Kyushu 2022 Day 5 Highlights

We’ve got a great day of action here for you to close out the first Act of the Kyushu basho. Unfortunately, several fan favorites are still searching for their first win. Lots of surprises in store. Let’s not dally and just get to the action.

Selected Juryo Bouts

Daiamami defeated Enho: Oshitaoshi. Daiamami seemed to be the nervous one coming into this bout but he played Enho perfectly. He kept the spritely lad at arms length and expertly shut off access to the dohyo. It’s surprising to think that someone could be “cornered” in a circular dohyo but that’s exactly what Daiamami was able to achieve. With nowhere for Enho to go, Daiamami gave a simple shove to send Enho sprawling backwards. Both men are 3-2.

Daishoho defeated Kinbozan: Uwatenage. Kinbozan semms hurt bad enough to need to go kyujo. He was unable to press forward with his left leg and unable to use his left arm. After the tachiai, he latched on with his right and kind of hung, limply on Daishoho for support. Daishoho simply used his leverage, twisted, and threw Kinbozan…who then finally used that left hand to touch the dirt and keep himself from falling. Both men are 2-3.

Chiyonokuni defeated Tochimusashi: Tsukidashi. Chiyonokuni hit Tochimusashi so hard at the tachiai, both men were almost knocked off their feet. While Tochimusashi was still trying to figure out which city he was in, Chiyonokuni recovered his senses first and flew back across the dohyo into his opponent, blasting him over the tawara. Chiyonokuni

Akua defeated Churanoumi: Oshidashi. Akua was dominant at the tachiai. He quickly, and forcefully, shoved out Churanoumi who had no time to counter, much less mount an offense. Akua looks determined and improves to 5-0.

Makuuchi

Atamifuji (3-2) defeated Kagayaki (2-3): Hatakikomi. Kagayaki bloodied Atamifuji, leading with that head at the tachiai. Atamifuji seemed stunned, trying to stay upright while Kagayaki methodically drove forward, cutting off escape routes, forcing Atamifuji backward to the tawara. At the tawara, though, Atamifuji brought down the hammer and Kagayaki fell to the dirt. Both men started the day at 2-2 but Atamifuji improved to 3-2 while nursing his bloody nose. Kagayaki fell to 2-3.

Tsurugisho (5-0) defeated Azumaryu (2-3): Yorikiri. I don’t understand the weak harite at the tachiai. I’ve seen Hakuho do it, sometimes, too. It’s like a reminder that, “I could have slapped you but I just wanted to check if you shaved this morning.” Tsurugisho served up one of these touchy-feely “harite” while Azumaryu focused on locking in on his opponent’s belt. Once Tsurugisho got the morozashi, it was curtains for Azumaryu.

Ichiyamamoto(4-1) defeated Hiradoumi (3-2): Hatakikomi. Well executed Abi-zumo here from Ichiyamamoto. Repeated tsuppari, those strong forceful thrusts to keep Hiradoumi upright and off the belt. As Hiradoumi tried to advance through the torrent of slaps, Ichiyamamoto shifted and Hiradoumi’s momentum carried him over the bales.

Okinoumi (2-3) defeated Terutsuyoshi (0-5): Kainahineri. “Nokotta, Nokotta!” Okinoumi and Terutsuyoshi engaged at the tachiai and locked in together with Okinoumi twisted to his left and Terutsuyoshi to his right. Okinoumi was the aggressor, driving Terutsuyoshi around the ring and eventually back to the tawara but he couldn’t quite finish him. Then, it was like a light-switch and Okinoumi snapped and shifted the other way, rolling Terutsuyoshi over. Okinoumi picked up his second win while Terutsuyoshi is winless. These Isegahama boys are hurting.

Oho (4-1) defeated Kotoeko (3-2): Tsukiotoshi. Kotoeko had one plan, launch into Oho’s face and shoulders with everything you’ve got. Oho seemingly just tried to survive. As the pair moved across the ring, Oho just tried his best to stay in, a couple of times almost stepping out. Kotoeko tired, though, and suddenly wrapped Oho up for a grapple. That was a mistake because Oho then flung the smaller man from the fighting surface by his lavender mawashi.

Onosho (4-1) defeated Chiyotairyu (1-4): Oshidashi. Chiyotairyu got his elbow up into Onosho’s face and tried to mount an attack with his right hand but Onosho simply pushed forward and easily walked Chiyotairyu out.

Aoiyama (2-3) defeated Kotoshoho (3-2): Hatakikomi. Aoiyama sumo was greater than Kotoshoho sumo. It was as simple as that. Kotoshoho tried to push Aoiyama out but Aoiyama just kind of walked around the tawara, slapping Kotoshoho back and occasionally going for a pull. The final pull worked. Simple as that. Kotoshoho needed to be either much more powerful or he needed another tactic. I got the sense Aoiyama could have weathered the shoves all day.

Abi (4-1) defeated Takanosho (2-3): Hatakikomi. Not to be outdone by Ichiyamamoto or Aoiyama, Abi pulled and forced Takanosho down. Abi-zumo. Simple as that.

Chiyoshoma (2-3) defeated Tochinoshin (2-3): Okuridashi. No henka here. I’m a little surprised. Instead, we got a solid tachiai and both men locked up for a grapple. Chiyoshoma worked Tochinoshin to the edge, then suddenly Chiyoshoma tugged Tochinoshin to the left while he jumped back and got behind, pushing him out from the back.

Myogiryu (3-2) defeated Endo (1-4): Okuridashi. The Endo ATM coughed up another stack of envelopes today. Myogiryu brought his hands down hard on the back of Endo’s head at the tachiai. This almost brought Endo down but as he struggled to maintain his balance, Myogiryu just followed, letting Endo’s momentum carry him off the dohyo.

Ryuden (3-2) defeated Takarafuji (0-5): Okuridashi. Three Okuridashi in a row. Wow. Ryuden got up a strong headwind, blowing the Takarabune back to the tawara before a sudden shift of direction allowed Ryuden to get in behind and usher Takarafuji out. The ships in Isegahama harbor are starting to look as aged and banged up as Russia’s Black Sea fleet.

Nishikifuji (3-2) defeated Hokutofuji (2-3): Hatakikomi. Nishikifuji had enough of my naval references and wanted to get back to celebrating Hatakikomi Day. So he quickly yanked Hokutofuji down at the initial charge for a quick win.

Sadanoumi (3-2) defeated Nishikigi (2-3): Oshidashi. Well, that was power. Sadanoumi pressed forward perfectly into a pulling Nishikigi, forcing the latter to lose his balance and crash off the dohyo.

Kotonowaka (2-3) defeated Wakamotoharu (3-2): Oshitaoshi. Kotonowaka used his powerful left hand on Wakamotoharu’s right shoulder to quickly, and roughly spin the middle Onami brother to the floor.

Sanyaku

Daieisho (3-2) defeated Kiribayama (3-2): Hatakikomi. A solid, forceful tachiai and an aggressive Kiribayama powerfully drove Daieisho back to the tawara. Just when Kiribayama thought he was going to win, Daieisho reminded him that it was Hatakikomi Day! Hurray!

Takayasu (4-1) defeated Tamawashi (1-4): Yorikiri. I was expecting a great oshi/tsuki battle here. What the hell? Both men locked each other up by the mawashi after a bruising initial clash. Takayasu was clearly more comfortable with this arrangement, quickly driving Tamawashi back and off the dohyo.

Wakatakakage (3-2) defeated Ura (0-5): Oshidashi. Ura tried power sumo as he was matched up with someone relatively close in size. He needed to do something new, having never beaten Wakatakakage. At the edge, Ura brought his hand down and went for a pull. However, Wakatakakage was prepared and maintained his balance as he drove forward into the retreating Ura. Both men flew across the dohyo, tumbling to the other side. Mono-ii. Video replay confirmed that Ura’s foot touched out first and he’s still searching for that first win against Wakatakakage.

Mitakeumi (4-1) defeated Tobizaru (3-2): Tsukiotoshi. You’ve got to see this one. My words would fail to do this bout justice. I saw today from Mitakeumi what I wanted to see from Shodai. WILL. Back against the wall, facing a tough loss, he was determined to win. At that final moment, he twisted and shoved Tobizaru down to the floor.

Frankly, I was shocked to see Tobizaru locked up, toe-to-toe with Mitakeumi. I mean, this was a bout where I was really impressed with both men. I never would have thought I’d see Tobizaru take on a guy like Mitakeumi on the belt. If he keeps this up, he’ll beat Wakatakakage to Ozeki.

Hoshoryu (4-1) defeated Midorifuji (2-3): Kawazugake. Hoshoryu locked up Midorifuji. As Midorifuji tried to get a better belt grip, Hoshoryu expertly brought his foot around and forced both men back. Well, frankly, that’s a kimarite you just have to see for yourself.

Meisei (2-3) defeated Shodai (2-3): Yorikiri. Meisei showed all of the aggression and power here. The only thing Shodai seemed concerned with was making sure he didn’t land on one of the fans as he tumbled off the dohyo. I would struggle to point out what offense Shodai attempted in this bout and yet you still get the sense that he was the more powerful of the two on the dohyo. That if he’d given an ounce of effort, Meisei would have been toast. Tobizaru will make for a more capable Ozeki one day.

Takakeisho (3-2) defeated Ichinojo (2-3): Oshidashi. Ichinojo’s a little too eager, jumps early. But it’s Takakeisho with the side-step…almost a henka there from the Ozeki? Then, as he pushed forward, he was doing almost more with his legs than with his arms. We didn’t really see wave action and I felt I was seeing more gabburi hip action there. Interesting.

Things We Learned That Don’t Really Mean Much

Veterans at the ready. Photo credit @nicolaah

In some ways, Wacky Aki lived up to its name. Not because it was a see-saw title race until the end or because there was some kind of crazy left-field title challenger. Indeed, all of the “dark horses” were more or less known entities, or people that could have been expected to run up a double digit score from their respective ranks.

Maybe you’ll say Myogiryu or Onosho aren’t expected to contend, but they’re not Kotoeko or Tsurugisho, or, dare I say it, Tokushoryu. None of the contenders were strangers to the musubi-no-ichiban. There were a few other talking points from the basho though that might fly under the radar, so I’ve assembled some of them here:

Shodai’s kachikoshi

This may not seem like much, but while the Ozeki was maddeningly inconsistent and underwhelming, this kachikoshi means that Shodai will officially have a longer tenure as Ozeki than either recent Ozeki Tochinoshin or Asanoyama.

Tochinoshin is of course in the decline phase of his career and won’t be returning to the rank, and Asanoyama can make it back to Ozeki in 2024 at the earliest following his suspension and fall down the banzuke. While Terunofuji has taught us not to rule anything out, that ain’t likely (even if it does happen, it will likely take more time).

So, Shodai will soldier on. Among other “recent” (last 25 years or so) Ozeki, he can topple Miyabiyama with another kachikoshi in the next tournament, and if he can hang around for another year at the level he can attempt to surpass the likes of Takayasu and Baruto. This is where it’s worth reminding you: we’re talking about Shodai here. He’s always had the talent, but his top division career – including his Ozeki stint – (apart from that magical 12 month run from November 2019 to November 2020, before which he was a .500 rank and filer) could be best described as mediocre.

Takasago beya

Feast or famine for the beleaguered heya. With the former stable master now gone and Asanoyama in the midst of a suspension that eventually will punt the former Ozeki down to Sandanme, there was yet more bad news in the form of shin-Juryo Asashiyu (moto-Murata)’s debut which went all wrong in the form of a 1-14 record. At least it wasn’t as bad as Shikoroyama’s Oki, in his recent Juryo bow. But it continues a worrying trend for in this particular stable, after Asagyokusei similarly not being able to manage a kachi-koshi in the penultimate division in three attempts, and veteran Asabenkei’s last four attempts at the division all ending in double digit losses. At least if you’re a tsukebito, your servitude may not last particularly long.

We shouldn’t feel too bad though. Asashiyu-Murata’s debut itself was something of a feat. Having reached the edge of heaven at Makushita 1, injuries knocked him all the way back down to Jonokuchi where he was forced to restart his career. Now 27, he’ll need to regroup if he’s going to shift through the gears once more, but you suspect having a top heyagashira with something to actually fight for (as opposed to a suspended heyagashira still miles away from his return) might be helpful for the whole stable.

The stable might have a new heyagashira before long though, and it could be one of Asanoyama’s old tsukebito. The rikishi formerly known as Terasawa will make his sekitori debut in the next basho, and as Takasago beya normally gives its rikishi their morning shikona following Juryo promotion, I’m disappointed he hasn’t got Asanousagi. Having instead curiously taken the name Asanowaka, Terasawa was one of two success stories for Takasago in makushita last tournament. You might remember him as the guy who had his practise mawashi stolen with the remains of his dead rabbit inside.

Finally, that second success story would have been the makushita yusho of Fukai, the former Sandanme Tsukedashi debutant who’s made solid if unsteady progress over the past year and a half. Fukai’s yusho sensationally denied the much vaunted Kitanowaka of an automatic promotion (and it was a nice looking win at that, with one of those very satisfying endings that see everyone crash down the side of the dohyo), and the two will hopefully duke it out again next basho from the makushita joi, where they will both be ranked, presumably with promotion on the line.

Oldies Keep Swinging

While recent generations had their one-offs who performed well into their late 30’s (Terao, Kaio, Kyokutenho), one could be forgiven for thinking that the time would come when the current crop of vets would start to get pumped.

Eight participants in the top division are aged 34 or over (including last week’s birthday man Tochinoshin – happy birthday!). Those eight rikishi combined for a record of 59-61.

For sure, this number is propped up by Myogiryu’s championship challenge, but the only really poor result was Tokushoryu’s 4-11 which isn’t all that unexpected from anyone who’s spent part of the year in Juryo.

That almost-.500 record for the vets is reflective of the current mediocre top division quality and it means their decline – which is certainly evident relative to their younger selves in terms of the eye test – has more of a flatline.

As Andy teases a new “birthday” feature for the site, it will be curious to watch the average age of the top division continue to get ever older. You’d think that subtracting a 36 year old retiring yokozuna might help this, but while Hakuho will remain on the November banzuke if not the dohyo, the top division will likely be joined by a trio of 30+ veterans in Akua (30), Sadanoumi (34), Shohozan (37!!), and the 27 year old Abi.

The youth movement that had threatened to wash away the detritus has so far failed to really materialise. Credit must go to Hoshoryu and Kotonowaka for consolidating their positions in the top division for now, but Kotoshoho and Oho haven’t been able to break through or stay through doing to injury or ability respectively, and Onoe-beya’s once heavily hyped 23-year old Ryuko has just sadly announced his intai after a couple of injury plagued Juryo appearances.

The Kyushu basho will, at least, provide some looks in Juryo for Kotoshoho, Hokuseiho and Hiradoumi to hopefully show that there are youngsters who have got what it takes to keep moving up into the top division and establish themselves.

And this may actually be the more telling thing. We know that the age at which a rikishi can break into and stick in the top division is often an indicator of their ultimate final destination in the sport. That inability recently of many to skip through Juryo also owes much to an aged veteran presence in that division. The Mongolian duo of 33 year old Kyokushuho and 34 year old Azumaryu continue to rack up enough wins to hang around the place, and will be joined by Tokushoryu next tournament as he replaces the tricenarian trio who look likely to head up.

Or, it may not be that telling. These are, after all, things that don’t really mean much.

Tachiai News Update – Terunofuji’s Promotion to Ozeki

It’s in-between basho, so Andy, Josh and Bruce gathered to discuss Terunofuji’s re-promotion to Ozeki. Will it motivate the rest of the Ozeki to step up their performance? How long will his knees last? It’s 15 minutes of sumo fans talking about perhaps the greatest comeback in sports history!

Video edition coming to YouTube shortly….

Terunofuji Re-Promoted To Ozeki

Early Wednesday in Tokyo, it was announced that the Sumo Assocation had promoted Terunofuji back to the rank of Ozeki, the second highest in sumo. This achievement crowned one of the most unbelievable come-back stories ever in the world of sports. After becoming injured in July of 2017, Terunofuji struggled. He was battling knee injuries, diabetes, and seemed to have convinced himself that it was over. In September of 2017, he lost his Ozeki rank, and plummeted down the banzuke. With his damaged knees, he could not really compete, and appeared to be on the fast road to retirement.

But all during 2018, he was working, struggling, to rebuild his body and find some way to return. He re-entered competition in March of 2019. By this time his rank was Jonidan 48, a humbling mark for a man who was at one point an unstoppable force of sumo. But he took every competitor, and fought them with strength and skill. It was clear that the revised Terunofuji was more focused, his movements more efficient and careful. His sumo skills were excellent, and improving every tournament. It was plain to see, in spite of his damaged body, the Ozeki fire was still burning. He quickly moved through the lower divisions, capping his return to the salaried ranks with a perfect 7-0 Makushita yusho in November of 2019.

His debut tournament in Juryo, he took the yusho again with a 13-2 record from close to the bottom of the Juryo ranks. He followed that with a 10-5 from Juryo 3, earning his return to the top division. As if to announce he was not even close to done, he took the July 2020 Emperor’s cup with a 13-2 yusho from the bottom of the banzuke. Since that tournament, he has been on an absolute tear, and finished his Ozeki bid with a 3rd yusho this past March.
We all know his knees are not going to last. They are scarcely little more than lumps of scar tissue held together with a brace and bandages. But until the day he finally blows his knees up, he’s going to fight like the force of sumo he is. I note with some amusement that Terunofuji has not faced a Yokozuna since his return to the top division. Normally Hakuho makes a point of “breaking in” any upstart. But given their history, he may feel somewhat differently about Terunofuji (9-4 favoring Hakuho, but all matches are prior to his return).

The sumo world tends to take some notice of these promotion moments, and what the newly promoted rikishi say as they accept their new rank. Terunofuji kept it focused and brief, saying “I humbly accept. I sincerely thank you”.

Team Tachiai congratulates Ozeki Terunofuji. A powerful and inspiring comeback under the toughest of conditions.

Some quick hits from twitter to finish off!