Nagoya Day 2 Preview

Hakuho Dohyo Iri

While we were enjoying day 1 action, so news surfaced about injured former Ozeki Terunofuji. Fans may recall that Terunofuji has suffered multiple injuries to his knees, along with diabetes and numerous other maladies that robbed him of any ability to execute sumo. As a result he lost his Ozeki rank, and then rocketed down the banzuke, where the Nagoya ranking sheet finds him in ranked Makushita 6 East. As reported prior to the basho, Terunofuji underwent a second set of surgeries to try to repair his knees, and is reported to still be recovering in the hospital. It is quite possible we may never see him on the dohyo again, and if we do it will be part of a long, painful restart of his sumo career. Terunofuji is currently a physical wreck, and likely a mental wreck as well. His sumo had been questionable for a time, but really took a dive following the Harumafuji scandal. To some fans, it seemed the events robbed him of his natural fighting spirit. But his drive, his energy, his cunning and his sumo skill remains. If he body can be repaired, it would be an overwhelming comeback story. We hope whatever path he takes, that he does well.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Hokutofuji vs Akiseyama – With Hokutofuji at the very bottom edge of the banzuke, he has a real opportunity to recover if he indeed has resolved the injuries that had plagued him for the past few tournaments. Today he faces Juryo man Akiseyama, whom he has never matched against in the past.

Meisei vs Ryuden – Both men lost their day 1 matches, but over their 8 career bouts, Meisei has won 6. Right now Ryuden needs to get back to a winning formula after a disastrous 3-12 record in May.

Okinoumi vs Asanoyama – These two would seem to be a very even match, although Asanoyama holds a 3-0 lead in their career series. Like many of the 30+ crowd in the top division, Okinoumi is slowly fading. His skills are still amazing, but his body is a half step slower than his peak.

Arawashi vs Onosho – Arawashi is fast and mobile, and Onosho works that kind of sumo ver well. I am sure this will be a match where Arawashi wants to move and strike, and Onosho wants to pin him down.

Chiyomaru vs Aoiyama – XXXL Chiyomaru has never beaten the Man-Mountain Aoiyama, but Aoiyama’s day 1 performance would seem to indicate he is at least mildly injured, so day 2’s match against super-heavyweights may be the chance for Chiyomaru to start evening up the score.

Nishikigi vs Yutakayama – After being permanently affixed to the bottom of the banzuke for many cycles, suddenly Nishikigi finds himself facing off against a tougher class of opponents. I think his day 2 match against Yutakayama has a lot of potential, as they have similar fighting styles. Given his poor eyesight, Nishikigi will work to stay in close.

Endo vs Takarafuji – This match pits two very technical, very studious rikishi against each other. We know that Endo has superb technique, and Takarafuji seems to be a master at finding ways to lose a match while executing great sumo. So if Takarafuji is genki on day 2, I would suggest Endo may have his hands full, as Takarafuji will likely work to let Endo set the cadence, then thwart him. Career record favors Takarafuji 6-4.

Chiyotairyu vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze, sadly, is firmly in the camp of the fading over 30 crowd. I love the guy’s sumo, but he seems to be struggling now. Their day 2 match will be a great data point to see if Chiyotairyu really has upped his endurance, and any match with Yoshikaze can turn into a protracted bar room brawl.

Kagayaki vs Takakeisho – I am really looking forward to this bout. Kagayaki is very traditional plan / execute, based firmly on fundamentals. Takakeisho seems to go into a match eager and full of enthusiasm for slapping around anyone who mounts the dohyo. Takakeisho is 0-4 against Kagayaki, could day 2 be his first win against Mr Fundamentals?

Ichinojo vs Abi – Both men lost their day 1 matches, and Abi is facing significant challenges in the form of the biggest and best men in sumo. When it comes to Ichinojo, it’s tough to know which version is going to mount the dohyo, the massive sumo machine, or the cuddly teddy bear. If Abi gets the sumo machine, this may be over quickly, as he does not really have much of a reach advantage over Ichinojo.

Ikioi vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi looked very good day 1 against Abi, but Ikioi is likely to be quite a bit more trouble. Ikioi has yet to beat Mitakeumi, and if Mitakeumi is in form this basho, he will likely use his tadpole body to confound Ikioi’s preferred attack style.

Goeido vs Tamawashi – Both men seem to have suffered day 1 bouts of explosive ring rust. But for Goeido the case is much more serious. The first week is the “easy” portion of his schedule. He needs to rack as many wins here as possible. For Tamawashi this is the “hard” part of his schedule, so he has room to work towards kachi-koshi starting next weekend. Their career record is 8-8. When both are on form, they are fast, low and can win within 3 steps of the tachiai.

Chiyonokuni vs Tochinoshin – Reports of Tochinoshin’s right hand being a problem seem to have not born out thus far. This will be a match of two clashing styles. Tochinoshin wins when he can get a belt war started, and Chiyonokuni is a mobile flurry of oshi. Chiyonokuni is 1-6 against the shin-Ozeki, but I am eager to see what Chiyonokuni tries to overcome Tochinoshin’s size and strength advantage.

Shohozan vs Takayasu – Its likely that Takayasu will be forced into a running battle with Shohozan, which I feel greatly favors Shohozan. Takayasu now seems to favor high force pushing and thrusting, which leaves him perilously misbalanced. Though Takayasu leads the career series 7-5, Shohozan has a real edge this time, as I think Takayasu is still hurt.

Kakuryu vs Kotoshogiku – Oh my, this one has history. They have faced off 49 times over their careers, with Kakuryu taking 27. They are more or less even. Though at this point I would put the advantage on Kakuryu. As he displayed in his day 1 match against Takayasu, Kotoshogiku is surprisingly resistant to displays of strength against him, so this match may be decided by misdirection and footwork.

Shodai vs Hakuho – Some learned sumo fans (who I respect) seem to think that Hakuho’s day 1 match was rough or worrisome. But I think his match against Shodai is going to be a better barometer of what kind of condition the boss is in right now. Advantage clearly to Hakuho, but Shodai’s opponents seem to be self destructing quite a bit as of late.

Nagoya Basho News

Hattorizakura

With just a handful of hours to go, here is the latest from Nagoya

The dohyo was consecrated this morning in the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium. Offerings to the deities were sealed in the center of the platform, in a ceremony that completes preparation for the Nagoya basho.

As hoped, some injured rikishi that we follow have decided to play it safe, and not compete in Nagoya. This includes Ura and Terunofuji.  Ura is being rightfully cautious in returning to action, as the surgery to repair his knee takes about 9 months to heal. He had also gained a large amount of weight that would put additional strain on his knee. With him sitting out Nagoya, he will drop to mid or lower Sandanme for Aki. The chances of a Wakaichiro – Ura match are still remote, but growing.

Terunofuji underwent surgery a few weeks ago for his knee problems, and is likely still a physical wreck.  We think it will be many months before we see him return. He may even have to re-start sumo from the bottom division, which would be both a complete shame for Terunofuji, and a terrifying ordeal for the young men he would be tasked to defeat to regain any sort of rank.

Wakaichro is in action early in day 1, with a rematch against Sadogatake heya’s Kotosato.  Their prior match, on day 10 of Natsu, went to Kotosato. This offers the rikishi from Humble, Texas a chance to even the score. The two of them are roughly the same height and weight, and it should be a great match.

Finally, thanks to Herouth for pointing it out, the opening match of the entire basho is none other than Hattorizakura vs. Wakaoyama. For sumo fans who don’t know, Hattorizakura is a scrawny kid who just can’t seem to win, but keeps training. The sumo word is on pins and needles at the thought that Hattorizakura might actually win the first bout tonight. If so, all of the hard core sumo nerds will celebrate.

The First Eleven Men of Makushita

Enho-Takayasu
… When you can see over the top of the mountain

Instead of a traditional “Ones to Watch” section this basho, we’ll mix things up with a few lower division storylines. We’ll start by taking a look at what’s going on at the top of Makushita.

This division is an absolute slog. There are 120 men in this division fighting for usually 2 to 4 of the 28 slots in Juryo. As described on a recent NHK World sumo preview, the division between Makushita and Juryo is like “heaven and hell,” given the resources and opportunities provided to rikishi once they reach the professional, sekitori level.

If you’re a college rikishi of good pedigree, usually you will cruise through the bottom 2-3 tiers before meeting your tougher matches here. Rikishi who have left school before college often take several years to reach the level as they get acclimated to the sport and the lifestyle. One of the reasons it’s tough to escape the level is because there’s a crush at the top – but Nagoya 2018 is unique. With respect to Natsu whipping boy Amakaze, usually there are a couple rikishi around the top of the division who have departed Juryo due to injury or performance, not soon to return back, and these guys get beat up by the hot young up-and-comers on the upswing of their career.

This time, however, there’s no filler at the top of the division and it’s going to be an all out melee to reach the professional ranks when sumo returns to Tokyo for the Aki tournament in September. Let’s look at who’s jockeying for position:

The Battle Scarred Veterans

I’m going to put 29 year olds Jokoryu (Ms5E) and Asabenkei (Ms4E) in this category, though their careers have taken different routes to the same location. The former Komusubi Jokoryu spent 4 years as sekitori before dropping down the divisions due to serious injury. He’s been stuck in the wilderness for 2 years, but has fought his way back up to striking distance of promotion. Asabenkei, who has been in sumo since 2007, recently made it back to Juryo after an 18 month hiatus. He then suffered a humiliating 3-win tournament in May, which started 0-7, en route to an immediate demotion back to the third tier.

While these guys have a wildly different pedigree and career accomplishments, it’s probably fair to say they have been operating on a similar talent level and with an ambition to scrape back up and re-establish themselves as professionals.

The Hot Shots

Enho (Ms2W) – the first man to open his career 21-0 since Jokoryu – arrived on the scene earlier than predicted in Osaka, but it was clear he was over-promoted before his time and was swiftly demoted back to Makushita. It’s good news for him that he has such an esteemed some-time sparring partner in Hakuho, however, and the hard work he’s put in has seen him rebound after a solid Natsu to the fourth position on the banzuke. We’ve been hot on Enho so long it’s hard to believe it’s still only his 8th tournament. 5 wins should see him back up.

Meanwhile, fellow “Ones to Watch” honorees and college men Murata (Ms1W) and Ichiyamamoto (Ms3E) reach the division’s summit in just their 9th tournaments (though Ichiyamamoto gets bonus points for having got here just as quickly from Jonokuchi). Murata is a big bopper who loves a good ol’ fashioned oshi-fuelled brawl. Ichiyamamoto mixes it up a little more but is still mostly a pusher-thruster.

The Brother

The youngest of Arashio-beya’s three Onami brothers, Wakatakakage not only made it first to Juryo but then stuck at the level, managing a kachi-koshi in his first trip to the pros. Middle brother Wakamotoharu (Ms4W) now finds himself on the brink – with the third and oldest brother Wakatakamoto not so far behind at Ms10. Having only eked out 3 wins from similar positions on the banzuke in the past, he’ll be looking to improve his record in this part of the sumo world this time, to set up a promotion challenge either this time or next. It’s a sprint between the two remaining brothers to catch Wakatakakage now, but Wakamotoharu is in the pole position.

The Cups of Coffee

27 year old Akua (Ms5W) and 23 year old Hakuyozan (Ms1E) both spent years making the long and winding trek through the lower reaches of the banzuke before managing just a “cup of coffee” in the pros, each returning back to Makushita after one tournament where they both clearly looked overmatched. They’ll be wanting to make sure the chance to establish themselves at a higher level does not go begging again.

The Wild Cards

22 year olds Gokushindo (Ms2E) and Kiribayama (Ms3W) have different origin stories and routes to this point, but what they have in common is a certain inconsistency. Kiribayama at times has looked utterly dominant in this division, and is the current yusho holder. Gokushindo has tended to take 2 steps forward followed by one step back as he adjust to the differences in quality in what is a Makushita tier which effectively has divisions within the division, such is the gulf in class between various areas of the ranks. Having posted a 6-1 record last time out, it would seemingly stand to reason he would need an adjustment period again this time, but he will face familiar foes having beaten Ichiyamamoto, Murata and Wakamotoharu in May (the latter two using a style best described as “Ichinojo” – a ponderously lengthy wait-out of a grapple in the centre of the dohyo followed by an escort over the bales and a throw respectively), losing only to Kiribayama.

The Terunofuji

At the time of writing, it appears to be unclear whether we’re going to see Terunofuji (Ms6E) in Nagoya. The man has undergone plenty of work on both knees, and suffered a less than fruitful spell in Juryo, which was also apparently hindered at times by diabetes related treatment. What his tournament ability is, at this point in the game, is still unclear. While it’s possible and even likely he may drop further (either due to performance or kyujo-status), the very presence of a former Ozeki in this part of the banzuke should give pause to each of the other names listed here – if he does show up, it’s obviously to compete and to win.

June 30th News Round Up

News Update Banner

Another news round up, as we are now one week away from the start of the Nagoya basho. Everyone who is going to participate is practicing now, and we are in the midst of inter-stable / ichimon cross training sessions and practice matches. In many cases, this is where people can start sizing up who is genki and who is not.

Sumo Kyokai

There are zero new recruits joining the sumo kyokai in Nagoya. This is a somewhat unusual situation, but in and of itself it’s not a cause for any alarm or assumptions that the Japanese public have given up their love for sumo. Today marked the dedication dohyo-iri at the Atsuta shrine. The party attending included shin-Ozeki Tochinoshin, marking the first time he has been of rank to participate.

Tagonoura Heya

First and foremost is Kisenosato. He looks like he is not even close to being ready. He lacks power, he lacks poise, he struggles against mid-tier Makuuchi rikishi. As someone who loves sumo and deeply respects Kisenosato’s commitment to the sport, this is painful to watch. But we can more or less assume that he won’t be competing. Takayasu, however, seems to have put his upper body injuries behind him, and has been fighting with gusto. We can expect him to enter and to strongly compete for the yusho.

Isegahama Heya

Our beloved kaiju, Terunofuji, once again went into surgery in a desperate attempt to repair his knees. It’s obvious that he is going to drop as far as he drops in a last ditch attempt to regain some kind of fighting form, and barring that some kind of mobility to use for the remainder of his life. Don’t look for his at Nagoya or Aki, I would say. Meanwhile, Harumafuji’s retirement is set for the end of September at the Kokugikan. Some elements of Team Tachiai may be in attendance…

Miyagino Heya

Dai-Yokozuna Hakuho took 38 practice bouts against rikishi of all levels down to Jonidan. He won 22 of them. He also called on Asashoryu’s nephew, Hoshoryu for 3 bouts. Speaking afterwards, Hoshoryu said, “”Glad to face the Yokozuna”. Hakuho stated, “It’ll be nice to hand over the baton to him”.

Terunofuji Withdraws From Natsu

Terunofuji

Former Ozeki Terunofuji has withdrawn from the Natsu basho. He was ranked Juryo 8 East, and had yet to win a single match. With this kyujo, he is likely to drop below Juryo, and no longer be a sekitori.

For his fans, this is a very tough day, indeed.  He has been battling a string of health issues first with his knees, then diabetes.  Since the Harumafuji scandal in November of last year, his sumo has suffered greatly, and he has struggled to compete.

We know that within his sick and injured body is the spirit of a great warrior, and we hope that he can find some way to recover his health.

Winds of Change – 1 Year Ago In Sumo

It’s Sunday, maybe you have some free time and you are a sumo fan. I have been missing some of my favorites, who have faded from the top division. So I am going to share this 22 minute long example of just how much sumo has changed since Osaka last year.

Sumo is always evolving, but this was in fact a monumental turning point for the sport it seems.  A year later we can see recognize the seeds of change in this video.  The triumph, the defeat, the raw emotion

Juryo: Haru Storylines Week 2

EDION Arena - Enho vs Wakatakakage - Haru 2018 Day 8 Juryo

As we’re midway through the competition and have already revisited our “Ones to Watch” from the bottom four divisions, let’s check in on the storylines facing the men of the Juryo division heading into the second week of action:

1. Can Kyokutaisei win promotion?

Needs for success: 8 wins

Second week prognosis: He’s on the right path, but has been tested. He sits 4-4 after 8 days. He’s at a rank where you’re going to be called up to makuuchi to get tested and make up the numbers, and he’s failed both tests so far (against Aoiyama and Ikioi). His day 8 loss was maybe a bit unlucky in that he nearly pulled out the win, but he’s going to have to find four wins from former top division men like Terunofuji, Gagamaru, and Chiyonoo in the coming days.

2. Golden Oldie Revival?

Needs for success: Old timers show results that state their case for a return to the big time in circumstances where more questions are being asked about how much longer they’ll remain in the sport.

Second week prognosis: Of the five rikishi we’re picking on, Takekaze, Sadanoumi, and Gagamaru look as though they are positioning themselves for quick and perhaps once thought improbable returns to the top flight. All men have six wins after 8 days. Aminishiki, meanwhile, looks set for a rather longer stay in the second tier, clearly hobbled by injuries and destined for a potentially brutal make-koshi. Tokushoryu looks like he might be treading water at his level with a 3-5 start.

3. Whither Kaiju?

Needs for success: passing expectations with a competent kachi-koshi, exceeding expectations with a thunderous yusho challenge and return to makuuchi.

Second week prognosis: Terunofuji is going to run into a handful of guys looking to state their promotion claim in the second week which he starts at a record of 4-4. It’s been a mixed slate so far: the technique is still there, but the strength has eluded him as he looks to rebuild his status following injury and diabetes related issues. Odds are he pulls out four more wins from seven, but he may need another tournament at this level in Tokyo this May before making his return to the big time. Curiously, when I attended Day 8, the applause for Terunofuji during both the Juryo dohyo-iri and his own match was muted compared to many other former makuuchi men in the Juryo division. I would have thought he’d get a least a little more love than he did, all things considered.

4. Takanoiwa

Needs for success: passing expectations with a competent kachi-koshi to knock off the cobwebs, exceeding expectations with a yusho challenge.

Second week prognosis: He won’t challenge for the yusho or even much of a move up the rankings list at Natsu on current form. He finds himself 4-4 and shouldn’t be in any danger of demotion, but he needs to find at least 3 wins to keep himself in the division and regroup for next time. At times the strength of the Takanoiwa we are used to seeing has shown up, but he’s found himself amidst a group of young, hungry rikishi who aren’t giving any quarter in their own efforts to establish themselves as sekitori. The rest of his matches should be against mid-Juryo veterans having middling tournaments, so there’s an opportunity at least to build momentum – after Mitoryu he’ll have faced all the fierce young talents in his way this tournament.

5. The Second Wave

Needs for success: These talented youngsters either need to: Cobble together enough wins to consolidate place in division (Yago, Takagenji, Daishoho, Terutsuyoshi), limit damage and try to avoid demotion if possible (Enho, Takayoshitoshi), continue progress with good kachi-koshi (Mitoryu)

Second week prognosis: Mixed bag, as expected.

Out of the first group (Yago, Terutsuyoshi, Daishoho and Takagenji), only Daishoho looks safe right now with a 5-3 record. Yago’s 2-6 tally leaves him in immediate danger of demotion, and the others are 3-5 and need to find 4 wins from somewhere.

Unfortunately for all of them, they won’t come at the expense of Takayoshitoshi as the kyujo man has faced all of them (except his brother), so none of them will pick up a helpful fusen-sho from his abdication in light of pummeling his tsukebito (instead it will be Ms1 Hakuyozan who picks up the win). Takayoshitoshi was 3-5 and likely heading for the demotion that has now been all but confirmed, and should he indeed remain withdrawn from the entire tournament then he will likely face a drop steep enough to leave him without a tsukebito for at least a couple more tournaments.

Enho, meanwhile, has delivered on his excitement, but hasn’t delivered in terms of wins. His overpromotion has left him a little exposed at the level as he’s even dropped 2 matches to visiting makushita men (and future sekitori) Hakuyozan and Wakatakakage. You can’t do that if you’re trying to stay in the division, and it’s likely that he may face an equally steep demotion as Takayoshitoshi: on current form both men will probably find themselves somewhere between Ms8 and Ms10.

Finally, if there’s a silver lining, it’s been Mitoryu. Much like his progress in Makushita, after taking one basho to settle, he’s really found his form and posted a 7 win tally over the first 8 days. Guys like Takanosho, Kotoeko and Gagamaru are in his future, and possibly if he continues to lead the yusho arasoi, potentially even Takekaze. So, it’s possible that this week we may already get to see what the talented young Mongolian can do against men with top level pedigree, and I’ll go out on a limb and say that on current form he will pass  his compatriot Terunofuji on the May banzuke.

Juryo: Haru 2018 Storylines

kyokutaisei-kachi-koshi
Kyokutaisei: can he finally win promotion to makuuchi?

While we tend to focus the lion’s share of our attention on what’s happening in the top division, or who the hot up-and-comers are in the sport, the banzuke announcement for Haru 2018 has prompted an unusual amount of intrigue at Juryo level. The division typically features a handful of grizzled vets trying to make it back to the big time, a couple interesting prospects, and/or some rikishi trying to recover form and rank following some recent injuries. But this time, we get all of those features and more in larger than usual numbers. Incredibly, 11 out of the 28 rikishi are also fighting at their highest ever rank. So, here’s a look at some storylines heading into next Sunday’s action:

1. Can Kyokutaisei win promotion?

He’s not a household name and was never a hot prospect, but Kyokutaisei has been an interesting follow for a while now, and plies his trade under the former fan-and-rikishi-favorite Kyokutenho at Tomozuna-beya. He’s an intriguing name, not least due to his rare status as a rikishi with a starring film credit in the film “A Normal Life,” which detailed the then-18 year old’s entry into the sumo world. It’s a fascinating, highly-recommended watch, and details a lot of the less-glamourous aspects of the life of a young rikishi.

Since debuting at this tournament 10 years ago, it’s been a slow and steady progression for the 28 year old. He reached the rank of Juryo 1 West and put up a 8-7 record at Hatsu, but it wasn’t enough to clinch one of the three promotion places and he’ll start Haru as the top ranked man in Juryo. He has clearly benefitted from the tutelage of Tomozuna-oyakata, and after a collapse that saw him fritter away a promotion opportunity having won 2 from his last 7 at Hatsu, hopefully he will be able to find the consistency to push him up to the top division after an incredible journey.

2: Golden Oldie Revival?

While 30 is not so old in the scheme of things, it is the age in many sports where serious fitness questions start to be asked. Of the eight rikishi directly behind Kyokutaisei in the banzuke, six are 30 or over, with the other two being 29 year old Azumaryu who will turn 30 by Natsu and the 22 year old up-and-comer Meisei.

This group includes the fan favorites and recently demoted makuuchi pair Aminishiki and Takakaze, as well as Gagamaru, Tokushoryu and Sadanoumi, who have recently spent more time in the Juryo wilderness than out of it. Haru should give us a good sense of whether any of these men can win the day and emphatically book their ticket back to the top division, or whether we will see an attritional battle indicative of the winding down of their careers.

3: Whither Kaiju?

Terunofuji’s health and the direction of the career have been the subjects of much debate, on these pages as well as within the comments section of the site. How long has it been since he last pushed someone out of the dohyo? The Juryo 5’s last win came as an Ozeki (interestingly, against current Emperor’s Cup holder Tochinoshin). He’s 0 for his last 15, and 2 for his last 21 excluding fusen losses, and has withdrawn at some stage of the last four tournaments.

The numbers, then, don’t look encouraging. But longtime followers will know what Terunofuji is capable of, and it’s possible that the jungyo-less time between Hatsu and Haru will have provided a platform for him to recapture some kind of form, and maybe even enough to find a promotion opportunity or at least get himself in a better position for Natsu. This tournament will be one year since the Haru 2017 Day 14 ‘henka heard round Osaka’ which halted Kotoshogiku from regaining his Ozeki rank – and at that time it would have taken a bold punter to bet that Kotoshogiku would be so far in front of his former Ozeki colleague a year later on the banzuke. Sumo is better for seeing the Isegahama man at his incredible best – but even some fraction of that will be a positive step forward for the Mongolian.

4. Takanoiwa

The Takanohana man hasn’t been seen since the Remote-Control-gate scandal that cost Yokozuna Harumafuji his sumo career. While the scandal rolled on through the end days of 2017, Takanoiwa abstained from duty while his head injuries healed. Now he finds himself near the bottom of the Juryo division at J12, surrounded by a plethora of talented youngsters. The Mongolian, in good health on his day is a match for anyone in the top division owing to his incredible strength. It stands to reason then that, if active, he should be an automatic title favorite in the Juryo yusho race. But will he even be active for Haru, and if so, will he be able to knock off the cobwebs and challenge for it?

5. The Second Wave

Much has been made of the new wave of talent that has rolled into makuuchi in the last year. While Takakeisho and Onosho and Hokutofuji have taken the division by storm and already established themselves in the top half, more up and comers like Asanoyama, Yutakayama and Abi have latterly pushed on and forced their way into the tournament story lines, grabbing special prizes and charming audiences along the way.

Now there’s another new crop of youngsters looking to depose the favorites who have dominated the sport over the past few years: as mentioned above, 11 of the 28 Juryo men are competing at a new or joint-highest ranking. But digging a little deeper, of the 11 men at the bottom of the Juryo ranks, seven are 23 years of age or younger, with the much watched Enho and Takayoshitoshi making their debuts in the division this time out as part of the incredible 7 promotees from the Makushita tier at Hatsu.

Different questions will be asked of each of these rikishi. For Yago, Takagenji, Daishoho and Terutsuyoshi, the challenge is simple: they need to put cobble together enough wins to consolidate their place in the division, and establish themselves at the level. For Enho and Takayoshitoshi, who were promoted with records at ranks that wouldn’t normally justify a promotion, it’s about damage limitation and seeing if they can put a surprise run together: no one, after being promoted with the records they had last time out for the very first time at this level, would begrudge them a return to Makushita, but you can be sure that isn’t what they are thinking about. They are here to prove they belong. Enho in particular is a comparatively very small rikishi who can provide entertaining all-action sumo, but he’s got to keep himself healthy.

Finally, that leaves Mitoryu. The enormous, much hyped Mongolian made a strong start at Hatsu before fading with just 2 wins over the last week, but that was enough to get him a kachi-koshi in his first tournament as a sekitori. Now, he’s got a great chance to push on, in a very competitive field.

While the five story lines above are interesting in their own right – incredibly, they may not even facilitate the top headlines when it’s all said and done. Youngsters Meisei and Takanosho are two rikishi not discussed here in detail, and they could well make waves this time out as well after their progress over the last year. While Juryo is sometimes a bit of a difficult division to get excited about, at Haru, it will certainly be “one to watch.”

Bruce’s Haru 2018 Banzuke Commentary

Banzuke 2017
Yes, A Banzuke from 2017…

First and up-front, the normal Tachiai banzuke podcast has been delayed due to yours-truly being away on business. We will work to have it ready for your viewing and listening pleasure on Friday.

With the publication of the Haru banzuke, Hakuho has set a new record by appearing for 64 consecutive tournaments as a Yokozuna. The man continues to rack up records, and although age is starting to nip at his heels, he refuses to slow down.

Mitakeumi holds on for a fifth consecutive tournament at the Sekiwake slot. Sadly he has yet to summon the mojo to start an Ozeki campaign, but fans are impressed that he is proving quite resilient at this rank. He is joined by Hatsu yusho winner Tochinoshin. The big Georgian has been out of the Sekiwake slot since July of 2016, and returns in glorious fashion. Fans are eager to see if he can run his score to double digits once again.

As lksumo posted, his banzuke forecast was once again amazingly good, but what surprised me was just how far down former Ozeki Terunofuji dropped. Now down at Juryo 5 (which he shares with Gagamaru), his fans cringe and wonder if his damaged body can even hold this rank. We all want our kaiju back. Fortunately for Takekaze, his drop was only to Juryo 1, and with a winning record he will be back in the top division by May. The road for Uncle Sumo (Aminishiki) is almost the same, but with his damaged knees, the task is much harder.

Abi and Ryuden seem to be carrying the banner for the “Freshmen” (as I have taken to calling them). Ranked in mid-Maegashira, they are going to have their hands full with a number of veterans who had a terrible tournament in January. If Yoshikaze is over whatever illness plagued him at Hatsu, we are likely to see a lot of great, madcap sumo in the middle tier this time.

Of course I have my eye on the giant at Komusubi 1 East, our favorite boulder, Ichinojo. He was last in the San’yaku at Nagoya 2015, and has not been able to maintain consistant good sumo since. This could be a huge turning point for the Mongolian giant, and everyone is eager to see if he continues his excellent performance from Kyushu and Hatsu. It’s been an even longer drought for Chiyotairyu, who was last Komusubi in September of 2014.

Much further down, Tachiai congratulates Texas sumotori Wakaichiro on his return to Sandanme. After an outstanding performance at Hatsu, the man from Nagasaki finds himself Sandanme 89 East. We can be certain that his coaches at Musashigawa have been tuning him up for his second run at this rank.

A great tournament starts two weeks from today, and Tachiai’s wall-to-wall coverage starts now!

Haru Banzuke Crystal Ball

Aminishiki

Unlike the Hatsu banzuke mess, the Hatsu results should make for a fairly predictable Haru banzuke.

Upper San’yaku

Y1

Kakuryu

Hakuho

Y2

Kisenosato

O1

Takayasu

Goeido

The rankings aren’t in doubt, but nonetheless there are many questions about this group. Which if any Yokozuna will show up? Kakuryu (ankle) and Hakuho (toes) are nursing injuries. Kisenosato has declared that the next tournament he enters will be his make-or-break one—perform at Yokozuna level for 15 days or retire. My guess a month before the basho is that Hakuho is very likely to participate, Kakuryu is also likely to compete, and Kisenosato will most likely sit this one out.

Lower San’yaku

S

Mitakeumi

Tochinoshin

K

Ichinojo

Chiyotairyu

In the upper ranks, a kachi-koshi (winning record) is no guarantee that your position within the rank won’t change: witness the Yokozuna and Ozeki getting reshuffled based on their performances at the previous basho. This used to be the case for Sekiwake as well, with 8-7 East Sekiwake frequently moving to West Sekiwake for the subsequent tournament when a more deserving candidate for East Sekiwake existed. However, this seems to have changed about ten years ago (perhaps someone can shed light on the history), and an 8-7 record at Sekiwake (or Komusubi) now appears to guarantee retention of rank and side. A recent example of this is S1e Tamawashi not switching sides with S1w Takayasu even after their respective 8-7 and 12-3 performances at last year’s Haru basho. Long story short, 8-7 Mitakeumi will retain his S1e rank, with 14-1 yusho winner Tochinoshin joining him at Sekiwake on the West side. Ichinojo and Chiyotairyu, the highest-ranked maegashira with winning records at Hatsu, should take over the Komusubi slots vacated by Takakeisho and Onosho.

Upper Maegashira

M1

Tamawashi

Endo

M2

Arawashi

Kotoshogiku

M3

Takakeisho

Takarafuji

M4

Shodai

Shohozan

M5

Chiyomaru

Onosho

Endo has been ranked M1 twice before, but has never broken through to San’yaku. Is this his time? Arawashi would similarly tie his highest rank, while Chiyomaru has never been ranked above M8. Everyone else in this group has been ranked in San’yaku, most of them within the last couple of years.

Mid-Maegashira

M6

Kaisei

Hokutofuji

M7

Yoshikaze

Kagayaki

M8

Abi

Okinoumi

M9

Chiyoshoma

Chiyonokuni

M10

Daieisho

Tochiozan

M11

Yutakayama

Ryuden

A mix of rikishi in a holding pattern in this part of the banzuke (Kaisei, Chiyoshoma, Chiyonokuni, Tochiozan), higher-ranked rikishi dropping down after rough Hatsu performances (Hokutofuji, Yoshikaze, Okinoumi), and up-and-comers making a move up the banzuke (Kagayaki, Abi, Daieisho, Yutakayama, Ryuden). Three of the rikishi promoted from Juryo for Hatsu put up good numbers and find themselves here.

Lower Maegashira

M12

Kotoyuki

Daishomaru

M13

Ishiura

Ikioi

M14

Asanoyama

Nishikigi

M15

Myogiryu

Sokokurai

M16

Daiamami

Hidenoumi

M17

Aoiyama


Predicted demotions to Juryo: Terunofuji, Aminishiki, Takekaze. Predicted promotions: Myogiryu, Hidenoumi, Aoiyama. Often, this area of the banzuke contains a bunch of poor performances from the previous basho, but the only one who really fits that bill is Ikioi, who is dropping from M6 after putting up a 4-11 record. Kotoyuki, Daishomaru, and Sokokurai put up mediocre numbers, but Ishiura, Asanoyama, Nishikigi, and Daiamami all earned kachi-koshi records at Hatsu. Nevertheless, they’ll be fighting for their Makuuchi lives again in Osaka, as everyone in this group needs a minimum of 6 wins (more for those closer to the bottom) to be safe from demotion.

Day 13 Undercard Matches to Watch

The competition level continues to rise as we get near the end of Hatsu, and Day 13 will see many stars of the undercard compete for their spot in the top division come March. Here are some great undercard matches that you shouldn’t miss!

Sokokurai vs. Yutakayama

Yutakayama is one win away from kachi koshi. That phrase sounds so strange to me, but considering how wild the last few days of this Basho have been, I guess anything is possible now! Having picked up a fusen win from Tochiozan on Day 12, Yutakayama can earn his winning record with a victory over Sokokurai tomorrow. The November Juryu Champ Sokokurai continues to look like a fish out of water this January and is already make koshi. These two have met twice before, and their series is tied 1-1.

Kotoyuki vs. Daiamami

The last two days have been pretty easy on big Daiamami. On Day 11 he gently plopped Aminishiki over the bales without much fuss, and on Day 12 he picked up another win by quietly walking Terunofuji out of the ring. The competition level picks up on Thursday when he takes on Kotoyuki. Despite limping away from the dohyo on Day 11, Kotoyuki didn’t look very injured in his match versus Asanoyama and had little trouble pushing Mr. Happy over the bales. In four previous meetings, the Penguin has beaten Daiamami thrice.

Terunofuji vs. Takekaze

Takekaze seems hellbent on capping his losses at eight and has now won his last three matches. On Thursday he has a chance to extend that streak to four when he faces the hollow shell of what used to be Terunofuji. If there’s any life left in the Kaiju, tomorrow would be the perfect time to show it as Takekaze is one of the easier opponents he’ll face over the next three days. A win could go a long way in restoring Terunofuji’s confidence, which seems to be a big factor in his listless sumo.

Asanoyama vs. Chiyomaru

What is going on with Asanoyama? During week one he looked like the skilled young rikishi who turned heads at Aki, but in the second week, he appears just as lost as he did  in Kyushu. While he could be injured again, I think the major culprit is his self-esteem. Prior to Aki, Asanoyama had a career record of 98-30, giving him a win rate of 76.6%. During this time his longest losing streak was only three matches. Since then, he has lost 42 matches, and his win rate has dropped to 34.4%. It was during this period that Asanoyama also picked up his first make koshi. This guy has been a winner almost his entire career, and now he needs to figure out how to handle losing in the big leagues, or he won’t be there much longer. Tomorrow he’ll face Chiyomaru and have another chance to clinch his kachi koshi. Chiyo is also coming into Day 13 looking for his kachi koshi and will be a stiff opponent for Mr. Happy.

Chiyoshoma vs. Kagayaki

Kagayaki will be making a trip up the torikumi tomorrow when he faces off with Maegashira 7 Chiyoshoma. Chiyoshoma fell victim to the new and improved Shodai yesterday, and now has to deal with the new and improved Kagayaki as well. While Kagayaki has been performing far better this Basho, he still has a lot to learn when it comes to yotsu-sumo. Nishikigi took full advantage of this weakness yesterday, and if Kagayaki tries to engage a skilled grappler like Chiyoshoma in some mawashi fighting, he can expect the same kind of results. Chiyoshoma has a 6-4 series lead.

Abi vs. Kaisei & Takarafuji vs. Ryuden

Kagayaki isn’t the only one taking on a higher ranked opponent on Day 13. Two of the brightest young stars of the undercard, Abi and Ryuden, will leap up the match schedule to face Makuuchi mainstays Kaisei and Takarafuji. These matches, for the most part, are to help the schedulers figure out where the chips will fall for Haru, as every man except for Takarafuji has a kachi koshi. Since neither pair has faced one another before, these matches should be very entertaining!

I’ve been blown away by the quality of the Hatsu Basho this year, and Day 13 can’t come soon enough!

Day 12 Undercard Matches to Watch

This Basho is the gift that keeps on giving, especially considering the excellent matches coming out of the undercard. Day 12 looks like it’s going to be just as good as Day 11, and there are many high-stakes matches throughout the torikumi! Here are a few exciting undercard matches to watch on Day 12.

Nishikigi vs. Kagayaki

Kagayaki is back to using his strong sumo again, winning his last four bouts and coming into Day 12 just one victory shy of his kachi koshi. While the Kagayaki of old would have fallen flat on his face after a henka, the new and more confident Kagayai stayed upright and managed to throw Kotoyuki off the dohyo and into the first row today. Tomorrow he faces Nishikigi, who is once more walking the tightrope between Makuuchi and Juryo, and will need to win three out of his four remaining matches to secure a winning record. The two have faced off eight times before, and Kagayaki holds a 5-3 series lead.

Kotoyuki vs. Asanoyama

Tokyo wasn’t the only thing that cooled down last weekend. After blazing through the first six days of competition, Asanoyama lost four matches in a row before picking up his seventh win today versus Sokokurai. Mr. Happy looked incredibly relieved after his victory, leading me to believe that a mental block was a factor in his losing skid. With the monkey off his back, hopefully, he can get back to his stellar sumo and clinch his kachi koshi on Day 12. He meets Kotoyuki, who is also experiencing a string of recent losses. To make things worse, the Penguin took another tumble off the dohyo and was last seen needing help to walk the rest of the way to the locker room. Tomorrow will mark their second meeting, with Kotoyuki holding a 1-0 edge over Asanoyama.

Terunofuji vs. Daiamami

If Terunofuji is in fighting form, we certainly didn’t get a chance to see it today. The towering Kaiju was swiftly sidestepped at the tachiai by the much smaller Ishiura, who got behind Terunofuji to force him over the tawara. Tommorrow will be a true test of Terunofuji’s ability to compete, as he meets fellow big man Daiamai on the dohyo. Daiamami comes into Day 12 looking to pick up his sixth win and bring his record back to .500. Success tomorrow will put him two wins away from his first Makuuchi kachi koshi. Day 12 will be the first meeting between these two behemoths.

Takekaze vs. Aminishiki

Wednesday marks the thirty-third, and potentially final, time veterans Takekaze and Aminishiki face one another on the dohyo. Takekaze comes into Day 12 with a dreadful 3-8 record and is at risk of falling out of Makuchi come March. There is a good chance he will go intai if this happens. Aminishiki also has a poor record, and unless he can run the gambit and win his final four matches, he will be demoted. At Maegashira 10, ‘Shiki has a bit of a buffer between himself and Juryo, but his presence in the top division at Haru is looking very uncertain. Given his recent lower body issues, Uncle Sumo may choose to hang up the mawashi if his Makuuchi swan song comes to an end. As much as it is hard to hear, the changing of the guard is going to start sooner rather than later. With the elder statesmen of sumo unable to keep up with the new generation, Hatsu 2018 may mark the beginning of that change.

Abi vs. Choyomaru.

It’s hard to believe that Abi is one now win away from his kachi koshi considering the rough start he had this Basho. The shiko master has been a great addition to the top division and is one of the brightest stars on the undercard! Day 12 sees Abi face marshmallow man Chiyomaru, who is also one victory away from a winning record. While Abi’s tsuppari attacks are powerful, they’ve so far been ineffective against Chiyo’s bulky physique, and the big man has never lost to Abi. Will that change tomorrow, or will Abi have to wait until Day 13 to claim his kachi koshi?

Day 11 will be pretty hard to beat, but Day 12 has just as much fantastic undercard action to enjoy, in what is becoming n all-time great Basho!

Hatsu Day 11 Preview

Hatsu Day 11

It’s a big day at the Kokugikan, and this another day that I strongly recommend fans find Kintamayama’s daily summary on YouTube and Jason’s fantastic videos.  There are just so many interesting matches, there is no way the NHK 25 minute highlight show can do it justice.

Today marks the return of Terunofuji. Why? I have no idea. That guy is horribly injured, suffering from diabetes, and already make-koshi. But I suppose he is trying to save some rank in the coming demotion to Juryo.

Day 11 seems to be the day the scheduling team decided to toss the banzuke and match some of the fresh faces at the bottom of the ranking sheet with some in the middle. Sort of a “trial by fire” phase for many of them, and it has led to some really interesting matches. I must admit, I am following the Maegashira 17-13 match more closely than the Maegashira 12-7 matches. It just seems that the crop at the bottom of the banzuke this time has all the fire, energy and crazy “danger be damned” sumo that the sport needs.

Hatsu Leader Board

Leader – Kakuryu
Chaser – Tochinoshin
Hunter – Daieisho

5 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 11

Aoiyama vs Nishikigi – Man-Mountain Aoiyama comes up to Makuuchi for the day, and faces off against Nishikigi. Both men are at 5-5 and need to win 3 of the next 5 matches to maintain rank, so there is a lot on the line. During his tenure in Makuuchi, Aoiyama was at times a powerful force of sumo. Some of it was an aversion by the other rikishi to land a hold in his upper torso region, and some of it was he is huge and fairly strong. But Nishikigi has bested him 3 of the 4 times they have fought.

Ryuden vs Daieisho – Daieisho is already kachi-koshi and the only rikishi besides Tochinoshin who as any chance of catching Kakuryu, should the surviving Yokozuna falter. His opponent is Ryuden, who is doing fairly well in his long-anticipated debut in Makuuchi. Daieisho’s winning streak may put him in line for a significant boost in rank for March.

Sokokurai vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama was red hot to start Hatsu, and now he can’t beg a win from anyone. Sokokurai took the Juryo yusho in Kyushu and has really struggled this basho. I do like the fact that Asanoyama shows up each day with what seems to be the same positive attitude.

Kotoyuki vs Kagayaki – Kotoyuki is another rikishi who is struggling for wins in the second half of the basho. He opened strong and now is 5-5. Kagayaki, whose man-boobs are nothing compared to Aoiyama, may find that can pick up pointers from the Bulgarian. Either way, I am guessing it’s going to be Kotoyuki trying to shove Kagayaki, with Kagayaki working to get a mawashi grip and toss the little brick-shaped rikishi off the dohyo.

Daiamami vs Aminishiki – I pray to Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan that any available Kami protect Aminishiki’s knee. I am still wincing from day 10, and I don’t want to see Uncle Sumo exit the sport forever riding that giant wheelchair.

Terunofuji vs Ishiura – Better make it two wheelchairs at the ready because the Ghost of Terunofuji is returning to the dohyo day 11. He exited the basho earlier citing complications from diabetes. But even that is not going to help his fragile undercarriage. What madness has possessed Isegahama?

Yutakayama vs Kaisei – Kaisei really stacked on the weight over the holidays, and following his day 10 match he looked like he was going to pass out. I suspect that if Yutakayama slaps him in just the right location, it will set up a standing wave across his various fat pockets that could damage or fracture the dohyo. Interestingly enough, Kaisei has never won against Yutakayama.

Tochiozan vs Abi – Both of the Maegashira 8s fight the Maegashira 14s. Sure, why not? So we get Abi going against Tochiozan. This is their first meeting, and I am going to expect Abi to open with double arm thrusts, and Tochiozan to grab him under the arms and send him sailing.

Chiyomaru vs Endo – This should be an easy pickup for Endo, who is not looking nearly as genki as he was at the start of the basho. Chiyomaru has only taken one match from Endo, and that was back in 2013.

Takarafuji vs Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin, will someone please stop him from eating more spinach? Maybe that someone can be humble but capable Takarafuji. They have evenly split their 14 career matches, with Takarafuji dominating the last 7 of those. But this basho Tochinoshin is in firm contact with his spirit animal, a hydraulic car crushing machine.

Hokutofuji vs Ichinojo – Hokutofuji loves to win. For a long stretch of years, he never failed to rack up a kachi-koshi. Now here he is with the sting of a losing record. He faces our favorite boulder, who somehow has revived himself from his years-long sumo slumber and is happy to rumble around the dohyo crushing everything. You boys play safe now!

Takakeisho vs Yoshikaze – Scratch and dent bin match. I have no idea what has happened to Yoshikaze. But I would be willing to bet a can of Ebisu and a trip to Yoshinoya that he’s suffering from something along the lines of the flu. He just seems to have no energy right now, and that’s not possible under normal circumstances. Takakeisho has sadly found that most of the rikishi have figured out that when he starts his double arm “Wave Action Tsuppari” that you can lay a nodawa right in there and he stops it.

Mitakeumi vs Shodai – Mitakeumi! Get it together man, you are a total mess right now! You lose to Shodai and I am going to give you a new nickname. You may not get another decent chance to start an Ozeki run for a while, so don’t squander this one. Hey, Shodai. You win this one and I may have to start believing in you again.

Okinoumi vs Takayasu – Takayasu by a mile. Okinoumi is a shadow of his former self.

Goeido vs Arawashi – Should be an easy Goeido win, but what the hell? This guy seems to be booted up in some kind of lame diagnostic mode that only plays Tetris. Goeido!, LEFT, LEFT, DOWN, RIGHT, DOWN, DOWN clears the level.

Kakuryu vs Tamawashi – Kakuryu, short of an injury, is looking likely to seal up his next yusho, and I am delighted that he is fighting well, looking strong and dominating. Tamawashi was eager to leave his mark in Sekiwake territory again, but he seems to be injured and not fighting well.

Terunofuji to Return on Day 11

Terunofuji, who went kyujo on Day 3, will make a return on Day 11 to face Ishiura. The Kaiju’s initial doctors note only recommended a week off from competition due to symptoms of diabetes, which appear to be under control following medical intervention. In a statement to the press, Isegahama Oyakata reported that Terunofuji’s old knee injury was getting better and that his glucose levels were much lower after treatment. Despite his Oyakata’s optimism, it is obvious that Terunofuji is in no shape to be competing, and slogging through the last five days of competition could only serve to undo any healing that has taken place. While it’s good that Terunofuji’s health is apparently trending in the right direction, returning now could be just another step closer to the end of the Kaiju’s career.

Everything You Need to Know After Act One

Kisenosato-Yoshikaze

With Day 5 in the books, the curtain has dropped on Act One of the 2018 Hatsu Basho. We’ve seen some spectacular sumo so far, especially from many of the young up and coming rikishi on the Banzuke’s undercard. Although the Basho may have just begun, already so much has happened. Here is everything you need to know to get you up to speed after Act One.

Yusho Race

While the Hatsu Basho may have just begun and a lot can still change, five days of sumo has whittled the leaderboard down to just four men, all with perfect records going into Act Two. Starting at the bottom, these rikishi are Maegashira 16 Asanoyama, Maegashira 3 Tochinoshin, Sekiwake Mitakeumi, and at the very top and looking unstoppable, Yokozuna Kakuryu. Trailing them with four wins are Daieisho, Kotoyuki, Shohozan, Tochiozan, Chiyoshoma, Endo, Takayasu and Goeido. With so much sumo left the Yusho is just starting to heat up!

Kachi Koshi and Make Koshi

Again, it’s too early to tell who will be leaving Hatsu with their kachi koshi and who won’t, but after five days we have a pack of rikishi who are halfway to their coveted winning record. Asanoyama, Daieisho, Kotoyuki, Shohozan, Tochiozan, Chiyoshoma, Endo, Tochinoshi, Mitakeumi, Takayasu, Goeido, and Kakuryu all have at least four of the necessary eight wins and could pick up their kachi koshi by the end of Act Two. On the other side of the coin, there is a large group of rikishi halfway to receiving a make koshi. Takekaze, Aminishiki, Chiyonokuni, Ikioi, Okinoumi, Chiyotairyu, Ichinojo, and Hokutofuji all ended Act One with four or more losses and will have to get their sumo into top gear if they want to avoid a losing record.

Kinboshi

There have been five kinboshi awarded to Maegashira rikishi so far this Basho. Yokozuna Hakuho gave up kinboshi on Days 3 and 4 to Hokutofuji and Yoshikaze respectively. Kisenosato has relinquished the most kinboshi so far with three, going to Ichinojo on Day 3, Kotoshogiku on Day 4, and Yoshikaze on Day 5. Kakuryu is the only Yokozuna who has not yet caused a zabutan storm at the Ryōgoku Kokugikan.

Kyujo

Since the Tournament opened, only two men have withdrawn from competition. After suffering a defeat on Day 3, former Ozeki Terunofuji went kyujo citing health issues related to diabetes. His Basho may not be over, however, as his medical certificate only recommended take one week off so there is a possibility we will see his return sometime next week. The other man to officially withdraw from the competition was Yokozuna Hakuho, who appears to be suffering from a fractured big toe in addition to other old foot injuries. Fans will remember that these are the same injuries that caused him to miss the 2017 Haru Basho. There is a possibility that another two men will join the kyujo list by days end. Uncle Sumo Aminishiki’s participation tomorrow is questionable after he hit the clay hard during his bout with Chiyonokuni. The veteran rikishi has well-known knee issues, and needed assistance to leave the dohyo. The other man who may forgo competition tomorrow is Yokozuna Kisenosato, who after five days only has one win. With every loss he draws closer to a make koshi, which for a Yokozuna is extremely taboo, and Kisenosato will most likely pull out before that happens. We will have a better idea of their status this evening.

Update: Both Kisenosato and Aminishiki have officially withdrawn from competition, bringing the total number of kyujo rikishi up to four. However, depending on the severity of Aminishiki’s injury, we may see him make a return later on in the Basho.

The stage is set for Act Two, and the playing field is wide open. The next two acts look like they are going to be some of the best sumo we’ve seen in a while, and a great way to start 2018!