Haru Day 15 Preview


dohyo-iri-15

Final Day Of the Osaka Tournament

It’s been a strange and crazy basho, and now we face the final day of competition. The yusho race had focused almost entirely on Kisenosato for the bulk of the tournament, but it’s now clear that bar some strange occurrence, Terunofuji will lift the Emperor’s Cup tomorrow. Prior to day 14’s henka against Kotoshogiku, most sumo fans would have cheered his return to glory, after more than a year of crippling injuries and constant pain.

Fans have commented on Tachiai, Twitter and Facebook that the henka is part of the sport. This is true, and there are times when it’s employment is kind of neat. What troubles me about day 14 is that Kotoshogiku was not going to be able to best Terunofuji’s kaiju mode. To me the henka this time smelled of cruelty. I restrain myself, I hope, from layering too many American / European idioms on what is a completely Japanese cultural phenomenon. But it was clear that Kotoshogiku intended to go out, guns blazing, giving his all every match. This was the match where his bid to return was to be lost, and he was not allowed to end with dignity.

So you may see some noise from the Japanese fan community about Terunofuji, and I worry, about the Mongolian contingent as a whole. This would be a huge mistake, in my opinion, as the Mongolian rikishi have hugely enriched the sport, and have done fantastic things for Japan and the Japanese people.

Key Matches, Day 15

Terunofuji vs Kisenosato – This one decides the yusho. If Kisenosato some how manages to win the first one, the two will fight a tie breaker after Harumafuji and Kakuryu fight the last match of the basho. Given that Kisenosato can’t really do anything with his left arm (and he’s left handed) it’s going to be a long shot. My hope is that Kisenosato can survive without additional injury, and Terunofuji does not do anything to further lose face.

Harumafuji vs Kakuryu – This bout has very little impact, save to see if Kakuryu can get to double digits this time. Both are out of the yusho race, Harumafuji is banged up and struggling. I hope no one gets hurt and both can recover soon.

Tamawashi vs Takayasu – If Takayasu can win this one, it means that he will need 10 wins in May to become Ozeki. It’s still a tall order, but a 12-3 record might also give him Jun-Yusho status for the first time in his career. Tamawashi will likely stay at Sekiwake for May, but needs wins to start making the case for promotion to Ozeki himself.

Kotoshogiku vs Yoshikaze – I hope both of these well loved veterans have some fun with this match. Both have kachi-koshi, and both are looking at retirement in the not too distant future. Kotoshogiku will try to wrap up Yoshikaze, and Yoshikaze will try to stay mobile.

Kachi/Make-Koshi

A number of rikishi go into the final day at 7-7, and will exit the final day either with promotion or demotion as their next move. This includes

Ishiura vs Takarafuji – First meeting between these two, Takarafuji already make-koshi

Endo vs Tochinoshin – Both at 7-7, the loser gets a demotion. Prior meetings are evenly split, but Tochinoshin is a shadow of his former self.

Daishomaru vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji has his first make-koshi of his sumo career, but Daishomaru has a chance of kachi-koshi if he can win.

Myogiryu vs Aoiyama – Should be an easy win for Aoiyama, Myogiryu already make-koshi

Ichinojo vs Ura – Maegashira 7 Ichinojo vs Maegashira 12 Ura. Ichinojo already make-koshi, Ura trying to stay in the top division. A huge mismatch in size and speed. This may be a strange one indeed.

Takayasu Recovers, Defeats Takarafuji


Bout Included Mawashi Malfunction

On day 14, Takayasu racked up his 11th with, an important addition for his quest to win promotion to Ozeki. The match featured a solid display of yotsu-zumō, but was halted by the Gyoji, as Takarafuji’s mawashi threatened to come un-done mid battle. As shown in earlier posts, the Gyoji stops the match, throws his gumbai over his shoulder and re-ties the offending garment.

This 11th win matters a great deal for Takayasu, as it means that he was able to set his disappointment over his day 11 loss aside, and overcome whatever worries he has for his friend Kisenosato and focus on his sumo, which he did well today. Sadly this victory gave Takarafuji his make-koshi, and he will face a small rank demotion for May. Takayasu will need at least 11 wins in May to secure Ozeki, and we think that if he stays focused and healthy, that goal is in reach.

Video thanks to Jason’s All Sumo Channel on YouTube, which is a Tachiai mainstay. Feel free to hit his tip jar, too!

Haru Day 11 Recap


Terunofuji-11

Outstanding Sumo All Around

As suggested in our preview of day 11, Kakuryu defeated Takayasu to narrow the yusho race to on very large, powerful rikishi for now – Shin-Yokozuna Kisenosato, who remains undefeated and alone in the lead for the Emperor’s Cup. In addition, Kotoshogiku’s bid to restore his Ozeki rank took a serious blow, when injured Ikioi kept mobile and was able to slap down the Kyushu Bulldozer as he was chasing Ikioi down.

Overnight, Kokonoe rikishi Chyoo withdrew citing a foot injury, and will likely end up back in Juryo for May, as he was Maegashira 15 and already make-koshi. But his default loss brought Takakeisho to 7-4, one win away from securing his kachi-koshi and ensuring a returning slot in Makuuchi.

Ura was able to defeat Kyokushuho, partially by confusion and surprise in one of the sloppiest matches yet. Ura went in very low, stayed low and wriggled his way around, but managing to stay upright until Kyokushuho stepped out. Kyokushuho now make-koshi and likely headed back to Juryo as well.

Ishiura’s bout with Kotoyuki featured a monoii, where the Shimpan award the win to Ishiura after reviewing the video. It was very close on who was out first, as Kotoyuki was falling as Ishiura stepped out. Kotoyuki seems to have sustained some damage in the fall.

Aoiyama won over Kagayaki via a rather ungraceful henka.

Tochiozan keeps winning, this time defeating Chiyonokuni. He remains part of the group (now 3 strong) that are one off the pace. The first bout started with a Tochiozan henka, and ended with a simultaneous throw that triggered a monoii. The Shimpan declared that the match would be re-fought, and in the second bout, Chiyonokuni henka’d, but Tochiozan was all over him and drove him quickly out.

Hokotofuji managed to win again, this time against the hapless Kaisei. A few days ago it looked like Hokotofuji was headed to his first career make-koshi. Today it looks like he is not ready to surrender, and has battled back to 5-6. Very impressive performance from this young college sumo champion.

Arawashi gave Terunofuji a great bout, but as expected Terunofuji prevailed and remains one behind Kisenosato. At one point Terunofuji tried to lift and carry Arawashi, but Arawashi was able to escape Takakaze’s fate. Both rikishi traded throw attempts multiple times, neither able to get the other off balance enough to complete the move. Amazing sumo.

Harumafuji’s win over Mitakeumi happened in the blink of an eye. Harumafuji launched out of the tachiai and his momentum drove Mitakeumi out in one single fluid move. This is the Harumafuji style we love to see.

The final bout of the day saw Yoshikaze pour on the attack against Kisenosato. The outcome of the bout was very much in doubt as Kisenosato was purely reactive at first, and struggled to find an opening to switch to offense. Eventually he was able to get an arm hold on the Berserker and maneuver him to be pushed out. Fantastic effort by Yoshikaze, and excellent recovery by Kisenosato, who is looking very much like the man to beat.

Ikioi Gamberizes – Kotoshogiku’s Dream Shaken


Kotoshogiku-11

Needs To Win 3 of Remaining 4

Kotoshogiku has been hit-or-miss since his stunning yusho in January 2016. Some tournaments he’s strong and dominant, others he is clearly in pain, injured and just can’t make his sumo work. At the end of the January tournament in 2017, he failed to clear his kadoban status and was demoted to Sekiwake, with a single chance of returning to Ozeki – if he scored 10 wins in the following basho.

The Tachiai crew agreed, this was a hard road, and might require some rikishi doing “favors” for the big bulldozer from Kyushu. But then Haru started, and it was clear that Kotoshogiku was in fighting form. He has been winning, using his sumo, against foes who are putting out full effort.

Ikioi is a fine sumotori with a solid future in Makuuchi, but he has had a terrible basho. In fact, he is already deep in make-koshi by day 10 shows just how poorly he has been doing at Maegashira 1. But somehow he found his sumo on day 11, and bested Kotoshogiku, in what was probably expected by most to be win #8 for the struggling former Ozeki.

Kotoshogiku was unable to lock up Ikioi for a Hug-n-Chug win, but instead, Ikioi kept mobile and slapped down Kotoshogiku when his balance went too far forward.

With today’s loss, Kotoshogiku can only lose 1 more bout and still regain his Ozeki title. Everyone loves a comeback story, especially when the hero is a nice guy that people like. But Kotoshogiku’s comeback story now hangs by a thread.

Haru Day 11 Preview


Bow-Twirling

Opening The Third Act

The third act of any basho is where dreams are crushed, the heroes are crowned, and legends are made. The 2017 Haru basho has progressed in new an exceptional ways, but with the final 5 days in front of us, it’s time to truly test those who vie for the Emperor’s Cup, and bring about a winner.

First and foremost, of course, is the remarkable performance of Kisenosato and Takayasu. They complete the firs 10 days of Haru undefeated. In fact, they seem to be able to shake of normal threats such as the day 10 Takanoiwa henka, and the several times that Kisenosato allowed his opponent to gain a brief, fleeting advantage. Unless something strange happens, one of these men will take the Yusho on Sunday. That something strange would be both Kisenosato and Takayasu losing at least once. The only rikishi that can catch them is the resurgant Terunofuji, who looms like a menacing storm front, one win behind the leaders. While Tochiozan has been going strong, he would be unlikely be able to beat all / any of the other three sekitori.

That’s not to say that the schedulers are going to let either Takayasu or Kisenosato have an easy road to yusuf. In fact I expect it will be as brutal as they can make it, in spite of the fact that most of the formidable opponents have been defeated already.

The next question, which many of our readers are starting to ask – Kotoshogiku. He needs three more wins to reclaim his Ozeki rank. He has certainly put on a remarkable performance in Osaka, and some would say he has already earned his way back. But those 3 wins are in part down to scheduling. They could have him face easy wins for the last 5 days, or they can have him face spoilers. Ringers include rikishi like Ikioi (who are excellent, but having a bad basho) and spoilers would include rikishi like Yoshikaze, who can flatten anyone on the right day.

Note, unless the leaders drop matches, there is no Chasers group now. Both Kakuryu and Chiyoshoma lost their day 10 bouts, and are now 3 losses off the pace.

Haru Leader board

LeadersKisenosato, Takayasu
Hunt Group – Terunofuji, Tochiozan

5 Matches Remain

Matches We Like

Ura vs Kyokushuho – Era is still pushing to get 8 wins, where a loss by Kyokushuho would put him clearly in Make-koshi. They only gave one prior match, which Ura won.

Ishiura vs Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki, who has been a pretty solid rikishi in the past, secured his Make-koshi already, and is going to sink down the banzuke for May. Ishiura is pushing for 3 more wins to hold rank. This will be their first match.

Daishomaru vs Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma has been turning in a solid performance this basho, and is one win away from Kachi-koshi. For some reason they sent him down to rough up Maegashira 13 Diashomaru. They two have even split their 4 prior matches.

Chiyonokuni vs Tochiozan – Great test match to see if Tochiozan is strong enough to match higher up the banzuke. Having already secured his Kachi-koshi, the NSK is likely seeing how high they can safely rank him in May. Chiyonokuni has been fighting with strength and skill this March, and needs one more win to secure his rank.

Kaisei vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji is a fascinating story. He has yet to have a losing record in any of his tournaments. After a really weak start, it looked like he was going to have to swallow his first Make-koshi. But he has battled back with determination, refusing defeat at every turn. He has a tough path though, requiring 4 wins of his next 5 matches.

Kotoshogiku vs Ikioi – Ikioi is a solid rikishi, but Maegashira 1 is a crappy slot in the banzuke, and it usually leaves the rikishi defeated and demoralized. This should be an easy win for Kotoshogiku, who must win 3 of the next 5 to secure his return to Ozeki. Kotoshogiku has won 7 of their 11 prior matches

Arawashi vs Terunofuji – Roadkill. Terunofuji stays one behind.

Harumafuji vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi cannot be discounted, especially when “The Horse” is playing hurt. My gut tells me Harumafuji takes this one, but Mitakeumi puts up a great fight.

Takayasu vs Kakuryu – Crucible day for Takayasu’s yusho hopes. Takayasu has won 5 of the 16 prior matches with Kakuryu, or you can think of it as Kakuryu wins twice for every 1 of Takayasu. Kakuryu is fast, smart and inventive. This will be a tough match for Takayasu.

Yoshikaze vs Kisenosato – Yoshikaze overcame Kakuryu on day 10, and he is no slouch. If he defeats Kisenosato, it would be kinboshi #8, which would time him with Aminishiki for top kinboshi count among active rikishi. But then again, whatever Kami has taken up residence in Kisenosato’s tsuna seem to be indomitable, and it’s possible that 12 men armed with Louisville sluggers would be unable to defeat him.

Haru Day 10 Preview


Takayasu-10

Act Two Closing Day

Today we saw Ozeki Terunofuji dismiss his kadoban status in a thunderous fashion. He has been totally dominating his matches and has, beyond a shadow of a doubt, earned his way back to good standing. Sadly today also marks the day that Ozeki Goeido goes kadoban. Due to his withdrawal from the Haru Basho, today was marked as his 8th loss. With his make-koshi now secure, Goeido is facing a challenging time in the May tournament in Tokyo.

Day 10 could also be kinboshi day, as there are 2 Maegashira facing off against the Yokozuna corps today. Hopes are always high that Yoshikaze can blast his way though any opponent, and it would be magical to see him score yet another gold star win against Kakuryu a day after his birthday. Not to be discounted is Endo facing off against Harumafuji, who gives up kinboshi more than any other active Yokozuna today. They come to their day 10 bout with matching 6-3 records.

The Haru leader board is little changed, except that several rikishi feel out of the Chase group, and the pack of men who have the records to put them within Yusho connection has shrunk to 6. Both Takayasu and Kisenosato would need to lose at least once for Terunofuji or Tochiozan to have a shot.

Haru Leader board

LeadersKisenosato, Takayasu
Hunt Group – Terunofuji, Tochiozan
Chasers – Kakuryu, Chiyoshoma

6 Matches Remain

Matches We Like

Chiyoo vs Ura – Ura has been a lot of fun to watch, but make no mistake he is focused on one thing – getting to 8 wins. Going into day 10, he is at 4-5, and needs 4 more wins out of the next 6 days to guarante his remaining in Makuuchi. He has been Chiyoo in 2 of their prior 3 meetings, and Chiyoo is likewise struggling to clinch a winning record.

Takakeisho vs Ishiura – Takakeisho has been having a solid basho, and comes into day 10 with 6-3, more or less assured that he will find a way to pick up the last two wins. His opponent is the compact battle-mouse Ishiura, who can likely survive a losing record this one time. I expect there to be some furious action, as Ishiura never fights at half speed.

Daishomaru vs Tochiozan – With only one loss, Tochiozan already has his kachi-koshi, and he is set for May. But I suspect he is looking for a solid move up the banzuke. Daishomaru brings his 6-3 record into day 10, looking to give himself some buffer for the last 5 days. Daishomaru won their only prior meeting.

Tokushoryu vs Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma needs one more win for his kachi-koshi, and may get it on day 10. While Tokushoryu comes to the dohyo with a strong winning record, Chiyoshoma is ranked higher, and is much more capable this basho. He has also won all 4 of their prior matches.

Kotoshogiku vs Takekaze – 4 more wins in 6 days. It means 2 wins for every loss over the rest of the basho. Kotoshogiku can do this, but it’s going to be tough, even starting day 10 with a 6-3 record. Kashi-koshi is not good enough, it’s 10 wins or bust. Day 10 he faces off against the henka master, Takekaze. Their prior matches are split evenly 14-13

Takanoiwa vs Takayasu – Takanoiwa is having a tough basho at 2-7, but as always he is capable of surprising even the mightiest Yokozuna with his explosive, attack-oriented sumo. But he’s facing Takayasu, who is on a mission from the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan itself. A win today would put Takayasu in double digits, and would be a big boost for any special prizes and his ongoing Ozeki campaign. Their prior bouts split 3-2 with advantage to Takayasu.

Shodai vs Terunofuji – Shodai is plagued by being too high in his tachiai – it seems he has a driving need to protect his face. Terunofuji does not care about his face. I am not sure Terunofuji cares about Shodai except as a meat popsicle that he can defeat on the dohyo. Terunofuji is a man possessed, and I am curious to see how far he will go with his current streak of powerful, winning sumo.

Yoshikaze vs Kakuryu – If there is one rikishi that can upset anyone on any day, even on the street right after lunch it’s the amazing Yoshikaze. It’s safe to assume that the Berserker will retire some time in the next few years to become a coach or stable runner himself, but on the way towards that next career, a few more kinboshi mean more money for him and his family. Kakuryu is a slippery, reactive warrior of the first order, and he will not be easy to beat. But Yoshikaze has beat him 5 times during their 15 career matches.

Harumafuji vs Endo – I am predicting nodowa attack festival, mini-henka, death spin or a combination here. Endo can surprise Harumafuji, who seems to be a bit more hurt every day of this basho. But it should be noted that thus far Endo has never beat “The Horse”, so a victory day 10 is a tall order.

Haru Day 9 Preview


Takayasu-8

Tagonoura’s Untouchables

Today both Kisenosato and Takayasu achieved the Kachi-koshi. This matters not for Kisenosato, but for Takayasu it guarantees that he will stay in San’yaku and likely Sekiwake for the May basho. Thus far no one has been able to defeat either of these two rikishi, though Ikioi and Shohozan came terribly close today.

Shohozan had Kisenosato locked up with the double inside grip (moro-zashi), which usually indicates an impending loss. But somehow Kisenosato was able to overcome this advantage and defeat Shohozan. I really applaud Shohozan’s fantastic effort, as it was significant and well executed. Ikioi really put the pressure on Takayasu in an earlier bout, but he could not close the deal. In fact Takayasu seems to almost enjoy locking up someone like Ikioi in the center of the dohyo. If you re-watch that match, you can see Takayasu’s arm go limp, he does this when in this kind of bout. He forced Ikioi to support as much of Takayasu’s amazing mass as possible, wearing Ikioi down. Once he sensed that Ikioi’s strength was waning, he went into action and won.

Some things to look forward to in the Yusho race

  • Terunofuji vs Kisenosato – Oh yes, these two have not met yet this basho. With Terunofuji one off the leader pace, a win against Kisenosato would change the landscape dramatically.
  • Takayasu vs Harumafuji – If the Horse has the strength and health, he can and could defeat Takayasu with any number of his typical winning moves. I repeat that Takayasu’s mighty tachiai is just begging someone to throw in a henka
  • Kakuryu vs Kisenosato – If Kakuryu sticks to his reactive sumo, he can goad Kisenosato into over-reacting and then exploit his mistakes.

Any way you look at it, the chances of the two rikishi from Tagonoura remaining undefeated are still quite long.

On the other hand, Kotoshogiku does indeed have a chance of reclaiming his Ozeki glory. He only needs to win 4 of the remaining 7 matches. He has already faced 2 of the 3 Yokozuna.

Haru Leader board

LeadersKisenosato, Takayasu
Hunt Group – Terunofuji, Tochiozan
Chasers – Kakuryu, Harumafuji, Kotoshogiku, Chiyonokuni, Chiyoshoma, Tokushoryu

7 Matches Remain

Matches We Like

Myogiryu vs Ura – Ura is really struggling for a formula that is consistent for his Makuuchi matches, and he has yet to figure it out. Fortunately he is 4-4, for Kachi-koshi is not out of the question. His opponent Myogiryu tends to win against Ura, having defeated him 5 times in their prior 8 matches.

Tokushoryu vs Tochiozan – Tochiozan is not attracting much press, but he has only one loss thus far, and is tied for second place with Terunofuji on the leader board. I am going to assume at some point if he keeps winning, the schedulers are going to have Tochiozan face Terunofuji. But today he gets Tokushoryum whom he should be able to defeat easily. Tochiozan has won all 3 of the prior matches.

Kagayaki vs Ishiura – In his third Makuuchi basho, Ishiura seems to be holding his own at last. He is fighting well, and he is finding a way to overcome and win. Kagayaki is struggling and needs to keep working on his sumo. Ishiura leads their prior meetings 5-0.

Endo vs Okinoumi – This is likely to be a highlight bout, as both of these men are performing well this basho. I expect a lot of mawashi action and maybe an attempt at a throw or two. Endo leads their career meetings 3-2.

Shohozan vs Kaisei – Shohozan is one loss away from Make-koshi, which is a shame given how well he has been competing. Today he faces hapless Kaisei, which should be an fairly easy victory.

Mitakeumi vs Shodai – This was bound to happen at some point. I like watching Shodai, but he needs to fix his tachiai. If he can do that, he can be a contender. Mitakeumi has been fighting well, but is starting to suffer a string of losses. Both rikishi come into this bout at 3-5, Shodai leads their career match ups 4-2.

Takekaze vs Takayasu – Takayasu must be prepared for Takekaze’s henka. If he falls to it, he has no one but himself to blame. In a flat out fight, it’s Takayasu’s advantage, but Takekaze is well equipped with many really nice, unexpected moves.

Ikioi vs Terunofuji – Ikioi looked hurt after his bout with Takayasu. Now he is going to face a resurgent Terunofuji, and I am just hoping that Ikioi survives undamaged. If Terunofuji wins, which I expect, this will be his Kachi-koshi and his kadoban status will be erased. Ikioi has only defeated Terunofuji once in their prior 8 bouts, and it was during a basho where Terunofuji was clearly injured.

Kotoshogiku vs Kisenosato – This is actually a big challenge for Kisenosato. Kotoshogiku has a habit of beating him, especially when Kisenosato needs to win. Kotoshogiku actually leads their career series 33-30. If he lets Kotoshogiku land a solid grip, like he allowed Shohozan to do on day 7, this will get ugly. Kisenosato needs to keep things moving and not let the human bulldozer get to work.