Former Ozeki Terunofuji has withdrawn from the Natsu basho.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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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!
Unlike the Hatsu banzuke mess, the Hatsu results should make for a fairly predictable Haru banzuke.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Day 4 was a fantastic day of sumo, the kind of day that makes a sumo fan wish they could see the entire 2 hour makuuchi broadcast. Perhaps one day? We can always dream.
Hakuho seems to have injured himself once more, and I would guess will push to go kyujo. Terunofuji’s medical slip for his kyujo recommends 1 week rest, implying that we could see him again in week 2 making a desperate bid to save himself from a demotion to juryo. With his health more or less out of control at this point, Terunofuji is a long way from his earlier Ozeki self.
Day 5 brings a close to the first act of Hatsu. Readers may recall that I divide the 15 day basho into three distinct 5 day arcs, as they always seem to form a pattern. The first act being where everyone shakes off the dust and settles into their “full power” sumo, and we get to see who is hot and who is not. Act two are where hopes get smashed and dreams get crushed. It’s also where we start to track the leaders, and look into the race for the Emperor’s cup. The second act contains the all important middle weekend, where the scheduling team usually tries to narrow the field through exciting matches between rikishi with strong winning records.
What We Are Watching Day 5
Kyokutaisei vs Asanoyama – Kyokutaisei comes up from Juryo to fill the empty slot left by Terunofuji. He faces an undefeated Asanoyama, who is looking very solid so far. Is it just me, or is Maegashira 12-17 really turning in some great sumo this basho? I know we talk about the tadpoles a lot (with good reason) but this class of rikishi really seem to be doing well, and dare I say it, having a lot of fun? Is sumo allowed to be fun?
Ishiura vs Ryuden – Ishiura hit the clay on day 4 in a surprising loss to Nishikigi, but day 5 he gets Ryuden, who in spite of his 1-3 record seems to be eager to battle each time on the dohyo. I am sure that Ryuden wants to stay in Makuuchi, so I expect him to dial up the intensity starting now.
Abi vs Kagayaki – Oh yes please! Abi seems capable of surprising any opponent thus far, where Kagayaki is sort of Kisenosato 2.0, steady, focused, straight ahead sumo with a lot of power behind it. Sure, Kagayaki is young and is not at Kisenosato skill or strength levels yet. Abi however, seems to be surprisingly adaptive, and fast on his feet. Could be a great match.
Kotoyuki vs Sokokurai – Kotoyuki has quietly put together a 3-1 record to start the basho. During his tour of Juryo in 2017, he was a mess. He seemed to constantly be injured and on a knife edge of further demotion. Now he is back in Makuuchi, and actually doing well enough. He faces the Kyushu Juryo Yusho winner, Sokokurai, who seems to be more than a little overwhelmed. Their career 7-1 record favors Kotoyuki.
Shohozan vs Chiyomaru – Big Guns Shohozan takes on the incredibly large Chiyomaru. I am sure that Shohozan can and possibly will squat press Chiyomaru, but with both of these men at 3-1, the workout is more likely to be blistering tsuppari with a side of uwatenage.
Okinoumi vs Endo – Okinoumi Seems to be in good enough physical condition, but thus far he has not quite been able to get his sumo to click. Fans may remember Nagoya 2016, where Okinoumi ripped up the San’yaku battle fleet before his injuries turned him into a cuddly petting zoo refugee. Endo on the other hand is cranked up and pushing higher for Osaka. They are evenly matched, with a career record of 5-4 slightly favoring Endo.
Shodai vs Ichinojo – Two giant, somewhat puffy and bloated men in blue mawashi. One is a bit slow and clumsy, and the other is frequently struggling to execute a decent tachiai. I have no clue what will happen here, but whatever it is, it will happen slowly.
Takakeisho vs Onosho – Yeah, let’s put the two angriest tadpoles in a bucket and let them battle! An idea so magical, it could result in a fantastic match. These two are actually real life friends, and have been working through sumo together for quite some time. But both are fierce competitors. I would give a slight advantage to Takakeisho, as he seems to be more “dialed in” right now.
Mitakeumi vs Tamawashi – Sekiwake fight! Tamawashi, who used to hold the East slot, takes his Oshi offense to the face and bulbous thorax of Mitakeumi, who has no intention of letting Tamawashi smudge his flawless 4-0 record. Mitakeumi holds an 8-2 career advantage.
Hokutofuji vs Takayasu – Forgive me, Takayasu fans, but I might make you mad. I think Takayasu has lost touch with the core of his sumo. His Tochinoshin match of day 4 was full of mistakes, and I think he really needs to focus on his fundamentals, which when he works in them, are outstanding. Hokutofuji comes in with a 1-3 record, but he’s been on a steady diet of Yokozuna sumo, and surviving fairly well. In fact, Takayasu has NEVER beaten Hokutofuji. Good grief.
Goeido vs Tochinoshin – Gut check time for Goeido! He knows he can’t go chest to chest with this beast of a man, so he’s got to stay mobile. When he does that, he tends to try and pull, and when he does that, he tends to lose. I will be interested to see if Tochinoshin has Goeido so psyched out that Goeido reverts to his buggy 1.0 software.
Hakuho vs Kotoshogiku – Hakuho has foot problems, and can’t transmit power to ground. I wonder if Kotoshogiku is feeling genki enough for his back bend, now that he dropped his arch-foe Kisenosato. For a healthy Hakuho, this is a straighforward win. But as-is, Kotoshogiku has a fair chance of another Kinboshi.
Kakuryu vs Chiyotairyu – Only really interesting because I am curious to see what Kakuryu does to put the big Sumo Elvis down. Kakuryu is fighting really well this basho, and if he can remain uninjured he will have a fantastic and convincing return to active status.
Yoshikaze vs Kisenosato – Even though Yoshikaze defeated Hakuho on Day 4, he still looks about a fraction of his normal self. Kisenosato has been high and unable to generate any arm strength on his go-to weapon, his left hand. Fair chance of another Yoshikaze kinboshi today.
Tachiai has learned that former Ozeki Terunofuji has withdrawn from the 2018 Hatsu Basho. This marks the fourth tournament in a row that Terunofuji has been forced to leave prematurely due to crippling lower body issues. As stated in a post article this Sunday by Tachiai writer Herouth, merely resting back at Isegahana beya has not been enough to bring the once mighty Kaiju back to health, and has only contributed to his weight gain.
To reiterate a point I made earlier today, unless Terunofuji chooses the path of medical intervention, he risks injuring himself beyond repair and ending his promising career before he reaches his full potential. Having gone kyujo just two days in, and baring an ill-advised return later in the Basho, we can expect to see him drop into the Juryo division come March. We at Tachiai sincerely hope Terunofuji takes the necessary steps to recovery, and that the mighty Kaiju rises again.
As a result of his withdrawal, Daishomaru will get the fusen win on Day 3.
Update: Rather than his ailing lower body as many had guessed, the official reason for Terunofuji going kyujo is health issues caused by diabetes.
Day 1 got off to a very solid start, better than either of the last two basho, and I am cautiously enthusiastic about what we are in store for. With so many excellent matches on day 1, I encourage everyone to at least try out Kintamayama’s review on YouTube. While I love the NHK highlights show, and days when there are a large amount of quality bouts in a rather lengthy torikumi, it’s worth it to pick up the matches you missed.
I finally got to see the NHK highlight show at 2:30 Pacific today. Yes, I am in San Diego for a bit instead of the mighty bastion of Texas. Counter programming to it was a show on PBS about black holes, and super-massive black holes. I thought nothing of it…
But then here’s Murray Johnson remarking that Kaisei has packed on over 20 kg since November. Dear readers, that’s the size of a small Panda Bear, whose form Kaisei seems determined to emulate. It appears something similar has taken place within orbit of the gas giant Chiyomaru, who may have swallowed a nearby moon. Both of these two balloons will find their added mass a terrible strain on their bodies, and I fear for their longevity.
Say, you know what has me really delighted so far? Great matches at the bottom of Makuuchi! These guys are on fire. The Tadpoles had best consolidate their position in a hurry, as it seems there is yet another cohort advancing on their positions.
What We Are Watching Day 2
Ryuden vs Daiamami – Ryuden looked very poised on day 1, I am going to be watching to see if he can repeat that with his match against Daiamami, who holds a 5-2 career advantage of him.
Asanoyama vs Nishikigi – I am calling for Asanoyama to try to set up a throw early on. If Nishikigi can block the outside grip, he will probably have a chance to get inside and dismantle Asanoyama.
Abi vs Ishiura – An early match with a lot of interest. Both guys are on the lighter side of the scales, and both of them like to move around and mix it up. If Ishiura gets stuck, will he resort to his submarine attack that gets him in such trouble?
Yutakayama vs Daieisho – See, this time I spelled it correctly. Yutakayama has won both their prior matches. I expect a flurry of thrusting and a lot of mobility. Yutakayama seems to choke when he gets into Makuuchi, and I think everyone is hoping that this time he can settle down and show us some great sumo.
Kagayaki vs Daishomaru – When I said keep an eye on Kagayaki, people laughed. I get it, he has ridiculous man-boobs. He seems to have come to terms with it, and possibly uses it to distract his opponents. They say life in the heya can be lonely, and perhaps these poor guys find the display captivating. But hell no! Kagayaki takes his sumo with all of the earnest concentration you might expect from a rikishi who wants to be somebody. Like Kiesnosato, this guy is willing to train himself to death to get there. Never count that out.
Terunofuji vs Kotoyuki – Did you read Herouth’s discussion of Terunofuji? It’s toward the bottom of her typically awesome post. If you have not read it, go read it. It seems that in addition to Kaisei and Chiyomaru, Terunofuji may have spent time at the Gagamaru body sculpting clinic. If he can’t toss Kotoyuki around like a rotten bag of miso on day 2, it’s very dim indeed for our once mighty Kaiju. (shout out to Joshua who is in Tokyo… Lucky bastard)
Aminishiki vs Chiyomaru – Uncle Sumo vs the Gas Giant. Not good as Chiyomaru’s intense gravity well may crush Aminishiki’s space age metal support structure. Seriously, Aminishiki is in lower mid-Maegashira territory now. I hope he’s able to keep himself from getting injured.
Kaisei vs Chiyonokuni – Panda-kun vs Grumpy Badger. Chiyonokuni came out blazing day 1, but in typical fashion could not close the deal. He’s got strength, speed and energy, but for whatever reason he can’t seem to put together a consistent approach to get a win.
Ikioi vs Endo – Looking forward to this fight, as I am keeping my eye on Endo, who I would not be surprised to see hit 10 wins this tournament. A genki Endo may come as a bit of a shock to the tadpoles, as he brings a surgical precision and some depth of experience to the dohyo. I am looking for him to contain Ikioi’s superior strength and reach, and work inside and backwards.
Shodai vs Okinoumi – Shodai looked better on day 1 than he has in a while, and I am going to guess that for now Okinoumi is in good health. So this is probably a fairly good match, if Shodai does not blow the tachiai. Both of them will go for a mawashi grip from the start, and it will come down to strength and tactics.
Mitakeumi vs Chiyotairyu – Mitakeumi needs a 10 win basho to be taken seriously as an Ozeki contender. So it’s time for him to produce before he faces the upper San’yaku next week. Chiyotairyu is bigger, strong and looks a lot more like Elvis. So Mitakeumi is going to have to gamberize.
Yoshikaze vs Tamawashi – I am sure Yoshikaze is disappointed in day 1’s outcome. His shot at recovery is with the tough as nails Tamawashi on day 2. Tamawashi is back at Sekiwake after a stumble at Aki and Nagoya, and he wants his back in line for an Ozeki run.
Goeido vs Onosho – Battle of the manic over-committing rikishi, where both of them tend to charge forward with everything they have. Although I tend to be against the use of henka, this is the correct case where it’s of most use. Free tacos if they do simultaneous henka and orbit each other for the first few seconds.
Kotoshogiku vs Takayasu – All the fans want Kotoshogiku to do the big back bend. We know its the source of his magic powers, and he needs every ounce of power against an especially genki looking Takayasu.
Hakuho vs Ichinojo – Hakuho looked a bit lost without his slap-n-grab power combo. Against Ichinojo he needs some clarity, as once that much Mongolian gets moving, he’s headed somewhere. I am expecting the Boss to try another tachiai variation, hopefully with improved effect.
Kakuryu vs Takakeisho – Takakeisho’s post match interview had me rolling. When asked about the sumo he used against Kisenosato, he more or less said, “I can’t really remember, I was just trying to win”. Damn straight! He was all over the map throwing everything including the kitchen sink at The Great Pumpkin, and he prevailed. Now of course comes Kakuryu, whose whole sumo approach is to let his opponent get rolling, then use their motion and attacks against them. I can’t wait to see how this one goes. This is the first time these two have fought.
Hokutofuji vs Kisenosato – The final match of the day, it it carries a lot of weight. Kisenosato needs wins on the board. But in their only prior match, Hokutofuji won convincingly. On day 1, Kisenosato let Takakeisho dictate the match. I am hoping to see him control the bout like his 2016 self would do with such calm and effortless power.
Day 1 has come to a close, and what a day of sumo it was! While the first few days of any basho tend to be plagued by rusty rikishi and sloppy sumo, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of competition today! With Leonid doing such a great job bringing readers coverage of the top matches to keep an eye on for each day, I thought I’d focus on the opposite end of the Makuuchi Banzuke and highlight a few bouts that may not make it on to the NHK highlights, but should still be quite good! So here are some undercard matches to keep an eye on for Day 2.
Ryuden vs. Daiamami
Jerking the curtain on Day 2 will be Makuuchi newcomer Ryuden and big Daiamami. Fan favorite Ryuden looked good in his first match against Nishikigi and showed no signs of top division jitters. Hoepfully he carries this confidence into his bout with foe Daiamami, who at Maegashira 17 sits all alone at the bottom of the banzuke. These two have had quite the rivalry, with Daiamami holding a 5-2 edge over Ryuden.
Asanoyama vs. Nishikigi
Are my eyes mistaken or did anyone else think Mr. Happy Asanoyama looked… angry today? Fresh off his first make koshi and finally sporting his oicho-mage topknot, Asanoyama took control right from the tachiai and finished Daiamami off with a nice overarm throw. On Day 2 he will take on Nishikigi, and we will see if this attitude adjustment is permanent. If I’m Nishikigi, I’m hoping to see Mr. Happy on the dohyo tomorrow, because a focused, angry Asanoyama could be a fearsome opponent. These two have met three times prior, with Asanoyama leading their series 2-1.
Abi vs. Ishiura
After delighting fans with his superb shiko and nearly bending Daieisho in half on Day 1, Makuuchi newcomer Abi will try and secure his first win when he meets Ishiura on Monday. With his stocky torso and long limbs, Abi reminds me of a young Takanohana. If he can learn to use his proportions as effectively as the former Yokozuna, he has a very bright future ahead of him. However, he first needs to work on not over-committing to his thrusts, as doing so was the primary cause of his Day 1 loss. Should he overcommit tomorrow, the crafty Ishiura will make him pay for it. Ishiura holds a 4-3 lead over Abi.
Sokokurai vs. Takekaze
Sokokurai received a hearty welcome back to Makuuchi from the Tadpole committee courtesy of Daishomaru today. On Day 2 he will meet a fellow member of the old guard, Takekaze, who is also looking for his first win following a quick loss to Kagayaki. After a terrible 2017 where he recorded only two kachi koshi, one has to wonder just how much longer the 38-year-old Takekaze will go on before calling it a career. Hatsu very well could be his final Basho.
Kagayaki vs. Daishomaru
Despite a poor start, Kagayaki finished strong and looked calm and in control as he escorted Takekaze off the Dohyo. He meets fellow young gun and old foe Daishomaru on Day 2. While both of these men are talented pusher thrusters, the much larger Kagayaki has a big reach advantage, which he has used to take a 5-2 lead in their series
Terunofuji vs. Kotoyuki
Oh Terunofuji, it makes me sad to see you like this. The once mighty Ozeki, crippled by knee issues, was unable to do much against the bulky Chiyomaru. Things don’t get much easier for the Kaiju on Day 2 when he takes on Kotoyuki, who picked up his first win over Fuji’s stablemate Aminishiki Sunday. Expect Kotoyuki to go right for the jugular with his thrusting flippers, and if he can get Terunofuji to the bales his chances of winning are pretty good.
Sumo is off to a good start this year, in what may prove to be an awesome Basho!