Nagoya banzuke crystal ball part 1


Following mixed success in predicting the Natsu banzuke, I’m going to take a shot at Nagoya.

Upper San’yaku

Y1 Hakuho Harumafuji
Y2 Kisenosato Kakuryu
O1 Terunofuji Goeido
O2 Takayasu  

The ranks here are determined by performance at Natsu, with the exception of Shin-Ozeki Takayasu, who will need to work his way up from O2e. Although we no longer have three sekiwake, Andy’s OCD will have to cope with three Ozeki instead.


Lower San’yaku

S Tamawashi Mitakeumi
K Yoshikaze Kotoshogiku

I would not be shocked to see Shodai at K1w in place of Kotoshogiku–will the NSK favor the popular up-and-comer or the grizzled vet?


The Meat Grinder

I’m going to include the M1-M4 ranks here. Along with the San’yaku, this group makes up the “joi” or upper ranks, and regularly faces San’yaku competition. When none of the rikishi in the San’yaku ranks are kyujo, there are currently 11 of them, so they need  to face 5 wrestlers outside the San’yaku to make up their 15 bouts. This takes us down to M3e. But as commenter Asashosakari noted, M3w has to face at least Harumafuji, Terunofuji, Kisenosato and Takayasu, who can’t face a wrester from the same heya. At Natsu, the numbers of San’yaku opponents for the M1-M4 ranks was 11, 11, 8, 9, 9, 5, 6, 2. So there was the expected drop-off at M3w (Aoiyama), but he and Tochiozan (M4e) still faced quite a few San’yaku opponents as a result of the combination of same-heya wrestlers and withdrawals of Kakuryu and Kisenosato. Shodai faced 3 San’yaku opponents (and defeated two of them!), and no one else ranked at M4w or lower faced more than 2.

Why “the meat grinder”? Well, as a group, these rikishi went a horrific 8-51 against their San’yaku opponents, a 0.136 winning percentage. The only one with more than one win was Endo, who sort of held his own at 4-7. Excluding his performance, the rest of this group went an abysmal 4-44 (0.083 winning percentage). Not surprisingly, the M1-M3 ranks will turn over completely, as they did after Haru, and most of this group will fall far down the banzuke, although Endo should hang on at M4.

M1 Shodai Takakeisho
M2 Tochinoshin Hokutofuji
M3 Ikioi Ura
M4 Endo Kagayaki

Shodai will probably just miss out on a komusubi slot; one more victory would have sealed the deal. He and Ikioi and Endo are no strangers to this level of competition. Neither is Tochinoshin, who is dangerous if healthy. It’ll be interesting to see how Takakeisho and Hokutofuji acquit themselves at this level. I’m afraid Nagoya will be a “learning experience” for Ura, just like Natsu was for Daieisho. Kagayaki is just here to balance the columns and not needlessly trigger Andy’s OCD.

Part 2 will cover the lower maegashira ranks.

Natsu Wrap Up & Day 15 Highlights


Hakuho-15

The Boss Is Back

In completing his perfect yusho, Yokozuna Hakuho has made it clear that he is back in form and ready to resume his reign as the dai-Yokozua. It’s been a long, difficult road for Hakuho. After he injured his foot in Nagoya, he chose to miss Aki and undergo an operation to reconstruct his big toe and to fix parts of his knee. The recovery was not easy. The surgery and immobility afterwords had a bigger impact than I am sure he expected. As a result he has been under performing for months.

In that period, we have seen some rikish who would normally be eking out kachi-koshi scores here and there truly excel. This is in part because to top predator (and some of his cohorts) have been under performing, in culling rikishi from the ranks.

You can think of it this way, for Hakuho to get to 15 wins, the rest of Makuuchi had to absorb 15 losses. With Hakuho kyujo, someone else got those 15 wins. Everyone’s score increased. You got to see Kisenosato finally make Yokozuna, you got to see Goeido take a zensho yusho. You got to see Kakuryu rack up (at last) a yusho himself. It’s been a great year without a Hakuho. But now he is back, and he is genki and he is ready to rule once more.

A sign of that include his late pushes after a match have returned, so maybe he feels he is fine and will stay fine, and he is free to be Hakuho the great. This has huge implications for sumo for the next year or two. Specifically the other Yokozuna and anyone wishing to follow Takayasu up the Ozeki trail.

For a long time nobody but Hakuho could yusho. When he is / was healthy he is / was unstoppable. We saw that again here during Natsu. Is he back to that level? He wants you to think he is, to be sure. But is he? Maybe? But it’s clear that the one armed Yokozuna needs a repair job if he wants to contend once more. It would be brutally sad if Kisenosato had to follow Kakuryu into a series of revolving kyujos due to a combination of untreated and unresolved injuries, and a mighty, nearly unbeatable uber-sumotori at the top of the heap.

Chiyonokuni finished 2-13. He’s much better than that, and I think he still has a lot of promise. He just peaked hard when a lot of other sekitori were flailing, and he got caught in a storm of beat downs by everyone. He will recover, he will be back. He’s one to watch.

Okinoumi & Takarafuji finished 3-12. Both are old for rikishi, both have various performance limiting injuries. This is one of the problems with Makuuchi at the moment, its full of guys in their 30s. As a pure meritocracy, it’s full of people who can win, and those that can’t win go away over time. We are in one of those times, but because of the way the banzuke works, it could take a long time before fading veterans make way for the up and coming hard chargers.

Daieisho, Aoiyama, Takekaze, Toyohibiki, Myogiryu & Yutakayama finished 4-11. You might expect there to be a brutal banzuke thump down for these rikishi, but for every down there must be an up. And many of the pressure from the lower ranks you might expect did not materialize due to near absolute parity in Juryo. 13 Juryo wresters ended with 8-7 or 7-8.

Matches That Mattered On Day 15

Ura defeats Daishomaru – Ura does a reverse tachiai. You can rightly ask “what the hell was that?”, but hey! it worked! Was it a henka? No, not really. Was it strange? Yes. I thought I saw Daishomaru smiling and maybe giggling a bit over what had just happened, but then I had already had a glass of sake, so who knows.

Tochinoshin defeats Toyohibiki – Kind of sour ending by back to back henkas from Tochinoshin. I am going to guess he re-injured that mummified knee, and that’s why he henka’d his last two matches.

Ishiura defeats Takekaze – Ishiura gets to be Hakuho’s standard bearer – very happy for Ishiura, he pulled out a kachi-koshi on the last day. He has some work to do, and hopefully a healthy Hakuho can provide some assistance. His deshi needs some upgrades.

Tochiozan defeats Shohozan – Both end with 6-9, both are in the older crowd that is lingering around, due to lack of pressure from Juryo. Don’t get me wrong, Makuuchi is good sumo now, but it could and should be better. But right now Juryo is kind of broken for some reason I have not figured out. There should be a crop of early 20’s rikishi who stand these old guys on their ear daily, but that is not happening.

Hokutofuji defeats Yoshikaze – Hokutofuji joins the joi next basho, I would assume. It will be time to see if the up-and-comer has the mojo to really make a stand against the San’yaku. With a healthy Hakuho, it could be a blood bath again (as the basho were before he was hurt a year ago). Yoshikaze at this point is just running up his personal score. While we fans out side Japan mostly focus on what the NHK video shows us, it’s important to note that inside the sumotori community, everyone loves Yoshikaze, and I predict that once he retires and exercises his kabu, he is going to be a very big deal in sumo management indeed.

Shodai defeats Mitakeumi – Whatever they put in Shodai’s chanko the last few days, do keep it up! Next basho, we get Shodai back in the joi, and it’s bloodbath time for him, too!

Kotoshogiku defeats Ikioi – Well, that was like the Kotoshogiku of old. We should all enjoy it while it lasts. It’s sort of sad to see him fade, but I guess he is still calling his own outcomes, so I praise his persistence. Ikioi is still hit or miss, but then he has been for a while now.

Tamawashi defeats Goeido – Goeido 1.0 came back for old time’s sake. Now that Kadoban is lifted for a few months, he can afford to be unfocused. Please go get rested, ready and strong Goeido. Nothing would confound the critics and delight the fans more than a second basho full of Goeido 2.0. Who knows, you might even convince Hakuho to retire…

Terunofuji defeats Takayasu – I love the Kaiju when he’s on his sumo. Although I am a ginormous Takayasu fan, it was very good to see Terunofuji deploy all of his moves against the man who will be Ozeki. Even to the point of crushing his arms, which we have not seen in some time. People use to be afraid of facing this guy because they would leave the bout hurt. If Kisenosato can be restored to working order, Takayasu will make a great Ozeki. But while he is training on his own (like he was the for the past 2 months) he is vulnerable. The two are a team, and together they will excel.

Hakuho defeats Harumafuji – Kind of one for the ages. It was a great match, especially the series of moves Hakuho used to change the dynamics of the match and get Harumafuji un-stuck and moving backwards. Given Harumafuji’s re-injury to his ankle, I think he put on a hell of a performance. My complements to both men

Looking toward Nagoya


What a great tournament we just had! To me, what stood out is the large number of outstanding performances throughout the banzuke, from Hakuho‘s zensho yusho all the way down to Onosho‘s 10-5 record in his Makuuchi debut. Terunofuji got his Jun-yusho, and would have been in contention on the final day if not for his early hiccups on days 1 and 2. Takayasu handled the pressure and will be ozeki in Nagoya. Tamawashi may have started his own ozeki run, and has been fighting at that level. Mitakeumi and Yoshikaze held their own in San’yaku, and Shodai, Takakeisho, Tochinoshin, Hokutofuji, Ikioi, and Ura all put up great numbers in the maegashira ranks.

We don’t get the official Nagoya banzuke until June 26, but here are some early thoughts on the top and bottom of the banzuke.

The yokozuna ranks should get reshuffled as follows:

Y1 Hakuho Harumafuji
Y2 Kisenosato Kakuryu

We will have 3 ozeki: Terunofuji, Goeido, and Takayasu.

Tamawashi will keep his sekiwake rank, and Mitakeumi should join him.

Yoshikaze will keep his komusubi rank, and I think Kotoshogiku did just enough to only drop down to the other komusubi slot.

We should have a strong new crop of upper maegashira, who may even fare better than their predecessors at these ranks:

M1 Shodai Takakeisho
M2 Tochinoshin Hokutofuji
M3 Ikioi Ura

At the other end of the banzuke, Yutakayama, Myogiryu, and Toyohibiki will find themselves in Juryo, replaced in Makuuchi by Sadanoumi, Chiyomaru, and Nishigiki. I think Kaisei will just barely hang on to the top division at M16. They could swap him with Gagamaru, but what would be the point?

Full banzuke prediction to come once I’ve had some time to digest Natsu.

Natsu Day 4 Results


Day 3

Apologies For a Lack Of Preview!

As feared, connectivity in Japan has been hit-or-miss, and it has greatly impacted my ability to post, upload photos and video and a host of other things. But fear not, dear readers! The day 5 results from the Kokugikan are here!

It seems today was “Salaryman Day” or something of the sort. A few minutes before the Makuuchi dohyo-iri, a few thousand salarymen began streaming into the upper deck stadium seats at the Kokugikan. I am sure it’s perfectly normal, but to this sumo fan, it seemed a bit surreal. They were followed by ushers carrying huge flats of beer cans, which were passed around the crowd of business men.

There was some massive, raucous action on day 4, so I strongly encourage all to watch the matches on NHK, or better yet, Jason’s all sumo channel.

Selected Highlights

Onosho defeats Myogiryu – There was a huge amount of effort in this bout, and it featured competing throw attempts that ended at the edge. It was a great way to start Makuuchi.

Kaisei defeats Chiyotairyu – Kaisei won – yes, by moving forward. He has the bulk and the leg strength, but it seems he needs to put away the pulling technique and take a page from Kisenosato’s book – 蜻蛉 (Tonbo)

Tochinoshin defeats Ura – There were so many things wrong in this bout, it took a rather lengthy monoii to try and put a fig leaf on it. First of all, there should have been a matta at the start, but sure, whatever. Then there was an excellent raging battle between size and strength vs speed. It ended with some fantastic acrobatics at the tawara, and it looked to me like the Gyoji said “screw it” and pointed his gumbai in a random direction. Without the benefit or replay, I can only go by what my eyes saw, but it seemed Ura’s win.

Takakeisho defeats Ichinojo – Slow motion sumo match. I left 30 minutes after the final bout, and Ichinojo had yet to reach the clay.

Ikioi defeats Tochiozan – Big ugly slap fest the Ikioi managed to win. I would expect Tochiozan’s hot streak to continue past today, even though Ikioi racked up a win.

Shodai defeats Takarafuji – Great strength match, polite of Takarafuji to take advantage of Shodai’s consistently sloppy tachiai.

Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – Probably the match of the day, and they both put everything into it. Takayasu is displaying almost unthinkable strength and determination this week, and even a really aggressive highly motivated Mitakeumi could not defeat him. Takayasu now needs 6 wins, and certainly looks like Ozeki material

Kotoshogiku defeats Tamawashi – So happy that Kotoshogiku got a win and was able to deploy his hug-n-chug. He is headed towards a hard, brutal make-koshi, most likely. I am grateful I had a chance to see him operate when he was healthy.

Terunofuji defeats Chiyoshoma – Terunofuji looking somewhat better, I am staring to hope that he will put forth a strong effort this time and avoid more kadoban nonsense.

Goeido defeats Daieisho – Future Sekiwake Goeido pretzeled up Daieisho, who must be wondering what the hell happened an how he ended up in this living sumo hell, and why the schedulers hate him so much.

Harumafuji defeats Chiyonokuni – Harumafuji’s back! In person it was clear he was trying for Chiyonokuni’s mawashi, and I was hoping to see the spin cycle today. Instead he had to settle for launching Chiyonokuni into a handy Shimpan landing zone.

Yoshikaze defeats Kakuryu – The Berserker is on fire right now, and it’s tough to stand up to him. Kakuryu is in deep ugly trouble now, his reactive sumo is not working this time, and he will have to endure calls for his retirement.

Endo defeats Kisenosato – Kisenosato gives up his first kinboshi, he is clearly still hurt in a very performance limiting way. Hell, a left handed Yokozuna loses use of his left upper body, but still manages to win half his matches. I expect him to somehow swallow (for him) a bitter pill and go kyujo on the weekend.

Hakuho defeats Okinoumi – I honestly feel sorry for Okinoumi. Hakuho is clearly back in fighting form, and he’s just going to crumple and fold everyone for the next 11 days.

Natsu Day 3 Preview


Kisenosato-tachiai

Keep Your Eye On Yoshikaze

Good morning Tachiai readers, almost time to stumble the 2 blocks to the Kokugikan, but first some thoughts on today’s matches. Firstly, looking forward to Wakaichiro’s second match. This will be against a rikishi with about the same experience level as his, and should be a more even fight. While I am sure I can capture video from the bout, it may need to be uploaded much later in the day, due to my wifi hotspot being dead.

On the Makuuchi side, it’s becoming clear that this may be the basho that flushes some of the injured and chronically wounded aside. From watching them fight, I would say

Kisenosato – in huge pain, impacted and should go kyujo. But The Great Pumpkin does not go kyujo, so look for him to hobble on.

Hakuho – all lights are green, he is healthy, fired up and looking to take back the spotlight.

Harumafuji – also seems to be at least 80% of himself or higher. Genki enough to trash all of his opponents thus far. Yes, fans, it’s even more awesome to watch first person when he blasts someone into the zabuton.

Kakuryu – He is all over the place, possibly not in the best of health, so this may be a tough basho for him.

Goeido – ankle rebuild is probably not enough to bring him back to fighting shape. It may be his only choice to retire.

Terunofuji – the Kaijū is having knee problems again, and it shows. This is a very sad state as I was looking forward to having him stomping around again.

Highlight Matches

Ishiura vs Ura – Ura is looking very good this tournament. Ishiura still seems to be looking for his groove. I hope we get a good match out of these two today.

Tamawashi vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi is really continuing his winning streak from the past two basho, and I would say that we are likely to avoid the “no-zeki” situation if Mitakeumi and Takayasu can keep their sumo going. Tamawashi is right behind them, but just a step down from what he needs.

Kotoshogiku vs Takayasu – Nothing will stop Takayasu. As was clear from his day 2 bout, Kotoshogiku is too banged up to even consistently make his one trick work anymore.

Yoshikaze vs Goeido – Yoshikaze is doing very well, even in his loss day 2 to Hakuho, he brought a full berserker style pounding to The Boss. Now a greatly reduced Goeido faces the same attack.

Endo vs Kakuryu – Can Endo hand Kakuryu his third straight loss? Endo is not looking that good this tournament, but the crowd loves him.

Kisenosato vs Chiyonokuni – Interesting because Chiyonokuni pulled a good win out on day 2, and Kisenosato is looking iffy.

Chiyoshoma vs Hakuho – Hakuho all the way, just question is what kind of kimarite.

Harumafuji vs Okinoumi – Probably Jason’s least favorite match up. Sadly Okinoumi is looking out of gas again, and Harumafuji seems to once again be enjoying himself.

Natsu Day 2 Highlights


Chiyonokuni

Chiyonokuni Scores His First Kinboshi

Day 2 at the Kokugikan was full of drama, but most folks outside of Japan will not get to see what I think is the highlight bout of the day, Kitataiki vs Satoyama in Juryo. Both rikishi put forth a tremendous effort, and the match whipsawed back and forth. I encourage interested fans to try and find it on YouTube.

The other item that probably will not make the highlights was the Terunofuji post-bout tumble off the dohyo that landed on Kisenosato as he was sitting ring-side awaiting his bout. A huge gasp and cry rang out from the crowd as it was clear that he was not quite alright. Terunofuji even went back to see if he could help the Yokozuna up. Kisenosato went on to compete and won his bout against Okinoumi, but it was clear he was struggling.

Selected Highlights

Myogiryu defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama had a good sized cheering section today, but it did not help him overcome a very determined Myogiryu.

Tochinoshin defeats Arawashi – No really, it looks like Tochinoshin has his sumo together and is fighting well. Maybe he is far enough down the banzuke that he can manage to be effective. Either way it’s nice to see him getting wins.

Ura defeats Kagayaki – Firstly, Ura seems to have a lot of sponsors, the crowd was impressed by the number of banners that were out for him. Secondly, he really put on a great Ura style match. He was everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Kagayaki gave it his all, but with Ura bending space-time like that, he had already won next week before he won this week (thank you Schrödinger)

Ikioi defeats Shodai – Today seemed to be “nice old lady day” in the Kokugikan, there were thousands of them. And of course that means they are all Ikioi fans. Everyone knows Shodai is strong, but comes in high at the tachiai. Until he fixes that, it seems the rest of Makuuchi has his number.

Mitakeumi defeats Daieisho – Mitakeumi is looking very solid. He did not disappoint today.

Chiyoshoma defeats Kotoshogiku – I am starting to think that Kotoshogiku is facing his doom.

Takayasu defeats Goeido – 8 wins to go for the next Ozeki. Goeido’s ankle rebuild is not working out. The question is, can he mend or will he be force to retire?

Kisenosato defeats Okinoumi – Japan’s favorite Yokozuna seems to be in trouble with his body. His spirit is there, but it’s clear he is not recovered from his ruptured pectoral. He had trouble putting away Okinoumi.

Hakuho defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze made a good run of it, but I am going to guess that Hakuho’s health has returned. I would be happy to see him yusho once more.

Harumafuji defeats Endo – Not even close. The Horse bombed him off the dohyo as if he was a bag of moldy rice. Harumafuji looking good in the early going this time!

Chiyonokuni defeats Kakuryu – Chiyonokuni has really progressed in the last year, and today Kakuryu’s reactive sumo could not cope with Chiyonokuni’s well timed hikiotoshi. This is Chiyonokuni’s first gold star win.