Day 15 Osaka Recap


sansho-osaka

Beyond The Yusho

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

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

Special Prizes

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

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

Match Results

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

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

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

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

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

Haru Day 15 Preview


dohyo-iri-15

Final Day Of the Osaka Tournament

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

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

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

Key Matches, Day 15

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

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

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

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

Kachi/Make-Koshi

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haru Day 12 Preview


12

Pressure Is Still On Takayasu

Now that Takayasu has his first defeat, he has been dropped back to the group chasing Kisenosato. His bout with Kakuryu was excellent in many ways, but as long as Kakuryu kept moving, Takayasu was marking time until he lost. But Takayasu’s troubles are not over, as he still will face Harumafuji. As stated earlier, in past basho, Takayasu has a problem fading out at the end, either by losing concentration, giving up on a goal or just because he doubts his own ability. Everyone who wants him to earn his Ozeki rank knows he must over come this. So Harumafuji represents a test of this flaw. Will he rise to the challenge?

Elsewhere on the Torikumi, Terunofuji has yet to face real resistance, but we can assume that he will have Kisenosato on one of the last three days. With 3 Yokozuna and 1 Ozeki active, the final days will be a round robin between the 4 of them. So the chances of Terunofuji playing a day 14/15 spoiler are questionable as well.

That leaves us with Tochiozan. On day 12 he is bottom feeding on Maegashira 14 Myogiryu, which really seems to be tough to understand. He has yet to face anyone above Maegashira 6, which would seem reasonable given that he went into this tournament at Maegashira 10. But as he is now tied with second place, it would seem reasonable that he get someone like Yoshikaze to size himself against.

Haru Leader board

Leader – Kisenosato
Hunt Group – Takayasu, Terunofuji, Tochiozan

4 Matches Remain

Matches We Like

Gagamaru vs Kyokushuho – Planet Gagamaru comes to visit from Juryo. He faces off against Kyokushuho who is already make-koshi, so this match is mostly for entertainment purposes only. Gagamaru has really been underperforming in the last several basho, so I am not sure there will be much here.

Daieisho vs Sadanoumi – Daieisho shows a lot of promise, and could pick up his kachi-koshi today against Sadanoumi, who I have to assume is hurt in some way, as he is not quite as potent as he was in January.

Ichinojo vs Takakeisho – Takakeisho is also a young rakish with a lot of promise, today he will try for his kachi-koshi against the lumbering giant Ichinojo, who may once again be suffering from an injured back. This is the first time these two have ever faced off.

Chiyonokuni vs Ishiura – Two powerhouse rikishi, with Chiyonokuni gunning for his kachi-koshi, and Ishiura working to refine his Makuuchi moves. In their past 3 matches, Chiyonokuni has won them all.

Kotoshogiku vs Takarafuji – Kotoshogiku must win 3 of his last 4. His first step on finishing that journey is defeating Takarafuji. Takarafuji is not showing overwhelming sumo this tournament, so Kotoshogikum has a decent shot at a win here. But I would guess the rikishi have figured out that if you keep moving, he can’t employ his sumo. Watch for Takarafuji to stay mobile.

Endo vs Terunofuji – A few moments of struggle, then Terunofuji tosses him away like a used baby-wipe. I love me some Endo, but he is not dialed up high enough to put a dent in this Mongolian Monster when he is operating in Kaiju mode.

Arawashi vs Kisenosato – Arawashi is not in a winning mode, so that indicates that Kisenosato will be able to defeat him while looking like he’s ready for his ukiyo-e close up. But then again, Arawashi took out Harumafuji a few days ago. Best not to underestimate him, because he has a history of surprises.

Harumafuji vs Takayasu – Takayasu has beaten The Horse 4 times in the past. So it’s possible if Takayasu thinks he can do it. This is a mental and emotional test for him. Harumafuji is pushing hard through a lot of pain right now, but he is still an amazing fighter. Advantage here to Harmuafuji, unless Takayasu can tap his best sumo and make it happen.

Haru Day 7 Preview


Kise-Kensho-Pile

Our First Look At The Leaderboard

After the awesome that constituted day 6, the schedulers have a tough time given the injuries and some key rikishi being kyujo. The challenge is to keep the schedule interesting, and the matches compelling. At the moment the basho is in the hands of Kisenosato, and to a lesser degree his stable mate Takayasu. While Tochiozan’s matching flawless record is impressive, the schedulers will take care of him in the next few days.

Haru Leader board

LeadersKisenosato, Takayasu, Tochiozan
Hunt Group – Terunofuji, Takarafuji, Chiyoshoma
Chasers – Kakuryu, Harumafuji, Tamawashi, Kotoshogiku, Chiyonokuni, Okinoumi, Daishomaru, Tokushoryu

9 Matches Remain

As noted earlier, the lower San’yaku ranks continue to out-perform their historic trends. It is the job of the Ozeki and the Yokozuna to defeat them daily for the first week, and it has not really happened to the extent it normally does. Now with one Ozeki and one Yokozuna out, the chances of this trend reversing are small. In my opinion, this signals that these lower San’yaku rikishi are competitive with the upper San’yaku, and that means promotions this year. It may also mean retirements soon.

Matches We Like

Tokushoryu vs Daishomaru – Meeting of what I am calling the “Smash Bros”, these two are likely to throw a lot of slaps, jabs and thrusts. Tokushoryu has yet to defeat Daishomaru, but there is always a first time…

Takakeisho vs Ura – Ura is still struggling to deal with the size, speed and strength of Makuuchi class rikishi. It was always going to be a learning experience for him, and a challenge to boot. Takakeisho came up from Juryo in January, and seems to have settled in quite well. Ura has never won against Takakeisho (formerly Sato in Juryo).

Tochiozan vs Okinoumi – Not sure what has enlivened Tochiozan this basho, but I am really enjoying it. Okinoumi seems to have his painful medical problems contained for the moment, and is fighting quite well. This will probably be a very good match, with a slight edge to Okinoumi. Their career record is 11-10, so very evenly matched.

Endo vs Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma has only one loss, and is fighting well this basho. Endo seems to be struggling, but has shown moments of excellence. It will be up to Endo to keep Chiyoshoma from establishing a throwing hold, which Chiyoshoma will try for right at the tachiai.

Yoshikaze vs Chiyonokuni – A pair of high-intensity rikishi means this may be a fast moving battle of jabs and thrusts. Both of them are small, strong and maneuverable. Yoshikaze has the edge on experience, and leads their career match set 6-1.

Aoiyama vs Takarafuji – Aoiyama leads the series 13-2, believe it or not. Takarafuji has been doing great this basho, so it will be interesting to see if he can overcome the giant Belgian’s punishing reach. Look for Aoiyama to keep thrusting Takarafuji away.

Kotoshogiku vs Shohozan – Shohozan is fresh off of a very nice gold star win against Yokozuna Kakuryu. Kotoshogiku refuses to give in until he regains his Ozeki title. Shohozan needs to stay mobile and don’t let Kotoshogiku get his inside grip.

Sokokurai vs Takayasu – Interestingly enough, Takayasu is 3-2 against Sokokurai, so this is not a sure thing. Takayasu has been presenting the best sumo of his career, but he has also had persistence problems in past basho. Namely that by the second half his vigor and energy start to fade. Sokokurai is no slouch, having taken both the Jun-Yusho and Gino-sho in January.

Mitakeumi vs Kisenosato – On day 6, Mitakeumi made a huge mistake of thinking if he went chest-to-chest with Kotoshogiku, he could show the washed up Ozeki it was time to move on. Give ‘ku his chest meant a fast hug-n-chug parade across the tawara. Let’s hope that Mitakeumi’s hubris is contained, and he takes his bout with Kisenosato seriously.

Haru Day 6 Results


Shohozan

Shohozan Kinboshi, Kisenosato, Takayasu and Tochiozan Remain Undefeated

Shohozan had not won a single bout this tournament, but turned on the power in the final match of the day to win against Yokozuna Kakuryu.

Meanwhile, Kisenosato and Takayasu finished an exciting day of sumo undefeated. This is actually a remarkable achievement by two men who are executing a really solid form of sumo. It should be noted that both of them train their brains out daily, and for the last 6 months or so have totally devoted their lives to achieving greatness in the sport. Heading up to the half way point, they are the ones to beat

In my greatly anticipated match of the pocket warriors, Ura prevailed over Ishiura. Interesting to see both of them try to come in super low at the tachiai. Ura established an arm lock on Ishiura and scored a frontal push out win (oshidashi).

Tochiozan dispatched Sadanoumi to remain undefeated. I might add that Tochiozan is looking very solid, in control and executing well. He is not getting the attention that the Tagonoura Heya rikishi are, but his record is fairly impressive after several basho of of uninspiring performance.

In Okinoumi’s win over Ichinojo, Okinoumi was clearly in control the entire time. While Ichinojo has greatly improved as of late, he needs to develop more by matching against veterans like Okinoumi.

Chiyonokuni has also been fighting very well, currently at 4-2. He blasted Endo off the dohyo to score his latest win. Endo has his followers, but matches like this should give his fans pause. Also in the “fighting really well” category, Chiyoshoma. He went to 5-1 today with a win over Hokotofuji, who will likely have his first career make-koshi.

Would you believe that Kotoshogiku won again? Yes indeed! Mitakeumi gave it a lot of effort, but made the mistake of going chest-to-chest with Kotoshogiku. With the hard part done, Kotoshogiku began the hug-n-chug process, and Mitakeumi learned you should never open the door for him to do that.

The match of the day, Takayasu vs Terunofuji, turned out to follow the theme for this basho thus far. Terunofuji launched out of the tachiai with intensity and action, Takayasu focused on moving forward strongly and with purpose. It was over in seconds with Terunofuji picking up his first loss.

Takarafuji fared no better against Kisenosato, but he put in a more valiant effort and gave Kisenosato a good struggle. There is more than a week to go, but fans may want to begin to fantasize about a final day playoff between Kisenosato and Takayasu for the yusho. That, dear readers, would possibly be legendary.

The Harumfuji vs Yoshikaze match was in fact the street brawl their bouts typically are. Harumafuji picked up the win by what can best be described as a slippiotoshi, when Yoshikaze face-planted into the clay after losing his footing. Like in Kyushu, there have been a large number of traction control problems on the Osaka dohyo this basho. Perhaps it should be addressed.

And in the final match of the day, Shohozan surprised Kakuryu, in a nice convincing win. I am very happy that Shohozan picked up a kinboshi. It’s clear that Kakuryu was not in top form today.

A great weekend of sumo lies ahead, as we head to the half way point of the Osaka tournament.

Haru Day 6 Preview


banzuke-day

Cage Match of Undefeateds As Act 2 Begins

With the first third of Haru behind us, it’s time to crack the lid on the second act. The second act of a basho is where the rikishi on “hot streaks” get increasingly significant challenges, with the idea being to see who has been hiding behind an easy schedule. Starting day 6, it’s clear the schedulers are turning the intensity up another notch.

Matches We Like

Takakeisho vs Tokushoryu – These two slap-happy rikishi have been part of the crew at the lower end of Makuuchi who have been pounding each other silly. All of the younger guys are pushme-pullyous, and it makes things a bit generic. But sometimes its cool to watch these guys smack each other around.

Ura vs IshiuraThank you oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan! The tiny wonders face in a brawl of strength vs agility. This may be a whole nothing burger, but it might just create a tear in the fabric of the universe that results in cotton candy for all. Be ready for amazement!

Ichinojo vs Okinoumi – Well, Ichinojo’s been plowing along like a giant St. Bernard in a snow bank. It’s not pretty but you know he’s going to get there. But let’s pretend to Okinoumi does not suffer from a painful pelvic wound… Wouldn’t you like to see him contort Ichinojo for a bit? We all do. Let’s see if he can make it happen.

Kaisei vs Aoiyama – Battle of meat mountains! Kaisei is back, yes indeed. After injuring himself on a play date with Hakuho, he took a week or so to recover. Let’s see if he can impress Aoiyama. No matter who wins, it’s going to be HUGE!

Endo vs Chiyonokuni – Both of these guys don’t get much press, but both of them are doing pretty well this basho. Chiyonokuni struggled after going through a round of bulking up, but seems to have it under control now. Endo is a few steps behind the “up and coming” team, but he will, I presume, eventually shed his larval form and emerge as MechaEndou.

Kotoshogiku vs Mitakeumi – Kotoshogiku’s one good leg may have blown out on day 5. So the Cinderella run to reclaim Ozeki may have perished. Even so, as we have shown yesterday, the ones everyone has to look out for this tournament are Komusubi and Sekiwake. Everybody loves Kotoshogiku, but Mitakeumi needs more wins.

Goeido vs Tamawashi – Goeido, mucho respect for coming out for your home town basho after some orthopedic guy rebuilt your ankle. But it’s not working. Go kyujo now, and avoid a career ending bout. Nobody is going to try to hurt you, but you are dangerous to yourself right now.

Takayasu vs Terunofuji – Oh hell yes! Undefeated kadoban Ozeki vs undefeated Sekiwake gunning for an Ozeki slot. Takayasu has been fighting calm and in control, Terunofuji like an demon possessed. Only one will remain undefeated. I intend to drink an entire bottle of Sake before watching this, and the following match. This is my match of the day

Takarafuji vs Kisenosato – Not sure if this one will be anti-climatic, but Takarafuji has been fighting well. But I would expect that Kisenosato will take care of this guy.

Harumafuji vs Yoshikaze – Harumafuji is struggling. He is still injured and not fighitng well. His footing has been off for the past few days, and I worry that thigh muscle tear is still causing problems. Harumafuji and Yoshikaze have history, a lot of history. Most of it involves pain, blood and hospital stays.

 

Haru Day 5 Results


Hakuho-5

Hakuho Kyujo, Kisenosato Undefeated

The first act of Haru is complete. At this point all rikishi should be warmed up, on their sumo and in the optimum form. During the middle third of the basho is when we find out who will have a chance at yusho, and who is been competing hurt.

This big news from day 5 is that Hakuho withdrew from competition on day 5, citing an injury to the big toe of his right foot. This is the same foot that was the subject of surgery in September of 2016, and it’s re-injury is an ominous sign for the Boss’s long-term viability. It was clear that something was wrong form day 2, but like most rikishi, Hakuho was trying to continue in spite of the pain and discomfort. This gave Mitakeumi a fusen win.

The rest of the Yokozuna corps won their matches, with Ikioi putting in a nice effort against Kisenosato, who is looking amazingly untouchable. The same cannot be said for Goeido who is on the Kadoban express after Takekaze dropped him.

Shodai offered little against Takayasu, who has clearly benefited from the non-stop “fight club” with Kisenosato since January. Both Tagonoura rikishi are unbeaten, and every match is smooth, confident, strong and in-control. Then there is Terunofuji, who is fighting like he really means it this time. We have not seen this aspect of him in a while. His matches are like some vengeful hero turned loose to reclaim his stolen valor.

The Kotoshogiku revival train missed a stop today, when Tamawashi was able to resist the one good leg power attack. It’s possible that now we have entered the middle act of Haru, everyone is warmed up, they have been watching the tapes, and they know how to circumvent Kotoshogiku’s modified attack forms.

Takarafuji will not be stopped, at least not any time soon. This is the best performance from Harumafuji’s stable mate that I can recall watching, and he is certainly cleaning up against any and all opponents. The same can be said about Tochiozan, who has had a string of lack-luster tournaments. Today Tochiozan dealt Chiyoshoma his first loss, and looked very much in control for the brief time the match lasted.

Endo handily defeated Ichinojo, who has been on a hot streak since the first of the year. Endo had Ichinojo’s excess height and weight to overcome, but his skill and technique carried the day. Endo has a lot of promise still, but his consistency has suffered greatly.

If you want to watch two rikishi really go after each other today, catch the Daieisho win over Takakeisho.

Late word from the NSK seems to indicate that we will see Kaisei return in the next few days, hopefully in working order and ready for battle. Readers will recall that his injury came in a practice bout with Hakuho, who is now himself out with injury.