Kyushu Banzuke Crystal Ball


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Like every tournament, Wacky Aki will have reshuffled the wrestlers’ ranks. The new banzuke for Kyushu won’t be announced until October 30, two weeks before the start of the basho on November 12. But if you want to get a good idea of where your favorite rikishi will end up being ranked, without having to wait a month, you’ve come to the right place. The banzuke forecast below should be accurate to within one or at most two ranks. There’s one real wildcard this time around, where the forecast might miss wildly, but we’ll get to that later in the post.

Upper San’yaku

Y1 Harumafuji Hakuho
Y2 Kisenosato Kakuryu
O1 Goeido Takayasu

As the only Yokozuna to start, finish, and win the tournament, Harumafuji takes over the top spot, switching places with Hakuho. The other three Yokozuna retain their rank order relative to each other. As the only Ozeki to finish Aki, as runner-up no less, Goeido takes over the O1e rank, switching places with Takayasu, who will be kadoban at Kyushu. And of course, we are down to two Ozeki: Terunofuji will drop to Sekiwake for Kyushu, with one chance to reclaim Ozeki status with double-digit wins. Whether or not he’ll be healthy enough to participate, much less get double-digit wins, is an open question; the same goes for Takayasu, who will need 8 wins to retain his rank.

Lower San’yaku

S1 Mitakeumi Yoshikaze
S2 Terunofuji
K Kotoshogiku Onosho

Mitakeumi and Yoshikaze both did just enough at Aki to retain their rank, each going 8-7. They will return as Sekiwake 1e and Sekiwake 1w, respectively. Terunofuji appears at the slightly unusual rank of S2e. Both Tamawashi (7-8) and Tochiozan (6-9) will vacate their Komusubi slots after failing to get their kachi-koshi. Among the higher-placed rank-and-filers, only Kotoshogiku and Onosho earned double-digit wins, and will take over the Komusubi slots.

Upper Maegashira

M1 Tamawashi Chiyotairyu
M2 Takakeisho Tochiozan
M3 Hokutofuji Shohozan
M4 Chiyonokuni Ichinojo
M5 Takarafuji Arawashi

This group is a mix of upper-ranked rikishi who are dropping in rank, but not very far (Tamawashi, Tochiozan, and Hokutofuji) and those in the upper half of the maegashira ranks with the strongest performances at Aki. Depending on the health and participation of the San’yaku ranks in Kyushu, some or all of this group will make up the joi. A case can easily be made for switching the positions of Hokutofuji and Shohozan.

Mid-Maegashira

M6 Chiyoshoma Daishomaru
M7 Tochinoshin Shodai
M8 Takanoiwa Chiyomaru
M9 Endo Ikioi
M10 Daieisho Kaisei
M11 Aoiyama Asanoyama

Twice as many kachi-koshi as make-koshi records in this group. Daishomaru, Endo, and Asanoyama make big jumps up the banzuke after earning double-digit wins at Aki. Conversely, the injured Tochinoshin and Aoiyama take big tumbles. This group also contains the underperforming Shodai and Ikioi. A case can be made for dropping Shodai (and, less likely, Tochinoshin) below Takanoiwa and Chiyomaru, and for dropping Ikioi below Daieisho and Kaisei.

Lower Maegashira

M12 Kagayaki Takekaze
M13 Okinoumi Aminishiki
M14 Kotoyuki Ura
M15 Nishikigi Myogiryu
M16 Daiamami

This group contains one of the worst performers at Aki, Kagayaki, as well as two rikishi who narrowly held on to their places in Makuuchi: Okinoumi and Nishikigi. It also contains the four rikishi who should be promoted from Juryo: top-division returnees Aminishiki, Kotoyuki and Myogiryu, as well as the amusingly named newcomer Daiamami Genki—may he live up to his family given name in his Makuuchi debut. These four take the places of rikishi demoted to Juryo: Ishiura, Tokushoryu, Yutakayama, and Sadanoumi.

Now, the wildcard: our favorite pink-sporting rikishi, Ura, who badly aggravated his already injured knee and had to drop out after two days and only one win. Based on a very limited history of similar cases, I placed him at M14w. I’d be surprised to see him ranked much higher, and he could be ranked as low as M16e, or even demoted from Makuuchi altogether, in favor of marginal promotion candidate Homarefuji. Of course, Ura’s participation in Kyushu is a huge question mark at best, but being ranked in the top division would limit the rate at which he drops down the banzuke if he sits out one or more tournaments.

For a Juryo forecast, I don’t think I can do any better than point you to predictions made on SumoForum by frequent Tachiai commenter Asashosakari and others.

Wakaichiro Loses Day 13


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In his final match for the Aki basho, Texas sumotori Wakaichiro lost his bout against Wakasenryu. The match was an oshi-zumō festival, with both rikishi landing plenty of thrusts and shoves, but Wakasenryu was able to thrust down Wakaichiro. The kimarite is recorded as oshitaoshi.

Wakaichiro closes out the Aki basho with a 4-3 winning record, that short of some kind of cosmic upheaval will place him in the next higher division, Sandanme, for the November basho in Kyushu. We look forward to his promotion and his new slate of opponents.

This video posted to twitter shows the match. I fear something has happened to sumo’s one and only, as his videos have become scarce, shaky and from the cheap seats.

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,