On May 27th, a regular meeting of the NSK’s board has taken place. The main points of interest are:
Araiso oyakata to start a new heya
The board approved the request of former Kisenosato, now Araiso oyakata, to split away from Tagonoura beya, and start his own heya. Araiso beya will become reality as of this August. At first, it will take residence at Tsukuba city in Ibaraki prefecture (Araiso’s home prefecture), and a permanent one will be built in the city of Ami in Inashiki District of the same prefecture.
Araiso is to take 4 wrestlers and a gyoji with him. The wrestlers are freshmen Nishihara, Taniguchi and Kato, who have joined Grand Sumo in Haru, and set foot on dohyo for the first time in Natsu basho, and veteran Adachi, who joined at around the same time Kisenosato did.
(Usually an oyakata who splits off takes only his uchi-deshi – rikishi he recruited with the intention of establishing his own heya – together with him from his old heya. Adachi is an exception, and I think the reasoning behind it is that with three complete novices, a heya required a seasoned anideshi to teach them the off-dohyo “way of sumo”).
Decision about Asanoyama has not been made yet
Apparently, the investigation into Asanoyama’s shenanigans turned out to be complex, and is still on-going. Another board meeting is set for June, but Shibatayama oyakata, the NSK’s spokesperson, said the investigation will not necessarily be complete by then.
A decision has been made about Ryuden
Ryden has been found guilty of breaking the NSK’s COVID regulations, having gone on unnecessary outings 25 times between March 2020 and January 2021, for the purpose of seeing a woman who was not his wife. Those meeting happened mostly during basho, some just before it.
Ryuden’s punishment is a suspension for 3 basho, including Natsu basho, which he has already spent kyujo. He should be back by November, and will likely be ranked at Makushita by then.
Ryuden’s shisho, Takadagawa oyakata, has been punished with a reduction of 20% of his salary for 6 months.
Nagoya basho will be held without vaccinations
Although an earlier plan has been to vaccinate all the rikishi and staff in June, this seems to have been set aside, probably due to the slow progress of vaccinations in Japan.
The basho will still take place at Nagoya, and all involved will undergo a PCR test before traveling there. The plans are to:
Hold the new recruit checkup at the Kokugikan on June 18th
Publish the banzuke on June 21st
Hold PCR tests over the 23rd and 24th
Each heya will depart for Nagoya after completing the PCR test.
Day 11 has been a very exciting day in Grand Sumo. Unfortunately, not exactly for the reasons we would hope for.
During the second half of the Makuuchi matches, a Japanese tabloid dropped a bomb shell. It revealed that Ozeki Asanoyama has been repeatedly visiting a specific hostess club, including a visit on April 30 and one on May 7th, which was aborted due to the rag’s car being detected.
The dates are significant because the NSK COVID regulations require rikishi to refrain from unnecessary outings and mixing with people who are not heya members during the time between the publishing of the banzuke and senshuraku. The banzuke was published on April 26th. So while a young man going to a seedy club, under normal circumstances, is his own business, this was definitely a breach of regulations, similar to the one perpetrated by Abi and the former Gokushindo.
Apparently, the compliance committee has heard the accusation earlier than the publication, and questioned the Ozeki about it on May 18th. He said that “the accusation was groundless”, and this is what Shibatayama, the association’s spokesperson, said to the accredited press when they came to ask about this story.
This meant that Asanoyama continued with his day of Sumo as usual.
But the published scoop was not something to be brushed aside so easily. The item includes details such as the specific club, the times of the visits, a description of Asanoyama wearing a hood over his head, and ordering champagne to celebrate one of the hostesses who was quitting the job. And of course a couple of photographs of him in a taxi next to the club and then later next to the heya, fuzzy and ambiguous though they were.
At this point the Toyama man was questioned again, reconsidered his reply and admitted to “part of the story”. He will be kyujo as of day 12, giving Takayasu the freebie win.
It’s expected that he will face a severe punishment, possibly more severe than Abi’s. While in his favor stands the fact that he has no prior offenses, the rank of Ozeki carries a greater burden of responsibility. And then there is lying in his initial questioning. It’s not just a breach of regulations, it’s also a breach of trust.
Unfortunately, this was not the only scandal of the day, though the other two have yet to be acknowledged by the NSK or the mainstream media, so should be taken with much caution:
Yesterday it has been published that Asahiyama beya’s okami-san has been verbally abusing the heya’s deshi, causing some of them to retire (including their best prospect so far, Kirameki, though the article doesn’t name him).
(This tabloid is even less credible) – The reason Ryuden has been kyujo is an affair he has had with a woman for three years, including her getting pregnant and him demanding that she abort the fetus, and attempting to silence her with money. It is not clear in what way this has been a violation of the COVID regulations. The tabloid got Ryuden’s attorney’s comment: “The matter is under investigation of the NSK compliance committee so we cannot comment”.
Its a rare day indeed when one of my “Always regrettable” predictions comes to pass. I had picked Terunofuji for the cup prior to the tournament, and he delivered. This punctuates his climb back to Ozeki in absolutely grand fashion, and probably marks a “top” for his sumo career. I am very happy for him, and hope he gets a chance to savor it with all of his heya-mates who, I think, really did everything they could to help him get to this day of days. There are plenty of fans across the sumo world who are looking for Terunofuji to campaign for the rope. It would be a fascinating development. But we know that during this March tournament, Terunofuji re-injured at least one knee, and has been getting daily medical treatment to keep himself going. As Herouth pointed out when hits all began back in Jonidan. It’s clear that Terunofuji’s fighting spirit would carry on long after his knees has given up. We hope he can heal up and return healthy and strong for May. But for today, it’s celebration at Isegahama, and rightfully so. I hope that they make an exception to the COVID restrictions, and Shunba can attend the party.
Tokushoryu defeats Kotoshoho – Well, Kotoshoho did manage to get one win by coming back form kyujo. Also, Tokushoryu minimized his make-koshi to 7-8. The match was traditional Tokushoryu, giving way following the tachiai, and dumping his opponent at the edge. I guess Kotoshoho did not practice that one. Go get healed up, Kotoshoho.
Hidenoumi defeats Hoshoryu – This is possibly some of the best sumo of the entire basho. Hidenoumi stayed calm, absorbed everything Hoshoryu tried, and just wore him down. Both are kachi-koshi, so complimented to them for a solid tournament and some great sumo.
Tobizaru defeats Kaisei – Well, mini-henka from Tobizarum gets him enough leverage to get control of Kaisei’s big body. Tobizaru gets a bit of a spin going and rolls Kaisei to the clay to improved to 10-5. Tobizaru has a fair amount of potential. He just needs to be careful with the gimmick sumo, as it can rob you of the fundamentals.
Daiamami defeats Kotonowaka – Kotonowaka worked hard to make this an oshi-zumo match, but Daiamami would not follow suit. Under a series of Kotonowaka thrusts and hits, Daiamami kept working that right hand inside. That Daiamami right hand was the key to the win, and he improves to 9-6 to finish Haru.
Kagayaki defeats Kotoeko – Kagayaki wrapped Kotoeko early, and then kept his feet wide, bracketing Kotoeko’s stance. With Kagayaki in solid sumo form, Kotoeko did not have many options, and was forced out. Kagayaki improves to 6-9 to end Haru.
Terutsuyoshi defeats Tamawashi – Terutsuyoshi hops to the side at the tachiai, and engages laterally and low. Tamawashi has few defensive options, and not nearly enough room on the dohyo to implement them. It was a rapid trip to the tawara, as Terutsuyoshi picks up his kachi-koshi win on the final day.
Midorifuji defeats Okinoumi – When Okinoumi is hurt, he really can’t do much with his sumo. Today it was Midorifuji to show us some really good sumo, and put Okinoumi for a win. The oshidashi lifts Midorifuji to a final score 5-10.
Myogiryu defeats Ryuden – I look at Ryuden, and just hope he can get healed up and come back strong in May. Myogiryu was absolutely solid today, and lost no ground to Ryuden in spite of Ryuden’s repeated attacks. Myogiryu improves to 7-8.
Chiyotairyu defeats Shimanoumi – Another traditional Chiyotairyu bout, strong opening blast with the cannonball tachiai, into an immediate slap down. Chiyotairyu improves to 6-9.
Meisei defeats Tsurugisho – Surprisingly good mawashi battle, which netted Meisei the kanto-sho (fighting spirit). Once Meisei got him upright, Tsurugisho could not apply much pressure to stop Meisei’s slow advance to the bales. Meisei ends March 10-5.
Wakatakakage defeats Hokutofuji – Wakatakakage’s hit and shift sent Hokutofuji most of the distance to the west side bales, and a quick body shove followed up to send Hokutofuji out. Wakatakakage gets the gino-sho (technique), thought I did not think of much of today’s technique. He finishes March 10-5.
Chiyoshoma defeats Onosho – Chiyoshoma did not get a Darwin match, even though he was eligible. Instead he got to fight a very poorly performing Onosho. As a long term sumo fan, I am not used to seeing this kind of sumo from Chiyoshoma. No tricks, no henka, just straight ahead sumo. With the win today he is kachi-koshi, and I am happy he could do it with good form.
Kiribayama defeats Takarafuji – I am certain that Takarafuji is delighted this basho has ended. He sometimes has real performance problems, and suffers double digit losses, such as this March. As the two were fighting, they became a tangle of arms and legs at the bales, and Takarafuji dropped backwards to the clay. Kimarite was reported as okurihikiotoshi, or the seldom seen “rear pull down”. Kiribayama improves to 7-8.
Daieisho defeats Akiseyama – The first Darwin match goes to Daieisho, who completes a pretty impressive recovery to kachi-koshi from a cold start of 1-5. Daieisho kachi-koshi, Akiseyama make-koshi.
Mitakeumi defeats Ichinojo – Second Darwin match! Ichinojo goes soft as soon as Mitakeumi gets the advantage, and hands the Original Tadpole his 8th win for kachi-koshi.
Aoiyama defeats Takayasu – Takayasu finishes with a 1-4 record for act 3. He did, in essence, throw away the yusho. I have had some fans on Twitter and here on Tachiai suggest he just “choked”. I think we may come to find out that he re-injured either the elbow or the knee in the day 10 to 12 range. Aoiyama improves to 11-4, wins the kanto-sho (fighting spirit) prize, completes a very genki Haru.
Takanosho defeats Tochinoshin – Takanosho wins the final Darwin match, and all of the san’yaku who were “on the bubble” lock down their ranks on the final day. Tochinoshin got the better of the tachiai, but left his body wide open. Takanosho counter attacks straight at center-mass, and Tochinoshin is out 3 steps later. Takanosho improves to 8-7 and is kachi-koshi. Tochinoshin down to 7-8 and is make-koshi.
Terunofuji defeats Takakeisho – The big match, it was Takakeisho who took the early advantage. Terunofuji looked to my eye to set up to take the first step back, in exchange for landing a hold anywhere on Takakeisho’s body. It was only successful for a moment, but it was enough to open Takakeisho’s body. Terunofuji attacked center mass and drove Takakeisho back, and on the second shove, out. Terunofuji finishes Haru 12-3, takes home the Emperor’s cup, wins the shukun-sho (outstanding performance) priz, and a promotion to Ozeki. Not sure what else they could award the man, but I am sure he deserved it. He finished the ultimate sumo comeback story strong, and was utterly victorious.
Asanoyama defeats Shodai – Oh, one last matter to conclude while Terunofuji has his hair re-built. It was Asanoyama’s job to send Shodai home kadoban, and he made it happen. Again we saw Asanoyama pass on 2 chances to dominate the match, as he was solely focused on getting his preferred grip. Once Asanoyama’s left hand was in place, he was in business. His finishing uwatenage sealed the deal for Shodai, and the tate-gyoji who took a fall. Asanoyama finishes Haru 10-5.
Thus ends our coverage of the Haru basho action. Thank you, dear readers, for sharing your time with us, reading our posts, and taking the time to comment. Team Tachiai does this for the love of the sport, and we appreciate you coming along with us for this March tournament.
Day 14 was quite the gift to sumo fans. Just about everything that needed to happen to set up a chaotic and high-stakes final day came to pass. Terunofuji has sole possession of the lead, followed by 3 strong contenders. Should Terunofuji win his day 15 against Grand Tadpole Takakeisho, he takes home the cup. If he falls, there could be some kind of wild playoff. It is certain that the yusho winner will have no higher than a 12-3 record this March, and possibly a rare 11-4, should Terunofuji lose on the final day.
In addition to the yusho race drama to be settled in the latter half of the final day, there are 3 Darwin matches, where two 7-7 rikishi face off. The winner finishes kachi-koshi, and the loser make-koshi. There could have been 4, but the schedule just did not work out to set it up.
Yutakayama finally owned up to the severity of his arm injury and went kyujo. He will finish March 4-11, and be punted well down the banzuke deep into Juryo.
Kotoeko defeats Akiseyama – Kotoeko barrows Kotoshogiku’s gaburi-yori to belly-bump Akiseyama over the bails, and send him to a day 15 Darwin match. Kotoeko improves to 8-6 and is kachi-koshi.
Kaisei defeats Chiyotairyu – Kaisei avoids the Darwin match by taking Chiyotairyu into a belt battle, and wearing him down. Chiyotairyu had superior hand and body position through most of the match, but there was just too much Kaisei to move. There are in fact times when being enormous is a valid sumo strategy. Kaisei improves to 8-6 and is kachi-koshi for March.
Chiyoshoma defeats Kotoshoho – Chiyoshoma kept his focus center mass, and kept moving forward. Save the first win, Kotoshoho has had no success with his return from kyujo. Chiyoshoma ends 7-7 and will be part of the Darwin match series.
Tsurugisho defeats Midorifuji – Midorifuji was able to get a double inside grip, but is too hurt to do very much with it. Nothing Midorifuji tried, including a leg trip, had much of an effect. Tsurugisho’s win improves his score to 9-5
Daiamami defeats Hoshoryu – Daiamami avoids a Darwin match on Sunday. His left hand outside grip was the key to his win, as it shut down a number of Hoshoryu’s attack options. Both end the day 8-6.
Tochinoshin defeats Hidenoumi – Hidenoumi gave it his all, but was out powered by Tochinoshin. Tochinoshin had a solid right hand inside grip, but could not do too much with it, as his damaged right knee prevents him from pivoting with power to that side. He had to settle for a yorikiri, and improving to 7-7 to join the Darwin crew.
Terutsuyoshi defeats Kagayaki – Terutsuyoshi joins the crowd eligible for a Darwin match with his win over flagging Kagayaki. Kagayaki opened strong, and had Terutsuyoshi on the run. But Terutsuyoshi was able to apply just enough torque at the edge to send Kakgayaki to the clay first.
Meisei defeats Tamawashi – Their thrusting battle fell apart when Tamawashi’s volley went wide, and Meisei was able to quickly duck behind and run Tamawashi to the tawara, escorting him out. Meisei improves to 9-5.
Hokutofuji defeats Ryuden – Hokutofuji set up a strong right hand outside grip, and then used his body as a wall to incrementally reduce the ring for Ryuden, forcing him out step by step. Ryuden avoids Darwin by losing to Hokutofuji, and reaching make-koshi.
Aoiyama defeats Wakatakakage – Wakatakakage came in strong, but ran face-first into Aoiyama’s thrusting attack. Wakatakakage attempted to respond, but found his right arm entangled as Aoiyama pivoted and brought him to the clay. Aoiyama improves to 10-4, and remains in the yusho race.
Takarafuji defeats Okinoumi – Takarafuji set up a right hand frontal grip early, and rather than “defend and extend” he chose to close early, taking Okinoumi immediately out by yorikiri. Both end the day with 3-11 records.
Onosho defeats Shimanoumi – Onosho was again balanced too far forward on the second step out of the tachiai, but Shimanoumi was holding him up in an attempt to move forward. Onosho responded with a solid thrusting attack, and sent Shimanoumi back and out in 4 steps. Both end the day 4-10.
Tobizaru defeats Takayasu – Takayasu continues to crumble, winning just 1 of his last 4. Much as his day 13 match against Wakatakakage, there were multiple spots where he failed to exploit a route to finishing Tobizaru. Takayasu lost when Tobizaru was able to twist just enough during Takayasu’s oshidashi to bring Takayasu down first. Takayasu, man, you could have just kept him in the center of the dohyo and worn his ass down until he begged you to let him drop.
Kiribayama defeats Daieisho – Kiribayama was able to take this match chest to chest, shutting down Daieisho’s thrusting attack. The results were a well timed uwatenage that sends Daieisho to 7-7, and into the Darwin crew for day 15.
Mitakeumi defeats Myogiryu – Mitakeumi set up an armpit attack at the tachiai, and it instantly cut at least half of Myogiryu forward power. Feeling a lack of return pressure, Mitakeumi went forward, taking Myogiryu out, improving to 7-7. Mitakeumi gets to join the Darwin match group for day 15.
Takanosho defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo, for reasons I am sure no one can explain, immediately tries to pull against Takanosho. Takanosho is Sekiwake for a reason, and reacts to the release of resistance, and rushes ahead, driving Ichinojo from the ring. Both end the day 7-7, and join the Darwin list.
Takakeisho defeats Shodai – Shodai, what the hell? He leaves his chest wide open, inviting Takakeisho to deliver maximum force. Of course, Takakeisho obliges, and the next thing you know, Shodai is tossed like a cork on a raging ocean and finds himself out and down. 7-7 record for Shodai, then. He does not get to join the Darwin group. As an Ozeki, he will determine his fate against Asanoyama on day 15. Good luck.
Terunofuji defeats Asanoyama – In the final match of the day, Terunofuji out-classes Ozeki Asanoyama to take sole possession of the yusho lead. This match beautifully demonstrates not only just how much Terunofuji’s sumo has evolved, but how Asanoyama is highly dependent on a narrow range of positions and grips. True, he is good at getting that set up most days. But Terunofuji overwhelms Asanoyama, and shows him out. With a win like that, there is zero chance they would not promote Terunofuji, he’s the strongest, most capable man in active competition right now.