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.
The big story of day 14 is the Hakuho kyujo. The reason cited was a hematoma in the right knee and problems with the left foot. Hakuho also mentioned that problems began following his day 4 match with Hokutofuji, that featured some gymnastics on the tawara, and that the trouble has been steadily increasing. It is reported that the pain and discomfort had increased to where he could no longer sleep at night, and it was decided that he would withdraw from competition. All of that and he still had 10 wins.
Both yusho contenders won their day 14 matches, so it’s Tamawashi’s cup to take if he can win his final day match. Of course the sumo world wants to see an oshi-mega-match between Takakeisho and Tamawashi (Takakeisho beat him day 3) for the Emperor’s Cup, but the chances of that happening are not high.
Speaking of the Tadpole, with his 11th win day 14, he has a valid application to become Ozeki. We will find out next week if it will be accepted, or if the NSK will suggest that he do well in one more basho.
Highlight Matches (abbreviated)
Takarafuji defeats Daiamami – First kachi-koshi in a year, and the struggling Daiamami made him work for it. But after some truly pitiful performances in 2018, it’s good to see him back on the winning side.
Kaisei defeats Yago – Kaisei hits double digits, and will face Ozeki Takaysu on day 15.
Daieisho defeats Yutakayama – Daieisho picks up his 3rd consecutive kachi-koshi while dealing Yutakayama his 3rd consecutive make-koshi. The symmetry is lovely, unless you are Yutakayama.
Abi defeats Shohozan – Abi hits double digits, and he’s still working the same formula. Maybe that’s all we get from Abi.
Hokutofuji defeats Nishikigi – Hokutofuji locks in his kachi-koshi in this match that featured a good start, but Nishikigi lost traction, and fell for his 8th loss.
Endo defeats Tochiozan – Endo hits double digits, and will be the rikishi who has the task of trying to throw the yusho into an elimination match when he takes on Tamawashi on day 15.
Onosho defeats Ichinojo – Onosho still looks kind of shaky, and I am hoping he will continue to heal and strengthen heading into March. Onosho kachi koshi / Ichinojo make koshi.
Chiyotairyu defeats Myogiryu – The human cannonball racks up his 8th win for his first kachi koshi in 3 tournaments. Komusubi Myogiryu headed back to the rank and file for Osaka.
Takakeisho defeats Okinoumi – The magic 11th win, and our tadpole qualifies to be considered for Ozeki. But the right conditions on day 15 could also see him contest for the Hatsu yusho. A win day 15 would underscore his Ozeki bid, and he needs to win against Goeido to do it. Goeido has physical issues right now, but he had day 14 to rest with the fusen win over Hakuho, and he’s been looking strong and fast in week 2.
Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – Takayasu knew exactly what to do, and I can’t compliment him enough for quickly, efficiently and with minimal pressure getting Mitakeumi moving backward and over the bales. With any luck this will convinces Mitakeumi to not risk further damage to his knee.
Onward to senshuraku! Let’s see the Sekiwake fight for the cup!
There was a time, in the earlier days of sumo, when we were blessed with a dai-Yokozuna, named Chiyonofuji. He had been dominant for a long time, and people wondered how he could ever be bested. But as time marched on (and time is the great equalizer), the demands of sumo, and the damage it accumulates in the body, wore him down to the point where he become quite a bit more beatable. He still dominated, and still took most yusho, but being able to beat Chiyonofuji became the litmus test for passage to the top ranks.
Its tough to know what is ailing Hakuho right now, there are a number of options ranging from the surgery he had just a few weeks ago, to the influenza virus that seems to be touring Japan. But it’s clear that in the past few days that the Yokozuna is not at his best. Does this mean he is done for? I should think not. He already has a Yokozuna’s kachi-koshi, and he is disappointing nobody but himself right now. But his string of 3 straight losses has turned this Hatsu basho into the much desired brawl that sumo fans will enjoy.
Sadanoumi defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama provided most of the offensive power for this match, but Sadanoumi had the experience to stalemate his opponent until he was off balance, and applied a tidy uwatenage for the win. Yutakayama is dangerously close to make-koshi now, and this far down the banzuke it might cause him quite a bit of trouble.
Abi defeats Kotoeko – Abi adds some garnish to his kachi-koshi, while at the same time I am sure Kotoeko is wondering about which division he will compete in come March.
Daishomaru defeats Takarafuji – I admit that I am puzzled in that it seems that Daishomaru is starting to get some of his sumo back. It’s far too late to save him from Juryo, but I am interested to see him get inside of a surprisingly docile Takarafuji.
Ikioi defeats Kaisei – A somewhat heroic tale for Ikioi, who is pushing through quite a few injuries and problems to prevail no matter what and get his 8th win. The “thud” from the tachiai was probably felt out on the street.
Daieisho defeats Chiyoshoma – Another member of the walking wounded, Chiyoshoma, gets his make-koshi. There are a good number of rikishi in the bottom quartile of the Makuuchi banzuke who are make-koshi, and its going to make the promotion / demotion race a bit interesting this time.
Daiamami defeats Ryuden – The accidental head-butt at the tachiai seems to have briefly stunned or disoriented Ryuden, and he goes down for his 8th loss. His over-promotion at Kyushu seems to have impacted him, and we hope that the extended break (with no jungyo) following Hatsu will allow him and others to get their bodies and their sumo back in order.
Yago defeats Onosho – Yago finally finds his 8th win after 4 consecutive losses. Onosho seems to be struggling quite a bit after a fierce start to Hatsu. Again, given his recovery, he will be doing well if he can get his 8th win, which is likely in the final 2 days. There were a number of rikishi who seem to find traction problems with the dohyo today, and Onosho was a good example.
Kagayaki defeats Yoshikaze – A weird set of matches. The first one saw Yoshikaze more or less demanding that a matta be called, leading to embarrassing confusion among pretty much everyone. But the judges called for a do-over, and Yoshikaze lost a second time. Given how poorly he is doing, todays match just compounds the pain for his fans.
Aoiyama defeats Endo – Strong opening attack by Aoiyama, but as with Onosho, Endo looks like he loses traction and goes down.
Asanoyama defeats Okinoumi – This was all Asanoyama, and Okinoumi seemed to been completely out-matched. Asanoyama’s recovery from a horrible start to the basho is both dramatic and welcome.
Nishikigi defeats Shohozan – Shohozan’s matta / early launch did not seem to rattle Nishikigi, who delta Shohozan his make-koshi with good forward motion, and efficient application of force.
Shodai defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan also picks up his 8th loss. Shodai was able to get the inside position against Tochiozan, and wasted no time in standing him up and pushing him back. Shodai’s tachiai actually looked pretty good today.
Mitakeumi defeats Ichinojo – The injured Mitakeumi keeps the pressure on against the much larger Ichinojo, and once again Ichinojo goes soft at the tawara. This marks his 8th win, and given that he took several days off, and is fighting more or less on one leg, this performance is somewhat miraculous. With Myogiryu already make-koshi, Mitakeumi will at least be moving over to the East Komusubi lost for March.
Kotoshogiku defeats Myogiryu – This see-saw match had Kotoshogiku throw everything he could at the Komusubi, and eventually wore Myogiryu down. Multiple times, Kotoshogiku applied his hug-n-chug attack, but Myogiryu was able to escape. The end came with both men spent, but Kotoshogiku having just enough left to advance and heave Myogiryu out at the edge.
Tamawashi defeats Hokutofuji – Tamawashi keeps the pressure on with todays win. Another case where a rikishi (Hokutofuji) seems to have lost traction and hit the clay. To be clear, Tamawashi had the pressure on high, but Hokutofuji lost as much as Tamawashi won.
Goeido defeats Takayasu – Very impressive Goeido. He came from a miserable start, nursing arm damage, and has battled back to the brink of his 8th win, and he beat Takayasu to do it. Goeido used his trademark speed to get the inside position and prevented Takayasu from generating much offense.
Takakeisho defeats Hakuho – How many fans remember the first match between these two? That odd affair in Nagoya in 2017 that devolved into something akin to butsugari, where Takakeisho was attempting to use his nascent “Wave Action” attack, and Hakuho more or less said “Isn’t that cutie”. Day after day, hour after hour, Takakeisho’s attack modes have been refined, honed and improved. Each time he has tested against Hakuho, it was clear he was getting stronger, better. Today, on his 4th attempt, he prevailed. Takakeisho is now just one win away from a bid to be promoted to Ozeki, and to some extent this was his final exam. Hakuho’s loss gives Tamawashi the sole lead for the Hatsu yusho, with Hakuho and Takakeisho one win behind. Fantastic way to hit the final weekend of a basho.
Well, we have a title race. Having let his Day 12 match get away from him, Hakuho has invited Tamawashi and a host of other characters back into a battle, when it was presumed he would have a smooth, easy ride up to Level 42. Ahem.
So, will the rikishi who loves to bake be able to throw a spatula in the works now that we’ve completed a dozen matches? Let’s look over the ingredients for Day 13:
What We Are Watching Day 13
Tomokaze vs Shimanoumi (Juryo) – Last tournament’s yusho winner Tomokaze is 7-5 and still very much has makuuchi promotion within his sights, and nailing down his kachikoshi here would be a huge step. That being said, Shimanoumi can seal at least a yusho playoff depending on other results with a win here, and will be going buns glazing guns blazing for victory. Tomokaze has won their only previous matchup.
Kotoeko vs Abi – Kotoeko has been trying to establish himself in the top division and has been making a better fist of it this time. He needs two from three but has the big doughnut in his three previous matches against Abi, who already has his kachi-koshi. I give the slight edge to Abi, who’s displayed slightly more consistent, okay sumo this basho.
Takarafuji vs Daishomaru – Takarafuji (aka Little Uncle Sumo) has displayed his usual if declining blend of stable unspectacular sumo this basho. At 7-5 he has a glorious opportunity against the Osaka man with the 1-11 scoreline to get the job done. While Daishomaru is off the mark now, I would be stunned if the Isegahama veteran can’t put the icing on the cake here.
Kaisei vs Ikioi – The Big Brazilian Kaisei has been mowing down the bottom of the banzuke in a manner which throws his earlier loss to Sadanoumi into stark relief. Ikioi needs have his knives sharpened and ready to deploy heavy metal sumo here and keep the heavier man off his mawashi, as he’s probably not going to win a yotsu match against Kaisei in everyone’s current form. The Osaka native is 7-5 and a win away from getting his kachikoshi (and if he has sense, taking two days off). But all of the sudden Kaisei is in a title race, and I think that will just about give him the edge in this match.
Yago vs Onosho – These guys are both 7-5 and have been flagging in week 2, like a loaf that hasn’t had enough time in the proving drawer. Yago has looked listless in the second week, and streaky Onosho will see this first time matchup as a chance to deal the big man a lesson in top division sumo. Only one man can seal his kachikoshi, while the loser will be looking nervously over their shoulder…
Chiyotairyu vs Meisei – Meisei has done well to consolidate his top division status so far, but this is a big trip up the banzuke which sees the M12 taking on M6 Chiyotairyu. Chiyotairyu has done alright just outside the joi, and I would expect him to torch the relative newcomer in this first time matchup. Both men are 6-6.
Kagayaki vs Yoshikaze – This might be unwatchable. Onosho couldn’t get any forward momentum against Kagayaki which makes me wonder what Yoshikaze is going to be able to do, given that he’s only really turned on the ol’ berzerker switch maybe once so far in the basho (his win against Shohozan). Like a couple of hotcakes that haven’t had enough time on the griddle, both of these guys have been awful in my humble opinion and already have make-koshi in the bag – though Kagayaki probably needs another win from somewhere to be absolutely safe from demotion. The lifetime series is split two apiece.
Aoiyama vs Endo – Somehow, Endo is in a yusho race again. Sumo will surprise you. He’s just been quietly good all throughout the tournament and now finds himself with 9 wins and a real chance for more. However, he gets a really tough customer here that he’s only beaten 3 times from 9 previous matchups. Endo has a lot of tricks, but unless he’s able to get a mawashi grip I fear that he may get pummelled.
Asanoyama vs Okinoumi – Having been passed by a number of exciting and more popular upstarts, Asanoyama is in danger of being one of those forgotten guys who’s just kind of always there. A little bit like Okinoumi, these days. They’re both good all-rounders, but without any defining quality that marks them out as best in class, a bit like the last slices of pie in the display case at a humble diner. This should be a good mawashi battle, though, between two 6-6 rikishi. They’ve faced off four times previously and surprisingly Asanoyama has won them all.
Nishikigi vs Shohozan – Here’s a match with contrasting styles between two 5-7 rikishi. Nishikigi got the party back on track with a win yesterday after his 7 bout losing streak, but he needs to win out or else I’m going to have to burn all the Komusubi Nishikigi t-shirts I’ve been waiting to sell. Both of these guys have had a tough run of fixtures and I think it’s going to come down to who’s able to establish their style in this contest as they both look to avoid make-koshi. If it’s a slapfest, Shohozan will break him like a gingersnap.
Tochiozan vs Shodai – Potentially another skippable moment between two rikishi with losing records. Shodai already has make-koshi while Tochiozan will be looking to avoid his here. Tochiozan has been better than his record would suggest and is 2-1 against non-sanyaku rikishi in this tournament (as opposed to Shodai, who has lost one more match overall despite having twice as many rank and file opponents to this point), so if he can win the tachiai, he can probably win this match.
Ichinojo vs Mitakeumi – Ichinojo started with a bang but then has reverted to his habits of giving up at the tawara recently. Bad Ichinojo, bad, bad, bad! You can’t have any ice cream until you get a kachi-koshi, that’s how it is. Mitakeumi, meanwhile, has shocked and henka’d his way back into contention for a kachi-koshi, to the delight of everyone except henka victim Tochiozan. Given that the two practice together, I’m sure he’ll be hearing about that. Pulling a henka here will probably not accomplish anything, so it’s going to come down to whether Mitakeumi has the strength in his leg to use his terrifying forward movement to push the big man back. He’s another guy who needs to get his 8 and get back out. He leads the lifetime series 5-3.
Myogiryu vs Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku has just had an awful run of fixtures. His 4-2 start proved he could still do the business against the rank and file types, but he doesn’t have anything left in the piping bag against sanyaku level opponents. When he looks bad, he’s unable to plant his feet in order to execute his famous gaburi-yori and I think Myogiryu – despite possibly being slightly more known as an oshi-zumo rikishi – would actually do well here to embrace a mawashi battle. He has beaten the Bulldozer many times by yorikiri, and if he can unsettle Kotoshogiku’s footwork and possibly even set up a throw, I think he’s got a better chance. But I don’t think he will embrace it and I think Kotoshogiku may break his losing streak here and demote Myogiryu from Komusubi.
Hokutofuji vs Tamawashi – Hokutofuji has suddenly been thrust into a match no one will want him to win. Which is sad, because he’s really rediscovered his sumo well in this tournament, and has a chance to wrap up his kachi-koshi early. Tamawashi has a slender 3-2 edge in this rivalry, but all of the momentum having come through all of the toughest matches he will face already, and certainly should have an easier run-in than Hakuho. But matches are played in the dohyo, not on paper. The Kataonami Baker has pre-heated the oven with his stunning upset of Hakuho on Day 12, and with these guys both being pusher-thruster types it should be a very intense battle.
Takayasu vs Goeido – It’s a Day 13 Ozeki battle where the only thing of consequence is Who’s Not Going to Be Kadoban? It’s possible that neither of them will make it out of this tournament with eight wins, although Takayasu can get the deal done here. Goeido still has to face a Hakuho who now desperately needs wins to fend off bloodthirsty challengers, so he’s less able to afford a slip in this match and is about as hot as kakigori. The lifetime series heavily favors Takayasu (18-9 when ignoring fusen-sho), and the Top Dog of Tagonoura is showing (marginally) the better sumo in this tournament as well, having come through the flu.
Takakeisho vs Hakuho – The two winners of the last two tournaments go head to head in the musubi-no-ichiban, and with rather more subplots than we’d originally anticipated: Takakeisho needs to win 2 of his last 3 matches to be considered for an Ozeki promotion. He’s also now just one win behind in the yusho arasoi, himself. Hakuho, meanwhile, has dropped 2 in a row and has not only left the door ajar but kicked it wide open for his challengers with two losses that could as much be attributed to his opponents to mistakes that he made. Takakeisho has never beaten Hakuho, and no one is ever favored against the Dai-Yokozuna, but the young starlet is fearless and – especially if the other yusho challengers keep up the pressure – this will be the highlight bout of the day.
A brief reminder that Tachiai is not spoiler free.
Tamawashi succeeded in his task, and took Hakuho to the clay for a second day in a row, dropping him to 10-2, and blowing the yusho race wide open. There are 5 rikishi who have a shot at the Emperor’s cup, and that number grows to 7 should either of the co-leaders lose again. Though, in reality, the race is between Hakuho and Tamawashi, with an outside chance of Takakeisho – should he also prevail against Hakuho in their day 13 match.
It should be noted that Takakeisho defeated Tamawashi on day 3, and at 9 wins he needs 2 more over the next 3 days to stamp his bid to become Ozeki. Takakeisho’s final 2 wins are not a certanty, and many Ozeki candidates fail their first attempts. Should he finish Hatsu with 10 wins, his goal in Osaka is a mere 10 wins, thanks to his 13-2 yusho in November.
More than any prior basho in recent memory, the winds of change a blowing with purpose.
Sadanoumi defeats Meisei – Sadanoumi locks in his kachi-koshi, This lightning fast match saw the competitors switch from oshi to yotsu and then, in tandem, attempt a throw.
Ikioi defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama is getting painfully close to a make-koshi, but Ikioi is some kind of battle-bot now, a mass of wounds and maladies that mounts the dohyo and defeats you. With his pain.
Takarafuji defeats Yago – Yago drops his 4th in a row, and is suddenly looking a lot less genki. A Takarafuji kachi-koshi would be his first since this time LAST YEAR!
Abi defeats Daiamami – Abi gets his first kachi-koshi since March of 2018, and proves that his style of sumo can still be effective, if you are far enough down the banzuke.
Asanoyama defeats Chiyoshoma – A rough and tumble match that looked like Chiyoshoma was still battling after he had stepped out. These two threw everything into this match, and it switched styles and forms multiple times, but Asanoyama kept fighting. Great sumo from both.
Ryuden defeats Daishomaru – Daishomaru will be relegated deep into Juryo for March. He seems to have no forward pressure at all, and we can assume some manner of injury is keeping him from his full potential.
Daieisho defeats Kotoeko – A quick, ugly match that suffered from a false start. Both men are struggling, and it will probably come down to final day matches for both of them.
Endo defeats Chiyotairyu – Massive, brilliant match from both. Endo gets high marks for absorbing Chiyotairyu’s tachiai and subsequent attacks, and a great effort from Chiyotairyu, who showed his trademark strength, and uncharacteristic stamina.
Kagayaki defeats Onosho – Hapless, make-koshi Kagayaki takes Onosho down. This underscores that Onosho is still not 100%, and is probably low on stamina at this point of the tournament. During the match you can see him favoring his right knee, and his ability to push against Kagayaki’s attack is certainly limited. The time he sat out to address his knee injury is impacting his sumo, at least for a little while longer. Onosho needs one more win for kachi-koshi.
Kaisei defeats Okinoumi – Like many Kaisei matches, it as a low speed – high force affair that played to the Brazilian’s massive body size and immense strength.
Nishikigi defeats Shodai – Shodai suffered the painful side of a kotenage in his make-koshi loss. Nishikigi has been fading since the middle weekend, and is on the knife edge of make-koshi himself. Can he battle back and win out for his kachi-koshi?
Hokutofuji defeats Ichinojo – High marks for Hokutofuji’s effort in this one. The much larger, much stronger Ichinojo fought him well up until he was backed to the bales, and then once again went soft.
Shohozan defeats Myogiryu – Shohozan engages in a surprising mawashi battle, and comes up the winner. Myogiryu resisted well, escaping at least twice from potential Shohozan wins, but “Big Guns” stayed with it, and took the white star.
Mitakeumi defeats Tochiozan – Now one win away from a kachi-koshi, walking wounded Mitakeumi applies a hit-and-shift tachiai, and follows it up with a strong grapple and forward attack against Tochiozan. I cringe watching him, but he’s getting results.
Takakeisho defeats Kotoshogiku – It was evident that Kotoshogiku was a bit lost on how to attack. Takakeisho’s thrusting attacks blocked him from setting up the gaburi-yori, and all attempts to return Takakeisho’s oshi attacks were blunted by the fact that Takakeisho is so damn short. Kotoshogiku found himself getting a lot of hair, and not much rikishi. Kotoshogiku make-koshi.
Goeido defeats Yoshikaze – To be fair, this is the depleted relic of Yoshikaze, but I applaud Goeido for battling back from doom to at least a 6-6 score. 2 more wins out of the last 3 and he can escape what seemed to be an almost certain kadoban.
Takayasu defeats Aoiyama – Impressive effort from Aoiyama, he managed to use his superior reach to keep the Ozeki’s offense more or less shut down, but even his mighty strength was not enough to close the deal. Takayasu took his time and waited for the moment he could get inside, and then powered Aoiyama out.
Tamawashi defeats Hakuho – The Boss has done a great job convincing everyone he was genki, but it seems that mask has dropped. Hakuho is an ace competitor, but he made a fatal mistake and broke contact with Tamawashi, resulting in him facing the wrong way. Tamawashi sprang to action and escorted the Yokozuna out in a rush. It’s not often we see Hakuho make a mistake that large, and my compliments to “The Crippler” for seizing the opportunity.