A Day out at the Ryogoku Kokugikan: The Morning after the Night Before

Flags at Kokugikan - Hatsu Basho 2019

One thing I’ve always loved about sumo it’s that it’s a constant evolution. There are no arbitrary end points. While there are 15 day tournaments, and champions of those tournaments, there are no annual seasons to speak of which playoffs or teams or players who can afford to punt the season. Every match counts relative to the next tournament, and until then? There’s constantly work to be done.

Against this backdrop, it’s fairly remarkable how, when I returned to Kokugikan for Day 6 action, it was business as usual. Just three days before, we witnessed in person the last ever match of one of only 72 men in history to hold the title of Yokozuna, and then a day later the media surrounding the sport swelled with coverage of the news of his retirement. On Friday, you wouldn’t really have known. Sure, Kisenosato was on the kyujo list on the side of the scoreboard – but really, taking into account that I missed Aki last year, Kisenosato was always on the kyujo list on the side of the scoreboard for the last 6 tournaments I’d seen. Hell, I’d been to more basho than he had!

The shops were selling out of Kisenosato merchandise, and the cardboard standees were still up for fans to take photos with the Yokozuna. But there was still a tournament to be won and if he wasn’t going to win it, somebody else was. That’s how sumo works.

New and Old Staples

As I was taking in the basho with a friend who had never been to sumo before, we made a stop at the Kokugikan’s Sumo Museum. It’s a must-visit for any first time (or even multiple time!) visitor to Kokugikan, with loads of artifacts from the past hundreds of years of the sport. There’s a small shop inside that sells a very small selection of official merchandise, manned by former rikishi. I hadn’t been into the Museum actually since Harumafuji retired, so the wall featuring photos (and drawings, from before there were photos) of all of the 72 Yokozuna to date was a really nice stroll down memory lane and a great opportunity to pay tribute to Harumafuji and Kisenosato.

I can imagine that for people who have been coming to Kokugikan for years (and technically I suppose I am in that category on my third Hatsu basho), walking past the long list of greats it’s a fantastic opportunity to share stories of legends they grew up watching, with newer fans.

Apart from that, we passed ex-Satoyama in the hallway as we made another trip into the basement for another delicious bowl of Michinoku-beya’s “Variety Chanko.” Fully loaded up on snacks (including the insanely popular “Sumo Pancake,” which comes with a side of soft serve ice cream), we reached our seats just in time to see Ura claim victory.

Reckoning: Now Underway

Readers of the site will know that Bruce will usually sort the drama of a basho out into three acts. Well, when we talk about The Reckoning that’s now under way, Kisenosato’s retirement may just be the first act of a significant transition, and what we’ve been watching for the past year may just have been the prelude. It became clear when I visited for the second time this week that we will see yet more follow, and soon.

Takekaze: He’s 39 and has had a career remarkable for its longevity, but he’s been on a steep downward decline and this will certainly be his final basho as a sekitori, bar a drastic turnaround in form in the next few days or in March, should he decide to continue. But as a rikishi who has only spent two tournaments outside of the paid ranks, the last of which was sixteen and a half years ago, I fully expect like many others before him that he will retire in the next two weeks once the tournament is finished. He went down too easily to Arawashi on Day 6 and has since lost again on Day 7 and 8 and at 1-7 is now facing an almost impossible climb out of trouble.

Aminishiki: Like Takekaze, Aminishiki is now 1-7. Uncle Sumo recently made a wonderful comeback to the top division, but sadly it appears that is where the party will end as his various backwards pull down tricks are no longer working a treat. Aminishiki hasn’t been out of the top two divisions since 1999, but unlike Takekaze, he at least has the luxury of a cushioned fall should the rest of this basho continue as it has started. I wouldn’t rule out him scraping together 3 or 4 more wins by the time it’s finished, but with the number of solid graduates who have escaped the Makushita-joi recently (including the wily Daishoho, who punished him by the same means he frequently punishes others on Day 6), I question whether he has more than two or three more tournaments left in him. Still, others have bet against him before and come up on the losing end.

Both Takekaze and Aminishiki possess elder stock and would be set for (relatively truncated) coaching careers, rather unlike:

Sokokurai: I know this may seem a bit of a reach as he won the yusho in Makushita last time out, but he looked listless in person against Chiyonoumi and has for much of the basho. Obviously he will be motivated at 35 to pick up a pay packet for as long as possible, but one wonders how much of his time will be spent in the Makushita joi battling for the right to do so, as he is likely headed right back from whence he came after this basho.

Mitakeumi injury

One of the key moments of Day 3’s action was the overwhelming crescendo of support for Kisenosato and the comparison with the overwhelming deflation that followed. Mitakeumi’s match was a similar moment on Day 6. There was no better supported rikishi at Kokugikan that day – as has become the standard with Endo- and Abi-mania fading with their recent form – and there were cheer towels, chants, claps, shouts, screams and general mayhem inspired by 2018’s Nagoya basho winner coming from every corner of sumo’s hallowed home.

Initially I simply felt that him losing his bout to Myogiryu simply sucked the life out of the place, given the manner of the somewhat emphatic oshidashi that ended with Mitakeumi’s ejection from the raised surface in total. But when the Dewanoumi man stayed down, it was clear that the crowd was incredibly worried about the man who has become the poster boy for the potential next era of champions.

Doubly disappointing is that this came in the context of what had fast become his best best basho since Nagoya, as he was fighting with the tenacity and intention to be worthy of championship contention. While there are now whispers that he may yet make a return from an injury that is potentially not as bad as first feared, the absolute upside for him from this tournament is now trying to squeak through a kachi-koshi in the event he can make it back (whether that’s well or ill-advised at this point is anyone’s guess), and it further pushes back the start of any meaningful Ozeki run by yet another basho.

After that, apart from Takakeisho dropping his bout with Tochiozan, there weren’t any major shocks, and the day finished with Hakuho taking care of business as usual, as he steamrolls his way towards his 42nd yusho. How lucky we all are to be able to continue to watch him fight.

Overall, I am of course grateful for the opportunity to have attended a couple days at another basho – and now will sit back and look forward to more great sumo in Week 2, the Hatsu yusho champion and to sharing more stories in a couple months from Osaka!

Hatsu Day 2 Highlights

What universe is this?

Takagenji visited makuuchi today from Juryo to face Daiamami but left empty handed. After a well met tachiai, it was all Daiamami as he drove through the Chiganoura beya youngster for a swift yorikiri win, his first of the tournament. Both men are 1-1. Chiyonokuni followed up, dispatching Kotoeko with a few forceful slaps to pick up his second win. Before the bout, my money was on Chiyonokuni by hatakikomi but as it worked out, he got the tsukidashi win before he even needed to pull. Kotoeko falls to 1-1.

Chiyoshouma studied Daishomaru and feared the oshidashi loss, effectively neutralizing the threat posed with a glorious henka – to the groans of the spectators. It was the smart move. Chiyoshoma is a solid grappler, winning mostly with throws but vulnerable to oshidashi…and yorikiri. Chiyoshouma picked up his first win while Daishomaru fell to 0-2.

Yutakayama and Yago offered up a great bout of very similar competitors yet different styles. Yago’s mawashi is a bit darker but both sport the royal purple with very similar builds. Yago favors the belt but Yutakayama is a much more committed oshi/pusher-thruster. Which style would prevail? Yutakayama’s forceful nodowa immediately after the tachiai effectively kept Yago from getting a grip and backed to the edge. Rather than be forced completely out, Yago circled and regrouped to the center. The fatal mistake was going for the hatakikomi. The backwards pull worked to his opponent’s advantage as he followed through with a successful oshi attack. Yutakayama is off to a great 2-0 start while Yago’s setback has him at 1-1.

Kotoyuki put another W in the win column for Team Oshi as Meisei allowed him to fight their bout his way. Relentless pushing-thrusting favors the Sadogatake man and Meisei had nowhere to run, eventually shoved out hard, nearly landing face first in the salt basket. Kotoyuki’s on 1-1 while Meisei is still looking for his first win, 0-2.

Two bouts into the tournament and Kagayaki draws blood yet again, this time from chasing Sadanoumi. Kagayaki came charging like a Pamplona bull, as Sadanoumi tried ducking, twisting and turning any which way of escape. This time, though, I worry for Sadanoumi’s knee as it buckled awkwardly. He was slow to get up but made it back down the hanamichi under his own power. Kagayaki and Sadanoumi are 1-1.

Ikioi charged out like a barnstormer yesterday but I hope he goes kyujo after today’s bout with Abi. Abi’s slaps could not be contained and as Ikioi tried to weather the storm, I’m afraid he may have been briefly knocked out as he dove straight forward, face first into the tawara when Abi side-stepped. In the fall he appeared re-injure his ankle. He also reopened yesterday’s headwound but that may have come from Abi’s tsuppari. Ouch. Both are 1-1. As a side note, Ikioi is a big guy. I’m not sure if he’s still the tallest guy in makuuchi, but it’s really surprising. It doesn’t really sink in until he’s standing there next to a guy like Abi, making Abi look small.

Takarafuji has yet to wake up from his “long winter nap,” as Kaisei barely shifted and Takarafuji lost his balance. It wasn’t a henka. Takarafuji just fell. Hopefully the ring rust will be knocked off by the end of Act One? Takarafuji falls to 0-2 while Kaisei takes the gift to move to 2-0. Endo followed by convincingly backing Asanoyama over the straw bales. Endo also improves to 2-0 while Asanoyama falls to 0-2.

Ryuden was too eager to get things going against Chiyotairyu, initiating a matta. But once they got things going, he grabbed Elvis in a bear hug and then just barreled through, forcing the Kokonoe man into the first row of seats. Ryuden picked up his first win, 1-1, while Chiyotairyu falls to 0-2.

Shou-time (sorry) as Onosho tangled with Daieisho. After a well met tachiai, Onosho backed to the edge where he used the leverage from the tawara to slip to the side and allow Daieisho’s own momentum to force him out and pick up his second win while Daieisho falls, literally, to 1-1.

Aoiyama never let the hug-n-chug get going, nearly breaking Kotoshogiku in half with a forceful hatakikomi. Aoiyama is 2-0. I know it’s early but he has been in yusho races before, only to fold under the pressure of top level bouts. Will he be in the hunt at the weekend? Definitely one to watch. Kotoshogiku is at 1-1.

Yoshikaze never got going against Okinoumi. Rather than a nodowa, it seemed Okinoumi wanted to force Yoshikaze’s cheeks into his ears. Ho-po-wa? I don’t think I’ve seen that attack before. With the backwards force, Yoshikaze’s left knee gave out. Koshikudake was the call, with Okinoumi picking up his first win while Yoshikaze fell to 0-2.

Finally, sanyaku. Takakeisho fought Takakeisho’s bout. Shohozan was just along for the ride. Once those T-Rex arms get going…look out. If you’re in the crowd, you may end up with a rikishi in your lap. So, while Shohozan (0-2) conversed with the second row spectators, Takakeisho (2-0) strolled over to pick up his kensho envelopes.

Tamawashi learned from Takakeisho’s bout and blasted Shodai off the dohyo. The blueprint against Shodai is just like what you learn playing tennis and golf. Follow through. Rather than bouncing off at the initial charge, you’ve got to just keep running through and do not let Shodai get a hand of the mawashi or space to regroup. Tamawashi was all attack and picked up his second win while Shodai is 0-2.

Takayasu picked up his first win in controversial style against Myogiryu. This was a gift as Takayasu was clearly down first while Myogiryu was still in the air. Takayasu was looking solid, had good tsuppari going and great position in the center of the dohyo. But then he lowered his shoulder and bulldozed into Myogiryu, who appeared to everyone to successfully jump out of the way as Takayasu fell to the dohyo…but no mono-ii.

Take Nishikigi and Tochinoshin, plop them in the middle of the ring, both with firm two-handed grips of each other’s mawashi. I ask you, “Who wins?” Not in a million years would I have said Nishikigi. Tochinoshin even did his textbook lift today but it came up a few feet short, and that appears to be the difference. As Nishikigi’s feet came down, he was able to use his belt grip to throw Tochinoshin. Two Ozeki scalps in two days and the same absolutely bewildered look as he picked up another fat stack of kensho-kin.

Goeido gave it his all against Hokutofuji today. His mistake, the pull. He drove Hokutofuji to the edge but couldn’t get him over. So they regrouped in the middle of the dohyo. Rather than be patient and try again to drive forward, Goeido decided he wanted to end it now. So he backed up but ran out of real estate as Hokutofuji maintained his balance and ran the ozeki out for his second loss in two days. 6 ozeki bouts, 5* losses…with an asterisk on the one win. Unbelievable. Well, pretty soon they’ll be facing off against each other so some will have to win.

Someone finally got it through to Kisenosato that he needs to shift his style because of his injury. He tried with all his might to push the big boulder it was for naught. The pivotal moment came early when Kisenosato was laying into Ichinojo but Ichinojo was able to easily manhandle the Yokozuna and yank him around like a My Little Pony. Rather than try to expend energy and drive through Kisenosato, the Mongolian used his positional advantage, and adequate space for a pull, to unleash a hatakikomi pull down. He claimed a gold star and made it look effortless. This Ichinojo is dangerous, and 2-0. Kisenosato is 0-2 and on intai watch.

Mitakeumi sent more shockwaves through Kokugikan as he simply pushed Kakuryu off the dohyo. Kakuryu seemed to want the leverage of the tawara, letting Mitakeumi drive him like a blocking sled to the edge. But when his feet hit the tawara, Mitakeumi’s attack kept coming and the Yokozuna never had a chance to offer a counter-attack or to try to deflect and dance his way to victory. Kakuryu falls to 1-1 and is likely only saved from his own intai-watch by the hapless Kisenosato.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all, however, was saved for the Boss. His Houdini-like escape from a Tochiozan throw only emphasizes the dire state of the senior sanyaku. We saw a tantalizing glimpse of the old Hakuho against Myogiryu yesterday. We were so eager for him to destroy the maegashira from Kochi and show us all that he’s back and ready for another yusho run.

All that was shattered, however, as Tochiozan got his left hand on the Boss’s mawashi, spun the Boss around and up to the very edge. Hakuho’s tune-up must have come with a new set of brakes because just as it looked like he was done and Tochiozan had the biggest kinboshi story, screeeeech! Hakuho brought his momentum to a stop and gently guided Tochiozan out. Tochiozan falls to 0-2, Hakuho escapes and improves to 2-0. He’s clearly still the Boss…but for how long?

Hatsu Day 2: Juryo Wrap-Up

Hatsu Basho Banner

It’s Day 2, and here’s another wrap up from Juryo. This time we’ll throw in a couple bonus bouts from the Makushita promotion race, which is already shaping up to be a hot one.

Makushita Bonus Action

Akua defeats Chiyonoo – After his disastrous basho in Fukuoka, Chiyonoo doesn’t look like coming back up any time in the near future. Akua gives him the ol’ push and pull and he’s face flat on the dohyo. Woof. Akua looks the more likely to be back up in Juryo the soonest.

Takanofuji defeats Ryuko – Takanofuji nee Takayoshitoshi wins despite not having a solid grip for most of this match. Ryuko, a former Tachiai One to Watch who was surprisingly tipped by John Gunning as a future Ozeki, has got a left hand grip and gives a couple attempts at an uwatenage, but Takanofuji manoeuvres him close to the bales and crushes him down via yoritaoshi.

Juryo Action

Chiyonoumi defeats Daiseido – Daiseido, having lost already, gets a visit to Juryo on day 2 against Chiyonoumi. After a matta, the Kokonoe man uses Daiseido’s inertia against him, steps to the side and thrusts him down to win by tsukiotoshi. Daiseido now has very little room for error with 13 days to go, if he’s going to make it to the penultimate division. Chiyonoumi now 2-0.

Sokokurai defeats Gagamaru – There’s a combined age of 66 on the dohyo with these two. You know that facebook meme going around right now where you’re meant to post your first profile picture from ten years ago and your most recent? Well if you’re feeling bad about how you’ve aged then bear in mind that Gagamaru is 31. Before this match starts, I notice that cool man Tomozuna is in the shimpan crew, which in fairness is a good distraction from some gnarly shiko. There’s another matta, and then Sokokurai pulls a planetary-orbit altering henka that sends the Georgian to the clay. Both men are now 1-1, and Gagamaru is not massively pleased.

Shimanoumi defeats Kyokushuho – Kyokushuho deploys some strong nodowa attempts in front of his stable master, but can’t find the killer move and as Shimanoumi gets him going backward, he pulls and it’s all over. Shimanoumi checks his balance, stays low, and shoves his man out.

Jokoryu defeats Tsurugisho – Jokoryu beats Tsurugisho with one of those throws that feels like it lasts an entire year. Jokoryu lands his left hand inside after the Tachiai, and then the entire rest of this match is him attempting to unload the throw. It looks like it may backfire but eventually he controls Tsurugisho’s momentum and executes a very satisfying shitatenage.

Tobizaru defeats Takekaze – Takekaze had a bad loss on Day 1 and needs to sort himself out if he isn’t going to suffer a potentially career-ending drop out of the professional ranks. This match is a slap-fest in which the veteran is determined to rough up Tobizaru’s face, much to the chagrin of the younger man’s fans. Takekaze unleashes about 13 slap and pull and poke and scratch attempts before Tobizaru is able to keep the wily elder statesman at arms length in order to set up the push and pull for the slap down. Takekaze is now 0-2, and Tobizaru is now 1-1.

Arawashi defeats Kyokutaisei – It’s not Tobizaru’s fault, but I could get behind his Tokyo banana mawashi if Kyokutaisei was still sporting the Hokkaido melon tinted belt. Arawashi’s sumo has been a mess lately but he executes a pretty solid tsuppari into mawashi grip transition and chaperones Kyokutaisei out. The best lead actor of any recent sumo film puts up a decent fight at the edge but there’s nothing he can do, and that’s the kind of match Kyokutaisei should probably be winning against a sekitori in freefall. Both men are now 1-1. Bring back the melon!

NHK cuts the feed at this point over from the broadcast satellite to NHK G and shows Kisenosato entering the Kokugikan, and the footage kind of looks like there’s going to be an intai announcement. But it turns out they’re just announcing that he takes on Ichinojo later.

Hidenoumi defeats Mitoryu – disappointing from Mitoryu as Hidenoumi tries and fails to get a mawashi grip, but doesn’t really need it to get the Mongolian high and escort him out in fairly short order. Disappointing match, and Mitoryu is getting a little inconsistent at this level. Both of these guys are now 1-1 as well.

Azumaryu defeats Enho – Ura had better hurry up, because here’s more incredible sumo involving Enho, who is turning into the can’t miss rikishi. Azumaryu’s ring demeanour is so much calmer and measured than the more frantic Enho. They take a while to get ready at the tachiai, but eventually this bout gets underway, and Enho gets in low. Azumaryu tries repeatedly to simply push him down, slap him down, as the smaller man buries his head into Azumaryu’s stomach. Eventually Enho tries to get a mawashi grip, but this doesn’t work and it looks like the Mongolian has him off balance. But the little guy recovers, tries a throw and can’t pull it off. Then he tries a sotogake leg trip and can’t pull that off, and Azumaryu now has Enho off balance and throws him to the dirt. Enho gets up with a bloodied face and nothing to show for his efforts but his fans. Both men are now 1-1.

Chiyomaru defeats Akiseyama – It’s the battle of the bulbous! Chiyomaru tries to hit a slap down and then the match looks like it’s turning into a yotsu-battle. The two men lock up in the middle of the dohyo and it’s possible one of them is about to fall asleep when Chiyomaru twists the awkward Kise-beya rikishi around and tosses him down with a tsukiotoshi. Chiyomaru heads to 2-0, with Akiseyama now 0-2.

Wakatakakage defeats Hakuyozan – Dominant performance from Wakatakakage. Hakuyozan gets the better of the tachiai, but once the smaller Arashio-beya man lands his grip, Hakuyozan is totally out of control of the match and Wakatakakage deposits him over the edge. Both of these young starlets are now 1-1 as well.

Toyonoshima defeats Tokushoryu – Here’s a match featuring an awful lot of belly. Toyonoshima puts his to good use as he takes control straight from the tachiai and wins with an insanely straightforward yorikiri. Tokushoryu tries to get his arm around the senior sumo citizen’s head and execute some kind of throw or slap down in desperation, but he’s got nothing. Everybody here is now 1-1 as well.

Aminishiki defeats Tomokaze – Old meets young in a generational battle. Uncle Sumo mounts the dohyo in an attempt to get something from the current division’s yusho holder. Tomokaze has his usual nonplussed expression as the two men get down for the tachiai. You’ll never guess what happens next: pusher-thruster Tomokaze has backwards-moving slap-down specialist Aminishiki going backwards. Aminishiki dances around the ring and hits the hikiotoshi as Tomokaze goes flying. It’s a good lesson for the youngster. It’s increasingly likely in 50 years we’ll still be watching them wheel the bones and bandages of Aminishiki onto the dohyo – he can still win at this level. He, like Tomokaze and just about everyone else, is 1-1.

Ishiura defeats Terutsuyoshi – Here’s the battle of salt vs protein. Terutsuyoshi deploys a sodium explosion that’s impressive even by his lofty standards. Ishiura takes charge of this match though – and it’s interesting to watch him when the opponent is also small – it’s a reminder he can do some great sumo when he goes head on. Despite Terutusyoshi being small, Ishiura does manage to get in a bit lower, grabs the Isegahama man, spin him around and throw him out. There may have been some discussion of a matta, but Ishiura’s already on his way back to the locker room to make a shake, with both men’s records now 1-1.

Daishoho defeats Takanosho – Daishoho and Takanosho are so close to makuuchi they can smell it. After some good old fashioned slapping, the Mongolian locks up Takanosho’s arm and the Chiganoura man simply can’t escape. Daishoho unloads a kotenage and it might not be surprisingly that Takanosho is in bad shape after the rough throw. Takanosho needs the help of multiple yobidashi to dismount the dohyo and this will put his attempt to gain promotion back to the top level in deep trouble. Both of these guys are also now 1-1. Despite a kotenage arm lock throw being notoriously harsh on the receiver’s arm and elbow, it seemed the injury was to his leg/thigh area.

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.

Natsu Day 13 Highlights

Kakuryu Day 13

I note with great enthusiasm that the Juryo yusho is coming down to a final weekend barnyard brawl of epic proportions. Even though I am greatly enjoying my beautiful TV Japan feed now, it sadly does not include Juryo that I must find some other way to watch. Tied with 10 wins each at the end of day 13 are: J1w Onosho, J2e Kotoeko, J4e Meisei and all the way down at J14e Tsurugisho.

The big news from day 13 is that Tochinoshin lost today against Shodai of all people. I have to credit Shodai for stalemating Tochinoshin’s attack, and for reading the right time to drop the big Georgian to the clay. With this loss, Day 14’s match against Kakuryu is more or less going to decide the yusho. A Kakuryu win would open the amazing possibility we could end day 15 with a 3-way 13-2 playoff between both Yokozuna and the presumptive shin-Ozeki. If you think I am going to stay up all night to watch that, should it unfold, you are right.

Highlight Matches

Takekaze defeats Asanoyama – Strange little match that ended when Asanoyama staggered towards the tawara and fell down. Kimarite was listed as hatakikomi, but looked more like a slippiotoshi.

Chiyonokuni defeats Sadanoumi – My earlier assumption about Chiyonokuni is clearly wrong, and he keeps up the pressure. His win today saw him defuse a decent throw attempt by Sadanoumi.

Nishikigi defeats Daiamami – The survivor giving himself some breathing room for the Nagoya banzuke. This was a great yotsu match, with both men really giving it a lot of effort. This style of sumo favors Nishikigi, as his eyesight is rather poor, and when he had his opponent in a chest to chest position, it negates the problems with his eyes.

Takakeisho defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama’s superior reach stymied after the hit and bounce back tachiai. Aoiyama continued to land meaty blows to Takakeisho’s face, but it seems Takakeisho decided to endure it, and kept thrusting center-mass, as is his preferred technique. Aoiyama may have been enjoying himself to the point he did not notice that Takakeisho had him moving in reverse. Takakeisho kachi-koshi. Nagoya may be the revenge of the tadpoles.

Aminishiki defeats Okinoumi – Uncle sumo wins another, and he looked fairly good with this one. Aminishiki was known to be in less that optimal condition before the start of the basho, and his record is quite miserable. But it was good to see him use a somewhat rickety but effective uwatenage for a win.

Kagayaki defeats Myogiryu – Kagayaki racks up his kachi-koshi in a really solid win. Again I will state that this guy focuses on sumo fundamentals, and you can see great sumo from him almost any day. A bit more mass, a lot more muscle and a bit more seasoning and this guy is going to be a handful.

Kyokutaisei defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze really is a half step or full step slower than he was a year ago. Kyokutaisei continues to look strong in his debut tournament.

Tochiozan defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru surged out strongly at the tachiai, and almost had Tochiozan out, but Tochiozan rallied, and Chiyomaru found it tough to do anything other than continuously back away. Tochiozan wins the match and is kachi-koshi. Chiyomaru is now make-koshi.

Abi defeats Takarafuji – Abi uses his preferred opening gambit once again, and it is only partially effective on Takarafuji, who keeps working inside. But even Takarafuji’s solid sumo fundamentals are breaking down due to Abi’s near ridiculous proportions. With Takarafuji applying pressure at the extreme end of Abi’s reach, Abi releases the pressure and lets Takarafuji fall.

Shohozan defeats Endo – This match was a running brawl that underscores just how poor the decision was to have Endo return. Shohozan can win out and still get kachi-koshi, Endo is headed south on the banzuke for Nagoya.

Mitakeumi defeats Kotoshogiku – They went yotsu right away, with Mitakeumi getting a double inside grip, but this is not normally a problem for Kotoshogiku. Fantastic battle of strength that featured Kotoshogiku disrupting Mitakeumi’s repeated attempts to finish him. I am going to guess Kotoshogiku’s knees are in better working order these days, and that’s nothing but a recipe for fun. The yorikiri came with Mitakeumi unleashing a Kotoshogiku style hip pumping attack. Nice match

Shodai defeats Tochinoshin – Shodai has been stumbling through his matches this tournament, and somehow he took down the presumptive shin-Ozeki. The key was blowing Tochinoshin’s repeated attempt at a grip, until he lunges forward to land his left, and Shodai backpedals with vigor, leaving Tochinoshin falling flat to the clay. This came as a huge surprise to everyone, but in general the crowd seemed to thing it was a wonderful thing. This loss opens the yusho race again, and it just gets crazy this weekend. Who would have though Shodai could do what Hakuho could not? Shodai kachi-koshi.

Hakuho defeats Ikioi – I am going to say it, The Boss is only about 80% right now. Who cares why. He’s still the dai-Yokozuna, and he’s still going into the final weekend with 11 wins. Ikioi once again looked solid, persistent and aggressive. This was harder for Hakuho than his fans would expect.

Kakuryu defeats Ichinojo – Big K now tied for the yusho, and the possibility that he could earn his goal of back-to-back yusho is now within reach. This match was a mawashi battle, with Kakuryu taking the fight to The Boulder on his own terms. Even though Ichinojo used the tawara to help make himself immobile, Kakuryu affirmed that he is the Yokozuna, and overcame. He faces Tochinoshin to possibly decide the Emperor’s cup tomorrow.