Significant Earthquake in Osaka

There has been a magnitude 5.9 earthquake in Osaka. It had an intensity of low 6 out of 7 on the Japanese scale, with an intensity of 5 out of 7 in Kyoto. At least 1 fatality has been reported, people trapped and sporadic fires. There are images of furniture moved, damaged and some light structural damage.

Fun with Google Translate

Apparently former Ozeki Terunofuji is to undergo knee surgery? Or at least that’s what I think I gathered from Google’s attempt at translating the story below. Some of it seems rather alarming: “which knee to operate on the left or right is undecided” while other parts are downright poetic: “If it is all closed again, it will drop the ranking down to the bottom of the curtain at the autumn scene.” Perhaps someone with better (i.e. some) knowledge of Japanese can enlighten us further.

Mr. Tuno Fuji, knee surgery Nagoya place full leave master “tightly cure”

6/13 (Wed) 6: 01 distribution

Sponti Annex

 Ten two Teruno Fuji (26 = Isekehama room) will surgery his knees during this month, and it is expected that the Nagoya place (the first day of July 8, Dolphins Arena) will be completely closed. Master teacher Ise Kohama (former Yokozuna and Asahi Fuji) on Saturday, Osaka Prefecture Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture, “I will operate the knee (in Nagoya place) without thinking in common sense. I will not cure it firmly. ” It is undecided which knee to operate on the left or right is undecided, “I have been going to a hospital today, after listening to the results.”

Tuno Fuji is a left knee meniscus injury twice in the past. The right knee anterior cruciate that hurt in 15 years had been treated without surgery. In the summer of May, 9 nines and 6 holidays ended, and in Nagoya place it is definitely the first time ever to fall as a former Ozeki. If it is all closed again, it will drop the ranking down to the bottom of the curtain at the autumn scene.

Kisenosato – Is The End Near?

Kisenosato-Attacks

Perpetually injured Yokozuna Kisenosato has now missed all or part of the last 7 tournaments, tying the record held by the mercurial Takanohano for the longest period of excused absence for a Yokozuna. Kisenosato suffers from a damaged left pectoral muscle, suffered during the final days of the 2017 Osaka basho, a tournament that saw him take his second consecutive Yusho, and his first as a Yokozuna.

Since that unfortunate day in Osaka, Kisenosato has been living on borrowed time. In the critical period immediately following his injury, he decided to try and “heal naturally” rather thank the the only proven cure – surgery to repair the torn muscle. As the weeks passed, the chances that surgery could actually correct the problem drifted towards zero, as the torn tissue scarred and was left useless. As he rested in hopes of recovery, his other muscles de-conditioned, and he lost the ability to execute sumo at the Yokozuna or perhaps even the San’yaku level.

Now left without his primary offensive weapon, his left hand, Kisenosato is nearly out of time. The YDC has declared both the the next basho he enters he must compete the full 15 days, and that they are willing to grant him an unprecedented 8th consecutive kyujo. Sadly for the only current Japanese born Yokozuna, a dozen kyujo cannot help him now, and the question is what form of exit will he take?

  1. Continue To Play For Time – The YDC has signaled they are ready to grant Kisenosato more time. Not that it is likely that more time could have any meaningful outcome for his sumo or his body. The damage is done, and the tear is likely permanent. The only think that would happen would be to move the date that he declares he is done.
  2. Go Out Guns Blazing – I consider this the most likely option. Kisenosato was renowned for never missing a day of practice or of competition. He would perform sumo no matter want, and nothing would stop him. The year+ hiatus probably bothers him terribly, and I suspect he and Takayasu are working out as best they can this June. Either at Nagoya or Aki, Kisenosato would enter and compete, knowing that his body is unlikely to be ready, but he would go out fighting.
  3. Pray For a Miracle – Maybe there is some exotic sports medicine protocol I have not read of that can repair a torn pectoral muscle this long after the original injury, and Kisenosato will negotiate a year off with the YDC, head to some high end clinic and get repaired. But I think this his highly unlikely.

I personally feel deeply sorry for Kisenosato, but after over a year of kyujo, he is likely going to be asked to retire soon, unless he can produce a 10+ win basho either at Nagoya or Aki. I know that he takes sumo with the utmost seriousness, and an unprecedented 8th kyujo would be deeply embarrassing to him. But for those worried for his future, Kisenosato holds Elder stock in the sumo association, and will likely go on to run a stable in the coming years. His future in his post-rikishi life is secure. Whichever path he choses to close out his impressive career, we wish him well, and will be following with great interest.

Heya Power Rankings: Natsu-Nagoya 18

Kakuryu Yusho Parade
The ranking is strong with this ichimon

Yes, it’s that time again, the time when we tabulate all the points and rank the top heya based on their respective sekitori rank and performance in the previous basho. Last time out, Izutsu-beya grabbed the top spot off the back of a long awaited yusho win for Yokozuna Kakuryu. How do the top stables fare this time compared to last time? Onward:

Heya Power Rankings: Natsu-Nagoya 2018

And now that we’ve added a couple more new (but non-sekitori-bearing) stables to the chart, let’s have a look at this in our Top 20 format:

  1. (+-) Izutsu. 95 points (even)
  2. (+4) Kasugano. 90 points (+40)
  3. (-1) Tagonoura. 50 points (-40)
  4. (+4) Miyagino. 50 points (+14)
  5. (-2) Oitekaze. 48 points (-17)
  6. (+1) Kokonoe. 47 points (-1)
  7. (-3) Sakaigawa. 45 points (-15)
  8. (-3) Tomozuna. 32 points (-23)
  9. (+2) Tokitsukaze. 25 points (+5)
  10. (+3) Minato. 25 points (+5)
  11. (+8) Isenoumi. 25 points (+10)
  12. (+8) Nishonoseki. 25 points (+10)
  13. (**) Sadogatake. 25 points (+11)
  14. (-5) Takadagawa. 22 points (+1)
  15. (+2) Oguruma. 22 points (+6)
  16. (**) Takanohana. 21 points (+8)
  17. (-7) Dewanoumi. 20 points (even)
  18. (**) Onomatsu. 20 points (+20)
  19. (-5) Isegahama. 18 points (-1)
  20. (-8) Kise. 15 points (-5)

(legend: ** = new entry, +- = no movement, higher position in the previous chart breaks the tie. Shikoroyama and Kataonami also scored 15 points but were lower placed than Kise on the previous chart)

Movers & Losers

We’ll group both sets of upward and downward bound heya together this time. It’s an interesting chart to put into context this month because the absence of so many rikishi at the top of the banzuke meant that several rikishi from heya usually found further down the listing put up better results, grabbed kachi-koshi they otherwise might not have (see: Kotoshogiku, Shohozan, etc), and added more points to their stable’s tally.

So, this creates a situation where a heya like Takadagawa can actually score one more point than last time (via addition of Hakuyozan to Juryo) but slide 5 places overall. Similarly, Dewanoumi put up an equivalent score to last time (our model gives Mitakeumi the same amount of points for a kachi-koshi at Komusubi as a make-koshi at Sekiwake), yet slid 7 places overall. The more cynical among us might say there were 16 more impressive storylines than Mitakeumi eking out his winning record from a position where he looked like he’d throw it away again.

Izutsu-beya holds the top spot with no change in the tally owing to Kakuryu’s repeat yusho, while Kasugano-beya reclaims the second spot after Tochinoshin’s sansho-laden jun-yusho. His promotion means he’ll add more points to the heya’s tally next time as an ozeki, but the overall points tally will be dependent on yusho challenges going forward as he’ll be unable to repeat his special prize wins.

Beyond those two stables there weren’t many remarkable performances among the groups: Kokonoe actually took a step backwards in terms of points in spite of Chiyonokuni’s remarkable sansho-winning exploits, as the four other sekitori in his heya all put up make-koshi en-route to a miserable 23-37 combined record.

In terms of what’s next, the stables to watch with potential to bound up the listings in Nagoya are going to be Tagonoura (who will be forced into action next time with the return of kadoban Takayasu and a potential last stand for Kisenosato) and Kise. Kise-beya receives two promotees from Makushita (Kizenryu and Churanoumi-née-Kizaki) and will have fully 1/4 of Juryo with no fewer than seven rikishi in the division next time out. And potentially making way on the chart could finally and sadly be Isegahama-beya which slips to the penultimate spot this time: perma-injured Aminishiki has been relegated to Juryo, and Homarefuji and Terutsuyoshi will be hovering ominously in danger zone to the Makushita demotion to which former Ozeki Terunofuji has now been condemned.

不撓不屈

Our first yojijyukugo was from Takayasu’s Ozeki promotion. Going backwards chronologically, the previous promotion was Kisenosato and he used the idiom futou fukutsu (不撓不屈). This means “unyielding, unbending.” 不 (fu-)is a fairly common kanji, used to negate what follows it. So this saying is fairly straight-forward. Literally, Not deflected, not bent. This was also the idiom used by the great Takanohana when he was promoted to Ozeki.

Nagoya ’18 Banzuke Crystal Ball

Meisei_banzuke

Don’t want to wait for the official banzuke announcement on June 25th? The Crystal Ball is here to give you a good idea of how it’s likely to play out.

Upper San’yaku

Y1

Kakuryu

Hakuho

Y2

Kisenosato

O1

Goeido

Takayasu

O2

Tochinoshin

Natsu saw Kakuryu take the yusho, Hakuho put up a creditable performance, and Kisenosato sit out. As a result, there is no change in the Yokozuna rankings. Goeido at least showed up, unlike Takayasu, and as a result, he takes over the O1e slot, with the shin-Ozeki Tochinoshin entering the upper ranks at O2e.

Lower San’yaku

S

Ichinojo

Mitakeumi

K

Tamawashi

Shohozan

Ichinojo did just enough at 8-7 to stay at Sekiwake, and Tochinoshin’s promotion allows him to move over to the East side. Mitakeumi moves up to West Sekiwake. Both Komusubi slots are open, one by promotion and the other by demotion, and should go to M1e Tamawashi and M2e Shohozan, the two highest-ranked maegashira to earn winning records.

Upper Maegashira

M1

Shodai

Chiyonokuni

M2

Kotoshogiku

Ikioi

M3

Abi

Kaisei

M4

Kagayaki

Takakeisho

M5

Daishomaru

Yoshikaze

Due to the depletion of the San’yaku ranks by injury, everyone ranked in this part of the banzuke at Natsu took a turn in the meat grinder. Most actually held up pretty well, with Tamawashi and Shohozan earning San’yaku promotions, and 5 others (in bold) holding on to the upper maegashira ranks. M3e Daieisho and M4e Chiyotairyu only managed 5 and 6 wins, respectively, and will fall out of this group. Falling the hardest will be M3w Yutakayama, who could only eke out 2 wins in his first tournament in the joi.

The opposite outcome in this games of chutes and ladders belongs to Chiyonokuni, who earned 12 victories from M11w and whom I have moving all the way up to M1w. His career-high rank, M1e, was at Natsu 2017, and ended in a 2-13 beating, from which it took him a year to work his way back. Taking lesser jumps up the banzuke are those from the mid-maegashira ranks with positive records (in italic): Kagayaki, Takakeisho, Daishomaru, and Yoshikaze.

Mid-Maegashira

M6

Chiyotairyu

Takarafuji

M7

Daieisho

Endo

M8

Chiyoshoma

Kyokutaisei

M9

Myogiryu

Onosho (J)

M10

Chiyomaru

Aoiyama

M11

Nishikigi

Sadanoumi

Being in this relatively safe part of the banzuke represents a promotion for Kyokutaisei, Myogiryu, Aoiyama, Nishikigi, and Sadanoumi and a demotion for Chiyotairyu, Daieisho, Endo, and Chiyomaru. Chiyoshoma and Takarafuji are treading water. Takarafuji, in particular, is forecast to benefit from good banzuke luck and hold on to his ranking at M6w despite a losing 7-8 record. He should be demoted, but the three guys I have ranked right below him all had worse make-koshi records and receive fairly lenient demotions as it is. Also making his Makuuchi return here is recent mainstay Onosho, who we hope continues his rapid re-ascent of the rankings.

Lower Maegashira

M12

Kotoeko (J)

Arawashi

M13

Asanoyama

Yutakayama

M14

Tochiozan

Okinoumi

M15

Ryuden

Hokutofuji

M16

Ishiura

Meisei (J)

Here we have the second-strongest promotion candidate from Juryo, Kotoeko, making his Makuuchi debut after narrowly missing out in the previous tournament. Kotoeko, 26, started in sumo in 2007, under a name which I kinda wish he’d kept just so we could listen to announcers trying to get it right—Kotokashiwadani. He’s been in Juryo for the past 12 tournaments.

The only Makuuchi holdover in this group with a kachi-koshi is Tochiozan, who moves up from M15e to M14e after going 8-7. Arawashi and Asanoyama each went 7-8 and get minimal demotions due to good banzuke luck, Yutakayama lands here after plummeting down the banzuke, while Okinoumi and, especially, the trio of Ryuden, Hokutofuji, and Ishiura are lucky to remain in the top division.

I have the last spot going to another rikishi making his Makuuchi debut—Meisei—who takes the place of Takekaze, the last man I have going down to Juryo. Meisei is only 22, having started in sumo in 2011. He’s had 7 fairly strong consecutive tournaments in Juryo, going 9-6, 9-6, 9-6, 7-8, 8-7, 7-8, and 10-5, so hopefully he’ll be ready for his first taste of the big leagues.

正正堂堂

This is the first post in a series of posts about 四字熟語. These are the four character idioms which form an important part of Japanese language and culture. For those who seriously pursue Japanese language and try to get a job over there, there’s a good chance that one of the interview questions will be related; maybe something like, “What is your favorite 四字熟語?”

This phrase was Takayasu’s chosen phrase for his promotion to Ozeki. It translates roughly to, “fair and square,” but as with most sayings in other languages, there’s more meaning behind it. We can get a good sense of the meaning from the way Hakuho battled Tochinoshin on the belt in this latest tournament. Rather than resorting to dame-oshi, or avoiding Tochinoshin’s preferred method of attack, Hakuho went at him squarely in a great belt battle. This kind of sportsmanship is celebrated in many cultures, not including the New England Patriots.

正正堂堂: Sei-Sei-Dou-Dou

There’s a fantastic manga called, “Chibi Maruko-chan no Yojijyukugo Kyoshitsu” (ちびまる子ちゃんの四字熟語教室) by Sakura Momoko. Chibi Maruko-chan is a popular manga character, like Doraemon, who has a whole host of books, available here. This one gives great explanations and examples for each of these four-character phrases. I’ve shared a picture of this particular page.

This book gives a similar example to our Hakuho example. It talks about a Judo final where one of the judoka has an injury and the opponent fights in a way to avoid the injury rather than to take advantage of it.

Shikimori Inosuke Resigns As Top Gyoji

inosuke-dohyo

Following revelations in January, Tate-gyoji Shikimori Inosuke served a 3 basho suspension, and has now resigned from the Japan Sumo Association. Inosuke was accused of (and admitted to) sexually assaulting a junior gyoji who was only in his teens. To complicate matters, Inosuke was drunk at the time.

Following his resignation on Wednesday, sumo will have no tate-gyoji on the banzuke for Nagoya, which is a first in this century.

Genki Report – Yokozuna & Ozeki

tsuna

With the Nagoya basho behind us, we welcome a new Ozeki into the top two ranks of sumo, and reinforcements could not come at a more important moment. In a continuation of a trend Tachiai has been following for some time, the continued weakness within the Yokozuna and Ozeki ranks is causing significant distortions in sumo. Thus it is time for another of our periodic genki reports, looking exclusively at the world of the top two ranks.

Yokozuna - Ozeki Participation

From the chart above, we can see that since this time in 2016, the participation rate of the total Yokozuna and Ozeki corps has been on a steady downward trend. This is computed as a percentage of the number Yokozuna & Ozeki that could participate compared to the number who did participate on day 15. Clearly the men in sumo’s top two ranks are finding it difficult to show up and participate in tournaments on a regular basis.

Sumo is a combat sport, and people who reach the top two ranks have had to battle for every promotion, and every kachi-kochi they have ever achieved. Along the way they have accumulated injuries that range from annoying to severe, but still attempt to find some way to show up and compete.

Let’s take a look at the rikishi:

Yokozuna Kakuryu
Genki: ✭✭✭
Notes: After taking almost a year to recover from a suite of injuries, Kakuryu may in fact be the genkiest of the Yokozuna. He exited Natsu with the Emperor’s Cup, and his first back to back yusho in his career. The injuries sustained during Hatsu have either been mitigated, healed or he is just ignoring them. Clearly he is the man to beat for Nagoya, but odds of him taking 3 in a row are rather thin.

Yokozuna Hakuho
Genki: ✭✭
Notes: There were a number of red flags for Hakuho going into Natsu. His father, who was a driving force in his life, had just recently died. He had sat out Osaka due to re-injured big toes. While it may seem a trivial complaint, the big toe of each foot is massively important to both offense and defense. Hakuho’s sumo depends greatly on his mobility and speed, and injured feet rob him of a significant advantage. I think that going to Nagoya we are going to see a greatly improved Hakuho, as long as he can keep those feet healthy.

Yokozuna Kisenosato
Genki: ✭-
Notes: Tachiai has written extensively about the nature and severity of Kisenosato’s injured left pectoral. While we were controversial in our early call that it was surgery or the scissors, the rest of the sumo world seems to have come around to our point of view. The guy’s Yokozuna career is a tragedy worthy of a new Kabuki story. Our opinion is that there is no road back for him, and the only question now is does he just admit defeat, or does he enter one more basho and go out guns blazing?

Ozeki Goeido
Genki: ✭✭
Notes: Where to start with this guy. First off, we complain a lot about Goeido and his flaky sumo. We have likened him to a faulty consumer gadget in dire need of software fixes. In truth, he has been hurt quite a bit in the past two years. None of those injuries are necessarily healed properly, and each time he re-injures himself in a basho, his sumo goes into the toilet. It’s actually quite easy to detect. When his ankles are working and not hurting, he is a fast, aggressive Ozeki who will take you down or out before you can finish your tachiai. You never give him an opening or you are on your face in the clay, and the fat stack of kensho is headed towards his bank account. When he’s hurt he’s vague, he pulls, he moves backward, he loses a bit over half the time. Given that a proper repair job would require about a year of healing, it’s unlikely he will take that step while he is still active.

Ozeki Takayasu
Genki: ✭✭
Notes: This guy is a favorite of mine. But once Kisenosato got hurt, and he earned Ozeki, his sumo took an unfortunate turn. He came to rely on an increasingly chaotic style that places a big bet up front on a massive, brutal forearm or shoulder hit at the tachiai. Now it comes as no surprises he is having upper body problems, especially with his leading shoulder. This man is a powerhouse of sumo, and an excellent rival for Tochinoshin if he is healthy. I wish he could take after his senpai a bit more now. Kisenosato’s Ozeki sumo was frequently low, powerful and relentless. I fear until he fixes his sumo, he will continue to suffer.

Ozeki Tochinoshin
Genki: ✭✭✭✭✭
Notes: Though I have my concerns about this guy, thank the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan that he has shown up. Though his injuries may come to ruin him at any time, he’s clearly strong, enthusiastic and competing flat out 15 matches each basho. I hope he throttles back on his “lift and shift” kimarite, as it’s rolling the dice on that bandaged knee each time. As mentioned above, a solid Tochinoshin / Takayasu Ozeki rivalry would electrify the sumo world, and might be a catalyst to drive either or both to higher rank. But it requires both of them to find a way to avoid further injuries. No easy task in the current sumo world.

Tochinoshin’s Promotion Announcement

This morning in Tokyo, officials from the Nihon Sumo Kyokai brought official word that Georgian sumotori Tochinoshin had been promoted to Ozeki. After an amazing 37 wins over the last three basho, the former Sekiwake had over-achieved almost every promotion criteria. As is customary for these announcements, the officials from the NSK take one side of the raised platform,  with the promotee, his Oyakata and his wife take the other.

As far as I could tell, Tochinoshin did not utter a traditional 4 glyph motto, but did state “I will follow and revere my Oyakata’s instructions, and act as a role model for other rikishi. I will train hard.”.

Additional details available from NHK

Tochinoshin Press Coverage

With the official promotion, and acceptance, expected later today (Wednesday morning Japan), the press is starting to cover Tochinoshin’s imminent promotion. The Mainichi article includes some great background on his friendship with Hiromitsu Munakata, which is something new to me. Feel free to read up while we wait for the big ceremony to welcome the new Ozeki.

NHK: Tochinoshin to be promoted to Ozeki champion

Mainichi: Tochinoshin set for promotion to ozeki after overcoming language, culture differences

Japan Times: Tochinoshin ready to tackle ozeki challenge head on

My Worries About Tochinoshin

Tochinoshin-salt

Tochinoshin has secured his promotion to Ozeki, sumo’s second highest rank. He did this through hard work, grim determination, and focusing with overwhelming intensity to training his body, his mind and his reflexes. As a result he has an astounding 37 wins over the past 3 tournaments, with double digits in each of the last 3. He greatly exceeds the 33 wins / 3 basho guideline, and is one of the strongest men in sumo for 2018. Much has been said, and still more will be said about his work ethic, his rise from ruin following knee surgery, and his drive to win.

But looking at Tochinoshin, I worry there is a chance for heartbreak in the near future. While I think he has potential to be a great Ozeki, I also see the seeds of misfortune on the path ahead.

Please keep in mind, I am one lone armchair sumo fan in the wilds of Texas. I have as much influence on the world of sumo as any of the readers of this site – almost none. So this represents one fan’s opinion only.

1. Age – Tochinoshin has been a part of professional sumo since 2006. He is currently 30 years old. His physical condition exceeds most 30 year old men (or 20 year old men for that matter) that you could ever meet. But sumo is a physical sport, and the damage can be cumulative. While his Ozeki career may be outstanding, it may also be short. He is the 4th oldest promotee in the modern era.

2. Injury – Tochinoshin has already sustained, and boldly battled back from a significant mechanical injury. The massive bandage he wears on his knee is testament to that battle, which he has won for now. We dearly hope he stays free from further injury, but fans should note we are in a transitional period in sumo. Many of our old favorites are reaching the end of their workable careers in the top division, and will soon be demoted down the banzuke, and retire. As a result we will see young men soon pressing harder for top rank. These youngsters will be fast, strong, aggressive and possibly less injured that our favorites. This includes Tochinoshin. Sumo is a pure zero-sum sport. If the rikishi of the future overwhelm stalwarts like Tochinoshin, so be it. But someone like Onosho or Takakeisho, or perhaps a stronger version of Abi could, through no malice, re-injure him. But this is sumo, and it’s a chance everyone takes.

3. Consistency – My biggest concern about Tochinoshin is consistency. Looking at his last 3 basho he’s been an overwhelming powerhouse of sumo. But if we take a longer look, the view is a bit cloudy. Let’s look at the past 2 years.

Basho Rank Result
Natsu 2016 M4 10-5
Nagoya 2016 S1 6-9
Aki 2016 M2 5-10
Kyushu 2016 M6 10-5
Hatsu 2017 K1 0-6(9 kyujo)
Osaka 2017 M10 7-8
Natsu 2017 M10 12-3
Nagoya 2017 M2 9-6
Aki 2017 M1 4-11
Kyushu 2017 M6 9-6
Hatsu 2018 M3 14-1
Osaka 2018 S1 10-5
Natsu 2018 S1 13-2

The chart below to compares his ranking in the past 2 years to a set of san’yaku mainstays including Tamawashi, Mitakeumi and Takayasu

Tochinoshi-Rank-Chart

It’s a see-saw trip up and down the banzuke. He has shown no ability to hit and hold San’yaku rank in the past. This is in contrast to Mitakeumi, Tamawashi and Takayasu.

The guy gets hurt, and he can’t fight for beans when he’s hurt. Sumo is a combat sport, people get hurt. But I worry that we will have another frequent kadoban Ozeki, who fights with gusto when his health is good, but spends about half of the tournaments trying to scrape by.

But only time will tell. I am eager to see what Ozeki Tochinoshin can do.

Natsu Wrap-up and Nagoya Forecast

Upper San’yaku

Kakuryu added to his Yokozuna bonafides with his second consecutive yusho, his 5th overall. He has to be the early yusho favorite going into Nagoya. Hakuho showed some rust and was clearly fighting at less than 100%, but nevertheless stayed in yusho contention until the penultimate day. I hope that we see a stronger and more motivated dai-Yokozuna in Nagoya. Whither Kisenosato? Who knows.

Both of the current Ozeki will be kadoban in Nagoya, Takayasu after sitting out the entire tournament and Goeido after withdrawing on Day 9 with a 3-5 record. We can only hope that they will be sufficiently recovered from their injuries to attempt to achieve the 8 wins they need to maintain their rank. And of course, the big news of the basho is that we will have a third Ozeki, Tochinoshin!

Lower San’yaku

Ichinojo did just enough to defend his Sekiwake rank, and Mitakeumi will join him after recording 9 wins. Nagoya will be Mitakeumi’s 9th consecutive tournament in San’yaku, and will mark his return to sumo’s third-highest rank, which he held for 5 straight basho before Natsu.

The Komusubi ranks were determined on the final day, and should go to M1e Tamawashi and M2e Shohozan. Tamawashi has been a San’yaku regular in recent years, and only bad banzuke luck kept him in the maegashira ranks for Natsu. Shohozan will match his highest career rank, which he previously held 4 times, most recently in 2014. Both men had to overcome tough starts, which is typical for the upper maegashira ranks: Tamawashi needed to win his final 5 bouts to achieve kachi-koshi, while Shohozan won 6 of his last 7.

Upper Maegashira

Narrowly missing out on promotion in a final-day de facto play-off with Tamawashi was Shodai, who should hold the top maegashira slot in Nagoya. He will be joined in the joi by M11 Chiyonokuni, who’ll make a huge leap up the banzuke after his best-ever 12-3 tournament. His previous trip to the top of the maegashira ranks resulted in a 2-13 implosion, so hopefully he’s better-equipped to handle that level of competition. Despite their losing records, Abi and Kaisei acquitted themselves well enough for another turn in the meat grinder, and while Kotoshogiku and Ikioi got roughed up after being pressed into joi duty at M5, and did not quite do enough for promotion, their 8-7 records will place them firmly in the joi in Nagoya. With the San’yaku ranks being replenished to ten, the joi line might not extend as far down the banzuke, but standing ready to take their turns if injury strikes are the top performers from the mid-maegashira ranks: Kagayaki, Takakeisho, and Daishomaru.

Lower Maegashira

Makuuchi newcomer and special prize winner Kyokutaisei fought his way out of the M12-M16 danger zone, as did Aoiyama and the habitual basement-dwelling duo of Myogiryu and Nishikigi, who both uncharacteristically earned double-digit victories. Taking another turn in the lower portion of the banzuke are Arawashi, Asanoyama, Sadanoumi, Tochiozan, and Ishiura. They’ll be joined by the worst performers from the mid-maegashira ranks—Okinoumi, Ryuden, and Hokutofuji—as well as by M3 Yutakayama, who predictably got pummeled after jumping 8 ranks into the joi, and who’ll continue his roller-coaster ride by dropping about 10 ranks. Yutakayama fought well despite the heavy loss total, and we can expect a much better performance from him in a more comfortable region of the banzuke.

Promotions and Demotions

Ishiura saved himself with his final-day victory, while Takekaze’s win was too little, too late, and he’ll be returning to Juryo. Daimami lost the elimination bout to Ryuden, and will also be going down. And Aminishiki will be seeing more of today’s Juryo opponent, Takonosho, in Nagoya.

Juryo yusho winner Onosho and runner-up Kotoeko should be ranked fairly high for Juryo promotees on the Makuuchi banzuke in Nagoya, while Meisei should occupy the very last M16w rung (Tochinoshin’s promotion eliminates the M17e rank). Just missing out is Akiseyama, who will have the opportunity to earn his second trip to the top division from J1.

Natsu Senshuraku Comments

Natsu-Macaron

With the final day in the books, we have already covered some of the big news of the day. But before we can consider Natsu complete, there are a few other topics to bring up.

Special Prizes

There was a flurry of special prizes awarded today, in fact more of them than I can remember in recent tournaments.

Shukun-Sho (Outstanding Performance) went to Shohozan, for being the only rikishi to beat the yusho winner, Kakuryu. The prize was dependant on Kakuryu winning the final match. In his sansho interview, you actually get to see Shohozan smile! Nah, it’s still moderately scary.

Kanto-Sho (Fighting Spirit) went off in cluster-bomb fashion to: Tochinoshin, Chiyonokuni and Kyokutaisei. Tochinoshin because he was some kind of European winning machine, Chiyonokuni because he seems to have finally found his sumo at his higher weight, and Kyokutaisei because he went double digits in his first top division basho, and he was a movie star.

Gino-Sho (Technique) went to Tochinoshin, as it seems the NSK want to load him up with sansho before his Ozeki promotion, as a way of saying “Nice work you big bear!”.

Notable Matches

There were also a handful of matches that were worth note

Ishiura executed some actually solid sumo against Juryo visitor Kyokushuho for a win. That win may have saved him from relegation back to the farm division, and we may get to see him occupy the Nishikigi memorial “last slot on the banzuke” position for Nagoya.

Speaking of Nishikigi, he went double digits and handed Asanoyama his make-koshi. For a man who has struggled much the last couple of years, I was impressed to see Nishikigi that genki. I just worry he may get over-promoted.

Takakeisho sounded the call heralding Nagoya’s tadpole march, by racking his 10th win of the basho against Sadanoumi. Takakeisho closed out the basho with 8 continuous wins, after having a very rough start that made his fans worry that he was not going to get his sumo back after going kyujo in Osaka. Never fear, he’s back and he’s ready now it seems. Nagoya will see ur-Tadpole Onosho rejoin the crew, and it’s tadpole sumo once again. Frankly, I can’t wait.

Chiyonokuni put Kagayaki away by controlling the form and pace of the match. With Chiyonokuni hitting 12 wins, he’s going to get a huge promotion for Nagoya, and I am going to guess he is going to suffer much like Natsu of 2017 where he was promoted to the joi, and it took him months to recover. Kagayaki will escape a disastrous promotion velocity and have time to patiently continue to incrementally improve. This guy is going to be a big deal if he can stay healthy.

Yoshikaze got a first hand look at Abi-zumo, and shrugged. Abi was all over the place, doing all kinds of things that don’t normally work in sumo. He’s up on his toes, he’s leaning far forward, and his balance is shifting moment to moment. But hey, it got him 7 wins in the joi, and a kinboshi. But honestly the veterans are starting to deconstruct his attacks, and he’s going to be bottled up soon enough. Hopefully he learns some new tricks, because I think he has a lot of potential.

Tamawashi really needed the win he grabbed over Shodai, he scoped by into kachi-koshi territory, and will likely be back in san’yaku for Nagoya. If he can keep his injuries under control, he will have a chance to dislodge the likes of Ichinojo from his transitional Sekiwake rank.

With Natsu done, all of the rikishi have about 60 days to train, seek treatment for injuries, fly off to Europe to see family or just generally carry on with sumo functions. Big events will come next week, as we are expecting to see at least a handful of retirement announcements, announcements of shin-Sekitori coming from Makushita into Juryo, and the announcement of a new Ozeki in the world of sumo. I will write more later about Tochinoshin, as there is much to examine.

But for now, thanks for reading Tachiai, we have had a great time covering the Natsu basho, and we hope you have enjoyed our site.