Takekaze Retirement Ceremony Feb. 1.

The Japanese Sumo Association has announced a date for former Takekaze’s danpatsushiki at Kokugikan. For those who will still be around Tokyo for the week after Hatsu basho, which runs through Jan 27, the retirement event would be a great way to see some more action. There will likely be hanazumo and shokkiri, and sumo culture demonstrations that are more familiar scenes in Jungyo tours rather than hon basho.

The ceremony will culminate in the hair cutting for the former Sekiwake. For Takekaze this will surely have participation from former Oguruma stablemates Yoshikaze and Yago, and likely contemporary Yokozuna or two.

Haru Day 15 Highlights

The Haru basho is a wrap! Day 15 closed out the tournament with some decent matches, and a couple of worrisome developments. While there will be plenty of talk about promotions and demotions in the days to come, the real story to me is just how much of the Makuuchi division was make-koshi this time (25). Sumo is in fact a zero-sum sport, but to see so many rikishi underwater at once is quite the throwback to an earlier time, when the giants of sumo were all healthy and active.

Now that the spoiler buffer is out of the way, we bring you the news. Yokozuna Hakuho took the cup for his 42nd yusho, his 15th zensho yusho. In the process he injured his right arm, enough that he was not able to move it following his match with Kakuryu. How bad is it? I would say bad enough. From a wild guess, it could be a pectoral injury or a bicep injury. Hopefully unlike Kisenosato he will seek immediate attention. We may not see “The Boss” for a while.

Takakeisho was able to win against struggling Ozeki Tochinoshin, to pick up his 10th win. Ounomatsu Oyakata and Hakkaku Rijicho have confirmed that Takakeisho will be promoted to Ozeki this week, and I think the sumo world is quite happy about that. The stone-faced Takakeisho, who it seems had kept his emotions in check for this whole time, finally realized that he had reached a significant goal, and succumbed to the moment.

Tochinoshin will be demoted for May to a Sekiwake rank, or in this special case, we call it Ozekiwake. With 10 wins he will regain his Ozeki rank. We know that a healthy Tochinoshin can clear 10 wins, especially if Hakuho and some of the others are in less than stellar condition. But the question comes down to Tochinoshin’s injuries, and how much they limit him. Sadly, Tachiai took a look at Tochinoshin’s history when he was on the cusp of promotion, and forecasted this scenario with fairly good accuracy.

Highlight Matches

Shohozan defeats Chiyoshoma – I think Shohozan was certain that Chiyoshoma was going for a henka, and so Shohozan launched early (a clear matta) but took a moment to slap Chiyoshoma and launch him into the east side zabuton. When the match started, Chiyoshoma tried a leg sweep, but Shohozan was unphased. He cased Chiyoshoma down and personally welcomed him to make-koshi, and Juryo.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Ikioi – Ikioi had no business being on the dohyo after day 5, yet here he is doing “dead man sumo”. The good news is that maybe, just maybe, Terutsuyoshi with 6 wins can stay in Makuuchi. This is in part due to the wholesale make-koshi outbreak in the bottom ranks. 6-9 from Maegashira 14 should normally punt you back to the 2nd division, but there are so many bad records at lower ranks ahead of him, it’s possible that he stays.

Ryuden defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku’s special prize was contingent on a day 15 win, and he could not overpower Ryuden, who picked up win #10 to finish Haru with double digits. Sometime around day 12, Kotoshogiku’s stamina just seemed to fade out. 11 wins is his best finish since his yusho in 2016, and it was a great basho for both of these rikishi.

Kotoeko defeats Asanoyama – Asanoyama loses the last 5 in a row to end with a make-koshi. Kind of an epic collapse on his part – injury? stamina? Bad batch of takoyaki?

Aoiyama defeats Tomokaze – The winner of this match took home the kanto-sho / fighting spirit prize. Tomokaze did well in his first top division basho, but Aoiyama was completely dialed into his sumo this March, Tomokaze attempted a pull down early, but Aoiyama rallied and showed Tomokaze what that salt basket looks like… up close.

Abi defeats Kagayaki – Abi gets win #8 on the final day, and we can assume that Abi-zumo will not evolve for a while longer.

Okinoumi defeats Yoshikaze – As expected, Okinoumi was able to pick up his kachi-koshi in his match against Yoshikaze today. Yoshikaze was very low at the tachiai, and Okinoumi did not give him a second chance.

Chiyotairyu defeats Myogiryu – Some different sumo from Chiyotairyu today, and his choice of mawashi sumo at the open nearly cost him the match, but with his feet sliding back toward the bales, he changed course and poured on the oshi-yaki, which Myogiryu could not answer. Chiyotairyu gets his kachi-koshi.

Ichinojo defeats Daieisho – 14 wins in frequently more than sufficient to take a yusho, but for Ichinojo it was only good to take him to runner-up against a Hakuho zensho campaign. His sumo this basho has been formulaic, but oh so effective. Can he continue to make it work for him? Next chapter is written in May. This is his second Jun-Yusho, with his first being his 2014 debut tournament where he turned in an impressive 13-2. We expect him to join Tochinoshin at Sekiwake for May.

Mitakeumi defeats Nishikigi – Mitakeumi finishes with a minimal, 7 loss, make-koshi. He has a number of issues to address including his knee injury and his difficulty in carrying the “big” matches. Interestingly enough, its possible both both Komusubi (Hokutofuji also finished 7-8) may have an odd demotion path, as there are not that many rikishi who are making the case for joining the san’yaku.

Shodai defeats Tamawashi – Both men end the tournament with 5-10 records, and the Shodai’s rally is just as big a story as Tamawashi’s collapse. I do tend to rip on Shodai, mostly because he has really enormous potential that he just can’t seem to capitalize. Perhaps his rally in Osaka will give him new confidence that will show itself in Tokyo this May.

Takakeisho defeats Tochinoshin – This match was won at the tachiai. Takakeisho delivered his first push, inside, at the moment of contact. You can see Tochinoshin impotently reach for that left hand mawashi purchase as his torso is propelled to the rear by the force of Takakeisho’s impact. Unable to deliver offense, he finds himself immediately under “wave action” attack. Tochinoshin allowed Takakeisho to dictate the form of the match, and lost. Takakeisho takes his Ozeki rank, and picks up the Gino-sho technique award. At just a pip over 22 years of age, we are looking at the future of sumo in this young man. His sumo is fairly one dimensional, and that is his biggest risk to maintaining the Ozeki rank. But we congratulate Takakeisho for persistence, hard work, and the courage to get it done.

Goeido defeats Takayasu – Some of the best Goeido sumo since Aki 2016, where he went undefeated and took the cup. When Goeido is healthy and focused, like he was in Osaka, he is a great example of a rikishi with absolute focus on offense. Again Takayasu went for the shoulder blast at the tachiai, so that is 2 attempts, 2 losses. I continue to think Takayasu is in a transitional state, and we are going to possibly see it result in a step change to his sumo that could see him bid for higher rank.

Hakuho defeats Kakuryu – Exceptional sumo from both men, this is the kind of match you would expect from two Yokozuna, one of them being the best that has stepped on clay in my lifetime. Three times Kakuryu forced an opening that gave him a shot to win, and three times Hakuho shut him down. The big worry is that the final shitatenage seems to have injured Hakuho’s arm. Both men fought well this March, and both of them are worthy to be considered the top men in sumo.

With that, we bring to a close our daily coverage of the Haru basho. What a great adventure it has been, and we have enjoyed sharing our love of sumo with you, our treasured readers. Join us in the coming weeks as we cover the promotion of Takakeisho to Ozeki, and events leading up to the Natsu basho in Tokyo. [but first, stay tuned for a post later today wrapping up the Haru storylines and making some predictions for Natsu -lksumo]

Haru Day 8 Highlights

The middle day of the basho brought a welcome change in tone, as some long-suffering upper Maegashira finally got relief from the san’yaku pounding that was their daily lives. In response, we saw some rikishi score their first wins of the basho, and begin their long trek towards a more respectable final tally.

Highlight Matches

Chiyoshoma defeats Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu visits from Juryo, and Chiyoshoma abandons any hopes of forward motion and pulls him down.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Yutakayama – Terutsuyoshi gets his second win of the tournament, and gets Yutakayama moving faster than I have ever seen before. I would guess that Yutakayama is headed back to Juryo.

Kotoeko defeats Tomokaze – Tomokaze seems to have the stronger opening, even batting Kotoeko’s head around a few times for good measure. But while Tomokaze was busy doing all of this, Kotoeko lands a solid grip and takes control. The much larger, stronger Tomokaze gets suprised when Kotoeko “Hulks out” and employs some Kotoshogiku style offense, driving Tomokaze from the ring. Kotoeko is having a really good basho, and if he can keep this form he may be destined for a posting up the banzuke.

Yoshikaze defeats Daishoho – Yoshikaze seems to have turned a corner now, and is once again mustering at least enough power to win matches. Daishoho, for no reason I can think of, decided he was going to try to pull Yoshikaze down. A veteran like Yoshikaze can read your weight shift before you can apply force, Daishoho. Yoshikaze advances strongly into the pull, and wins.

Ryuden defeats Toyonoshima – Toyonoshima continues to struggle in his return to Makuuchi. I really like Ryuden’s tachiai today, and you can see he lands that right hand grip immediately, and turns Toyonoshima to the side. Toyonoshima is never able to square his body, and is left trying anything to establish any offensive sumo.

Shohozan defeats Ishiura – Ishiura has returned to a low, “submarine” tachiai, which can work. But it’s a very narrow range between an advantageous body position, and a venerable one that surrenders any offensive sumo. Today Ishiura was too low, and Shohozan capitalized on his mistake.

Kagayaki defeats Yago – Kagayaki seems to have overcome his ring-rust, and is back to solid fundamentals. Yago seemed to have no answer to Kagayaki’s relentless drive forward, and strong pressure center-mass.

Meisei defeats Ikioi – Go to the hospital, Ikioi, you are too injured for proper sumo.

Aoiyama defeats Sadanoumi – Aoiyama’s sumo is right in his “butter zone” now, and he is sort of unstoppable at this level of the banzuke. A win tomorrow will net him a kachi-koshi.

Okinoumi defeats Kotoshogiku – Okinoumi’s technical library on display again today, as he masterfully shuts down Kotoshogiku’s offensive gambits, and shows his superior balance and footwork. Kotoshogiku did get his hug-n-chug running, but Okinoumi is an old hand at defending against it, and was able to shift the match back in his favor by holding ground against the Kyushu Bulldozer.

Asanoyama defeats Abi – Abi again opens with his typical thrusting attack, and Asanoyama counters by moving closer and grabbing Abi’s mawashi. You can literally see Abi go slack as Asanoyama goes through a series of hip swings that keep Abi dancing to Asanoyama’s tune. Abi, you have a lot of potential, sir – we hope you can diversify.

Takarafuji defeats Onosho – “Ice Man” Takarafuji absorbs Onosho’s powerful opening attack, and focuses on getting himself in position to counterattack. Onosho can be counted on to over-commit, and Takarafuji takes him apart the moment his balance is too far forward. For Onosho backers, remember he just needs 8 wins.

Nishikigi defeats Chiyotairyu – Oh yes! Nishikigi gets his first win, with smart tactics against a pulling Chiyotairyu. When the Kokonoe man goes for the pull down (easy to anticipate), Nishikigi shows superior balance and footwork, and drives the big man out.

Daieisho defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu has nothing in this match, and Daieisho makes him pay for trying to pull him down.

Kaisei defeats Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi’s kryptonite strikes again, and Kaisei racks up his first win of the basho. A combination of a lot of pent up sumo offense on Kaisei’s part, and that knee injury on Mitakeumi’s part made this fairly one sided, but its good to see Kaisei get a win at last.

Takakeisho defeats Endo – I almost think Takakeisho is getting stronger, more aggressive. I am eager to see his week 2 matches really test him out, with most of the top-rankers now looking to be in good form.

Takayasu defeats Shodai – Ok, now I am starting to feel sorry for Shodai. Somebody shoot me. He has a pride-obliterating 0-8 make-koshi on day 8. Again we see a more “grab” focused Tachiai from Takayasu, and points to Shodai for a solid escape as the Ozeki can’t secure his grip. This moment of “escape” is where Shodai really shines, but Takayasu maintains focus and wins with an oshidashi.

Tochinoshin defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo picks up his first loss of the basho, as Tochinoshin affirms he can still lift Ichinojo. Tochinoshin sidestepped the tachiai, and landed his left hand “doom grip” at the start. From there it was obvious that he was going to use his “lift and shift”, and he took several swings at that gambit before it finally payed off.

Goeido defeats Tamawashi – When Goeido gets like this, you are in for a rough ride, no matter who you might be. Tamawashi has a strong start, which includes a slap to the face. But while Tamawashi is focusing on Goeido’s head, his hands have found their mark in a mae-mitsu grip, and it’s all over for Tamawashi. Goeido’s little flourish at the end, as if he has taken the trash to the curb, is a nice touch.

Hakuho defeats Tochiozan – I call Hakuho the “Michael Joran of Sumo” for good reason. Like Jordan, Hakuho will at times do things that defy explanation except to chalk it up to overflowing natural ability that is beyond anything a typical human could expect. Tochiozan had him boxed up, labeled and on the loading ramp. But somehow Hakuho used his poor body position (sideways, being pushed out) to form a leverage point and throw Tochiozan via kotenage. I had to watch this several times, Hakuho is probably the greatest rikishi of my lifetime.

Kakuryu defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji opened strong, with a lot of energy in his pushing attack, and it was great to see the Yokozuna’s opening pulling attack defeated by Hokutofuji. But its very tough to outmaneuver Kakuryu, and he is a master at taking whatever you throw at him and waiting for you to make even the smallest mistake.

Haru Day 4 Highlights

Several of the “no win” rikishi were able to score their first white star today, but in general the energy level of the matches felt a notch or two above the first 3 days of the basho. This is the period when everyone should have fairly good stamina reserves, and be over their ring rust. I suspect that many of them were out singing karaoke till late, and are maybe a bit hung-over to boot. Except for Asanoyama, who strikes me as the awkward kid that everyone assumes someone else already texted about the party.

Then there was the odd streak of Oguruma rikishi all trying to pull down their opponents, and not even very well executed pulls. Most of these moves were, “Hell, I give up, let’s try this cheap kimarite”. To this I say, “hakke-yoi!” Put your back into it, boys! Oguruma is going to be a big deal for a few years, fight like you have some vigor!

Highlight Matches

Yutakayama defeats Chiyoshoma – An odd little match that almost seemed more dance than battle. Both men kept a good amount of air gap going, with Chiyoshoma looking completely ineffective. Frankly the intensity was pretty far down relative to what these two are capable of.

Kotoeko defeats Enho – Welcome to the top division, Enho! Folks who get to see him for the first time today are going to be thrilled at the potential of this dynamic rikishi and his high intensity sumo. I was impressed that the same moves that have been conquering all in Juryo were not quite sufficient against Kotoeko, who was an excellent opponent for Enho. Once Enho locked that left hand on Kotoeko’s mawashi, Kotoeko loaded and executed a kotenage, using Enho’s iron grip and outstretched arm as the lever. Well executed!

Daishoho defeats Tomokaze – Tomokaze started well, but then decided it was all about the pull down. Daishoho shook the first one off, but when Tomokaze decided to try it again, it was far too easy to just hatakikomi the Oguruma man instead. When your opponent is in the process of putting himself in a bad position, you should always help him lose. Tomokaze is on kimarite probation for now – no more pulls for you.

Ishiura defeats Kagayaki – In what universe are we now, that Ishiura can start Osaka 4-0? Kagayaki has absolutely nothing right now. He looks slow, uncommitted to his offensive strategy, and expecting to be put on defense almost at the tachiai. Today’s mistake was not insuring that keeping Ishiura in front of him the #1 element of the bout. He’s small, fast and likes to not be there when your “best attack” gets unleashed.

Toyonoshima defeats Yoshikaze – Battle of the vintage sumo stars looked more like a practice match or keiko. Toyonoshima stays low and advances smartly. I do love Yoshikaze, but he’s fading out so badly now, it’s kind of depressing to watch.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Meisei – Finally, Terutsuyoshi gets his first win. It was not flashy, it was kind of mild, but it was a win.

Sadanoumi defeats Ryuden – Sadanoumi also racks up his first win of the tournament. Again, another somewhat obligatory match that seemed to lack much in the way of vigor.

Asanoyama defeats Yago – I think we found the two rikishi that did not stay up to 2:00 AM singing karaoke! Both of them put a lot of effort into this match – Yago got the morozashi but could not turn it to his advantage, as Asanoyama kept Yago from establishing stable footing. Loss came when yet another Oguruma rikishi decides he wants to pull down his opponent when he is in a weak position.

Kotoshogiku defeats Shohozan – Kotoshogiku starts 4-0? He won again today in spite of the fact that Shohozan had a clear jump on him at the tachiai. But for whatever reason, “Big Guns” leapt right into Kotoshogiku’s waiting embrace. From there, Shohozan was bagged, tagged and shagged.

Takarafuji defeats Ikioi – Ikioi is now using an ankle / foot support bootie, as his injuries accumulate. Takarafuji got his preferred grip, and the hugely strong Ikioi could not generate much pressure, thanks to that injured foot being in the “anchor” position to resist Takarafuji’s grip. The extent of the problem is seen at the bales as Ikioi wisely releases before that ankle can be twisted by any last-ditch push to stave off defeat.

Chiyotairyu defeats Aoiyama – Chiyotairyu’s normally overpower tachiai was met by the long arms of Aoiyama. Failing to get inside of Aoiyama’s flailing doom-paddles, Chiyotairyu throws anything he can think of, and gets a lucky push that sees Aoiyama hit the clay movements before Chiyotairyu does.

Abi defeats Tochiozan – Abi picks up his first win of the basho, and extends his unbeaten streak against Tochiozan.

Ichinojo defeats Okinoumi – They go chest to chest at the tachiai, and Ichinojo has a left hand outside grip. But the Mongolian’s preposterous girth prevents Okinoumi’s hand from finding fabric. With his elbow’s clamped tight, Ichinojo pins Okinoumi in place, and begins what looks like a painful dance. With Okinoumi looking increasingly uncomfortable, Ichinojo stops and, I swear this is what it looks like, attempts to “open” Okinoumi like a twist off top beer bottle. Disappointed to find no delicious frothy liquid inside, Ichinojo tosses “Botonoumi” aside, leaving him in an appropriate position for Wednesday’s recycling crew to tidy up.

Onosho defeats Shodai – My prediction: Shodai will finish Haru 4-11, and be promoted to Maegashira 3 East. Right now Shodai has shown zero working sumo for Haru, even though he has dominated Onosho in some prior matches. Onosho finishes Shodai with a bit of a “windmill” flourish for added measure. Shodai knows it, too, and looks embarrassed and frustrated.

Takakeisho defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji’s handshake tachiai pays off at first, as he lands a nodowa that shuts Takakeisho down. But Takakeisho, unable to reach Hokutofuji, thinks his way out of it by taking a half step back, breaking the grip. Immediately he turns on the “wave action” tsuppari attack engine, and gets to work while Hokutofuji unwisely tries to regain a throat hold. This leaves Hokutofuji unbalanced, and Takakeisho’s lightning fast reflexes capitalizes on Hokutofuji’s mistake to send him to the clay. This is a recurring theme with dear Hokutofuji – he seems to rely a bit much on his nodowa, and his eagerness to maintain that leaves broad avenues for counterattack.

Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Well, Tamawashi is having a crummy basho. Before we feel sorry for him, think back 2 months and remember he gets all of those mushrooms, plus an entire cow. Mitakeumi continues to look damn near immovable once he gets his offense running. Even his one loss, to Ozeki Takayasu, was a huge struggle for the winner. To my eyes, Mitakeumi is back to looking a lot like an Ozeki.

Tochinoshin defeats Nishikigi – Tochinoshin fans around the world breathe a huge sigh of relief as it is clear that Nishikigi’s kami is enjoying spring break in Okinawa, and has left our Cinderella man high and dry. Nishikigi did make him work for it, and the fact that he stalemated the Ozeki at the bales for a time should keep Tochinoshin’s boosters on pins and needles.

Goeido defeats Kaisei – This GoeiDOS 2.2 software looks to be a fantastic build. Kaisei was just saying his “konichi-wa”, and he ends up flat on his generous, hairy backside. I think we all agree – Healthy Goeido is the best Goeido.

Takayasu defeats Endo – Hey, look at that! Takayasu forgoes the shoulder blast, and is able to move straight into attack mode without having to reset his stance. Endo seems to have been expecting the shoulder blast, and is braced up absorb it, and instead finds himself under a solid osha-attack. Endo is still winless. Today’s match is a glimmer of hope for future-Takayasu, I predict.

Hakuho defeats Daieisho – I am impressed that Daieisho had “The Boss” on the run, and seemed to be applying a fair amount of pressure against the Yokozuna. Just as with Hatsu, everyone watching Hakuho fight, and their mental images is this unstoppable sumo machine. But like all apex competitors, he is a master of hiding his injuries and problems. That leap into the zabuton section might have some impact later in the basho. Feel free to study Daieisho’s foot placement and stance in that fight, it’s simply magnificent, and it’s why he was able to back Hakuho up.

Kakuryu defeats Myogiryu – Ladies and Gentlemen – Kakuryu’s reactive sumo on full display. Myogiryu sticks him hard with a nodowa, but like a Yokozuna, Kakuryu’s response is not get to become worried or even try to immediately break the neck hold. He waits, focuses and then advances into the nodowa. This is seldom done, and seems to surprise Myogiryu, who relaxes his grip. The Yokozuna’s hands come under Myogiryu’s arms, and Kakuryu takes over. To quote Andre the Giant from “Princess Bride”, “I just want you to feel like you are doing well…”