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.

Natsu Day 14 Highlights

Day 14 started with the news that Ura had withdrawn from the tournament after injuring his ankle in his match against Abi. He had already racked up 9 wins, and will have a final score of 9-6. We hope he can get things back together in time for Nagoya in July. He was fighting quite well this tournament, and we would love to see him contend for the cup in week 2 again some time soon. As a result, Wakatakakage got a free win today, which is kachi-koshi for him.

Today was the day that the Darwin funnel fell to ruin. Out of the vast number of rikishi who could have ended today with 7-7 scores (22 I think), only 4 actually ended up that way. As a result, there were a large number of make and kachi koshi marks decided today. As pointed out in the day 14 preview, this is a risk on day 14 if the schedulers are in fact running a funnel plan. They did a great job of keeping the bulk of the top division tied up and moving through for the second week, my compliments to them.

The yusho race is down to two, Yokozuna Terunofuji and Maegashira 4 Takanosho. They fought already (Takanosho won) so they won’t fight again unless there is a need for a playoff after the final match of day 15. The winning record for the emperor’s cup this time will be a somewhat meager 12-3.

Highlight Matches

Mitoryu defeats Kotokuzan – Whatever sumo Kotokuzan had in March that got him into the top division for Natsu has long since run off, leaving him unable to really fight at this point. With today’s loss he is 2-12, while Mitoryu improves to 6-8. I feel bad for Kotokuzan, given how hard he worked to get to Makuuchi. Hopefully he can fix his health problems and come back.

Midorifuji defeats Chiyoshoma – A nice, deep right hand grip for Midorifuji at the tachiai. I was curious what he was going to do with it. He tried a couple of things, and Chiyoshoma stayed on his feet, and locked in. his second surge found leverage, and he swung Chiyoshoma around for a shitatenage. Two men escape the Darwin funnel with Midorifuji kachi-koshi at 8-6, Chiyoshoma make-koshi at 6-8.

Okinoumi defeats Kagayaki – This kind of reminded me a bit of butsugari, with Kagayaki pushing against Okinoumi, and Okinoumi deciding he was not putting enough effort into it and thrusting him down at the bales. Go regroup in Juryo, Kagayaki. Come back when you are fighting well. Okinoumi advances to 8-6, and is kachi-koshi for Natsu.

Myogiryu defeats Kotoshoho – Kotoshoho had the advantage for the bulk of this match, but could not convert that to a win. This is youth and inexperience. Myogiryu is a seasons vet, and knew that he wanted to wait Kotoshoho out for a time. He let Kotoshoho lean in and push, then broke Kotoshoho’s balance, powering the throw. That’s loss number 8 for Kotoshoho and he is make-koshi for Natsu. Myogiryu improves to 6-8.

Chiyotairyu defeats Shimanoumi – The conversion of Chiyotairyu from his starting for to today is tremendous. I recall watching his day 2 and 3 matches and wondering if the thunder-god had run out of energy. It seems it just took a bit longer to get him ready to fight. He blasted Shimanoumi away from the center of the dohyo, and just kept hitting him center mass. This was solid, powerful oshi-zumo done well, and it carried Chiyotairyu to kachi-koshi at 8-6.

Takarafuji defeats Yutakayama – I would like to think this 3rd win was enough to keep Takarafuji in the top division, even if it’s in the bottom ⅓ of the banzuke. A couple of mistakes by Yutakayama, 1) Attacking Takarafuji’s neck – there isn’t one 2) Not defending against Takarafuji’s right hand mawashi grip. The loss for Yutakayama was his 8th, and he is make-koshi for Natsu.

Kotoeko defeats Azumaryu – Azumaryu’s balance was off at the initial merge following the tachiai. This allowed Kotoeko to turn him to the side, and attach his left hand low and deep on Azumaryu’s mawashi. From this position, Azumaryu had few defensive options, and Kotoeko quickly drove him back, and walked him out. Kotoeko improves to 6-8.

Wakamotoharu defeats Ichiyamamoto – Ichiyamamoto had a narrow window of time to put Wakamotoharu out of the ring, and he nearly achieved that goal. But Ichiyamamoto did not defend well, and was attacking high. Wakamotoharu secured a right hand grip, and shut Ichiyamamoto down. As Wakamotoharu attempted a grip shift, Ichiyamamoto drove forward to finish Wakamotoharu off. By the thinnest of margins, Wakamotoharu got his revised grip, and executed a throw. the both went crashing out of the ring. A monoii ensued and the match was called for Wakamotoharu. He gets his 8th win and is kachi-koshi for Natsu.

Tobizaru defeats Oho – I think this match is a thumbnail of why Oho may not be ready for the top division. He came to the ring today with a pretty good thrusting routine, but it was predictable, repetitive, and failed to do much against Tobizaru. I was amazed that each of his combo’s was nearly identical. He did get Tobizaru in trouble for a moment, but Tobizaru rallied and sent him out of the ring. Both end the day at 6-8.

Meisei defeats Endo – Another funnel match that went the wrong way, this high intensity oshi battle came about after Meisei broke Endo’s grip attempt at the tachiai. Endo matched Meisei blow for blow for a time, but Meisei eventually pushed through Endo’s defenses, and delivered power to Endo’s body. The resulting oshitaoshi send Endo flying into the waiting Tochinoshin, and make-koshi at 6-8 for Natsu, while Meisei is kachi-koshi at 8-6. Quite the change from his 1-14 in Osaka.

Nishikigi defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji immediately found Nishikigi at his chest, and pushing forward strongly. If you are Hokutofuji, you tend to pull your opponent in this position, and he did. This failed, of course, and resulted in Nishikigi chasing him around the ring, and eventually out. Nishikigi is our first Darwin score with a 7-7.

Tamawashi defeats Tochinoshin – This match was all Tamawashi, who was in a mood to get his 8th win today. He attacked without pause, shutting down whatever Tochinoshin was going to try. Traditional “stand him up, then pull him down” sumo from Tamawashi, he improves to 8-6.

Takanosho defeats Kiribayama – Takanosho’s right forearm did a lot of work in the opening moments of this match. Much as we saw Ura do a few days ago, he used it as a shield against his opponent. The match went into a half-grapple / half-push mode, that ended with Kiribayama attempted a leg trip, but did not have the balance to keep upright. Takanosho pushed him forward, and Kiribayama touched the clay. Takanosho maintains his share of the lead with 11-3

Takayasu defeats Terutsuyoshi – Wild tachiai from Terutsuyoshi, I think I saw him kick Takayasu in the shin. As the fight progressed, Terutsuyoshi pout a vice grip on Takayasu’s right hand and backed away. Takayasu deftly put his right on Terutsuyoshi’s shoulder, pulled his hand free, and slapped Terutsuyoshi to the clay. Takayasu improves to 5-9.

Hoshoryu defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama started well, and we even got to see the V-Twin attack for a moment. But Aoiyama tried some kind of pivoting escape move, and accidentally turned his back on Hoshoryu. Hoshoryu seized this opening, and drove Aoiyama from the rig, pushing him from behind for an okuridashi, increasing his score to 8-6 and securing his kachi-koshi.

Daieisho defeats Sadanoumi – This was always going to be a tough fight for Sadanoumi. Daieisho opened strong with his traditional mega-thrusting attack. I was impressed with Sadanoumi’s counter, and he managed to get Daieisho moving back and away. But it was a bit too far forward, and Daieisho slapped him down. Both end the day at 10-4, but the loss knocks Sadanoumi out of contention for the cup.

Kotonowaka defeats Abi – Abi’s initial attack cluster went wide of their mark, and he found Kotonowaka pushing ahead rapidly. Abi stepped to the side, and attacked again. He caught Kotonowaka off balance and had the power to finish him, but Kotonowaka stepped out of the way, and pushed Abi down. Kotonowaka is kachi-koshi at 8-6, Abi is the third rikishi with a Darwin 7-7 score.

Takakeisho defeats Mitakeumi – The answer to “Who is the next kadoban ozeki?”. That would be Mitakeumi, who will need 8 wins in front of his home town crowd in Nagoya to maintain his Ozeki rank. In this battle of the tadpoles, it was all Takakeisho. Mitakeumi’s lack of defense underscores my hunch that he has some kind of back or hip injury that is preventing him from defending well. Takakeisho ends the day 7-7, and is the 4th and final rikishi with a Darwin score. Mitakeumi is make-koshi at 6-8.

Terunofuji defeats Shodai – Readers know that I think the chief gyoji, Inosuke, has more than a couple of problems, and at time it impacts important matches – like it did today. I do hope the NSK considers if it’s time for this fellow to hang up his gumbai and enjoy his retirement. In the match, Terunofuji captured Shodai early, and ran him around the dohyo, and then placed him out of the ring. Terunofuji improves to 11-3, and is tied with Takanosho for the yusho heading into day 15.