In the end, the Jonokuchi title came down to one bout: undefeated Inoue against Tsukubayama, a Jonidan-ranked wrestler with one-loss. I was a bit puzzled by the pairing, frankly. Inoue had faced both Chiyoshishi and Goseiryu on his path to the yusho, so I had assumed he would face Raiho. Instead, Inoue faced Tsukubayama, a young man from…you guessed it…Tsukuba city in Ibaraki prefecture. He’s another young’un who started his sumo career last summer and has remained in Jonidan but at Jonidan 91, even a 6th win would likely not be enough to secure a promotion to Sandanme.
Inoue pressed forward and defeated Tsukubayama, without breaking a sweat. Tsukabayama half-heartedly tried a henka, shifting to his right at the tachiai. Inoue’s coming off an injury, so he’s not going to be charging headlong into the crowd. Inoue just pivoted left and bulled forward, shoving Tsukubayama out. Congratulations, Inoue, on the yusho!
Chiyoshishi tossed Takabaho for a dominant ouchie-ta-ouchie win. And lastly, Raiho defeated Goseiryu. Raiho latched on quickly to Goseiryu’s belt with his left-hand, and then came down hard with his right, throwing Goseiryu to the ground.
The Jonidan yusho race came down to three wrestlers with 6 wins; Chiyoyamato, Yurikisho, and Kaiho. Higher-ranked Kaiho was paired against Sandanme yusho contender, Taiyo. Chiyoyamato faced Yurikisho in the bout from the tweet below.
With Yurikisho’s victory assured, he still had to wait for the Kaiho bout to know whether he won outright or would need to fight in a playoff. Kaiho won, meaning there would be a Jonidan playoff.
In Sandanme, the Kaiho victory meant Taiyo was out of the race and the winner would be one of two men. You’ll remember Arauma as the Jonokuchi yusho contender from January, who beat Atamifuji on their first meeting but then lost in their playoff rematch. This tournament, he faced the Kinbozan, who debuts in sandanme because of his success at the university level. Kinbozan was 10cm taller, and 30kg heavier and used all of that mass to overpower Arauma. Atamifuji awaits both, as they will be promoted to Makushita but Atamifuji is already nearing the precipice to Juryo.
Ryuden won the Makushita yusho with straight-forward oshi-zumo against former Juryo wrestler, Chiyonoumi. This victory marks his return to action after serving a suspension. Along the way he did face several former sekitori, including Chiyonoumi, so his path to yusho was not easy.
He will need to do it again in January for promotion to Juryo, but that will be even more difficult with many wrestlers, including Atamifuji, fighting for the few slots which open up.
Lastly, Ichiyamamoto claimed the Juryo yusho with an impressive 13-2 record. He’s virtually assured a slot in Makuuchi with Hakuho’s retirement, Asanoyama’s suspension, Shohozan’s demotion, and possible demotions for Kaisei and Kagayaki.
I couldn’t get all of the bouts into the video, so I supplemented with some of these clips from YouTube. I did manage to get the yusho ceremony so that’s tacked onto the end of the video at the top.
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.