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.

Natsu Day 12 Highlights

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The big match is history, and we know that we will have a new Ozeki. The NHK broadcast team did a lot to tease and play up the basho-defining match, and I must admit they did it well. The battle itself did not disappoint. Starting Nagoya we will see three Ozeki in action, and at least one Yokozuna.

Tough day to be seated by the dohyo, as a number of rikishi went flying into the first row of cushions.

Highlight Matches

Ishiura defeats Aminishiki – As if Uncle Sumo did not have enough problems, his knee looked to be working poorly after he took a dive into a ringside fan at the end of his match.

Asanoyama defeats Arawashi – The first match resulted in a monoii, and a rematch. These two were battling to throw each other the first time, and they both succeeded. Second match was much more straightforward, but for a moment it looked like they would both try mirror-image throws yet again.

Daishomaru defeats Nishikigi – Straightforward match, but Daishomaru scores his kachi-kochi.

Yoshikaze defeats Daiamami – Daiamami is now make-koshi, and Yoshikaze picks up an unusual kimarite, okurinage (a rear throw down).

Kagayaki defeats Takekaze – Takekaze is also make-koshi now, and may be on his way back to Juryo depending on how the remaining bouts play out.

Takakeisho defeats Chiyoshoma – Takakeisho picks up his 5th straight win, and is starting to look closer to his prior self. I think he still has some recovery to do, but Nagoya might be labeled “The Tadpoles Strike Back”.

Myogiryu defeats Takarafuji – One of the biggest banzuke gaps on the fight card for day 12, and the lower ranked man wins. The match swung between a grip and pushing match, and a bit of run and gun. Takarafuji kept working to grab a hold of Myogiryu, which he eventually achieved. But some fantastic maneuvering by Myogiryu broke Takarafuji’s grip, and handed the commanding position to Myogiryu for the win.

Shodai defeats Shohozan – These two played bumper cars for a moment, but Shodai mustered a burst of strength and with one mighty shove, gave Shohozan the heave-ho.

Chiyotairyu defeats Mitakeumi – When Chiyotairyu’s cannonball tachiai works, you can almost feel it through the video. The impact of those two bodies probably reverberated through the tunnels of the Edo line for 2 minutes. Chiyotairyu avoids make-koshi, and Mitakeumi avoids kachi-koshi.

Kaisei defeats Endo – Well, not sure why Endo came back. He’s been ineffective and is risking compounding that injury.

Kotoshogiku defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo goes chest to chest early, possibly confident that his ponderous bulk will be too much for Kotoshogiku to maneuver. WRONG. Kotoshogiku is relentless, working to get and then keep Ichinojo off balance and moving. Once The Boulder is in motion, The Kyushu Bulldozer deftly maneuvers his out.

Kakuryu defeats Ikioi – Ikioi gave it everything he could muster, but Kakuryu was all over the place, swapping attack plans in the blink of an eye. Ikioi stayed steady, but Kakuryu’s combat-spam is designed to overwhelm his opponents decision loop, and it was only a matter of time before Ikioi was caught trying to dodge the last move and not the blow that was coming. Kakuryu wants the yusho, but his mind has to be on Tochinoshin Saturday.

Tochinoshin defeats Hakuho – Hakuho decides he will concede the form and go chest to chest with Tochinoshin. I am not sure if it was hubris of wanting to add a touch of the unexpected. But Tochinoshin of Natsu 2018 was ready for this, and responded with power and strength that could not be matched. After a brief struggle, Tochinoshin had complete control over the Yokozuna and took him to the edge, and out.

Natsu Day 12 Preview

Natsu Day 12

The yusho race is down to Ozeki hopeful Tochinoshin, and both Yokozuna. Faced with a lack of San’yaku rikishi, and possibly a desire to have a three way yusho race going into the final weekend of the basho, the planned match between Hakuho and Tochinoshin has been scheduled for day 12. Sure we can talk about other matches of note, but this one is going to be pivotal for several reasons.

Firstly, we can think of it as Tochinoshin’s final exam for his Ozeki bid. Many would successfully argue that he is the only rikishi in this tournament who is performing and Ozeki levels, and they would certainly not be wrong. But beating the dai-Yokozuna would dismiss even the most negative decision maker’s concern.

We can also consider that a loss by Hakuho here would possibly knock him out of the yusho race, and it would be the strongest signal yet that his days are waning. Given how fierce a competitor Hakuho is, and how ruthless he is when the chips are down, I think he will bring everything he has to this day 12 match.

At this point, the topic of a Tochinoshin yusho is front of mind as well. He is looking as least as good as he did in January when he took the Hatsu yusho, and many of the weakness in the upper San’yaku ranks persist today. Simply put, the promotion lanes are wide open. Some rikishi who have been wanting to get in position for some time, Mitakeumi and Tamawashi, appear to be missing their chance as a tougher, stronger, more dedicated man beats them to the prize.

In the rest of the matches, the schedulers are starting to give us huge leaps in the banzuke, with mid-Maegashira taking on men at the bottom of the roster. Many of these are simple “gimme” matches, others are fun examples of testing out the lower ranked men against their possible slots in Nagoya. Others represent the problems in the torikumi due to kyujo, dominant heya and other factors that impinge on rank-appropriate matches.

Natsu Leaderboard

Leader – Tochinoshin
Chasers – Kakuryu, Hakuho

4 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 12

Daishomaru vs Nishikigi – Daishomaru has a legitimate chance to pick up kachi-koshi, as it’s possible that Nishikigi will succumb to the 9-2 career advantage, and huge difference in the banzuke between M9 Daishomaru and M17 Nishikigi.

Takekaze vs Kagayaki – M14 vs M8 with Kagayaki needing 2 more wins for kachi-koshi. Takekaze in converse is 1 loss away from make-koshi. The career records favors Kagayaki 5-2.

Ryuden vs Sadanoumi – M7 vs M14, with Ryuden already make-koshi and Sadanoumi having a legitimate shot at kachi-koshi. They have fought 3 times before, with Ryuden taking 2 of them. Having watched Ryuden the last few days, he seems genuinely dispirited at this point, so the outcome is very much in play.

Aoiyama vs Chiyomaru – A battle of the big’uns, we get M13 Aoiyama vs M7 Chiyomaru, both of whom are within reach of a kachi-koshi. Chiyomaru has shown some glimpses of sharp sumo in the last few days, including his day 11 match with Asanoyama.

Chiyoshoma vs Takakeisho – M10 Takakeisho is a fierce competitor who has displayed overwhelming tenacity thus far. His sumo may appear to some as “run around crazy and get the other guy to fall down”, but his oshi-style sumo is quite distinct, and in some ways more effective than the rest of the army of pusher-thruster rikishi. He holds a 4-2 career advantage over M6 Chiyoshoma.

Shohozan vs Shodai – Even though Shodai lost his day 11 match with Yokozuna Hakuho, he once again produced a slapstick result, with Hakuho somehow bumbling his face into Shodai’s shoulder. This leads me to consider if Shodai is actually some kind of cartoon character, and will manage to drop an anvil on Shohozan. Surprisingly, out of their 9 prior matches, Shodai has won 6 of them.

Daieisho vs Abi – Abi’s day 11 match was a fine example of how to dismantle his offense, and if Daieisho was watching, I hope he spends the morning practicing with his tsukebito. Otherwise his short reach may be to Abi’s advantage.

Mitakeumi vs Chiyotairyu – A Mitakeumi win here would give him a kachi-koshi and Chiyotairyu a make-koshi at the same time. Chiyotairyu is looking dispirited in the past few days, as it seems everyone has his number right now. His biggest issue is lateral movement. He’s very strong forward. His balance is also hampered by his belly.

Kaisei vs Endo – Now that he is make-koshi, perhaps Endo will win a few to cushion his fall down the Banzuke. I am sure the NSK would like Endo healthy, genki and back in the San’yaku for September in Tokyo. So I am going to guess they want him as close to 7-8 as he can manage.

Kotoshogiku vs Ichinojo – Ichinojo pushing for kachi-koshi here. Kotoshogiku will try to go chest to chest right away, and I am sure that Ichinojo will give it to him for the asking. The Kyushu Bulldozer holds a slight 5-4 advantage over The Boulder, so this match is far from certain.

Kakuryu vs Ikioi – Ikioi limps around and is in pain, but he’s also kachi-koshi now. Kakuryu needs to dispatch him to keep 1 behind Tochinoshin. Ikioi has won 3 of their 11 career matches, but with his injuries and Kakuryu’s focus on staying in range for the yusho weekend barnyard brawl, I am guessing Ikioi is going down.

Tochinoshin vs Hakuho – Tochinoshin has never beaten Hakuho. If that changes today, it will (as described above) mark a fundamental shift in sumo. Welcome to the final exam, Tochinoshin. We are eagerly waiting your outcome.

Natsu Day 11 Highlights

Tochinoshin-salt

Day 11 presented no surprises, but had some solid sumo for fans to enjoy. Thankfully Hokutofuji is kyujo, and hopefully any injury to his skull or brain will be addressed before he bouts the dohyo again. The Ozeki bid by Tochinoshin is about to enter its final stage. He has 11 wins now, which is numerically sufficient for promotion. But the elevation to sumo’s second highest rank is not simply a numbers game. It revolves around the NSK and to a lesser extent the Yokozuna Deliberation Committee deciding that the performance period in question meets a threshold for promotion.

Tochinoshin’s 11 wins have all be impressive, overpowering wins. He is clearly one of the most genki or possibly THE most genki man in sumo right now. But his 11 wins can be minimized by members of the NSK or YDC citing that they come in a tournament with no Ozeki, and should he fail to defeat either Yokozuna, the raw numbers may be deemed insufficient. Please keep in mind, I don’t get to make this decision, I am not a member of the NSK or the YDC. I am just some guy in Texas who loves sumo.

For myself I think he will beat at least one Yokozuna, and he may end up with the Yusho, which would eliminate all reservation by the NSK and YDC, in my opinion. At the larger scale, sumo needs a more stable Yokozuna / Ozeki corps, and this is how that rebuilding starts. If Tochinoshin can maintain this level of performance, he will make a fine Ozeki, and sumo will be the better for it.

Highlight Matches

Kyokutaisei defeats Gagamaru – Planet Gagamaru was his traditional, lethargic self. He put forth some effort, but he lived up to his current 2-9 tournament score. This match is notable not just because of the gravity waves that disrupted LIGO observations of colliding black holes as the shitatenage took him to the clay, but Shin-Maegashira Kyokutaisei scored his kachi-koshi, and will be in Makuuchi for Nagoya.

Arawashi defeats Takekaze – Both rikishi put a bunch of effort into this. Both are at the make-koshi line now, and for Takekaze, there is a real desire to not be considered for Juryo in July. The saving grace is that there is not a huge cadre of Juryo men who are beating down the door to Makuuchi.

Myogiryu defeats Chiyonokuni – Myogiryu gets his kachi-koshi, and it really looks like Chiyonokuni may have decided to coast to the finish this time. I can understand why. He is at a good rank, and he may not be genki enough for a full cruise through the joi. He’s done that a few times and he ends up getting pounded. His sumo is improving, but I am going to guess he wants to hit around Maegashira 6 or so for Nagoya. This will let him figure out if he has advanced enough to possibly accomplish anything in joi.

Nishikigi fusensho over Hokutofuji – With humble gratitude to the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, Hokutofuji is kyujo for now, hopefully getting that head scanned and any sort of medical treatment needed. As a result, the man who never gives up, Niskikigi, gets his kachi-koshi at the very bottom of the banzuke, and will be Makuuchi for Nagoya. He really has put forth a lot of effort to hold on by his fingertips, and it’s great to see it pay off.

Takakeisho defeats Takarafuji – As expected, this was a fascinating match to watch. From the tachiai, Takarafuji is working to get control of Takakeisho, with Takakeisho constantly moving about and landing blows. If you have a chance to watch this on replay or YouTube, watch their feet! For whatever reason, I think a rikishi’s feet say more about what they are doing than their arms or heads. Takarafuji keeps being forced to give up his defensive footing and retreat. As soon as he is moving backwards, Takakeisho matches the timing of his steps to land thrusts when his feet are not planted. This just accelerates Takarafuji’s movement. When Takakeisho makes a mistake and pushes too high (as opposed to center mass of the chest), Takarafuji deftly moves inside and rushes forward. Takakeisho is not even slightly phased by this, and sets up a finishing move at the tawara. A ballerina pirouette later and Takakeisho’s won! Great great sumo from these two!

Ikioi defeats Daishomaru – Daishomaru launches into the tachiai with gusto, and it puts Ikioi into a defensive mode straight away. Ikioi circles away and breaks contact, then attacks. Again, watch Daishomaru’s feet at the moment Ikioi starts to press his offense. His feet are not set, his balance is not over his hips. Ikioi exploits this and rushes forward for the win. Ikioi with a well deserved kachi-koshi.

Yutakayama defeats Ryuden – Both are make-koshi, and possibly deeply so by the end of Natsu. But you would never know it looking at these two members of the Freshman team go at it with vigor. If you like yoritaoshi wins, do watch this one.

Shohozan defeats Abi – As pointed out in last night’s preview, Abi tends to get his arms up and stop his opponents tachiai. Today Shohozan countered that with pure speed. Robbed of his disruptive opening move, Abi did not have time to reset, and Shohozan attacked like a hangry bison in a fresh alfalfa field.

Tamawashi defeats Endo – Looks like Endo’s return may not have been a good tactical move. Tamawashi uses his face for a slapping target. As we learn in the Marines, you can have a great battle plan, but as soon as someone is punching you in the head, it’s tough to keep on plan. Endo make-koshi now.

Ichinojo defeats Chiyotairyu – Not one, but TWO loud belly blasts from these two men of girth. After the second one, it seems that Chiyotairyu’s sideburns were bereft of their power inducing kami, and Ichinojo more or less walked him out.

Tochinoshin defeats Kotoshogiku – I think the scheduling team moved Tochinoshin’s match with Hakuho up to day 12, because they wanted a chance to have a 3 way yusho battle set up for the final weekend of the basho. Points to Kotoshogiku for giving him a good fight, but Kotoshogiku got off balance, and Tochinoshin did not let that opportunity escape. I truly hope Kotoshogiku can get his kachi-koshi.

Hakuho defeats Shodai – About as minimal as a match could get, Shodai offered no resistance to speak of.

Kakuryu defeats Mitakeumi – There we go! That’s Kakuryu sumo to be certain. Mitakeumi gave him an excellent match, and it was touch and go for most of it. But as has been typical for Kakuryu, he likes to win in the last 3″ of the dohyo. Why rikishi don’t ease up as they get him close to the tawara is beyond me, as Kakuryu loves to use the tawara.

Natsu Day 10 Preview

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Hello friends! The Natsu Day 8 live blog was a whole lot of fun, and I hope we were able to bring some of the flavor of live sumo to the site. I’m happy to report I’ll be back in action from Kokugikan on Day 10, my final day of live sumo for this tournament. But while this brings “Act 2” to a close, there’s still a whole lot of sumo to come, and plenty of storylines yet to develop as we reach the business end of the second week.

So, let’s get into it.

Natsu Leaderboard

Leader – Tochinoshin
ChasersKakuryu, Hakuho, Chiyonokuni
Hunt Group – Ikioi, Myogiryu

6 Matches Remain.

Day 9’s action certainly thinned out the “hunt group,” which should bring some clarity and focus to the scheduling we’re likely to see over the coming days.

What We Are Watching Day 10

Myogiryu vs Kotoeko – With Goeido having swapped places on the sidelines with Endo, Kotoeko gets called up from Juryo to make up the numbers and test his promotion mettle – not unlike Kyokutaisei, who was called up several times in March for experience which has clearly stood him in good stead. Myogiryu has looked surprisingly strong this basho, leads their lifetime matchup 2-0, and I would expect him to win here and grab the kachi-koshi he needs to solidify his place in Makuuchi.

Arawashi vs Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi got absolutely dismantled by Yoshikaze on Day 9, and that’s notable because Yoshikaze has not been “Mr. Feisty” in several months. None of Arawashi’s three wins have come against especially strong opponents this basho, and with both men really needing a win, it may come down to who wants it more.

Aminishiki vs Asanoyama – I think this is a big moment in Asanoyama’s development. He’s an affable man in the ring, but his great manners should not extend to respecting his elders here if he wants to take the next step. Aminishiki has been utterly broken this tournament, and his sumo can maybe best be described as “If Kakuryu didn’t work.” He will backpedal and try to hit the slap down. Asanoyama will need to show a killer instinct, put him away and take a big step towards that kachi-koshi.

Nishikigi vs Chiyonokuni – Similarly, Chiyonokuni at 8-1 has a glorious opportunity here to continue his run and hang around the yusho race while the other competitors are doing their business much further up the banzuke. Nishikigi has made a great go of it at M17 – a rank that won’t likely exist next basho – where he has no margin for error, but Chiyonokuni, who has never won more than 9 matches in Makuuchi, needs to continue to take advantage of the gift of kind scheduling he has been given.

Okinoumi vs Kyokutaisei – 5-4 Okinoumi did well on Day 9 to deal with a Ryuden who fought hard and was desperate to avoid his make-koshi. Here, he gets the 6-3 newcomer from Hokkaido who had an outstanding first week but has come a bit unstuck the last few days. The two have never met.

Tochiozan vs Takakeisho – Takakeisho has turned things around the past couple of days, and here he gets a veteran who was said to look in great shape before the basho but whose results have indicated something rather different. Again this is a step in Takakeisho’s development: he is facing the lowest ranked opponent of this basho by far, an opponent he has beaten 4 times in 5 tries, and in order to move up he needs to find his best sumo and put him away.

Daishomaru vs Takekaze – Daishomaru gets a breather after being banged around the last couple days higher up the banzuke with a visit to M14 Takekaze. We haven’t seen a whole lot of good sumo from the 4-5 veteran this tournament, so it’s an opportunity for 6-3 Daishomaru to get back on form. Takekaze leads the career series 6-3.

Yoshikaze vs Aoiyama – Takakeisho must have really slapped some life into Yoshikaze with all of those roundhouses on Day 8 because Yoshikaze meant business on Day 9 against Sadanoumi and still didn’t look remotely satisfied with his win afterwards. You got the impression he was ready to do it two or three more times, he looked that angry afterwards. Aoiyama, at 4-5, is in fairly poor form this tournament and Yoshikaze leads the career matchup 11-8, but more likely that not, we’re going to see some sumo that won’t be easy on the eye here.

Ishiura vs Kagayaki – I tend to agree with Bruce and think Kagayaki’s ceiling may be Ozeki Kisenosato. On the other hand, the reason Kisenosato was such a great Ozeki is because of his consistency, and Kagayaki has found consistency difficult to come by. Ishiura is a real wild card. He’s attempting less henkas, and I don’t think he’ll deploy one against Kagayaki whose new found composure means he’s not as likely to fall for that trick. Ishiura is, however, desperate for wins to avoid demotion to Juryo, and though he leads the career series 6-3, Kagayaki has won 3 of the last 4 and is odds-on to seal the smaller man’s make-koshi here.

Ryuden vs Hokutofuji – Back to the drawing board for the 1-8 sumotori bobblehead Ryuden, after he huffed and puffed and still couldn’t escape the throw on Day 9. Hokutofuji should see this as a good opportunity to overcome yesterday’s blip and get back on form. Ryuden won their only prior match.

Daiamami vs Chiyomaru – Neither of these guys have been showing their best sumo this tournament. The winner will plant the penultimate nail in the loser’s make-koshi coffin. Daiamami leads the all time record 2-1 here, but I have a good feeling about Chiyomaru for this one.

Daieisho vs Takarafuji – Daieisho’s been knocked around on both occasions he’s entered the joi, and while there’s not a whole lot that anyone could do right now if faced with his Day 9 opponent Tochinoshin, I think he’ll still find it difficult against an opponent as technically gifted as Takarafuji. He’s having a solid tournament and will likely replace Daieisho in the joi next tournament. If Daieisho wants a good omen as he looks to stave off his make-koshi, it’s that he leads their head to head rivalry 2-1.

Chiyoshoma vs Yutakayama – Chiyoshoma (2-7) is just having an awful tournament, but Yutakayama has fought rather better than the goose egg after his name would indicate. If he can keep his fighting spirit and energy going, and avoid a flying henka or any other tricks that Chiyoshoma might bring to the party, he’s got a golden chance to open his account here.

Tamawashi vs Abi – In a year, Abi has supplanted Ura as the star entertainer among the up and coming Makuuchi rikishi. On the NHK broadcast earlier in the week, it was pointed out that Shikoroyama-oyakata had set him a target of 4 wins for this basho – but the man himself was gunning for the yusho! With the first target achieved and the second out of reach, he takes on a man who has perhaps been the benchmark for how to establish yourself as a pusher-thruster and live in this part of the banzuke over the past couple years. Neither man seems to have especially good traction with his feet at the moment, so we could be in for more of an ice skating competition in which someone gets slapped into a triple axle off the side of the dohyo.

Shohozan vs Kaisei – It’s been a brutal re-introduction to the upper ranks for Kaisei (2-7) after his brilliant Haru basho. Here he meets an opponent with whom he is more evenly matched after a rough first week. Big Guns Shohozan (3-6) is no pushover either, but these men have met 18 times and have split the bills right down the middle.

Mitakeumi vs Ikioi – Ikioi has played a blinder in the first week in his typical style of high-octane, full-throttle, heavy-metal sumo. But, having not faced anyone above M4 until now, the challenge will get considerably harder as he’s pulled up to face a resurgent Mitakeumi who holds a pristine 100% record over his taller opponent. Mitakeumi has still yet to face Kakuryu or Ichinojo, so with that in mind he’ll be looking to bank this one and take a step closer to rubber-stamping his return to the Sekiwake rank in Nagoya.

Tochinoshin vs Chiyotairyu – If you look up “genki” in the dictionary, you won’t find it. That’s because Tochinoshin got a left-hand outside grip on the page, ripped it out and ate it (along with one of the five packets of natto he apparently consumes daily). While we all eagerly await Tochinoshin vs Hakuho and Tochinoshin vs Kakuryu, he still has to take care of business for the next few days to make those matches matter. Which technique Chiyotairyu tries to take to defend himself from this and halt his losing streak will be interesting, but it’s likely to center around a momentus tachiai and trying at all costs to keep Tochinoshin’s hands off his mawashi. Even that may be of little use: their last meeting ended in Tochinoshin spinning him out for an easy okuridashi/rear push out.

Shodai vs Ichinojo – This may be the longest tachiai in history. Shodai made a decent go of it on Day 9 against Kakuryu, while Ichinojo is well rested from his fusen-sho win over Goeido. Shodai will know he has a shot at making it back to san’yaku with a strong finish, but Ichinojo is going to want to secure his kachi-koshi as soon as possible and establish himself at his rank so he can push on for an ozeki run later in the year. We could see a long match here between two mawashi fighters with the edge going to whoever’s mentally strong enough to take it.

Kakuryu vs Kotoshogiku – I felt Kotoshogiku was desperately unlucky against Hakuho on Day 9 and he may want to prove a point here and try and grab a kinboshi. In Kakuryu, who continues to move backwards, he’s certainly got a willing opponent for him to deploy his trademark hug-n-chug. Kotoshogiku has got to get his feet set however, because this has been his downfall in recent months. The technique is there but if Kakuryu senses he can get his man off balance, Kotoshogiku will get slapped to the floor. This will be their 49th match and Kakuryu holds a narrow 26-22 edge.

Endo vs Hakuho – It’s worth remembering Hakuho’s antics on the side of the dohyo, making an appeal for a matta that wasn’t given last November, when considering his bizarre win against Kotoshogiku yesterday. He didn’t need the luck to win that tournament, but he might now, and he may be in the luck for a second day in a row as he faces an Endo who makes his comeback from kyujo status, and who we’d written off as thoroughly injured. Hakuho owns this matchup (as he does most) by a 6-1 scoreline, as the Uncle Scrooge of kinboshi has gifted just the one gold star to the man in the gold mawashi. There’s no kinboshi at stake here of course, and probably little danger of an upset.

Natsu Day 9 Highlights

Onosho-Win-Natsu-9

It’s true the day 9 coverage was fairly lose, as I was zonked out by the overnight live blogging and went to bed early. In the process, Goeido did in fact cop to an injury and went kyujo. He has had problems with mounting an effective offense since early in the tournament, and so we will face a July tournament with the only 2 current Ozeki both kadoban. Some may see this as calamitous, but I am quite certain it’s all part of the great rotation that has been brewing for some time, and inches closer with each passing tournament. Keep in mind, in the recent past there has been as many as six ozeki all on the banzuke. So the current situation is all part of the grand ebb and flow of sumo.

The future Ozeki are already in competition, we just need some of the sunset rikishi to accept intai and clear out the lanes for the new crop to rise. The current group of “senior statesmen” style rikishi are holding on for a good long time, indeed. Even my beloved Yoshikaze is a bit long serving. And there are many like him. It’s reasonable to ask if Tochinoshin, at 30 and with a bum knee, is really going to have much impact as an Ozeki. I don’t wish him any ill fortune, but he is on injury away from intai himself.

Onosho got to visit the top division and face Uncle Sumo, who really is out of gas, out of tricks, and possibly out of time. I feel for the guy, but temper my sympathy with the understanding that sumo is Darwin in action. And I can’t help but think there is symbolism in a young, strong genki rikishi forcefully pushing an injured old wrestler out of the ring. As a result, Aminishiki is make-koshi.

Nishikigi is driven, no doubt about that, but it was really fun to see Ishiura trying some direct confrontation sumo today. He put forth a worthy effort, but Nishikigi channeled Tochinoshin and lifts the smaller man out of the ring. Ishiura seems to be this bundle of talent and energy that needs to find effective ways to execute sumo at the highest levels. His size brings problems and benefits, and right now it seems he is not effectively sorting the benefits from the problems.

Kyokutaisei opened strong against Asanoyama, getting inside, and raising him up. But then both men started trading tsuppari for a time, with little useful effect. The match got very exciting when they went chest to chest, with Asanoyama working to leverage a throw. Kyokutaisei showed fantastic sumo chops by countering multiple times as Asanoyama worked to load the throw. But Asanoyama persisted, and eventually pushed the Hokkaido man out. Great effort from both. I hope this one makes the NHK highlight reel.

Chiyonokuni attacks with purpose against Takekaze’s non-commital tachiai, and takes control right away. With the win, Chiyonokuni scores his kachi-koshi. Sadly for Chiyonokuni, he tends to be hot / cold, and there is a good chance that his next basho he will be promoted to a point where he struggles.

Aoiyama had a great tachiai, which looked a lot like one of Abi’s successful tachiais – both arms out and applying pressure before his opponent could complete his launch motion. Kagayaki struggled to find an offensive footing, and in that moment of imbalance, Aoiyama won the match, sending Kagayaki to visit the shimpan.

Okinoumi had control of the match at the moment of tachiai, when Ryuden went off balance onto his left foot for a brief moment. Ryuden never regained any sort of offensive capacity, and Okinoumi handed the young man his make-koshi for his troubles. Ryuden has a huge amount of potential, but has looked less capable this basho. I am sure he will regroup and make another run up the banzuke in the fall.

Ikioi continues to dominate, today he withstood Chiyotairyu’s blistering tachiai, and then took charge. Containing Chiyotairyu’s attempts to grab a hand hold, Ikioi maneuvered him around for a bit, then rolled him to the clay. My respect and appreciation for Ikioi continues to grow.

Also really impressed by Abi’s performance today. He sticks Kaisei with a nodowa right out of the tachiai. Now, with arms that long, this is a real problem for his opponents. Raised high, Kaisei wants to see how long Abi can hold up his ponderous bulk. Abi seems to have that as part of his plan, and releases the hold, sending the Brazilian face first towards the salt basket.

Yutakayama lost again, but another valiant battle, today against Mitakeumi. With Endo’s kyujo and Tochinoshin coming closer to a valid Ozeki bid, Mitakeumi may be making a play to return to his Sekiwake slot.

Tochinoshin’s fight was not even close. He gave Daieisho a mid-dohyo power wedgie lift, and Daieisho obliged by responding with a cartoon like mid-air leg pedal to punctuate that he was little more than cargo at this point. With Goedio out, Tochinoshin’s yusho changes are going up.

Ichinojo picked up the fusensho with Goeido succumbing to lower body injuries.

Hakuho gave Kotoshogiku a brief moment to enjoy a hug-n-chug against the dai-Yokozuna, and them unleashed a theater grade uwatenage for the win. Hakuho seems to be getting himself together now. I know he wants Yusho 41, so he’s got to beat Tochinoshin.

Shodai tried the same thrashing throw-shove at the tawara that has worked a few times this basho, but Kakuryu was ready and made him eat it.

On to day 10! Endo returns, Tochinoshin faces Chiyotairyu and Abi gets Tamawashi.

Natsu Day 9 Preview

Natsu Day 9

After last night’s marathon live-blogging session, most of the Tachiai team is rightfully tired and looking for an early bed. But first, let’s discuss the matches that will happen day 9 in Tokyo while the US portion of the crew is tucked into their beds.

With two days remaining in act 2, the one remaining goal for the scheduling team is to get Tochinoshin to pick up at least one loss. They also would like to get (as lksumo points out) a loss or two onto Chiyonokuni and Daishomaru. The ideal situation would be a three-way tie between Hakuho, Kakuryu and Tochinoshin going into or shortly after the start of act 3. This would drive some excitement, and some ratings. The difficulty being that for the moment, Tochinoshin is the most genki of the whole Makuuchi division.

Normally one could place their trust in Hakuho as the ultimate governor of who wins and loses, but his sumo is off at the moment. Many fans are speculating like mad as to why, but you need to look no further than the recent death of his father, and the disruption to his family life and emotional state.

Natsu Leaderboard

Leader – Tochinoshin
ChasersKakuryu, Hakuho, Daishomaru, Chiyonokuni
Hunt Group – Shodai, Kotoshogiku, Ikioi, Daishomaru, Kyokutaisei, Myogiryu

7 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 9

Onosho vs Aminishiki – As we expected, Onosho is making a visit to Makuuchi to fill a gap left by Endo’s kyujo. It’s also likely the case that he is going to be back in the top division for July. Poor Uncle Sumo is in terrible shape right now, and likely to pick up his make-koshi against Onosho.

Ishiura vs Nishikigi – As the lowest ranked man in the top division, Nishikigi needs nothing less than a kachi-koshi to remain a Maegashira. Today’s match is tough luck for him, as he has a 7-4 deficit when facing off against Ishiura. Nishikigi needs 3 more wins out of the remaining 7 to hold on.

Takekaze vs Chiyonokuni – Takekaze seems to be fading fairly rapidly, and has not really had much sumo this tournament. He is still at 4-4, so it’s possible he could pick up enough wins to keep out of Juryo. Takekaze is highly evasive, where Chiyonokuni is direct and violent. The veteran holds a 5-3 career advantage over Chyonokuni.

Aoiyama vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki has never won against Aoiyama, but for this basho, Aoiyama is clearly hurt, and Kagayaki is fighting in possibly his best form ever. If there was a chance to start correcting that 0-5 losing streak against Aoiyama, day 9 looks like it could be the day.

Takakeisho vs Chiyomaru – I think this one will be a blast. We have the near constant motion of Takakeisho against the bulbous Chiyomaru, who showed on day 8 that he actually has some decent sumo chops against Okinoumi. Takakeisho has won 3 of their 4 prior meetings.

Hokutofuji vs Takarafuji – Notable to me in that Hokutofuji seems to be getting some sense of his sumo back together, and may actually offer some kind of challenge to Takarafuji who has been struggling this tournament with rikishi who tend to stay low. Hokutofuji has a long way to go to recover to the kind of genki he was last year, but his fans believe he has it in him.

Chiyotairyu vs Ikioi – This match is more even than it may seem. Ikioi has been fighting above his recent average during Osaka and Natsu. Ikioi delivered a winning hatakikomi, and I think he will find a way to overcome Chiyotairyu’s cannon ball tachiai and win again.

Abi vs Kaisei – This one seems just for fun, as I am going to guess that unless Abi applies some force behind his long-arm tsuppari, it’s going to come down to Kaisei’s mighty bulk as the deciding factor. They have split their two other matches, so it’s anyone’s guess. I know Abi is having a fun time regardless.

Tochinoshin vs Daieisho – Tochinoshin needs just three more, and I am guessing that his 3-1 career advantage over Daieisho means he’s going to likely get one of them today. Daieisho did surprise Goeido, but I doubt he will be able to overcome Tochinoshin.

Ichinojo vs Goeido – If my guess that Goeido is having ankle problems again is correct, he won’t have much resistance to whatever Ichinojo brings to the early portion of the match. Goeido’s only hope is to use his favorite and best tuned offense – speed. Rapid movement is not an Ichinojo aspect.

Kotoshogiku vs Hakuho – Hakuho leads the series 53-6. I am going to say 54-6 shortly. Kotoshogiku is looking better this basho than he has in some time, and Hakuho looking rough and chaotic. But I still think “The Boss” will dispatch the Kyushu Bulldozer. Maybe not cleanly, but effectively.

Kakuryu vs Shodai – The career record favors Kakuryu 7-0, so he is clearly likely to win this one. But Shodai has been getting his opponents to more or less defeat themselves somehow this tournament. Perhaps some kind of Jedi mind trick. So there’s a small chance he my find a way to get Kakuryu to do himself in, and I will be eagerly watching the final match of the day.

Natsu Day 5 Highlights

Endo-Badge

With Act 1 in the books now, we can start to look forward to Act 2, where we sort the strong from the struggling, and a lot of hopes and dreams get crushed. While it may seem brutal to put it that way, each basho is a clean slate, and each rikishi has a chance to be completely different than the time before, if they have the means to do so. I would say the biggest surprise for me thus far is Shodai. How or why Shodai is 5-0 at the end of act 1 is a complete mystery to me, but I congratulate him on the effort and the achievement. I have always maintained the man has seeds of greatness within him, if he could just fix some of the mechanics of his sumo.

A close second place would be Ikioi. He was a force of nature in Osaka, in spite of what looked like the kind of injuries that might require hospitalization. Nope! He’s at it again. He has one loss but he is in “badass” mode every day. Today he dismantled Kotoshogiku in a wild “kitchen sink” match that delighted and entertained. I swear he has decided that playing it safe is no way to close out a sumo career, and he’s just going to throw caution to the winds and fight like a angry swan. For those of you who have never had a swan attack you, let me tell you, don’t try it.

Highlight Matches

Aminishiki defeats Takekaze – Uncle sumo finally wins one. It has been awesome to see him battle his way back up to Makuuchi once again, but he’s a poor broken fellow with more courage than fortitude remaining.

Aoiyama defeats Nishikigi – The giant Bulgarian wins by getting an armpit grip on Nishikigi and forcing him out. It’s painful watching Aoiyama fight, as it’s clear he is in a bunch of pain, but pushing to keep himself in the top division. Nishikigi’s position is even more precarious, so any loss must be a worry for him.

Tochiozan defeats Asanoyama – Asanoyama, featuring a massive elbow bandage, had the initiative for the bulk of this match. Tochiozan, to his credit, waited for an opportunity. Asanoyama continued to thrust against Tochiozan’s chest but eventually went off balance, and Tochiozan converted that quickly into a win. Experience pays.

Chiyonokuni defeats Daiamami – Wow, what a match! The start out with some oshi, punctuated with Daiamami taking a round house slap to the face. Having had enough of that he latches onto Chiyonokuni’s mawashi. Chiyonokuni struggles for a bit, but responds in kind. At one point Daiamami gets the deep double inside grip, but Chiyonokuni blazes ahead, forcing his opponent backward and out. Great match.

Takakeisho defeats Arawashi – This was won at the tachiai. Take a good look at how Takakeisho lands his first thrust against Arawashi’s shoulders before Arawashi can finish lunging forward. There was no recovering from that.

Kagayaki defeats Okinoumi – Kagayaki’s battle plan was simple, powerful and effective. He got under both arms of Okinoumi and marched forward. This guy keeps reminding me at times of a young Kisenosato, and I think if he can keep working upward and stay free of injury, he may follow a similar trajectory. Never glamorous, just solid sumo fundamentals.

Ryuden defeats Chiyomaru – Ryuden picks up his first win, much to his relief. Chiyomaru really made him work for it.

Yoshikaze defeats Takarafuji – I am starting to get hopeful. Yoshikaze looked stronger and faster today, and maybe a touch genki. The match was all about battling for grip, until Takarafuji lunged forward, and Yoshikaze instantly converted to exploiting his off-balance stance.

Ikioi defeats Kotoshogiku – Ikioi comes in low and goes chest to chest with the Kyushu Bulldozer straight out of the tachiai. When Kotoshogiku flexes to lift him up, Ikioi declares he will have none of that, and moves forward strongly, causing them both to lose their grip. After a failed attempt to throw Kotoshogiku, the resulting mess was completely off balance, but under Ikioi’s control, which he kept in motion until Kotoshogiku found the edge of the ring. Great work by Ikioi today, but once again post match he can barely walk.

Shodai defeats Chiyoshoma – Another mediocre to lame tachiai from Shodai, but then he takes over and just fork-lifts Chiyoshoma at the edge of the dohyo. Undefeated Shodai? I am going to make a bet that the scheduling team has some fun with him in act 2.

Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Mitakeumi took a head butt as the price to get inside, but he got his preferred offensive stance and went to work. Tamawashi immediately gave ground, but rallied. In his aggressive forward attack, he put his balance too far forward and Mitakeumi pulled him forward. His own momentum carried him out. Tamawashi is looking poorly right now, and I wonder if he is hurt. Mitakeumi ended the match dripping blood from his right eye, ouch!

Endo defeats Ichinojo – The big outcome of the day, and it was not an easy match for either man. Ichinojo gave Endo the inside grip immediately and went chest to chest, I am going to assume that his superior size and strength would carry the day. While Endo latched his right hand on Ichinojo’s mawashi, Ichinojo could not find a reciprocal grip. Finally getting deep with his right hand over Endo’s back, Ichinojo tried repeatedly to load an uwatenage, but Endo countered with some very impressive footwork. Stalemated, Ichonojo locks up Endo and works out a stage 2 plan, but Endo lands a left hand frontal grip for his third attack. Ichinojo realizes that his size is not going to stop this onslaught, and he is too high, with Endo buried in his chest, he has no room to lower his hips. Endo gives it all he has, and advances, winning a fantastic match. Complements to both rikishi on some outstanding sumo. The roar in the Kokugikan must have been deafening.

Tochinoshin defeats Kaisei – Kaisei was completely out-classed. No one can match the intensity of Tochinoshin right now, it’s a think of beauty.

Goeido defeats Yutakayama – Goeido almost attempted a pull against today. Someone fit that guy with a shock collar and give his oyakata the button to set it off.

Hakuho defeats Daieisho – I am going to assume that Hakuho is bored right now. No one has really given him even a decent warm up.

Kakuryu defeats Abi – Much as I assumed, Kakuryu found those long arms a bit of a problem, but they also are great leverage if you can grab one. Big K pulling again, but he got the win.

Natsu Day 2 Highlights

Hakuho-Dohyo-Iri

With Andy’s apt description of the GoeiDOS 2.1 upgrade described below, what is there left to say?  Another day with few surprises in the top division, but some entirely watchable sumo with plenty of matches to enjoy. It’s clear that both Ichinojo and Tochinoshin are in good form, and Goeido has yet to revert to “bad” form yet. Let’s go straight to the highlights.

Natsu Day 2 Highlights

Nishikigi defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu opened strong, but Nishikigi rallied with considerable strength and prevailed. I wonder if his precarious position on the banzuke motivates Nishikigi to higher levels of performance.

Kyokutaisei defeats Aminishiki – Uncle Sumo tries a henka, but Kyokutaisei reads it correctly and overpowers the aged rikishi, winning with a susoharai leg sweep. Hopefully Aminishiki did not pick up an additional injury.

Sadanoumi defeats Tochiozan – Word in the practice sessions leading up to the basho was that Tochiozan was in fantastic condition and performing very well. He seems to be genuinely struggling in the first two days.

Takekaze defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama opened strong and kept up the pressure, which was probably a mistake. Takekaze got Aoiyama moving forward, and then got out of his way.

Arawashi defeats Ishiura – Ishiura attempts a henka, and Arawashi is ready for him, grabbing him with his wide spread left arm and reeling him in for a quick push out. Ishiura needs some new tricks.

Okinoumi defeats Takakeisho – Takakeisho opened strong, and got some mighty shoves into Okinoumi, but Okinoumi returned the favor. As Takakeisho gave ground, he attempted a pull down, but Okinoumi was quite prepared for that, and thwarted his attack.

Daiamami defeats Hokutofuji – Wow, Daiamami made fast work of Hokutofuji who seems to be low-energy and somewhat uncertain of how to regain his former mojo. It’s sad to watch, and I am going to assume its due to some injury we fans don’t know about.

Daishomaru defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze did not look good today.

Chiyoshoma defeats Ryuden – Ryuden took the fight to Chiyoshoma with vigor and strength, but it was all Chiyoshoma, who completely ran this match and finished it with a resounding shitatenage. Ryuden is good, but has more work to do.

Ikioi defeats Takarafuji – Ikioi once again throws caution to the wind, and gives Takarafuji a stiff battle, ending with Ikioi hurling the man with no neck to the clay like a boss. The crowd goes wild.

Kotoshogiku defeats Chiyotairyu – Kotoshogiku was large and in charge today. He paid no attention to Chiyotairyu’s massive bulk and cannon-ball tachiai. It’s good to see that the Kyushu Bulldozer can still be a force of sumo.

Shodai defeats Daieisho – Daieisho opened strong and kept up the pressure on Shodai, who was on the defensive and moving backwards, a lucky pull from Shodai put Daieisho off balance and he could not recover. An ugly win for Shodai, but a white-star none the less.

Endo defeats Yutakayama – Endo struggled more than he should have in this match. That is a sign that Endo is not quite all there yet, and that Yutakayama put his heart into this match. Endo’s win came via a pull down from the edge of the ring.

Tochinoshin defeats Abi – I did not expect Abi to win, but he impressed the hell out of me with the fight he brought to Tochinoshin. Abi’s superior reach was used with great effect out of the tachiai, and frankly caught Tochinoshin by surprise. With the Ozeki hopeful in a strong nodowa, Abi had early control of the match. But Tochinoshin was not to be denied, and remember to go for the belt. Well done to Abi, a glorious loss. Your intro to the joi will be painful, but it’s part of the sport.

Ichinojo defeats Kaisei – A battle of the super-heavies, and as anticipated, it was all about how could do more with their ponderous bulk. Kaisei found the mawashi early, but it seemed to have little effect on The Boulder. After a bit of leaning on each other, Ichinojo stood Kaisei up and marched him out.

Goeido defeats Shohozan – Andy may have been right, the maintenance release Goeido 2.1 may be stable, on line and doing well. He make quick work of Shohozan with many characteristics of the “good” Goeido. Moving forward strongly with lightning speed and no consideration to restraint for the sake of any defense. Please do keep it up Goeido!

Kakuryu defeats Tamawashi – Kakuryu’s reactive sumo takes the day again. It’s not too tough to get Tamawashi to shift his weight quite far forward, and he readily obliged the Yokozuna, who politely encouraged him to exit the ring.

Hakuho defeats Mitakeumi – Hakuho struggled, no two ways about it. Mitakeumi is probably bringing everything he can to his sumo this outing, but I am starting to come around to Kintamayama’s point of view that “The Boss” is not quite healed up yet.

Natsu Day 2 Preview

Natsu Day 2b

After re-watching day 1 matches several times, an idea comes to mind. On the day 1 recap, there is some discussion about Hakuho. Some of our readers think he was pure Hakuho, arrogant, brash and in command. Herouth, myself and a few others are worried that he’s not quite 100% at the moment. Please feel free to weigh in with your thoughts in the comment section. I also note that Aoiyama looked a fraction of his normal self. There are some reports that he has damage to his undercarriage, and that could explain a few things. With his rank (M13w), he would be at real risk of a return to Juryo if he were to be kyujo without at least a few wins first.

I have to note, the NHK world broadcast has replaced many of the rikishi head-shot photos with a set of images that range from hideous to laughable. Please folks, consider a bit of color correction on those things.

A number of sumo fans, including the great Kintamayama, found day 1 unsurprising and perhaps a bit plain. I was just happy to have sumo back for a couple of weeks, even if all of the matches turned out as predicted. But in Act 1, we find out who is hot, and who is not. The only two I would cite as bringing a lot of “fire” to the dohyo on day 1 were Ichinojo, Tochinoshin and (surprisingly), Shodai. Let’s see what kind of fun day 2 can bring. It appears the schedulers have a real “folks with 1 win face off, folks with one loss face off” theme at work today.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Myogiryu vs Nishikigi – Myogiryu looked fairly solid day 1, but he comes up against Nishikigi who has a career 3-1 record against Myogiryu. Myogiryu like the belt throws, so this will be all about footwork and grip. Could be a good match.

Aminishiki vs Kyokutaisei – Uncle Sumo has only taken 1 match from Kyokutaisei, and word is that Aminishiki’s already questionable knees are recovering from strain or injury during the April jungyo tour. Everyone hoping for a storybook kachi-koshi for sumo’s most beloved uncle will need to temper their outlook. I just hope he can make it to senshuraku without going kyujo.

Takekaze vs Aoiyama – This will be a good test for how banged up Aoiyama actually is. Takekaze will be using every move in his considerable, judo-inspired inventory to best the big Bulgarian who holds a career 13-7 advantage.

Asanoyama vs Chiyonokuni – Both men won their first day matches, but they have never faced each other. Chiyonokuni is an absolute explosive powerhouse of oshi-zumo, and I am curious to see if he completely overwhelms Asanayama.

Okinoumi vs Takakeisho – Okinoumi have never won against Takakeisho in their 2 prior matches. In addition I think Takakeisho, who is normally set to 11, has found a way to reach for 11.5, as he wants to regain his position near the top of the banzuke. Okinoumi is very hit-or-miss, and its unclear how healthy his is this basho.

Daiamami vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji continues to look energetic but vague. His day 1 match was a sloppy mess that he let Takakeisho control, missing at least 2 opportunities to make the bowling ball with legs eat clay. To his advantage today is the 3-0 career lead he has over Daiamami.

Yoshikaze vs Daishomaru – I saw a glimmer of Berserker mode on day 1. After two tournaments where Yoshikaze looked like he had been coming to the dohyo straight from his sick-bed, it was refreshing to see him fight with vigor. As a bonus for day 2, Daishomaru has not ever won against Yoshikaze.

Chiyoshoma vs Ryuden – Ryuden got disposed of like a bad sandwich at Lawson’s on day 1. On day two he faces the always unpredictable Chiyoshoma, and I would guess will hold the advantage of guile over the Freshman.

Takarafuji vs Ikioi – These two have a 17 match career history, that favor the neckless rikishi 11-6. But does Ikioi care? Of course not! I am beginning to think that Ikioi has reached the point in his career where he is saying “Oh, F’ it all!”, and just using his mass and willingness to damage himself to overwhelm his opponents. Takarafuji is a careful and skilled fighter, and is no easy opponent. Could be a solid match.

Daieisho vs Shodai – So the day 1 Shodai was fun to watch. This is the kind of stuff that we used to see from Shodai much more frequently, and frankly its why some fans thought he was going to be a staple of the top of the banzuke for some time to come. Can he keep that going? Let’s see him take down the even match up he has with Daieisho.

Yutakayama vs Endo – Endo gets a bit of a breather after falling face first to Kakuryu. Their only prior match went to Endo, but Yutakayama seems to be in his groove these days. I would expect Endo to win this one, but it is my hope that Yutakayama really makes him work for it.

Tochinoshin vs Abi – Well, Abi gets a traditional Tokyo welcome to the joi. Smacked around, tossed to the grannies and generally made to question his own sumo to the point of worry. Day 2 he is cannon fodder to a brute on a mission to higher rank. I am pretty sure Abi will try something insightful and clever, and I am equally sure it will come down to Tochinoshin picking him up and tossing him to the cheering little old ladies, who will smother him with adoration. Everybody wins…

Kaisei vs Ichinojo – This much Waygu in motion is always cause for a safety briefing and careful evacuation drills on the part of the Kokugikan staff. Both men prefer big, slow and forceful, but I would give a distinct edge to Ichinojo, who may have promised himself story time with his favorite pony if he wins. The career record shows a 7-2 advantage for the Boulder.

Shohozan vs Goeido – We may have seen the first use of Goeido 2.1 on day 1, and it looked really good. Sharp, fast, no thought of defense. But then again, Shohozan and Kaisei are worlds apart. No one leaves a match with Shohozan without getting sore, and Goeido tends to react badly to being pounded. Like many gadgets, percussive maintenance could void the warranty. Even so Goeido holds a 11-7 career lead.

Kakuryu vs Tamawashi – Hopefully this match is less bizarre than day 1’s Hakuho “gimme a hug” posture mid-fight. People knocked Kakuryu for pulling Endo down, but Big K’s style is to stalemate his opponent and wait for his opening. What kind of opening Tamawashi is going to give him will be interesting to watch, but as Tamawashi is a brutal tsuppari practitioner, we may see the Yokozuna moving backwards again.

Mitakeumi vs Hakuho – This match might settle questions about Hakuho’s condition. Mitakeumi will come straight at him, no doubt about it. I am going to say that we may see a Harumafuji style mini-henka here.

Natsu Day 1 Preview

Sumo-Evolution

Yes, dear readers, it is time! We have waited long enough. In the next few hours, set aside your worries about your favorites being hurt: It’s honbasho time! It’s a full day of raging action for day 1 at the Kokugikan, and frankly I can’t wait for all the amazing stories that are about to unfold. Many folks will be focused on the top of the banzuke as the drama there plays out, but I find myself increasingly draw to Josh’s “Ones to watch”. This series has proven remarkably insightful while educating and entertaining. Most folks in the US (and other parts of the world) don’t even get to see all of Makuuchi, let alone all of the great action in Juryo, Makushita, Sandanme and Jonidan.

Just as it was in Osaka, my favorite stories are likely to be at the lower end of the Makuuchi banzuke. Nishikigi continues to refuse to ever give up, and somehow holds onto the last Maegashira slot at the edge of the earth. Aminishiki may have nothing more than courage and gristle left in his knees, but he will mount the dohyo today and give challenge. Kyokutaisei somehow adapted to life in the sumo heya, and excelled. Now he’s in Makuuchi and Hokkaido can finally represent once more. Go Hams!

Fans, keep in mind it will take a few days for everyone to settle into the tournament, so you may see some favorites looking like they are not quite their normal genki selves, and some great surprises. So expect anything!

What We Are Watching Day 1

Hell, I am going to watch all of it. But I am sure you don’t have the time to read everything I might write up about the outstanding fight card we have to start the basho. I will do my best.

Nishikigi vs Aminishiki – Nishikigi will never make San’yaku. He’s kind of blind as a bat without his specs, but even blind he’s good enough to find a way to stay in Makuuchi. Now he’s up against Uncle Sumo on day 1. I am sad for folks who are going to view the highlights, as you are not going to believe the roar that will rip through he Kokugikan as the yobidashi sings out his name. People LOVE Aminishiki. To many folks who might struggle with some challenge in their life, he is a reminder that “Nana korobi ya oki” can always apply! (Fall down seven times, get up eight)

Myogiryu vs Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei’s first match in the top division is against Myogiryu, a solid veteran who has been drifting between the top of Juryo and the bottom of Makuuchi during the past year.  These two are no strangers to each others’ fighting style. I will be curious to see if Kyokutaisei has any top division jitters.

Tochiozan vs Takekaze – I am very glad to see Takekaze back in the top division after a brief tour of Juryo. For reasons that I can’t imagine, all of the Oguruma upper echelon has been on the skids as of late. I have to wonder if maybe they are having problems with their Chanko supply… Tochiozan, on the other hand, has been reported to be ripping through folks during joint training in the past week. We know Tochiozan is capable of some explosive and powerful sumo, it would be acres of fun to see him have a great basho this May.

Sadanoumi vs Aoiyama – The Bulgarian man-mountain is back for more, like a giant angry dollop of sour cream with the reach to slap you from across the dohyo. Sadanoumi is a seasoned veteran who is probably happy to be pulling down Makuuchi pay again. My bet is on Aoiyama, who always seems to start tournaments strong. With Sadanoumi preferring the belt, he will have to survive the withering rain of blows from Aoiyama to get there.

Ishiura vs Asanoyama – The happy rikishi goes up against Ishiura, whose sumo seems a bit lost these days. He opened big a bit over a year ago, but his limited arsenal of moves has left him in something of a corner. I think he has amazing potential if he can find his sumo again. We can count on Asanoyama being happy just to get to do sumo today, even though he really likes to win.

Arawashi vs Chiyonokuni – As discussed in the podcast, both of these rikishi are tremendous fighters. They bring huge energy and go flat out with nothing in reserve. Both of them deserve a good, turn-around basho this May, but first they need to beat the daylights out of each other.

Takakeisho vs Hokutofuji – One of my highlight matches. Hopefully both men are healed up from the injuries that have left them underperforming. With significant changes at the top of the banzuke anticipated this year, now is the right time for both of them to press hard for the top ranks. We have not seen Takakeisho’s wave action tsuppari in several basho, and we need him to bring it back with gusto. Likewise I want to see Hokutofuji channel Kaiō again. There is a big role that may open up for a huge, powerful rikishi who moves low and balances offense and defense.

Yoshikaze vs Chiyomaru – Another match where the fans are going to erupt when the yobidashi call the rikishi. People adore Yoshikaze, in part because he never ever gives up, and is always bright, witty and a gentleman. And people love Chiyomaru because who the hell can hold a grudge against a guy like that? Word on the street is that with Yoshikaze getting free meals anywhere in Sumida, they are going out for supper afterwards. The same rumor cites Chiyomaru for a spate of early restaurant closures in the area (they run out of food), as well as a rash of missing house plants, vending machines and even a pair of manhole covers. Listen for him to clank suspiciously as he mounts the dohyo.

Ryuden vs Takarafuji – One of my freshmen takes on the highest ranking man remaining at the once-mighty Isegahama beya. Both men are going to go for a mawashi grip early, but I would give Takarafuji a slight edge.

Chiyoshoma vs Ikioi – Only question to ask here – is Ikioi healed up? It was painful to watch him walk the hanamichi in Osaka. We can only hope that he was able to heal fully. This is two seasoned vets going head to head, so I am sure it’s going to be a solid match.

Kotoshogiku vs Shodai – Well, Shodai is probably going to get owned. Mostly because he tends to let Kotoshogiku do whatever he wants, and he wants to give you a sweet, passionate battle hug.

Chiyotairyu vs Yutakayama – Another of my freshmen, Yutakayama, is going up against Chiyotairyu, who had BETTER HAVE HIS SIDEBURNS! Seriously, the kami that inhabits his sideburns is the source of his sumo power. Granted the kami is some kind of sprit of a smelly mountain aesthetic from the feudal period who never ever washed, and ate nothing but fermented sardines, but we take what we can get in life, right?

Mitakeumi vs Daieisho – The King of the Tadpoles needs to make a comeback. The big jump ball at the top of the banzuke is coming, and if Mitakeumi wants a ticket to that dance, he needs to be producing double-digit wins every basho from here on out. He has the body, the skill, the heart to do it. But I suspect he doubts himself just a tiny bit. That’s all it takes at the top of this sport to keep yourself from greatness. Daieisho, however, is point man on team Oitekaze. I can’t wait to see if he starts Natsu as genki as he ended Haru.

Abi vs Ichinojo – Could be the match of the day. We get the lead Freshman against The Boulder. Large, tough as granite, and when roused, quite dangerous. He has added an astonishing 20 kg to his already ponderous bulk, and rumor has it, two new cuddle-ponies at Minato beya. Much to the chagrin of his tsukebito. Abi has to stay mobile, and use Ichinojo’s mass against him.

Tochinoshin vs Shohozan – If you wanted cake and ice cream for Mothers Day, here we go. Big guns goes up against unstoppable strength. Win or lose, nobody leaves a match with Shohozan without being sore. But Tochinoshin’s fantastic strength will likely carry the day, provided his upper body is healed.

Kaisei vs Goeido – I think this one is all Goeido. Goeido is lightning fast, and Kaisei seems to be huge, powerful and kind of slow. Andy thinks that he’s been upgraded to GoeiDOS 2.1, so we will see what shows up tomorrow.

Tamawashi vs Hakuho – It’s Hakuho time! It will be good to see The Boss back in action. But Tamawashi is a tough first customer. As long as Tamawashi is not psyched out by facing the dai-Yokozuna, I think he will give him a good, if brief, fight. Boss all the way on this one. [Past history is 10-0 in Hakuho’s favour. –PinkMawashi]

Kakuryu vs Endo – Woo! Saving the best for last, and what a match-up. Endo is a very technical rikishi, I have heard that he studies video of his opponent before each match. He looks for habits, things they like to do. He comes up with ways to counter strong moves and attack weak ones. He starts against Kakuryu who is the master of “reactive sumo”. He loves to stalemate an opponent and wait for them to make a mistake, which he turns against them in a blink of an eye.

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!

A Day Out at the Koshigaya Gymnasium: Spring Jungyo Finale

Koshigaya Gymnasium - Exterior
The Koshigaya Gymnasium

It’s been a month since the conclusion of the Haru basho, and if you’re like me, you probably really miss sumo right now. If you’re like me, you’re also in Japan for the next month and will be looking to cover some unique events for Tachiai. So, with that in mind, I headed up to Koshigaya today for the final date of the spring Jungyo tour. This is my first time covering Jungyo for the site, and I will do my best to do justice to the work of the mighty Herouth!

Getting to Koshigaya

From my base near Shimbashi Station in Tokyo, it took about an hour, two trains and around ¥600 to reach the town of Koshigaya in Saitama prefecture. Koshigaya Station is your typical Japanese suburban train station with a decent amount of amenities, and it was very handy that the station had a 7-11 ATM that supports international cards, as I didn’t have much cash on hand for food and/or souvenirs.

From the station, it’s about a 3km/35-40 minute walk to the Gymnasium (which is part of a sports complex in the town), and the alternative options are bus and taxi. I didn’t see any buses and there was one taxi nearby, so I grabbed that at the price of an additional ¥1450. Both the driver and I had a very limited grasp of each others’ languages, but I showed him where I wanted to go on the map and off we went.

The Venue

IMG_2738-2036166217-1524823409462.jpg

The entrance to the Gymnasium was very festive, despite some scaffolding in front of the venue as you can see in the photo at the top of this post. There were a number of food stalls set up out front, and also some rikishi walking around (most prominently, in more ways than one, Chiyootori).

It is safe to say I have never been at a place in Japan where people were so happy to see me, at every stall. They were incredibly surprised to see a foreigner in their town (I saw, at most, 3 or 4 others in the venue), and everyone wanted to be very welcoming to me. An older gentleman at a noodle stall asked where I live, and when I told him that I live in Los Angeles, he was extremely excited to share that he spent time in Chicago in his younger days. He assumed I must have friends in Koshigaya and when I told him I was just visiting to come see the sumo, he shook my hand in surprise multiple times and very enthusiastically thanked me for supporting the town and his stall.

At the door, you receive a sheet with the day’s torikumi and a plastic bag for your shoes. Fortunately, our friends at BuySumoTickets.com alerted me when I purchased my ticket that everyone must remove shoes inside the venue and switch into your own slippers. If I hadn’t brought a pair with me, I probably would have been OK just wearing socks, as I saw a handful of people doing (the restrooms, if you’re interested, had a space outside for switching from your slippers into special provided shoes for the toilets). The whole floor inside the entry of the venue was covered with tarp. At the entry, it was quite easy to make this costume change, but the large group of (mostly elderly) fans exiting the arena at the end of the day led to quite a bit of a bottleneck.

The food and merch stands inside the venue had good, if limited selections. The best option at jungyo seems to be to take advantage of the numerous local vendors outside. I grabbed a box of karaage inside the venue which was tasty, if a bit fattier and greasier than you’ll usually find at the Kokugikan.

The Gymnasium layout consists entirely of floor seats on the main dohyo level, and a couple of sections of arena seats in the upper level. I had an Arena “A” seat, of which there were two rows up against the balcony wall in front of the corridor, so I had a view unimpeded by pedestrians.

The crowd on hand consisted mostly of the extremes of very young children and very elderly folks. There were a lot of grandparents on hand with their grandchildren. A very large group of school kids wearing yellow bucket hats filled out the room for the sekitori bouts. In all, the venue and events provide a great day for families and in the local community to connect with sumo, and I found that being there in person was an interesting counterpoint to how jungyo is often discussed: “that endless injury-causing tour that everyone complains about.”

The Events

I arrived just in time to see Hakuho engaging Ryuden for butsukari. Hakuho was playing up the crowd, who loved every appearance he made throughout the day. It was clear that his presence just electrifies the room, and this was made even more clear given that we were in a smaller, local gymnasium.

Kiddie sumo came up next, with a group of very eager kids pairing up to take on the three local Saitama-born rikishi Hokutofuji, Daieisho and Abi, as well as Endo and Ryuden. Endo led off, after which Hokutofuji and Ryuden took several rounds. Abi, who was unquestionably the star of the day, played up the local crowd by interfering with Hokutofuji and Ryuden’s bouts, coming up behind and helping the kids push/pull the big rikishi out. Ryuden looked absolutely exhausted and was still covered in dirt from the Hakuho treatment he had received moments earlier, but he still managed to give a pair of kids the helicopter treatment, grabbing one each by the mawashi and spinning them around in the air!

Finally, Daieisho and Abi got their turns to loud applause from the crowd. With Abi, the kids took the logical approach: trying to lift up those huge legs! And of course, shiko-wizard Abi took this as an opportunity to show off just how high he could raise his leg (answer: well over the head of a small child).

Abi with fans. Jungyo Koshigaya 27 April 2018
Local hero Abi: taking pictures and signing autographs for fans

There was a bit of a lull after the butsukari and kiddie sumo finished. While the jungyo events follow a different cadence to the relentless progression of a day at a honbasho, it’s still a long day, and plenty of folks were taking naps in the upstairs part of the venue while the sandanme and makushita wrestlers were having their bouts.

The shokkiri team of Sadogatake-beya’s Kotoryusei and Kotorikuzan definitely brought the comedy to their portion of the day’s events, and I’ve added the first 5 minutes of their performance here:

The performance was a real welcome moment to get everyone in good mood and ready to enjoy the stars as they prepared to mount the dohyo for their proper bouts. The only sad part of the shokkiri was that the crowd didn’t seem to recognise Kotoryusei’s impression of Kotoshogiku doing his famous belly bend. Is it possible that now that the former Ozeki has stopped doing his famous pre-match routine, some memory-challenged fans simply forgot it?

The Bouts

Touching on just one bout outside of the top two divisions, I will say that the Chiyootori comeback tour is looking good. He appeared mostly unbandaged apart from one foot, and created a thunderous tachiai that I actually felt in the second row of the upper deck, as it reverberated in the entire gymnasium. I suppose that is one benefit of the odd acoustic differences between a gymnasium and a proper arena like the Kokugikan.

Juryo

Enho easily dealt with Akua but came away with a bloodied face for his troubles. Here’s the video:

Terutsuyoshi deployed his heaping salt throw and had a decent start against Akiseyama as he worked to lock up his arms. But, when he shifted to get a mawashi grip, the big man took advantage and got two hands around the smaller rikishi, picking him up by the back of the mawashi and carrying him out spectacularly.

Billy no-mates Takagenji, the lone sekitori representative of his more isolationist stable at the jungyo, posted a good yorikiri win over a thoroughly exhausted Daishoho, after a prolonged grapple in the center of the dohyo. If Takagenji can continue that form, then he should have a good tournament at Natsu.

Tsurugisho is middling at the moment, but he absorbed Kotoeko‘s tachiai in an almighty clash and tossed him aside, laying waste to the notion that the Sadogatake man might be ready for a big promotion that it’s possible he will get this weekend.

Terunofuji beat Gagamaru, who showed up without any strapping, so I assumed he’d be in good health and genki. You wouldn’t have known that to be the case, as Gagamaru appeared to be so confused at the tachiai that he must have thought he was Shodai. He just stood up and took two blasts from Terunofuji, who promptly switched to plan B, turned the Georgian around and pushed him out. This was not really a match that will tell us much about either guy, and Terunofuji, who received a hearty applause in the dohyo-iri and then entering and exiting the arena floor, appeared a little disappointed in the level of opposition.

Kyokutaisei, who usually has an expression like someone ate his chanko, had a grin on his face all day, both in the dohyo-iri and before his match with Takekaze. It looked like Takekaze might get the better of him, but after a good grapple, the soon-to-be shin-makuuchi man pushed out his elder colleague.

Makuuchi

A number of infants made the makuuchi dohyo-iri and one man holding an infant was Saitama prefecture’s Abi who received an almighty ovation during the ring entering ceremony for the east rikishi of the top division. On the west, Tochinoshin seemed to receive the largest round of applause. I didn’t think there would be a louder cheer than we got for Hakuho‘s dohyo-iri, but the place exploded when Kisenosato walked in the room.

Asanoyama meant business and led with what appeared to be a Takayasu-style shoulder blast before leading Nishikigi to the bales and out.

Chiyoshoma vs Ishiura is a battle I want to see every basho. The Tottori protein spokesman and GQ model drew a nice round of applause, and this match also had a handful of sponsors. As for what happened, regular readers won’t need to guess: Even at jungyo, Ishiura tried a henka. He nearly pulled it off, as the Kokonoe man ran right through. Up against the bales, Chiyoshoma managed three times to pull the smaller rikishi up with his legs dangling horizontally in the air, but all of those protein shakes are working for the muscular man from Miyagino-beya, and Ishiura managed to put him over the the line. Then he threw a cool party on Instagram Live tonight, featuring Daishomaru, Terutsuyoshi and a very reluctant Akiseyama.

David Gray was a pop singer with a good run of success in the 2000s, and on stage, he became known for how his head would wobble from side to side when he played guitar. Ryuden has an oddly-similar pre-match demeanor, and suffered a fairly straightforward yorikiri loss to Yutakayama, whose technical ability has improved tremendously. Mawashi-watchers will note that Ryuden has switched from black to a new wine-colored mawashi.

Daieisho got a good round of applause from the locals as he mounted the dohyo. Okinoumi had him going backwards, but Daieisho turned the veteran around and got a yorikiri win for his troubles. Again, it’s tough to take a lot from this match, and I’ll just say it was probably not a match he would have won in a honbasho that wasn’t taking place in a gymnasium in his home prefecture against a perma-injured opponent.

Chiyonokuni is now sporting a blue mawashi. Not a vibrant Kotoshogi-blue but more of a soft Shodai blue. I don’t know what Kagayaki was doing engaging him in a high octane slapfest but Chiyonokuni loves a good handbags-at-ten-paces kind of encounter and ushered his opponent back and out.

Yoshikaze didn’t look great, and Hokutofuji grabbed him one-handed by the belt, pulled him around and shoved him out. I thought the winning technique was going to be called an okuridashi, but, perhaps charitably for the elder, losing rikishi, it was ruled uwatedashinage.

Kaisei v Chiyomaru: these guys are big enough to bring a small gymnasium down with a thunderous tachiai. The announcer gave Kaisei’s shusshin as Sao Paolo rather than Brazil, which I hadn’t heard before, and thought was cool. Chiyomaru dropped the pretense he has sometimes flirted with of trying to be a mawashi guy, and relentlessly thrusted Kaisei out. Chiyomaru reminded me of a smaller, rounder Aoiyama in this match. Kaisei (who has been giving great face lately) walked away toothily grimacing and clutching his stinging chest.

Kotoshogiku and Takarafuji engaged in a battle of the vets. Takarafuji is always technically very sound, but this time he was clinical as well: he wrapped up his man, and escorted him out. Takarafuji has also switched to a soft matte blue mawashi from his previous wine blend.

Big Guns Shohozan took on Tamawashi, who also has given up his signature teal mawashi for the very in-vogue soft matte blue. This was a street fight that I wish I caught on video. Both men bounced off each other and then stood a few paces apart, seemingly egging the other to bring it on. Shohozan threw a right hook which Tamawashi ducked, then both men traded attempts at a roundhouse and missed before Tamawashi just shoved Shohozan into the crowd. This was another matchup I hope to see again soon.

Endo was wearing a dark purple mawashi, and took on local man Abi, who got an enormous applause. Endo got the better of the tachiai and moved Abi back, but of course the local hero danced his long limbs out of danger and recovered to put Endo away. Abi exited to huge cheers from the crowd. Watch the match:

Ichinojo smacked into Chiyotairyu in the matchup of the two current komusubi, and had him out within seconds.

I’m not sure where the version of Mitakeumi we saw today has been. He charged into Tochinoshin, moving him back. But then, Tochinoshin lifts him off his feet, and as his feet are wiggling in the air, you think: “oh no, he’s going to get embarrassed again.” But he recovers, turns the Georgian and lifts the Hatsu yusho winner off his feet and out.

Goeido beat Kisenosato in a lengthy match where it looked like he was going to snap the Yokozuna’s left arm in half probably 2 or 3 times. It was clear even in an exhibition contest that Kisenosato has very limited ability to do much with that injured left side. Let’s cut to the VT:

In the musubi-no-ichiban, Hakuho has a good match against a Kakuryu who fought hard. Kakuryu moves Hakuho back, but this crowd is here to see The Boss win and he delivers them the victory. As Kakuryu moves to pin him back, Hakuho lifts up his fellow Mongolian yokozuna in the air, spins and deposits him out of the ring.

After the event ended, there were long lines on hand for buses and taxis in a suburban town which perhaps wasn’t used to holding large events. There didn’t appear to be enough buses or taxis, but the bus seemed my best bet to get back to the train station. In spite of the wait, the elderly crowd was very good-natured, and a nice old gentleman waiting next to me gave me a wrapped seat cushion from the event as a gift.

I can’t say enough about how friendly and warm and welcoming everyone in the Koshigaya community was, and I strongly recommend checking out a jungyo event if you ever get the chance.

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 Day 10 Preview

Goeido Kensho

We come to the end of act 2 with nearly complete success from the team that puts together the torikumi – the daily fight schedule. Their job in act 2, the middle five days of the tournament, was to narrow down the leaderboard, and to sort the rikishi into three groups: the contenders, the defeated and the survivors. Sumo fans can look across the standings at the end of today, and clearly see each of the three groups taking shape across the top division.

The ultimate score would be to get dirt on either or both of the leaders on the final day of Act 2. This would suddenly make the contender group far more viable, and launch us into act 3. In all basho, act 3 is focused on finding the yusho winner. In general, you want as many of your rikishi who made it into the “Contender” group to be fighting it out every day for their chance to take home the cup, while the rest of the crowd work to avoid being cast into the “defeated” group. We certainly have the crew on deck for this kind of act 3, but our leaders are 2 wins ahead of everyone else, and that makes it quite tough to open the yusho race to a fierce multi-way barnyard brawl. [Especially since one of them is Kakuryu. As the sole Yokozuna in the tournament, his schedule is largely fixed by tradition – he can be expected to fight almost all of the San’yaku in the final five days. The torikumi committee have little desire to change this. –PinkMawashi]

That leads us into day 10, which has some fantastic sumo action, and a number of bouts with “highlight reel” potential.

Haru Leaderboard

Leaders: Kakuryu, Kaisei
Chasers: None
Hunt Group: Takayasu, Tochinoshin, Ichinojo, Daishomaru, Ikioi, Daiamami, Aoiyama

6 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 10

Aoiyama vs Takekaze – Takakaze is up checking out his return to Makuuchi for Natsu, facing off against a seemingly unstoppable wrecking machine in the form of Aoiyama. I am sorry, but I must beat this drum again. Had it not been for the shoddy call on day 5, he would be the sole man at 8-1. A big advantage for Aoiyama in this match.

Tochiozan vs Daiamami – First-time match between an injured and failing Tochiozan, and a rather genki Daiamami. Daiamami is still hanging tough only 2 losses back from the leaders, and his sumo is looking very solid this basho.

Ikioi vs Yutakayama – Ikioi has really been putting on a show for his hometown fans, and they are legion. In spite of his injuries and daily discomfort, this man puts on some solid sumo. Granted he’s down at Maegashira 14 right now and has an easier than normal fight card. But fans new to sumo may be getting a taste of why Ikioi is a big draw for many sumo followers.

Kagayaki vs Daishomaru – Kagayaki is in real danger of being sorted into the “Defeated” group, and he’s up against another of the surging Oitekaze heya team. Historically, it’s 6-2 in Kagayaki’s favor, but Daishomaru is on a roll right now.

Hokutofuji vs Takakeisho – I am going to be watching closely, as I suspect Takakeisho has injured his right thigh or pulled his groin muscle. Either way, he is not moving well and seems to be working to endure his matches. Hokutofuji desperately needs to regroup, and I wonder if the upcoming jungyo tour might actually help him, as he would be sparring daily with a larger variety of rikishi.

Kotoshogiku vs Takarafuji – This has the potential to be a solid bit of sumo, even though Takarafuji, sadly, has just one win. Takarafuji has been putting out a great effort each and every day, just not enough to earn white stars. We saw some great classic Kotoshogiku form on day 9, and if he can muster that again, we could be in for a real battle.

Ichinojo vs Kaisei – Quite possibly the match of the day here, can Kaisei overpower the Boulder? I think it’s mechanically possible, but how it plays out is going to be awesome to watch. Ichinojo still doing quite well and is part of the group 2 behind the leaders.

Mitakeumi vs Shohozan – Both men suffered greatly during act 2, and now both of them are struggling to stay above a 50% win mark. With double digits wins almost mathematically impossible now for Mitakeumi, it will mark another basho where his fans wonder what it will take for him to rise to the next level.

Takayasu vs Shodai – Oh good lord. Unless Shodai “Goes Hulk”, which he does sometimes, this is going to be a question of how long Takayasu wants to play with him before winning.

Tochinoshin vs Goeido – Another option for the match of the day. Goeido lost day 9 due to a poorly timed move. It’s time to see if he puts that aside or if it worries him into another loss. Goeido has a habit of letting one mistake throw off his sumo, and fans are all hoping he can keep steady. Tochinoshin’s sumo just seems to be stronger with each passing match, so this one has much potential with the Hatsu Yusho winner facing down Osaka’s hometown champ.

Kakuryu vs Chiyomaru – The biggest risk here, in my opinion, is an injury to the Yokozuna. Chiyomaru tends to start with a giant blast but rapidly lose stamina. With Kakuryu’s reactive sumo, I am looking for him to blunt Chiyomaru’s opening salvo and work to get him off balance and once again rolling westward. Look out Hiroshima, he’s coming through!