After a short break, I’m back with a short review of the 2019 Hatsu Basho. In this video, I briefly discuss the biggest ups and downs of the Hatsu Basho, surprises and disappointments, the Banzuke picture for the upcoming Haru Basho, and the big stories coming out of January.
I want to thank Bruce for encouraging me to post this to the front page. I’ve been brainstorming some new videos and content and I’m very excited to try them out.
It’s Day 2, and here’s another wrap up from Juryo. This time we’ll throw in a couple bonus bouts from the Makushita promotion race, which is already shaping up to be a hot one.
Makushita Bonus Action
Akua defeats Chiyonoo – After his disastrous basho in Fukuoka, Chiyonoo doesn’t look like coming back up any time in the near future. Akua gives him the ol’ push and pull and he’s face flat on the dohyo. Woof. Akua looks the more likely to be back up in Juryo the soonest.
Takanofuji defeats Ryuko – Takanofuji nee Takayoshitoshi wins despite not having a solid grip for most of this match. Ryuko, a former Tachiai One to Watch who was surprisingly tipped by John Gunning as a future Ozeki, has got a left hand grip and gives a couple attempts at an uwatenage, but Takanofuji manoeuvres him close to the bales and crushes him down via yoritaoshi.
Chiyonoumi defeats Daiseido – Daiseido, having lost already, gets a visit to Juryo on day 2 against Chiyonoumi. After a matta, the Kokonoe man uses Daiseido’s inertia against him, steps to the side and thrusts him down to win by tsukiotoshi. Daiseido now has very little room for error with 13 days to go, if he’s going to make it to the penultimate division. Chiyonoumi now 2-0.
Sokokurai defeats Gagamaru – There’s a combined age of 66 on the dohyo with these two. You know that facebook meme going around right now where you’re meant to post your first profile picture from ten years ago and your most recent? Well if you’re feeling bad about how you’ve aged then bear in mind that Gagamaru is 31. Before this match starts, I notice that cool man Tomozuna is in the shimpan crew, which in fairness is a good distraction from some gnarly shiko. There’s another matta, and then Sokokurai pulls a planetary-orbit altering henka that sends the Georgian to the clay. Both men are now 1-1, and Gagamaru is not massively pleased.
Shimanoumi defeats Kyokushuho – Kyokushuho deploys some strong nodowa attempts in front of his stable master, but can’t find the killer move and as Shimanoumi gets him going backward, he pulls and it’s all over. Shimanoumi checks his balance, stays low, and shoves his man out.
Jokoryu defeats Tsurugisho – Jokoryu beats Tsurugisho with one of those throws that feels like it lasts an entire year. Jokoryu lands his left hand inside after the Tachiai, and then the entire rest of this match is him attempting to unload the throw. It looks like it may backfire but eventually he controls Tsurugisho’s momentum and executes a very satisfying shitatenage.
Tobizaru defeats Takekaze – Takekaze had a bad loss on Day 1 and needs to sort himself out if he isn’t going to suffer a potentially career-ending drop out of the professional ranks. This match is a slap-fest in which the veteran is determined to rough up Tobizaru’s face, much to the chagrin of the younger man’s fans. Takekaze unleashes about 13 slap and pull and poke and scratch attempts before Tobizaru is able to keep the wily elder statesman at arms length in order to set up the push and pull for the slap down. Takekaze is now 0-2, and Tobizaru is now 1-1.
Arawashi defeats Kyokutaisei – It’s not Tobizaru’s fault, but I could get behind his Tokyo banana mawashi if Kyokutaisei was still sporting the Hokkaido melon tinted belt. Arawashi’s sumo has been a mess lately but he executes a pretty solid tsuppari into mawashi grip transition and chaperones Kyokutaisei out. The best lead actor of any recent sumo film puts up a decent fight at the edge but there’s nothing he can do, and that’s the kind of match Kyokutaisei should probably be winning against a sekitori in freefall. Both men are now 1-1. Bring back the melon!
NHK cuts the feed at this point over from the broadcast satellite to NHK G and shows Kisenosato entering the Kokugikan, and the footage kind of looks like there’s going to be an intai announcement. But it turns out they’re just announcing that he takes on Ichinojo later.
Hidenoumi defeats Mitoryu – disappointing from Mitoryu as Hidenoumi tries and fails to get a mawashi grip, but doesn’t really need it to get the Mongolian high and escort him out in fairly short order. Disappointing match, and Mitoryu is getting a little inconsistent at this level. Both of these guys are now 1-1 as well.
Azumaryu defeats Enho – Ura had better hurry up, because here’s more incredible sumo involving Enho, who is turning into the can’t miss rikishi. Azumaryu’s ring demeanour is so much calmer and measured than the more frantic Enho. They take a while to get ready at the tachiai, but eventually this bout gets underway, and Enho gets in low. Azumaryu tries repeatedly to simply push him down, slap him down, as the smaller man buries his head into Azumaryu’s stomach. Eventually Enho tries to get a mawashi grip, but this doesn’t work and it looks like the Mongolian has him off balance. But the little guy recovers, tries a throw and can’t pull it off. Then he tries a sotogake leg trip and can’t pull that off, and Azumaryu now has Enho off balance and throws him to the dirt. Enho gets up with a bloodied face and nothing to show for his efforts but his fans. Both men are now 1-1.
Chiyomaru defeats Akiseyama – It’s the battle of the bulbous! Chiyomaru tries to hit a slap down and then the match looks like it’s turning into a yotsu-battle. The two men lock up in the middle of the dohyo and it’s possible one of them is about to fall asleep when Chiyomaru twists the awkward Kise-beya rikishi around and tosses him down with a tsukiotoshi. Chiyomaru heads to 2-0, with Akiseyama now 0-2.
Wakatakakage defeats Hakuyozan – Dominant performance from Wakatakakage. Hakuyozan gets the better of the tachiai, but once the smaller Arashio-beya man lands his grip, Hakuyozan is totally out of control of the match and Wakatakakage deposits him over the edge. Both of these young starlets are now 1-1 as well.
Toyonoshima defeats Tokushoryu – Here’s a match featuring an awful lot of belly. Toyonoshima puts his to good use as he takes control straight from the tachiai and wins with an insanely straightforward yorikiri. Tokushoryu tries to get his arm around the senior sumo citizen’s head and execute some kind of throw or slap down in desperation, but he’s got nothing. Everybody here is now 1-1 as well.
Aminishiki defeats Tomokaze – Old meets young in a generational battle. Uncle Sumo mounts the dohyo in an attempt to get something from the current division’s yusho holder. Tomokaze has his usual nonplussed expression as the two men get down for the tachiai. You’ll never guess what happens next: pusher-thruster Tomokaze has backwards-moving slap-down specialist Aminishiki going backwards. Aminishiki dances around the ring and hits the hikiotoshi as Tomokaze goes flying. It’s a good lesson for the youngster. It’s increasingly likely in 50 years we’ll still be watching them wheel the bones and bandages of Aminishiki onto the dohyo – he can still win at this level. He, like Tomokaze and just about everyone else, is 1-1.
Ishiura defeats Terutsuyoshi – Here’s the battle of salt vs protein. Terutsuyoshi deploys a sodium explosion that’s impressive even by his lofty standards. Ishiura takes charge of this match though – and it’s interesting to watch him when the opponent is also small – it’s a reminder he can do some great sumo when he goes head on. Despite Terutusyoshi being small, Ishiura does manage to get in a bit lower, grabs the Isegahama man, spin him around and throw him out. There may have been some discussion of a matta, but Ishiura’s already on his way back to the locker room to make a shake, with both men’s records now 1-1.
Daishoho defeats Takanosho – Daishoho and Takanosho are so close to makuuchi they can smell it. After some good old fashioned slapping, the Mongolian locks up Takanosho’s arm and the Chiganoura man simply can’t escape. Daishoho unloads a kotenage and it might not be surprisingly that Takanosho is in bad shape after the rough throw. Takanosho needs the help of multiple yobidashi to dismount the dohyo and this will put his attempt to gain promotion back to the top level in deep trouble. Both of these guys are also now 1-1. Despite a kotenage arm lock throw being notoriously harsh on the receiver’s arm and elbow, it seemed the injury was to his leg/thigh area.
Sumo fans rejoice, the sport of giants is just a few days away!! Not only am I stoked for the return of sumo, but I’m also excited to celebrate a little anniversary this November. It’s hard for me to believe it, but it’s been one year since I started making scorecards for this wonderful site. As always, here are the full banzuke scorecards for those of you who enjoy keeping track of every win and loss in the top division, along with the smaller stable card version.
Iksumo has already done a stellar job of reviewing the top of Makuuchi, where all eyes are probably firmly glued to Tochinoshin and Mitakeumi’s struggle and to the Yusho race. Here, though, I’d like to take a moment to discuss the bottom of Makuuchi.
Who’s struggling to avoid demotion? Well, starting from the bottom of the Banzuke and working up, we immediately find M16w Ishiura in the very lowest spot, with a 3-7 record. Compounding his problems is the fact that, at the bottom of the division, his opponents generally come from higher and higher in Makuuchi as the basho goes on. If he doesn’t win every single one of his remaining matches, he’ll very likely be dropping back to Juryo just in time to meet his stable-mate Enho on the way up. He fights a fairly genki Nishikigi tomorrow, an opponent against whom he has a decent winning record of 7-5.
M16e Kotoyuki‘s 4-6 record puts him in nearly as much trouble, but it’s worth noting that he had a run of three losses at the start of the basho during which his sumo was, to put it frankly, terrible. He’s since sorted that out, and although he’s picked up another three losses, it’s possible that he’ll be able to scrape together a bare kachi-koshi. His opponent tomorrow is Ryuden, though, who is in good fighting form and against whom Kotoyuki has two losses and no wins. It’s not looking great for the owl.
M14w Chiyomaru‘s cuteness won’t save him, but the small buffer between his current position and the bottom of the division might. A 3-7 record isn’t good, but if he finishes at, say, 6-9, he might just about stay in Makuuchi. Worse than that, though, and he’ll be rolling back to Juryo.
The other thing that might save Chiyomaru is some minor disasters from higher up the banzuke. M11w Kyokutaisei is the eternally round one’s opponent tomorrow, he has only managed one win so far, and he is pretty obviously injured. If he can’t make a near-miraculous recovery, he’ll be back out of Makuuchi after holding on for three tournaments.
Glancing a little higher we have Aoiyama, who I would normally consider as safe as houses at M10e, but his 2-8 record and obvious knee injury put him in real peril. His opponent tomorrow is Onosho, which isn’t quite as bad for the Bulgarian as it sounds because Onosho hasn’t been fighting particularly well either this basho.
Out of these five in-trouble rikishi – plus new Makuuchi entrant Takanosho, who at 5-5 and M14e could go either way in the last few days – how many are likely to fall to Juryo? Well, frankly, your guess is as good as mine because seriously look at this nonsense.
To the right is the Juryo leaderboard for day 10. Basically everyone is either 6-4 or 5-5. There could be six or more prospective promotees, or there could be zero. Arawashi seems likely to make a Makuuchi comeback, since from his J1e position, he’ll now mostly be facing opponents from mid- rather than upper-Juryo, and Meisei and Yago seem well placed to accompany him. Although, of the three, only Arawashi has faced a Makuuchi opponent so far.
This would be Yago’s Makuuchi debut, and I know Herouth at least is very much looking forward to it. Plus, he’ll finally be allowed a shikona.
Instead of a traditional “Ones to Watch” section this basho, we’ll mix things up with a few lower division storylines. We’ll start by taking a look at what’s going on at the top of Makushita.
This division is an absolute slog. There are 120 men in this division fighting for usually 2 to 4 of the 28 slots in Juryo. As described on a recent NHK World sumo preview, the division between Makushita and Juryo is like “heaven and hell,” given the resources and opportunities provided to rikishi once they reach the professional, sekitori level.
If you’re a college rikishi of good pedigree, usually you will cruise through the bottom 2-3 tiers before meeting your tougher matches here. Rikishi who have left school before college often take several years to reach the level as they get acclimated to the sport and the lifestyle. One of the reasons it’s tough to escape the level is because there’s a crush at the top – but Nagoya 2018 is unique. With respect to Natsu whipping boy Amakaze, usually there are a couple rikishi around the top of the division who have departed Juryo due to injury or performance, not soon to return back, and these guys get beat up by the hot young up-and-comers on the upswing of their career.
This time, however, there’s no filler at the top of the division and it’s going to be an all out melee to reach the professional ranks when sumo returns to Tokyo for the Aki tournament in September. Let’s look at who’s jockeying for position:
The Battle Scarred Veterans
I’m going to put 29 year olds Jokoryu (Ms5E) and Asabenkei (Ms4E) in this category, though their careers have taken different routes to the same location. The former Komusubi Jokoryu spent 4 years as sekitori before dropping down the divisions due to serious injury. He’s been stuck in the wilderness for 2 years, but has fought his way back up to striking distance of promotion. Asabenkei, who has been in sumo since 2007, recently made it back to Juryo after an 18 month hiatus. He then suffered a humiliating 3-win tournament in May, which started 0-7, en route to an immediate demotion back to the third tier.
While these guys have a wildly different pedigree and career accomplishments, it’s probably fair to say they have been operating on a similar talent level and with an ambition to scrape back up and re-establish themselves as professionals.
The Hot Shots
Enho (Ms2W) – the first man to open his career 21-0 since Jokoryu – arrived on the scene earlier than predicted in Osaka, but it was clear he was over-promoted before his time and was swiftly demoted back to Makushita. It’s good news for him that he has such an esteemed some-time sparring partner in Hakuho, however, and the hard work he’s put in has seen him rebound after a solid Natsu to the fourth position on the banzuke. We’ve been hot on Enho so long it’s hard to believe it’s still only his 8th tournament. 5 wins should see him back up.
Meanwhile, fellow “Ones to Watch” honorees and college men Murata (Ms1W) and Ichiyamamoto (Ms3E) reach the division’s summit in just their 9th tournaments (though Ichiyamamoto gets bonus points for having got here just as quickly from Jonokuchi). Murata is a big bopper who loves a good ol’ fashioned oshi-fuelled brawl. Ichiyamamoto mixes it up a little more but is still mostly a pusher-thruster.
The youngest of Arashio-beya’s three Onami brothers, Wakatakakage not only made it first to Juryo but then stuck at the level, managing a kachi-koshi in his first trip to the pros. Middle brother Wakamotoharu (Ms4W) now finds himself on the brink – with the third and oldest brother Wakatakamoto not so far behind at Ms10. Having only eked out 3 wins from similar positions on the banzuke in the past, he’ll be looking to improve his record in this part of the sumo world this time, to set up a promotion challenge either this time or next. It’s a sprint between the two remaining brothers to catch Wakatakakage now, but Wakamotoharu is in the pole position.
The Cups of Coffee
27 year old Akua (Ms5W) and 23 year old Hakuyozan (Ms1E) both spent years making the long and winding trek through the lower reaches of the banzuke before managing just a “cup of coffee” in the pros, each returning back to Makushita after one tournament where they both clearly looked overmatched. They’ll be wanting to make sure the chance to establish themselves at a higher level does not go begging again.
The Wild Cards
22 year olds Gokushindo (Ms2E) and Kiribayama (Ms3W) have different origin stories and routes to this point, but what they have in common is a certain inconsistency. Kiribayama at times has looked utterly dominant in this division, and is the current yusho holder. Gokushindo has tended to take 2 steps forward followed by one step back as he adjust to the differences in quality in what is a Makushita tier which effectively has divisions within the division, such is the gulf in class between various areas of the ranks. Having posted a 6-1 record last time out, it would seemingly stand to reason he would need an adjustment period again this time, but he will face familiar foes having beaten Ichiyamamoto, Murata and Wakamotoharu in May (the latter two using a style best described as “Ichinojo” – a ponderously lengthy wait-out of a grapple in the centre of the dohyo followed by an escort over the bales and a throw respectively), losing only to Kiribayama.
At the time of writing, it appears to be unclear whether we’re going to see Terunofuji (Ms6E) in Nagoya. The man has undergone plenty of work on both knees, and suffered a less than fruitful spell in Juryo, which was also apparently hindered at times by diabetes related treatment. What his tournament ability is, at this point in the game, is still unclear. While it’s possible and even likely he may drop further (either due to performance or kyujo-status), the very presence of a former Ozeki in this part of the banzuke should give pause to each of the other names listed here – if he does show up, it’s obviously to compete and to win.