Natsu Day 9 Highlights

Go Ahead Myogiryu, Pull My Finger…

Shin-Ozeki Takakeisho did in fact decide to return to kyujo status on Monday morning, Tokyo time. He continues to struggle with his right knee. While the Tachiai circle of friends seem to agree it’s for the best, there are a few critics in the Japanese press. This little glimpse into that thanks to Herouth

Word is that Takakeisho (or at least Chiganoura oyakata) are taking this seriously, and Takakeisho went to the hospital Monday morning for further diagnostic work to pin down the nature and severity of the injury. Having once been young myself – and living in a cloistered all male combat oriented society (Marines), I can attest to the fact that moderate injuries are brushed aside as “nothing” by your brain. Even though you are more or less among friends, something deep in your primitive brain urges you to show no weakness.

But Takakeisho is a young, dynamic new Ozeki. He’s the kind of figure that will help continue the popularity of the sport for years to come. After the collapse of the Kisenosato franchise, it’s good to see that they are going to try to at least keep Takakeisho going strong.

Highlight Matches

Enho defeats Toyonoshima – Chances are good that Toyonoshima will be back in the top division for July, but he got shown the door today against power-pixie Enho. Toyonoshima had the initiative following a strong tachiai, but Enho used his lighter body and superior maneuverability to get out of Toyonoshima’s way as he was charging forward towards the tawara. Later big stuff, see you in Nagoya.

Sadanoumi defeats Chiyoshoma – It seems to me that about day 5, Sadanoumi decided he was exiting Natsu with a winning record, no matter what. Since then the intensity of his sumo is up nicely. He gave Chiyoshoma zero chance to do much more than hold on and enjoy the ride today.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Chiyomaru – To his credit, Chiyomaru gets some of his thrusting attack in, but Terutsuyoshi resets his game and dives for the mawashi, finding his mark and relegating Chiyomaru to reacting. When your opponent can disappear from view, obscured by that big belly, it’s tough to counter the fact that this little guy is grabbing your crotch and hoisting you, literally, with your own petard.

Ishiura defeats Yago – Team Pixie is on fire right now, and everyone is loving it. Even Ishiura has decided it’s time to execute some aggressive, combat sumo. Yago gets the better of the tachiai, and Ishiura can’t get inside, and goes defensive. But rather than just giving up, he defects and circles multiple times. The 3rd time, Yago leaves his chest open, and in goes Ishiura. Yago tries to load a throw, but Ishiura owns the pivot point and gives Yago a face full of Tokyo clay.

Daishoho defeats Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi owns the early part of this match, until Daishoho attempt a throw (which fails), but leaves Shimanoumi off balance and vulnerable. Daishoho attacks and takes the match. Good recovery by Daishoho.

Kotoeko defeats Tochiozan – As we had guessed, Kotoeko’s superior intensity carried the match over Tochiozan’s superior guile and cunning. Tochiozan twice went to start a pull / slap down, and each time he gave up ground to Kotoeko, who had superior foot placement, possibly in anticipation of Tochiozan’s desire to pull.

Shohozan defeats Tokushoryu – Kind of a simple match, Shohozan stands Tokushoryu at the tachiai, and plants his feet. In response, Tokushoryu dials up the forward pressure. Given Tokushoryu’s “cab-forward” design, it’s hard for him to slow down once he starts forward. Shohozan releases the breaks, and Tokushoryu does the rest.

Meisei defeats Tomokaze – Very balanced start to this match, but Tomokaze got off balance and Meisei exploded his opponent’s awkward body position for the win.

Shodai defeats Kagayaki – If readers why I sometimes call Shodai’s matches “cartoon sumo”, today is a great example. If anyone is going to benefit from their opponent losing traction, it’s probably going to be Shodai. It’s as if some off screen animator pauses things and draws an anvil teetering on the edge of the tsuriyane, that falls at just the right moment and takes out whomever Shodai is fighting. Today Kagayaki is still trying to work out what to do when the demon “slippiotoshi” grabs a hold of him and pulls him to the clay. Don’t get me wrong, Shodai does all the right things to make this kind of win possible, but its fun to see how many times his opponents just defeat themselves.

Onosho defeats Yoshikaze – After a couple of Onosho matta, Yoshikaze is getting a bit irate, and brings a fraction of his former fire into the match, but he slips more or less in the same spot that Kagayaki did, and ends up with a knee on the clay.

Takarafuji defeats Nishikigi – Takarafuji gets his right hand outside grip and Nishikigi can’t counter his opponents strength. We love Nishikigi, but he needs to regroup.

Asanoyama defeats Ryuden – Asanoyama takes one from Ryuden for the first time in the last 6 attempt. Ryuden is actually fighting well this basho, and this may be a further indication that Asanoyama is working at a higher level of sumo now. We can hope, right? Asanoyama gets his kachi-koshi, and remains in the yusho leader group.

Tamawashi defeats Daieisho – Wham-bam! Back him up and send him home! Send a tsukibeto around later with some cookies to make sure he’s ok. This seems to be the tried and true Tamawashi formula, and I think we may see a Tamawashi and Mitakeumi Sekiwake posting for July. It will be like a comfortable old shirt that you are happy to see after losing some time around last year.

Chiyotairyu defeats Endo – No hope for Endo today as he eats the full power of the Chiyotairyu canon-ball tachiai.

Mitakeumi defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji’s nodowa produces nothing, and he quickly tries to slap / pull Mitakeumi down. Of course everyone and their uncle expect this noise, and Mitakeumi reads the shift in Hokutofuji’s balance with expert timing and surges forward. Hokutofuji can’t recover the initiative and takes a trip to the east side zabuton.

Aoiyama defeats Kotoshogiku – I had been hoping to see a Kotoshogiku return to san’yaku, but the poor old guy seems to be fading into week 2. Ah well, I am admittedly sentimental. Aoiyama focused center-mass and just pushed with those giant beef towers he calls arms.

Goeido defeats Abi – I exploded in laughter at this match, and had to re-wind about 4 times to watch it over and over. As expected, we saw an Abi matta in an attempt to throw off Goeido’s timing. This is not a bad idea, but the Ozeki was looking for it, and it only seems to motivate him. Tachiai – stand Abi up, wait for forward pressure, and let him fall. Flawless counter-Abi strategy here.

Takayasu defeats Myogiryu – I though that everyone in sumo knew to never ever challenge Takayasu to an endurance battle. I swear the guy takes naps holding up 150 kg weights, and wakes up completely rested. So points to Myogiryu for putting the Ozeki in some odd postures and body contortions, but that was the extent of it. Myogiryu expertly kept Takayasu from getting his right hand into any kind of grip, but then Takayasu just waited him out. Myogiryu, of course, tires and Takayasu shows him the exit.

Kakuryu defeats Okinoumi – No reactive sumo today, it was a power tachiai from the Yokozuna, and no hope for the man from the island domain of Shimane-ken. Kakuryu remains with the yusho leaders.

Natsu Day 7 Highlights

Sold Out/Sellout Banners at Kokugikan - Natsu 2019
The Natsu basho is sold out, and many of Tachiai’s friends make up the audience

As Bruce related, we’re happy that many Tachiai readers and friends of the site have descended on Ryogoku, especially this weekend, to join together and watch sumo. On a personal note, it has been great to see old friends and meet new friends, and I will be again in attendance Day 9. If you’re attending the basho as well, let us know!

Let’s get into the day’s action:

Quick Juryo Week 1 Update

It’s looking increasingly likely that we will have yet another top division debutant when the Nagoya basho rolls around. Takagenji quickly dismantled the promising Wakatakakage with a furious nodowa and tsuppari attack to move to 7-0 and retain sole lead of the yusho race, and close in on the last couple of wins to all but guarantee his promotion from Juryo 2. His brother Takanofuji also won down in Makushita to grab kachi-koshi and perhaps seal a quick return to Juryo, with the brothers a combined 11-0. Toyonoshima, now 6-1 following his straightforward win over Takanosho, also looks likely to make an instant return to makuuchi.

All but guaranteed not to make an instant return to the top division he occupied for so long is sumo mummy Ikioi, who scored a painful first victory which saw him collapsing in a heap off the side of the dohyo having narrowly pushed out Azumaryu. The gyoji’s call survived a monoii, which is probably more than could have been said about Isenoumi’s long time sekitori were a torinaoshi to have been called. The good news for Ikioi is that his sole victory almost certainly spares him the indignity of a (possible, small sample size caveats apply) demotion straight through the trap door to Makushita had he continued to draw a blank.

And now, for the top division, on a day that saw the legendary Kitanofuji again join the NHK commentary team…

Day 7 Matches

Ishiura defeats Chiyoshoma – It’s a double henka! Just kidding. It’s just Ishiura that henkas, which he attempts to turn into an arm-bar throw that doesn’t quite come off. The match then develops into some submarine sumo with both men quite low on one side of the dohyo, with Ishiura landing the better left hand grip on Chiyoshoma’s somewhat loose mawashi. Eventually Chiyoshoma changes stance which prompts Ishiura to pull the winning shitatehineri. We’ve seen Ishiura do that a few times in the past and it’s one of his better winning moves.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Enho – Here are two men who can’t even make one Ichinojo between them. Terutsuyoshi lands a strong right hand grip early on in this one, which Enho spends a second trying to work out how to break. Terutsuyoshi takes him on a mini Harumafuji style death spin before sweeping the Hakuho recruit straight down on his back, and it’s ruled a rare susoharai. Enho walks off the dohyo looking like he’s been buried in the beach, he’s 5-2 and Terutsuyoshi gets a much needed 3rd win.

Daishoho defeats Tokushoryu – With Nishikigi fighting Shodai, Daishoho got called up to the Kakuryu dohyo-iri so he must have been all kinds of excited to show off his brand of sumo today. It’s tough to say he needed to do it, as Tokushoryu moved him straight back from the tachiai, at which point he stepped to the side, gave a tug on the big Kise man’s shoulder and let gravity do the rest – hatakikomi. Daishoho takes the battle of the 2-3 men to move back to .500 on the basho.

Kotoeko defeats Sadanoumi – Kotoeko might be looking soon at his first top division kachi-koshi as he grabs a 5th win in a fairly unremarkable match. Sadanoumi starts by moving forward, but just can’t get a grip here. Kotoeko’s able to use a blend of mawashi work and finally, thrusting to win by oshi-dashi and deposit Sadanoumi in the lap of the shimpan.

Shohozan defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru’s 90s Geocities website background green mawashi inspires perhaps a little trepidation. Shohozan pulls after a cagey tachiai before the two lock up in the centre of the dohyo, and yet again in this basho, Chiyomaru finds himself in a grappling match. Shohozan is a slapper but better in this position, and manages to get both hands all the way around the big man on the belt. That’s fairly incredible. The bigger issue is actually moving him, which Shohozan tries a couple times with no luck. Chiyomaru tries to shake off Shohozan, but can’t manage a throw, and Shohozan simply runs the roly poly Kokonoe rikishi out of real estate and corrals him across the dohyo to take the win. Weird sumo.

Onosho defeats Yago – After a matta, the two bounce off each other and exchange pulling attempts. Unfortunately for Yago, Onosho actually lands his and picks up a fairly quick win. He’s 4-3, and Yago is now 3-4.

Shimanoumi defeats Kagayaki – Shimanoumi moves forward well from the tachiai, survives a couple very weak throw attempts and and an even poorer pull attempt from Kagayaki, and wins easily by a light oshidashi. It’s a 3rd win for the new makuuchi man which helps get his kachi-koshi mission back on track, and for “Tactics” Kagayaki it’s a disastrous 6th loss in 7. Fans of obscure stats will find it curious that we could soon see an absence of single kanji shikona rikishi in the top division for the first time in many years, if he doesn’t turn his act around.

Tochiozan defeats Tomokaze – Even tachiai, but it’s another lesson in top division sumo for the promising Tomokaze as Tochiozan sees him leaning forward and puts a firm hand on the back of the Oguruma man’s head and hits the firm hatakikomi. Both men are still “in the black,” but it’s Tochiozan that grabs his 5th win today.

Nishikigi defeats Shodai – It’s a slow motion tachiai as Shodai predictably stands up and it feels like Nishikigi is running for ages – even if it’s only 2 steps – until he makes contact with the Tokitsukaze man. Shodai implausibly moves forward well from this position, but does not land a belt grip and this is his key mistake, choosing instead to get in under the arms of Nishikigi. Moving backwards, Nishikigi pulls what is ruled a kotenage arm-lock throw that at first glance didn’t look massively different than a sukuinage.

Asanoyama defeats Yoshikaze – The violet shimekomi derby ends with a win for the man from Takasago-beya. Asanoyama rebounds from a loss and continues his strong tournament by taking control of the match after a fairly even tachiai. He attempts a grip on the back of Yoshikaze’s belt but only succeeds in untying it, but spares the fans an X-rated view by dispatching the Oguruma veteran with an oshidashi before the censors have to get involved. Asanoyama is up to 6-1 and very much still on the fringe of the yusho race for now.

Ryuden defeats Kaisei – Habitual line-stepper Ryuden seems a little off rhythm as it takes Kaisei ages to complete his pre-basho routine, so it’s no surprise when the matta addict commits another neutral zone infraction. He deploys an odd strategy here and allows Kaisei to take full control of proceedings, and his strategy is clearly to use the large Brazilian’s mass-inertia combination against him. At the very edge of the edge, Ryuden goes for the pull and very, very narrowly wins by hatakikomi as the two men crash into the crowd. Kaisei seems to have suffered a right arm injury as a result by Ryuden’s pull down, which was executed primarily with a pull of said arm after an initial tug on Kaisei’s head. Ryuden is 5-2 with Kaisei now 3-4, and it will be interesting to see what effect the injury may have on his attempts to get kachi-koshi from here.

Meisei defeats Myogiryu – Meisei in some ways looks like a young Myogiryu. There’s an almighty blast at the tachiai in this battle of 2-4 rikishi, but it’s Meisei that keeps moving forward. Despite a last ditch pull attempt from Myogiryu, it’s a quick and straightforward oshidashi for Meisei as he grabs his 3rd win.

Okinoumi defeats Takarafuji – Most of this match is much of a muchness, with the largely defensive Takarafuji trying in vain to find the impetus against a stubborn Okinoumi. Neither man can really get a decent grip, but eventually the man from Shimane-ken manages to get the Aomori native Takarafuji high, and with Takarafuji’s center of gravity raised, Okinoumi simply pushes – almost tipping – him over for a much needed 2nd win.

Abi defeats Endo – This pretty-boy battle has a properly zen Kotoshogiku looking like he’s ready to fall asleep on the side of the dohyo before the match. Hopefully he opened his eyes because this was over in a flash. After a matta (courtesy of Abi), the yobidashi gets forced into quick action on the run with the chikara-mizu barrel as a listless Endo gets thrusted out at the back corner by a trademark Abi attack. 5 wins for Abi, 5 losses for Endo.

Mitakeumi defeats Aoiyama – This is all oshi all the way. My computer tried to autocorrect that to Oshiogawa. The funny thing is that maybe not unlike the former Takekaze, Aoiyama entered this match looking for a quick pull-down. However, he was unable to execute and subsequently a little late to the party when it came to finding the type of brutal tsuppari for which he is better known and which did for Tamawashi earlier in the basho. His mistake here was probably not sticking with his more established brand of sumo from the start. Mitakeumi took a couple hits but simply weathered the storm, kept his balance and positioning and footwork on point and shoved the bigger man out. Very composed stuff again from Mitakeumi, who moves to 5-2.

Tochinoshin defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku enters this match with a 24-9 lifetime edge over his fellow former ozeki but very much the severe underdog. But that’s sumo. Tochinoshin’s right knee appears to have even more intense bandaging on it than usual. In a world starting to become dominated by pusher-thrusters, it’s refreshing to get two classic old fashioned belt guys to go at it, and they take it in turns.

Both land their favoured grips immediately – and Kotoshogiku loses his almost as quickly. Kotoshogiku gets a good run at the Georgian as he tries to get both arms inside, but just doesn’t have enough power in his gaburi-yori to finish the job. Kotoshogiku’s relative lightness on his feet is always his undoing, and that’s a perfect match for the power of Tochinoshin who as we know, loves to lift his opponents. As Kotoshogiku vaults up into the air, Tochinoshin pulls back on the throttle and launches his way across the dohyo. It’s 7-0 for the yusho challenger, who needs 3 from 8 to retake his rank and restore the Ozeki count to four for the first time since Kotoshogiku’s demotion.

Hokutofuji defeats Ichinojo – One way traffic, and it’s all the impressive Hokutofuji. The Hakkaku man has performed better than his record would indicate owing to a typically brutal week 1 schedule, but he easily gets the better of the enormous Mongolian Ichinojo at the tachiai. He lands his hands under Ichinojo’s armpits in an attempt to drive him back and keep him high, and apart from one desperation shove to the head by Ichinojo, two more shoves are all that’s in this match as Hokotofuji finishes the job quick smart. He’s up to 3 wins now and in with a shout of moving back up to san’yaku if he can finish the turnaround, while Ichinojo has 5 losses with a tough second week still to come and his rank very much at risk.

Goeido defeats Tamawashi – Both of these guys need a win, with Goeido needing it a little bit more after a rough couple of days and wanting to stay out of kadoban trouble following a good run over the last year. This isn’t particularly good sumo from Goeido, who tries in vain to get a grip, while Tamawashi tries to get Goeido to play into his style of thrusting sumo. Goeido seems to win this by as much sheer willpower as he has lost matches by earlier in the week – he fends off a couple brutal thrusts to the head and just manages to keep his offensive mindset and tendency active and engaged. He’s better on the front foot, and after an ugly series of thrusts, manages to get the oshidashi to move up to 4-3, with Tamawashi holding a mirror record.

Takayasu defeats Daieisho – If there’s a better oicho-mage than Takayasu’s then I’ll drink a bottle of binzuke. Takayasu once again gets the worst of the tachiai. His tachiai is confused, disjointed and just plain weird, as he seems to be totally missing a plan of attack. I don’t know what he and Araiso have been plotting for the last month at keiko, but surely this couldn’t have been the battle plan. In today’s case, he can’t even deploy his shoulder blast before Daieisho has his hands all over the Ozeki. Both men trade nodowa attempts, but Takayasu’s experience tells as he simply side steps a thrust to find Daieisho off balance, and just needs a simple push to get the oshi-dashi win. With respect to Daieisho, against a stronger opponent with more experience of san’yaku opponents, Takayasu would have been in real trouble today.

Kakuryu defeats Chiyotairyu – I kind of love Chiyotairyu’s salt toss, as if he’s just absolutely disgusted with the pile of salt. We get a matta here, followed by an incredibly straightforward win for the Yokozuna, moving forward en route to a perfect 7-0 record. Chiyotairyu started a ways back from the shiriki-sen, as if to get a run up to launch his famous cannonball tachiai. But, it would be foolish to expect the Yokozuna wasn’t prepared for the Kokonoe man’s one trick, and landed a quick right hand outside grip on Chiyotairyu’s mawashi before he could even get into the match. With his left hand pushing on Chiyotairyu’s chest, he simply escorted the junior rikishi out in a motion akin to a lazy butsukari session. Easy.

Natsu Day 1 Highlights

Did you cheer when you saw this? Skycrane ahoy!

I found myself headed for bed at a surprisingly early hour for the first day of a basho. With AbemaTV now lost to me, and no real way to watch the lower divisions, I decided it was better to just pack it in, and enjoy the DVR’d NHK-G two hour top division program in the morning. While I wish I had seen the lower division matches, Makuuchi featured some absolute gems. With Hakuho out, the stage is set for some surprising story lines, and the possibility of a new champion for the new era.

A note to regular readers, highlight posts may come later this basho, due to changes in how we source our information. If we are late, never fear, Team Tachiai is just forwarding through video…

Day 1 Highlights

Toyonoshima defeats Chiyoshoma – No henka from Chiyoshoma today, who chose to meet Toyonoshima head on and fight. Chiyoshoma got a decent right hand outside grip, and tried to use it for an Uwatenage. Although this failed, it left Toyonoshima out of position and off balance. Chiyoshoma lunged to push his opponent out, but Toyonoshima managed to step aside and send him into the front row.

Daishoho defeats Ishiura – Ishiura also forgoes elusive sumo, meets Daishoho head to head, and applies some effort to the match. Ishiura does well by staying mobile, and works to stalemate Daishoho. Ok, good, but that’s not winning. Ishiura’s gambit to get inside and drive forward results in Daishoho applying an arm bar and winning the match by kimedashi.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoeko – I suspect we may be glad that Terutsuyoshi managed to stay in the top division, in spite of a horrible score at the end of Osaka. Kotoeko took control at the tachiai, and was driving Terutsuyoshi around the dohyo like he was the boss. But Terutsuyoshi loaded and executed a tsukiotoshi while in reverse gear, taking the match. Great sumo!

Enho defeats Tokushoryu – Enho takes his first match as a Maegashira in solid Enho fashion. Tokushoryu had the size and reach advantage, but Enho took him for a ride on the tiny-town express. While Tokushoryu was working to lock on to Enho’s shoulders, Enho was on the mawashi, turning the larger rikishi and escorting him to the tawara. Enho gives his 2 kensho envelops to his mother for a Mother’s Day gift. She is even smaller than he is!

Chiyomaru defeats Sadanoumi – Blink and you might miss it. Chiyomaru is getting better milage with Akua’s green mawashi than Akua ever did. A very simple stand him up, slap him down win for the man in green.

Yago defeats Shimanoumi – Yago won the match, but to my eye Shimanoumi had better sumo today. Yago repeatedly worked to pull or slap Shimanoumi down (and eventually succeeded), but the shin-Maegashira was focusing center-mass and moving forward with power. After taking two consecutive Juryo yusho, Shimanoumi has the skill to succeed in the top division. Let’s hope he can settle into a working rhythm.

Shohozan defeats Tochiozan – It looked like Tochiozan’s battle plan was to stalemate Shohozan and look for an opening. He executed that with his expected top-level skill, until Shohozan lost his patience and drove in for an atypical combat-hug. Tochiozan moved to win in the blink of an eye, but could not finish the rotation to execute his throw.

Onosho defeats Kagayaki – My candidate for “ring rust match of the day”. Mr Fundamentals, Kagayaki, gets taken to the wood shed by a rather genki Onosho. Hard core sumo fans, you know, the ones who pine for AbemaTV access, are hoping that Onosho can get his body back to good form, and we can see some Takakeisho – Onosho Ozeki rivalry in the future. Onosho had the full happy meal today: Hips low, thrusting strongly against center mass, and strong forward movement.

Tomokaze defeats Nishikigi – Special mention in the “ring rust” category goes to Nishikigi, who seemed to change his mind about opening attack midway through the tachiai. Tomokaze works him hand to hand like he is pulling an enormous ball of taffy, and Nishikigi really can only struggle to stay on his feet.

Asanoyama defeats Kaisei – Closing our trifecta of ring rust, Kaisei did not fail to deliver on his expected oxidation. I really liked Asanoyama’s drive after the tachiai, and that shallow left hand grip was solid. Kaisei struggled to get a throw going at the bales, but Asanoyama just used the Brazilian’s balance shift to deliver a yorikiri.

Shodai defeats Meisei – Those of you wondering why so many fans think Shodai has a lot of potential, watch this match. He is sky-high at the tachiai. He’s practically trying to lose here. But following that, look at his agility, his ring sense, and the fact that even in defensive action, he maintains an element of offense. Could we please get Araiso Oyakata to teach this guy how to come off the line?

Takarafuji defeats Yoshikaze – Yeah, Yoshikaze knows he’s beat about 5 seconds into it, and decides not to risk injury with a tawara defense. For fans of one of the most intense rikishi in many years, this match is tough to watch.

Ryuden defeats Myogiryu – Shin-Ikioi (Ryuden) continues to shine. Today’s match showed really outstanding patience, and top level balance as Myogiryu changed offensive plans at least twice. Ryuden waited them out, and took his opportunity to get Myogiryu turned around and propelled him out.

Abi defeats Okinoumi – The double arm attack was shut off fairly early, but Abi was able to convert it to a powerful two hand nodowa, which he withdrew suddenly to perform a pull-down. Points to Okinoumi for shutting down the typical Abi-zumo offense (and to Abi for having a plan B –PinkMawashi).

Aoiyama defeats Tamawashi – This anticipated slug-fest did not fail to deliver. Tamawashi took command at the tachiai, and backed Aoiyama to the east. A massive shove from Tamawashi, intended to send Aoiyama out, only stood the Mongolian up as he slid back. Aoiyama cocked that meaty right arm and delivered a blow that made the crowd gasp, then took control.

Tochinoshin defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu could not muster enough force at the tachiai to effectively disrupt Tochinoshin, who waded into the slap fest with gusto. In spite of Chiyotairyu focusing well on keeping Tochinoshin away from his mawashi, the Georgian found his mark. You can hear the crowd rally as both hands find their grip. We all know what’s coming. Hell, Tochinoshin has been waiting to do this for a couple of months. You can hear the motors roar as he lifts Chiyotairyu, who obliges by pedaling his legs in free air like some cartoon character, suddenly finding himself over a cliff. Let’s admit it, we all want to see him get his 10 and take back his Ozeki rank.

Daieisho defeats Ichinojo – Runner up in the ring rust prize is Ichinojo, who clearly struggled to execute his planned attack strategy. Multiple times he tried to pull down Daieisho, who evaded well. This left Ichinojo high, off balance and fairly easy pickings. A solid win for Daieisho.

Takakeisho defeats Endo – The thing that is really striking is that Takakeisho has gotten better at initiating the wave-action attack earlier and earlier in the match. Endo has no time to even begin any offense. Endo foolishly tried to match the shove, aiming for Takakeisho’s head and neck. This gave the shin-Ozeki a open lane straight to Endo’s center-mass, and it was over. 41 kensho banners. Wow.

Kotoshogiku defeats Takayasu – I can’t recall how long its been since I have seen Kotoshogiku at this level of intensity. For recent fans, this was what Ozeki Kotoshogiku looked like at his peak. Granted, Takayasu is nursing a bad back right now, but that was awesome.

Goeido defeats Hokutofuji – I love this match because it shows Goeido’s speed. Hokutofuji likes to set up a nodowa at the tachiai, and take control before his opponent can do anything other than react. But Goeido is so fast and so low, you can see the surprise in Hokutofuji’s reaction. I am so very happy that Goeido seems to be healthy and on his sumo.

Kakuryu defeats Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi could not generate forward pressure against the Yokozuna, who executes a textbook oshi battle plan. This was interesting to me in that Kakuryu is usually going to start a match and react to his opponent. Today he took charge and dictated the win. This shift may have surprised Mitakeumi. It sort of surprised me!

Natsu Day 1 Preview

Welcome back dear readers! It’s honbasho time, and the team behind Tachiai are very excited about the potential of this tournament. As we have seen in the past two years, any basho that has Kakuryu as the lone Yokozuna tends to be a battle royale, with a much wider field of competitors for the Emperor’s Cup, even into act 3. The scenario favors two rikishi in my mind – Takayasu and Tochinoshin.

Takayasu because he has been “just short of” yusho level sumo a few times. The big question is his back, which he has been struggling to keep in working order. There was a lot of commentary following the joint keiko sessions this week, and the comment at the YDC soken that Takayasu was not doing “his brand of sumo”. Sadly I have yet to see it in any detail, but I suspect we are seeing continuing evolution of Takayasu into a form that can compete closer to Yokozuna level.

Tochinoshin will come as a surprise to some readers. The fellow is on the outs now, having at least temporarily lost his Ozeki rank due to back to back make-koshi, brought on by a foot injury. Thanks to a commentator, we think of Tochinoshin as a “glass cannon”, with tremendous power as long as he is structurally intact. If Tochinoshin shows up healthy and in good working order, that enormous strength (he has the strength of a bear, that has the strength of two bears) can overcome practically anyone.

A reminder about how these basho start: Act one (the first 5 days) is all about getting people up to basho intensity, knocking off the ring rust, and starting to tune up the named ranks for the big fights later in acts 2 and 3. We may see some iffy sumo today, so don’t take it too seriously, and enjoy the next 15 days – it’s bound to be intense.

What We Are Watching Day 1

Chiyoshoma vs Toyonoshima – With Hakuho kyujo, there is a torikumi imbalance that will see a daily visitor from Juryo, unless and until someone else in Makuuchi decides to go kyujo as well. At Juryo 1 East, Toyonoshima could be back in the top division for the sweat-box in Nagoya if he can rack up 8 wins. Chiyoshoma will possibly be working on his henka.

Terutsuyoshi vs Kotoeko – While both men were make-koshi in Osaka, both of them managed to remain in the top division because so many rikishi at the bottom of Makuuchi had such terrible records. Watch for the glorious Terutsuyoshi salt throw, and for Kotoeko to work to keep Terutsuyoshi to his own front quarter.

Tokushoryu vs Enho – Enho’s first ever match ranked as a Maegashira, and I hope everyone who has not had a chance to watch his sumo before gets a high energy, enjoyable match. That fellow is indomitable.

Chiyomaru vs Sadanoumi – The bulbous Chiyomaru returns to the top division, and his first match is against fellow veteran Sadanoumi. Chiyomaru leads the series 8-3.

Shimanoumi vs Yago – After back-to-back Juryo yusho, Shimanoumi makes his Maegashira debut. In spite of his 6-9 record for Osaka, Yago is not out of his element in Makuuchi, and I expect him to find his pace this tournament, and become a mainstay of the top division.

Shohozan vs Tochiozan – A battle of the “ozan”, where the typically agile Tochiozan will attempt to out maneuver the street brawler Shohozan.

Kagayaki vs Onosho – It’s clear that Onosho is not quite back to his old fighting form which saw him kachi-koshi at Komusubi during Kyushu 2017. His 5-10 record in Osaka was a big setback for a rikishi that many see as an upgraded version of Takakeisho.

Nishikigi vs Tomokaze – A first time match between sumo’s underdog in Nishikigi, and young rising star Tomokaze. Many fans (myself included) were surprised that Nishikigi was able to survive for three tournaments in the joi-jin before a solid make-koshi pushed him back down to Maegashira 9.

Kaisei vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama has manage to beat Kaisei only once in their 5 prior matches, but this may be a different day. Kaisei tends to exhibit a good amount of ring-rust at times, and if Asanoyama comes into the match sharp and ready, he may get the jump on the Brazilian.

Shodai vs Meisei – I give Shodai an over-sized portion of grief most tournaments. He seems to have all the pieces for top level sumo, but just cannot seem to bring them together consistently. He is up against a surging Meisei, who is fighting at his highest ever rank. Shodai won their only prior match.

Takarafuji vs Yoshikaze – Can Yoshikaze muster the energy to dominate his matches? For fans of the Berserker, it’s been tough to watch him fade a bit in the past year. Likewise Takarafuji seems to have lost a half step in his sumo. This match is sure to be encrusted with ring rust, so bring one of those green scratchy pads if you are showing up at the Kokugikan to watch.

Ryuden vs Myogiryu – In the midst of the blood bath at the bottom of the Makuuchi banzuke in Osaka, Ryuden managed to finish 10-5, and neatly identify himself as ready to return to higher rank. Today is a great test, as he has not beaten Myogiryu in either of their prior matches.

Okinoumi vs Abi – Are you ready for more Abi-zumo? I know I am! So what if he’s a bit one-dimensional, it’s always a good day when he is on the torikumi. He’s against Okinoumi, who is an excellent technical rikishi, and holds a 2-1 career lead over the man with the flailing arms…

Aoiyama vs Tamawashi – I was disappointed when Tamawashi finished Osaka 5-10, as he is a solid Sekiwake-class rikishi. But today he gets to put his brutal shove-piggy-shove attack against the bludgeoning meat mountain Aoiyama. Given the propensity for day 1 ring rust, this might not be the slug fest that one would want to see from these two.

Chiyotairyu vs Tochinoshin – I liken Chiyotairyu to taking a Brinks armored truck, and fitting a top-fuel dragster engine to it. There will be a lot of mass moving at extreme speed, but past that you may be in trouble. If Tochinoshin can survive the tachiai and following slap down move, he should be in good position to use the skycrane and rack his first win on the road to 10. (He has a convincing 6-2 record against Chiyotairyu, whose style of sumo plays right into Tochinoshin’s enormous hands –PinkMawashi)

Ichinojo vs Daieisho – Which Ichinojo is going show up? The cuddly Ichinojo, or the pony tosser? If we see even a hint of his Osaka style sumo, it’s going to be a tough basho for a lot of rikishi. Plus, it looks like Ichinojo put on some extra mass…

Takakeisho vs Endo – Welcome to the Ozeki ranks, Takakeisho! Its great to have some young blood up at this level, and I think you are going to do well. Up first is a distinct challenge in Endo, who brings a very intelligent, maneuver-centric sumo to the dohyo. If Takakeisho can get his offensive rhythm established, he should have this match.

Kotoshogiku vs Takayasu – With a 11-4 finish at Osaka, Kotoshogiku looked a bit like his old, Ozeki class self. We get to see if he has been able to keep up the intensity with this day 1 match with Takayasu, who seems to be struggling a bit if pre-basho scouting reports are accurate.

Goeido vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji’s sumo has many aspects in common with Goeido’s, they both tend to blast out of the tachiai and stake everything on a big opening gambit. Goeido clearly knows how to shut down Hokutofuji’s “handshake tachiai”, so maybe Hokutofuji won’t go for the nodowa, and we will see something new.

Mitakeumi vs Kakuryu – Kakuryu has not been able to dominate Mitakeumi, and their career record is tied at 5-5., with Mitakeumi taking the last 2. There are remaining questions about Mitakeumi’s knee, and general overall health, while Kakuryu appears to be in excellent form. I am keenly interested in this match.

Natsu Sekitori Stature Update

 

Ichinojo
No prizes for guessing who came in heaviest in the latest weigh-in…

Unlike last year, this May’s Yokozuna Deliberation Council soken – an event held before the Natsu basho where rikishi work out in front of the YDC and are appraised thusly – was closed to the public. We had a friend in the media on hand, who furnished us with the media handout detailing the height and weight updates that were taken and published earlier in the week by the Sumo Association.

This is by no means incredibly “new news,” but I thought it would be fun to give a brief update on some easily digestible stats published from this document, in case anyone’s interested:

Height

Tallest rikishi (Makuuchi): Kaisei, 195cm. Closely followed by Ichinojo and Kagayaki, both 193cm.

Tallest rikishi (Juryo): Ikioi immediately becomes the tallest in the division upon his demotion, at 194cm. Closely followed by Takagenji, Kyokushuho, Azumaryu, all 191cm.

Shortest rikishi (Makuuchi): Enho, 168cm. Terutsuyoshi is just taller at 169cm, followed by Ishiura at 174cm.

Shortest rikishi (Juryo): Toyonoshima, 169cm. After him it’s all the way up to Daishomaru at 174cm and Tobizaru at 175cm.

Weight

Heaviest rikishi (Makuuchi): It’s Ichinojo and it’s not even close. He’s up to 227kg, which is a gain of 1kg from the previous weigh-in. After him, the next closest is Kaisei, at 204kg. So, it’s fairly astonishing that there’s a 23 kg difference (a quarter of an Enho) between the heaviest and second heaviest rikishi in the top division.

Heaviest rikishi (Juryo): Mitoryu now clocks in at an even 200kg. This makes him 1kg heavier than the next heaviest Juryo rikishi, Gagamaru.

Lightest rikishi (Makuuchi): No surprise here, it’s Enho, at 99kg (and according to the NSK he’s actually lost a kilo). Again, he’s followed by Ishiura (115kg) and Terutsuyoshi (116kg), who were both even.

Lightest rikishi (Juryo): Wakatakakage (125kg), followed by Kiribayama (129kg) and Tobizaru (135kg).

Biggest weight gain (Makuuchi): Chiyomaru added an incredible 8 kilos, and is now at 193. Asanoyama (177kg) and Chiyotairyu (198kg) both added 7kg. So, it will be interesting to see how they’re all moving.

Biggest weight loss (Makuuchi): Stablemates Tochinoshin and Aoiyama both dropped 5 kilos, landing themselves at 170kg and 193kg respectively. Veteran “Big Guns” Shohozan also shed 5kg, to end up at a more trim 137kg.

Averages

Average Makuuchi stature: 183.4cm, 163.9kg. On the whole this is a decrease in 2.3kg from the previous weigh-in. This means the average top division rikishi would be of a similar build to Goeido (184cm, 160kg) or Shodai (184cm, 165kg).

Average Juryo stature: 183.4cm, 159.8kg. While Juryo rikishi are 4kg lighter than their top division counterparts on average, the group did increase by 2.7kg on average. Much of that can probably be explaining by swapping in Ikioi for Enho. The average Juryo rikishi would be of a similar build to Takanosho (183cm, 161kg).

While these kinds of numbers don’t necessarily tell us a whole lot in isolation, they can be helpful when it comes to understanding the performance of a rikishi relative to his previous tournament, as well as and understanding of his potential physicality compared to others in the division.

Edit: Our friends over at Inside Sport Japan have shared a shot of the full list (in Japanese):