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.

Natsu Day 2 Preview


Yoshikaze-Kensho-Pile

Why is this man so happy?

A Test of Strength and Speed

The picture above says it all, Yoshikaze with that enormous stack of kensho that had been intended for Kisenosato (maybe to buy a second dump truck?). As our readers were probably aware, the amount of factual information about the top rikishi in the Japanese press leading up to the Natsu basho was thin and questionable. With so many top men, including the start of sumo Kisenosato, in damaged and possibly underperforming shape, they kept the focus on things other than the athlete’s health.

But when the basho starts, that curtain must lift and the rikishi face off on the dohyo, and those with glaring weakness are revealed. This was the case with Kisenosato, Goeido and Terunofuji at a minimum. Specifically Kisenosato clearly had trouble transmitting power through the left side of his body. Yoshikaze is fast, smart and agressive, and it took a few fractions of a second for him to figure that out and formulate a winning attack plan.

Everyone in Japan wants to see Kisenosato continue to dominate, but given the medical facts, he may need surgery and several months of recovery to get there.

We are several hours and two bowls of Chanko away from the start of Makuuchi, but here are the matches I would highlight for today:

Select Matches

Myogiryu vs Yutakayama – Yutakayama had a great first match on Sunday. This young rikishi has been on a metoric rise through the ranks, and if day 1 was any indication, he has plenty of upward velocity remaining.

Ura vs Kagayaki – Ura looked very good (and very Ura) on day 1, today he faces Kagayaki who has shown occasional flashes of greatness. I am eager to see more “plastic man” moves out of the pink devil, so bring on the action.

Takekaze vs Hokutofuji – Both of these rikishi were physically overwhelmed on day one, and both of them did not like it. Hokutofuji is pressing to bounce back from his first losing tournament in Osaka.

Ikioi vs Shodai – a pair of crowd favorites, Shodai literally startled me with his day one performance. Not having the benefit of the replay, I was left wondering what happened. This is probably going to be a very competitive match.

Mitakeumi vs Daieisho – I don’t quite feel sorry for Daieisho now in the land of the giants, but on day one against Takayasu, he looked completely out of place. Now he faces the other very strong up and coming rikishi in Mitakeumi. Due to the strangeness of sumo, Mitakeumi is still at Komusubi, while I think he is second in “threat power” to Takayasu, and well ahead of Kotoshogiku and Tamawashi.

Terunofuji vs Tamawashi – It’s crystal clear that Terunofuji’s knee is back on the disabled parts list, and he is possibly cruising towards a troubled tournament. This is very sad, as a healthy Terunofuji is a sumo excellence.

Takayasu vs Goeido – Goeido’s ankle is clearly something he is either worried about, or he has problems. Goeido is very poor when he is fighting defensive sumo, and only really shines when he attacks almost recklessly. Takayasu needs 9 more wins to hit his 33.

Kisenosato vs Okinoumi – Okinoumi looked rather vague on day 1 against Goeido. Maybe he can provide a better warm up for Kisenosato than Yoshikaze did.

Yoshikaze vs Hakuho – I thank the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan that I lived to see this one in person. I expect that Hakuho is going to dominate this bout, but if anyone can surprise The Boss, it’s my man Yoshikaze. If he wins, expect another brick sized pile of kensho and a smiling face at the top of the blog

Harumafuji vs Endo – Endo was surprising on day 1, but I am guessing Harumafuji is in marginally better condition than last basho (at least at the start), and will give him some trouble, and likely win.

Chiyonokuni vs Kakuryu – Chiyonokuni has come a long way in the past year, and is on the cusp of being a real contender. His chance comes today to make the zabuton fly, as Yokozuna Kakuryu can be hit-or-miss.

Next updates live from inside the Kokugikan (if the signal works)

Natsu Day 1 Highlights


Title Card 3

Solid Start To Summer Tournament

Day one at the Kokugikan saw a capacity crowd, with fans eager to see who among their favorite rikishi were starting strong, and who they would worry about.

First some notes from Juryo: New entrant Takagengi won his debut match as a sekitori, many will see this as a good sign that the youngster can be competitive in the upper ranks. The match was acrobatic and could have gone either way, but it was good sumo!

Selected Matches

Ikioi defeats Hokutofuji – Ikioi exploded off the line and then overpowered Hokutofuji for a rather straight forward Okidashi

Takarafuji defeats Aoiyama – This match was all over the place, and for some reason Aoiyama trying to grab for Takarafuji’s non-existent neck. Takarafuji stayed mobile and took the punishment waiting for his chance, which came at the edge as Aoiyama tried a pull down, but failed.

Takayasu defeats Daiesho – This was horrifically one sided, with Takayasu in control from the tachiai. Takayasu’s slap down was loud and strong, with some fans gasping as it was unleashed. 9 more wins for a viable chance at Ozeki for Takayasu

Goeido defeats Okinoumi – First of all, I can almost swear that Goeido lost a considerable amount of mass. Secondly, he heavily protected his damaged right ankle, including a move at the edge of the ring that did not look easy or comfortable. I think Goeido has real problems.

Endo defeats Terunofuji – The big Mongolian Ozeki started strong, and went for his favored double outside shoulder grip, but somehow Endo countered or at least stayed away from the edge of the tawara. As Terunofuji went to put Endo away, Endo reached down to grabe Terunofujis (injured) knee. At that point Terunofuji eased up and Endo finished him.

Hakuho defeats Chiyonokuni – The Gyoji almost gave it to Chiyonokuni, but it was clear that Hakuho blasted him at the tachiai. Chiyonokuni as been progressing steadily in the past year, and made a good showing against Hokuho. I should not that Hakuho did not see to be hesitant, favoring any part of his body or injured in any way. It may be the case fans finally can see him in good form once more.

Mitakeumi defeats Kakuryu – Very strong work from Mitakeumi once more. Kakuryu’s reactive sumo left him out of room at the edge and off balance. Mitakeumi was able to finish him.

Yoshikaze defeats Kisenosato – Kisenosato looked unsure and unsteady. As noted in prior posts, the kind of injury he suffered usually requires surgery if it can be repaired at all. As a Yoshikaze fan I appreciate his winning, but it’s worrisome to see sumo’s #1 ratings machine in trouble.

More tomorrow as it happens (if the 4G signal can behave) from the Kokugikan.

Natsu Story 3 – Ozeki / Yokozuna Struggles


Yokozuna-Corps

Everyone Is Walking Wounded

Since the tragic bout in Nagoya where Hakuho broke his toe (which required surgery), the Yokozuna and Ozeki corps have suffered an endless cycle of injury. With the secretive nature of injury reporting, it is difficult to tell how damaged these top rikishi are, but we have seen (at a minimum)

  • Hakuho – Left leg damage, surgical repair to toes and knees
  • Harumafuji – Persistent problems with ankles and elbows
  • Kakuryu – Recurring lower back pain and unspecified injury
  • Kiseonsato – Ruptured pectoral muscle
  • Goeido – Shattered ankle requiring reconstructive surgery
  • Terunofuji – Persistent knee problems and pain

Each of these rikishi have been among the elite of a very difficult and competitive sport, but over time injuries only partially healed or completely ignored have degraded their performance to the point that each basho, fans are left to hope that at least two top ranked men survive to battle the final day.

As we have speculated in prior posts, it is clear that some of these stars of sumo will be leaving the dohyo in the near future, barring some significant medical intervention. Each of them (save perhaps Kisenosato) is a shadow of their former self on most days. For example, Terunofuji’s performance in Osaka was thrilling, and fans largely rejoyced to see him execute his amazing sumo once more. But it should be noted that it was an exception to the past few years, where Terunofuji has limped along, usually barely scraping by.

There are some indication coming from pre-basho practice that Hakuho may be in fairly good form, and we may see another basho of the Michael Jordan of sumo. Fans of one of the greatest man to ever step on the dohyo are all praying we can see him in top for at least one more time. But it’s very sad that for all of the top men of sumo, we now expect all of these stars to be in less than peak performance.

Though we saw a new Yokozuna crowned in January, the team at Tachiai still think we are on the cusp of a “changing of the guard” in Sumo.