefully any injury to his skull or brain will be addressed before he bouts the dohyo again. The Ozeki bid by Tochinoshin is about to enter its final stage. He has 11 wins now, which is numerically sufficient for promotion. But the elevation to sumo’s second highest rank is not simply a numbers game. It revolves around the NSK and to a lesser extent the Yokozuna Deliberation Committee deciding that the performance period in question meets a threshold for promotion.

Tochinoshin’s 11 wins have all be impressive, overpowering wins. He is clearly one of the most genki or possibly THE most genki man in sumo right now. But his 11 wins can be minimized by members of the NSK or YDC citing that they come in a tournament with no Ozeki, and should he fail to defeat either Yokozuna, the raw numbers may be deemed insufficient. Please keep in mind, I don’t get to make this decision, I am not a member of the NSK or the YDC. I am just some guy in Texas who loves sumo.

For myself I think he will beat at least one Yokozuna, and he may end up with the Yusho, which would eliminate all reservation by the NSK and YDC, in my opinion. At the larger scale, sumo needs a more stable Yokozuna / Ozeki corps, and this is how that rebuilding starts. If Tochinoshin can maintain this level of performance, he will make a fine Ozeki, and sumo will be the better for it.

Highlight Matches

Kyokutaisei defeats Gagamaru – Planet Gagamaru was his traditional, lethargic self. He put forth some effort, but he lived up to his current 2-9 tournament score. This match is notable not just because of the gravity waves that disrupted LIGO observations of colliding black holes as the shitatenage took him to the clay, but Shin-Maegashira Kyokutaisei scored his kachi-koshi, and will be in Makuuchi for Nagoya.

Arawashi defeats Takekaze – Both rikishi put a bunch of effort into this. Both are at the make-koshi line now, and for Takekaze, there is a real desire to not be considered for Juryo in July. The saving grace is that there is not a huge cadre of Juryo men who are beating down the door to Makuuchi.

Myogiryu defeats Chiyonokuni – Myogiryu gets his kachi-koshi, and it really looks like Chiyonokuni may have decided to coast to the finish this time. I can understand why. He is at a good rank, and he may not be genki enough for a full cruise through the joi. He’s done that a few times and he ends up getting pounded. His sumo is improving, but I am going to guess he wants to hit around Maegashira 6 or so for Nagoya. This will let him figure out if he has advanced enough to possibly accomplish anything in joi.

Nishikigi fusensho over Hokutofuji – With humble gratitude to the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, Hokutofuji is kyujo for now, hopefully getting that head scanned and any sort of medical treatment needed. As a result, the man who never gives up, Niskikigi, gets his kachi-koshi at the very bottom of the banzuke, and will be Makuuchi for Nagoya. He really has put forth a lot of effort to hold on by his fingertips, and it’s great to see it pay off.

Takakeisho defeats Takarafuji – As expected, this was a fascinating match to watch. From the tachiai, Takarafuji is working to get control of Takakeisho, with Takakeisho constantly moving about and landing blows. If you have a chance to watch this on replay or YouTube, watch their feet! For whatever reason, I think a rikishi’s feet say more about what they are doing than their arms or heads. Takarafuji keeps being forced to give up his defensive footing and retreat. As soon as he is moving backwards, Takakeisho matches the timing of his steps to land thrusts when his feet are not planted. This just accelerates Takarafuji’s movement. When Takakeisho makes a mistake and pushes too high (as opposed to center mass of the chest), Takarafuji deftly moves inside and rushes forward. Takakeisho is not even slightly phased by this, and sets up a finishing move at the tawara. A ballerina pirouette later and Takakeisho’s won! Great great sumo from these two!

Ikioi defeats Daishomaru – Daishomaru launches into the tachiai with gusto, and it puts Ikioi into a defensive mode straight away. Ikioi circles away and breaks contact, then attacks. Again, watch Daishomaru’s feet at the moment Ikioi starts to press his offense. His feet are not set, his balance is not over his hips. Ikioi exploits this and rushes forward for the win. Ikioi with a well deserved kachi-koshi.

Yutakayama defeats Ryuden – Both are make-koshi, and possibly deeply so by the end of Natsu. But you would never know it looking at these two members of the Freshman team go at it with vigor. If you like yoritaoshi wins, do watch this one.

Shohozan defeats Abi – As pointed out in last night’s preview, Abi tends to get his arms up and stop his opponents tachiai. Today Shohozan countered that with pure speed. Robbed of his disruptive opening move, Abi did not have time to reset, and Shohozan attacked like a hangry bison in a fresh alfalfa field.

Tamawashi defeats Endo – Looks like Endo’s return may not have been a good tactical move. Tamawashi uses his face for a slapping target. As we learn in the Marines, you can have a great battle plan, but as soon as someone is punching you in the head, it’s tough to keep on plan. Endo make-koshi now.

Ichinojo defeats Chiyotairyu – Not one, but TWO loud belly blasts from these two men of girth. After the second one, it seems that Chiyotairyu’s sideburns were bereft of their power inducing kami, and Ichinojo more or less walked him out.

Tochinoshin defeats Kotoshogiku – I think the scheduling team moved Tochinoshin’s match with Hakuho up to day 12, because they wanted a chance to have a 3 way yusho battle set up for the final weekend of the basho. Points to Kotoshogiku for giving him a good fight, but Kotoshogiku got off balance, and Tochinoshin did not let that opportunity escape. I truly hope Kotoshogiku can get his kachi-koshi.

Hakuho defeats Shodai – About as minimal as a match could get, Shodai offered no resistance to speak of.

Kakuryu defeats Mitakeumi – There we go! That’s Kakuryu sumo to be certain. Mitakeumi gave him an excellent match, and it was touch and go for most of it. But as has been typical for Kakuryu, he likes to win in the last 3″ of the dohyo. Why rikishi don’t ease up as they get him close to the tawara is beyond me, as Kakuryu loves to use the tawara.

Natsu Day 11 Preview

Tochinoshin Raids The Vending Machine

Ready or not, here comes act 3! This is where we sort the winners from losers, and hand some hard-working rikishi the Emperor’s cup. Right now the cup is Tochinoshin’s to lose, and the only way this is competitive is if someone gets dirt on the undefeated man on an Ozeki run. That Ozeki run is looking more likely from a numbers standpoint. The only question so far is the “quality” of the wins.

Some fans and readers have very passionate positions on this, so I will mention up front that I am an armchair sumo fan living in Texas. I am not a member of the YDC, I don’t look like Colonel Sanders, and I have never been a holder of elder stock in the NSK. So my opinions count for exactly ZERO in the sumo world.

As I mentioned in the podcast, there is a means by which Tochinoshin might reach double digits, but be declared “not quite there yet” in terms of Ozeki. It all comes down to who he beats. He has yet to face any Ozeki this tournament (sorry, fresh out) or any Yokozuna (they are on the plan). But a shiroboshi from either of them would likely remove that as a possible criticism. Of course a yusho win would assure promotion.

I would also point out that to this date, Tochinoshin has never beaten Yokozuna Hakuho. Were he to accomplish that (and Tochinoshin is looking mighty genki right now), it would mark a turning point in both men’s careers, in my humble opinion. Tochinoshin is also 2-21 vs Yokozuna Kakuryu. One of those wins came last tournament, and was Kakuryu’s only loss. Clearly Tochinoshin as a big wall to climb, but I think at this point, he is at peak performance and more than ready to challenge the top men in the sport.

Natsu Leaderboard

Leader – Tochinoshin
Chasers – Kakuryu, Hakuho
HunterChiyonokuni

5 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 11

Gagamaru vs Kyokutaisei – Planet Gagamaru orbits into Makuuchi for a day. He is already make-koshi so this match may just be some kind of battle-reunion for Kyokutaisei, who needs one more win for a kachi-koshi. Kyokutaisei holds a 4-2 career lead.

Nishikigi vs Hokutofuji – Honestly, what the hell sumo world. Hokutofuji is hopefully going to get completely checked out by a neuro-medicine specialist and cleared for combat before he returns to the dohyo. If the sumo world thought there was trouble with a medical incident on the dohyo during jungyo, let there be some poor fellow have a stroke, a seizure, and aneurism or even convulse and die right there on the dohyo. No amount of salt will purify it again. I want to see Nishikigi go kachi-koshi by fusensho, thanks.

Sadanoumi vs Kagayaki – Both men still within reach of a winning record for Natsu, both of them fairly evenly matched. Sadanoumi looked very good in his day 10 match against Arawashi, and Kagayaki looks like he might be losing focus / running out of steam. They are 4-3 career, with a slight edge to Sadanoumi.

Yoshikaze vs Tochiozan – Both of these storied veterans have seen better days, both come in in some state of disrepair. Both of them 5-5, both of them wanting to secure a winning record. For some fans, it’s kind of a tough match to watch. We hate to see our heroes fade.

Takakeisho vs Takarafuji – Takakeisho is starting to look a bit better as the tournament goes forward, and it’s a great time to pair him up against Takarafuji. Takarafuji is very careful, forceful and under control. Takakeisho, when he is on his sumo, is a rippling vortex of conflicting force vectors, most of which he is going to transmit through your body. I am eager to see what he does with the very stable Takarafuji. Takakeisho won both their prior matches, but Takakeisho is not quite up to full power.

Daishomaru vs Ikioi – Winner gets kachi-koshi. Ikioi has had a bit of a rough ride with Mitakeumi on day 10, but I think he is a good match for Daishomaru right now. Ikioi still seems to be very stiff, in pain and moving with difficulty every match.

Shohozan vs Abi – Shohozan has a pair of massive arms. But note they are actually a bit short. Abi on the other hand has shown just how useful his near cartoon like reach can be. This is underscored that Shohozan has yet to win a match from Abi. It’s just possible that Abi might go kachi-koshi at Maegashira 2, which would mean a second basho in the job for Abi, and frankly would further elevate his profile to his growing base of fans around the world.

Tamawashi vs Endo – Loser of this one make-koshi. Tamawashi and Endo are very evenly matched across the board, and this has the potential of being an outstanding bit of sumo. Tamawashi will try to stay mobile, and I would look for Endo to go for a shallow grip straight off the tachiai. He will take a couple of fierce blows to get his grip, but if he can hold, he will control the match.

Chiyotairyu vs Ichinojo – Day 10 saw Ichinojo once again summon overwhelming strength against Shodai. So much so that he seems to simply push Shodai away like an empty udon bowl that could no longer hold his interest. Chiyotairyu likes to win at the tachiai with speed, force and power. Frankly Ichinojo might actually feel that, or he may be focus solely on checking the crowd for wolves. History for the two of them is an even split of 2-2.

Tochinoshin vs Kotoshogiku – Former Ozeki Kotoshogiku, aka the Kyushu Bulldozer, has a lot of frustration to discharge. He faces off against the man who would be Ozeki, who is looking like the strongest, most energetic man in sumo today. Kotoshogiku holds a 24-7 advantage over Tochinoshin, but in the last few tournaments, it’s been Tochinoshin who prevails. Tochinoshin will try to go chest to chest early, and that is just fine with Kotoshogiku. Kotoshogiku is looking stronger and healthier this tournament than he has in a while, so the hug-n-chug might actually overpower Tochinoshin. We know that Tochinoshin is strong enough to lift Kotoshogiku over his head and twirl him like a button, but Kotoshogiku has a surprising portion of his body weight below his mawashi, making his center of mass difficult to manipulate. This will either be a roaring match of the day, or a complete snooze fest. Double points if Tochinoshin pulls a henka.

Shodai vs Hakuho – Shodai is having a good basho, but Hakuho is getting himself amped up to stop Tochinoshin, and claim his 41st yusho. So Shodai is a bit of a warm up. But just a bit. There is that nagging problem of the one time Shodai beat him, so Hakuho will be on his guard, and hopefully not do anything too exotic just for the fun of it.

Kakuryu vs Mitakeumi – Not really sure what to say here. Kakuryu and his henka on day 10 was a ridiculous surprise, which he beclowned himself. I am sure he has and will catch a lot of grief over that. He is 3-3 against Mitakeumi, who copes well with Kakuryu’s reactive style.

Natsu Day 10 Highlights

Nishikigi

Act 2 is over, and the yusho race is set for the final 5 days of the Natsu basho. The one goal for act 2 that remains un-obtained is handing Ozeki hopeful, and Hatsu yusho winner Tochinoshin his first loss. At this point he needs one more win to stake his claim to sumo’s second highest rank, and his day 11 opponent, Kotoshogiku, is unlikely to be up to the task of defeating him.

Highlight Matches

Kotoeko defeats Myogiryu – In his first ever Makuuchi bout, Kotoeko attempts a henka, fails and finds himself chest to chest with Myogiryu. As they struggle for dominance, Myogiryu is moving backwards. Kotoeko finishes him with a rousing yoritaoshi, gaining his kachi-koshi, his first Makuuchi win, and his first kensho all in one brief moment.

Aminishiki defeats Asanoyama – Uncle Sumo picks up his second win of the tournament. Asanoyama took hold and marched forward, carrying a rather powerless Aminishiki towards the edge. A last minute throw at the tawara did not appear to work, and the gyoji gave the match to Asanoyama, but the judges call ad monoii, and reversed the decision. Replay showed some amazing footwork from Aminishiki, and he picked up the win.

Nishikigi defeats Chiyonokuni – In a shocker, the lowest Maegashira on the banzuke surprised a rikishi with a bonafide position on the leaderboard. Chiyonokuni is always very energetic, and he overwhelmed Nishikigi, who at times was staggering and off balance, but always quickly reset. Although he was absorbing most of Chiyonokuni’s offense, Nishikigi kept moving forward. Though the gumbai went to Chiyonokuni, a monoii confirmed that Nishikigi did in fact prevail. As mentioned many times, Nishikigi really wants to stay in the top division. That was some top division fighting spirit on display! Well done.

Takakeisho defeats Tochiozan – It’s a hope of mine that Takakeisho gets back into proper fighting form by Nagoya, and today’s match looked less stiff, wooden and robotic. Takakeisho, in spite of his bulbous torso, has a very natural and fluid element to his sumo. When he is using that fluidity, we see him win, and he makes it look easy and natural. This is also true of Hakuho, and even more so Enho. As stated at the start of the basho, the tadpoles are down, nursing their wounds, but will be back with fierce determination this summer. If Nagoya finds Takakeisho mid-Maegashira and Onosho lower Maegashira, the lower end of the torikumi may once again be the place with the best action.

Aoiyama defeats Yoshikaze – Every opponent goes for Yoshikaze’s face, and it’s kind of redundant. Yoshikaze fought back with strength, but there is just too much Aoiyama to slap out of the ring. Yoshikaze is certainly a half step slower than a couple of years ago, and I won’t be surprised to see him take up his kabu later this year.

Ryuden defeats Hokutofuji – A trio of false starts, the second featured Hokutofuji falling backward and receiving a strong knock to the back of his skull, which seems to have stunned and disoriented him. After the pre-bout injury, it was not too tough to win. Post match, Hokutofuji has trouble walking the hanamichi and into the tunnel. Hopefully an actual medical doctor checked him out. Concussions are not something you try to “heal naturally”.

Daieisho defeats Takarafuji – Quite a scrappy match that results in Daieisho picking up his 3rd win, avoiding make-koshi. Takarafuji seems to have the skill and technique, I wonder if a bit of mass and 10% more power would carry him to greater rank.

Yutakayama defeats Chiyoshoma – Notable in that this is Yutakayama’s first win of the Natsu basho. Chiyoshoma picked up his 8th loss and is now make-koshi.

Abi defeats Tamawashi – Wow! Ok, I have seen Abi do this a couple of times. He lifts both arms during the tachiai, connecting to his opponents shoulder and stopping their forward motion. Due to his long reach, his opponent is far short of a workable combat range, and is somewhat interrupted from their plan. Today, Abi pivoted and grabbed Tamawashi’s belt and rolled him out in one fluid motion.

Mitakeumi defeats Ikioi – Both of them came off the line in full battle mode, and it was glorious to see them fight for position and grip. Mitakeumi held the advantage, but Ikioi was conceding nothing. When Ikioi was able to switch from defense to offense, Mitakeumi deftly used Ikioi’s forward motion to thrust him down. I want to see what Ikioi can do when he’s healthy!

Tochinoshin defeats Chiyotairyu – Tochinoshin picks up his 10th win, and looks unstoppable. Today he proved that even the super-sized Chiyotairyu is not too heavy for him to lift and carry to the curb for trash day in Sumida-ku.

Ichinojo defeats Shodai – Slow motion, Maezumo style tachiai today, which left me choking on my tea. After that it was all Ichinojo herding Shodai to the edge and giving him a strong shove.

Kakuryu defeats Kotoshogiku – Sadly my gastric problems continued as Kakuryu sold the henka and Kotoshogiku bought it. Once again I found myself sputtering on my morning tea. While Yokozuna wins via henka are not really the way things are supposed to go, this one was kind of over the top and almost comical. Of course Kotoshogiku found it un-amusing in the extreme, and the crowd in the Kokugikan were likewise disappointed.

Hakuho defeats Endo – That disappointment was short lived, as Endo gave the dai-Yokozuna a solid match. The tempo was fast, and Hokuho was on pure offense. Endo’s strategy was to stalemate the Yokozuna and wait for an opportunity to exploit for an upset win. It did not take Hakuho long to figure this out, and he switched his sumo to a more disruptive, staccato tempo, which lured Endo in for the attack. That was all Hakuho needed to get him turned around and shoved out from behind. Excellent sumo, and great to see not only Endo come in with a solid strategy, but fantastic to see Hakuho shift gears like that.

Natsu Day 9 Preview

Natsu Day 9

After last night’s marathon live-blogging session, most of the Tachiai team is rightfully tired and looking for an early bed. But first, let’s discuss the matches that will happen day 9 in Tokyo while the US portion of the crew is tucked into their beds.

With two days remaining in act 2, the one remaining goal for the scheduling team is to get Tochinoshin to pick up at least one loss. They also would like to get (as lksumo points out) a loss or two onto Chiyonokuni and Daishomaru. The ideal situation would be a three-way tie between Hakuho, Kakuryu and Tochinoshin going into or shortly after the start of act 3. This would drive some excitement, and some ratings. The difficulty being that for the moment, Tochinoshin is the most genki of the whole Makuuchi division.

Normally one could place their trust in Hakuho as the ultimate governor of who wins and loses, but his sumo is off at the moment. Many fans are speculating like mad as to why, but you need to look no further than the recent death of his father, and the disruption to his family life and emotional state.

Natsu Leaderboard

Leader – Tochinoshin
ChasersKakuryu, Hakuho, Daishomaru, Chiyonokuni
Hunt Group – Shodai, Kotoshogiku, Ikioi, Daishomaru, Kyokutaisei, Myogiryu

7 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 9

Onosho vs Aminishiki – As we expected, Onosho is making a visit to Makuuchi to fill a gap left by Endo’s kyujo. It’s also likely the case that he is going to be back in the top division for July. Poor Uncle Sumo is in terrible shape right now, and likely to pick up his make-koshi against Onosho.

Ishiura vs Nishikigi – As the lowest ranked man in the top division, Nishikigi needs nothing less than a kachi-koshi to remain a Maegashira. Today’s match is tough luck for him, as he has a 7-4 deficit when facing off against Ishiura. Nishikigi needs 3 more wins out of the remaining 7 to hold on.

Takekaze vs Chiyonokuni – Takekaze seems to be fading fairly rapidly, and has not really had much sumo this tournament. He is still at 4-4, so it’s possible he could pick up enough wins to keep out of Juryo. Takekaze is highly evasive, where Chiyonokuni is direct and violent. The veteran holds a 5-3 career advantage over Chyonokuni.

Aoiyama vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki has never won against Aoiyama, but for this basho, Aoiyama is clearly hurt, and Kagayaki is fighting in possibly his best form ever. If there was a chance to start correcting that 0-5 losing streak against Aoiyama, day 9 looks like it could be the day.

Takakeisho vs Chiyomaru – I think this one will be a blast. We have the near constant motion of Takakeisho against the bulbous Chiyomaru, who showed on day 8 that he actually has some decent sumo chops against Okinoumi. Takakeisho has won 3 of their 4 prior meetings.

Hokutofuji vs Takarafuji – Notable to me in that Hokutofuji seems to be getting some sense of his sumo back together, and may actually offer some kind of challenge to Takarafuji who has been struggling this tournament with rikishi who tend to stay low. Hokutofuji has a long way to go to recover to the kind of genki he was last year, but his fans believe he has it in him.

Chiyotairyu vs Ikioi – This match is more even than it may seem. Ikioi has been fighting above his recent average during Osaka and Natsu. Ikioi delivered a winning hatakikomi, and I think he will find a way to overcome Chiyotairyu’s cannon ball tachiai and win again.

Abi vs Kaisei – This one seems just for fun, as I am going to guess that unless Abi applies some force behind his long-arm tsuppari, it’s going to come down to Kaisei’s mighty bulk as the deciding factor. They have split their two other matches, so it’s anyone’s guess. I know Abi is having a fun time regardless.

Tochinoshin vs Daieisho – Tochinoshin needs just three more, and I am guessing that his 3-1 career advantage over Daieisho means he’s going to likely get one of them today. Daieisho did surprise Goeido, but I doubt he will be able to overcome Tochinoshin.

Ichinojo vs Goeido – If my guess that Goeido is having ankle problems again is correct, he won’t have much resistance to whatever Ichinojo brings to the early portion of the match. Goeido’s only hope is to use his favorite and best tuned offense – speed. Rapid movement is not an Ichinojo aspect.

Kotoshogiku vs Hakuho – Hakuho leads the series 53-6. I am going to say 54-6 shortly. Kotoshogiku is looking better this basho than he has in some time, and Hakuho looking rough and chaotic. But I still think “The Boss” will dispatch the Kyushu Bulldozer. Maybe not cleanly, but effectively.

Kakuryu vs Shodai – The career record favors Kakuryu 7-0, so he is clearly likely to win this one. But Shodai has been getting his opponents to more or less defeat themselves somehow this tournament. Perhaps some kind of Jedi mind trick. So there’s a small chance he my find a way to get Kakuryu to do himself in, and I will be eagerly watching the final match of the day.

Natsu Day 8 Preview

Natsu Day 8.jpg

Time To Go Live

Overnight US time, NHK World will be broadcasting the last 50 minutes of Makuuchi live, and we will be live blogging during the event. Now, you may think it’s crazy to be awake in the middle of the night for sumo, but we sumo fans are an odd, dedicated lot. Our sport is televised some 8-11 hours different, and so Japan’s afternoon is the middle of the night for us. I will caution that all manner of calamities may take place that cause things to go poorly or not happen at all, but to the best of our ability, we will be adding our own brand of commentary, insight and inappropriate humor.

With Endo’s shocking withdrawal from the tournament, a gap has opened in the torikumi. Until someone else goes kyujo or Endo returns, we will be seeing daily visitors from Juryo to fill the open slot in the fight card. Today it’s long term veteran Sokokurai. Yes, the guy with the cat. But we are likely to see Onosho as well later this week.

Natsu Leaderboard

LeaderTochinoshin
ChasersKakuryu, Hakuho, Daishomaru, Chiyonokuni
Hunt Group – Shodai, Kotoshogiku, Ikioi, Kagayaki, Asanoyama, Kyokutaisei, Myogiryu

8 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 8

No, let’s be honest here – we are live blogging this beast, we are watching the whole thing. But here are some comments.

Nishikigi vs Sokokurai – Will the “Mole Boss” show up and attack Nishikigi while his glasses are off? I doubt it, but should that happen look for Hakuho to task one of his tsukebito to chase the beast away before he comes out for his match. Nishikigi holds a 3-1 career lead, making the “Mole Boss Gambit” more credible. In our records, the Mole Boss holds an 8-0 or better advantage over all opponents.

Arawashi vs Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei hit a speed bump day 7, but is still just 3 wins away from a kachi-koshi in his first posting to the top divisions. Arawashi has a mirror record and needs to start putting white stars on the board today.

Ishiura vs Chiyonokuni – Ishiura has shown some fire in the the last few days, and Chiyonokuni is always ready for a brawl. If Ishiura brings his real sumo to the dohyo, this match could be a frantic recreation of the battle of Sekigahara.

Yoshikaze vs Takakeisho – If day 8 did not support my “Takakeisho is a poorly constructed Mandroid” theory, I don’t know what does. The real Takakeisho would be a complete handful for the somewhat un-genki berskerer, but this one… who can tell? They are tied 2-2 over their career, but both are quite a bit off their par performances.

Chiyoshoma vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji is starting to rally, and his day 8 match against Chiyoshoma might allow him to pull even. Chiyoshoma’s record for Natsu is nearly a lost cause now, and it’s probably down to injuries.

Kagayaki vs Ikioi – What keeps Ikioi going? Electric shocks? Really good chanko? Fear of being chased down and cuddled to death by a legion of sumo grannies? It matter not, as I predict his day 8 match with Kagayaki will be a great display of sumo fundamentals executed with strength and determination. No matter who wins, they are probably going to look good doing it. Then again Kagayaki has never won against Ikioi, so let’s say it’s probably Ikioi’s to lose.

Kotoshogiku vs Abi – What’s going to happen here? Abi seems to have borrowed Ura’s improbability module, and its causing all kinds of havoc among the top end of the banzuke. They have split their prior 2 matches, but I would point out that Kotoshogiku is having his best tournament since Aki of last year.

Mitakeumi vs Shohozan – Shohozan showed surprising versatility on day 7, and hopefully Mitakeumi was taking notes. Mitakeumi likes to open fast and endure any punishment to either get an inside tsuppari position, or get his opponent on the move. Shohozan holds a slight 3-4 career lead.

Tochinoshin vs Ichinojo – Look big man, we need you to rally here. Tochinoshin needs some dirt to really make this basho exciting. I know you have doubts now because you racked up a string of losses, but you are the biggest man on the dohyo this afternoon. He can in fact lift you, but you can use that to open a weakness in his attack. While this would be fun, Tochinoshin holds an 11-5 advantage over the Boulder, so I think we know where this is headed.

Daieisho vs Goeido – This had better be an easy win for Goeido.

Kakuryu vs Chiyotairyu – Big K holds an 8-0 advantage over the man with a kami in his sideburns. But given Chiyotairyu’s proclivity to cannonball tachiai, I am going to put money on Kakuryu pulling.

Yutakayama vs Hakuho – Winless Yutakayama goes up against the dai-Yokozuna. Sucks to be Yutakayama today.

Natsu Day 7 Preview

Natsu Day 7

Welcome to the middle weekend of the Natsu basho! NHK is going live early Sunday morning for the last 50 minutes of Makuuchi, and Tachiai will be live-blogging all of Makuuchi in sympathy. If you are up in the middle of the night for some reason (any reason) feel free to follow along with us as we enjoy expanded coverage from NHK World. Depending on how well our tech works, we may have people contributing from inside the Kokugikan.

Take a look at the leaderboard below, like a massive wedge of swirling chaos, with Tochinoshin at its apex. For the scheduling crew, the goal is to get dirt on that Ozeki hopeful soon, blowing the yusho race wide open once more. There has been plenty of coverage of Abi’s kinboshi on Japanese news programs in the past 12 hours, and it’s fun to see someone like Abi who is so obviously having a good time really getting a chance to enjoy himself.

Natsu Leaderboard

Leader – Tochinoshin
Chasers – Kakuryu, Hakuho, Shodai, Daishomaru, Chiyonokuni, Kyokutaisei
Hunt Group – Ichinojo, Mitakeumi, Chiyotairyu, Kotoshogiku, Ikioi, Yoshikaze, Kagayaki, Asanoyama, Sadanoumi, Myogiryu

9 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 7

Somewhat abbreviated tonight due to constraints of baby wrangling…

Tochiozan vs Kyokutaisei – First time meeting between these two, Kyokutaisei is coming in with the better record, and he seems to be an unknown quantity for most of the long-term rikishi. Given Tochiozan’s experience, I am sure he is going to put up a decent fight.

Aoiyama vs Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni has been fighting well, but both of these men love to beat the daylights out of their opponents. So I am going to predict a couple of haymakers and a flurry of frantic footwork.

Daishomaru vs Takakeisho – It came to me today as I was re-watching coverage. Right now Takakeisho is fighting like someone who is imitating Takakeisho’s sumo. It’s like some cheap knock-off, that you know is not legit but looks good enough. This has let me to worry that Takakeisho has been replaced with some bad replicant or Man-droid of some sort. Then it came to me that they are using Takakeisho to debut Goeido. They load their bug fixes into this unit to see if they work at all. Sumo is doomed.

Hokutofuji vs Chiyomaru – Hokutofuji holds a 3-0 career advantage over the bulbous one, and he could really use the win.

Yoshikaze vs Ikioi – A pair of banged up veterans who are struggling daily to overcome the pain, you have to feel for these two. Their career record is 7-7, so that means someone has to lose a finger if they fall off the dohyo.

Kotoshogiku vs Ryuden – First time meeting. Ryuden is having a terrible basho, and Kotoshogiku a good one. I am betting on some hug-n-chug delivery around 5:00 PM, just after the news break.

Mitakeumi vs Kaisei – Mitakeumi has never beaten Kaisei! This giant bulky Brazilian has some kind of magic spell over the tadpoles, it seems.

Shohozan vs Ichinojo – What changed in Ichinojo since day 3? Nothing, except the brain-meat that is holding him back. Hopefully he had a nice bucket of ice cream, story time with his favorite tossing pony and a nice nap where no wolves would get him.

Tochinoshin vs Endo – Feeling genki Endo? You are going to need to find a way to keep his left hand from finding its mark. Endo studies films of his opponents on many days, and if someone can figure out a way to blunt Tochinoshin, it’s going to be Endo.

Abi vs Goeido – Goeido is a fun little sumo bot. He’s fast when he wants to be, powerful when he cares to be, but he’s not very long in the arms or legs. I am going to guess he rockets off the shikiri-sen and tries to cannonball Abi out in the blink of an eye. But I predict that if he fails at that, the length of his appendages is going to confound the GoeidOS software, possibly causing him to reboot.

Chiyotairyu vs Hakuho – The boss had an off day on day 6, I am going to guess he comes back dialed in and looking for a way to vent his frustration. The one wrinkle in this plans will be the kami that inhabits Chiyotairyu’s sideburns. I suggest incense and purification at a shrine before arriving at the Kokugikan.

Kakuryu vs Yutakayama – Leave your predictions on which side Kakuryu will drop him from, and who he will land upon.

Natsu Day 6 Highlights

Abi-Head

The first few days of Natsu were each “as expected”, and many of the great fans across the sumo world worried that this basho was going to be boring. Today the Natsu basho tore off it’s salaryman costume in front of everyone to reveal an atomic monster with 18 inch fangs. A reminder that Tachiai is not spoiler free, so stop reading if you don’t want to be exposed to the news.

Typically, we won’t take a look at the yusho race until previewing day 7, but it’s worth noting that Ozeki hopeful Tochinoshin is all alone in the undefeated column, with a mass of rikishi, including both Yokozuna, following at one loss. Tochinoshin has yet to face any serious challenger, so its far too early to begin to consider a Tochinoshin yusho, but today it’s his to lose. But going into the middle weekend, it’s a drunken barnyard brawl at the top.

We will discuss further in the highlight section, but Abi racked his first kinboshi today, much to everyone’s delight. He is still likely headed into a make-koshi as the ultimate reward for his first visit to the joi, but the kid has a bright future. His unusual body proportions coupled with an unquenchable can-do attitude has the potential to take him far.

Highlight Matches

Kyokutaisei defeats Aoiyama – This match begins with Aoiyama on the offensive, pushing Kyokutaisei around at will. Kyokutaisei persists but gives ground, and at one point I can only assume that Aoiyama decides that he had him out, and ceases his oshi-attack. At that moment Kyokutaisei rallies and drives him out. Kyokutaisei is doing quite well in his first Makuuchi tournament.

Ishiura defeats Daiamami – Ishiura blasts off the shikiri-sen, landing against Daiamami, grabbing his right arm and pivoting. Ishirua then delivers a brutal round-house slap to Daiamami’s face, which only seems to fire Ishiura up even more. Diving in against the now somewhat stunned Daiamami, Ishiura grabs the mawashi and a leg, and carries the now completely disoriented Daiamami to the curb like it’s recycling day.

Chiyonokuni vs Okinoumi – Chiyonokuni cranks it up again today, seizing the initiative straight out of the tachiai, and controlling Okinoumi. When Chiyonokuni is fighting like this, he is tough to beat his combination of offense, drive and sheer speed. His biggest impediment is that he seems to not be able to consistently deliver wins except when he is ranked below Maegashira 7.

Asanoyama defeats Takakeisho – Takakeisho took control from the tachiai, and got slap happy almost at once. It put Asanoyama into a reactive defense mode, but as he frequently does, Takakeisho’s upper body tried to attack while his lower body was not quite under control. Asanoyama reads this and slaps him down. Odd as it may seem, enrollment in a high intensity yoga program would get Takakeisho over that problem in a few months.

Hokutofuji defeats Arawashi – Remarkable because Hokutofuji actually looked strong, poised and in charge of his sumo for once. Please keep doing that.

Yoshikaze defeats Chiyoshoma – Great to watch, as Yoshikaze executes the most leisurely tachiai of the day. I am sure he realized the chances of a Chiyoshoma henka were quite high, so he took his time just inching forward until Chiyoshoma made solid contact. Watch it in slow-motion, it’s almost comical.

Kagayaki defeats Takarafuji – What a fantastic display of two strong, disciplined rikishi executing fantastic sumo fundamentals. I tell you, keep an eye on Kagayaki. He has a somewhat unfortunate body shape, but this man seems driven, and he continues to improve his already solid sumo.

Chiyomaru defeats Ikioi – Impressive bout, once again a clearly injured Ikioi threw any notion of protecting himself to the winds and attacked with everything he could muster against the bulbous Chiyomaru. As indomitable as your spirit might be, Ikioi, that’s a lot of rikishi to move. Chiyomaru kept cool and found a way to deliver a tsukiotoshi as Ikioi pressed the attack, it was a really nice win.

Kotoshogiku defeats Shohozan – Kotoshogiku locks up Shohozan with a double arm-bar hold and then delivers the hug-n-chug for a win. Kotoshogiku is looking surprisingly genki.

Kaisei defeats Shodai – I have no idea why Shodai should suddenly get soft against Kaisei, but he has never managed to beat the Brazilian ever. Today was no exception, Shodai was almost not even trying.

Mitakeumi defeats Endo – This was all Mitakeumi from the start. At one point Endo tries to shift out of oshi-mode, with a right hand grab towards the front of Mitakeumi’s mawashi. Even that amount of weight shift brought him forward enough that Mitakeumi applied the swing down for the win. Mitakeumi got inside early and never gave up advantage, nice work.

Tochinoshin defeats Yutakayama – Winless Yutakayama really made him work hard for this victory, which surprised me. This bout was unusual as Tochinoshin did not even seem to try to grab Yutakayama’s mawashi, but instead went to match him in tsuppari. The final seconds of the match feature Tochinoshin rapidly moving backward trying to pull Yutakayama down.

Tamawashi defeats Ichinojo – We can now worry that his day 5 loss has shattered Ichinojo’s confidence, and it may take him a day or two to regroup. Tamawashi was in control the entire time, with Ichinojo looking a bit lost.

Chiyotairyu defeats Goeido – Its now clear that Goeido 2.1 is a dud, and his technicians are going to try to roll him back to the buggy but highly aggressive 2.0 version over night.

Kakuryu defeats Daieisho – Really worrisome because Kakuryu seems to have just given up and decided he is going to win every match by pulling. The good news for him is that as soon as someone puts dirt on Tochinoshin, the yusho race is wide open again.

Abi defeats Hakuho – Yes, it was time to let the zabuton fly in the Kokugikan, and with good reason. The gangly stick insect with a heart of gold overwhelmed the dai-Yokozuna, and the roar from the Kokugikan was likely heard in Tsukiji. Hakuho looked unprepared, off balance and perhaps a bit disoriented. Abi’s first kinboshi, and it was great to see him achieve it. The look on Abi’s face has he takes the mountain of kensho from the gyoji’s gunbai is priceless, in fact it is my computer desktop’s background picture for the remainder of the day.

Kensho-Mountain.jpg

Everything You Need to Know After Act One

 

Act 1

After a somewhat tepid start, the 2018 Natsu Basho is beginning to heat up. So far we’ve seen some excellent sumo from one end of the banzuke to the other, especially from the men in the Joi who are in top form and have been delivering some great bouts. With Act One done and dusted, here’s everything you need to know after the first five days of the Natsu Basho!

Yusho Race

It’s still early in the Yusho race, but five days of sumo has quickly whittled down the numbers and we now have a very competitive leaderboard. At the top, we have Shodai, Tochinoshin, and Yokozuna Hakuho who all still have perfect records after Act One. Right behind them is the chase group of 4-1 rikishi such as Kyokutaisei, Chiyonokuni, Daishomaru, Ichinojo, and Kakuryu. brining up the rear is a massive hunt group of rikishi all with two losses, including Sadanoumi, Daiamami, Asanoyama, Yoshikaze, Kotoshogiku, Mitakeumi, and Endo just to name a few.

Kachi Koshi and Make Koshi

While fortunes certainly can change,  there are several rikishi with a good shot of reaching their kashi koshi by the end of Act Two, and even more who will have to put some serious work in to avoid their make koshi. Kyokutaisei, Chiyonokuni, Daishomaru, Ikioi, Shodai, Ichinojo, Tochinoshin, Kakuryu, and Hakuho all have four wins or more after the first act and are halfway to their coveted winning records. On the flip side of the coin, Aminishiki, Ishiura, Arawashi, Hokutofuji, Ryuden, Chiyomaru, Shohozan, Kaisei, Yutakayama, Tamawashi, Daiesihso, and Abi have all gotten at least four losses and will have to get their sumo in gear to avoid demotion in July.  Everyone else will have their fates decided later on in the Basho.

Kinboshi

We have only seen one gold star victory handed out so far this basho, and it was awarded to Maegashira 2 Shohozan, who defeated Yokozuna Kakuryu on Day 4. with upper Maegashira men such as Shodai and Ikioi off to very impressive starts, we may see the number of kinboshi rise if/when they get a crack at the two standing Yokozuna.

Kyujo

With the exception of Yokozuna Kisenosato and Ozeki Takayasu pulling out before the official tournament start, the Makuuchi Division has been remarkably kyujo-free so far. While this certainly can change later on in the competition, it does seem like the men in the mawashis are taking extra care of late to ensure that nasty falls off the dohyo are less common. With any luck, this new sense of camaraderie will mean fewer rikishi pulling out due to fall related injuries.

Act Two will see the heat rise in Tokyo as the competition gets fiercer and fiercer at the 2018 Natsu Basho. The Mid-Basho weekend is shaping up to be an excellent display of sumo and this fan can’t wait to see what will happen! Let Act Two begin!!

 

 

Natsu Day 5 Preview

Natsu Day 5

With day 5 we mark the end of the first act of the Natsu basho. The goal of the first act is to see who is hot, and who is not, and the schedulers have met that goal. Clearly at this point we are starting to get some good indications of who is going to at least start Natsu ahead of the pack. Let’s have a look.

  • Hakuho – Clearly whatever injuries other may have thought plagued “The Boss”, he is competing well enough to defeat all comers thus far. With any luck, he is getting warmed up and the week 2 matches will be (as Josh says) “Box Office”.
  • Tochinoshin – Well, Mr. Ozeki run is executing well. So far no one has given him a decent challenge, and the one hopeful for act 1, Mitakeumi, was no challenge at all.
  • Ichinojo – Not a surprise, but the Boulder is either hot or cold, and right now he remains hot. Where is all of this heading? I think if Ichinojo can keep motivated and fighting well, he is going to be a Sekiwake for a while.
  • Shodai – I am sure this is going to change, but Shodai? Ok, the guy has potential aplenty, but he gets the jitters and goes to pieces at times. But happy to see him get a solid start.
  • Kakuryu – In spite of one loss, I think he’s still in solid shape for this tournament, even if he may be really disappointed in himself now.

What We Are Watching Day 5

Sadanoumi vs Kyokutaisei – After a day 1 loss, new comer Kyokutaisei seems to be getting his confidence together, and focusing on his sumo. This will be a good test as these two have faced off 5 times in the past, and are just about evenly split. They also come into the bout with matching 3-1 records.

Tochiozan vs Asanoyama – Tochiozan was reported to be in fine form in the practice sessions leading up to the basho, but sputtered at the start. Has he gotten his sumo together? I am curious to see if Asanoyama can deliver his 4th win today. Asanoyama won their only prior match.

Daiamami vs Chiyonokuni – Again a pair with 3-1 records are going to face off in a match that could get high-intensity. Chiyonokuni always gets crazy if you let him get going, but Daiamami is once again showing solid, steady sumo.

Daishomaru vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji is still probably looking shaky, and Daishomaru has his sumo where he wants it. I would dearly love to see Hokutofuji get genki and go on a winning streak, but I am going to assume he is still hurt. Hokutofuji won all 3 of their prior engagements.

Yoshikaze vs Takarafuji – These two are fairly evenly matched, as their 7-6 career record would indicate. But Takarafuji has been looking sooth and confident, and I would give him an edge over the struggling Yoshikaze. But as a Yoshikaze fan, I am going to be hoping he can put on a solid showing for a second straight day.

Kotoshogiku vs Ikioi – Another great 3-1 match up. These two have had 13 prior matches, with Ikioi taking only 5. Kotoshogiku looks like he has strong command of his sumo right now, so this could be a great battle for day 5.

Chiyoshoma vs Shodai – Ok, I give up. Is Shodai going to stumble to a 5th straight win? Part of me wants to see him do that, just to get a broader understanding of how chaos works its magic. But to be honest, Chiyoshoma is not looking very good yet, and he has never beaten Shodai.

Mitakeumi vs Tamawashi – Ok, get this. During all those tournaments when they were both Sekiwake, these two racked up a 12 bout record that favors Mitakeumi 10-2. This one has potential.

Endo vs Ichinojo – The other really interesting match today, but it may be a complete dud. I know Endo wants to use his technical sumo on Ichinojo, but I think Ichinojo may be far too massive for Endo to have much effect unless he can get the Boulder to chase him around. That may be his strategy, but pulling against 225 kg is just a bit suicidal.

Tochinoshin vs Kaisei – Just hoping Tochinoshin does not injure himself trying to lift and shift that much Kaisei.

Yutakayama vs Goeido – If Goeido does not win this one clean and easy, I am going to start calling for a re-flash to factory settings.

Daieisho vs Hakuho – Should be another easy win for Hakuho.

Kakuryu vs Abi – All it takes is one crazy bad bout for Kakuryu, and fans like myself start to wonder if he can hold it together. While he is “on” he is really excellent, but he has bad modes (not unlike Goeido). So today he at taking on Abi, who should be fairly easy for him, but with that crazy body structure of his, it could give him an excuse to default to his “bad mode” sumo.

Natsu Day 4 Highlights

Abi-Head

Up until now, everything was happening as expected. But as we draw closer to the end of act 1, we are starting to get some rikishi at their full tournament strength, and the surprises are starting to flow. While the first three days of Natsu were enjoyable, they were bland and lifeless like a dried squid. Tough and chewy, but oh so much better than no rubber squid at all when you are hungry. Then day 4, the giant double hand sized bowl of spicy miso ramen. Nutritious, satisfying, and perhaps a bit dangerous.

In Juryo, Onosho, Takanoiwa and Yago remain unbeaten. Takanoiwa and Yago won’t be candidates for promotion to Makuuchi, but if Onosho can keep rolling he will be back for Nagoya in July. Enho is struggling at the top end of Makushita, and it might be a while before he can claw his way back to Juryo.

Highlight Matches

Kyokutaisei defeats Nishikigi – After a matta, Kyokutaisei takes advantage of Nishikigi’s poor vision to side-step a poorly timed charge, and get Nishikigi off balance and out.

Aoiyama defeats Myogiryu – Aoiyama finally wins one! It was a rapid pull down of veteran Myogiryu, but at least he has his first shiroboshi.

Chiyonokuni defeats Takakeisho – An excellent tachiai, and some fierce double-arm thrusts to begin, but it seems that Chiyonokuni can read Takakeisho like a copy of Fox in Socks. By the 3rd exchange, Takakeisho is too far forward, and Chiyonokuni helps him to the clay. Takakeisho is looking very rusty right now.

Daishomaru defeats Okinoumi – Daishomaru once again fighting well, strong, forward sumo from this guy, and he’s going places with his approach. Okinoumi is always hit or miss, but Daishomaru is good at Maegashira 9.

Hokutofuji defeats Kagayaki – The first moments of this match, I can’t help but notice Kagayaki’s sumo. He’s low, he’s moving forward strongly and it’s working. Then something lights in Hokutofuji and he battles back… and wins! Very happy that Hokutofuji can finally get a white mark on the board. Kagayaki is starting to remind me of a young Kisenosato.

Yoshikaze defeats Ryuden – Yoshikaze goes to the mawashi and wins. But this is a great match as Ryuden gives it everything he has and maybe a bit more. Usually Yoshikaze will thump his opponents around quite a bit before shoving them out, so it’s fun to see him grab the belt. The match ended with both men sailing off the East side into Takanohana’s lap, and a monoii was called as Yoshikaze’s foot touched down while Ryuden remained airborne. Excellent work by Ryuden staying off the clay while in flight, by the way. Oh fine – let’s have a re-do. Second match is notable in that Yoshikaze suspects a henka, and just stands up at the tachai. He grabs Ryuden’s belt and picks up where he left off on match 1, this time winning without question. Excellent sumo from these two today!

Kotoshogiku defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma throws everything at the Kyushu Bulldozer. We start with a flying henka, second is a solid attempt at a leg trip, but Kotoshogiku absorbs all of this and battles on. Backed to the tawara, Chiyoshoma is pushing with everything he has. But Kotoshogiku has his feet wide and his heels against the bales, good luck moving him. Chiyoshoma pivots to load a throw, but the Dozer is ready. With Chiyoshoma now sideways, Kotoshogiku advances, and try as he might, Chiyoshoma can’t get that throw started. Outstanding sumo.

Shodai defeats Ikioi – The first shocker of this fantastic match is that Shodai did NOT blow the tachiai. He looked really good launching into Ikioi – low, powerful, ready to attack. And attack he did! He took Ikioi to the edge, but with his heels on the tawara, Ikioi flashed with aggression and launched back at Shodai. Battling back, he nearly slaps down Shodai who somehow keeps his feet. The two go chest to chest for a moment, and then Shodai raises Ikioi up and marches forward. Fantastic wonderful sumo. Ikioi looks hurt afterwards.

Abi defeats Endo – Some pretty good sumo in mid-Maegashira today, but now the fun increases. Abi has no wins coming in, but his youthful enthusiasm keeps him from considering it anything other than a traditional joi beating. In fact, facing such skilled opponents at full battle strength may have tuned him up a bit. Straight from the tachiai, Endo learns that those ridiculously long arms are a serious problem, as Abi drives him back and Endo struggles to find any body to attack. Twice Endo grabs an arm and pulls, throwing Abi off balance, but Abi remains on his feet. The second pull is over-done, and Endo is moving backwards, and off balance. Abi seizes the moment and pushes Endo out. Wow! Abi is very much a diamond in the rough, but Endo needs to work out the mechanics of how to beat this guy.

Tochinoshin defeats Mitakeumi – Very straightforward. Tochinoshin gets inside and marches forward. Mitakeumi needs to crack this puzzle as he and Tochinoshin are going to be facing off every tournament for a while.

Ichinojo defeats Yutakayama – With some courage, Yutakayama chooses to go chest to chest with the boulder straight out of the tachiai. Ichinojo barely notices, and advances Yutakayama to the edge for an easy yorikiri.

Tamawashi defeats Goeido – It seems that Goeido 2.1 has rolled back to an earlier version, but without properly installing the control driver again. Goeido showed almost no offense today, and let Tamawashi control the match. Hopefully there will be an over the air update overnight.

Shohozan defeats Kakuryu – It looked to me like Kakuryu lost patience and went to pull. Shohozan knew this would happen, and was ready. He certainly turned the tables on Mr Reactive Sumo today. Big K, stay in charge, when you do, you win.

Hakuho defeats Kaisei – As expected, The Boss rolls the Brazilian dumpling in short order.

Natsu Day 4 Preview

Enho-Takayasu

With connectivity and video restored, I can once again crack open a fine bottle of sake and ponder today’s upcoming bouts in Tokyo. My video issues began as I tried to get TV Japan into my house, and a series of technical calamities visited my world. But now that has been remedied, and I am once again able to enjoy the full broadcast in Japanese.

Many of our readers don’t have a chance to watch Juryo bouts, and they might be happy to know that Onosho is currently 3-0, though for reasons that cannot be explained, he is not wearing the red mawashi of power. Newcomer Wakatakakage (aka, Mr Unpronounceable) has sadly yet to win a match, though he seems to be giving it his all. Joining the day 3 undefeated list is none other than the rapid rise yeast of the sumo world, Yago. As he also hails from Hokkaido, there is a chance that later this year we could have two northern lads in Makuuchi.

While it is almost impossible to achieve, some of the most brutal, flat out sumo you can ever see is the upper levels of Makushita. These men are so close to Sekitori status that they can taste it, and they want that tremendous level of privilege that comes with the ginkgo top-not. Almost everyone likes Enho, and he finds himself out of Sekitori land and back down at Makushita 6, eager to return. He’s only had one match (which he won), but he fights again on day 4.

What We Are Watching Day 4

Nishikigi vs Kyokutaisei – Nishkigi holds a 7-1 advantage, but Kyokutaisei now has his first set of kensho envelopes, so he may be well motivated to outdo the most desperate blind man in sumo.

Sadanoumi vs Asanoyama – How did Asanoyama get to 3-0 to start this basho? Hell if I know, but I am sure he did it with a smile on his face. That may come to an end today, as Sadanoumi is an established veteran who has the skill to put dirt on the happy rikishi.

Chiyonokuni vs Takakeisho – This has the potential to be a violent hitting and shoving contest between these two, with Chiyonokuni channeling his spirit animal (which is a grumpy badger), and Takakeisho using sheer physics (he is close to natures perfect shape) to his advantage. It’s nature vs science, and someone is going to get hurt!

Hokutofuji vs Kagayaki – If Kagayaki can beat Hokutofuji, I may be forced to eat both my own buttocks in sheer frustration. Seriously Hokutofuji, get they wounded self to a healer, and not whatever large animal veterinarian that told Kisenosato what to do.

Ryuden vs Yoshikaze – I am willing to fly to Tokyo and administer large amounts of fine Scottish distillates to Yoshikaze if it will help him recover his mojo. Even though he is facing poor 0-3 Ryuden, Yoshikaze is day by day in my book. It’s a book I don’t want to read.

Ikioi vs Shodai – Oh this looks fun. Shodai has managed to stumble his way to 3-0, which is fine is any win is still a white star. But Ikioi is active, brutal and hunting for wins himself. Can Shodai continue the Mr. Bean routine and somehow get Ikioi to step on a rake?

Abi vs Endo – Well Abi, hopefully you are ready for more beatings, it’s your welcome package to the upper ranks of sumo. Endo seems fairly genki, even though his sumo on day 3 against Goeido was chaotic, it was good enough for a win.

Tochinoshin vs Mitakeumi – Oh my, this one has potential. Tochinoshin will work hard to get inside and land that lethal left hand early. Will Mitakeumi take him up on the offer of a mawashi war, maybe getting a leg trip as the big Georgian comes forward to land his right hand? Or will Mitakeumi stay mobile and find a way to move the future Ozeki back?

Yutakayama vs Ichinojo – Ichinojo likes ice cream.

Tamawashi vs Goeido – Was day 3 a fluke, or has Goeido 2.1 been cracked already? I guess its up to Tamawashi to find out. Tamawashi is possible the best 0-3 man in the competition right now, which won’t even get you free yakitori. I know Tamawashi wants back in San’yaku, but right now he has got to be wondering where his sumo is hiding.

Kakuryu vs Shohozan – Kakuryu seems to be dialed in, and I am sure after his “blink and you will miss it” loss to Hakuho day 3, Shohozan is going to redouble his effort at a kinboshi. Kakuryu is possible an easier mark, but of course to win against him you have to really focus on not making any mistakes. Shohozan over commits like mad in his battle-rage, and I am sure Kakuryu can wait him out.

Kaisei vs Hakuho – Kaisei has yet to beat Yokozuna, and this is probably not the day he starts. I am hoping that Hakuho gives him one of his patented flying lessons.

Natsu Day 3 Highlights

Endo Trinket

Internet… Satellite TV… Fiber Optic Cables… What happens when several of these malfunction at once? Sumo fans take to their mobiles to get their burly men fix. Sadly it’s balls for posting to tachiai.org. But through the magic of standing outside my front door waving money around, one of the multiple repair people who were supposed to come to my house and do work has actually arrived. Whats more, they actually did work.

Day 3 continued the evolution more or less along predictable paths, but with a small exception or two that shall be noted below. Thus far, the Natsu basho is being incredibly predictable. Sumo fans may have gotten spoiled by some of the topsy-turvy action of the past year, and coming across a tournament where the favorites win each day may seem quite pedestrian. But then many of the agents of disruption are either lower down the banzuke, banged up, or simply not genki. This would include Yoshikaze, Onosho, Takakeisho, Ura and Hokotofuji. The other option is that the banzuke is so perfectly tuned, that everyone is fighting more or less at their predicted ability.

Also of note, there are additional stories in the Japanese sumo press that Yokozuna Kisenosato is arranging affairs for his post-rikishi life. This includes getting his kabu in order, establishing a residence in Tokyo (outside of the stable), and other matters. For fans who were behind him all the way, or leanered to respect him because he never let up, it’s going to be a bitter time. As we covered extensively at the time, his injury was repairable with immediate surgery and a lengthy recovery period. But now it seems there is no way for him to regain his former left arm/chest strength.

Highlight Matches

Myogiryu defeats Aminishiki – We knew coming out of jungyo that Uncle Sumo would be shaky this time due to injuries. He had a strong tachiai, but tried to pull Myogiryu down, that was the signal; and Myogiryu then took over and dispatched him with ease.

Asanoyama defeats Aoiyama – It’s quite obvious that Aoiyama has enough damage to his knees and possibly hips that he is barely able to do sumo at all. A kyujo at this point is a certain ride back to Juryo, while staying in may get him a win or two, he runs the real risk of compounding his injuries. On the other side of this, Asanoyama with a 3-0 start. Good job!

Daiamami defeats Takakeisho – Notable in that Takakeisho is still not 100%, he was too far forward and easily slapped down. We need the angry tadpole back!

Chiyonokuni defeats Hokutofuji – Part 1 of the sad sack back to back story arc. Hokutofuji is really a mess right now, and I wonder if he would be better off just going to Hawaii (no the part that is on fire) and relaxing for a while.

Kagayaki defeats Yoshikaze – And part 2. Clearly Yoshikaze had a step change downward a couple of tournaments ago, and is in some sort of lower energy state. Short of a Fukushima Daiichi onsen trip, or a lightning strike, I am not sure what can re-energize my favorite rikishi. Kagayaki looked very good, though!

Takarafuji defeats Chiyoshoma – This was a fun bout, maybe some of the better sumo of the day. Watch towards the end where Chiyoshoma escapes Takarafuji’s uwatenage just to lose his balance and backslide into a waiting Ryuden.

Ikioi defeats Ryuden – Theory. In some mystical ritual that involved a visit to Yakushima and a ceremony in front of a protected grove of Yaku Sugi, Yoshikaze’s genki was transferred to Ikioi. Much like loaning out a kabu, Yoshikaze is loaning is boundless battle energy to Ikioi. Also Ikioi has decided to just put it all on the line every day.

Shodai defeats Chiyotairyu – I am delighted that Shodai is winning, but lets be honest. He is stumbling through the matches and winning by sheer luck. But that’s good enough for sumo! I do hope that it gives him back the confidence and courage that seems to have left him last year.

Kotoshogiku defeats Yutakayama – I love how terrifyingly fast Kotoshogiku can be off the line. Yes he has faded from his Ozeki days, but the guy still has some outstanding moves. I just wish we could get him back in San’yaku so he would do his back stretches again.

Mitakeumi defeats Abi – Abi looked like a spider on a hot plate. That, or each of his limbs were individually trying to escape from Mitakeumi in different directions, dragging his foreshortened torso along for the ride. Welcome to the joi, Abi. You are going to get past this hurdle one day, ad we will be cheering you on.

Ichinojo defeats Daieisho – Daieisho attempted a henka, and to my surprise Ichinojo was able to recover. Daieisho maintained the initiative for several more seconds, until Ichinojo rallied at the center of the dohyo and tried to pull Daieisho down. It almost didn’t work. Move forward, great Boulder.

Tochinoshin defeats Tamawashi – Tochinoshin looking very genki, but this match had at least one notable. At the end, Tochinoshin falls. Note the extreme motions he goes through to protect that knee. The fact that he lost his balance after the match ended should be an event of note. I sincerely hope we don’t see him succumb to injury on the eve of securing a valid Ozeki ticket.

Endo defeats Goeido – Field testing of Goedio 2.1 suffered a set back today, as the production system branched into the reverse protocol that engineers have been trying for years to correct. Endo, being a wily sort, saw this at once and put the naughty sumo-bot down before he could endanger the grannies in the 3rd row, once again forever endearing himself to his vast brigade of fans across Japan.

Hakuho defeats Shohozan – Blink and you miss it!

Kakuryu defeats Kaisei – If you wanted to head to the Ryogoku station a few minutes early, you could have skipped this match and no one would blame you. I think all of the Salarymen who were there for the day did exactly that.

Natsu Day 2 Highlights

Hakuho-Dohyo-Iri

With Andy’s apt description of the GoeiDOS 2.1 upgrade described below, what is there left to say?  Another day with few surprises in the top division, but some entirely watchable sumo with plenty of matches to enjoy. It’s clear that both Ichinojo and Tochinoshin are in good form, and Goeido has yet to revert to “bad” form yet. Let’s go straight to the highlights.

Natsu Day 2 Highlights

Nishikigi defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu opened strong, but Nishikigi rallied with considerable strength and prevailed. I wonder if his precarious position on the banzuke motivates Nishikigi to higher levels of performance.

Kyokutaisei defeats Aminishiki – Uncle Sumo tries a henka, but Kyokutaisei reads it correctly and overpowers the aged rikishi, winning with a susoharai leg sweep. Hopefully Aminishiki did not pick up an additional injury.

Sadanoumi defeats Tochiozan – Word in the practice sessions leading up to the basho was that Tochiozan was in fantastic condition and performing very well. He seems to be genuinely struggling in the first two days.

Takekaze defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama opened strong and kept up the pressure, which was probably a mistake. Takekaze got Aoiyama moving forward, and then got out of his way.

Arawashi defeats Ishiura – Ishiura attempts a henka, and Arawashi is ready for him, grabbing him with his wide spread left arm and reeling him in for a quick push out. Ishiura needs some new tricks.

Okinoumi defeats Takakeisho – Takakeisho opened strong, and got some mighty shoves into Okinoumi, but Okinoumi returned the favor. As Takakeisho gave ground, he attempted a pull down, but Okinoumi was quite prepared for that, and thwarted his attack.

Daiamami defeats Hokutofuji – Wow, Daiamami made fast work of Hokutofuji who seems to be low-energy and somewhat uncertain of how to regain his former mojo. It’s sad to watch, and I am going to assume its due to some injury we fans don’t know about.

Daishomaru defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze did not look good today.

Chiyoshoma defeats Ryuden – Ryuden took the fight to Chiyoshoma with vigor and strength, but it was all Chiyoshoma, who completely ran this match and finished it with a resounding shitatenage. Ryuden is good, but has more work to do.

Ikioi defeats Takarafuji – Ikioi once again throws caution to the wind, and gives Takarafuji a stiff battle, ending with Ikioi hurling the man with no neck to the clay like a boss. The crowd goes wild.

Kotoshogiku defeats Chiyotairyu – Kotoshogiku was large and in charge today. He paid no attention to Chiyotairyu’s massive bulk and cannon-ball tachiai. It’s good to see that the Kyushu Bulldozer can still be a force of sumo.

Shodai defeats Daieisho – Daieisho opened strong and kept up the pressure on Shodai, who was on the defensive and moving backwards, a lucky pull from Shodai put Daieisho off balance and he could not recover. An ugly win for Shodai, but a white-star none the less.

Endo defeats Yutakayama – Endo struggled more than he should have in this match. That is a sign that Endo is not quite all there yet, and that Yutakayama put his heart into this match. Endo’s win came via a pull down from the edge of the ring.

Tochinoshin defeats Abi – I did not expect Abi to win, but he impressed the hell out of me with the fight he brought to Tochinoshin. Abi’s superior reach was used with great effect out of the tachiai, and frankly caught Tochinoshin by surprise. With the Ozeki hopeful in a strong nodowa, Abi had early control of the match. But Tochinoshin was not to be denied, and remember to go for the belt. Well done to Abi, a glorious loss. Your intro to the joi will be painful, but it’s part of the sport.

Ichinojo defeats Kaisei – A battle of the super-heavies, and as anticipated, it was all about how could do more with their ponderous bulk. Kaisei found the mawashi early, but it seemed to have little effect on The Boulder. After a bit of leaning on each other, Ichinojo stood Kaisei up and marched him out.

Goeido defeats Shohozan – Andy may have been right, the maintenance release Goeido 2.1 may be stable, on line and doing well. He make quick work of Shohozan with many characteristics of the “good” Goeido. Moving forward strongly with lightning speed and no consideration to restraint for the sake of any defense. Please do keep it up Goeido!

Kakuryu defeats Tamawashi – Kakuryu’s reactive sumo takes the day again. It’s not too tough to get Tamawashi to shift his weight quite far forward, and he readily obliged the Yokozuna, who politely encouraged him to exit the ring.

Hakuho defeats Mitakeumi – Hakuho struggled, no two ways about it. Mitakeumi is probably bringing everything he can to his sumo this outing, but I am starting to come around to Kintamayama’s point of view that “The Boss” is not quite healed up yet.

Natsu Day 2 Preview

Natsu Day 2b

After re-watching day 1 matches several times, an idea comes to mind. On the day 1 recap, there is some discussion about Hakuho. Some of our readers think he was pure Hakuho, arrogant, brash and in command. Herouth, myself and a few others are worried that he’s not quite 100% at the moment. Please feel free to weigh in with your thoughts in the comment section. I also note that Aoiyama looked a fraction of his normal self. There are some reports that he has damage to his undercarriage, and that could explain a few things. With his rank (M13w), he would be at real risk of a return to Juryo if he were to be kyujo without at least a few wins first.

I have to note, the NHK world broadcast has replaced many of the rikishi head-shot photos with a set of images that range from hideous to laughable. Please folks, consider a bit of color correction on those things.

A number of sumo fans, including the great Kintamayama, found day 1 unsurprising and perhaps a bit plain. I was just happy to have sumo back for a couple of weeks, even if all of the matches turned out as predicted. But in Act 1, we find out who is hot, and who is not. The only two I would cite as bringing a lot of “fire” to the dohyo on day 1 were Ichinojo, Tochinoshin and (surprisingly), Shodai. Let’s see what kind of fun day 2 can bring. It appears the schedulers have a real “folks with 1 win face off, folks with one loss face off” theme at work today.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Myogiryu vs Nishikigi – Myogiryu looked fairly solid day 1, but he comes up against Nishikigi who has a career 3-1 record against Myogiryu. Myogiryu like the belt throws, so this will be all about footwork and grip. Could be a good match.

Aminishiki vs Kyokutaisei – Uncle Sumo has only taken 1 match from Kyokutaisei, and word is that Aminishiki’s already questionable knees are recovering from strain or injury during the April jungyo tour. Everyone hoping for a storybook kachi-koshi for sumo’s most beloved uncle will need to temper their outlook. I just hope he can make it to senshuraku without going kyujo.

Takekaze vs Aoiyama – This will be a good test for how banged up Aoiyama actually is. Takekaze will be using every move in his considerable, judo-inspired inventory to best the big Bulgarian who holds a career 13-7 advantage.

Asanoyama vs Chiyonokuni – Both men won their first day matches, but they have never faced each other. Chiyonokuni is an absolute explosive powerhouse of oshi-zumo, and I am curious to see if he completely overwhelms Asanayama.

Okinoumi vs Takakeisho – Okinoumi have never won against Takakeisho in their 2 prior matches. In addition I think Takakeisho, who is normally set to 11, has found a way to reach for 11.5, as he wants to regain his position near the top of the banzuke. Okinoumi is very hit-or-miss, and its unclear how healthy his is this basho.

Daiamami vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji continues to look energetic but vague. His day 1 match was a sloppy mess that he let Takakeisho control, missing at least 2 opportunities to make the bowling ball with legs eat clay. To his advantage today is the 3-0 career lead he has over Daiamami.

Yoshikaze vs Daishomaru – I saw a glimmer of Berserker mode on day 1. After two tournaments where Yoshikaze looked like he had been coming to the dohyo straight from his sick-bed, it was refreshing to see him fight with vigor. As a bonus for day 2, Daishomaru has not ever won against Yoshikaze.

Chiyoshoma vs Ryuden – Ryuden got disposed of like a bad sandwich at Lawson’s on day 1. On day two he faces the always unpredictable Chiyoshoma, and I would guess will hold the advantage of guile over the Freshman.

Takarafuji vs Ikioi – These two have a 17 match career history, that favor the neckless rikishi 11-6. But does Ikioi care? Of course not! I am beginning to think that Ikioi has reached the point in his career where he is saying “Oh, F’ it all!”, and just using his mass and willingness to damage himself to overwhelm his opponents. Takarafuji is a careful and skilled fighter, and is no easy opponent. Could be a solid match.

Daieisho vs Shodai – So the day 1 Shodai was fun to watch. This is the kind of stuff that we used to see from Shodai much more frequently, and frankly its why some fans thought he was going to be a staple of the top of the banzuke for some time to come. Can he keep that going? Let’s see him take down the even match up he has with Daieisho.

Yutakayama vs Endo – Endo gets a bit of a breather after falling face first to Kakuryu. Their only prior match went to Endo, but Yutakayama seems to be in his groove these days. I would expect Endo to win this one, but it is my hope that Yutakayama really makes him work for it.

Tochinoshin vs Abi – Well, Abi gets a traditional Tokyo welcome to the joi. Smacked around, tossed to the grannies and generally made to question his own sumo to the point of worry. Day 2 he is cannon fodder to a brute on a mission to higher rank. I am pretty sure Abi will try something insightful and clever, and I am equally sure it will come down to Tochinoshin picking him up and tossing him to the cheering little old ladies, who will smother him with adoration. Everybody wins…

Kaisei vs Ichinojo – This much Waygu in motion is always cause for a safety briefing and careful evacuation drills on the part of the Kokugikan staff. Both men prefer big, slow and forceful, but I would give a distinct edge to Ichinojo, who may have promised himself story time with his favorite pony if he wins. The career record shows a 7-2 advantage for the Boulder.

Shohozan vs Goeido – We may have seen the first use of Goeido 2.1 on day 1, and it looked really good. Sharp, fast, no thought of defense. But then again, Shohozan and Kaisei are worlds apart. No one leaves a match with Shohozan without getting sore, and Goeido tends to react badly to being pounded. Like many gadgets, percussive maintenance could void the warranty. Even so Goeido holds a 11-7 career lead.

Kakuryu vs Tamawashi – Hopefully this match is less bizarre than day 1’s Hakuho “gimme a hug” posture mid-fight. People knocked Kakuryu for pulling Endo down, but Big K’s style is to stalemate his opponent and wait for his opening. What kind of opening Tamawashi is going to give him will be interesting to watch, but as Tamawashi is a brutal tsuppari practitioner, we may see the Yokozuna moving backwards again.

Mitakeumi vs Hakuho – This match might settle questions about Hakuho’s condition. Mitakeumi will come straight at him, no doubt about it. I am going to say that we may see a Harumafuji style mini-henka here.

Natsu Day 1 Highlights

Natsu Day 1

No Surprises

The Natsu basho got started on form, with no real surprises, but some good sumo. Fans, do keep in mind that for the first few days, many of your favorites will be working to find their groove, and we may see some “ring rust” as John Gunning puts it. Most basho follow a 3 act process. Act 1 is all about finding who is hot, and who is not. Act 2 is all about who can compete for the yusho, and Act 3 is where we separate the winners from the losers, and crown the champion. In the early stages of Act 1 (the first few days), you are likely to see some unexpected events. Today was not populated with the unexpected, but keep your eyes open.

Highlight Matches

Nishikigi defeats Aminishiki – Uncle Sumo ups the record as the oldest man ever to start a Makuuchi bout, and we salute him. But Nishikigi dispatched him with little trouble.

Myogiryu defeats Kyokutaisei – This match had one of everything, a Monoii, a Matta, and a Torinaoshi. The first version of this bout was an excellent mawashi match, with both men working hard to set up a throw, and each move being countered expertly. Both men hit the clay at the same time, so the Shimpan signaled a rematch. The second try saw Kyokutaisei try a henka, but Myogiryu landed a belt grip and controlled the match for the win. Nice sumo.

Sadanoumi defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama started strong, pounding away at Sadanoumi, who endured the blows and pushed to get inside. He achieved that, and then proceeded to move Aoiyama backwards and out. Aoiyama (in my guess) suffered some severe ring rust today, and will likely bounce back by day 3.

Asanoyama defeats Ishiura – Ishiura attempts to step to the left, but Asanoyama’s wide-armed tachiai traps him, and they grapple. At this point Asanoyama’s superior mass and better body position allows him to dominate the match.

Takakeisho defeats Hokutofuji – New sea-foam green mawashi for Takakeisho, perhaps it will change his luck? Takakeisho took the match to Hokutofuji’s face and shoulders early, and nearly overwhelmed him. But Hokutofuji rallied at the tawara, and counter-attacked. A deft side step by Takakeisho left Hokutofuji, and gave Takakeisho the win.

Yoshikaze defeats Chiyomaru – Yoshikaze launched low and hard against Chiyomaru’s chest, standing the hungry-man upright. From there Yoshikaze drove him back. Chiyomaru was never able to regain balance or set up a proper defensive or offensive stance, and it was all Yoshikaze.

Takarafuji defeats Ryuden – Ryuden came straight at Takarafuji, perhaps hoping to overpower him, but found that Takarafuji was in a firm stance, and had the power to resist his attack. Ryuden never was able to recover, Takarafuji took him back and out.

Ikioi defeats Chiyoshoma – I am sure they heard that tachiai at the adjacent Edo museum! Both rikishi bounced back after that mighty collision, and went straight for competing throws. In Ikioi’s favor, Chiyoshoma landed first, but a monoii was called and the win went to Ikioi.

Shodai defeats Kotoshogiku – An impressive win by Shodai. Maybe he is genki this time? His tachiai looked decent, and he kept Kotoshogiku of being able to square his shoulders and begin the hug-n-chug. The Kyushu Bulldozer tried it anyhow, but Shodai deftly used the uneven thrust to maneuver Kotoshogiku, get him off balance and thrown. Nicely done!

Chiyotairyu defeats Yutakayama – Chiyotairyu has a favorite opening – blast off the line with the force of a freight train, lock up his opponent and just keep moving forward. Yutakayama give him the opening, and it was over fast. Please note the kati-infused sideburns are in full effect on Chiyotairyu, and there were plenty of sumo-grannies who received a Yutakayama visit, as it looks like Chiyotairyu put him in the 3rd row of zabuton.

Mitakeumi defeats Daieisho – A whiplash tachiai from both, but Mitakeumi pushed ahead with fierce vigor, and Daiesho never really had a chance to set up any offense or defense. Solid fundamentals from Mitakeumi this time.

Ichinojo defeats Abi – I will compliment Abi on coming up with a plausible battle plan. He went for a neck attack at the tachiai, and while Ichnojo pushed forward to attack, Abi shifted right and tried to grab the mawashi. Sadly he missed, and ended up chest to chest with the boulder. It only took 2 ½ shoves from the 225 kg Ichinojo to propel Abi down range.

Tochinoshin defeats Shohozan – I was impressed by Shohozan’s lightning fast tachiai, closing the distance to Tochinoshin before the big Georgian could finish standing from his starting crouch. In a move that showed a lot of moxie, he took a hold of Tochinoshin’s mawashi and started pivoting for a throw. He almost go away with it, but Tochinoshin rallied and started to work Shohozan’s rather lose mawashi, marching forward. Shohozan was able to stop him, so Tochinoshin simply lifted Shohozan (twice) and placed him out.

Goeido defeats Kaisei – Goeido lands a shallow left hand straight into the tachiai, and uses that to control Kaisei completely. The Brazilian could never find his footing and was sideways to Goeido’s continued attack. Clean, easy, fast.

Hakuho defeats Tamawashi – Another of Hakuho’s strange pseudo-butsugari matches. Hakuho kept going for the mawashi, and Tamawashi kept landing blows to the Yokozuna’s shoulders and face. The Boss wins, but it was weird. Note that Hakuho reverted to deploying his left-hand face slap at the tachiai.

Kakuryu defeats Endo – Classic Kakuryu sumo. He stalemated Endo in the early phase of the bout, which was all tsuppari, and waited for Endo to get too far forward, and pulled him down. Kakuryu’s reactive sumo is at times almost it’s own unique form, and I think a few decades from now, sumo scholars may study how he conducts his matches.