Natsu Day 9 Highlights


Hakuho-dohyo-iri

Daieisho Finally Wins One

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

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

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

Selected Highlights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Natsu Day 7 Preview


Yoshikaze

Harumafuji / Yoshikaze Street Battle Round 6.

Welcome to the middle weekend of what has so far been a very solid and exciting basho. The NHK schedulers work to bring out some popular match ups for this weekend, as they know they have a chance of attracting a lot of eyeballs.

For today, we expect the Kisenosato match to once again be something fans are fixed on. Going up against Daieisho could have been considered a rest break for the one-armed Yokozuna, but today he faces Mitakeumi. Mitakeumi has suffered more than a couple of defeats he feels he could have and should have won. So he may be eager to reclaim some pride by dismantling the injured Kisenosato.

For fans of Osunaarashi, he may make it to the NHK highlights for day 7, as he is visiting Makuuchi to fill in the gap left by Kakuryu’s kyujo.

On a final note, today I fly back to California. Tokyo has been great, and I am oh so grateful that I had a chance to watch sumo in person, in the Kokugikan.

Matches We Like

Onosho vs Chiyotairyu – These two have me twice before, and Onosho won them both. Onosho has seemed to settle into a winning pattern during his first tournament in Makuuchi. Most likely being a thrusting battle.

Tochinoshin vs Ishiura – Having taken Ura’s lunch money, it’s time for Tochinoshin to try to give Ishiura the same atomic wedgie. Their prior two meetings were split 1-1. The big Georgan is fighting well for a change, after multiple basho of lackluster performance.

Ura vs Sokokurai – The crowd (and myself) love to see what crazy ass stunt Ura will produce on the spot this time. He is attracting a lot of sponsorship now, and if he can continue to at least keep a middling record, he is going to be around for the foreseeable future. This is the first match between these two, and they are fairly evenly paired.

Takakeisho vs Shodai – Their first match up ever. Shodai is making headway in spite of the mechanical problems with his sumo. But this is really a battle of the young guns, as Takakeisho has not been in sumo very long, and is himself an up an coming rikishi. Albeit with better sumo mechanics in my opinion.

Tochiozan vs Hokutofuji – Tochiozan turned a corner in Osaka, and reverted back to an earlier winning form that we had not seen much of since last year. Then there is Hokutofuji and his aggressive rise through the ranks. After his first ever losing record in Osaka, he is fighting hard to continue his upward climb. This is their first match, and I think it could potentially be one of the better matches today.

Chiyoshoma vs Takayasu – After Takayasu swallowed his first loss, it’s time to see if he can escape his old trap. In prior tournaments, he would suffer a disappointing loss, then go on to lose several more bouts, many of which should have been “gimmies’. It’s as if he goes into a funk and has trouble pulling out. He should be able to handle Chiyoshoma, but it will come down to Takayasu’s focus and drive. Still 5 wins to make Ozeki.

Kotoshogiku vs Goeido – At what point does Kotoshogiku call it quits? If we have Goeido 2.0 today it could be a spectacular loss for Kotoshogiku.

Harumafuji vs Yoshikaze – Likely the big match of the day, for all the wrong reasons. I grumble that I am on a plane rather that in the Kokugikan to watch this. These two have a long running habit of beating the daylights out of each other, and there may even be some personal hatred tossed in too. With both men fighting fit for the first time in nearly a year, do they pick up where they left off in Nagoya?

Kisenosato vs Mitakeumi – The Great Pumpkin refuses to accept his injury, so he battles on. I expect Mitakeumi will attack left hard and fast, as others have done. But he has the strength to actually make a dent in the big Yokozuna. Out of their 4 career bouts, Mitakeumi has never won a single match. There is a good chance that changes today.

Natsu Day 6 Highlghts


Hakuho

It Feels Like An Old Fashioned Basho.

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

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

Items of note

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

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

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

Select Matches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Natsu Day 5 Highlights


Kisenosato-5

Kisenosato Gut Checks The Universe, Universe Blinks

At end of all things and at the end of time, I belive Kisenosato will be there, continuing to refuse to give up, or let anything, including the laws of nature stop him. More on that in a moment.

It was the final Kokugikan day, and I am sad to leave my in-person sumo behind. I leave with a greatly expanded appreciation for the sport, it’s fans and most especially it’s contestants. Getting over here and doing this is hideously expensive, but it was (at least for me) transformative.

A note on Juryo, though I think it’s kind of a mess right now, for some reason Planet Gagamaru is gunning hard to return to Makuuchi for Nagoya, and he may be brining Yamaguchi with him. Nothing has really changed, and Gagamaru has not really improved, but it seems he’s the guy who is losing the least.

Match Highlights

Daishomaru defeats Yutakayama – Daishomaru supplied a huge shoulder blast at the tachiai, and followed up nicely with a relentless pushing attack. Yutakayama was dispatched shortly afterwards.

Tokushoryu defeats Kaisei – Tokushoryu really was in command of this bout from the start, with an initial nodowa that really seemed to disrupt Kaisei for a moment, but he found Tokushoryu’s mawashi, but he was still too high and Tokushoryu was able to put him down at the edge.

Ishiura defeats Arawashi – Arawashi can’t buy a break

Kotoyuki defeats Ura – As with yesterday, Ura was late off the line, almost in matta territory, and Kotoyuki took command. it’s also clear that Ura loves to put his head down at the start, and take his eyes off his opponent. This is sually where he loses control of the match. Let’s just say he is still working on his Makuuchi formula, but it is certainly coming along.

Kagayaki defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo seems to have nothing to offer but his own ponderous bulk. Showing no maneuverability really, Kagayaki was in complete control from the start and simply waltzed him out.

Takakeisho defeats Hokutofuji – Takakeisho owned this match from the start, though Hokutofuji put up a valiant fight. Takakeisho consistantly kept Hokutofuji off balance. With Hokutofuji’s center of gravity high, it was only a matter of time before Takakeisho’s repeated pull down attempts worked.

Tamawashi defeats Yoshikaze – Tamawashi establshed control of this match quickly, and never let Yoshikaze plant his feet or get his weight forward, which is essential for his early bout strategies.

Takayasu obliterates Endo – Takayasu easily put Endo away. Endo started a pushing match but Takayasu was able to lock up a mawashi grip and control Endo. At this point Takayasu’s overwhelming strength and size took charge and Endo was done. Takayasu now needs 5 wins for Ozeki – he can lose half his remaining matches and still get the job done.

Goeido defeats Chiyonokuni – The last two days have been Goeido 2.0, I do hope he can stay, because I really like that guy’s sumo. Fast, aggressive and unstoppable.

Terunofuji defeats Kotoshogiku this was the bout the fans wanted in Osaka. Solid tachiai, Kotoshogiku set up his hug and chug, and Terunofuji stopped it DEAD., he then took over and put Kotoshogiku in the dirt with a an overarm throw. Fantastic job from Terunofuji. My condolences oojisan Kotoshogiku. I seriously wonder if I was present for his last win as an active sumotori.

Hakuho defeats Mitakeumi – The Boss is in form, and everyone else is going down to defeat. Even Mitakeumi who is fighting close to Takayasu’s level now. Mitakeumi brought some pressure early to Hakuho, but he rapidly countered and diverted Mitakeumi attack. The tachiai featured Hakuho’s favored shoulder blast. It’s good to see the Michael Jordan of sumo back in fighting form.

Okinoumi gets a fusen win over Kakuryu – Okinoumi first and only win this tournament.

Harumafuji defeats Daieisho – Harumafuji wins by his mini-henka – seriously, what is Daieisho doing matched against these guys?

Ancient Jōmon guardian spirit posseses Kisenosato, defeats Chiyoshoma – Dear god, what a champion. After a matta (Kisenosato jumped early?), they were off. Everyone is hitting his left side hard because they know Kisenosato is wounded. Chiyoshoma was on him like a wad of wet noodles, but Kisenosato would not relent. Somehow he got Chiyoshoma out and down. To everyone who wondered what kind of Yokozuna Kisenosato would make, now you know. How does it feel to be defeated by a one arm man? Ask Chiyoshoma.

Natsu Day 5 Preview


Banners

In Which I End My Occupation of the Kokugikan

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

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

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

Select Matches We Like

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Natsu Day 4 Results


Day 3

Apologies For a Lack Of Preview!

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

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

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

Selected Highlights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Natsu Day 3 Highlights


Yoshikaze-goeido

Stare Downs & Wild Battles

Day 2 was largely predictable, but day 3 threw that all away and went for wild and furious. Though it will not likely be in the highlights shown globally, there was a great stare down in Juryo between Chiyootori and Amakaze, which seemed to set the tone for the remainder of the day.

Some things are now clearer, first and foremost that Kisenosato is in trouble (still injured), Hakuho is healthy enough to be overwhelming, and Harumafuji is ready to go the distance.

it also looks like Ura is more comfortable with his increased mass, and is pulling in a lot of sponsors and a good amount of Kensho. Kotoshogiku is at real risk of bombing out with a hard make-koshi, and Takayasu is the crowd favorite to supplant the Ozeki ranks.

Goeido is a fierce and as durable as a shoji, but Terunofuji can still be provoked to great feats of strength.

Notable Highlights

Ura defeats Ishiura – Multiple stare downs, and then a wild, rolling battle that was absolutely thrilling. Ishiura kept trying to switch to offense, but would have to improvise because Ura would do the next unexpected move. If Ura can get consistant, he is a real spoiler for anyone. I am keen to see him fight someone like Yoshikaze.

Tochiozan defeats Takekaze – Tochiozan is continuing his hot streak from Osaka, and seems to be fighting well. Today he took care of Takekaze rapidly and with flair.

Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Once the dead wood clears out at Sekiwake, Mitakeumi will take his rightful place at the next step up. Tamawashi put up a good fight, Mitakeumi committed everything to winning, and got his result.

Takayasu defeats Kotoshogiku – I do love Kotoshogiku, but this basho it seems he is worn out and not up to even competing at the Sekiwake level. Takayasu now needs 7 more for Ozeki.

Yoshikaze defeats Goeido – Big stare down here, and Yoshikaze does it very well indeed. Goeido brought massive attitude and zero power. Bonus points for Yoshikaze spanking Goeido’s behind like a Maezumo upstart as he slapped him down.

Kisenosato defeats Chiyonokuni – But just barely! Kisenosato is only half there due to his pectoral injury, but he will not sit out, no matter what. I swear he wins by force of will and guile alone. Even though they talk over it, the roar in the Kokugikan was raucous and heartfelt. Both rikishi gave it everything, and the fans loved it.

Hakuho defeats Chiyoshoma – It was fast and ugly, Hakuho just kept moving forward with speed and strength. It’s so good to see Hakuho’s sumo back at full strength.

Harumafuji defeats Okinoumi – Sadly Okinoumi was not really too tough an opponent for a healthy Harumafuji, and it look a bit like a practice match. But like Hakuho, it’s very welcome to see Harumafuji strong and moving well.