With the conclusion of the Nagoya basho, I have posted the “omnibus” page with easy-to-navigate links to consolidate Tachiai’s coverage of the tournament. It was a very interesting tournament with many twists and turns, and some controversy. I hope you all enjoyed coverage of the Jonokuchi division yusho race and found yourselves fans of new wrestlers. There is a lot more of interest in that division than just the Shonanzakura losing streak.
In the Top division coverage, there are also many exciting storylines aside from the yusho race. This whole tournament brought back Hakuho and provides sumo fans a bit of clarity with new “White Hat” rival with a White Belt in Yokozuna Terunofuji. (It’s pretty exciting to be able to refer to him that way.) Hakuho seems to be everything Terunofuji is not and I am eager to see Terunofuji take on his nemesis in September.
That said, one of the big talking points coming out of the tournament will be Hakuho’s antics on the dohyo, particularly his euphoric shout on senshuraku and this shocking tachiai against Shodai. (*Edit* My son pointed out that the video below has more DISLIKES than Likes by a long shot.)
Personally, I think Hakuho was sending a deliberate message to Shodai during the now infamous tawara tachiai. If we go back to last year when Hakuho stood up during his bout with Takakeisho, goading the Ozeki to challenge him, we see more of that behavior in this bout with Shodai — and even earlier with Tobizaru. While Terunofuji was an Ozeki, worthy of his challenge, Shodai has only once cracked 10 wins as Ozeki. His “brand of sumo” is derided by sumo fans as “cartoonish” and his tachiai is notoriously weak. I believe Hakuho was saying, “I am tired of playing cat and mouse. I do not give chase. You come to me, ‘Ozeki’.”
His knee is obviously a concern, as are the numerous injuries and chronic ailments of other top-division wrestlers, not least of which are those of new Yokozuna, Terunofuji. But Hakuho was able to put together an undefeated run in his first tournament back from knee surgery, facing the sport’s top competition. Standing back a few feed did little to protect that knee from the strain of a top-level sumo bout. This did force Shodai to move forward and come to him.
Before the tournament, I had thought we would be lucky if he finished all fifteen days. With this win, though, and with Hokuseiho’s imminent promotion to Juryo, I have to wonder if he might stay around long enough to have Hokuseiho join him during his dohyo-iri. He has already said he wants win #900. But before he retires, others need to start beating him and they need to bring out their best sumo — even if Hakuho is displaying his “worst.” Rather than a drop-off in quality from the “prime-Hakuho” era, sumo fans deserve a clear transition where others are able to beat him, consistently.
Congratulations to Dai-Yokozuna Hakuho on his unprecedented 45th yusho and 16th zensho-yusho, and to Yokozuna-in-waiting Terunofuji on another dominant tournament. Each man completed an improbable comeback to stand atop the sport. They should occupy the East and West Yokozuna positions, respectively, on the September rankings chart.
Ozeki Shodai (8-7) got a much-needed final-day win to avoid going kadoban. He will be the East Ozeki at Aki, with kadoban Takakeisho (1-2-12) on the West side.
Two Sekiwake slots are spoken for: one by the incumbent Mitakeumi (8-7) and the other by suspended and about to be demoted Ozeki Asanoyama. There is talk of a third Sekiwake position being created (presumably for Meisei), but I consider this unlikely. Instead, I expect shin-Komusubi Meisei (8-7) to move over to the East Komusubi rank, with the West slot occupied by demoted Sekiwake Takayasu (7-6-2). This would leave no san’yaku slots open for the well-performing upper maegashira.
If this scenario plays out, M2w Ichinojo (10-5) will have the most reason to complain, although we’ve seen two equally unlucky non-promotions in the past year: Daieisho in November and Wakatakakage in March. Like the latter, Ichinojo will probably have to settle for the top maegashira rank, where he’ll be joined on the West side by M2e Takanosho (8-7). The final-day bout between M5w Hoshoryu (10-5) and M3e Hokutofuji (8-7) will end up deciding only which side of the M2 rank the two will occupy.
With san’yaku shrinking by one slot, the joi would extend at least down to M4, though Asanoyama’s guaranteed absence would move it down to M5e, and it could extend further with other absences. These upper maegashira ranks will be filled out by M11w Kotonowaka (12-3), who’ll blow past his previous career high rank of M8, M6w Kiribayama (9-6), M10e Tamawashi (11-4), the falling Komusubi Wakatakakage (5-10), M1w Daieisho (5-10), and M7w Chiyoshoma (8-7).
Aside from Ichinojo, Takanosho, Hokutofuji, and Hoshoryu, the upper maegashira took a beating. Daieisho’s 5-10 record was matched by Okinoumi, and they were the best of the bunch, with Tobizaru and Chiyotairyu posting ugly 4-11 scores, Kotoeko recording an abysmal 2-13, and Endo pulling out for a final line of 1-4-10 (not coincidentally, Okinoumi, Tobizaru, Chiyotairyu and Kotoeko were the beneficiaries of extreme banzuke luck that saw them placed much higher on the July banzuke than their May performances warranted). Exactly how far these rikishi will drop—especially Endo and Kotoeko—is one of the major uncertainties in drawing up the Aki banzuke.
Then there’s the bottom of the banzuke. We have one guaranteed exchange between Makuuchi and Juryo, with M14e Daiamami (4-11) going down and J1e Yutakayama (10-5) taking his place. But what to do with the Juryo champion, J6w Mitoryu (12-3)? His record is clearly good enough for promotion, but whose place would he take? M17e Ichiyamamoto (8-7) removed himself from consideration by clinching his kachi-koshi on the final day. M15w Tokushoryu (7-8) should also be safe, albeit just barely, which leaves M16e Chiyonokuni (7-8), whose rank and record would normally ensure a stay, but Mitoryu’s case may be strong enough to force him down.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments. Any other banzuke matters you’d like to see me cover?
The Nagoya basho is in the record books now, and it was Hakuho who took the cup after the final match. The 45th yusho of his career, he continues to defy all expectations, including (it seems) some of his own. Following a hard fought battle against Terunofuji, we saw a brief flash of elation, a fist pump, a shout, and a smile of victory. There are some sumo fans who will find his behavior unacceptable, but as a fully fledged barbarian who loves sumo, it made me shout and smile myself.
He is literally peerless in the world of sumo, and possibly in the world of individual athletic competition. 45 championships. This basho marks 14 years since his first appearance of Yokozuna. He has out lasted all of his contemporaries (Harumafuji, Kakuryu, Kisenosato). He endured orthopedic surgery 4 months ago that would have left most people hobbling for a year, and came back and beat everyone he faced.
I personally thought the basho would be too much for him to endure, and his body would give up under the grind, but he managed all 15 days, and took home the cup yet again. Some may ask, “But what is he going to do with all of that beef?” (from one of the prizes). I am certain Hokuseiho will eat most of it.
Congratulations to Yokozuna Hakuho, you again prove that you are some kind of bio-engineered sumo machine sent from the future to collect giant macarons.
Ishiura defeats Akua – Ishiura double arms Akua at the tachiai, as Akua’s opening gambit to get a right hand on Ishiura’s mawashi fails. Ishiura is rewarded with an inside lane, and drives hard to the front, running Akua quickly out. He ends Nagoya 9-6.
Ichiyamamoto defeats Chiyonoo – The first Darwin match goes to Ichiyamamoto, as Chiyonoo loses defensive foot placement, attempts a throw that disintegrates, and gets shoved out. Ichiyamamoto is kachi-koshi, and will remain in the top division, further reducing promotion prospects from Juryo.
Kotonowaka defeats Tsurugisho – Kotonowaka gets to 12 wins, and picks up the Fighting Spirit special prize, and generally finally shows us the kind of sumo that we had expected from him from the past year. I am not sure if has been injury, or mental challenges, but this is the kind of sumo that Kotonowaka is capable of, and I hope he can continue to compete at this level of excellence. Well done sir!
Hidenoumi defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru had nothing to offer today in terms of defense, save being incredibly large and round. It took Hidenoumi a few moments to get his hands and hips set, but he found he could move forward and took Chiyomaru over the bales. Hidenoumi ends Nagoya 7-8.
Aoiyama defeats Kaisei – The battle of the mega-fauna was over quickly, with Aoiyama getting Kaisei turned to the side with that left hand, and he then shoves and pushes Kaisei from the side to send him out. Aoiyama ends Nagoya 7-8.
Ura defeats Chiyoshoma – Somehow Chiyoshoma just gave up on sumo and wanted to slap Ura around. It was quite useless as Ura attacked inside anyway. Chiyoshoma panics, tries to pull, and Ura runs him out. Some concern that Ura’s knee seemed a bit painful following the match, but what a finish. 10-5 for his return to the top division. Watch out above, here comes trouble.
Myogiryu defeats Daiamami – Myogiryu’s first surge forward from the tachiai comes up short, but he consolidates his position and attacks again. The second combo works, taking Daiamami out of his defensive position, and Myogiryu picks up a much needed 5th win to finish Nagoya 5-10.
Kiribayama defeats Shimanoumi – I am not sure where that version of Kiribayama was, but it’s nice to see his old, super genki form that got him to the top division. He ends Nagoya at 9-6 with a fast yoritaoshi.
Onosho defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi attempts a hit and shift at the tachiai, banking that Onosho would be off balance into the initial clash. But it seems that Onosho was quite prepared for this predictable move, and attacks with vigor. Terutsuyoshi, having gambled on the mini-henka has no defensive position, and absorbs Onosho’s battering as best he can before a final shove ends his efforts. Onosho finishes Nagoya 7-8.
Tokushoryu defeats Chiyotairyu – When this match went chest to chest, it was pretty clear just where it was going to end. We have seen Tokushoryu pull that move at the bales countless times. One fan refers to it as his “super power”. I was glad to see it on display again, but that is how you get Chiyotairyu ending the basho at 4-11.
Tochinoshin defeats Kotoeko – Color me impressed. Tochinoshin found some reserve of pain tolerance and rallied from a terrible start to finish with a mild 7-8 make-koshi. But I have to mention that Kotoeko, deeply make-koshi at 2-12, poured on everything he could muster. My heart goes out to him, as he gave it everything he could muster.
Tobizaru defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi’s opening salvo only partially connects, and it fails to move Tobizaru back. In response, Tobizaru gets a double inside grip and goes on the attack. Try as he might, Tamawashi can’t shake Tobizaru, or turn the match to his control. Tobizaru, for his part, remains patient and sets up the winning throw well. Hey, where were you the prior 14 days?
Hoshoryu defeats Hokutofuji – Hoshoryu gets to double digits with a solid win over Hokutofuji. Hokutofuji comes in low, probably too low, and is ripe for a slap down, which Hoshoryu delivers with precision.
Ichinojo defeats Takarafuji – Ichinojo makes it to 10 with a quick win over Takarafuji. Takarafuji tries to step back and draw Ichinojo into Takarafuji’s defensive sumo, but instead Ichinojo slaps him down – hard! This is the first double digit performance from Ichinojo since March of 2019.
Takanosho defeats Chiyonokuni – The second Darwin match, and a contrast of oshi-sumo styles. Takanosho was relentless against Chiyonokuni’s center-mass, while Chiyonokuni was solely focused on Takanosho head and face. Key tip, if you can endure the bashing to your head, center-mass will carry the match. Takanosho ends Nagoya 8-7 and is kachi-koshi.
Daieisho defeats Okinoumi – As if to punctuate the point above, Daieisho blows past Okinoumi’s defenses and drives thrust after thrust into Okinoumi’s chest. Its about 7 steps forward and Okinoumi is out. Both end Nagoya with deep 5-10 make-koshi scores.
Meisei defeats Kagayaki – The third Darwin match goes to Meisei, who is kachi-koshi to end Nagoya. This match was 100% Kagayaki’s offense with a lot of thrusting power, but Meisei timed Kagayaki’s final finishing charge expertly and stepped out of the way, sending Kagayaki to the clay.
Wakatakakage defeats Mitakeumi – Brilliant reversal by Wakatakakage as Mitakeumi pressed forward to shove him out. Glad to see Wakatakakage finish with at least one strong match, he ends Nagoya at 5-10.
Shodai defeats Takayasu – The final Darwin match, Takayasu opened with a left hand outside grip, and Shodai returns with his own inside grip. Takayasu attempts to rotate into a throw, but can’t maintain the grip. With his back now turned to Shodai, he tries to escape, but Shodai pushes him out from behind to escape kadoban, finishing Nagoya with and 8-7 kachi-koshi.
Hakuho defeats Terunofuji – The grand finale, the brawl to end it all. They spent a good amount of time staring daggers at each other prior to the tachiai. This turned into Hakuho’s match the moment Terunofuji reacted to Hakuho’s attacks. The Boss really had to work for it, and that little celebration at the end? It has sumo fans around the world talking. Its a bit uncharacteristic for a Yokozuna, but given all that Hakuho has been through, maybe understandable. I don’t think he was certain he could pull it off. Hakuho finishes Nagoya at 15-0, a perfect score and his 45th yusho.
That concludes our daily coverage of the Nagoya basho. Thank you dear readers for sharing our love of sumo, and following along through what has been a thrilling and thoroughly enjoyable tournament. We will continue to follow the stories that come out of this basho, including the expected announcement of Terunofuji’s promotion to the 73rd Yokozuna.
At last we come to it, the final day of the Nagoya basho. Due to clever work by the schedulers, and a bit of luck, we are about to try to stuff 20 pounds of sumo into a 5 pound bag. If you wanted high stakes, high impact matches, this will be the day for you. I recommend you start by reading lksumo’s excellent write up that explains the promotion / demotion mechanics in play, and who is headed for the Juryo barge of the damed for the slow trip back to Tokyo.
On the menu for the final day:
The Brawl to end it all: A Zensho show down for the cup. It’s two men with useless knees at the top of the sumo ranks who are going to fight with everything they have.
Four (4!) Darwin matches, including the final one between an Ozeki and a Sekiwake
Hoshoryu and Hokutofuji fighting to see who gets to pick up any san’yaku slot that might open up behind Ichinojo, once the dust settles.
What We Are Watching Day 15
Akua vs Ishiura – Both are kachi-koshi, and they needed someone to fill the banzuke gap left by Endo. So lets bring Akua up so he and Ishiura can stomp around the clay for 30 seconds and end up in a heap somewhere. Hell, I would cheer for that.
Ichiyamamoto vs Chiyonoo – Darwin match #1 – If Ichiyamamoto hits he dirt, he’s headed back to Juryo. He won their only prior meeting.
Tsurugisho vs Kotonowaka – The question here, can Kotonowaka rack 12 wins in this basho? For some tournaments, that’s a yusho score! Special prize to be awarded, I think. Maybe even if he can’t beat Tsurugisho (but, in fact he can).
Hidenoumi vs Chiyomaru – Does the 7th win matter if you are already make-koshi? I guess this match can help us find out. They have matching 6-8 records, and a 5-5 career history. Chiyomaru has a size advantage, Hidenoumi has a power advantage.
Kaisei vs Aoiyama – The last battle of the mega-fauna, it’s a pair of 200kg monsters with matching 6-8 scores fighting for that 7th win and a bit of banzuke cushioning. Aoiyama’s sumo has been sloppy and disorganized, while Kaisei fights like bison; he’s too big to really move, but you don’t want to get him excited.
Ura vs Chiyoshoma – High interest match, both are kachi-koshi, both are known for high agility sumo, both can disappear before you can land that migi-yotsu you had your heart set on. Will they mutually henka? I would be willing to offer ¥100,000 if someone would broker that between the two of them. They can even make it a matta so it won’t count. Chiyoshoma has never won against Ura, and a win today by the man in the pink mawashi would take him to 10 wins in his return to the top division.
Myogiryu vs Daiamami – My advice to these guys. Hit the bar before, during and after the match. It won’t chance things very much in terms of your sumo, but you might enjoy it more. Both are 4-10 and are going to visit the lower rungs of the September banzuke.
Shimanoumi vs Kiribayama – Again, matching records for this match, with the number being 8-6. I think Kiribayama is a bit hungrier than Shimanoumi. Maybe that will count for something here. With the senshuraku parties still on hold thanks to COVID, you can’t even bask in the adoration of your fans after your kachi-koshi. Bummer.
Onosho vs Terutsuyoshi – I know that Onosho holds a 2-1 career lead over Terutsuyoshi, but I think that Terutsuyoshi is going to command this match more or less from the second volley. Sure Onosho is going to open big, but he has thus far been so out of alignment that his front end wobble is uncontrollable. So I am looking for Terutsuyoshi to try something big and fun to finish what must be a satisfying tournament for him, including that thunderous streak of 6 wins that started on day 8.
Tokushoryu vs Chiyotairyu – Tokushoryu (6-8), ranked at M15 faces off against M4 Chiyotairyu. Chiyotairyu’s hideous 4-10 score may punt him toward the bottom of the banzuke, but a Tokushoryu loss today may add his name to the roster of souls rowing the Juryo barge back to Tokyo.
Kotoeko vs Tochinoshin – If Tochinoshin can squeeze out an 7-8 make-koshi, after starting the basho with 4 straight losses, I think it will be a most remarkable feat. He has to rack one more white star, against hapless Kotoeko (2-12). Given Tochinoshin’s 45kg weight advantage, that should not be too tough of a goal.
Tamawashi vs Tobizaru – I think the schedulers ran out of people for Tamawashi to compete against, so they saw his 11-3 master piece of a score and decided Tobizaru’s mirror image 3-11 score constituted a worthy reason to have them fight on day 15. This is also their first ever match, so lord knows what’s going to happen. Maybe in some bizzaro world, what really happened in Saturday’s final match what that Hakuho used an ancient Jomon shamanistic spell to swap sumo with Hakuho, and he’s going to rock up into this match and turf Tamawashi with overwhelming force. (Editor’s note, I intend to be on my 3rd beer by this time, so in fact this will make perfect sense by that time)
Hokutofuji vs Hoshoryu – One of you two gets to be first in line to be disappointed when there is no Komusubi slot for you. A hell of a prize for a match like this, but sumo is a brutal sport. Hoshoryu, at 9-5, won their only prior match, but I think 8-6 Hokutofuji has an edge today, as he has been really dialed into his sumo during week 2.
Takarafuji vs Ichinojo – This theme really seems to work, let’s try it again! 8-6 Takarafuji vs 9-5 Ichinojo, as the Boulder tries for double digits for the first time since March of 2019. Takarafuji has a 3-13 career deficit against this enormous fellow, so it may be time to open that 4th beer.
Takanosho vs Chiyonokuni – I can’t believe we have to wait this long for the second Darwin match, but it’s high time that someone face the music. Chiyonokuni has yet to win one against Takanosho, and I am going to guess today may not be his day. Winner kachi-koshi, the loser gets to clean out the chikara-mizu spittoon.
Okinoumi vs Daieisho – In the final battle of the “They really should have done better”, it’s 5-9 Okinoumi facing off against 4-10 Daieisho, to see if they both end up with double digit losses. 19 prior matches, no definitive advantage for either. Both are likely fighting hurt, both need to recover and return strong for September.
Kagayaki vs Meisei – The third Darwin match, with a unlikely 12 rank banzuke spread between the two of them. Suffice to say Kagayaki is the underdog here, and I would expect that Meisei will get his 8th and shut down the promotion lanes.
Wakatakakage vs Mitakeumi – The match exists to allow fans without a DVR (who can pause the action) to visit the toilet. While I loves me some Wakatakakage sumo, this is a very one sided match given the parameters of this basho. The one thing that I am really looking forward to for this one is the hope that the day 15 announcer is Raja Pradhan, and we can listen to him fire off Wakatakakage about 20 times before the lead Onami brother gets a face full of clay.
Shodai vs Takayasu – The final, and most grand of the Darwin matches of recent memory. The human daikon up against the hairy beast of Ibaraki. I am going to guess that Shodai is going to be highly pissed off after day 14 against the boss, and he is going to try to lay the doom on Takayasu. It’s not that far fetch given that Shodai has a 12-9 career advantage over the former Ozeki. This Darwin match has a bonus gooey toping, if Shodai loses, it’s kadoban time for him.
Hakuho vs Terunofuji – Here it is, we talked about it before the basho even started, the “Brawl to end it all”. We hoped, we made tuna offerings to the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, and prayed to all forces of heaven to bring this about. Both 14-0, both ready to hoist the cup. I could cite the 9-4 career advantage that Hakuho has, but who cares. The last time these two fought was May of 2017, and both are radically different men now. As Team Tachiai has been proclaiming, Terunofuji has been delivering Yokozuna level results for most of this year, but this July he took it up yet another notch. I think Hakuho will finally have his hands full.