Aki Banzuke Crystal Ball


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My Nagoya banzuke predictions turned out to be reasonably accurate. This last basho created quite a mess, and a less predictable banzuke––I don’t envy the guys who have to make the real thing, which we will get to see on August 28. I’m going to take a crack at it anyway.

Upper San’yaku

Y1 Hakuho Harumafuji
Y2 Kisenosato Kakuryu
O1 Takayasu Goeido
O2 Terunofuji  

No change in the Yokozuna pecking order after Nagoya. The real question is whether we will have more than one Yokozuna start, much less finish, the next basho. Takayasu takes over the top Ozeki spot after putting up the only reasonably solid Ozeki performance at Nagoya. Goeido and Terunofuji are both kadoban, and I hope Terunofuji can recover from his persistent injuries.


Lower San’yaku

Usually, this part of the banzuke is relatively predictable. Not so this time. Kotoshogiku drops out of San’yaku for the first time since 2010. The only certainties are that Mitakeumi will hold the S1e slot, and that Yoshikaze will remain in San’yaku after going 9-6 at Komusubi. Otherwise, there’s quite a logjam for the remaining slots, and a lot of uncertainty as to who will end up where. The contenders:

Tamawashi, who went 7-8 at Sekiwake and will drop at least to Komusubi after four tournaments at the higher rank.

Tochiozan, who had a great tournament at 12-3 as maegashira 5, defeating an Ozeki and both Sekiwake along the way.

Aoiyama, the Jun-Yusho and special prize winner, who went an amazing 13-2 as maegashira 8, but didn’t beat or even fight anyone of note until his defeat of a fading Yoshikaze on the final day.

Tochinoshin, who more than held his own in the meat grinder as maegashira 2, fighting all the big guns and defeating a Yokozuna, an Ozeki, both Sekiwake and a Komusubi on his way to a 9-6 record.

By the numbers, I would rank-order the 5 contenders for the 3 slots behind Mitakeumi as  Tochiozan, Yoshikaze, Aoiyama, Tochinoshin, Tamawashi, placing Tochiozan in the S1w slot, Yoshikaze and Aoiyama in the Komusubi slots, and leaving Tochinoshin and Tamawashi out in the cold. However, being in San’yaku confers certain privileges: Yoshikaze probably gets first dibs on the Sekiwake slot, and Tamawashi is unlikely to drop lower than Komusubi despite coming in last on the list above. Judging by past history, none of the performances were sufficiently strong to “force” the creation of extra San’yaku slots. So I’m going to go with the prediction below, much as it pains me to leave out Tochinoshin.

S Mitakeumi Yoshikaze
K Tochiozan Tamawashi

The Meat Grinder

I’m going to include the M1-M4e ranks here. Along with the San’yaku, this group makes up the “joi” or upper ranks, and regularly faces San’yaku competition (as we saw in Nagoya, the exact “joi” boundary is fuzzy, and changes during the tournament after withdrawals and, to some extent, based on performances to that point).

The meat grinder ranks actually acquitted themselves relatively well in Nagoya, unlike the disasters of the previous two basho. Tochinoshin and Hokutofuji both earned their kachi-koshi, and each deserves to be one rank higher up the banzuke, but there isn’t room. Onosho should find himself at M3 after two extremely impressive 10-5 tournaments following his Makuuchi debut. He seems unintimidated by anyone, and may hold his own despite his lack of experience. Chiyotairyu and Shohozan put up the only other solid records in the mid-maegashira ranks, and find themselves vaulting up the banzuke from M10.

M1 Tochinoshin Aoiyama
M2 Hokutofuji Kotoshogiku
M3 Onosho Chiyotairyu
M4 Shohozan

Mid-maegashira

The rest of Makuuchi was a mess of of make-koshi records, ranging from bad to worse, and some weak kachi-koshi performances among the lower ranks. This makes it difficult to come up with a fair and consistent rank order. Rikishi with 7-8 records in a weak field are especially hard to place, as their computed rank may suggest a promotion, which as far as I know is never done for kachi-koshi records. One can start by dividing the rikishi into groups of similar projected rank, and then worry about the order within each group.

Group 1, M4w-M5w: Ura, Shodai, Takakeisho.

Everyone’s favorite Ura managed a 7-8 record at M4e despite being thrown into the meat grinder prematurely and getting injured as a result. Shodai and Takakeisho each went 5-10 at M1. It would be reasonable either to place Ura at M4w, with the other two at M5, or to flip this order. Given that Ura went make-koshi, that he was under-ranked last basho, and that Shodai tends to get over-ranked, I have a feeling NSK will do the latter, despite Ura’s slightly higher computed rank.

Group 2, M6: Ichinojo, Kagayaki.

Ichinojo put up another lackluster performance, going 7-8. He should drop in rank, but there are no other reasonable contenders for M6e. Kagayaki has the best claim of the rest to M6w.

Group 3, M7-M9: Ishiura, Ikioi, Chiyoshoma, Takanoiwa, Chiyonokuni, Takarafuji.

A mix of poor records higher up the banzuke and better records quite far down the banzuke. Ikioi, Chiyoshoma, and Takanoiwa deserve bigger drops in rank, but Chiyonokuni and Takarafuji did not earn this much of a promotion. Ishiura actually has the best computed rank, and deserves the M7e slot, but since he went make-koshi (7-8) at M8w, he can’t be ranked any higher than that. The main question in this group is whether to place him at M8w, or move him below the two kachi-koshi guys, Chiyonokuni and Takarafuji. As with Ura, I’m opting for the lower rank.

Group 4, M10: Arawashi, Takekaze.

This is straightforward: M12 guys both went 8-7 and move up to M10.

Group 5, M11-M12: Daieisho, Chiyomaru, Daishomaru, Kaisei.

This order drops Daishomaru (M11w, 7-8) below Chiyomaru (M15w, 9-6), but keeps him above Kaisei, the top Juryo escapee.

M4 Shodai
M5 Takakeisho Ura
M6 Ichinojo Kagayaki
M7 Ikioi Chiyoshoma
M8 Takanoiwa Chiyonokuni
M9 Takarafuji Ishiura
M10 Arawashi Takekaze
M11 Daieisho Chiyomaru
M12 Daishomaru Kaisei

Lower maegashira, promotions, and demotions

Sadanoumi and Nishigiki earned Makuuchi stays by going kachi-koshi. Endo and Okinoumi suffer big drops but should be safe. Gagamaru earned a quick return to Juryo and should fall far down the Juryo banzuke, while Kotoyuki also definitely earned a demotion. Yutakayama and Asanoyama should definitely join Kaisei in Makuuchi, one of them at the expense of Sokokurai. This would mark a Makuuchi debut for Asanoyama. I think that Myogiryu will claim the last promotion slot, which will be vacated by Tokushoryu, and that Aminishiki will just miss out on promotion.

M13 Sadanoumi Endo
M14 Okinoumi Nishikigi
M15 Yutakayama Asanoyama
M16 Myogiryu
J1 Aminishiki Tokushoryu
J2 Sokokurai

Nagoya banzuke crystal ball part 2


This post is the follow-up to Nagoya banzuke crystal ball part 1.

Lower maegashira

M5 Chiyoshoma Tochiozan
M6 Ichinojo Onosho
M7 Daieisho Aoiyama
M8 Takanoiwa Ishiura
M9 Tokushoryu Chiyotairyu
M10 Okinoumi Shohozan
M11 Daishomaru Chiyonokuni
M12 Arawashi Takarafuji
M13 Takekaze Sokokurai
M14 Sadanoumi (J) Chiyomaru (J)
M15 Nishikigi (J) Kotoyuki
M16 Kaisei/Gagamaru (J)?

Make-koshi at Natsu in red; kachi-koshi in green; (J) = promotion from Juryo.

That looks like a lot of red. So I counted, and 14 of the rikishi in this part of the banzuke had losing records at Natsu. I guess that’s why they’re here. Only 6 of the wrestlers here who were in Makuuchi at Natsu had winning records, most notably Onosho, who jumps all the way from M14 to M6. It’s probably to Onosho’s benefit that he takes a big jump up the banzuke but gets more experience before having to face the highest ranks. Conversely, Chiyonokuni tumbles all the way from M1 to M11 (see “meat grinder, the” in the previous post; everyone but Endo finds themselves here: Chiyoshoma, Tochiozan, Daieisho, Aoiyama, Okinoumi).

I learned my lesson from Natsu banzuke prediction and stuck entirely to the order dictated by my computed ranks. So the only decision was how to break ties. In general, I gave the nod to the rikishi ranked higher at Natsu. But in a few cases, I bumped up wrestlers with kachi-koshi above those with make-koshi: Tokushoryu and Chiyotairyu above Okinoumi and Shohozan, Daishomaru above Chiyonokuni and Arawashi, and Chiyomaru and Nishikigi above Kotoyuki.

Finally, Kaisei/Gagamaru seems like a complete toss-up. Kaisei went 7-8 in Makuuchi. His 7 wins include 2 over Juryo opponents and a fusen “win” over Kotoyuki. Gagamaru went 9-6 in Juryo, including 1-1 against Makuuchi opponents. Their recent performances don’t give any reason to expect anything more than a mediocre performance by either at the bottom of Makuuchi, with a good chance of demotion to Juryo after Nagoya. But someone has to fill M16e…

Video Of Takayasu’s Ozeki Promotion


Overnight US time, Tagonoura beya sumotori Takayasu Akira was promoted to Ozeki, sumo’s second highest rank. As with these promotions, messengers from the Nippon Sumo Kyokai arrived at a hotel conference room that had been configured for a formal ceremony in front of the press.

Westerners may find it interesting there are microphones on the floor, but once the messengers arrive, members of both the stable’s party and the NSK’s party assume a deeply respectful saikeirei bow during both the announcement and the acceptance.

But like so many things in the wonderful country of Japan, once all of that formal stuff is over, it’s time to celebrate. To the delight of many fans, Yokozuna Kisenosato was present for the celebration (among many others).  Kisenosato and Takayasu have been long term training partners and stable mates, and it is my opinion that neither would have reached their current rank without the other’s constant support.

Congratulations to Takayasu, you earned it!

Some additional video from NHK here

Takayasu’s Ozeki Promotion Official


Takayasu-Wins

Second Promotion Campaign Succeeds.

Tagonoura riskishi Takayasu has ben grinding towards an Ozeki bid for the past year, which is generally recognized to be 33 wins across 3 basho for consideration. The actual promotion determination is made by the Nihon Sumo Kyokai, who consider a number of factors such as suitability and long term prospects of continued high performance.

His first bid to achieve 33 wins ended in make-koshi, and demotion, during the Kyushu basho in November. Interestingly enough, internet sumo guru Kintamayama in fact predicted Takayasu’s make-koshi.  The set back did nothing more than challenge Takayasu, and it seems that he and Kisenosato sequestered themselves for nearly endless practice.  Both of them benefited greatly from this period of intense training, as both have been promoted within the following 6 months.

The committee met immediately following the Natsu basho, and agreed that Takayasu’s bid had met or exceeded qualifications, and he has been promoted to Ozeki. The messengers will arrive Wednesday morning Japan time (Tuesday PM US time) to officially notify Takayasu and the Tagonoura stable. Anticipation in the Japanese press now is swirling around what acceptance phrase he will use, which many see as indicative of what kind of spirit he will bring to his Ozeki career.

With this promotion, Tagonoura beta will have a level of parity with Isegahama, who have both Yokozuna Harumafuji and Ozeki Terunofuji. Having two rikishi at such high levels of skill helps both of them stay sharp and competitive, and as we have seen with Kisenosato, having Takayasu as a sparring partner was essential to brining his sumo along to Yokozuna levels.

During Takayasu’s career up to this point, he has been a special-prize winning machine. His tally includeds:

  • 2 Gino-Sho
  • 4 Shukun-Sho
  • 4 Kanto-Sho
  • 4 Kinboshi

His performance has been truly a cut above, and he should make a strong Ozeki if he can keep himself uninjured.

Tachiai congratulates the shin-Ozeki, and we look forward to many years of Ozeki Takayasu bringing his strength sumo to all challengers.

More details from Kyodo News: Takayasu all set for promotion to ozeki
Still more from The Mainichi: Ozeki-in-waiting Takayasu aiming for sumo’s greatest heights

The Philippines: Next Sumo Powerhouse?


With Takayasu’s ozeki promotion and Mitakeumi looking to slide into his vacated Sekiwake slot, I thought I’d take a look at the Philippines. I almost lived there growing up. My dad was in the US Air Force and we were supposed to be stationed there but somehow ended up in Biloxi, MS instead. I always consider it a missed opportunity. This is not anything near the “Mongolian invasion” we’ve seen in sumo and more approximates the Bulgarian or Georgian mini-booms. But, will their rise to the upper echelons of professional sumo, timed as it is during a surge in domestic popularity, bring more interest in Filipino recruits?

Philippine Satellite Initiated by Japanese University Programs

This satellite mission patch graphically illustrates the commonalities and ties between the Philippines and Japan. On the face of things, the countries have some very interesting similarities. Both are sprawling, earthquake prone, volcanic, island nations sitting off the eastern coast of mainland Asia, of roughly similar population (Japan: #61, Philippines: #72) and size (Japan: #10, Philippines: #13). Basically, the smaller brothers of massive Indonesia (#4 in population; #14 in land area). Their histories are very different, but obviously interconnected at times. Colonized by the Spanish, Japanese, and Americans, the Philippines returned to democratic rule in 1984. Recently, the country has been in the news because of the actions and rhetoric from its controversial President, Rodrigo Duterte.

Because of its fascinating history, The Philippines has it’s own distinct, wonderful culture with flavors from Spanish, Japanese, and American colonizers. For me, culture starts in the kitchen. Traditional Filipino dishes have been noted to be among Takayasu’s favorites. In Japan, nata-de-coco went through its own mini-boom, kind of like the 1980s version of today’s American “cronut” craze.

Nata De Coco

Tonight, I tried nata-de-coco for the first time. It is really good. It’s more firm than gelatin and has an interesting, lavender-like flavor. Supposedly it has a lot of fiber. It’s big in Japan, though not as big as it once was and seems to be rarely eaten on its own. One of the desserts featured here from Denny’s was a great example. They don’t offer it anymore, but you can see it was offered up to 1992. My wife remembers it fondly and bought us a bottle of nata-de-coco from our local Korean grocer.

The quality of “Family Restaurants” in Japan like Denny’s, Skylark and Saizeria, compared to those in the US, will surprise you. I mention this because if you go to Japan, don’t avoid “Western” brands like Denny’s, 7-Eleven, Starbucks, etc., just because you think you know them. You sure would not find many desserts featuring nata-de-coco, or fresh mango back home. And my favorite bit is always the customer service. *Pro tip*: a call button is usually available in restaurants in Japan to summon help, or just yell “sumimasen!” In the US, we have to rely on making eye-contact with a busy waitstaff or our psychic powers to will them from out of their hiding places in the kitchen.

In DC, we have several Philippine restaurants with high reviews. I’d been planning to try one before posting this article but haven’t been able to make it to one since none are close enough to Navy Yard for me try at lunch. Then, on the weekend, I avoid DC like the plague and I’ve not found similarly high-rated examples here in the suburbs. I’m glad that I was able to at least try nata-de-coco before posting this. Keep an eye out for future posts on Philippine cuisine: like adobo, lumpia,

Ozeki Takayasu! 大関 高安!


Takayasu-Wins

Clinches Promotion With Harumafuji Upset.

Day 14 action in Tokyo saw a belter of match between Yokozuna Harumafuji and Takayasu. Having achieved his 33rd win in the last three basho, Takayasu was eligible for promotion to Ozeki, but it had been widely said that it was more or less contingent on his performance over the last 3 bouts. With his stunning victory over Harumafuji, that condition is for all practical purposes, lifted.

Given that his day 14 opponent is Shodai, Takayasu could even finish the basho with 12 wins, which would be his tie his Jun-Yusho in 2013 (and his thunderous performance at Osaka).

We have been stating for over a year that Takayasu represented the best hope to become the next Ozeki, and we are so very happy that he has reached sumo’s second highest rank. The Ozeki corps has been very shaky for some time, and Tachiai hopes the infusion of new blood will bring order and stability to upper San’yaku.

Natsu Story 1 – Takayasu’s Ozeki Moment


Takayasu-Natsu
Photo courtesy of http://number.bunshun.jp

10 Wins From Promotion

Takayasu stands at the cusp on one of the great moments in sumo – promotion to the hallowed rank of Ozeki. Having pushed and trained for most of his 27 years to hone his body and his skill, he is now 10 wins from earning sumo’s second highest rank.

His sumo style is based on strength and endurance, and he has learned the art of wearing his opponent down in a grinding battle of attrition, which given the chance he can apply better than anyone in the current joi. Fans know that when he locks up his foe and rests that chin on their shoulder and goes limp from the waste up, that he is pressing down with enormous pressure, forcing them to lift his weight and theirs or be crushed to the dohyo.

In his 36 career Makuuchi tournaments, he has spent 8 in lower San’yaku. While these ranks typically destroy other Sekitori, Takayasu seems to be made for battle. Over those 8 basho in San’yaku, he has racked up an impressive 62 wins / 43 losses. In fact, Takayasu was on the cusp of promotion late last year going into the Kyushu basho, but finished with a disappointing 7-8 record.

His performance at Hatsu and Haru were impressive, and it seemed that this time everything would align for Takayasu. But then stablemate and training partner Kisenosato suffered a terrible pectoral injury in the final days of Osaka, and has been unable to train.

Like any good sumotori, Takayasu applied himself and did what he could with what he had. But you cannot replace a daily regimen of sparring with Kisenosato, and fans would be right to worry that we could witness a repeat of Kyushu – success within reach, but not achieved.

Tachiai is honestly pulling for Takayasu to bring some much needed health and vigor to the upper San’yaku, and we hope that he has found a way to adapt, survive and overcome.

Takayasu’s Makuuchi Record To Date

36 basho

  • 1 Jun-Yusho
  • 1 Gino-Sho
  • 3 Shukun-Sho
  • 4 Kanto-Sho
  • 4 Kinboshi