Some Juryo Hot Takes

The long title of this post is Some Juryo Hot Takes That Will Almost Certainly Be Proven Wrong, but that’s not good for formatting, and you get the point anyway.

Sumo Prime Time (in which Hiro Morita is rapidly achieving Cult Icon status of late) has recently done a Juryo spotlight which is worth checking out. It got me thinking about the state of the division at present, if it’s exciting and what makes it exciting.

I concluded that it is exciting and the reason for this is that we actually are seeing the realisation of what should be the next wave of makuuchi mainstays. Juryo has not been very good for the past several years. Lots of old guys have either retired or stopped clogging up the promotion lanes, and as a result we’ve seen an infusion of new, young talent.

I can’t write 6000 more words like I did for makuuchi after the last tournament [edited to add: apparently I can do 2300 though], so please don’t blame me for not writing absolutely comprehensive scouting reports about everyone’s sumo style. With some time you can find that on the web, there are lots of good sumo resources and hopefully we will be able to contribute some in-depth articles as well. But hopefully this can help some folks at least identify some names to watch.

J14W Gonoyama

As the name implies, he’s the first sekitori developed by former Ozeki Goeido. If this makes you feel old then you may not enjoy the next year as several of Goeido’s contemporaries will be bringing up their new stars as well. Gonoyama is a former Sandanme tsukedashi (accelerated start in sumo’s fourth tier for a formerly accomplished collegiate star), who picked up a yusho in Makushita and he’s hit the wall a bit in his first two Juryo tournaments. At 24 he needs a strong basho.

J14E Tsushimanada

The David Benjamin sumo book starts with a detailing of how newcomers to the sport might give rikishi a silly nickname. Sushi Man is a 29 year old journeyman from Kyushu making his sekitori debut at his home basho, who had come close on several occasions previously before being scuppered by performance or injury. This is the achievement for the Sakaigawa-beya man. The rest from here will be the icing on the cake.

J13W Roga

Before the pandemic, I sat down with Murray Johnson and he identified Roga as a lower division one to watch. Murray might well be right, and time is on the 23 year old’s side, but the Russian has made an awfully plodding run through Makushita (19 basho!) to get to his Juryo debut. He’s also the first sekitori produced by Futagoyama oyakata, former Ozeki Miyabiyama.

J13E Shimazuumi

The 26 year old enters his fifth Juryo tournament and hasn’t been entirely convincing. He’s been slightly better than average over the last several years and looks like he may be stuck in Juryo for a while, if he doesn’t drop out. He’s the first sekitori produced by the new Hanaregoma beya (former Sekiwake Tamanoshima), but in reality is a product of the former Nishonoseki beya and took his shikona later in his career in deference to the old shisho, former Ozeki Wakashimazu.

J12W Oshoma

Continuing the theme, here’s another first, the first sekitori produced by the new Naruto beya, led by former Ozeki Kotooshu. We’ve talked quite a bit about the heya’s comprehensive recruitment and lower division performance on this site but the Mongolian 25 year old is the first to make the breakthrough earlier this year, helped in no small detail by his Makushita tsukedashi debut placement (for the top collegiate champions). His May Makushita yusho (where he knocked off some very notable names) is looking more like an outlier at the moment, so hopefully he can properly bed into the division and find his feet. The expectation on a Makushita tsukedashi is that they will turn into a top division star, with names like Mitakeumi, Ichinojo and Endo achieving titles and notoriety, although in rare cares that doesn’t happen (Mitoryu, Daiamami).

J12E Tokushōryū

Not going to spend a lot of time here: the storybook champ is on the downswing of an unlikely end of career run. The blue jacket beckons for the man who made Nara proud.

J11W Takakento

The former Takanohana product is on his third Juryo stint, with only 1 winning record in his first six tournaments at the level before Aki’s 9-6. In the absence of an overpowering skill it may be a struggle to project the 26 year old as a makuuchi talent, especially with a tough crowd of prospects to fight through at the moment.

J11E Enho

Injuries and scouting reports have zapped the talented pixie of his mobility and unpredictability, but he is still able to be a chaos agent and others have shown there is still plenty of mileage in that approach, even in the top division. I hope he makes it back. He’s been largely a .500 rikishi over the last year, and while the new Miyagino oyakata (the legendary Hakuho) has been lauded for his recruitment, his coaching of Enho – who at 28 should be in his career prime – will be an intriguing watch.

J10W Kaisho

The first sekitori product of Asakayama oyakata, former Ozeki Kaio, he’s one of those guys that seems to have been around in sumo for absolutely ages. He had a laboured route to the salaried ranks, but despite mixed results (4 kachi-koshi from 10), the eye test does tell me he’s someone who could go a bit further than his Juryo 2 peak, and I feel like his belt work is projectable.

J10E Chiyosakae

The 32 year old made his debut nearly 14 years ago and now reaches his career high rank in his third Juryo basho, having successfully fought (by slim margins) in his first two. He’s on a wonderful 7 basho kachi-koshi run but is almost certainly due for a course correction sooner or later. It would be very surprising to see him continue his run into the top division.

J9W Daishoho

It’s been three years since the 28 year old last reached the top division, but he’s carved out a decent run for himself in the second tier. The Mongolian’s results have looked like a slightly less successful Azumaryu (albeit, he does have one top division winning basho), as he’s loitered mostly in the division’s bottom half since that top division spell. We shouldn’t expect too much more from the yotsu-zumo enthusiast.

J9E Daiamami

The rare former Makushita tsukedashi man that just doesn’t make the grade, Daiamami’s awkward oshi-zumo style has translated largely to good results in Juryo, but only 2 kachikoshi in 11 top division basho tells us he’s what baseball scouts would call a “AAAA” player – too good for the minors top AAA level, but not quite strong enough to hang in the majors. At 29 he’ll probably return to makuuchi a couple more times for the odd basho.

J8W Kotokuzan

The Arashio-beya vet has been a real success story for the new oyakata, finally making the breakthrough to Juryo in 2021 after years of near misses, and then making short work of the division en route to his makuuchi debut. But since getting absolutely leathered at Natsu where his pushing-thrusting style lacked power, he’s found the second division a bit tougher on the second go.

J8E Shimanoumi

It’s awful to say, but Shimanoumi has looked absolutely wretched and listless on the dohyo since his wedding earlier in the year. Hopefully it’s a coincidence. Assuming he doesn’t free fall right out of Juryo this time, he’ll reach 30 sekitori tournaments in January and become eligible to eventually take up the name he (allegedly) picked up the rights to upon marrying the daughter of the sadly deceased former Izutsu. He’s meant to be one of sumo’s nice guys, so hopefully he can turn it around.

J7W Kinbozan

Sumo’s lone Kazakh debuted a year ago as Sandanme tsukedashi and has rattled off six consecutive dominant performances including a pair of yusho. Entering Juryo at Aki, he posted double digit wins cementing his place in the prolific Kimura Sehei production line. Unlike many of his stablemates however, putting technique and experience aside he’ll be hoping to make Kyushu his second and final Juryo basho en route to a 2023 that could take him up to the san’yaku ranks at his current rate of progress.

J7E Tochimushashi

The top recruit formerly known as Kanno has blitzed his way from his Sandanme tsukedashi entrance to the middle of Juryo with just one make-koshi in ten appearances, and a very timely first yusho in his Aki debut in Juryo. He should easily chart the course to Makuuchi by early next year. And there are reasons why he draws comparisons to his stablemate Aoiyama…

J6W Kitanowaka

Tipped for big, big things for a long, long time, his star has dimmed a bit after experiencing a fairly indifferent couple years in Makushita. At 190cm he’s a tall drink of water and, although there are other talents in the heya, he may eventually represent one of 60 year old riji-cho Hakkaku’s last products to challenge in the top division.

J6E Hokuseiho

Derailed by injury and covid kyujo, the enormous Hokuseiho (21 years old as of basho-time) will look to continue his impressive development. Questions still remain about his ultimate ceiling: he has the physicality and apparently the determination to reach the top, but his sumo is a bit slow and lumbering. Still, with a career record of 74-21 heading into his third Juryo tournament, it’s hard not to dream on him.

J5W Chiyonokuni

Riddled by injury and with all of his former epic brawling opponents having ridden off into the sunset, it’s tough to see a path forward for the 32 year old energetic street fighter. He may well make his way back to Makuuchi for the odd appearance as he is still competitive at this level, but even being only 18 months removed from the joi-jin, it seems his best days are behind him.

J5E Akua

I never thought he’d make it to makuuchi, so I think it’s a great credit that he’s been able to hang tough and carve out a solid career in the second tier. Now 32, I think the realistic goal is to make it to the middle of 2024 in the salaried ranks to try and qualify for elder status.

J4W Yutakayama

While it feels fairly shocking to see him ranked here, such have been the disappointing results from the former top prospect that it’s hard to make a case that he belongs even at the back end of the top division right now. While it’s easy to argue he might benefit from a couple confidence boosting 9-6s to keep expectations in check, that’s more or less what’s happened on his last few Juryo demotions. He may be playing yo-yo for the next couple years, but at 29 and with 26 sekitori basho under his belt, he at least looks a lock to secure the 30 basho required to qualify for a kabu.

J4E Hidenoumi

While his brother is getting all the plaudits right now, 33 year old Hidenoumi continues to solidly motor along. Demoted due to suspension, he was making a decent go of it in makuuchi and probably belongs somewhere at the bottom division at the moment. Although, with the wave of new talent pushing upwards, his comfortability slugging it out in Juryo bodes well for the final stage of his career.

J3W Mitoryu

The former Makushita tsukedashi took forever and a day (27 basho) to make it out of Juryo and his debut Makuuchi performance was… not good. Overpowered and short of mobility, he was sent packing with double-digit losses. At 28, the Mongolian is looking like another for whom Azumaryu’s career (lots of Juryo time with the odd Makuuchi make-koshi thrown in) looks like a reasonable ambition.

J3E Tsurugisho

Another Juryo lifer who benefitted massively from the reduction in top division quality, Tsurugisho has been pretty OK at doing a whole lot of things on the dohyo and not particularly incredible at any one. The jack of all trades dropped down for this latest spell after a pair of 5 win tournaments and may yet yo-yo some more, but he surely reached his ultimate ceiling 3 years ago.

J2W Bushozan

Former Ozeki Musoyama’s starlet performed admirably in his first year in Juryo after spending an eternity (six whole years) in the third tier. This year though, he’s hit a bit of a wall. He’s been in promotion range several times before and not been able to get the job done, but after the basho he’ll be 27 and should be firmly arriving soon into the peak of his powers.

J2E Churanoumi

Churanoumi reaches his career high-to-date at Kyushu, and it’s not been a straightforward ride for him to navigate the penultimate division. He’s has several promotions and demotions back to Makushita, and while his current span in the salaried ranks has only been disrupted for a single basho since the start of 2020, he’s spent very little time in the top reaches of the division or fighting against the occasional top division opponent. This basho, then, is a real test for a guy who somewhat notably once defeated the likes of Kiribayama and Oho in title-clinching bouts in the lower divisions.

J1W Chiyomaru

This lovable character has made a career out of jostling at the top end of Juryo and lower end of Makuuchi and will go again as he enters his 10th year as a sekitori. He is what he is.

J1E Tōhakuryū

I often lament the lack of creativity in shikona assembly, and while the characters in play for Tohakuryu are fairly common, the order and reading is a little less so. I enjoy that. He’s yet another former Sandanme tsukedashi who made more or less quick work of the lower divisions (with one blip). But he’s not the biggest, and his run through Juryo has been plodding, steady if unspectacular. Here he arrives at his career high rank, in his prime at 26, at the position from which a kachi-koshi will certainly deliver him a promotion. However, should it be tight going into the second week, he’ll find many of these aforementioned talents breathing right down his neck…

The Unpredictable Wizardry of Arashio

Arashio-oyakata (former Maegashira Sokokurai) promotes his upcoming intai-zumo event. Photo credit: Nihon Sumo Kyokai

Many rikishi are unable to craft a second act in sumo that’s as good as their first. That’s normal: the requirements to become an oyakata are such that you either need to create a career of some achievement, or just hang around long enough to have done your time in the dohyo and you’re then entitled to extend your career in the sport out of it.

In the former camp, there are plenty of oyakata who will have raised dozens of deshi over the course of their decades in the sport, never to see one come close to their own achievements. In recent years, former Yokozuna like Onokuni and Musashimaru come to mind, along with Ozeki like Chiyotaikai or Kirishima. Even the riji-cho, former Hokutoumi, who has raised plenty of top division talent, has yet to develop someone to even come close to his own achievements in the ring, as he nears the mandatory retirement age. Guys like the former Asahifuji (Isegahama oyakata) are rare: a champion who has raised (multiple) champions.

And on the flip side of the coin you have the long time coaches whose own careers didn’t amount to much beyond their longevity, but who have scouted and developed talent that has surpassed their own ability on the clay. The former Oginohana had a 44% winning record in the top division, never going higher than Maegashira 2, and he’s developed 3 time champion Ozeki Mitakeumi. Like his brother Terao, the former Sakahoko had a stellar top division career but never won a Yusho or made the top 2 ranks, and while the storied heya bearing the Izutsu name was more barren in later years, he still produced Yokozuna Kakuryu. Most famously of course, the former Chikubayama, veteran of a mere 2 tournaments in the top division, gave us the gift of record setting dai-Yokozuna Hakuho.

Over recent weeks, months and years, as many of our longtime favourites in the previous generation have gradually retired, our thoughts have turned to the question of “what kind of oyakata will they be?” Most people who read this site and some people who write on this site will be experiencing their first mass turnover of rikishi we have watched for years, as they become those blue-jacketed security guys we see next to the hanamichi when a rikishi is preparing himself for battle.

So the conversation has been: “wow, Hakuho has really recruited a lot of guys already,” or “Kisenosato is building an incredible new heya,” or “what’s going to happen with Takekaze’s new place now that he had Yoshikaze have split the rikishi from Oguruma beya” or “Goeido’s just branched out and already has a sekitori.”

But there was one guy that no one really talked about when he became an elder, and that’s ex-Maegashira 2 Sokokurai, who is now Arashio oyakata.

Arashio beya is a unique place. The previous oyakata, former Komusubi Oyutaka, coached for 15 years before branching out to open his own spot, and had a short and totally unremarkable sekitori career of his own. The heya became notable in later years among sumo fans for two things: 

If you have ever tried to visit a heya (in the before times), you’ll know that it’s not terribly difficult with the right connections, but that also a strict set of guidelines will apply for your visit. At Arashio beya, fans could simply walk right up on the street and peer in the giant window outside to watch morning keiko. The stable’s rikishi were known for being friendly with tourists and willing to snap a photo at the end of practise. It appears that after a stoppage to this practise during the pandemic, viewers may once again peep through the window to get a real live look at asageiko.

The other curiosity of this stable was the rise to prominence of its two cats, Moru and Mugi. During the days when rikishi were more able to share their lifestyle via social media, it offered sumo lovers and animal lovers a glimpse into the lifestyle where the stable’s rikishi cared for these two creatures. A coffee table book exists where fans can learn more. 

Oyutaka only ever produced Sokokurai as a sekitori over the 18 years he spent running the place, until Wakatakakage made it to Juryo just before he retired. Wakatakakage was always a talent of immense potential ever since his arrival on the scene, and is someone we’ve followed since his Sandanme tsukedashi debut. A skilled technician and incredibly athletic rikishi, it has been clear for some time that as long as his dedication and mental attributes were tuned to top level sumo, he could have a very high ceiling. This of course paid off in one way earlier this year as the now-Sekiwake clinched his first Emperor’s Cup.

It’s impossible to say whether Wakatakakage’s triumph was inevitable, but it is clear that since Sōkokurai took over the Arashio name, his coaching methods have translated to stark improvements in development across the heya. Both of Wakatakakage’s brothers had been languishing in Makushita, and Wakamotoharu has made a rapid ascent not only into the salaried ranks but all the way to the joi-jin, where he’s claimed an Ozeki scalp and taken the Yokozuna to the brink of a shocking kinboshi. He looks to be someone who can at least consolidate his place in the top division over the next couple of years, and certainly finish his career with the 30 sekitori basho needed to qualify for elder status himself.

The Onami family has some pedigree, with the three of Arashio’s Fukushima-hailing siblings descended from a grandfather who also plied his trade in Ozumo. But despite the lack of progress made by Makushita longtimer and eldest brother Wakatakamoto, the new Arashio-oyakata’s achievements don’t stop there.

Viewers of Makushita over the past several years will be familiar with Kotokuzan, the Filipino-Japanese rikishi who is surely sumo’s only Jasper. Kotokuzan (pronounced Ko-toku-zan, not “koto” like a Sadogatake beya rikishi) had struggled to make his way through sumo’s third highest division for nearly seven full years from his division debut until finally making the breakthrough to Juryo late last year. Kotokuzan is a pusher-thruster and possesses a very different style both to the other successful rikishi in his heya as well as how his shisho performed his own style of sumo (as a skilled yotsuzumo-technician) while he was active, and it’s perhaps most surprising of all that in his second bite at Juryo (after a quick demotion in mid-2021), he stormed his way into the top division.

Kotokuzan only has fought two tournaments as a Maegashira, both unsuccessfully and both looking somewhat overmatched, but at 28 still very much has time to solidify his place as a sekitori and go again. It wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility to see him settle into an Azumaryu or Daishōmaru style role in playing out most of his remaining career in Juryo, putting it together once in a while for a fleeting crack at the top division. It bears reminding that for a rikishi who didn’t seem to really look like he’d make the breakthrough to Juryo as of 3 or 4 years ago, that’s quite an achievement in itself. The success of Kotokuzan in recent years is perhaps the most indicative of Arashio’s ability to coax performances from his top talent, as other serial sekitori-impresarios like Kise, Oitekaze and, until recently, Oguruma-oyakata have shown the ability to get rikishi to the promised land with a wide variety of fighting styles.

While Arashio has never been a large stable, and very infrequently added new recruits, the new shisho has started to bring in his own deshi now that he’s got his feet firmly under the table. Famously sumo’s only Chinese rikishi for a period, and one who wasn’t short of opinions about the fate of his beloved Inner Mongolia region, it’s no surprise that his first foreign recruit hails from his own shusshin. Daiseizan has moved quickly to the top of the Sandanme division following three consecutive 6-1 tournaments, and that fortuitous banzuke placement this time out will give him a chance to make an auspicious debut in Makushita with a good score in the upcoming Aki basho.

16 year old Tanji has started his career with identical scores from his first two basho, and Jonidan pair Dairinzan and Sonoshun (18 and 19 respectively) may be intriguing prospects over the long term, with the latter the first rikishi to inherit his the prefix of his stablemaster’s shikona into his own ring name. We are in a period where other oyakata such as Nishonoseki, Naruto, Miyagino and others have been making waves for the sheer volume (and often quality) of their recruits putting their celebrity drawing power to good use, but it’s possible that the slightly more pinpoint recruitment strategy of the former Sokokurai will pay dividends for the heya when allied to his apparent coaching ability. And he seems more than willing to talk about his work, as evidenced by a series of appearances on NHK’s sumo content throughout the pandemic, showing how, as a new head of a stable, he was attempting to adapt his new home to the challenges presented by the unpredictable nature of COVID-19 in the sumo world.

Nishonoseki (former Kisenosato) has certainly positioned himself as a leader of the future by way of his remarkable rethink of what a heya should be, his political manoeuvring and what appears to be an interesting (if slightly voluminous) batch of early recruits. Miyagino (former Hakuho)’s pulling power and talent development has already made an impact on the top two divisions and had long before he hung up the mawashi himself. What Arashio is showing us is that there it doesn’t take a headline name to be an above average developer of talent, and that he does so in such a media- and fan-friendly environment is a welcome breath of fresh air in the sumo world.

Natsu Day 15 Highlights

If you have been waiting all of Natsu for full throttle sumo from the top men in the sport, today’s final 4 matches will give you want you crave. Fantastic bouts to finish Natsu, and a wonderful display of just how much these rikishi can bring to the ring.

We congratulate Yokozuna Terunofuji for his 7th yusho. It was obvious from day one that he was in poor condition, and he toughed it out, and took home the cup. I don’t know how much longer he can nurse those knees along and compel them into action, but it was great to see him overcome and win.

In the match before, we got to see Takakeisho escape kadoban, in spite of Ozeki Shodai actually showing up today and giving Takakeisho a vigorous match. This makes me quite happy, as the last time there were 3 Ozeki kadoban at the same time, we lost one for good.

Yes, there were special prizes awarded, they went to

  • Daieisho – Shukun-sho (Outstanding Performance Award)
  • Takanosho – Shukun-sho (Outstanding Performance Award)
  • Sadanoumi – Kanto-sho (Fighting Spirit Prize)

Highlight Matches

Nishikigi defeats Chiyotairyu – Nishikigi did what he needed to do, absorbing Chiyotairyu big tachiai, and then keeping his feet when the follow through pulling attempt hit. From there it was straight ahead yorikiri sumo, and Nishikigi picked up his 8th win to finish with an 8-7 kachi-koshi.

Okinoumi defeats Meisei – Meisei had the initiative in this match, and took the fight to Okinoumi, but could not muster the power to finish him. Okinoumi took his time and worked his hands and body to get a grip, and set up the throw. Once nice uwatenage later, Okinoumi advances to 9-6 to finish Natsu winning his last 5 in a row.

Midorifuji defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin put a lot of work into reaching in for any grip on Midorifuji, which just set up the katasukashi. It’s wild to see how quickly that can be set up and executed. Down goes Tochnoshin, and Midorifuji ends Natsu 9-6.

Aoiyama defeats Kotoshoho – An odd side step by Aoiyama at the tachiai, followed by repeated pull down attempts. I have to admit his sumo today was kind of uninspiring, but he picks up a win to finish 10-5.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Azumaryu – Terutsuyoshi went low at the tachiai, and Azumaryu tried to push him the rest of the distance to the clay. But while he was down there, Terutsuyoshi grabbed Azumaryu’s left leg and lifted. The ashitori worked a charm, and he walked Azumaryu out, both finishing Natsu with 5-10 scores.

Kagayaki defeats Kotoeko – Hey, Kagayaki – where the hell has this sumo been for the last year? He comes off the shikiri-sen low, and attacks from below with power. Kotoeko catches the attack amidships and is blasted out in short order. Both end Natsu 6-9.

Takarafuji defeats Kotokuzan – We get to see the “defend and extend” sumo style on the final day, and it seems to work well against Kotokuzan. Takarafuji Keeps absorbing Kotokuzan’s attack, and taking a step forward. This way he just kept taking territory a few centimeters at a time. Takarafuji finishes 11-4.

Tobizaru defeats Yutakayama – You know, Tobizaru’s frantic sumo really seems to overwhelm most opponents at this level. You can see Yutakayama tries to hold him steady, but Tobizaru is constantly adding some little shift of push into every move. He keeps Yutakayama walking back, and eventually Yutakayama steps out. Tobizaru ends Natsu 7-8.

Sadanoumi defeats Takanosho – A big yusho match, co-leader Takanosho lets Sadanoumi land a double inside grip at the tachiai, and is immediately in trouble. Takanosho pressed forward well, but that double inside grip gave Sadanoumi many options, and he chose a sukuinage. As Takanosho went over the edge of the dohyo, his yusho chances went on life support. Both end Natsu with excellent 11-4 scores.

Endo defeats Myogiryu – Endo could not get a grip his first or second reach during the tachiai and the initial merge. They locked up in the center of the dohyo for a moment, and Myogiryu surged forward. Endo responded with a throw that put Myogiryu to finish Natsu 7-8.

Tamawashi defeats Ichiyamamoto – What strikes me about this match is just how calm and patient Tamawashi is. I would say almost like an instructor showing a student “this is how you do it”. “No kid, more shoulder, see? Yes, push hard on the pectoral, like this, no not like that…” Then out goes Ichiyamamoto, and Tamawashi finishes Natsu 9-6.

Hokutofuji defeats Oho – Hokutofuji doesn’t always get a chance to go chest to chest, but today he displayed some fine chops when he grappled with Oho. Hokutofuji kept his hips lower, and moved Oho around with ease, and took only a short time to earn his final win of Natsu, finishing 5-10.

Kotonowaka defeats Wakamotoharu – Kotonowaka indulged Wakamotoharu’s preference for yotsu-zumo, taking a double inside grip, and driving Wakamotoharu back and out without pause. Three steps from tachiai to finish, and both finish Natsu 9-6.

Takayasu defeats Chiyoshoma – Takayasu took an immediate left hand in / right hand outside grip at the tachiai, and did not wait for a second forward step to unleash the throw. The uwatenage hit full force, and Chiyoshoma hit the clay. Both finish the Natsu basho 6-9.

Daieisho defeats Shimanoumi – Daieisho denied Shimanoumi his kachi-koshi with a strong start, and pulled Shimanoumi down to finish. It was a risky move that nearly went the other way, as Shimanoumi was not easy to drop, and pushed back in response. Daieisho finishes Natsu 11-4.

Kiribayama defeats Hoshoryu – The ending to this match was evident shortly after Kiribayama had captured Hoshoryu. Hoshoryu responded by going lower, looking to attack from underneath. Each moment, Hoshoryu found a way to get lower still, and Kiribayama eventually helped him finish and crushed him to the clay. Kiribayama finishes 10-5.

Wakatakakage defeats Abi – Absolutely crazy match, it has something for everyone. The range of sumo styles these two used in this all out battle was a delight to watch. Abi was pushing hard for his 8th win, but just could not get Wakatakakage on defense for more than a fleeting moment. Wakatakakage eventually consolidates his grip, and drives forward for the win. He finishes Natsu 9-6.

Takakeisho defeats Shodai – Really strong sumo from Takakeisho today, and we got to see Shodai mount some kind of defense in response. In the end it was Takakeisho who kept his balance, and tossed Shodai out with a firm tsukiotoshi to take his 8th win, and finish Natsu with an 8-7 kachi-koshi.

Terunofuji defeats Mitakeumi – With the cup on the line, Terunofuji knew that a win would give him his 7th yusho. Terunofuji absorbed Mitakeumi’s strong tachiai, and found Mitakeumi’s belt wide open. Both hands went in and he had a double inside grip. That was utter and complete doom for Mitakeumi, and 3 steps later Terunofuji had the win, and the yusho. He finishes Natsu 12-3.

With that, we conclude Tachiai’s daily coverage of another basho. Thank you dear readers for joining us throughout the tournament, and we hope you have enjoyed Natsu as much as we have. Please join us again in July as we cover the Nagoya basho.

Natsu Day 15 Preview

Here we are, at the end of the Natsu basho, looking at the final day of competition with really just one question left to sort out – who will take the cup? There are two leaders at 11-3: Yokozuna Terunofuji and Maegashira 4 Takanosho. They have faced each other on day 8, and Terunofuji lost, so they will not fight today except if there is a playoff. We will get a playoff of both of them win, or if both of them lose. Should both of them lose, they will face each other in the playoff, plus Sadanoumi, and Daieisho should he win his day 15 match. The most likely outcome in my book is that Terunofuji defeats Shodai Mitakeumi, and Takanosho defeats Sadanoumi, forcing a playoff following the musubi no ichiban.

We already know that both Mitakeumi and Shodai are kadoban for July, and as long as Takakeisho can win against Shodai, he will be the lone secure Ozeki. Should he lose, its a 3 for 3 kadoban triplets. Just one notch down the banzuke, Wakatakakage’s Ozeki dreams are on reset. The best he can do is score 9 wins, one of which is a fusensho. In general, it’s time for him to start over and try to piece together 33. This is the same problem that kept Mitakeumi from sumo’s second highest rank for years. One bad basho that is single digit kachi-koshi tends to scrap matters, and force a restart.

On to the matches.

What We Are Watching Day 15

Chiyotairyu vs Nishikigi – Nishikigi needs a win to be kachi-koshi for Natsu. I think he will likely get it. But he will need to absorb Chiyotairyu’s cannonball tachiai. From there he will try to go chest to chest and hump-a-lump Chiyotairyu out of the ring. Chiyotairyu has a 6-3 career lead, so best of luck to Nishikigi for today’s opener.

Okinoumi vs Meisei – Both are happily 8-6 kachi-koshi after a string of make-koshi tournaments going back to 2021. This fight is for that last little boost up the banzuke. Okinoumi has an 8-1 career lead.

Midorifuji vs Tochinoshin – Another pair of 8-6 kachi-koshi rikishi, they have only fought once before, which was a Midorifuji win. There is a nice, wide rank difference between these two, with Midorifuji at M16w and Tochinoshin at M9w. My money is on Tochinoshin for this one.

Kotoshoho vs Aoiyama – This is Big Dan Aoiyama’s chance to improve to a double digit winning score. He goes up against 6-8 Kotoshoho who is already make-koshi, and will be looking to regroup for July.

Azumaryu vs Terutsuyoshi – Its 5-9 Azumaryu against 4-10 Terutsuyoshi, with Terutsuyoshi looking to have them both end the day at 5-10. A 10th win would probably ensure Azumaryu’s demotion back to Juryo, so there is quite a lot on the line today.

Kagayaki vs Kotoeko – Another make-koshi bracket match, we have 5-9 Kagayaki, who is Juryo bound for sure against 6-8 Kotoeko. Given Kagayaki’s 10-7 career advantage, this is a narrow chance for him to easy the depth of his drop back to Juryo.

Takarafuji vs Kotokuzan – What a match, both already had double digit make-koshi records, and this is to find out of Takarafuji will end with 11 or 12 losses at the end of Natsu. Frankly, Kotokuzan is dead meat already, and I hope he absorbs the loss and adds it to his baggage to be stowed on the Juryo barge of the damned. I think he has a bunk in the same berthing space as Kagayaki. This is their first ever match.

Yutakayama vs Tobizaru – Both come in today at 6-8, and this is to see who will get that 7th win. They have only fought once before, at Nagoya in 2019, which went to Yutakayama. Big difference today in that Yutakayama looks injured, and Tobizaru looks rowdy.

Sadanoumi vs Takanosho – Nice pairing here, we have co-leader Takanosho up against would-be challenger Sadanoumi. If Sadanoumi wins, he has half a ticket to compete for the cup following regulation. Should Takanosho prevail, he’s at least assured of a playoff should Terunofuji also win, or the cup outright should Terunofuji lose. They have a 4-4 career record.

Endo vs Myogiryu – Another battle of 6-8 rikishi to see who can pick up that 7th win to act as a banzuke adjustment cushion. Endo and Myogiryu share a 7-8 career record, so this one is a very even match.

Ichiyamamoto vs Tamawashi – I feel a bit bad for Ichiyamamoto. Although he and Tamawashi are both kachi-koshi at 8-6, Tamawashi is fighting quite well, and delivering quite a bit of punishment to his match opponents this May. He won their only prior match, at Nagoya last year.

Hokutofuji vs Oho – A first ever match, Oho has a slim chance to pick up a 7th win, which might just keep him in the top division for July if he gets lucky. Hokutofuji has been moving well and fighting aggressively, but not winning matches. So it’s really anyone’s guess how this one is going to start, let along finish.

Wakamotoharu vs Kotonowaka – Another fine kachi-koshi bracket match, we have 9-9 Wakamotoharu, who has his 5th consecutive kachi-koshi at 9-5, and could end the basho with 10-5 if he can best 8-6 Kotonowaka today.

Takayasu vs Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma will be looking to improve to 7-8 if he can win over 5-9 Takayasu today. Takayasu is not looking crisp, nor focused right now. I am going to guess one of the many injuries he as accumulated over the years of sumo that have never really had a chance to heal up. Chiyoshoma is nursing that bad ankle, so you can consider this match to be a contest of the wounded. Takayasu has a 4-1 career advantage, but that may not matter much today.

Shimanoumi vs Daieisho – If Daieisho wants to have a shot at the cup today following regulation, he needs Sadanoumi to win, and then he needs to beat 7-7 Shimanoumi, who will be fighting for his kachi-koshi. The best he can do is put Shimanoumi on the clay, and hope against the odds that Mitakeumi can play spoiler.

Hoshoryu vs Kiribayama – Both are kachi-koshi, and I think this is to sort out ranks in the banzuke for July. They have an even 3-3 record, and are a pretty even match for their quality of sumo this May. I am expecting a good fight.

Wakatakakage vs Abi – The Sekiwake fight I have been waiting 15 days to see. Abi is 7-7 to start the day, and needs one win to keep his position at Sekiwake. Wakatakakage won their only prior fight which was in Osaka this year on day 10. Personally, I would rather see Abi make his 8, and keep his rank.

Takakeisho vs Shodai – Takakeisho needs a final win to make his 8, and he needs to take it from Shodai. A Shodai loss today would leave him with a 5-10 score for Natsu, which is reminiscent of the worst days of dear old Goeido. Takakeisho has a 10-6 career lead over Shodai, and I can’t even begin to guess what is the governor for Shodai’s sumo right now. Maybe he will be the genki Ozeki in the tournament’s penultimate match, or maybe he will be the soft, doughy booger picker. I would prefer the former.

Terunofuji vs Mitakeumi – The big match at the end of the basho. Terunofuji needs this win to finish setting the field for the Emperor’s Cup. My hunch is that he will either take it outright with this match, or in a playoff against Takanosho immediately following this match. He has a 12-5 career advantage over Mitakeumi.