In a surprising turn of events, Ozeki Asanoyama has withdrawn from the November tournament, where he was expected to compete for the Emperors Cup in the second week. Following his day 2 match with Terunofuji, it seems Asanoyama found that a nagging shoulder injury from day 1 was much worse. As a result, he has submitted a medical certificate stating “deltoid muscle contusion requires treatment for about 4 weeks”.
I must sadly admit that I had picked Asanoyama to take the yusho – once again, our predictions turn regrettable. If he cannot return and win 7 more matches in November, he will be kadoban for the January tournament. We hope Asanoyama can recover and return to competition soon.
A short time ago, the Japan Sumo Association published the match list (torikumi) for the top division days 1 and 2. Notably missing is Yokozuna Hakuho, who has chosen to be kyujo from the November tournament. While he was active in joint practice leading up to the tournament, he is just a few weeks past surgery. It is quite likely that following the practice sessions, he realized his body could not yet endure 15 days of full power sumo, and wisely chose to bide his time.
This makes the second “No-kazuna” tournament in a row, and once again the door is open for an enterprising Ozeki to open a bid to ascend to sumo’s highest rank. We can expect ultimatums from the YDC, threatening corrective action against both grand champions should they fail to mount the dohyo for 15 days in January. This lies in stark contrast to some recent Yokozuna. But I admit it seems clear to this sumo fan that the Hakuho and Kakuryu are nearly at the end of their fighting careers. We wish them both good health and a return to dominance in the new year.
With the day 1 torikumi published, it’s confirmed that for the first time in 37 years, none of the active Yokozuna will start this tournament. Make sure the catch the dohyo matsuri streaming live on YouTube,
Much as Team Tachiai had worried, the 2020 Aki Basho will start day one with no Yokozuna present. With the publication of the torikumi (fight card) for days 1 and 2 in the top division, it was clear that both Yokozuna Kakuryu and Yokozuna Hakuho would not participate. In the case of Hakuho, he is a month into recovery from having arthroscopic surgery to both knees, and may in fact be questionable for November as well.
For Kakuryu, it seems to have been a case of injuries (unspecified thus far), along with a worry that he had not been able to train up to Yokozuna fighting level prior to the basho. Some of this he has recently attributed to the ban on degeiko, which the Yokozuna use to spar against the top talent and tune up prior to a basho.
This is the first time in 37 years that all active Yokozuna have been absent from the start of a tournament [EDIT: Akebono, the sole active Yokozuna, was absent from Aki 1994. The 37-year gap applies to more than one active Yokozuna: neither Chiyonofuji nor Kitanoumi started Natsu 1983. -lksumo], and it clearly signals we are deep in the transition period, and in my opinion, both Yokozuna are 12 months or less from hanging up their ropes. We know Hakuho wants to hold on and participate in the Tokyo Olympics, which were postponed from this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kakuryu is looking to stay in Japan and become an elder in the sumo association, which the NSK seems to support. But he must gain Japanese citizenship first, and with that same COVID-19 outbreak continuing to disrupt civilian and government functions, there is no word on him advancing to that goal.