2018 Aki Basho Review

The 2018 Aki Basho is over, and I’m sure you’ll agree it was an incredible two weeks of sumo! In this video, I break down four major stories coming out of Aki and give a quick recap some breaking news making waves in the sumo world.

Video courtesy of the NHK Grand Sumo Highlights.

Aki Story 4 – Ozeki Hopeful Mitakeumi

Mitakeumi Yusho Banner

The Nagoya basho has, over the years, been a place where the unexpected can and does happen. This year witnessed a yusho by Sekiwake Mitakeumi, finishing with a respectable 13-2 record. With his prior tournament performance of 9-6 at Natsu, it was proclaimed that he was pushing for the credentials to be elevated to Ozeki. A successful bid would return us to 3 Yokozuna and 4 Ozeki, last seen in 2016 prior to Kisenosato’s Yokozuna promotion. Many fans have put an asterisk next to Mitakeumi’s July championship, citing just how many of sumo’s top men were injured and either did not compete or were not fighting at full power.

To further complicate matters, Mitakeumi has long been known to perform horribly in test and practice matches in between tournaments. Some commentators have gone as far as to imply that he does not put in the effort required to reach higher rank. His poor showing on practice matches has been especially bad leading up to the Aki basho, some examples:

  • August 30th vs an injured Tochinoshin: 3 – 10
  • August 31st (YDC Soken) against Hakuho, Kakuryu and many others: 1-13
  • September 3rd vs Tochinoshin. Tochiozan and Aoiyama: 6-13
  • September 4th vs Tochinoshin. Tochiozan and Aoiyama: 5-11

To even be considered for Ozeki promotion, Mitakeumi needs at least 11 wins at Aki. Its clear that his practice matches all stink, but this is not necessarily indicative of how he will do during the basho. Much of his fate will be decided by who is healthy enough to compete, it is typical for the Sekiwake to face the Ozeki and Yokozuna (if any) in the second week of the basho. Given the damaged nature of the upper San’yaku, time could be on Mitakeumi’s side. But the psychological advantage of having his portrait hoisted to the rafters of the Kokugikan on Saturday will be undeniable, as will his presence at the start of Sunday’s matches to return the yusho banner and the Emperor’s cup. This may rattle a few of his opponents, or boost his confidence when he needs it most.

One thing is certain, Mitakeumi is going to be pushing for every win he can muster, and we will be watching him with keen interest.

Day 15 Recap and Comments

Mitakeumi Yusho Banner

The sumo has ended, and the senshuraku parties are raging on into the night. It’s a celebration in Nagoya as a new rikishi has won his first yusho after a remarkable run of victories. Mitakeumi makes for a really interesting champion, in that he has been remarkably consistent for some time now, but like Tochinoshin was just below the threshold of contender. Then something changed, and he became the man to beat in Nagoya. Part of this is, of course, the natural reaction to the top men of sumo being sidelined. Nature abhors a vacuum, and in the absence of the Yokozuna, new champions will rise. The real fireworks begin when the new champion confronts the aging kings of sumo. This is just one reason I expect Aki could be the most exciting basho in several years.

Mitakeumi is clearly in an Ozeki campaign now, and with good cause. The two big wrinkles to any claim he might make have to be the questionable loss to Takayasu, and the fact that Yutakayama beat him today. Don’t get me wrong, I am damn impressed with the sumo on display today by both men. And the fact that Freshman Yutakayama was able to take the fight to Mitakumi and prevail speaks clearly to just how much competition there will be in the next two years. As sumo’s current mainstays all fade and move on, the new crowd are going to battle it out to see who gets to take the top spots. Frankly, I can’t wait.

There may be a pretty good churn between Juryo and Makuuchi for the fall. Takanoiwa won the Juryo yusho in a playoff, and finished with an impressive 13-2 record. The man was on fire, and much like Mitakeumi, seems to have had a breakout basho. In all there were 4 rikishi who finished Juryo with 10 or more wins.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention that Yoshikaze picked up his second win on the final day, and by our sage’s predictions, this will possibly keep him in Makuuchi for the fall. Whatever ails Yoshikaze, I do hope he can heal up and overcome. A healthy Yoshikaze at the bottom of the banzuke is an unmitigated terror that I think every young rikishi should have the pleasure of encountering.

Some Match Notes

Ishiura resorted once more to solid “small man sumo” and used a leg pick to control Chiyomaru’s mighty bulk. By improving his make-koshi to 7-8, he has greatly cushioned his demotion for Aki. I also think that maybe Ishiura may have started a new chapter in his sumo.

Onosho finishes in double digits on his return to Makuuchi, and strongly repelled Myogiryu’s successful opening gambit. I am expecting some great things from Onosho in the fall. I think he will be just outside the joi, and will be “the cutter” of middle Maegashira.

Okinoumi was able to finish with a kachi-koshi as Chiyoshoma went kyujo on the final day. That means that yet another rikishi dropped from this torturous basho, and this broke Chiyoshoma’s near 500 consecutive match attendance streak.

Hokutofuji vs Chiyotairyu featured a false start that quickly devolved into a flurry of good manners and congenial behavior. This is one of the reasons I love sumo. Hokutofuji finishes with 11 wins and will be in a much tougher cohort for Aki.

Sadanoumi was able to overcome Daishomaru for his kachi-koshi, while his opponent Daishomaru dropped to 5-10.

Takakeisho went chest to chest at the tachiai against Asanoyama, and kept him there. I suspect Takakeisho is more versatile than assumed, and may be looking to broaden his sumo in wise preparation for maintaining higher ranks. Both rikishi finish in double digits. Asanoyama also picked up the fighting spirit prize (Kanto-Sho).

Abi’s long reach was equaled by Aoiyama, and it was quite the discovery process for both of them. I did like to see Abi do everything he could to try to keep Aoiyama from falling from the dohyo. But frankly Abi, there is only so much you can do when that much mass is in motion.

Then there was possibly THE match of the basho. Yutakayama gave his all against Mitakeumi, and beat him. Mitakeumi had the early advantage, but for some reason started trying to pull down Yutakayama. With these two so evenly matched, the pull attempt did little more than send Mitakeumi off balance and moving in reverse (not a good place to be). He eventually was able to recover offensive footing, but not before Yutakayama had chanced him around the dohyo. Now chest to chest, Mitakeumi advanced to deliver the yorikiri, but Yutakayama loaded and executed a rescue throw (kakenage) at the edge. Fantastic sumo.

Endo continued his fade, and delivered Ichinojo’s kachi-koshi for his final match. After trying to get some kind of offense going from the tachiai, Endo learns he cannot move the boulder. With one arm, Ichinojo lashes out and Endo goes flying.

Lastly, Ozeki Goeido finishes with double digit wins for the first time since Aki 2017 as Takayasu seems to be caught improvising into the tachiai. Both of you knuckleheads go back to Tokyo and get yourselves fixed up.

Thank you, dear readers, for once again sharing your love of sumo with us, and spending your time enjoying the sport on Tachiai.

Yokozuna Kakuryu Wins The Natsu Yusho

Kakuryu Yusho Parade

In the final bout of the basho, Yokozuna Kakuryu defeated Yokozuna Hakuho, to outright win the Emperor’s Cup. There was, for a time, a possibility of a Tochinoshin-Kakuryu playoff to decide the yusho, but the presumptive shin-Ozeki’s loss on day 14 proved to be the deciding element for the cup.

Tachiai congratulates Yokozuna Kakuryu, who has claimed his 5th yusho, and his first back-to-back titles ever. For the victory parade, Kakuryu chose Shodai for his flag-bearer. An amusing choice, as Shodai’s surprise win over Tochinoshin did much to set up the yusho win for Kakuryu.

Everything You Need to Know After Act One

 

Act 1

After a somewhat tepid start, the 2018 Natsu Basho is beginning to heat up. So far we’ve seen some excellent sumo from one end of the banzuke to the other, especially from the men in the Joi who are in top form and have been delivering some great bouts. With Act One done and dusted, here’s everything you need to know after the first five days of the Natsu Basho!

Yusho Race

It’s still early in the Yusho race, but five days of sumo has quickly whittled down the numbers and we now have a very competitive leaderboard. At the top, we have Shodai, Tochinoshin, and Yokozuna Hakuho who all still have perfect records after Act One. Right behind them is the chase group of 4-1 rikishi such as Kyokutaisei, Chiyonokuni, Daishomaru, Ichinojo, and Kakuryu. brining up the rear is a massive hunt group of rikishi all with two losses, including Sadanoumi, Daiamami, Asanoyama, Yoshikaze, Kotoshogiku, Mitakeumi, and Endo just to name a few.

Kachi Koshi and Make Koshi

While fortunes certainly can change,  there are several rikishi with a good shot of reaching their kashi koshi by the end of Act Two, and even more who will have to put some serious work in to avoid their make koshi. Kyokutaisei, Chiyonokuni, Daishomaru, Ikioi, Shodai, Ichinojo, Tochinoshin, Kakuryu, and Hakuho all have four wins or more after the first act and are halfway to their coveted winning records. On the flip side of the coin, Aminishiki, Ishiura, Arawashi, Hokutofuji, Ryuden, Chiyomaru, Shohozan, Kaisei, Yutakayama, Tamawashi, Daiesihso, and Abi have all gotten at least four losses and will have to get their sumo in gear to avoid demotion in July.  Everyone else will have their fates decided later on in the Basho.

Kinboshi

We have only seen one gold star victory handed out so far this basho, and it was awarded to Maegashira 2 Shohozan, who defeated Yokozuna Kakuryu on Day 4. with upper Maegashira men such as Shodai and Ikioi off to very impressive starts, we may see the number of kinboshi rise if/when they get a crack at the two standing Yokozuna.

Kyujo

With the exception of Yokozuna Kisenosato and Ozeki Takayasu pulling out before the official tournament start, the Makuuchi Division has been remarkably kyujo-free so far. While this certainly can change later on in the competition, it does seem like the men in the mawashis are taking extra care of late to ensure that nasty falls off the dohyo are less common. With any luck, this new sense of camaraderie will mean fewer rikishi pulling out due to fall related injuries.

Act Two will see the heat rise in Tokyo as the competition gets fiercer and fiercer at the 2018 Natsu Basho. The Mid-Basho weekend is shaping up to be an excellent display of sumo and this fan can’t wait to see what will happen! Let Act Two begin!!