Sumo World Cup Round 1

At the conclusion of any vacation, one is met with a laundry list of things to do: many should have been done before leaving in the first place, others come out of ideas thought of on vacation. First thing’s first, because thanks to Bruce, Herouth, Josh, and Leonid, and all the commenters, I was able to keep up with the drama -strike that- chaos in Nagoya from my phone. I’ve still got to actually watch the matches though, so I’m setting myself up for a few days of catch-up.

As the temperatures rose the wrestlers sure dropped like flies. I know he’s from Nagano, but perhaps Mitakeumi’s tropical Filipino roots helped keep him from melting under that heat. It would be interesting to map wrestler’s hometowns to their Nagoya success with the theory that being raised in Kyushu would make one less affected by hot conditions than those from Hokkaido. Since they basically all train in Tokyo, though, it’s probably a moot point.

I digress. I dusted off my Sumo World Cup spreadsheet and updated the results. Generally, my predictions are pretty far off. Well, I guess I’m guilty of being generally a tad hopeful. I really wanted Kakuryu to three-peat, for example. Instead, he barely made it through Act One. So, instead of the Kakuryu yusho claiming first place in Group A, Takanoiwa’s 13-win Juryo yusho takes that honor. Takakeisho and Onosho did battle it out for second on 10 wins, Takakeisho slipping through on strength of schedule.

I also really wanted the boss to be in the thick of it on senshuraku. I put sentiment aside and thought that Aoiyama and Kotoyuki’s injuries were too serious for them to move on. So both have promptly moved on. I’m going to pay very close attention to their matches, and Yoshikaze’s in my catch-up marathon this weekend.

Okinoumi did not claim Group C but came in second to Chiyotairyu. Chiyonokuni was my bet for advancement but that kyujo bug claimed him as well.

Goeido and Endo make it through from Group D. I’m excited to see Goeido winning. Endo sneaks past Ikioi because of the fusen victory tie-breaker. In this, I’m considering “quality wins” and then “strength of schedule” as tie breakers. A win is a win, so if you’ve got two fusen, it’s two wins. However, 8 wins without fusen is better than 8 wins with.

The Yama twins easily claimed Group E. 13 and 12 wins are good enough for first in any group. The competition got the better of Giku as he dropped out from injury. Yoshikaze has been in terrible shape and seems to have been lucky to scrape out two wins. I think he has a serious leg injury. In one of the matches I watched before heading to Tennessee, his leg clearly buckled when he tried to brace against the Tawara. The weight of two rikishi appeared to be too much. Also, when he walked, it seemed like he was using it rigidly, as a peg, and not really bending his knee. He will fall but good to hear he won’t fall out of makuuchi yet.

I’m most excited about Group F. Tochi-from-Kochi and Myogiryu both made it out of the group stage. Tochinoshin was my early favorite from this group but then Nagoya happened. I also thought Takekaze may put together some good numbers in Juryo but he’ll fall deeper into the division in September. Instead, it’s two other veterans, Tochiozan and Myogiryu who advanced.

Group G was terrible. When 6 wins is enough to claim a spot in the top two, there’s a problem. When Ichinojo is able to claim the top spot, in spite of the use of adjectives like “embarrassing” to describe his form, we’ve got a weak group. So, on the strength of Kagayaki’s schedule, his 6-wins just beats out those of Kyokutaisei and Meisei. Shohozan was probably over-promoted and just got beat down. In Arawashi’s case, though, I’ve got him on my hidden injury watch list.

Lastly, Mitakeumi’s yusho and Hokutofuji’s 11-wins will see the pair through to the next round at the expense of solid performances from Kaisei, Tamawashi, and Sadanoumi. Hokutofuji and the Yama-twins will fly up the banzuke in September so their competition will be much more fierce in the next round. Mitakeumi already faces the meatgrinder though this time it seems the grinder had to go in for repairs. Cautious jungyo schedules and plenty of rest will hopefully get it back to making burger.

Tachiai Enjoys Sumo Stew in Brooklyn

Sumo Stew - July 2018

As Bruce shared with Tachiai readers earlier in the month, our friends at Sumo Stew hosted their 22nd event during the Nagoya basho. This event took place at Arrogant Swine in Brooklyn, NY. As I coincidentally happened to be in New York at the time, I decided to check it out with a couple of friends who were new to sumo!

Menu

For the latest event, Sumo Stew founders Michael Harlan Turkell and Harry Rosenblum teamed up with Arrogant Swine’s Tyson Ho to deliver what they called a “North Carolina BBQ-style Whole Hog” chankonabe. Arrogant Swine is a barbecue restaurant and bar located in Brooklyn’s industrial East Williamsburg neighborhood, and so this take on chanko was a fusion of traditional chanko flavors with a falling-off-the-bone pork twist.

Sumo Stew - July 2018 Chankonabe
The Chankonabe of Sumo Stew 22

While the chanko is perhaps the main event of Sumo Stew, it is far from the only item on offer. Upon entering the venue, attendees were given a bento box full of items from four different local vendors:

  • Spicy beef shank & yuba salad from Junzi
  • A mushroom and umeboshi onigiri from Momo Sushi Shack
  • Seaweed salad with ikura and fried potato from Juku
  • Cold ramen from O Ya

This menu was further augmented by the presence of a number of whiskey, wine, and sake vendors. A number of representatives from the enormously popular tea brand Ito En were also on hand doling out bottles of Japan’s favorite Oi Ocha.

Vendors

Besides the sumo and the amazing food & drinks, one of the aspects of Sumo Stew that shouldn’t be overlooked is that the organisers bring in all sorts of vendors with specialties that run the gamut of various facets of Japanese culture.

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All sorts of hand crafts were on display for sale, and there was also representation from the US branch of Japanese cutlery brand Kikuichi Cutlery (their stateside headquarters are located not far away from New York City in nearby Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey). They had an impressive array of knives on hand for demonstration.

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One brand I hadn’t been aware of before attending was NYrture, a natto company based in New York City. For Western palates, the fermented soybean can perhaps be an acquired taste, but this vendor did a great job of pairing what is often a divisive ingredient with incredibly interesting flavors to create a really cool snack. I especially appreciated the combination of black natto with coconut milk yogurt, honey, and blueberry.

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Sumo

Owing to the time difference between Tokyo and New York, it was clearly difficult to line up live sumo with the evening dinner hour. The folks at Sumo Stew had a playlist of videos from the first several days of the Nagoya basho projected onto a big screen inside of the venue. From time to time they cut in trailers from various features from an upcoming film festival put on by the event’s partners at the Japan Society in New York.

There were quite a few regular attendees on hand, and many of the folks I talked to seemed newer to sumo and were somewhat more connected to the food and cultural elements of the event. In that sense, Sumo Stew is doing a really great thing by bringing members of the local food community together to get an initiation into the ways of a sport that many of us have come to dearly love. On the flip side of the menu which all attendees were given was an overview of how the sport works, its rules, traditions and key vocabulary words to help newcomers understand a bit more about what was happening on the big screen.

I had a chance to speak briefly with the event’s organizer Michael Harlan Turkell during the event, and he mentioned that the Sumo Stew team are looking to continue bringing the event to other cities around America in the near future for forthcoming basho. So if you’re interested in attending, perhaps there will be one nearer to you in the future, and of course we’ll continue to share news of this unique Sumo-themed event here on Tachiai.

For more info on Sumo Stew, check out sumostew.com.

Nagoya Wrap-up and Predictions

The upper ranks

There will be no changes in the composition of the Yokozuna, Ozeki or Sekiwake ranks, and at Komusubi we will exchange 10-5 M3 Takakeisho for Shohozan, who took a 3-12 beating. I assume that Kakuryu’s 3-3-9 record will keep him on the East side ahead of 3-1-11 Hakuho. By winning their senshuraku bout, Goeido ensured that he will stay on the East side and keep Takayasu on the West side of the banzuke.

Will 8-7 East Sekiwake Ichinojo trade places with 13-2, yusho-winning West Sekiwake Mitakeumi? Prior to 2007, this would have been a no-brainer. The banzuke committee reshuffled the Sekiwake ranks after each basho based on performance, just like they do now with the Yokozuna and Ozeki. But starting in 2007, an 8-7 East Sekiwake has never been moved to the West side in favor of a better-performing West Sekiwake. Of course, in that time we haven’t seen a West Sekiwake performance quite like this one! The closest parallel was last March, when in the middle of his Ozeki run, Takayasu went 12-3 at S1w and was ranked at the same position the following tournament despite outperforming then-S1e Tamawashi (8-7) by four wins.

The new joi

Yutakayama, Ikioi and Kaisei will find themselves at the top of the maegashira ranks in September. It’s hard to know where to draw the joi boundary these days, given the frequent absences in the upper ranks. In Nagoya, M4e Kaisei faced all the key San’yaku rikishi who were still around, and while the bouts against top-ranked opponents thinned out from there, they extended all the way down to M6w Chiyotairyu. By the stricter definition, the new joi should also include Chiyotairyu, Shodai, Chiyonokuni and Endo, while the looser definition would add Abi, Myogiryu, Onosho, Asanoyama and Kagayaki. There’s more reshuffling than turnover in this group, with the only newcomers to the top 12 being Yutakayama, Myogiryu, Onosho and Asanoyama, who take the places of promoted Takakeisho and underperforming or injured Kotoshogiku, Daishomaru, and Yoshikaze.

The bottom of the banzuke

Speaking of Yoshikaze, his last-gasp victories on the final two days should be just enough to keep him in the top division! He should share the bottom rung of the banzuke with Ishiura, who pulled off a similar escape act. Victories by both men mean that Arawashi’s final-day victory was too little, too late, and he should occupy the top rung in Juryo at Aki. He’ll be sharing it with Aminishiki, whose chance to yet again beat his own record for the oldest age of return to Makuuchi evaporated with his senshuraku loss and victories by both Yoshikaze and Ishiura.

To recap, it should be 3 up, 3 down (and no epic churn, sorry Bruce 😉 ). Takanoiwa and Kotoyuki return to the top division, along with newcomer Takanosho, while Arawashi will be joined in Juryo by Makuuchi debutants Meisei and Kotoeko, who need to regroup after a rough introduction to the top division.

As usual, I will have a full banzuke prediction post up sometime in the next couple of weeks, once I’ve had a chance to fully digest the results, so don’t forget to check the blog even between the basho 🙂

Day 15 Recap and Comments

Mitakeumi Yusho Banner

The sumo has ended, and the senshuraku parties are raging on into the night. It’s a celebration in Nagoya as a new rikishi has won his first yusho after a remarkable run of victories. Mitakeumi makes for a really interesting champion, in that he has been remarkably consistent for some time now, but like Tochinoshin was just below the threshold of contender. Then something changed, and he became the man to beat in Nagoya. Part of this is, of course, the natural reaction to the top men of sumo being sidelined. Nature abhors a vacuum, and in the absence of the Yokozuna, new champions will rise. The real fireworks begin when the new champion confronts the aging kings of sumo. This is just one reason I expect Aki could be the most exciting basho in several years.

Mitakeumi is clearly in an Ozeki campaign now, and with good cause. The two big wrinkles to any claim he might make have to be the questionable loss to Takayasu, and the fact that Yutakayama beat him today. Don’t get me wrong, I am damn impressed with the sumo on display today by both men. And the fact that Freshman Yutakayama was able to take the fight to Mitakumi and prevail speaks clearly to just how much competition there will be in the next two years. As sumo’s current mainstays all fade and move on, the new crowd are going to battle it out to see who gets to take the top spots. Frankly, I can’t wait.

There may be a pretty good churn between Juryo and Makuuchi for the fall. Takanoiwa won the Juryo yusho in a playoff, and finished with an impressive 13-2 record. The man was on fire, and much like Mitakeumi, seems to have had a breakout basho. In all there were 4 rikishi who finished Juryo with 10 or more wins.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention that Yoshikaze picked up his second win on the final day, and by our sage’s predictions, this will possibly keep him in Makuuchi for the fall. Whatever ails Yoshikaze, I do hope he can heal up and overcome. A healthy Yoshikaze at the bottom of the banzuke is an unmitigated terror that I think every young rikishi should have the pleasure of encountering.

Some Match Notes

Ishiura resorted once more to solid “small man sumo” and used a leg pick to control Chiyomaru’s mighty bulk. By improving his make-koshi to 7-8, he has greatly cushioned his demotion for Aki. I also think that maybe Ishiura may have started a new chapter in his sumo.

Onosho finishes in double digits on his return to Makuuchi, and strongly repelled Myogiryu’s successful opening gambit. I am expecting some great things from Onosho in the fall. I think he will be just outside the joi, and will be “the cutter” of middle Maegashira.

Okinoumi was able to finish with a kachi-koshi as Chiyoshoma went kyujo on the final day. That means that yet another rikishi dropped from this torturous basho, and this broke Chiyoshoma’s near 500 consecutive match attendance streak.

Hokutofuji vs Chiyotairyu featured a false start that quickly devolved into a flurry of good manners and congenial behavior. This is one of the reasons I love sumo. Hokutofuji finishes with 11 wins and will be in a much tougher cohort for Aki.

Sadanoumi was able to overcome Daishomaru for his kachi-koshi, while his opponent Daishomaru dropped to 5-10.

Takakeisho went chest to chest at the tachiai against Asanoyama, and kept him there. I suspect Takakeisho is more versatile than assumed, and may be looking to broaden his sumo in wise preparation for maintaining higher ranks. Both rikishi finish in double digits. Asanoyama also picked up the fighting spirit prize (Kanto-Sho).

Abi’s long reach was equaled by Aoiyama, and it was quite the discovery process for both of them. I did like to see Abi do everything he could to try to keep Aoiyama from falling from the dohyo. But frankly Abi, there is only so much you can do when that much mass is in motion.

Then there was possibly THE match of the basho. Yutakayama gave his all against Mitakeumi, and beat him. Mitakeumi had the early advantage, but for some reason started trying to pull down Yutakayama. With these two so evenly matched, the pull attempt did little more than send Mitakeumi off balance and moving in reverse (not a good place to be). He eventually was able to recover offensive footing, but not before Yutakayama had chanced him around the dohyo. Now chest to chest, Mitakeumi advanced to deliver the yorikiri, but Yutakayama loaded and executed a rescue throw (kakenage) at the edge. Fantastic sumo.

Endo continued his fade, and delivered Ichinojo’s kachi-koshi for his final match. After trying to get some kind of offense going from the tachiai, Endo learns he cannot move the boulder. With one arm, Ichinojo lashes out and Endo goes flying.

Lastly, Ozeki Goeido finishes with double digit wins for the first time since Aki 2017 as Takayasu seems to be caught improvising into the tachiai. Both of you knuckleheads go back to Tokyo and get yourselves fixed up.

Thank you, dear readers, for once again sharing your love of sumo with us, and spending your time enjoying the sport on Tachiai.