Nagoya ’18 Banzuke Crystal Ball

Meisei_banzuke

Don’t want to wait for the official banzuke announcement on June 25th? The Crystal Ball is here to give you a good idea of how it’s likely to play out.

Upper San’yaku

Y1

Kakuryu

Hakuho

Y2

Kisenosato

O1

Goeido

Takayasu

O2

Tochinoshin

Natsu saw Kakuryu take the yusho, Hakuho put up a creditable performance, and Kisenosato sit out. As a result, there is no change in the Yokozuna rankings. Goeido at least showed up, unlike Takayasu, and as a result, he takes over the O1e slot, with the shin-Ozeki Tochinoshin entering the upper ranks at O2e.

Lower San’yaku

S

Ichinojo

Mitakeumi

K

Tamawashi

Shohozan

Ichinojo did just enough at 8-7 to stay at Sekiwake, and Tochinoshin’s promotion allows him to move over to the East side. Mitakeumi moves up to West Sekiwake. Both Komusubi slots are open, one by promotion and the other by demotion, and should go to M1e Tamawashi and M2e Shohozan, the two highest-ranked maegashira to earn winning records.

Upper Maegashira

M1

Shodai

Chiyonokuni

M2

Kotoshogiku

Ikioi

M3

Abi

Kaisei

M4

Kagayaki

Takakeisho

M5

Daishomaru

Yoshikaze

Due to the depletion of the San’yaku ranks by injury, everyone ranked in this part of the banzuke at Natsu took a turn in the meat grinder. Most actually held up pretty well, with Tamawashi and Shohozan earning San’yaku promotions, and 5 others (in bold) holding on to the upper maegashira ranks. M3e Daieisho and M4e Chiyotairyu only managed 5 and 6 wins, respectively, and will fall out of this group. Falling the hardest will be M3w Yutakayama, who could only eke out 2 wins in his first tournament in the joi.

The opposite outcome in this games of chutes and ladders belongs to Chiyonokuni, who earned 12 victories from M11w and whom I have moving all the way up to M1w. His career-high rank, M1e, was at Natsu 2017, and ended in a 2-13 beating, from which it took him a year to work his way back. Taking lesser jumps up the banzuke are those from the mid-maegashira ranks with positive records (in italic): Kagayaki, Takakeisho, Daishomaru, and Yoshikaze.

Mid-Maegashira

M6

Chiyotairyu

Takarafuji

M7

Daieisho

Endo

M8

Chiyoshoma

Kyokutaisei

M9

Myogiryu

Onosho (J)

M10

Chiyomaru

Aoiyama

M11

Nishikigi

Sadanoumi

Being in this relatively safe part of the banzuke represents a promotion for Kyokutaisei, Myogiryu, Aoiyama, Nishikigi, and Sadanoumi and a demotion for Chiyotairyu, Daieisho, Endo, and Chiyomaru. Chiyoshoma and Takarafuji are treading water. Takarafuji, in particular, is forecast to benefit from good banzuke luck and hold on to his ranking at M6w despite a losing 7-8 record. He should be demoted, but the three guys I have ranked right below him all had worse make-koshi records and receive fairly lenient demotions as it is. Also making his Makuuchi return here is recent mainstay Onosho, who we hope continues his rapid re-ascent of the rankings.

Lower Maegashira

M12

Kotoeko (J)

Arawashi

M13

Asanoyama

Yutakayama

M14

Tochiozan

Okinoumi

M15

Ryuden

Hokutofuji

M16

Ishiura

Meisei (J)

Here we have the second-strongest promotion candidate from Juryo, Kotoeko, making his Makuuchi debut after narrowly missing out in the previous tournament. Kotoeko, 26, started in sumo in 2007, under a name which I kinda wish he’d kept just so we could listen to announcers trying to get it right—Kotokashiwadani. He’s been in Juryo for the past 12 tournaments.

The only Makuuchi holdover in this group with a kachi-koshi is Tochiozan, who moves up from M15e to M14e after going 8-7. Arawashi and Asanoyama each went 7-8 and get minimal demotions due to good banzuke luck, Yutakayama lands here after plummeting down the banzuke, while Okinoumi and, especially, the trio of Ryuden, Hokutofuji, and Ishiura are lucky to remain in the top division.

I have the last spot going to another rikishi making his Makuuchi debut—Meisei—who takes the place of Takekaze, the last man I have going down to Juryo. Meisei is only 22, having started in sumo in 2011. He’s had 7 fairly strong consecutive tournaments in Juryo, going 9-6, 9-6, 9-6, 7-8, 8-7, 7-8, and 10-5, so hopefully he’ll be ready for his first taste of the big leagues.

Genki Report – Yokozuna & Ozeki

tsuna

With the Nagoya basho behind us, we welcome a new Ozeki into the top two ranks of sumo, and reinforcements could not come at a more important moment. In a continuation of a trend Tachiai has been following for some time, the continued weakness within the Yokozuna and Ozeki ranks is causing significant distortions in sumo. Thus it is time for another of our periodic genki reports, looking exclusively at the world of the top two ranks.

Yokozuna - Ozeki Participation

From the chart above, we can see that since this time in 2016, the participation rate of the total Yokozuna and Ozeki corps has been on a steady downward trend. This is computed as a percentage of the number Yokozuna & Ozeki that could participate compared to the number who did participate on day 15. Clearly the men in sumo’s top two ranks are finding it difficult to show up and participate in tournaments on a regular basis.

Sumo is a combat sport, and people who reach the top two ranks have had to battle for every promotion, and every kachi-kochi they have ever achieved. Along the way they have accumulated injuries that range from annoying to severe, but still attempt to find some way to show up and compete.

Let’s take a look at the rikishi:

Yokozuna Kakuryu
Genki: ✭✭✭
Notes: After taking almost a year to recover from a suite of injuries, Kakuryu may in fact be the genkiest of the Yokozuna. He exited Natsu with the Emperor’s Cup, and his first back to back yusho in his career. The injuries sustained during Hatsu have either been mitigated, healed or he is just ignoring them. Clearly he is the man to beat for Nagoya, but odds of him taking 3 in a row are rather thin.

Yokozuna Hakuho
Genki: ✭✭
Notes: There were a number of red flags for Hakuho going into Natsu. His father, who was a driving force in his life, had just recently died. He had sat out Osaka due to re-injured big toes. While it may seem a trivial complaint, the big toe of each foot is massively important to both offense and defense. Hakuho’s sumo depends greatly on his mobility and speed, and injured feet rob him of a significant advantage. I think that going to Nagoya we are going to see a greatly improved Hakuho, as long as he can keep those feet healthy.

Yokozuna Kisenosato
Genki: ✭-
Notes: Tachiai has written extensively about the nature and severity of Kisenosato’s injured left pectoral. While we were controversial in our early call that it was surgery or the scissors, the rest of the sumo world seems to have come around to our point of view. The guy’s Yokozuna career is a tragedy worthy of a new Kabuki story. Our opinion is that there is no road back for him, and the only question now is does he just admit defeat, or does he enter one more basho and go out guns blazing?

Ozeki Goeido
Genki: ✭✭
Notes: Where to start with this guy. First off, we complain a lot about Goeido and his flaky sumo. We have likened him to a faulty consumer gadget in dire need of software fixes. In truth, he has been hurt quite a bit in the past two years. None of those injuries are necessarily healed properly, and each time he re-injures himself in a basho, his sumo goes into the toilet. It’s actually quite easy to detect. When his ankles are working and not hurting, he is a fast, aggressive Ozeki who will take you down or out before you can finish your tachiai. You never give him an opening or you are on your face in the clay, and the fat stack of kensho is headed towards his bank account. When he’s hurt he’s vague, he pulls, he moves backward, he loses a bit over half the time. Given that a proper repair job would require about a year of healing, it’s unlikely he will take that step while he is still active.

Ozeki Takayasu
Genki: ✭✭
Notes: This guy is a favorite of mine. But once Kisenosato got hurt, and he earned Ozeki, his sumo took an unfortunate turn. He came to rely on an increasingly chaotic style that places a big bet up front on a massive, brutal forearm or shoulder hit at the tachiai. Now it comes as no surprises he is having upper body problems, especially with his leading shoulder. This man is a powerhouse of sumo, and an excellent rival for Tochinoshin if he is healthy. I wish he could take after his senpai a bit more now. Kisenosato’s Ozeki sumo was frequently low, powerful and relentless. I fear until he fixes his sumo, he will continue to suffer.

Ozeki Tochinoshin
Genki: ✭✭✭✭✭
Notes: Though I have my concerns about this guy, thank the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan that he has shown up. Though his injuries may come to ruin him at any time, he’s clearly strong, enthusiastic and competing flat out 15 matches each basho. I hope he throttles back on his “lift and shift” kimarite, as it’s rolling the dice on that bandaged knee each time. As mentioned above, a solid Tochinoshin / Takayasu Ozeki rivalry would electrify the sumo world, and might be a catalyst to drive either or both to higher rank. But it requires both of them to find a way to avoid further injuries. No easy task in the current sumo world.

Everything You Need to Know After Act One

 

Act 1

After a somewhat tepid start, the 2018 Natsu Basho is beginning to heat up. So far we’ve seen some excellent sumo from one end of the banzuke to the other, especially from the men in the Joi who are in top form and have been delivering some great bouts. With Act One done and dusted, here’s everything you need to know after the first five days of the Natsu Basho!

Yusho Race

It’s still early in the Yusho race, but five days of sumo has quickly whittled down the numbers and we now have a very competitive leaderboard. At the top, we have Shodai, Tochinoshin, and Yokozuna Hakuho who all still have perfect records after Act One. Right behind them is the chase group of 4-1 rikishi such as Kyokutaisei, Chiyonokuni, Daishomaru, Ichinojo, and Kakuryu. brining up the rear is a massive hunt group of rikishi all with two losses, including Sadanoumi, Daiamami, Asanoyama, Yoshikaze, Kotoshogiku, Mitakeumi, and Endo just to name a few.

Kachi Koshi and Make Koshi

While fortunes certainly can change,  there are several rikishi with a good shot of reaching their kashi koshi by the end of Act Two, and even more who will have to put some serious work in to avoid their make koshi. Kyokutaisei, Chiyonokuni, Daishomaru, Ikioi, Shodai, Ichinojo, Tochinoshin, Kakuryu, and Hakuho all have four wins or more after the first act and are halfway to their coveted winning records. On the flip side of the coin, Aminishiki, Ishiura, Arawashi, Hokutofuji, Ryuden, Chiyomaru, Shohozan, Kaisei, Yutakayama, Tamawashi, Daiesihso, and Abi have all gotten at least four losses and will have to get their sumo in gear to avoid demotion in July.  Everyone else will have their fates decided later on in the Basho.

Kinboshi

We have only seen one gold star victory handed out so far this basho, and it was awarded to Maegashira 2 Shohozan, who defeated Yokozuna Kakuryu on Day 4. with upper Maegashira men such as Shodai and Ikioi off to very impressive starts, we may see the number of kinboshi rise if/when they get a crack at the two standing Yokozuna.

Kyujo

With the exception of Yokozuna Kisenosato and Ozeki Takayasu pulling out before the official tournament start, the Makuuchi Division has been remarkably kyujo-free so far. While this certainly can change later on in the competition, it does seem like the men in the mawashis are taking extra care of late to ensure that nasty falls off the dohyo are less common. With any luck, this new sense of camaraderie will mean fewer rikishi pulling out due to fall related injuries.

Act Two will see the heat rise in Tokyo as the competition gets fiercer and fiercer at the 2018 Natsu Basho. The Mid-Basho weekend is shaping up to be an excellent display of sumo and this fan can’t wait to see what will happen! Let Act Two begin!!

 

 

Ozeki Takayasu Kyujo For Natsu, Too!

takayasu-profile

In a one-two blow for Tagonoura beya, Ozeki Takaysu is also listed as Kyujo for the upcoming Natsu basho. It has been clear for the past several days that he was nursing injuries to both arms, and now he has (wisely in my opinion) decided to recover rather than risk a career-limiting injury.

Takayasu represents Japan’s best hope for a native-born Yokozuna should ailing Kisenosato end up retiring later this year. It is a wise move to have him recover his strength and mobility before returning to competition.  With this absence, Takayasu will be kadoban ozeki for the Nagoya tournament in July.

The ranks for Natsu are already down to 2 Yokozuna and 1 Ozeki.  Should Hakuho withdraw, as Kintamayama has speculated, it would leave the roster with the bare minimum of 2 Ozeki/Yokozuna needed to conduct Honbasho.

As of late, Takayasu has added a habitual shoulder blast to his tachiai, and it has significantly changed his sumo (in my opinion for the worse). It comes as no surprise to me that he has injured it, and with any luck, he will go back to his low and aggressive sumo. The run-and-gun approach (in some ways copying Goeido) was working for him, but it seems to have torn up his body.

The team at Tachiai wish Takayasu a solid recovery, and hope to see him back in fierce fighting form in July.

Why Am I Dreading the Natsu Basho?

Kisenosato

Like all sumo fans, I am eager for the next honbasho to get underway, yet in many respects I am apprehensive about the upcoming tournament. Many of the trends Tachiai identified early and have been dutifully covering are continuing to unfold, with both positive and negative aspects. Sure, I will be cheering as I watch day 1, but I worry Natsu is a preview for just how ugly things will be in the second half of the year.

In Yokozuna land, there is the clear indication that Kisenosato will sit out yet another basho. The man has his pride, and as Herouth mentioned a few weeks ago, there are some indications he may be preparing to announce his retirement from the sport. This is a natural result of his career ending injury sustained at the Osaka basho in 2017. If we consider things with honesty, there was never a very large chance that even with surgery that pectoral muscle would ever again support Yokozuna class sumo. Even the Great Pumpkin seems to be taking it seriously now. Why do I dread this? Once again, a segment of the sumo world (mostly in Japan) will erupt into a festival of complaints about Mongolians and other foreigners in the sport. Having lost their Japanese Yokozuna, some commentators may become insufferable.

But there’s a bright spot, right? Hatsu yusho winner Tochinoshin is moving to make his case to become Ozeki? That’s full of awesome, right? The Tochinoshin story is fantastic from a fan and from a blogger perspective. The man is a walking testament to never giving up and overcoming any obstacle. But he would be yet another foreign born rikishi at the top of the sport, further fueling the tribalist influences that sometimes are on display in sumo-fandom. He is also 30 years old with a bum knee. While It would be awesome to see the man from Georgia achieve the exalted status of “Great Barrier”, I get a sick feeling this is going towards a calamitous end.

Ok, so give the Japanese public a fresh Japanese Yokozuna and all is well, right? Sure, but then Takayasu shows that he’s banged up and probably needs to sit one out. His sumo devolved to where he was using his tachiai to ram one shoulder or upper arm into every opponent, and no one should be surprised that they are now injured. We will find out soon enough how bad it is, but don’t be surprised if Takayasu spends part or all of Natsu on the bench.

Don’t get me wrong, by the time that we are entering the final weekend, the Natsu basho will be a grand and epic arc of fantastic sumo. But as we get towards the middle of this transitional period, it can be a bit tough to watch the carnage.

Onward to Sunday!

Pre Natsu News Round Up – May 7th

Kisenosato-Salt

*Thanks to Herouth for scouting much of this content via twitter.

Across Tokyo, inter-stable training sessions are increasing as the rikishi continue to hone their preparations for Sunday’s start of the Natsu basho. While everyone is training hard and engaging in multiple test matches, it’s the top men who are getting the headlines.

Yokozuna Hakuho participated in the Isegahama Ichimon joint training session, going up against Kaisei, Takarafuji and Kyokutaisei, finishing with a 13-0 record. He is looking strong and confident going into Sunday’s tournament start, and will be a strong contender for the yusho. Observers noted that his tachiai no longer featured his usual face-slap, as requested by the Yokozuna Deliberation Committee.

Injured Yokozuna Kisenosato trained at the Nishonoseki joint training, held today at kaze-land (Oguruma). Kisenosato went against Yoshikaze for 9 bouts and won all of them. It should be noted that something has robbed Yoshikaze of most of his overflowing genki fighting form as of late, and today his right shoulder was heavily taped. One notable from the Nishonoseki rengo keiko was the early departure of Ozeki Takayasu, who complained of pain in his left arm. Previous training sessions featured the big Ozeki suffering pain in his right shoulder in between bouts.

Meanwhile, Yokozuna Kakuryu looked strong and dominant in joint training Monday at Tokitsukaze beya. He faced Endo, Abi, and Yutakayama, finishing 18 and 1. Yokozuna Kakuryu has stated his absolute goal is to score a back-to-back yusho, overcoming everyone including Hakuho to maintain his lock on the top spot in sumo, Yokozuna 1 East. Going into Sunday’s start, he is the man to beat, with his health seeming to be good, and his body in excellent condition, he is possibly in his best form ever.

Tachiai drops in on the YDC Soken

Kokugikan Interior - YDC Soken
The Makushita division moshiai during the Yokozuna Deliberation Committee’s soken

Once a year, the Yokozuna Deliberation Committee opens their soken to the public. Anyone can simply turn up to the fabled Kokugikan in the Ryogoku neighborhood of Tokyo and watch all the stars (and more besides) work out in front of the Committee and a selection of esteemed stable-masters, several of whom are also on the board of the Sumo Association. Oh, and by the way – it’s free.

The soken started from 7:30am and ran until just after 11am. The open training session and assessment contains a few features, the two most prominent being moshiai (where two rikishi fight and the winner stays on and picks his next opponent from an eager crowd) and butsukari (one rikishi holds firm while the other tries to essentially plow him across the dohyo). At the end of the day, each Yokozuna also picked a handful of friends to come up for some sanban (a series of 1 on 1 matches).

The crowd at this event was overwhelmingly elderly in nature, though there were a handful of families in attendance. Again, a gift shop was set up, and curiously, I spotted a rare piece of Harumafuji merch: a statue that retailed for about $120, a beautiful collector’s item for any super fan of the former champion. In the arena, the lower boxes were almost completely full, and the upper deck of Kokugikan was about 10% full. Owing to my vantage point, occasionally the odd punter walks in front of my camera, so please mind any interruptions in the videos below.

Juryo & below

Soken - Kaisho, Tomisakae, Enho
Kaisho and Tomisakae do battle as Enho awaits his turn. (Photo credit: @nicolaah)

Terutsuyoshi gave Enho butsukari, but the wee Miyagino man either really had some trouble pushing the wee Isegahama man across the dohyo, or Terutsuyoshi was digging in with some incredible strength. The soken is meant to be a quiet training session, but the first sign of the day that that clearly wouldn’t be the case was the big cheer given to Enho when he mounted the dohyo for this first practice.

Wakatakakage put a nice little run together when picked for moshiai, but got a little over ambitious in picking the experienced Azumaryu, as he was no match for the veteran on this day. Wakatakakage seems a little more ready than Enho was for the lower end of Juryo, and his promotion may be well timed.

Fellow Juryo promotee Hakuyozan was by far the most popular pick in the Juryo moshiai, and also the recipient of the most losses. That said, no one in the Juryo division was really able to put a run of more than 3 wins together in the moshiai. Rikishi were presumably getting tired quite quickly with so many repeated matches under the hot lights. Tokushoryu managed to stay up for 5 matches which seemed the longest run in the division.

Lower Makuuchi

Soken - Sumo Elders & Oyakata
Several oyakata look on as their charges mount the dohyo. (Photo credit: @nicolaah)

Uncle Takarafuji (the heir to the Uncle Sumo mantle whenever Aminishiki hangs em up) put together a nice run in the moshiai. He also called on shin-makuuchi man Kyokutaisei for his first moshiai in the top division. The Hokkaido movie-star gave him a good match before disposing the veteran. Kyokutaisei in turn then got even more ambitious and selected Mitakeumi, and… he learned a lesson.

Everyone wanted a piece of Tochinoshin. And a lot of them were able to get it, because he was an absolute monster on the dohyo. The only time the Georgian relented during a remarkable stretch where he laid waste to about 10 rikishi in a row was simply to get his man servants to come over and wipe him down from all the sweat he accumulated under the lights.

Chiyotairyu was the man to finally beat him, and must have enjoyed it so much that he then pushed the crowd away to give the Kasugano-beya star a rematch, which he also won. Chiyotairyu must make a great DJ because he was in a real crowd pleasing mood, and evoked a massive applause from the crowd by giving shin-Komusubi Endo his first outing of the day.

For those of you who haven’t been to Kokugikan, if you walk around the halls, the only non-yokozuna rikishi that you see anywhere is Endo. He’s on advertisements, he’s on cardboard cutouts where you can have your picture taken with him, he’s a bona fide sumo rock star. That said, his wins were far and few between today as he did not look particularly genki.

Here’s Endo knocking off Myogiryu before losing again to Chiyotairyu:

Chiyonokuni was tapped by Yoshikaze to take the stage and this was a brilliant street fight, with Yoshikaze getting dumped off the dohyo having been thrusted out by the man from Mie. I cursed myself for missing out on filming this (but an iPhone battery can only take so much abuse in one sitting), but I look forward to a rematch here in the Natsu basho, Great Sumo Cat-willing.

Maegashira basement-dweller Nishikigi was a popular selection for many rikishi in the moshiai. Here he is, taking on and defeating everyone’s favorite pony-tossing sekiwake:

Notable absentees included many of the same men absent from jungyo, as Ikioi and Aoiyama were nowhere to be seen. Injured men Takakeisho and Aminishiki were in attendance, and fan favorite Abi did not take the dohyo but performed stretching activities out to the side. Another man who didn’t spend much time on dohyo was Chiyomaru, but he was certainly a favorite amongst the fans gathered outside after the event: when the rikishi exited the soken, many of them had to walk right through the fans and over to the taxi rank outside Ryogoku station, and the hungry man had to stop to pose for more fan photos than anyone else I saw.

San’yaku

Soken - Kisenosato v Kakuryu
Kisenosato drives Kakuryu back. (Photo credit: @nicolaah)

The men of the top ranks mostly fought against each other, and this was prime fare for the sumo watcher. Luckily for you, dear reader, we’ve got lots of video!

Kisenosato was very active and got several rounds in, mostly against Goeido and Kakuryu. He snuck a couple wins but didn’t look great. Again, Goeido showed no mercy and looked like he had the beating of him. If this Goeido shows up to Natsu, it could be a really good basho.

Kakuryu looked really good. He looked like a yokozuna. Ichinojo was on hand for the san’yaku moshiai but didn’t as feature much either in the moshiai, or later, the butsukari, as the other men of the san’yaku.

Takayasu spent most of the day hanging out on the sidelines with his man-servant and doing stretching activities. It was clear before he even got on the dohyo that he was not in good shape, and his feet were heavily taped. Goeido wasn’t in the mood to show any man from Tagonoura-beya any mercy today: when Takayasu eventually did mount the dohyo, he was dispatched multiple times by his fellow ozeki. His final attempt at battle had the hairy man ending up howling in pain, grasping his right shoulder, and stumbling back to the corner to stretch out for the rest of the morning.

Hakuho showed once again why he is such great entertainment. As you can see from the videos, he waits off to the side for ages. After everyone has had their little fun, The Boss takes the stage and he is utterly and completely box office. It’s san-ban time and Hakuho goes several rounds with Mitakeumi, then Endo, then Mitakeumi again. Mitakeumi gives him more of a game than Endo, who just looks totally overmatched. Hakuho looked like he still had it in for Mitakeumi for breaking his win streak last summer. Towards the end it gets humiliating, like when Hakuho spins Mitakeumi around and just kicks his leg out from under him. The very next fight, Mitakeumi finally pushes his man out of the dohyo, only to be rewarded with yet more san-ban.

Soken - Hakuho & Endo
Hakuho and Endo in butsukari. (Photo credit: @nicolaah)

Hakuho later gave absolutely brutal butsukari to Endo that lasted at least 10 minutes. I captured perhaps the least humiliating parts of that encounter in the below video, because I didn’t want Endo to see much video evidence of what happened today on the internet. From time to time Hakuho threw a few kicks in for the dirt-covered star while he’s lying prostrate on the clay. Hakuho also took reverse butsukari from new maegashira Kyokutaisei, in what must have been another cool moment for the Tomozuna rikishi.

Tochinoshin and Kisenosato were butsukari bros for the day, alternating attacks. When Tochinoshin was on the offensive it looked like he was targeting Kisenosato’s injured left pectoral in particular, and I wondered if that might have been more with Kisenosato in mind than Tochinoshin, perhaps to show those in attendance (and perhaps the Yokozuna himself) how much the beleaguered Yokozuna could withstand from a strong Sekiwake at the peak of his performance. Tochinoshin was absolutely on fire all day, displaying a confident and authoritative presence, and if he turns up to the upcoming tournament displaying the form we saw today, then he will make a very strong case for a promotion to Ozeki.

Many thanks to Tachiai’s instagram moderator Nicola for many of the photos in this post. For more photos from the soken, head over to Tachiai’s instagram profile!

May 2nd Sumo News Roundup

soken

As we count down the days until the Natsu basho kicks off in Tokyo, rikishi are preparing to battle it out for the tournament’s 15 days. In training we have seen alarming problems for Takayasu, who collapsed in pain during training at Tagonoura,but later seemed to recover. We have also seen Ozeki hopeful Tochinoshin confess to a right shoulder injury during the jungyo tour, that may cause him significant problems as he pushes for double digit wins.

Perpetually injured Yokozuna Kisenosato seems to be doing better, but is (in my opinion) doubtful for this tournament. In reports from Herouth, there has been some kabu shuffling as of late, which could indicate that he has owned up to the prospects of ever recovering full use of his left arm, and is seeking a dignified exit from the dohyo, and a transition into coaching, running a stable or other role within the NSK.

Meanwhile, compact powerhouse Ishi-ura became the father of a baby at 3:30 AM Japan time. Both mother and child are doing well, and we congratulate the new father on his family. Former sekitori Osunaarashi has decided to switch to mixed martial arts (MMA), and we will likely see him in battle again before too long. We wish the big Egyptian luck, but recognize the battered condition his body was in during his final tournaments, and urge him find a way to stay healthy.

You want more from today’s soken? Josh and Nicola are attending, and Nicola is posting lots of great photos!

Natsu Banzuke – Bruce’s Comments

Mole Boss vs Dia Yokozuna

The Tachiai team will gather for their banzuke podcast next weekend, but with the Banzuke just published, it’s time for some comments and remarks. If you are looking for lksumo giving himself a hard time over his estimates, he will likely publish those soon.

Yokozuna / Ozeki – no surprises here, Kakuryu remains at 1 East. Although Kisenosato has been participating in Jungyo, and making competition noises, it’s far from certain that he will actually compete in Natsu. Takayasu is starting to dream of trying for the rope himself, but this basho will likely feature Hakuho in the roster. Not that the dai-yokozuna is unbeatable, but Takayasu needs to dominate across the board to make a play for the yusho.

In the lower San’yaku is where the excitement starts. We have Ozeki hopeful Tochinoshin taking the Sekiwake 1 East slot, with our favorite boulder Ichinojo taking West. Tochinoshin continues to look very strong, incredibly focused and driven to excel. With Hakuho back in action, the challenge to reach double digits again will be significantly increased. Mitakeumi drops down to Komusubi East, with Endo making his San’yaku debut at Komusubi West. It’s been a long, hard road for Endo, and I am sure that he is savoring this achievement.

Kaisei rocketed up the banzuke to grab Maegashira 1 West, from 6 East last tournament. There were some who speculated that his impressive 12-3 Jun-Yusho should put him in the San’yaku, but there was a pack of over-achievers in Osaka, and the Brazilian is forced to settle for M1. This is further evidenced by Tamawashi only moving from West to East, even though he produced a 9-6 record.

In the Freshmen, Abi continues to over-accomplish. He is now firmly in the Joi at Maegashira 2, with fellow Freshman Yutakayama taking Maegashira 3. Ryuden rises a respectable 4 slots to 7 East, while Asanoyama is settling for a mild promotion at 12 West, thanks to another cohort of solid performance in the lower end of the banzuke in March.

The Oitekaze brute squad is further represented by Daieisho at 3 East, thanks to his 9-6 in March from 8 West. Can someone please get the Oitekaze chanko recipe? I feel it could have wonderful benefits for the infirm and the aged (starting with me!). Daiamami picks up 11 East after 10-5 from 16 East in March.

The tadpoles are licking their wounds to be certain, now. With Mitakeumi out of Sekiwake, Takakeisho down to 10 West, and the fighting red mawashi of Onosho dropped down to Juryo without so much as a “すみません” (Sumimasen). Is Takakeisho a Maegashira 10 rikishi? Ha! No, no and hell no. Is Onosho a Juryo riksihi? Lower division folks, make sure you are taped up when you face the red terror. The tadpoles are down, but not out.

But speaking of large objects, everyone’s favorite spheroid, Chiyomaru, dropped to 7 East while his stable-mate Chiyotairyu took the Koumusubi express back down the banzuke to 4 East.

But let’s not end hungry! Down at the lower rungs of the banzuke, there are some happy faces. Kyokutaisei makes his debut in the top division. He joins returning faces Sadanoumi, Takekaze and… UNCLE SUMO! Yes, Aminishiki returns like that favorite pair of jeans you though were too beat up to wear. Nope, still plenty of life, but enjoy them while you can.

I would be remiss if I did not comment that much farther down the banzuke, our favorite Texan, Wakaichiro, finds himself back in Jonidan at 14 East. This is certainly a disappointment to him, but we encourage him to recall he always fights better in Tokyo. Give ’em hell!

Natsu Banzuke Crystal Ball

I started writing these prediction posts exactly a year ago, so this will be my seventh banzuke forecast for Tachiai. The accuracy has varied from basho to basho, though I think it’s fair to say that the forecasts give a very good idea of roughly where each rikishi will land—in most cases, within one rank or closer.

Upper San’yaku

Y1

Kakuryu

Hakuho

Y2

Kisenosato

O1

Takayasu

Goeido

No changes here from the Haru banzuke.

Lower San’yaku

S

Tochinoshin

Ichinojo

K

Endo

Mitakeumi

With his 7-8 record, Mitakeumi will lose his Sekiwake rank, but should only fall to Komusubi. Tochinoshin moves over to the East side, while Ichinojo moves up to Sekiwake. Endo finally gets his San’yaku promotion, and is a sufficiently strong candidate with his 9-6 record at M1e that I have him on the East side, although the banzuke committee could certainly switch him and Mitakeumi.

Upper Maegashira

M1

Tamawashi

Kaisei

M2

Abi

Shohozan

M3

Daieisho

Yutakayama

M4

Chiyoshoma

Ikioi

M5

Shodai

Kotoshogiku

What’s certain is that there will be a lot of turnover in this area of the banzuke, as with the exception of Shohozan, everyone in the M2-M5 ranks checked in with a losing record, and only Shodai limited his losses to 8. Many in the ranks immediately below this group also did not distinguish themselves, meaning that we have to reach far down the banzuke for viable promotion candidates. Exactly how this will play out is much less certain, as there are many possible scenarios, and the considerations going into them are complex.

Let’s start with the easy part. Both Tamawashi and Kaisei did well enough to earn promotions to San’yaku, but since there are no open slots for them, they will have to be content with the top maegashira rank. Abi and Shohozan are the only plausible candidates for M2, although their ordering is uncertain. Abi will jump 5 ranks, and will join the joi in only his third top-division basho after earning 10-5 records in the first two. Similarly, Daieisho is the only plausible candidate for M3e. He will also jump 5 ranks, matching his highest career rank.

From here, things get complicated. The next best numerical score belongs to Shodai, but he can’t take the M3w slot due to his make-koshi record at M4w. The best he could do would be to remain at his current rank, though it’s more likely he gets a minimal demotion to M5e. Kotoshogiku could technically  be only demoted from M3e to M3w, but given his 6-9 record, this seems overly generous, and he should really be ranked below Shodai. The next best candidate for M3e is none other than Yutakayama, whose 10-5 record could vault him 8 ranks up the banzuke, all the way from M11.

If we put Shodai and M5e and Kotoshogiku right below him at M5w, who fills the M4 slots? The choice is between the next two strong kachi-koshi records, which belong to Chiyoshoma (9-6 at M10) and Ikioi (11-4 at M14), and the other two high-rankers due for big demotions, Komusubi Chiyotairyu (4-11) and M2 Takarafuji (5-10). My forecast favors the guys moving up the banzuke over those moving down. If the banzuke committee agrees, six out of the ten rikishi in this group would be moving up at least 5 ranks!

Mid-Maegashira

M6

Chiyotairyu

Takarafuji

M7

Chiyomaru

Ryuden

M8

Yoshikaze

Hokutofuji

M9

Kagayaki

Daishomaru

M10

Okinoumi

Daiamami

M11

Chiyonokuni

Takakeisho

At Natsu, this area of the banzuke will serve primarily as the landing zone for higher-ranked rikishi who achieved make-koshi records ranging from just below .500 (Yoshikaze, Kagayaki, Okinoumi, Chiyonokuni) to horrific (hello, Chiyotairyu and Takakeisho). The only bright spots are Ryuden, who moves up from M9 with a minimal kachi-koshi, and the Oitekaze stablemates Daishomaru and Daiamami, who vault up and out of the demotion danger zone with their 9-6 and 10-5 records.

Lower Maegashira

M12

Asanoyama

Arawashi

M13

Ishiura

Sadanoumi

M14

Takekaze

Tochiozan

M15

Aoiyama

Kyokutaisei

M16

Aminishiki

Kotoeko

M17

Gagamaru


The bottom of the banzuke is complicated by the fact that there are 6 Makuuchi rikishi who earned demotions by the usual criteria (in order from most to least deserving of demotion: Hedenoumi, Kotoyuki, Sokokurai, Onosho/Nishikigi, and Myogiryu), but only 3 Juryo rikishi who clearly earned promotion: Sadanoumi, Takekaze, and Kyokutaisei. Aminishiki is borderline, and the next two best candidates, Kotoeko (10-5 at J8) and Gagamaru (8-7 at J5), are ranked too low to be normally considered for promotion with those records. Obviously, the numbers moving up and down have to match. What to do?

My initial inclination was to demote Nishikigi in favor of Aminishiki, and save Onosho (who was kyujo) and Myogiryu. Over on the sumo forum, Asashosakari suggested that they could instead demote Onosho and save both Nishikigi and Myogiryu. The solution I’m currently favoring, given how poor their records were, is that both Nishikigi and Myogiryu will be demoted, as will Onosho. I’m guessing that the banzuke committee will be more likely to promote kachi-koshi Juryo rikishi with insufficiently strong records (after all, this has happened in the past) than to keep in the top division rikishi who failed to defend their places there. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see this play out in any number of ways. We’ll find out on April 26th!

 

Haru Final Day Highlights

Kakuryu Yusho.Parade

You might not know it by watching the matches today, but it was the final day of the Haru basho. Across the torikumi, everyone was fighting with some of their best sumo of the tournament. It was one of those days where it will be a good idea to seek out Jason’s All Sumo Channel or Kintamayama on YouTube to see all the bouts, and not just the highlights from NHK.

Highlight Matches

Aminishiki defeats Myogiryu – It’s kind of magical to me that we may see Uncle Sumo back in the top division yet again for Natsu. This guy should be an inspiration to everyone to stick to their dreams and keep working. Good things happen for those who refuse to give up. The match starts with a henka-matta, so Uncle Sumo needs to re-set and goes for a simple hatakikomi.

Daiamami defeats Yutakayama – Daiamami gets to double digits, but Yutakayama really made him earn it. A close-quarters thrusting match in which both men stayed low and kept applying the pressure. Daiamami closed the deal when he finally got inside on Yutakayama and drove forward.

Chiyonokuni defeats Hidenoumi – Chiyonokuni reminds us that he is a real battle machine with his energetic win over Hidenoumi. He finishes make-koshi, and we have to wonder what it will take for him to get his sumo to the next level.

Chiyoshoma defeats Nishikigi – Chiyoshoma’s leaping henka results in an airborne uwatenage. Go watch it! It’s amazingly acrobatic.

Ryuden defeats Asanoyama – Ryuden secures kachi-koshi on the final day. Asanoyama took him to his chest out of the tachiai, and from there it was a struggle. Multiple times Asanoyama went to throw Ryuden, but Ryuden somehow found a way to block the uwatenage. Great, great sumo from both.

Okinoumi defeats Aoiyama – After a strong start to the basho, Aoiyama faded down the stretch. Part of this may have been from the fact that he started facing much higher ranked rikishi, and some of it may be some unreported injury or just plain exhaustion.

Kagayaki defeats Ishiura – Ishiura tries a straight ahead fight, and can’t find a way to blunt Kagayaki’s forward drive. Ishiura seems to have forgotten some of his sumo from a year or two ago, or maybe his opponents are just much bigger / tougher now.

Abi defeats Daishomaru – A leaping hatakikomi at the edge gives Abi the win after a monoii. Impressive ring sense there! For his second tournament in a row, Abi is able to rack up double digit wins.

Kaisei defeats Ikioi – Sadly Ikioi could not pick up the special prize, but he has nothing to apologize for this basho. Even with a bandaged head, he met Kaisei with vigor and strength. But there is a lot of Kaisei to move, and even for Ikioi, it was a tall order. Ikioi has been progressively more injured each day of the basho, so I hope he goes and heals up.

Daieisho defeats Shodai – Even though he is make-koshi, Shodai seems to have found his sumo. Daieisho knew when to put him off balance and send him across the tawara. I do hope that Shodai can focus on returning in this form for the start of Natsu. He still has massive potential if he can get his sumo under control.

Kotoshogiku defeats Hokutofuji – Both men are deeply make-koshi, but you would never know it from watching their bout. This was one of the better matches of an already awesome day. The two men were chest to chest for most of the match, but neither seemed to be able to employ their favorite sumo attacks for more than a moment. In the end, it was Kotoshogiku who set up his hip-pump attack and ended the match.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoyuki – Is anyone surprised? Kotoyuki ends the the basho with a single win.

Yoshikaze defeats Arawashi – Arawashi needs to go heal. Yoshikaze finishes 7-8.

Tamawashi defeats Chiyomaru – Tamawashi is likely back in San’yaku for May, and will try again to muscle his way to his preferred Sekiwake position. Chiyomaru, meanwhile, is headed for the buffet table.

Shohozan defeats Endo – It takes a powerful tachiai from Shohozan and a couple of quick thrusts to put Endo the Golden back and out. Shohozan is kachi-koshi on the final day, after an alarming cold streak starting on day 6.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tochiozan – This looked like a Tochiozan win, and the gyoji gave the gumbai to Tochiozan, but then the sideburns of Chiyotairyu called out to the spiritual world, and the shimpan rose to their feet in abeyance. The monoii did not so much give the match to Chiyotairyu, but more to his sideburns. What did we learn here? Chiyotairyu must never remove his sideburns again. Whispered legends say that the kami that inhabits them is the same that gave Takamiyama his might, and they will only live in the facial hair of one who is worthy. [What. –PinkMawashi]

Tochinoshin defeats Ichinojo – Two enormously powerful rikishi test each other’s strength. After Ichinojo decided to lift Tochinoshin, he decided he was done playing and dialed his muscles to “Hulk” mode, finishing the boulder. With his 10-5 record, Tochinoshin has started an Ozeki campaign. Protect that knee, sir!

Mitakeumi defeats Goeido – Mitakeumi seems to have given Goeido 1.5.1 a solid match, and dropped the Osaka favorite on his backside in the middle of the ring. His sumo against both Ozeki has been great to watch. Maybe he is on the cusp of elevating his technique after all?

Takayasu defeats Kakuryu – The initial call by the gyoji went to Kakuryu, and it looked like Takayasu may have injured his right leg and maybe even re-damaged his right thigh. But just before they hand Kakuryu the kensho diorama of Osaka-jo, the shimpan decide it’s time to review it. The replays show Kakuryu’s heel touching out, so it’s torinaoshi time, with Takayasu limping. This time, Takayasu centers the Yokozuna and drives forward with his considerable strength. Kakuryu can’t plant his feet to defend, bringing the match and the basho to an exciting end as it’s Takayasu who hoists the kensho fort from the gyoji’s gumbai.

Haru Day 15 Preview

Macaroon
Time To Hoist The Giant Macaron of Victory And Call It a Basho!

And so we come to the close of a most enjoyable tournament. It ends with a satisfying result, and with the Sekitori corps advancing well along the path. The Tadpole league took a body blow, with Onosho not starting, Takakeisho going kyujo, and Mitakeumi ending up make-koshi. The veterans had much to celebrate, with Ikioi and Kaisei racking up double digit wins, Endo clearly on the mend, and Tochinoshin still potent. The Freshmen are finding their footing now, and I expect some great challenges by the time we get to kyushu, with the first of that cohort looking to enter san’yaku for their introductory make-koshi.

The match preview is brief on this final day, as most questions have already been settled, but I am sure there will be some good sumo for all the fans.

Haru Leaderboard

Yokozuna Kakuryu Wins the Haru Yusho!

What We Are Watching Day 15

Aminishiki vs Myogiryu – The mind boggles! Uncle Sumo, who if he wins is kachi-koshi, and possibly headed back to Makuuchi for Natsu, faces off against Myogiryu, who is already make-koshi and probably headed to Juryo. Go Uncle Sumo!

Daiamami vs Yutakayama – I think it would be fun if Daiamami ended up with 10 wins, but he’s going up against a very genki Yutakayama. It’s a tough climb, but I think Daiamami has a good chance.

Asanoyama vs Ryuden – You would think that the Maegashira 9 Ryuden would be favored to pick up his final win, and his kachi-koshi, over a Maegashira 13 opponent. But Ryuden has never won against Asanoyama.

Kagayaki vs Ishiura – Can Ishiura henka another win? He just needs one. Kagayaki, can you spare a white star for a brother rikishi?

Abi vs Daishomaru – This battle of the 9-5 Freshmen has a lot of potential for good sumo. Its a challenge for Daishomaru to get inside Abi’s enormous reach, but it will be easiest at the tachiai.

Kaisei vs Ikioi – Both men 11-3, both of them must be genuinely proud of their performance this tournament. This match will probably decide a special prize, and a slice of the jun-yusho. Well deserved, both!

Daieisho vs Shodai – Tough to think that with all of the energetic beatings Shodai has suffered this basho that he still has a chance at kachi-koshi. I have a soft spot in my heart for the guy, and I do hope he picks up his win here.

Kotoyuki vs Takarafuji – Both men in the 10+ loss club. Maybe they should just spread out a checkered square of cloth between the shikiri-sen, and enjoy rice-balls and sake instead.

Endo vs Shohozan – Shohozan wants that 8th win, and he’s going to really have to work for it. Endo is kachi-koshi, but he’s keen for 10 wins at his highest ever rank, giving him a firm launch into San’yaku. Endo leads the series 5-2.

Ichinojo vs Tochinoshin – This has a lot of potential. As we say from Hatsu, Tochinoshin can actually lift Ichinojo, so what will the Boulder do? Who would not love to see an Ichinojo henka? It would be like seeing Mt. St.Helens sing opera.

Mitakeumi vs Goeido – History favors Goeido, but Mitakeumi showed some real painful sumo to Takayasu on Saturday. Hopefully Mitakeumi knows that Goeido is going to come out hard, fast and low.

Kakuryu vs Takayasu – Both of these guys are very chaotic in their sumo. I would expect Kakuryu to allow Takayasu to take the lead until he over-comits, and then it’s time for an Osaka clay norimaki.

Haru Day 14 Highlights

Goeido - Kakuryu

As much as I hate to do this, I am putting a buffer up for people who cry about “spoilers” in a live sport they watch on delay. Some great sumo, especially from Mitakeumi and Ryuden today. Sadly for Mitakeumi, he’s dropping from his Sekiwake slot. It remains to be seen if he drops from san’yaku completely, but he really put forth excellent sumo in today’s match.

But the headline is Yokozuna Kakuryu’s 4th yusho. He earned it in spite of injuries and pain. He mounted the dohyo every day and battled with skill, guile and strength. He has been excellent in all of his matches, and thus far only dropping one match. As his only loss was to the prior yusho winner, there is no shame in that at all. With any luck, his detractors will be silent for a year or so. With Kisenosato possibly un-repairable, and Hakuho amazing but unreliable, Yokozuna Kakuryu may be the only rope-holder to oversee our dawning transitional era.

Highlight Matches

Kyokushuho defeats Nishikigi – Juryo visitor Kyokushuho is still one win shy of his kachi-koshi, but he was in good form over the struggling Nishiki, who is himself headed back to the Junior League for May.

Ikioi defeats Ishiura – Ikioi mounts the dohyo with a giant bandage over his right eye, looking like Franken-Ikioi. Does the crowd care? Hell no! It’s the home-town dashing and handsome rikishi, even if parts of him are taped together. Ishiura, to his credit, tried to give him a straight up fight, but Ikioi moved forward strongly, and kept Ishiura in front of him. [Ikioi is now an amazing 11-3 and will hopefully take home a special prize. –PinkMawashi]

Daiamami defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki charged forward strongly, and actually looked like he would deliver his second win of the basho. He had Daiamami pinned against the tawara, but then somehow just ran out of gas as Daiamami charged forward and won. I am unsure what kind of misery Kotoyuki suffers, but he seems to be fairly hopeless at this point.

Yutakayama defeats Asanoyama – Yutakayama certainly looks dialed in now, hitting his 10th win with one day to go. He completely dominated Asanoyama in today’s match.

Chiyoshoma defeats Aoiyama – The formula for winning over Aoiyama is to keep moving and get him to chase you. Chiyoshoma had this one down cold, and eventually the man-mountian had Chiyoshoma grab his arm and pull a throw. Chiyoshoma picks up his kachi-koshi, which was well earned today.

Daieisho defeats Chiyonokuni – Some impressive defense from Chiyonokuni, as Daiesho delivered some powerful nodowa at the edge. Chiyonokuni ends the match with a make-koshi, and Daiesho with his kachi-koshi.

Kaisei defeats Daishomaru – It can be fun to watch big-man sumo like this. Daishomaru gets bold at the tachiai and charges face first into the giant meat balloon that is Kaisei, and lands with a wet smack. With his face still embedded in Kaisei’s expansive upper torso, the giant Brazillian goes for an westward stroll, taking the now trapped and helpless Daishomaru along for the win. We can expect a big move up the banzuke for Kaisei in May.

Abi defeats Kotoshogiku – Abi’s henka is perfectly timed, and defeats Kotoshogiku’s only possible attack. But wait! (you say) – Bruce, you complain about Ishiura’s henkas! Yes, it gets old fast when a rikishi uses that as their go-to weapon. But in this case, it’s the correct way to blunt Kotoshogiku’s obligatory offensive opening. Well executed and correctly deployed. Abi goes to 9 wins.

Ryuden defeats Arawashi – Good gravy what a match this one is! The men lock up into a battle for grip at the tachiai, with Arawashi pinning Ryuden’s arms time and again. But Arawashi has control and works with what he has, backing Ryuden up to the bales strongly enough that Ryuden’s heels are dangerously close to being out. But Ryuden recovers! Arawashi advances strongly again, a second time Ryuden is a centimeter from being out, but rallies to the center of the dohyo. Stalemated, Arawashi is out of energy, and Ryuden backs him up and out. Excellent sumo from them both. Miraculously, Ryuden can still achieve his kachi-koshi.

Takarafuji defeats Kagayaki – Straightforward match at first, Takarafuji gets the gumbai, but then the shimpan want to talk it over, fairly late in the post-bout ritual. The judges decide on a torinaoshi, which Takarafuji wins by letting Kagayaki fall to the dohyo.

Endo defeats Hokutofuji – Endo now with 9 wins after this bout with a struggling Hokutofuji. The match featured Endo and Hokutofuji trading attempts to slap or thrust each other down, with Endo’s superior ring sense helping him time his third attempt to be at the edge, where Hokutofuji had no room to recover. Endo is headed to San’yaku for May, and the valiant Hokutofuji is make-koshi and desperately needing to re-group.

Tamawashi defeats Shohozan – As expected, it was energetic! Both men were landing a lot of powerful blows on each others neck and head, grabbing each other’s arms and generally carrying on in an aggressive sumo fashion. Shohozan seemed to have the advantage, setting the pace and moving forward while Tamawashi kept giving ground. The win came at the tawara when Tamawashi twisted to his right, guiding Shohozan down and out.

Ichinojo defeats Shodai – The super genki Shodai was not able to show up today, but he did a reasonable job against the man that NHK commentator Hiro Morita calls “The Mongolian Behemoth”. Fans started to worry that Ichinojo had re-injured his back due to his soft performance the day prior, but he was large and in charge today, getting Shodai airborne for the win.

Yoshikaze defeats Chiyotairyu – I am very pleased to see Yoshikaze fighting well again. I had some serious worries during week 1. Chiyotairyu opened strong, pushing Yoshikaze back, but then they go chest to chest, and Yoshikaze starts to control the match. He did a great job of keeping the massive Chiyotairyu high and unable to generate forward pressure.

Tochinoshin defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru left the dohyo today not only without a hope of kachi-koshi, but also without Tochinoshin’s meaty left leg, which he had planned as a victory snack. Tochinoshin still has an outside hope of continuing his Ozeki bid by winning his match against Ichinojo tomorrow.

Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – Possibly Mitakeumi’s best match of the basho [Possibly the best match of the basho, period –PM], and sadly it gave him his demotion from the Sekiwake slot he has enjoyed for many tournaments. If this is not a wake-up call to Takayasu, I am not sure what is. Mitakeumi had him contained, restrained and for a time, in pain. All the Ozeki could do was react to the next contortion Mitakeumi placed him into and struggle to escape. Even when Takayasu managed to escape Mitakeumi, the Sekiwake re-secured control and kept the punishment coming. But Mitakeumi got too eager, ended up off balance and thrust down. The difference between Sekiwake Mitakeumi and Maegashira Mitakeumi is the ability to finish Pooh-Bear off when you have him at your mercy. [Mitakeumi’s match against Goeido tomorrow may determine whether he falls to Komusubi or Maegashira, so we’ll all be watching that one closely. –PM]

Kakuryu defeats Goeido – You have to wonder if Kakuryu is THE master of reactive sumo. Goeido must know that somewhere in his poorly formatted flash drive. Why do you advance strongly into the guy you KNOW is going to make you pay if your weight is not centered over the arches of your feet? Herouth tells us from inside EDION that she may have been the only soul cheering for the Yokozuna in the Ozeki’s home-town. But Kakuryu shows us that he is every bit a Yokozuna, and takes his fourth yusho.

Haru Day 14 Preview

Chiyomaru
If I win, yes, that big meaty leg is mine!

It is with great celebration that we welcome the final weekend of the Haru basho. It’s been fun and exciting for fans around the world, and it’s been our pleasure to have been along for the ride. Yokozuna Kakuryu has one job to do – if he wins just one of his two remaining matches, he claims his fourth yusho. But to accomplish that, he needs to beat either Ozeki Goeido or Ozeki Takayasu. Can he do it? I think he will. Kakuryu has looked better this basho than in any I can remember in recent years, and it’s possible that if he has his medical problems solved, he may be the one the Kyokai depends on for a time. I expect that Hakuho is going to pace himself, and Kisenosato may be a lost cause.

What has really surprised me about this tournament is that no rikishi were able to take advantage of the open promotion lane. The expected candidates (Mitakeumi, Ichinojo, and Tochinoshin) could not muster the endurance and strength to maintain the performance needed over the first 13 days. Should Hakuho return genki and well, it could be months before we see another basho with a single, somewhat damaged Yokozuna holding court.

Even more puzzling is that Ozeki Takayasu did not exploit this opportunity to push for his first Yusho. His sumo has become somewhat chaotic and uncontrolled, and I think it’s really kept him from the next step forward in performance that it would take for him to make a bid to be Yokozuna.

Haru Leaderboard

Leader: Kakuryu
Hunt Group: Takayasu, Kaisei, Ikioi

2 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 14

Ishiura vs Ikioi – I am hoping that the slippery Ishiura receives some brawny sumo training from hometown favorite Ikioi on day 14. Ishiura is still pushing for kachi-koshi, but I think a good rough defeat would be instructive. Double points to Ikioi if he catches Ishiura doing a henka and makes him regret it.

Daiamami vs Kotoyuki – As a sumo fan, I wonder what is going on with Kotokuki. The guy has 12 losses going into day 14. I get that he is hurt, but why not go kyujo at that point? You could at least take a chance to heal. But Daiamami has a chance to get 9 or 10 wins, and I don’t think Kotoyuki is going to be taking this one.

Asanoyama vs Yutakayama – Another yama battle, this one between two of the bright and hopeful Freshmen, who are both already kachi-koshi, so this is to see who gets closer to the joi, and chance to be beaten to a pulp during May’s Natsu basho.

Chiyoshoma vs Aoiyama – As much as Chiyoshoma dearly wants to pick up his kachi-koshi today, Aoiyama still seems to have a lot of aggression to work out of that massive body. Where he seems to get into trouble is chasing after his opponents and getting maneuvered into tight spots. Word to the man-mountain, let the little Mongolian fellow come to you!

Chiyonokuni vs Daieisho – Chiyonokuni seems frustrated, as frustrated as only a grumpy badger can ever be. He’s all the way down at Maegashira 10, but he’s still getting used as a washcloth daily. He’s one loss away from make-koshi, but I think with his back against the wall like this, he may find the fortitude to win. Daieisho needs one more win to move to mid-Maegashira for Natsu, so he’s eager to go. Chiyonokuni holds a 4-1 career advantage.

Kotoshogiku vs Abi – Sure, why not? Abi is like some sumo doll with slinkies for joints going against the aging and poorly maintained Kyushu bulldozer. If Kotoshogiku can keep Abi in front of him (no easy task), it’s all bumppity-bumppity bump. But Ojisan Kotoshogiku can be out-maneuvered many times.

Arawashi vs Ryuden – Ryuden needs to win both his remaining bouts to get a kachi-koshi. He is not quite the powerhouse he was at Hatsu, but he has turned in a fairly solid basho. Arawashi has a ton of battle damage and either needs to be dry docked or turned into an artificial reef.

Kagayaki vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji: The hardest working double-digit-loss rikishi in all of sumo-dom. His case is truly one for the epic bards of Iceland. Kagayaki’s about right at Maegashira 8 for his sumo right now, so he’s not a lock to get his 7th win today.

Endo vs Hokutofuji – Future and long anticipated san’yaku rikishi Endo is going to be seeing if he can run up the score. Hokutofuji gave fading Mitakeumi an energetic scrum today, and seems to have recovered some of his sumo. I like the chances for this bout being full of well executed technique, with swooning grandmothers and cheering salarymen.

Shohozan vs Tamawashi – Winner kachi-koshi. Both of them like to beat victory out of their opponents, with Shohozan being more of a “low-rider” model. Tamawashi looked lost in his day 13 match against a degraded Yoshikaze. Hopefully Tamawashi is not injured.

Ichinojo vs Shodai – I would love to tell you that our Boulder is going to pick up the soft and squishy Shodai like a plush toy, stick his enormous thumb in his mouth and waddle back to the shitaku-beya for a long cuddle and some ice cream with his favorite pony. But someone turned Shodai from stink bug to holy hell. God only knows how this one is going to turn out, as Shodai wants one more shiroboshi.

Yoshikaze vs Chiyotairyu – Did I see a flash of the Berserker day 13? Was that the spirit of some blazing warrior of old that overwhelmed Tamawashi “the Jackhammer”? Dare I hope that he is getting over whatever problems plagued his first week? Or will the kami-infused sideburns of might power Chiyotairyu to victory in the name of a dozen empty, stacked soba bowls left on the counter of Ryogoku Bandai at midnight?

Chiyomaru vs Tochinoshin – Ever since he was accused of cooking and eating Ura in a quest for more calories, Chiyomaru has had his eye on Tochinoshin’s uninjured leg. At long last the hungry man will face the Hatsu Yusho winner in single combat, winner eat all. Sadly for Chiyomaru, he’s never beaten Tochinoshin, so his only hope is to show up hungry.

Takayasu vs Mitakeumi – Hey, Takayasu Pooh-Bear. Your senpai was a fan of jun-yushos, and it was kind of sad. I know you think the sun shines out of his mawashi’s rear flap, but it’s no way to go through life, son. This was your chance to hoist the hardware and rack a portrait. Mitakeumi, time for you to regroup and think about why you want to be Sekiwake. Sure, the chicks dig a san’yaku man, but either get to some double digits like your opponent did, or go practice you Chanko recipe for later.

Kakuryu vs Goeido – Easily today’s most calamitous bout, no one at Tachiai central is certain who is going pull whom down how many times. There is a non-zero chance that we may see a startup fault in GoeiDOS and he ends up in “Bouncy Castle” mode again. Meanwhile Kakuryu needs to avoid both the henka and the cannonball charge from Goeido. Big K is convinced he is Mr. Genki now, but Goeido can not only win this one, but the risk of injury to the lone surviving Yokozuna is very real. Loss + Kyujo would cause a ruckus in the sumo world unlike any seen in many years.

Haru Day 13 Preview

Takayasu-Shrugs

You can’t count on good fortune, but today sumo fans got a gift. In defeating Yokozuna Kakuryu, Tochinoshin opened up the yusho race once more. But who could imagine that all of the other leaders would lose as well? With just 3 matches left, a loss tomorrow against Kaisei puts the yusho up for grabs. While that would be very exciting, there is almost no chance that this will come to pass. Kakuryu made a huge mistake in going chest to chest with Tochinoshin, and the Hatsu yusho winner made him pay. I am going to guess the Yokozuna will not be so cavalier on Friday.

One item of note for sumo conspiracy theorists, Chiyotairyu has won 2 of his last 3 matches, after a disastrous start to Haru. Look closely at his image on the NHK video, and we can all see why he is returning to genki status.  That’s right! He is regrowing his sideburns.  We heartily welcome the return of Sumo Elvis, and hope that he will never remove his sideburns again.

Haru Leaderboard

Leader: Kakuryu
Chaser: Kaisei
Hunt Group: Takayasu, Goeido, Daishomaru, Ikioi

3 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 13

Ishiura vs Daiamami – Apologies to the purists, but I am very frustrated with Ishura and his continuous henka deployment. The winner of this match gets kachi-koshi, and I think I am rooting for anyone but Ishiura at this point. He won their only prior match.

Aoiyama vs Yutakayama – Battle of the Yama’s, this one is big against bigger. Both are already kachi-koshi, so this is mostly for rank velocity. I would guess Aoiyama wants to repair his pride following his day 12 match with Ishiura.

Ikioi vs Chiyonokuni – Do you think Ikioi is going to slow down now that he is kachi-koshi? Hell no! Chiyonokuni needs 2 more wins, and I am going to guess he will need to look elsewhere. I wish this version of Ikioi came to every basho, he’s pretty nifty.

Okinoumi vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama has been fighting well against his own cohort lower down the banzuke, but today he’s going a bit higher against Okinoumi. Jason’s favorite rikishi (from Shimane-ken) has been lukewarm this tournament, but he can still get his 8 wins if he presses ahead.

Kotoshogiku vs Daieisho – Daieisho looking to get his kachi-koshi against an already make-koshi remnant of Ozeki Kotoshogiku. Daieisho is doing surprisingly well at Maegashira 8 this time, but Kotoshogiku is ranked Maegashira 3, and despite age and injuries is quite dangerous if you let him go chest to chest.

Yoshikaze vs Tamawashi – As a true-green Yoshikaze fan, I can only watch with increasing sadness as the Berserker struggles daily with his torikumi. Tamawashi is likely to pick up his kachi-koshi today, and move to return to a san’yaku rank for May.

Endo vs Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru shocked Ozeki Takayasu on day 12, and now he is going to try his sumo against Endo. Endo dearly wants to make a bid for san’yaku himself, and needs to keep winning. Time will tell if Chiyomaru is having one good basho, of if this is a step change in the power of his sumo.

Abi vs Chiyotairyu – Sure, let’s put a Maegashira 7 up against a Komusubi. Slender Abi goes against the massive dreadnought-class Chiyotairyu. Both of them are going to unleash oshi-war on each other, but Abi is out-massed, and likely out-gunned. Nevertheless, this is going to be an interesting match! Oh, and Abi still needs 1 more win to secure promotion.

Ichinojo vs Shohozan – Big mass vs big guns, here we go! Their career record is 3-3, so I am expecting a battle here. It’s unlikely that Shohozan is going to be able to shove Ichinojo around easily, so his one hope is to grab a handful of fabric and maybe a roll of flesh, and push.

Shodai vs Tochinoshin – Somehow, it seems that Shodai was able to find his sumo, and make friends with it once more. But the chances of Shodai being able to take down the Hatsu yusho winner is, at least in my guess, very slim. I predict a quick belt grab by Tochinoshin off the tachiai, and a few steps to the tawara.

Mitakeumi vs Hokutofuji – If the Yoshikaze situation were not enough for me to swear off having favorites, it’s these two guys. Both of them have huge potential. Both of them seem to be completely out of sorts, run amok, possibly hurt and in no condition to strive for higher rank.

Takayasu vs Goeido – Ozeki fight! I think Takayasu has this one by a wide margin unless we get a Goeido henka, which is actually not very far fetched. I did like that Chiyomaru leveraged Takayasu’s cannonball tachiai on day 12. Serves him right. Serves him right again if he deploys it against Goeido and he makes him eat it.

Kakuryu vs Kaisei – The big match of the day. If Kakuryu loses this, the last two days will be a barnyard brawl for the hardware. But I am going to suggest that Kaisei won’t represent an impossible challenge for the Yokozuna: he has never managed to beat Kakuryu in any prior match.