Natsu Day 13 Preview


Hakuho-Kensho

Marking Time Till The Final Showdown

Most of the questions around Natsu were resolved on day 12, and so the last big question – and it’s a big one, is the yusho. Right now, Yokozuna Hakuho has a 1 match lead over Yokozuna Harumafuji. Due to Kisenosato and Kakuryu’s withdraw, they will meet on the final bout of day 15. If both remain at their current scores (12-0, 11-1), Harumafuji can force a playoff by beating Hakuho. I can almost hear the echo of Osaka.

But first the two surviving Yokozuna have to navigate a few challengers. I would expect them to win the next two matches, but there is always an opting for wild outcomes.

There is also the question of the special prizes. Right now Ura, Takayasu, Tamawashi, Tochinoshin and Takakeisho could possibly be considered. For the most part it comes down to 10 wins or more.

For those looking forward to our July banzuke discussion, I dare you to try and figure out the Makuuchi <-> Juryo moves. No one in Juryo will end up with more than 10 wins, ok – that’s not too uncommon, but then there are 7 more that could end up with 9 wins. At this point, only J2w Kyokushuho and J4e Nishikigi look like they might be promotable. But then you have maybe 4 Maegashira who are probably worthy of demotion back to Juryo. Maybe once it’s all over the picture will make more sense, but I doubt it. One thing is certain, the July banzuke is going to have a huge amount of churn.

Natsu Leader board

LeaderHakuho
Hunt Group – Harumafuji
Chasers – Terunofuji, Takayasu, Ura

3 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 13

Sadanoumi vs Kaisei – I am guessing they are trying on Sadanoumi as another promotable. Kaisei is still struggling to lock up a kachi-koshi, he needs 2 more wins.

Kotoyuki vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki has his kachi-koshi, and Kotoyuki may be headed to Juryo, he is also at least somewhat injured. Thus far Kotoyuki leads career matches 3-0, but with him being injured, and Kotoyuki improving quite a bit this basho, it’s time for a new page in their record book.

Ichinojo vs Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu can lock up his kachi-koshi with a win over the towering Ichinojo. I don’t know what happened to Ichinojo, but he really seems so very lost this basho. I think he could be a big deal (and not just his mass to height ratio), but like so many rikishi, he needs to clear up lingering health issues.

Daishomaru vs Takakeisho – Daishomaru trying for his kachi-koshi today against a red-hot Takakeisho. They are evenly matched career wise, but I am guessing Daishomaru may get this one.

Hokutofuji vs Onosho – Another lab experiment bout brought on by kyujo pock-marks in the torikumi. You could look at it as Maegashira 7 vs Maegashira 14, or as two up-and-coming youngsters duking it out. I do know that Onosho has a fun habit of beating Hokutofuji. So I bet this one is a brawl.

Ura vs Ikioi – Oh yes, thank you oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan! This is the kind of match that myself and sumo fans around the globe live for. What kind of bizzaro stuff is Ura going to produce today? Will Ikioi decode his incantations and put a stop to Ura’s sorcery?

Tochinoshin vs Shodai – Yes, yes, a hundred times yes! Both sumotori have secured their promotions, now it’s just to see who is king of the hill. Once again we get the big guy who can’t quite tachiai, against a man with tree trunks for thighs, who can and probably does lift the Tokyo Skytree so they can vacuum under it.

Chiyoshoma vs Yoshikaze – Now that the promotion lanes are going to be open, I am keen to see Yoshikaze reach his magic 8 wins, and cement himself in the San’yaku for July. Chiyoshoma is running on fumes, but can still deliver a great match, as he has dropped Takarafuji and Takakaze in the last two days.

Mitakeumi vs Endo – This goes double for Mitakeumi, I am pulling for him to get his magic 8 and remain in the San’yaku. By the dangly bits of Chiyonofuji, I think he can do it. Endo still has a slim chance at kachi-koshim but he has a bit of an uphill fight. Endo did look very sharp against Yoshikaze day 11, and that a hell of a brawl.

Terunofuji vs Tochiozan – Time to see if our favorite Kaiju was hurt badly on day 12, or if was just some kind of cramp that the trainers could work out. I really pray that Terunofuji can stay healthy, because for the past 2 basho, he has been the only credible Ozeki to be found. Tochiozan will provide a good test for him.

Harumafuji vs Takayasu – These two really do throw down hard. But it’s been since Aki that Takayasu actually won against “The Horse”. A win by the hairy one would cement his Ozeki status, and knock Harumafuji out of the yusho race. But my money is on Harumafuji for day 13, is only loss was a silly slip, and apart from that he is really in excellent form.

Tamawashi vs Hakuho – Hakuho has one goal now, keep in form and pick up no injuries. Tamawashi is strong enough to be a spoiler, but “The Boss” has been in most excellent form this basho, and it’s really magic to watch him do his sumo once more.

Yokozuna Kisenosato Withdraws From Natsu


Kisenosato
Image From Sponichi Sports Annex

Pectoral Injury Concerns.

Word has come from blog reader Asashosakari that Kisenosato has withdrawn from the Natsu basho. Followers of tachiai will note that both Andy and myself have been urging Kisenosato to own up to the seriousness of his injury, and go kyujo. No, big K – you can’t gamberize you way out of this one. At some point the human body is unable to follow even the most indomitable spirit.

Official word from the NSK

Kisenosato injured his left pectoral muscle in the final days of the Osaka basho, and somehow believed that resting it would allow the muscle to repair. As we reported prior to Natsu, this injury typically requires surgery to repair, and even then the muscle is forever degraded. The NSK tweet above cites the left bicep, but its been clear since day 3 that his left pectoral is only functioning at a minimal level, and he had no power on his left side.

We applaud Kisenosato for doing what is best for his career and longevity, and hope that sumo fans will understand the chances of much more serious injury or complications were quite real with the upcoming torikumi. His withdrawal hands Tamawashi a default win for day 11, earning him his kachi-koshi.

Natsu Day 9 Highlights


Hakuho-dohyo-iri

Daieisho Finally Wins One

The injured Kisenosato gave up his second kinboshi today, this time to a resurgent Tochiozan. It’s been amazing to watch Kisenosato stay competitive in spite of his almost useless left upper body, but perhaps there is now a working formula to defeat him in his weakened state.

Goeido went down to Terunofuji, even though it looks like Goeido 2.0 showed up. With Terunofuji in Kaiju mode, there is not much that can slow him down. On day 8 when he picked up a bulky and squirming Mitakeumi by the shoulders and lifted him past the tawara, it was clear that everyone was in danger.

The other big news is that Kotoshogiku avoided make-koshi today by winning against Endo. Somehow Endo allowed himself to be wrapped up for a hug-n-chug, which Kotoshogiku was all to happy to apply. While it is a reprieve, the chances that Kotoshogiku won’t end up with a strong losing record are incredibly small. Will he endure a demotion back to Maegashira? Or will he take his kabu and retire to a new role helping to run and build the world of sumo?

Selected Highlights

Kyokushuho defeats Chiyotairyu – Juryo visitor Kyokushuho did in fact beat Chiyotairyu, but rather than expected slapping match, it was a straight mawashi test of strength bout.

Tokushoryu defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama picks up his make-koshi, and will probably be headed back to Juryo, that is if there is anyone in Juryo worth of promotion. This was another really fine mawashi battle that saw both rikishi put forth a strong effort.

Ishiura defeats Daishomaru – Ishiura pulls a henka after a possibly deliberate false start. Normally I would not support henka, but Ishiura is really up against the wall in terms of a winning vs losing record.

Onosho defeats Kagayaki – Another battle of the mawashi (it seems to have been the day for it) that saw Kagayaki’s winning streak stopped. Fantastic effort by Onosho to first stop and then reverse Kagayaki relentless forward motion. Once he got Kagayaki moving backwards, it was all over.

Ura defeats Shohozan – Plasticman again stays ridiculously low, and baffles his opponent. The formula seems to be for him to get his opponent wrapped up on his shoulders then push them rapidly backwards and out. Hey, it’s working! Maybe it’s the chonmage-toshi?

Shodai defeats Hokutofuji – It was 100% Shodai from the start, as Hokutofuji never got his feet steady. In spite of Shodai’s sloppy tachiai, he was able to get Hokutofuji high and off balance due to Hokutofuji’s even sloppier tachiai today.

Ikioi defeats Takanoiwa – Very quick kotenage from Ikioi. The two grappled briefly at the tachiai, but Ikioi deftly rolled Takanoiwa into the rolling throw and the match was done.

Daieisho defeats Takarafuji – YES, that’s right, winless Daieisho finally scores his first win this basho, and did it in pretty good style. Watch this one if they show it on the highlights.

Yoshikaze defeats Mitakeumi – A strong start saw Yoshikaze and Mitakeumi locked up at the center of the dohyo, each trying to push the other backwards. Well, it seems to have been a strategy for Yoshikaze, because after a few moments of egging Mitakeumi on, he backed off and slapped him down. A veteran exploiting the rookies bravado and enthusiasm. We still love you Mitakeumi, you are going to be a big deal soon.

Takayasu defeats Chiyonokuni – Takayasu has his kachi-koshi, but his real goal of 10 wins is still 2 away. Chiyonokuni initiated a vigorous thrusting match at first, but as we have seen this basho, Takayasu stood up to it like a man made of stone. He waited for his opportunity, and grabbed Chiyonokuni’s mawashi and took control. Moments later the uwatenage was applied and Chiyonokuni was on the clay.

Tochiozan defeats Kisenosato – This was all Tochiozan from the tachiai, Kisenosato was high and off balance at once. Tochiozan walks away with his very own kensho Mt. Fuji diorama.

Hakuho defeats Aoiyama – Big Aoiyama had nothing, it was another example of The Boss having his way with any rikishi he faces. May be somewhat unstoppable until he faces Harumafuji.

Harumafuji defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi actually presented a reasonable challenge for a few seconds, and that just seemed to really fire up Harumafuji, who just poured on the forward pressure. Both rikishi ended up launching into the first row of zabuton. It did look as if maybe Harumafuji had some pain in his knee after their crash landing, we hope he is ok.

 

Natsu Day 6 Highlghts


Hakuho

It Feels Like An Old Fashioned Basho.

Remember last year when every tournament was a contest between Hakuho and Harumafuji to see which one could go without losing a single bout? Those were heady days when to two Mongolian super-sumotori ruled the dohyo, and nobody could really do much to them.

Then there were injuries, hospitalization, recuperation, and problems galore. For fans of these two great Yokozuna, it’s quite enjoyable to see them dominant once more. Each has a powerful and distinctive style of sumo that will be sorely missed once they retire (which is coming sooner than any of us want).

Items of note

Takayasu lost his first match today to fellow Sekiwake Tamawashi. This match was lost at the tachiai, which was sloppy for Takayasu. He slipped to 5-1

Goeido seems to be running the 2.0 software again, which I really like. I have had fears over the stability of his injured ankle, but it would seem that he is back to something close to his Aki form, which is excellent Ozeki class sumo.

Also working hard to ensure we never get to No-Zeki is Terunofuji. Today he looked like a cat toying with a grasshopper. Even the gyoji caught a piece of the action.

Select Matches

Onosho defeats Kotoyuki – Onosho continues to impress. Today he exploded into the tachiai and the momentum just carried Kotoyuki out.

Ura defeats Ichinojo – Simple, Ichinojo let Ura dictate the form of the match. Ura went low, stayed low, Ichinojo tried to follow and Ura was in control. Done.

Kagayaki defeats Takakeisho – A festival of pushing, shoving, slapping and bashing until Takakeisho lost his balance and fell. The pushme-pullyous seems to be running sumo now. Did everyone forget the rest of the kimarate list?

Takanoiwa defeats Shodai – Shodai is still too high at the tachiai, and never got his footing.

Tamawashi defeats Takayasu – Tamawashi won this one on the line. Takayasu was off balance from the start, and Tamawashi made him pay for it.

Yoshikaze defeats Kotoshogiku – Good bye Kotoshogiku, you were one of the good ones, and you will be sorely missed, as you are a real character. But you have nothing left, please take your kabu and become a great leader of young rikishi. Also, Yoshikaze is really running well this basho.

Terunofuji defeats Chiyonokuni – Like a ping pong match with 300 pound plus big men. And to be honest, it was all Terunofuji. Sadly the Gyoji got in the way at some point and got hit with Chiyonokuni being tossed around like a hacky-sack. It’s strange to say, but it looks like both Ozeki are running well this basho, and its so very very welcome.

Goeido defeats Mitakeumi – Aggressive, adaptive, committed. Goeido 2.0 was on the dohyo today, and he provided Mitakeumi with a valuable lesson. No plan survives first contact, and Goeido got inside his decision loop and shut him down.

Kisenosato defeats Daieisho – Kisenosato got the easy match today. Poor Daieisho is far out of his element. He will be back, but we hope he is not damaged by this tournament ranked much higher than he should be right now.

Hakuho defeats Endo – Hakuho could have won this match in the first three seconds, but he was not going to let Endo off easily. He kept slapping and pushing, pushing and slapping. Demonstrating the match was going to last until he got tired. well, Endo decided he had enough and exiting the dohyo after a solid push to give him cover.

Harumafuji defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama is known for landing hay-makers, so what did Harumafuji do? Grabbed two handfuls of flabby breast meat and started shoving. Aoiyama was really unable to move his arms, or land any blows. Kind of disgusting, but effective.

Natsu Day 6 Preview


Takayasu-Endo

Start Of The Middle Act.

The middle part of any basho is where we find out who is going to have a shot at the yusho, and who is going to struggle to stay above 500. Right now its clear that both Hakuho and Harumafuji are fit, strong and in their groove. We also have a very solid performance from Takayasu thus far, and he seems to be well on his way towards hitting the 10 wins needed for consideration for promotion to Ozeki.

Indeed, Takayasu has stated in recent interviews that he is pressing for the yusho, and believes he sumo is up to the task. His tests against Hakuho and Harumafuji are yet to happen, but they are likely to decide if Takayasu’s goal might be within reach. We could reasonably expect those matches this weekend, though the scheduling team may hold them for later next week, as they are certain to be a big draw for fans. Takayasu is a bona fide hit with fans in the Kokugikan, and you can safely assume that carries out to fans watching at home. Right now, most of Japan wants to see Takayasu succeed.

Day 6 is next, though, and while there will likely be some great sumo today, there are no huge earth shattering bouts on the torikumi.

Matches We Are Following

Tokushoryu vs Chiyotairyu – Both rikishi have be fighting well this tournament, and their prior 8 matches are evenly split. I expect Chiyotairyu to try an early hatakikomi, and Tokushoryu working hard to lock up the mawashi.

Onosho vs Kotoyuki – This is their first meeting. Kotoyuki has been looking lack-luster for the past year or so, and may have finally sunk down the banzuke far enough that he is competitive. He certainly has been brining very good sumo this tournament, and was surprisingly fast to react in the first 5 days. Both are pushers so, lots of flailing arms here.

Ichinojo vs Ura – The fans love a big man – little man match, and this is one of the ultimates. I hope that Ura keeps his eyes on Ichinojo, and can stay mobile.

Hokutofuji vs Sokokurai – Sokokurai won both their prior match ups, but don’t assume Hokutofuji is going to lose this one. Hokutofuji is still working to become comfortable in Makuuchi, but from watching the first 5 days, he is starting to get his sumo together at this level.

Takanoiwa vs Shodai – Shodai has been hit or miss, and is night fighting as well this tournament as his 4-1 record would indicate. But he does somehow seem “blessed’ inside and outside the ring. Statistically Takanoiwa has a slight edge.

Tamawashi vs Takayasu – Sekiwake battle today, with most of Japan rooting for Takayasu. Takayasu has found a way to win every match thus far, but he and Tamawashi are a career 6-6. Probably one of the better matches today.

Terunofuji vs Chiyonokuni – Another match with a lot of potential, Chiyonokuni is losing a lot this tournament, but fighting very well. Terunofuji may have rekindled the spark of his sumo again that was so compelling during Osaka, so I would anticipate a brawl. Interestingly, Terunofuji lost their only prior match up.

Mitakeumi vs Goeido – We have seen hints of Goeido 2.0 in the past couple of days, but Mitakeumi is at his career best right now. Mitakeumi did manage to beat Goeido once. It will be down to who shows up, Goeido 1.0 will lose this match, 2.0 will win it with a massive, rapid burst of offense that will overwhelm Mitakeumi.

Endo vs Hakuho – Only interesting because I am curious what kind of maneuver The Boss is going to use to crumple Endo.

Natsu Day 5 Preview


Banners

In Which I End My Occupation of the Kokugikan

The sad day has come when my sumo tickets for Natsu have run out, and I will no longer enjoy sumo in the raw organic form. As I remarked earlier, it is a completely different experience, at both exciting and relaxing at the same time.

When you watch a sporting event like sumo on TV, you see what the camera and the editors want to show you. When you are live at the venue, you can see whatever your eyes might show you. From a technical standpoint, the cameras likely win. From an aesthetics and enjoyment standpoint (for me anyhow) there is no comparison.

This is the final day of the first third of this basho, as the basho tends to move in thirds. The first third shows you who is too hurt to compete, and gets the San’yaku warmed up for the big matches starting this weekend. Given the imbalance in the banzuke (because of the Ozeki and Kisenosato), the lower San’yaku is once again the bright spot for this basho. The middle third starts Friday, and it tends to have a very different character.

Select Matches We Like

Onosho vs Myogiryu – Onosho has been fighting hard this first week, and I look for him to overwhelm Myogiryu, who has been keeping steady at 2-2.

Tokushoryu vs Kaisei – I am hoping for a day 4 repeat where Kaisei moves forward, keeping his center of gravity low. It may sound silly, but a renewed focus on fundamentals for him would probably reinvigorate his flagging career.

Kotoyuki vs Ura – After day 4’s crazy outcome, Kotoyuki gets a try at surviving the space-time distortion field. I still think the Shimpan had to find some way to call that match, inspite of Ura’s gymnastics.

Tochiozan vs Shodai – Tochiozan continues his hot streak from last basho, and he has seem to overcome his injuries from last year and is back on his sumo. It’s great to watch because he is strong and usually patient. Shodai looked good on day 4, but his tachiai is still his weakest point.

Tamawashi vs Yoshikaze – This could be the best match of the day. Yoshikaze is fighting at his best unseen for many tournaments, and it’s really wonderful to watch, especially for a Yoshikaze fan like myself. Tamawashi has been operating better than his 2-2 record would indicate, and it’s time for him to turn it around.

Endo vs Takayasu – I expect a repeat of the Mitakeumi vs Takayasu fight, except that it’s Endo and he’s kind of stumbly. If Takayasu can avoid an injury, he is looking good for at least 10 wins.

Chiyonokuni vs Goeido – Day 4 Goeido was looking better than he had this basho, and was actually able to put power to ground. Perhaps he has found a way to compete in spite of the problems with his ankle, which would be fantastic news.

Terunofuji vs Kotoshogiku – It’s fairly sad to watch Kotoshogiku fade away. Even the crowd knows hes on the path out, but he persists in fighting.

Mitakeumi vs Hakuho – Mitakeumi will put up a good fight, but I expect Hakuho to clear the dohyo with his usual flair. I am interested to see how long Mitakeumi can make it last.

Kisenosato vs Chiyoshoma – At what point does Kisenosato sit out? It’s against his very nature, but as we outlined the nature of his injury is quite serious, and unlikely to have been healed in the 8 weeks or so since he was injured. The sooner the better.

Natsu Day 4 Results


Day 3

Apologies For a Lack Of Preview!

As feared, connectivity in Japan has been hit-or-miss, and it has greatly impacted my ability to post, upload photos and video and a host of other things. But fear not, dear readers! The day 5 results from the Kokugikan are here!

It seems today was “Salaryman Day” or something of the sort. A few minutes before the Makuuchi dohyo-iri, a few thousand salarymen began streaming into the upper deck stadium seats at the Kokugikan. I am sure it’s perfectly normal, but to this sumo fan, it seemed a bit surreal. They were followed by ushers carrying huge flats of beer cans, which were passed around the crowd of business men.

There was some massive, raucous action on day 4, so I strongly encourage all to watch the matches on NHK, or better yet, Jason’s all sumo channel.

Selected Highlights

Onosho defeats Myogiryu – There was a huge amount of effort in this bout, and it featured competing throw attempts that ended at the edge. It was a great way to start Makuuchi.

Kaisei defeats Chiyotairyu – Kaisei won – yes, by moving forward. He has the bulk and the leg strength, but it seems he needs to put away the pulling technique and take a page from Kisenosato’s book – 蜻蛉 (Tonbo)

Tochinoshin defeats Ura – There were so many things wrong in this bout, it took a rather lengthy monoii to try and put a fig leaf on it. First of all, there should have been a matta at the start, but sure, whatever. Then there was an excellent raging battle between size and strength vs speed. It ended with some fantastic acrobatics at the tawara, and it looked to me like the Gyoji said “screw it” and pointed his gumbai in a random direction. Without the benefit or replay, I can only go by what my eyes saw, but it seemed Ura’s win.

Takakeisho defeats Ichinojo – Slow motion sumo match. I left 30 minutes after the final bout, and Ichinojo had yet to reach the clay.

Ikioi defeats Tochiozan – Big ugly slap fest the Ikioi managed to win. I would expect Tochiozan’s hot streak to continue past today, even though Ikioi racked up a win.

Shodai defeats Takarafuji – Great strength match, polite of Takarafuji to take advantage of Shodai’s consistently sloppy tachiai.

Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – Probably the match of the day, and they both put everything into it. Takayasu is displaying almost unthinkable strength and determination this week, and even a really aggressive highly motivated Mitakeumi could not defeat him. Takayasu now needs 6 wins, and certainly looks like Ozeki material

Kotoshogiku defeats Tamawashi – So happy that Kotoshogiku got a win and was able to deploy his hug-n-chug. He is headed towards a hard, brutal make-koshi, most likely. I am grateful I had a chance to see him operate when he was healthy.

Terunofuji defeats Chiyoshoma – Terunofuji looking somewhat better, I am staring to hope that he will put forth a strong effort this time and avoid more kadoban nonsense.

Goeido defeats Daieisho – Future Sekiwake Goeido pretzeled up Daieisho, who must be wondering what the hell happened an how he ended up in this living sumo hell, and why the schedulers hate him so much.

Harumafuji defeats Chiyonokuni – Harumafuji’s back! In person it was clear he was trying for Chiyonokuni’s mawashi, and I was hoping to see the spin cycle today. Instead he had to settle for launching Chiyonokuni into a handy Shimpan landing zone.

Yoshikaze defeats Kakuryu – The Berserker is on fire right now, and it’s tough to stand up to him. Kakuryu is in deep ugly trouble now, his reactive sumo is not working this time, and he will have to endure calls for his retirement.

Endo defeats Kisenosato – Kisenosato gives up his first kinboshi, he is clearly still hurt in a very performance limiting way. Hell, a left handed Yokozuna loses use of his left upper body, but still manages to win half his matches. I expect him to somehow swallow (for him) a bitter pill and go kyujo on the weekend.

Hakuho defeats Okinoumi – I honestly feel sorry for Okinoumi. Hakuho is clearly back in fighting form, and he’s just going to crumple and fold everyone for the next 11 days.