Get To Know a Shusshin: Kochi-ken

For the second installment of this G2KS series (catchy acronym), I cast about far and wide, from Hokkaido to Mongolia to Bulgaria, and even next door in Yamaguchi and Tottori. I am hesitant to do two in a row so close to each other so I really wanted to hop to a different region without hitting any of the big name locations* or any which I’ve previously written about just yet. However, the clincher was the recent news of Toyonoshima’s retirement so I have decided, yet again, to visit Kochi.

* 都道府県- Not all of the locations are “prefectures”. Tokyo is a “TO”, Hokkaido is a “DOU”, Kyoto and Osaka are “FU”, and the rest are “KEN”. So, we get Tokyo-to (東京都), Hokkaido (北海道), Osaka-fu (大阪府) and today’s topic, Kochi-ken (高知県). This doesn’t count foreign wrestlers whose shusshin are announced as the name of the country.

I have written about Kochi before because I have visited there and loved it. The people we met there were warm and hospitable and the scenery was beautiful. Since my wife and I were traveling with our son we didn’t have a chance to check out the nightlife but they had great restaurants, markets, and several attractions. Kochi was supposed to host an Amateur Sumo Tournament in March but it was cancelled due to the evolving SARS-CoV-2 (d.b.a. Coronavirus) situation. See the linked article for a rundown of all the Amazumo cancellations so far.


Heading south of our original stop in Shimane prefecture, we cross over the Inland Sea to the island of Shikoku. Kochi prefecture covers the southern portion of the island, is mountainous, and draped in forests. It is a narrow prefecture with a large coastline bounding Tosa Bay.


Prior to the Meiji Restoration around 1870, the province was home to the Tosa Domain. Though Commodore Perry’s black ships arrived off the coast of far off Shimoda, the event sent shock waves throughout Japan’s politics…kinda like how the Coronavirus is today. Debate raged around the nation and threatened to split it apart as loyalties for the Emperor in Kyoto and Shogun Tokugawa in Tokyo divided families. Many people wanted to keep the foreigners out while others saw no choice but engagement. The Shogun’s regime was referred to as the bakufu (幕府). Many of you kanji learners will recognize “幕” as the same character for “maku” as in makuuchi (幕内) and makushita (幕下), sumo’s top division and third division…and “fu” from our above discussion of “Osaka-fu.”

Many heroes of the period were from the area, most famously the pistol-packing ronin, Sakamoto Ryoma. There are several statues of him around Kochi city, the capital, including this big monument down along the shore, looking out at the sea. While he died a hero in Kyoto, assassinated at the Omiya Inn, others have less savory reputations and are remembered as brigands. In Kochi, aside from the monument there are a couple of great museums which explores his life, his role in the Meiji Restoration, and his legacy — which includes founding the first corporation in Japan, the Kaientai, which would become part of Mitsubishi which itself was founded by another famous man from Tosa, Iwasaki Yataro.

Andy and his son stroll along the Shimantogawa

Another key figure of the time, and as we will see someone with more relevance to sumo, was the head (or 大名 – lit. “great name”) of the Tosa Domain, Yamauchi Toyoshige (山内豊信). You will recognize the first character of Toyoshige (豊) from many shikona, including Toyonoshima and his former Tokitsukaze stablemate, Toyoshimizu. The characters for “Tosa” (土佐) also feature prominently in shikona for men from Kochi.

An interesting boat in the Shimantogawa

With all of this history rooted in Kochi, there are several museums to go visit, as well as statues. The monument to Ryoma, shown above, is at the Katsurahama beach south of downtown. Kochi Castle is considered one of the finest in the country. Nearby markets provide amazing fresh local fruit, vegetables, and fish since agriculture and fishing are two of the prefectures’ largest industries. Shishito, okra, and citrus fruits like yuzu are among the crops grown. I love yuzu. I eat it, I drink it… If I could take a bath in yuzu, I would….oh, wait, that’s a thing!!

Shimantogawa, or Shimanto river, is a brilliant blue river that snakes through Kochi’s forest-shrouded mountains. The river is the source of local shrimp, crabs, and other freshwater seafood while Tosa Bay and the surrounding ocean are a rich fishery. Kochi is famous for Katsuo tataki which is a seared bonito. The tataki method of cooking supposedly originated in Kochi. Okinoshima Suizan corporation on the island of Okinoshima offers what looks like amazing examples of katsuo tataki seafood.


Newly retired Toyonoshima and his Tokitsukaze stablemate, Toyoshimizu, are from Kochi. Both are from the southern tip of the prefecture. Toyonoshima is from Sukumo while Toyoshimizu is from Tosashimizu. I wonder where they got their shikona from? Tosayutaka is another former makuuchi wrestler from Tokitsukaze. And, for a brief period in 2011, Tokitsukaze-beya had another Kochi native, Takanoumi.

Tochiozan is currently Kochi’s highest-ranking wrestler. He debuted in 2005 and blazed a trail through the lower divisions, not registering a make-koshi record until he reached the rank of Maegashira 4 in 2007. For much of his career Tochiozan had another Kochi-born stablemate with him at Kasugano named Tochinohama, until 2018. Both are listed as from Aki city in eastern Kochi-ken.

Takasago-beya features another collection of Kochi-born wrestlers: Asaazuma, Asanojo, and Asanotosa. Asanotosa is from the city of Tosa and Asaazuma is from Susaki, both near the center of the prefecture, close to the capital, Kochi city. Asanojo, on the other hand, is from Aki in the eastern portion of the prefecture. The kanji for Aki is 安芸.

Onomatsu-beya has another trifecta of Kochi prefecture wrestlers, Tosamidori, Tosaeizan, and Genki. Herouth has a great set of videos from Tosamidori’s Jonokuchi yusho. He had fallen to Ura in his last bout meaning 6-1 and three-way play-off, which he won. He’s been climbing through Jonidan so far this year with solid kachi-koshi records. Tosaeizan made his return to Sandanme during fan-less Haru, and after his own 4-3 kachi-koshi will climb a few ranks when the banzuke is released this weekend. Genki, on the other hand, hit the Makushita joi wall hard and is sliding back down into the meat of the division.

Chiyonoumi is Kochi’s young gun. The Kokonoe stable stud began his career with yusho in the first three divisions before an injury setback…right after I wrote this article. Have I found the first victim of the Andy-hype curse? I am glad to see he is back on track and he should be a regular in the salaried ranks. Nankairiki, from Kise stable, had a great Haru going 7-0 in Sandanme, only losing in the playoff…to Ura. Lastly, Wakakaneko is a new recruit from Kochi city for Nishiiwa stable. At 15 years old and 95 kg, it will be interesting to see where he is seeded this weekend.

There will be a lot of banzuke drama in Kochi this weekend. Tochiozan faces certain demotion into Juryo and Chiyonoumi may fall out of the salaried ranks altogether but will likely just hang on to the bottom rung. Will Wakakaneko be ranked near Hattorizakura?

Toyonoshima announces his retirement

The NSK official Twitter, as well as most of the sports outlets in Japan, report that the highly popular Tokitsukaze beya veteran, Toyonoshima, has announced his retirement, and will now become Izutsu oyakata.

Toyonoshima was ranked Ms2e for Haru and expected to gain back his sekitori privileges (and income) with a simple kachi-koshi. Sadly, that kachi-koshi didn’t come, and his 2-5 result was certain to send him below the promotion rank on the Natsu banzuke.

When that result became clear, Toyonoshima asked the press to give him some time to consider his options. He said he was more or less ready to quit, but his daughter wanted him to press on.

We sometimes refer to short-stature rikishi like Ishiura, Terutsuyoshi and Enho as “pixies”, and marvel at their ability to maintain high rank and fairly impressive results in Makuuchi. But Toyonoshima and his 170cm have been there long before them. Toyonoshima reached the rank of Sekiwake several times, and raked in 5 jun-yusho, 10 special prizes and 4 kinboshi during his 18 year career.

As Izutsu oyakata, he intends to continue serving at Tokitsukaze beya.

Aki Day 15 Highlights

It was a tadpole playoff for the cup, and you know I was overjoyed. Well done to all competitors who made the final weekend of the basho one to remember. Congratulations Mitakeumi on his second yusho!

Thus ends Aki 2019, which many fans (myself included) will consider a departure from what we have come to accept as normal. As the team at Tachiai have written in the past, in absence of strong ur-Rikihsi such as Hakuho in a basho, new heroes shall rise. If nothing else, the past 18 months in sumo has taught us that. Today we saw the second yusho for Mitakeumi. As with his prior yusho, he is on the path toward Ozeki again, and maybe this time he can finish the evolution. The departure of the “old guard” is accelerating now, and the field is being swept clean for a new order that will bring with it new rivalries, new defeats and new triumphs. It’s a great time to be a sumo fan.

It will come to no surprise to the readers of Tachiai that out of the new leaders, we find Asanoyama, Yutakayama, Takakeisho and Mitakeumi. These are rikishi we have been watching evolve, coming into the power band where youth, strength, stamina, skill and sheer determination create legends. But don’t expect the fading kings of sumo to go out without a fight. In fact I had expected this basho to be the one where Kakuryu and Hakuho were both genki and brutally beat the new generation at every turn. But perhaps the fade is harder and faster than I assumed, or maybe my timing is off.

Tachiai congratulates Mitakeumi on his second yusho, it was masterfully done, and your sumo continues to energize.

Highlight Matches

Chiyoshoma defeats Takagenji – Aannnnnd HENKA! (Like Hollywood, sumo seems addicted to crummy sequels)

Kagayaki defeats Azumaryu – Kagayaki stayed as low as he could, and stayed focused on center mass. Kagayaki really has not had his sumo “together” this basho, so I am wondering if he’s got some kind of injury that is disrupting his normally excellent form. The Azumaryu nostalgia effect is gone, and I think he’s going to be a candidate rebuild in Juryo.

Yutakayama defeats Shohozan – Yutakayama wins a yotsu match! Sort of an unusual form for these two to take, but I loved it. Check out Yutakayama’s footwork! He was employing almost a gaburi-yori attack there.

Onosho defeats Tsurugisho – I love the Onosho story for this basho. He came in still hurting from his surgery, his balance was poor, his sumo was disorganized. He put on his classic red mawashi that led us to label him on his first run up the banzuke “The Tadpole Red Menace”. After a fairly cold start, he closed with 6 straight wins to go 9-6. No knock against Tsurugisho, who opened 10-5 in his debut Makuuchi posting.

Enho defeats Sadanoumi – Enho tries, and eventually succeeds in getting a left hand inside grip, and uses that to run the table. What’s fun about Enho’s size is that he is small enough that his hips are about 4″ lower than Sadanoumi’s, so cocking the eventual shitatenage is rather simple mechanics for him. Enho will be mid-Maegashira for Kyushu, so some new opponents to test against, I can’t wait.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi tries for his favored arm-bar, but finds that the “death clench” works both ways. Terutsuyoshi grabs an arm and pulls him into a rarely seen sakatottari. Even if he is relegated back to Juryo, it’s wonderful to see Terutsuyoshi close out the basho with a great win and a great move.

Kotoshogiku defeats Tochiozan – Aannnnnd HENKA! Well, but it does not work, as Kotoshogiku is waiting for it. I don’t blame Tochiozan for trying it, he has to know he is facing demotion to Juryo, and would rather not end up there. And indicator of how hurt Tochiozan is would be how weak that henka attempt was.

Shimanoumi defeats Daishoho – Daishoho opened strong early, but Shimanoumi rallied and put him down. Both end with a miserable 5-10 recored for Aki.

Kotoyuki defeats Shodai – Shodai gets an opening to win a couple of times, but can’t make any of them pay out. Really sad to see him close out 3-12, but it was quite impressive sumo form Kotoyuki today, who threw everything he could at Shodai, and took the match.

Ishiura defeats Tamawashi – The first of our Darwin matches features a false start, as both want this one badly, and both suspect the other of a henka at the tachiai. Ishiura gets inside quickly, and robs Tamawashi of his mobility, and rapidly focus his pressure on his abdomen and advances. It’s over in a hurry, and Ishiura manages his kachi-koshi, and rescues himself from the growing log-jam of Juryo-qualified Maegashira.

Tomokaze defeats Chiyotairyu – I apologize dear readers, but am I ever tired of the reverse-gear sumo from Tomokaze. A win is a win, but it’s a shame to see so much talent and so much potential sidelined for this kind of sumo. Chiyotairyu ends with 2-13, the lowest finishing score for any man who fought day 15.

Daieisho defeats Kotoeko – Second Darwin match, and boy did these two really turn up the power. It’s a full hybrid battle-plan as they swap between yotsu and oshi at will. But Daieisho prevails and takes his 8th win. Fantastic sumo from both today.

Meisei defeats Asanoyama – Meisei surprises Asanoyama with his first ever win, and I can tell he put a lot of thought and prep into this match. Meisei when right hand inside at the tachai, and kept himself close to 90° to Asanoyama, not allowing Asanoyama to advance and push Meisei back. Of course Asanoyama pivots to correct that, and Meisei uses this rotational force to whip Asanoyama around and put him on the bales. As Asanoyama is focused on rescuing himself from that mistake, Meisei goes mae-mitzu, and goes in for the kill. Nice sumo Meisei!

Ryuden defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama fires up the big V-Twin power today, but he is lacking the forward pressure from his lower body to make it work. Ryuden figures this out and steps to the side, grabs an arm and pulls Aoiyama to the clay. Tough basho for Big Dan the man-mountain. I hope he can get his health back soon.

Hokutofuji defeats Takarafuji – Here it was again, it’s as if Hokutofuji’s lower body is working on its own. After grappling at the tachiai, Takarafuji actually defeats the upper body of Hokutofuji. But Hokutofuji’s lower body is not conceding a thing, and keeps him in the fight, off-balance with arms spread at the tawara. Takarafuji assumes that’s the end, but that lower body is still fighting, turns more or less on it’s own to square Hokutofuji’s hips against Takarafuji and drives. A moment later the upper body catches up and puts both hands on Takarafuji’s chest. Odd but amazing sumo from Hokutofuji today. He won the last 8 matches in a row.

Myogiryu defeats Abi – First match was inconclusive as they touched down / out together, and a torinaoshi was called. The second match, Abi tried to pull as Myogiryu went inside and pushed, giving the match to Myogiryu. Congrats to Myogiryu for coming back from kyujo and picking up 8.

Takakeisho defeats Okinoumi – Takakeisho goes for the armpits at the tachiai and never gives up the hold. Sort of a different attack style from the “wave action” one might expect, but it got the job done smartly.

Mitakeumi defeats Endo – Endo tried for a left hand inside grip at the tachiai, but quickly discovered this was a denshamichi match, Mitakeumi was in Shinkansen mode. The Tadpole playoff is a go!

Goeido defeats Tochinoshin – Goeido gets a excellent left hand outside grip and exploits Tochinoshin’s knee-less left leg with great effect. Tochinoshin has no power to stop the spin and push into the west side zabuton. I am really worried that Tochinoshin has nothing left in that knee, and we may not be seeing a graceful decline like we saw with Kotoshogiku.

THE PLAYOFF – Takakeisho’s propensity to push then pull at the tachiai has become easy to predict. Clearly Mitakeumi did, and figured if Takakeisho was going to give up forward pressure, he could take a trip to the tawara. Takakeisho realizes his opening gambit failed spectacularly, and tries to hold back Mitakeumi at the edge. But Mitakeumi lowers his hips and pushes, and wins.

Thank you dear readers for sharing your Aki Basho with us. We have had an absolute blast covering this tournament for the past two weeks. Be sure to stay with us as we cover the weeks leading up to the next tournament, November’s Kyushu basho.

Aki Day 14 Highlights

Probably one of the most consequential days of sumo I have seen in the last 10 years. Many questions were resolved, and many disappointments were realized. Firstly, we know that the yusho will be won with a 12-3 record. One of the three (or more) remaining leaders will have that score, and they will take home the hardware. To ensure that they only have one possible playoff match, Okinoumi will face Takakeisho. The chances are better than even that we will see a playoff between the winner of that match and Mitakeumi. This configuration is clouded with controversy, which we will cover below.

We also can now sadly realize that injured Ozeki Tochinoshin will lose his rank and occupy a Sekiwake position for November. He took his 8th loss not in a blaze of glory, but with a simple and frustrating mistake.

Elsewhere on the dohyo, it was henka-madness. I know there are legions of readers who are fine or even love the henka. I think it is normally a sign of weak sumo, and in the top division this kind of tactic should be seldom seen. Not today, as many rikishi in perilous positions resorted to the henka to try and save their record or keep in the hunt.

Last but not least, the gyoji and shimpan are once again a focus, and in crucial matches to boot. I think the NSK might need to think through how they want to handle sloppy calls and sloppy officiating, the fans do notice.

Highlight Matches

Wakatakakage defeats Ishiura – Ishiura had a whole bucket of nothing against the lead Onami brother, and his 7-7 record leaves him prime for a Darwin match. Enjoy.

Shohozan defeats Azumaryu – Shohozan opens strong, and Azumaryu finds himself in trouble, and moving in reverse. He tries a pull at the bales, but does not get Shohozan to drop before he himself steps out.

Onosho defeats Yutakayama – Onosho gets the inside position while Yutakayama goes for an armpit grip / attack. Onosho seems to not care, and is double-arm pushing against Yutakayama’s chest. Yutakayama is getting better thrusts, but Onosho is moves forward, absorbing the blows. Onosho kachi-koshi.

Enho defeats Tochiozan – Enho side steps to his left at the tachiai, disrupting any attack Tochiozan may have planned. Enho continues to try to drive inside and get to Tochiozan’s chest, and eventually finds his mark. Thought they fight for grip and hand placement for several seconds, Enho consolidates his position and drives Tochiozan out and to the clay. Enho kachi-koshi, and Tochiozan make-koshi. Another one for the barge to Juryo?

Takagenji defeats Terutsuyoshi – We finally get to see some strong sumo from Takagenji, and it’s against the injured and only partially functional Terutsuyoshi. Takagenji is headed back to the deeper ranks of Juryo, but I am glad he at least got to fight with vigor again today. If you want to see two rikishi battle it out with all they can muster, this is your match. Great effort by both men.

Kotoyuki defeats Tsurugisho – The fierce version of Kotoyuki was back again today, and his match today is a good study in body mechanics for oshi-zumo. Note how he focuses everything against the center of Tsurugisho’s chest, and drives forward with each blow. Tsurugisho has no time, and no means to respond. Kotoyuki kachi-koshi.

Kotoeko defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki got the better of the tachiai, and drove strongly forward. But Kotoeko deftly side-stepped at the tawara and send Kagayaki face first towards chikara-mizu bucket. Kotoeko improves to 7-7, another Darwin match candidate.

Sadanoumi defeats Shimanoumi – They stalemate at the tachiai, but Sadanoumi shifts and turns to get behind Shimanoumi and drive him out from behind. Experience and agility secure Sadanoumi his 8th win and a move up the banzuke for November.

Daishoho defeats Chiyotairyu – Annnnd. HENKA! You can see Chiyotairyu’s frustration at the end of this match, and you have to feel for the guy. He manages his big tachiai, but Daishoho is faster and inside before Chiyotairyu can impact, he moves to charge again and Daishoho steps to the side. Chiyotairyu now an alarming 2-12.

Shodai defeats Nishikigi – So, where has this version of Shodai been? That looked like real sumo, and even though Nishikigi beat him by a league at the tachiai, he kept his cool, wrapped up Nishikigi and kept moving forward. Nishikigi is now make-koshi.

Daieisho defeats Meisei – Excellent tachiai from Meisei, getting him an inside position and the start of a left hand inside grip. But Daieisho rallied and launched a pushing attack that Meisei could not endure. A last minute attempt to side-step at the tawara failed, and the one time yusho leader took his 5th defeat.

Asanoyama defeats Tomokaze – Take a look at the tachiai in this match, it’s a great example of where Asanoyama is headed over the next few years, if he can stay healthy. You can see him a half-step faster than Tomokaze, who is caught hazardously far forward, with poor body position. What does Tomokaze do? Why try to pull Asanoyama down, of course. How’s that working out for you? Oh? Not at all? Well, good job, now you have Asanoyama at your chest, and your weight is still too far forward. As Asanoyama loads up the throw, Tomokaze amazingly thinks he can try another pull. The shift in weight unceremoniously drops him onto his back in front of the time keeper, earning him his first ever make-koshi. I think Tomokaze has a great future, but he needs to fight in a forward gear as his standard mechanic. Asanoyama is headed higher next year, his sumo mechanics are very good, and he keeps getting stronger.

Hokutofuji defeats Tamawashi – Hokutofuji beats Tamawashi off the line, and gets his nodowa, raising Tamawashi up. Hokutofuji knows what’s coming and widens his stance as Tamawashi attacks in force. But that odd Hokutofuji upper / lower body action comes into play again, he starts moving forward almost independently of the force his upper body is enduring. But Hokutofuji finds his opening and attacks center-mass, and its more than Tamawashi can withstand. Great effort by Hokutofuji to get his 8th win and a come-from-behind kachi-koshi, winning 7 in a row, along with his kinboshi on day 1.

Aoiyama defeats Kotoshogiku – Annnnd. HENKA!

Abi defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji wants to set up some kind of sumo, but once Abi-zumo starts, most people’s plans go out the window and all you want to do is get the guy to knock it off. Sorry! It only stops when you hit the clay or go visit the fans in the front row. Abi improves to 9-5, and I must say he is surprising me by enduring in San’yaku.

Okinoumi defeats Endo – The rikishi executed a masterful bout, but the shimpan and the gyoji blew this one to hell. If Okinoumi should prevail and take the cup, what would be a marvelous cinderella story will be forever marred by this nonsense. Okinoumi got the better of the tachiai, and started driving Endo to the SouthWest corner, and Kimura is in the way, ok – this crap happens. The two lock up on the mawashi and are really fighting it out, again Kimura gets in the way in the SouthWest corner. Endo steps on the bales, and his fighting back with everything he has as Okinoumi goes for the yorikiri. The shimpan’s hand goes up, the gyoji points the gumbo to the east, but the contestants are fighting on. They both move for a throw, but what the hell is happening? Alright, Endo fell last, but according to the referee and the judges, the match was over long before. Replays showed Endo’s heel never getting close to the janome, and there was no mark. WHAT THE HELL. So, sure – call a monoii, review the tape and figure out what is what. Well, not going to work well because the gyoji sorta interfered with the rikishi after the shimpan’s hand went up. This one is screwed up beyond repair, so it looks like they just do the “yeah, we meant to do that” routine and move on. Even Okinoumi does not think he won. Horrific own-goal for the NSK.

Takakeisho defeats Ryuden – Any thoughts that the Grand Tadpole would throttle back were completely wrong, as we see Takakeisho deliver a blast wave out of the tachiai, the first time I think he has done that this basho. Ryuden is generating considerable forward pressure, and has his usual excellent foot placement, but is pushed back by the force of it. He never has a chance to recover or even try to mount any offense as Takakeisho picks up win 11, and punches his ticket to the yusho party. Ryuden is make-koshi, picking up his 8th loss.

Mitakeumi defeats Goeido – Annnnd. HENKA!

Myogiryu defeats Tochinoshin – A heartbreaking match, as Tochinoshin secures his make-koshi and demotion to Ozekiwake for November. Sadly it did not come as a result of a flat-out, sacrifice everything battle, but rather an inadvertent step out by the Ozeki. The two were fighting strongly, with Myogiryu taking the initiative while Tochinoshin struggled to set up his grip. But as Tochinoshin consolidated his hold and shifted to attack, his foot slipped on the tawara and struck the janome, the match was over, and the gyoji stopped the fight. Sorry to see it end this way. Tochinoshin’s injuries are not something that can be addressed in the next few weeks before Kyushu, and I am not optimistic about his options at this point.