Haru Day 13 Highlights

What? Commentary? No! On to the good stuff….

Highlight Matches

Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoyuki – As anticipated, Kotoyuki ends the match half way to the shitaku-beya, and with a make-koshi to boot. Terutsuyoshi’s high mobility was the deciding factor in the win.

Chiyoshoma defeats Ryuden – Ryuden looked downright lethargic in this match. Chiyoshoma’s failed pull down led to a rather nice deep right hand grip near the knot on Ryuden’s mawashi. Much as all of the little old ladies across Japan thrilled at the chance of a wardrobe malfunction, Chiyoshoma is a consummate professional, and the mawashi stayed firmly in place.

Shohozan defeats Yutakayama – This match really showed where Yutakayama’s problem lies. He could produce no forward pressure against Shohozan, and it’s going to be that knee and that foot acting up. Until he can get them in better condition, Yutakayama is going to continue to slide down the banzuke, which is a real shame as he has solid sumo skills.

Meisei defeats Kotoshogiku – Fantastic showcase for Meisei’s speed and lighting quick reactions. Kotoshogiku gets the hug-n-chug started, but Meisei kept fighting to get his right hand on Kotoshogiku’s mawashi. Meisei’s patience and staying calm once the bumpity-bumps get cranking pays off, and that right hand not only takes Kotoshogiku out of attack mode, but provides the leverage for the uwatedashinage that wins the match.

Tomokaze defeats Asanoyama – One sided match that favored Tomokaze all the way. Tomokaze picks up his 8th, and Asanoyama is still shopping. [Tomokaze has still never had a losing record since entering professional sumo! He likely needs two more wins for a special prize, and is the only top-division debutant who can feel good about his chances of staying there. -lksumo]

Takarafuji defeats Kagayaki – What makes this one interesting is that Kagayaki is so methodical, and that comes up against Takarafuji’s approach of being patient and waiting for his opening. The result is a fairly slow moving match that showed a lot of thinking and calculation from both.

Yoshikaze defeats Aoiyama – Both men are now 10-3, which is really impressive given the devastation in the lower ranks this basho. Aoiyama lands a couple of big hits, but Yoshikaze lights him up and takes him down.

Abi defeats Ikioi – Ikioi has the right idea, attack Abi’s arms from underneath, but no strength to do it. Sad times.

Shodai defeats Okinoumi – Shodai surprised Okinoumi, and frankly surprised me. The pounding he took in the opening days of the basho seems to have not caused him to just give up. Good stuff!

Nishikigi defeats Tochiozan – Nishikigi’s “sumo style” is starting to become distinctive. He locks his opponents arms, and then uses his good leg strength to take control. Today’s match is one of the better examples of it in action, and while simple and not flashy, it really does seem to work.

Daieisho defeats Onosho – Onosho opened strong, but lost contact when Daieisho side-stepped his advance. Daieisho rallied, stuck Onosho with a potent nodowa and tossed him out. Onosho is still regrouping following his surgery, but is now make-koshi and will work from lower on the banzuke.

Endo defeats Kaisei – After the first match resulted in both rikishi stepping out together, the second was all Endo, who showed much better sumo the second time around.

Hokutofuji defeats Myogiryu – Hokutofuji, when he is healthy, can generate so much forward pressure that any loss of traction is more or less an instant loss for his opponent. Myogiryu could not maintain his footing and hit the clay.

Ichinojo defeats Mitakeumi – For most of this basho, Ichinojo has just been swatting down everyone. In hindsight it makes total sense, he is already higher than all of his opponents, with plenty of strength and leverage. So he may as well drop them in place. He made Mitakeumi look like a bag of potatoes. He faces Takakeisho on day 14, and I am going to be very curious to see what happens then.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tamawashi – Chiyotairyu exceeds expectations, and stays in the fight past the tachiai, and survives Tamawashi’s pull down attempt. Chiyotairyu rallies and drives Tamawashi from the dohyo, giving him his 8th loss.

Takakeisho defeats Takayasu – Like so many great moments in sports, this all came down to a split second. If you watch the match in slow motion, you can see Takayasu roll that left shoulder forward, while he reaches for the mawashi with his right. Takakeisho is lower and faster, and is inside and underneath that shoulder with his first push before that right hand can find its mark. That was, in fact, the match. Once Takakeisho launched the wave action attack, Takayasu could not recover his footing, and could not generate any offense. As mentioned in the preview, the outcome of this match was likely the decider on Takakeisho’s Ozeki bid.

Kakuryu defeats Tochinoshin – Masterful sumo from the Yokozuna today, as Kakuryu successfully prevents Tochinoshin from ever getting his working grip set up. The fact that Tochinoshin is always going for the “one thing” makes it easy for a reactive sumo master like Kakuryu to confound, frustrate and distract Tochinoshin, all the while moving him steadily towards defeat. Tochinoshin must win the remainder of his matches to preserve his rank.

Hakuho defeats Goeido – Team Goeido was out in force, and the EDION arena was rocking as Goeido mounted the dohyo to face off against the undefeated Hakuho. Excellent tachiai, and Goeido’s opening gambit was to go for mae-mitsu, and his hand could not maintain contact. Goeido stays with Hakuho, and they trade blows, and settle down chest to chest. Goeido held the center of the dohyo, but Hakuho’s superior body position drove Goeido back and won the match. Great sumo from both. As with Takayasu, the whole match hinged on that opening move that failed.

Haru Day 13 Preview

With lksumo doing a fantastic job of spelling out exactly what is at stake for the remainder of the tournament, let’s talk a bit about the continuing transition period. As we saw at Aki 2018, the transition from the old warriors to a newer generation will not be a straight line. Many of these rikishi are some of the highest skill the sport has seen in some time. In fact the current dominant cohort has had an impressively long and stable tenure. Many of these rikishi have been fixtures of the top division for several years, some of them more than a decade.

Like Aki, we have a point in the transition where the old guard can muster a strong basho, and compete like the “old days”. Frankly I love it, and I am sure the fans love it too. It’s great to see the named ranks laying waste to the upper Maegashira, and fierce action at the bottom of Makuuchi as the staple for each day of the tournament. As much as folks like to gripe about Hakuho, his reign as the king of the ring has been very stable, but it is fading. We don’t need to look back too many years to find Hakuho taking 4-6 yusho a year. Now we see him taking 2, or maybe 1. He has taken to (wisely) sitting out any tournament where he is not strong and healthy. As a result, if Hakuho shows up, he is the man to beat for the cup.

As the old guard comes out the dominate again, we see the tadpoles taking it in the shorts, we see the Freshmen faltering, and we see at least 2 more waves of fresh faces forming up to attack the top division. But make no mistake, we are in the twilight of this era, and setbacks for rikishi like Mitakeumi, Takakeisho and Hokutofuji are part of the evolution of sumo. This will be a big year for the tadpoles, the freshmen, and we are going to see the pixies start to elbow their way into Makuuchi too. I think this year we lose at least one Ozeki, and maybe two. I think we may also gain a Yokozuna if you-know-who can take advantage of the next time Hakuho rests up in his sumo-life-extension project.

Haru Leaderboard

Leader: Hakuho
Chaser: Ichinojo
Hunt Group: Goeido, Aoiyama, Kotoshogiku, Takayasu

3 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 13

Ishiura vs Daishoho – A whole lot ‘o make-koshi out for offer in the lower matches. Daishoho is one loss away, and if Ishiura can deliver the goods, it adds another rikishi to the hopper of demote-able guys with lots of pomade in their hair. What are they going to do with this mess – especially if (as lksumo points out) there are not a whole lot of Juryo guys who are making the case for promotion.

Terutsuyoshi vs Kotoyuki – Once again Mr 5×5 comes to town, ready to crowd surf his way through another match. Terutsuyoshi won their only prior match, and winning again today would push Kotoyuki to make-koshi, further hashing the group of the top Juryo men into an even smaller promotable pile.

Ryuden vs Chiyoshoma – It’s shin-Ikioi’s time to beat on the ever elusive Chiyoshoma. He’s in a tight spot with wins, so I am going to look for every move, trick or gambit he can think of. And he can think of a lot. Fortunately Ryuden is already kachi-koshi.

Kotoeko vs Yago – Will Kotoeko be able to save his muscular hinder from joining the demote-able, pomade covered dog-pile? Somehow I think the lure of that much hair-grease, and that many mawashi clad fellows might be more than a small town boy from Miyazaki can resist. Aim for the rafters, Yago!

Shohozan vs Yutakayama – Shohozan’s happiness is proportional to the number of times he hits somebody. And lately he’s been losing matches, and he just seems… Well, a little blue. As Yutakayama is close to the squishy center of that pile of demote-able folks right now, he may as well do something benevolent, and help cheer Shohozan up.

Sadanoumi vs Toyonoshima – Toyonoshima did not muster quite the victory lap in the top division that Uncle Sumo managed. It was less of a “here comes awesome” and more “oh, you again? I had no idea you were still doing sumo”. As a bonafied old person, I can relate. Sadanoumi is no spring chicken, but maybe the two of them can yell at Onosho and Takakeisho to get he hell off their dohyo, then go to the Izakaya and pound a few cold ones while singing 90s tunes.

Meisei vs Kotoshogiku – We can think of Kotoshogiku as some kind of “old guard” barometer. When he’s a mess, it seems many of the other vets are just limping by. Right now Kotoshogiku is really racking up the score, and I think that he may not stop at 10. Meisei has the speed and the high-adhesion feet to make some wild maneuvers in a match. But Kotoshogiku is a master of bracketing these kind of rikishi.

Asanoyama vs Tomokaze – The schedulers love these matches. The winner gets their kachi-koshi. The other one gets a face full of dirt. Asanoyama has kept his spirits up and his outlook positive, so I think he can make it happen. This is their first ever match.

Kagayaki vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji’s sumo is defined by patience. But sometimes we wish he would just throw down like someone had dented his wife’s Toyota Harrier in the Aeon parking lot. We can be sure that Kagayaki will do his utmost to make this match as colorless and basic as possible, but will execute with absolute form.

Aoiyama vs Yoshikaze – I love me some giant Aoiyama slap-happy sumo. Which will carry the day – a couple of big hits from the heavy guns, or a stream of burning hell from the berserker? They have an 11-11 career record, so give thanks you are not in the front row of the arena, as I suspect that we will see blood.

Ikioi vs AbiEt Tu Abi?

Okinoumi vs Shodai – At this point I think Shodai is so demoralized, he would be happy to have this end. I am guessing this may be his worst spanking since his disastrous 5-10 at Nagoya in 2017 (which included a fusensho), and he may even exceed that basho’s terrible performance.

Nishikigi vs Tochiozan – Both of these guys join Shodai and Kaisei in the “broken toy” box. All of them have had a terrible tournament and are probably going to be happy for Sunday night parties and the start of the spring jungyo. All 4 of them are worthy members of the top division, but this tournament they were little more than target practice for the more genki elements higher up the banzuke.

Daieisho vs Onosho – Onosho has his back on the make-koshi line again today, and he has to take a win from the speedy Daieisho to stay out of the losing column for Haru. Daieisho has a 2-6 record against Onosho, but as we have seen from this tournament, Onosho is having balance and foot placement issues.

Kaisei vs Endo – Both in the make-koshi bracket with the rest, both of them capable rikishi who were strip mined for shiroboshi for the past 12 days, and are in no mood to continue. But the show must go on, and we will see size vs agility on display.

Myogiryu vs Hokutofuji – Actually, this match has a lot of potential. Myogiryu has been a tough competitor in a really brutal joi-jin, and he still holds on to a chance to win out and be promoted. Hokutofuji has bounced off his first trip to San’yaku, and will have to regroup for a couple of tournaments before we see him test his mettle again. It’s going to come down to that handshake tachiai and nodowa, I think. Land it – and you have control Hokutofuji. Miss and Myogiryu is going to make you dance, and then eat dirt.

Mitakeumi vs Ichinojo – Should we start by saying that Mitakeumi has a 6-3 career advantage over Ichinojo? Maybe we should point out that Mitakeumi is hurt, and Ichinojo seems to have adopted Terunofuji’s kaiju form – at once both dazzling and terrifying to behold. I think this one is Ichinojo’s to lose, but I am also going to assume that Mitakeumi is going to work to make sure he does not drop out of the san’yaku.

Chiyotairyu vs Tamawashi – The time for Tamawashi to rally is now. He has trouble with Chiyotairyu’s big hit tachiai, but I am certain that the Hatsu yusho winner can take the cannonball and push for a win.

Takayasu vs Takakeisho – Sumo fans, we can see this one coming from over the horizon. Takakeisho is going to attack with the wave-action, and Takayasu is going to use the smooth tachiai he has shown for most of the basho. If he can land even one hand on Takakeisho’s mawashi, it’s likely the end of an Ozeki bid. I am looking for Takayasu to finish with at least 11 wins, and to me it looks like his next will likely come day 13 if he boxes up Takakeisho.

Tochinoshin vs Kakuryu – This is not a good match for Tochinoshin. He is 3-22 against Kakuryu, who is one of the few rikishi (along with Hakuho) who can escape the “Skycrane”. But we are to the point now where he must win to defend his rank. As I said at the beginning, Tochinoshin is not beyond sacrificing his body to protect his rank. He might do something that leads to worsening his condition, knowing that he might have a few months to try to overcome it, if he can just clear kadoban. A desperate man might unleash some wild sumo power. I am going to watch for it, as he is nearly out of options.

Hakuho vs Goeido – The rikishi with the best chance of putting dirt on the sole leader of the yusho race will face Hakuho today. Goeido in his genki GoeiDOS 2.2 form has been a damn fine rikishi, and he has delivered wins with speed and brutality that match some of his best sumo from Aki 2016. I predict no matter what way this goes, it may only last single-digit seconds.

Another Day Out at the EDION Arena: Haru 2019 Day 11

EDION Arena Osaka - Dohyo-iri
The EDION Arena, Osaka

Originally, knowing that I was to attend two days of the Haru basho, I had intended to write one post about the basho experience, enjoy this amazing city of Osaka, do a podcast with Bruce (like and subscribe), and then head back to the EDION Arena for Day 11 only with the intention of enjoying the action.

But then, magical moments intervened, and here I am again.

Day 11’s torikumi was pretty remarkable. And there are multiple reasons for that. First of all, the big performers have been delivering big performances. There are challengers down the banzuke. There is intrigue from the ozeki ranks going in both directions. And also, apart from Chiyonokuni’s pre-tournament withdrawal, there have been no kyujo announcements and no fusen-sho. The gang’s all here.

I didn’t get all of it. Partly because I arrived a little later than I had intended, and partly because I wanted to enjoy more of what the venue had to offer. So while I’m happy I missed Wakaichiro losing, because I never want to see him lose – I’m also sorry I missed a few Makushita and Juryo matches I would have liked to have seen.

I also missed almost every dohyo-iri. That’s because I decided to take part in one of Osaka’s great traditions, waiting by the shitakubeya entrance/exit for the rikishi to cross through the fans on their way to the dohyo. For every 10 pictures you’ll try and snap of this, you’ll get, well, one that might be passable:

Takayasu prepares for the dohyo-iri

The other thing that I saw during this period, that I think needs to be called out, was the warmness and generosity of one Kotoyuki-zeki. Rikishi are not really meant to interact too much with fans on their way through the open areas, because if they did then all hell would break loose. Usually, they do turn the blinders on, and stay deep in focus. But Kotoyuki, on his way back from winning his match was fist-bumping fans in the hallways, and then later, on his way back to (presumably) the heya, was warmly shaking hands with elderly fans and thanking them for their support. The proximity that punters can get to the rikishi, especially here in Osaka, is truly part of what makes the sumo experience special.

EDION Arena - Katsu sando
Cheers to Herouth for the Katsu sando recommendation, a vast improvement on the EDION Arena’s yakitori

Bruce has done an excellent job covering many of the Ones to Watch, and I’m going to dig back in to some of the lower division performances I’ve seen in a later post, likely after the basho. For now, I’ll close with a few comments on the top division:

Ikioi: his heavy metal sumo hasn’t been on display, and he probably isn’t fit to be on a dohyo. And probably, if he were anywhere else, I don’t think he would be, even though he is the consummate competitor. But his match was the first time the fans really sparked into life on Day 11, and I think he deserves immense credit for turning up in his hometown every day, even if he is – as Kintamayama accurately remarked in his subtitles today – a “walking hospital.”

Interview Room - EDION Arena Osaka
The nondescript hallway to the mysterious and secretive Interview Room – where we won’t be seeing Ikioi this basho – and where rikishi must walk when they defeat a Yokozuna or get kachi-koshi

Ichinojo: Today’s match against Aoiyama felt like a step forward for him. He was up against a lesser-heralded opponent and in a high pressure situation. Usually, you’d bet on him folding in these scenarios, but he set a booby-trap for the Bulgarian by wearing him down, and using his own immense stamina to his advantage. He’ll avoid big names from here, and a 13 or 14 win tournament could certainly make things interesting come May and July, whatever happens.

Goeido: He has rebounded from his defeats and he continues to display the hell for leather attacking sumo that won him a yusho. If he continues to fight like this and can keep himself in this kind of shape, maybe it won’t be in Osaka, but he will challenge for more titles. The crowd support for him was greater than anything I’ve seen in Fukuoka or Nagoya for any other local rikishi – and if you scroll through the content that the NSK themselves have been interacting with and reposting on Instagram, it’s clear to see just how much people in this city absolutely love him. If he brings the noise against the Yokozuna, it may change the course of the basho.

Takayasu and Tochinoshin: Both men are in a period of some kind of transition. Tochinoshin is clearly trying to figure out how to scrape any kinds of wins when he can’t deploy his singular superior manoeuvre, in a desperate act to save his rank. Takayasu is training himself into a lesser reliance on his heretofore opening gambit and is looking to become and even more polished all around rikishi. Takayasu’s throw today felt like it simultaneously deflated and elated the arena. While Tochinoshin is by no means down or out from (or prohibited from returning to) the rank of ozeki, the loss today felt like it punctuated the inevitable. Tochinoshin’s fans were loud and proud but it is not an exaggeration to say his impact on the clay could be felt all the way back in the cheap seats.

Hakuho: I have watched the musubi-no-ichiban back several times, as I did before leaving the arena while NHK were showing the replays on their screen in the lobby. It is folly to say that today was in any way remarkable simply for the style of his result, or even that he cashed in a get out of jail card in his victory over Takakeisho: it wouldn’t be the first, second or third time he’s done that in this tournament alone.

Let’s look at three screenshots via the Kintamayama wrap-up video:

Screenshot 2019-03-20 at 22.02.08

While it may seem quiet on the video, the reality is usually somewhat different from what the NHK microphones catch, and each of these moments amplified the environment by an order of magnitude. First, the above moment: Hakuho, for a lengthy period of time, stares down Takakeisho. He had said before the basho he wanted to teach the sekiwake a lesson. Here, as everyone in the building watches, and everyone on TV watches, and everyone on the internet watches, Takakeisho is looking up at the big man. Hakuho is the boss, and we all know it.

Screenshot 2019-03-20 at 22.02.24

Hakuho crouches down at the shikiri-sen for the tachiai, but again, there’s a longer than usual pause before the start of the match. He is making Takakeisho wait at every turn, and again, this was clear in the arena and it added to the sense of anticipation. This was also not the first time we saw a rikishi wait out an opponent: there were several matta on the day, and several non-starts. Tamawashi is known to regularly wait out the tachiai, but whenever Tamawashi tries to play mind games, he always loses (see: his match against Kakuryu).

Screenshot 2019-03-20 at 22.03.18

In some of the matches in this tournament, we saw a cheeky grin from The Boss after he got out of jail. Not this time. He played a cat and mouse game with Takakeisho before grabbing the belt and throwing him to the clay with authority. Then he let out a huge grunt before grabbing the largest pile of kensho of the day. At this point, the top was about to come off the building. It’s a massive credit to Takakeisho (as with the other rikishi earlier in the tournament), that this match was close. But nothing with Hakuho is by accident. Whether or not you like the theatrics, I would argue that moments like this are what makes sport worth following, they give us heroes, they give us a relationship with the game.

I had been not feeling well earlier in the day and had considered heading back to the hotel to catch makuuchi on TV, but I’m glad I didn’t. Everything in the 8+ hours long day of sumo builds gradually to the musubi-no-ichiban. This was one of the best possible matchups we have seen in a long time, with titles and promotions on the line, and the greatest rikishi of all time was the conductor of an atmosphere which ratcheted up to fever pitch during a match that turned out to be yet another topsy-turvy emotional victory. With just four days remaining in one of the best tournaments in recent memory, I’ll be sad not to be returning to the EDION Arena again this year.

Haru Day 3 Highlights

Day three brings sumo fans upsets, surprises galore. Surprising sumo from a number of rikishi, and all in all a very satisfying day in Osaka. Thus far, some rikishi who we thought were going to be injury impaired have proven themselves fit to fight, and some beloved heroes in need of a win find themselves faltering out of the blocks. On to the matches!

Highlight Matches

Daishoho defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki remains a puzzle. When he’s on his unique body shape and sumo approach make him very effective, but when he’s “off”, its like watching a penguin try to drive a stick shift. Kotoyuki tries a pull and Daishoho is ready, and uses the change in direction to run out of the ring.

Kotoeko defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma comes out strong with a nodowa, but Kotoeko uses Chiyoshoma’s locked arm as a lever to swing him across the bales. Very acrobatic, unusual and quite satisfying at the same time. Chiyoshoma ends the match with his face in some salaryman’s lap. The salaryman looks satisfied.

Ishiura defeats Yutakayama – Ishiura resists the temptation to execute a full henka, then opens a slap-fest with Yutakayama. Yutakayama is usually able to hold is own, but loses traction and drops unceremoniously to the clay. The same salaryman looks on, wondering if Ishiura will end up in his lap soon.

Tomokaze defeats Toyonoshima – When this much mass collides at speed, new subatomic particles come into existence and vanish in a fraction of a second. Toyonoshima came in lower and inside, and had the advantage at the tachiai, and Tomokaze took a big chance by pulling. Toyonoshima was unable to capitalize on his opponents weight shift, and ended up on the clay. Several of the subatomic particles look satisfied.

Yoshikaze defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi attempts to duck to the side at the tachiai, but Yoshikaze is expecting it, and pivots expertly. At this point, Terutsuyoshi does not have his feet planted, and his balance is on his heels. Yoshikaze wastes no time in moving forward and driving Terutsuyoshi back, with a knee pick at the end. The match ends with Yoshikaze riding Terutsuyoshi like a pony. Yoshikaze looks satisfied.

Meisei defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki came out strong at the tachiai, but Meisei’s smaller size and lower center of gravity gave him the inside position. Kagayaki kept the pressure forward, putting Meisei’s heels on the tawara, where he rallied, getting Kagayaki off balance and then stepping to the side. Great recovery from Meisie. Kagayaki still struggling to deliver effective sumo.

Shohozan defeats Yago – In the interview room, many rikishi say they try to focus on doing “my brand of sumo”. Shohozan’s brand of sumo is a lot like a street brawl, and today that’s what he was able to execute against a somewhat disoriented Yago. Push-push-slap. Slap-slap-push. Yago could not find a way to set up either offense or defense, and after a short time he got frustrated being batted around by “Big Guns” Shohozan, and lunged to attack. Shohozan welcomed this mistake, and used it to show Yago the exit. Somewhere in Fukuoka, Shohozan’s mother (Mama-zan?) was certainly satisfied.

Ryuden defeats Ikioi – Fantastic strength match between these two die-hard rikishi. Ikioi seems progressively more injured each basho, yet here he is, fighting like mad against a younger, less hurt version of himself. If this is not a parable for every person who feels the effects of aging and a hard-fought life, I don’t know what is. But much like life, the younger version wins, and the older guy is left puffing and wondering where the aspirin and the sauna is.

Kotoshogiku defeats Asanoyama – Yet again, we see a very genki Kotoshogiku pounding the tar out of a young, up-and-coming rikishi. Again we see the low tachiai, and that left hand swings in at once and latches the front of Asanoyama’s mawashi. Now if Asanoyama were paying attention, he would just throw himself out backward at this point, and make this one for the record books. But instead, he wants a first hand look at the Kyushu Bulldozer, as Kotoshogiku gets in gear and uses Asanoyama to clear 30 yards of overburden from the dohyo paydirt.

Takarafuji defeats Sadanoumi – Takarafuji finally gets a win. Both of these guys are racking up an appalling number of black stars. Both of them are competent rikishi, and for some reason they are not able to really succeed right now in the top division. The situation is specifically ugly for the once dominant Isegahama heya, as they can’t seem to buy a win these days.

Okinoumi defeats Abi – Once again we see that Abi-zumo is not carrying the day anymore. Today it’s Okinoumi who disrupts his long-arm attack with great effect. Once the Abi-zumo session broke down, the whole match went very adhoc, and thus we got an unusual “sakatottari” kimarite. I think that Abi is fine to use it as his primary weapon, but when it falls apart, it’s clear he has nothing to transition to as a secondary. Thus, as soon as someone breaks it up, he’s done for. This is in contrast to someone like Kakuryu or Hakuho *(yes, they are Yokozuna…), who always transition to their next gambit. Work it out Abi, you are still on our list of “could be a big deal soon!”.

Aoiyama defeats Onosho – As forecast, Onosho suffered when he could not get inside of Aoiyama’s “bludgeon zone” to apply any offensive force. Frankly, Onosho had a very rough ride, and could not find his balance thanks to Aoiyama’s focus on landing the first blow.

Ichinojo defeats Tochiozan – At least for now, the “good” version of Ichinojo is in attendance in Osaka. Before he grabbed an arm, and pulled Tochiozan down, he supplied a pair of forceful blows to Tochiozan’s face. I am sure he’s still feeling those. Was that some kind of henka to start the match? It’s tough to tell because… well how can you have that much mass shift to the side and.. miss?

Chiyotairyu defeats Shodai – All of Chiyotairyu’s power gets used in the first few seconds of any match. Today it was too much for Shodai to absorb, which resulted in Shodai being high, with his balance on his heels, and ripe for a hearty push out. Chiyotairyu supplied.

Myogiryu defeats Tamawashi – Myogiryu surprises the Hatsu yusho winner by being low, fast and inside at the tachiai. Tamawashi pushes with everything he has, and Myogiryu steps aside, causing Tamawashi to lose any sort of footing. From there Myogiryu gives the Sekiwake a bit of a flying lesson. Tamawashi overcommits, and pays the price.

Mitakeumi defeats Takakeisho – I have huge respect for Mitakeumi, he is fighting hurt, he saw his bid to become Ozeki disintegrate, and he still comes out and delivers great sumo. Today he showed us that he has figured out how to turn off Takakeisho’s “wave action” machine. Robbed of his primary offense, Takakeisho is a bit of a dumpling with limited sumo. I think both of these tadpoles are headed higher in the next year or two, but Mitakeumi has already diversified his sumo, I am eager to see Takakeisho do the same.

Goeido defeats Nishikigi – For sumo fans who have only seen Goeido fight when he’s hurt (henkas, cheap moves, crummy wins), this is what REAL Goeido sumo looks like. No time to react, no time to try your own sumo. You are going on a one way trip – out or down. Nishikigi did not have a chance, as Goeido is (I think) using at least two different attack gambits at the same time. Damn! And oh yes, the home-town crowd is most certainly satisfied.

Daieisho defeats Takayasu – Does it need to be said? That ridiculous and dangerous shoulder blast took Takayasu out of the fight because Daieisho anticipated it, and knew how to use it to his advantage. Takayasu has become far too predictable, and it’s causing him to lose matches like this one, because his opponents know what to expect, and at times can work out how to counter it. High marks to Daieisho, who kept his balance forward, kept on his feet and kept low. In the moment after Takayasu delivers his shoulder blast, he is always high and off balance. With perfect timing, Daieisho went to the Ozeki’s chest with his own hips low, and drove forward with everything. It worked.

Hokutofuji defeats Tochinoshin – In spite of Hokutofuji’s somewhat disorganized state, he gave Tochinoshin no opportunity to launch into “power sumo” mode, which is really his only good strategy. Hokutofuji succeeded in staying low, and keeping Tochinoshin away from his mawashi. Tochinoshin drops to 1-2, and his fans are right to be concerned.

Kakuryu defeats Endo – Classic Kakuryu reactive sumo, though he nearly lost the handle on the match when Endo pushed him off balance in the opening moments, but could not finish the Yokozuna. Endo was all over the place, with poor foot placement, and Kakuryu never let him mount an effective attack again. It was a close one for the Yokozuna, but he did manage to win.

Hakuho defeats Kaisei – I admit it’s fun to watch Hakuho try to figure out what to do with that much body mass. When Hakuho goes for the maemitsu grip, It looks for a moment as if the Yokozuna means to pull Kaisei’s intestines out through his navel. Thankfully for all, the Brazilian’s digestive tract remains in place, and Hakuho wins by yoritaoshi instead.

Quick Hatsu Review – Liam Loves Sumo

After a short break, I’m back with a short review of the 2019 Hatsu Basho. In this video, I briefly discuss the biggest ups and downs of the Hatsu Basho, surprises and disappointments, the Banzuke picture for the upcoming Haru Basho, and the big stories coming out of January.

I want to thank Bruce for encouraging me to post this to the front page. I’ve been brainstorming some new videos and content and I’m very excited to try them out.

Stay tuned, more sumo content coming soon!

Chiyonokuni, Takanosho, and Kotoyuki go Kyujo


As expected, Chiyonokuni has gone kyujo following the knee injury he sustained during his Day 10 match with Ikioi.  He has been prescribed two weeks rest and treatment for left knee ligament damage. This is a very disappointing turn of events, as Chiyonokuni was having his best tournament since his fantastic 12-3 performance last May. However, with 8 wins Chiyonokuni has secured his position for the Haru Basho and won’t have to worry about how far he’ll drop down the rankings. Chiyonokuni’s Day 11 opponent Abi will pick up a fusen win.

[Update] Down in Juryo, Takanosho has bowed out of the Hatsu Basho for a second time due to a nagging knee injury he sustained on Day 2. He has submitted a medical form to the NSK for one month of treatment due to a right anterior cruciate ligament injury.

[Update] Completing the trio of Day 10 victims is Kotoyuki, who has also gone kyujo. According to his medical form, Kotoyuki is suffering from a right femor contusion and right leg joint lateral ligament damage. His Day 11 opponent Daieisho will get a much-needed walkover win.

We at Tachiai hope Chiyonokuni, Takanosho, and Kotoyuki make full recoveries.

Hatsu Day 10 Highlights

Kotoyuki Injured

It was a rough day in sumo, full of heartbreaking injuries. We saw Ura, Chiyonokuni and Kotoyuki all go down hard, and wheeled away with injured knees. For fans of sumo it can be tough to watch, but sumo is a combat sport, and people do, sadly, get hurt.

Highlight Matches

Kotoeko defeats Takagenji – Takagenji is up from Juryo for day 10, and picks up his 7th loss. This was a high intensity, high entertainment thrusting battle. Both men fought well, but Takagenji picked up his 7th loss.

Kagayaki defeats Daishomaru – Kagayaki reverts to his simple, basic sumo and wastes no time moving still winless Daishomaru (0-10) out of the ring.

Chiyoshoma defeats Meisei – Chiyoshoma attempted multiple times to pull and slap down Meisei, and one of them finally took. Not amazing sumo but Chiyoshoma needed the win.

Sadanoumi defeats Daiamami – Sadanoumi took to the mawashi immediately at the tachiai, and marched Daiamami out for his make-koshi.

Ikioi defeats Chiyonokuni – A straightforward match, with Chiyonokuni flailing away as normal, and Ikioi using his strength to drive forward. But Chiyonokuni collapses at the end, and is immobilized by pain, as his left knee sustains damage. Chiyonokuni needs help off of the dohyo, and is placed in a wheelchair, and taken for examination.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoyuki – As expected, Kotoyuki attempts to keep the battle focused on oshi while Takarafuji wants to go chest to chest. The match was a fantastic battle of styles, and it ended with Kotoyuki being turned around and boosted into the crowd with a firm shove from Takarafuji. This is usually not too big of an issue, as Kotoyuki loves to crowd surf. He lands face down next to Abi, and does not move. He is likewise hauled away in the wheelchair for medical examination.

Yutakayama defeats Abi – Pure thrusting battle, but when Abi goes down on one knee as he loses, fans gasp that perhaps a 3rd rikishi has injured themselves. Luckily, Abi seems to be ok, and Yutakayama picks up a much needed win.

Endo defeats Ryuden – Lengthy mawashi battle that saw Endo’s belt get loose with Ryuden’s hand on Endo’s mawashi knot, causing little old ladies across Japan to offer millions of hopeful prayers up at the same moment. Both men showed solid technique and fought with all they had. Excellent sumo.

Daieisho defeats Yago – Another wild thrusting battle that raged across every part of the dohyo, it seemed that Yago simply got tired at the end and Daieisho and grabbed a hold and walked him out. Yago may need to work on that stamina?

Asanoyama defeats Onosho – Onosho drops his 4th straight, and as I have been working to remind fans, Onosho is really aiming for a kachi-koshi at this rank. I am sure that given the surgical recuperation, he’s going flat out, and he dominated Asanoyama for most of the match, but Asanoyama caught him off balance and deftly applied a hatakikomi.

Aoiyama defeats Kaisei – It was over quickly, with Aoiyama’s getting inside, applying a nodowa and never letting up. Aoiyama really needed that win.

Shodai defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze really seems to be in poor condition right now, and I feel sorry for him underperforming to this extent. He picks up a make-koshi today.

Chiyotairyu defeats Shohozan – Shohozan got one face slap in, and then Chiyotairyu went to work, overwhelming his opponent and tossing him out the North side of the dohyo.

Ichinojo defeats Tochiozan – Ichinojo decided to bring his energy to the dohyo today, and made quick work of Tochiozan by grabbing Tochiozan’s mawashi, containing him and just marching forward.

Hokutofuji defeats Myogiryu – Hokutofuji was able to get in inside position with the “handshake tachiai”, and kept low throughout the match. Myogiryu attempted to rally at the tawara, but could not produce.

Tamawashi defeats Nishikigi – Tamawashi has not looked this dialed in for many months. He took command at the tachiai, and kept moving Nishikigi back with little trouble. Tamawashi scores his kachi-koshi.

Goeido defeats Kotoshogiku – Goeido skillfully protects his injured right arm, and prevents Kotoshogiku from engaging his primary gaburi yori attack. I am impressed with Goeido’s ability to fight and win while this hurt.

Takayasu defeats Takakeisho – The tadpole took the Ozeki out for a rough ride, blasting him backward at the tachiai, and keeping the pressure up with wave after wave of double arm thrusts. But Takayasu timed his move with skill, and stepped to the side just as the next wave was landing, sending Takakeisho to the clay for a loss. Takakeisho’s campaign to 11 got a bit tougher, as he needs to win 4 of the next 5.

Hakuho defeats Okinoumi – Really no contest here, but it’s great to see Hakuho execute his sumo.