Everything You Need to Know After Act One


 

With the first act of the Kyushu basho coming to an end, here is a quick rundown of everything you need to know to get all caught up.

Yusho Race

Five days in and the leaderboard has already dwindled down to three men, all with perfect records. Maegashira 13 Aminishiki, Ozeki Goeido, and a very genki Yokozuna Hakuho have five wins each and are neck and neck in the yusho race. Behind them with four wins are Takayasu, Mitakeumi, Hokutofuji, Ichinojo, Arawashi, and surprisingly, Okinoumi. I expect this group to be much smaller by the end of act two.

Kinboshi

So far, there have been three kinboshi surrendered this basho. Tamawashi earned the first of these gold star victories on day 1 when he defeated Yokozuna Kisenosato. Up and comer Takakeisho claimed the other two when he beat Harumafuji on day 2 and Kisenosato on day 4.

Kyujo and Absences

There are currently six men on the banzuke who have pulled out of the competition. Ura, Takanoiwa and Yokozuna Kakuryu withdrew citing health issues before the start of the basho. Aoiyama joined them on day 3 after sustaining an ankle injury in his match with Okinoumi. Day 3 would also see Yokozuna Harumafuji pull out of the competition following accusations of an assault on Takanoiwa during the October jungyo tour. After four straight losses, former Ozeki Terunofuji withdrew on day 5 to address the multiple health issues that have been plaguing him as of late.

Tozai-Sei

On day 1, I mentioned that I would be keeping track of the unofficial Tozai-sei Championship going on between the East and West sides of the banzuke. The Tozai-sei was an award used in the early 20th century and was given to the side of the banzuke with the most wins, and I’ve decided to resurrect it for a bit of added fun this basho. The rules are simple: for every win a rikishi gets, his side receives a point. After five days, the West leads the East with a record of 53 to 46. This lead is no doubt thanks to Aminishiki, Ichinojo, Takayasu, and Hakuho, who have a combined 18 points thus far. The top point earners on the East side are Okinoumi, Mitakeumi, and Goeido, who have 14 points between them.

With day 6 set to start in just a few short hours, there are still so many great sumo highlights to look forward to as the Kyushu basho rolls on.

Former Ozeki Terunofuji Withdraws From Kyushu Basho


terunofuji

This morning in Fukuoka, the Isegahama stable master announced that Sekiwake Terunofuji was withdrawing from the Kyushu tournament. Citing deteriorating condition of his left knee, it has been clear since the start of the tournament that Terunofuji had no strength in his legs, and was ineffective on the dohyo. Terunofuji was pushing for 10 wins in order to return to the rank of Ozeki, after failing to gain 8 wins in September at the Aki basho as a kadoban Ozeki, and was demoted.

We hope Terunofuji takes this chance to seek complete medical treatment for his injured knee, and returns to sumo in fighting form.

Whither… Takanoiwa?


Takanoiwa
There’s still him.

As Bruce did a great job of detailing, Harumafuji is in hot water for his role in potentially putting Takanoiwa out of action for quite some time and inflicting what may potentially be some degree of lasting damage to the head of his fellow rikishi. Much of the speculation, owing to the shocking nature of this incident and Harumafuji’s standing as a Yokozuna, has been around the subject of intai (by his choice or the association’s), what kind of punishment might be forthcoming, or what Harumafuji’s life will be like going forward.

But let’s not forget there is another side of this as well, and that’s the future of Takanoiwa’s career. Obviously, he has received extensive hospital treatment, and it’s unclear where and when we will see him functioning again on the dohyo as we have seen him function before. This passage from the Japan Times article on the scandal caught my eye:

Takanoiwa, 27, was one of the early withdrawals from the Nov. 12-26 tournament. He is expected to miss the entire meet and be demoted to the lower juryo rank at the meet in January.

It is certainly true that anyone kyujo from the entire tournament from the level of Maegashira 8 under normal injury circumstances would be demoted to Juryo. It has happened 14 times in the last 40 years and in the 9 of those times that the kōshō seido system was not applied, the rikishi concerned ended up ranked between J3 and J7 on the banzuke for the following basho.

However, these are not normal circumstances – and they also fall at a time when there have been renewed calls from luminaries of the sumo world (as well as, for what it’s worth, from these pages) to reconsider a reinstatement or a replacement for kōshō seido. While this isn’t a new thing (and you can find hot debates on sites like sumoforum about this, going back at least ten years), the increase in injuries certainly makes the conversation more relevant. John Gunning recently doubled down on the comments he made in the Japan Times regarding the size of rikishi during the NHK World Sumo Preview episode, the training regimen for fitness and injury recovery has been scrutinised in light of failed recoveries by key competitors, and the rigorous Jungyo schedule has not only strained the health of sekitori further but was the time during which the above incident occurred.

One should wonder then, whether special consideration will be given to Takanoiwa’s rank for Hatsu 2018 (if he is able to compete). After all, it is not like this was a normal injury caused on the dohyo or even the case of a clumsy accident at home: if the reports are correct, he was taken out of commission by an act of another rikishi for which there is an ongoing police investigation. If this special consideration to preserve Takanoiwa’s rank is given, could that then be a springboard to a new system that enables rikishi to get urgent appropriate medical attention in order to preserve their rank for even just one tournament?

There are no definitive answers to that latter question right now. But at a time when there’s seemingly nothing good coming out of this saga (the potential loss of a great – and sometimes also good – yokozuna’s career, a rikishi with potentially life changing injuries), the Association has an opportunity to reserve insult from injury. I, for one, hope they mark out this extraordinary circumstance, and allow Takanoiwa to resume his career in the division in which he has worked to establish himself over the past couple of years.

Harumafuji Withdraws From Kyushu Basho – Updated


Harumafuji

It has been announced that Yokozuna Harumafuji has withdrawn from the Kyushu basho as of this morning. There is currently some controversy swirling around him due to a fight with another rikishi. The Japanese press is swirling with allegations, and frankly they seem too fantastic to repeat here until there is more evidence. However the Sumo Kyokai has opened an investigation of Harumafuji, and as a result he has withdrawn until they complete their review. Tamawashi picks up a fusen win for their day 3 match.

It is also noted that Aoiyama has withdrawn as of day 3 with an ankle injury sustained day 2, Kaisei will gain a fusen win for their day 3 match.

Update – Video report now running on NHK World:  https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20171114_80/

Decisions, Decisions


Tomorrow the torikumi for the first two days are to be announced. And this is when wrestlers who have been tottering on the edge of kyujo announce their decisions.

ura

We already learned that Kakuryu will be kyujo. The head of the YDC reacted to this announcement by making it clear that Hatsu will be Kakuryu’s life-or-death basho. The press has already started to speculate on what the gentle yokozuna will be doing after his retirement.

Ura has also announced that he will be kyujo. This means that in Hatsu, we will no longer see him in the NHK highlights show, Kintamayama’s videos or Jason’s videos, as he will drop to Juryo. But this is probably just the start of a long drop – which we can only hope he will be doing with a properly operated-on ligament, with a view to bounce back into his pink mawashi.

Edit: turns out Ura went to get a doctor’s certificate from a Fukuoka hospital. The verdict, unsurprisingly, is that he has damage to the meniscus in one knee, and damage to the ACL in the other knee, and has to have surgery and rehabilitation, which will require, per that certificate, three months (sounds overly optimistic to me, and I suspect that Fukuoka hospital is not a world center of sports medicine). I hope that this means that he actually will undergo that surgery this time.

Terunofuji, on the other hand, decided that he will participate in the basho. I predict that the scenario from Aki will repeat itself, but I can understand why he is doing this: winning 10 bouts is probably a long shot, but much like Tochinoshin and Aoiyama in Aki, he probably wants to pad his fall down the banzuke with at least a few wins, rather than find himself at Maegashira 11 with a close view at Juryo in short order.

His decision follows a positive degeiko visit to Kokonoe stable, where he practiced with Chiyonokuni and Chiyotairyu. Here is a little sample:

Kisenosato has made it clear that he will participate.

Harumafuji also makes a clear statement that he will participate, and wants to serve for the full 15 days. Yep. As I said in a Tweet, that man will show up even dead.

Hakuho will participate, of course, and makes all sorts of statements about going for his 40th yusho and breaking Futabayama’s winning percentage record (not the same as the consecutive wins record). But reporters around him note that he is still not 100% clear of injury.

Takayasu doesn’t make any bold statements, but apparently, he will participate, and says that he’ll do what he has to do and if that doesn’t clear his kadoban, he’ll have another go in the next basho.

Edit: as noted in the comments, Takanoiwa as well as Juryo Chiyootori will also be absent from day one, though they made no public announcements and the reason and length of their absence have not been published.

Yokozuna Kakuryu Kyujo For Kyushu Basho


kakuryu_3

Word comes this morning (Japan time) that Yokozuna Kakuryu will be absent from the kyushu basho with renewed injuries to his lower back. This comes as a surprise as he had looked solid in training and jungyo over the past several weeks.

This is the fourth consecutive tournament that Kakuryu will miss some or all of a basho, and seriously calls into question his continued viability as an active Yokozuna. Kakuryu took the championship last year at Kyushu, with a solid set of 14 wins. His fans were eager to see him defend his title, and excitement was high to have a tournament with all four Yokozuna active.

We wish Kakuryu good fortune and a speedy recovery.

Aoiyama Returns Day 8?


Aoiyama

From the day 8 Makuuchi torikumi, a bit of a surprise. It shows Harumafuji’s opponent as none other than the man-mountian Aoiyama! If Aoiyama is indeed about to enter Aki, one must wonder why. He will start with 7 losses, and nearly maki-koshi. So perhaps he wants to minimize his demotion? We hope the big fellow is genki enough to insert himself in this mad house of a basho.