Day 6 – It’s not easy being an Ozeki

First, I would have liked to bring you news of Hattorizakura’s first win, but alas, he lost his 70th consecutive bout today. However, this has been one of the best efforts we have seen from the “Inverted Hakuho” so far:

And if you want to see more of Hoshoryu, and how he looks when his rival isn’t Naya, here’s today’s maezumo:

(I have no idea why One And Only calls him Toyoshoryu. Both the yobidashi and the gyoji are pretty clear).

Sumidagawa from Naruto beya is currently the only one in his heya still in zanbara. He is also two losses to one win now:

And alas, Enho is having a worse time than we thought he would have at this level of Makushita:

…and with a rival who can’t seem to be able to bend his knees enough for the tachiai.

enho-has-the-sads
Enho today, doesn’t seem very happy

So, let’s ascend to Makuuchi and check what happened there today.

Just before Asanoyama starts his bout with Ishiura, the announcer wonders aloud “What is Asanoyama going to do about Ishiura’s quick movements?” The answer seems to be “Tsuppari, not let him get inside, and push him out within seconds”.

asanoyama-ishiura
“See there, that’s the tawara. Go to the other side. Thank you.”

If Asanoyama stays 7-0 tomorrow, don’t be surprised to find him matched with Tochinoshin the next day or so.

Nishikigi is not letting go of Makuuchi easily. Daiamami pulls at his nose and attacks, but Nishikigi takes a hold of his right arm and drags him to the edge for a quick kotenage. BTW, the gyoji who announced the torikumi just before the bouts began doesn’t know who Daiamami is, calling him “Oamami” instead (it’s an alternative reading of the same kanji).

Takekaze, on the other hand, seems to be past his swan song. Ryuden gets a grip on him very easily and pushes him out. Oshidashi, and Ryuden now even at 3-3. Takekaze worked very hard pumping iron before the basho – he was the only one in the gym during the New Year’s break – but those muscles are not bringing back his sumo.

Sokokurai is also in dire straits, and may find himself right back in Juryo, with Daieisho pushing him out faster than you can say “ah” (that’s an actual Japanese phrase). Daieisho is, in fact, in the chaser list for the Yusho, with only one loss so far.

Abi gets slapped down in another oshi match with Daishomaru. If Abi could learn yotsu zumo, which is a bit unlikely given his shisho, he may become known as the Yokozuna with the most beautiful dohyo-iri in history. Just sayin’.

Shohozan goes for a slap-fest with Kotoyuki. The latter finds himself rolling down the dohyo. What’s the bowling score for hitting 3 pins, er, spectators?

Kotoyuki may be pissed off because of Shohozan’s harite off the tachiai. In the first days of the basho, nobody was doing that. There was some speculation that this was due to the criticism Hakuho got for this move. Shohozan decided to break the “taboo”, and he is not the last one doing that today.

Chiyomaru vs. Tochiozan. “Ah”… And the Kokonoe man wins.

Chiyonokuni attacks Takarafuji with his trademark barrage of tsuppari. Takarafuji defends and defends, and tries to get an arm inside. He knows why: as soon as his left arm is inside, he pushes Chiyonokuni out like a rag doll. Currently Takarafuji is the only ray of light at Isegahama. 😲

Okinoumi finally looks more like himself against Chiyoshoma. The Kokonoe Mongolian still hasn’t mastered the channeling of Harumafuji as well as he would have liked. He finds himself hugged and with no room for one of his throws, and hurts his ankle in the process. I guess mimicking the Horse means his injuries as well…

Shodai uses an effective tachiai to… Wait, what did I just write? The words “Shodai”, “effective” and “tachiai” are shocked to find themselves together in the same sentence. But so it is. Shodai secures a quick morozashi on Endo and pushes him out. Perhaps his win against Ichinojo was not so much Ichinojo’s fault as I thought it was.

Ikioi seems to be in deep trouble, with only one win to his name so far, with Arawashi converting his attempt at a sukuinage into a beautiful sotogake. Kintamayama says Arawashi has bad knees, and that’s obvious from the mummy-like bandaging, but I suspect Ikioi also has some trouble in that department.

This sums up the low-to-middle maegashira. But the joi bouts is where the excitement is! Let’s move straight on to Tochinoshin vs. Takakeisho. Which style will win, Takakeisho’s in-and-out tsuki-oshi, or Tochinoshin’s “Red Incredible Hulk” mode?

Well, Takakeisho got as far as pushing Tochinoshin to one side and trying to send him out. This got Tochinoshin angry. And this Incredible Hulk (a) turns red rather than green when he’s mad, and (b) wraps the puny meatball of a rikishi in front of him with his long arm and shows him how sumo is supposed to be done. Tochinoshin still riding the zensho train!

Mitakeumi doesn’t even bother with any tsuppari, where Hokutofuji may have an advantage over him. He just applies force as if Hokutofuji was giving him a butsukari. Mitakeumi looks like he seriously wants that next rank, and with two Yokozuna missing again – who knows?

And here comes the second harizashi of the day (“slap and grab”). While the first one was just a slap, not a grab, Ichinojo goes for the full monty. What taboo? I want to win, dammit. Tamawashi barely knows which Mongolian mountain hit him before he hits the bottom of the dohyo with his head. I hope he’s alright.

Goeido meets the Yokozuna bane, Yoshikaze, and finds out that he also keeps a side job as an Ozeki bane. This was over so fast Goeido may still be wondering if the bout took place. The Ozeki finds himself, again, out of the yusho race – unless all four leaders drop two more bouts. My guess is that he’ll just concentrate on not going kadoban from now on.

yoshikaze-goeido
Yoshikaze. After a slow start, now a candidate for the Outsanding Performance Award

Takayasu prepared his usual kachiage for Onosho, but the red mawashi would have none of that. Blocking him with his outstretched arm, he started his own attack, and combined with an unfortunate slip, Takayasu joins Goeido in the “Maybe next time” club.

Maybe this is the time to pause and comment that both Takayasu and Kisenosato suffer from “koshi daka”… “high pelvis”, if you please. Meaning that their stance gets too high and unstable. This is a shame, because stability and balance used to be the Tagonoura brothers’ specialty. The combination of two injured rikishi losing their dohyo sense, followed by them mostly practicing with each other, may be the cause for both men’s troubles. This is why there are still some in the NSK who believe that Kisenosato can redeem himself – by curing that koshi-daka. The problem is less pronounced with Takayasu, of course, who is not permanently damaged, has been off the dohyo a shorter time, and has practiced with more people than did the damaged Yokozuna.

Ah, what, did I leave you hanging in the air? Let’s go to the musubi-no-ichiban. And what a bout that was! Kotoshogiku determined to show he is still Ozeki material, grabs Kakuryu right from the start and starts his gaburi attack. The Yokozuna hurriedly dances hither and tither, on the one hand evading the tawara, and on the other, looking for a grip. When he finally finds one, the two stop, assess the situation, and finally Kotoshogiku attacks again. And then, Kakuryu reverses that attack into his own attack and leads the former Ozeki out. He sure was winded when that ended.

tired-kakuryu
Man, this is tiring work

So the Yokozuna maintains his record. Let’s look at the Yokozuna situation at the moment:

yokozunameter-hatsu-2018-day6

So we have one Yokozuna carrying the basho on his shoulders (unpaid), and two Yokozuna undergoing repairs. And I think neither of them will be putting his main effort into the injury that he submitted on his medical certificate. Hakuho will have to figure out a winning tachiai technique or two. Kisenosato, who actually ran out of injuries and had to report his original one (“aggravated by a hit to the chest”) as the reason for his kyujo, will have to work on that koshidaka. And if that doesn’t work, he’ll have to work on a new hairstyle.

Yusho Arasoi

6-0

  • Yokozuna Kakuryu
  • Sekiwake Mitakeumi
  • M3 Tochinoshin
  • M16 Asanoyama

5-1

  • M9 Shohozan
  • M13 Daieisho

Tomorrow the leader list is going to be down one man, as Kakuryu is to face Tochinoshin. Will kakuryu lose a notch in my meter, or will he prevail against the Incredible Hulk? Don’t miss the next episode of Hatsu 2018!

 

Day 5 – New Hopes, Dashed Hopes

So let’s start at the very bottom.

naya-hoshoryu
Naya and Hoshoryu – didn’t look like maezumo

There are mae-zumo bouts in every tournament. They usually pass almost unobserved, with only the sumo database to recall them from oblivion. But this tournament, we have two sublime scions who promise to make sumo interesting 10 years from now.

These are, of course, Taiho’s grandchild, Naya (who also happens to be Takatoriki’s son, but that fact is not paraded on TV and the press as much), and Hoshoryu, formerly known as Byambasuren, Asashoryu’s nephew.

And today, these two were matched against each other.

Hoshoryu is certainly channeling his uncle there when the gunbai points to his rival. Anyway, this looks a lot better than maezumo usually is.

Moving up a little bit, Torakio suffered his first loss today, after two wins.

The technique is not quite there yet.

And unfortunately, my main man Terutsuyoshi also suffered his first loss, in the battle of the former sekitori with Yago:

A valiant attempt at an ipponzeoi there at the end, but Yago had him from the get-go.

Let’s get up to Makuuchi, then. It was my day off today, so I was able to watch some live sumo for the first time. I caught the stream (Abema TV + VPN) right when Kakuryu was finishing his dohyo-iri. I must say I prefer the NHK broadcasts (which I got to watch recorded, never live). Too much stuff on the screen obscures the view, and the “female guests” that they promised only enhance the image of the “stupid broad who doesn’t understand sports and needs to be told basic things”. Bah.

But all this doesn’t make for bad sumo, right? So let’s go through the bouts:

Asanoyama got a Juryo rival today, Kyokutaisei, who was not really a match for the revamped Asanoyama. Yorikiri within the blink of an eye.

Ishiura was impressive in the first three days but now seems to be slumping back. We’ll have to see if he really improved when the sample size grows a bit. Ryuden did not let him do anything, really, and rebalanced his score a bit.

Daiamami, tells us Abema TV, has a pre-bout routine in which he pulls at his nose. Hmm… I prefer Arawashi’s salty mawashi. His bout with Yutakayama starts with some tsuppari, he follows with a nodowa. Yutakayama overcommits as he pushes him forward, but who got out first? Quite a long monoii ensues, and although Yutakayama was already flying out of control, Daiamami touched first, so Yutakayama gets the oshidashi win.

Nishikigi seemed to be in control of the bout, but Daieisho circled, causing Nishikigi to lose balance and winning by hatakikomi.

Abi and Kagayaki are of the same age. Abi just advanced from Juryo, and Kagayaki has more Makuuchi experience and looked strong in the beginning of the basho. He also has a slight height advantage over the Shikoroyama Peter Pan. But all of this list of advantages doesn’t do much for the buxom rikishi, as Abi moves quickly and pulls him down for a hikiotoshi.

Takekaze‘s game plan has been pulling down Daishomaru. Tried once, didn’t work, tried again. Tsukiotoshi and the old man’s first win this basho.

Sokokurai can’t seem to produce whatever magic he produced in Juryo. Kotoyuki pushes him out very easily for a tsukidashi.

Shohozan and Chiyomaru start with a tsuppari barrage, but Shohozan tries to get a mawashi grip. Chiyomaru evades and evades, but eventually Shohozan catches on and pushes him towards the edge. Chiyomaru only manages to stop himself when his toes are already outside. Hikiotoshi.

Now, the Aminishiki vs. Chiyonokuni battle did not look good. First, there’s Uncle Sumo’s sumo. I mean, it isn’t there. He can’t catch a grip on his rivals nape for one of the pull downs he likes, and he can’t get inside for a mawashi grip. But the worst part is that as Chiyonokuni rolls him to the exactly same corner when he ended up yesterday,  Uncle lands badly and hurts his right leg – the one with the snapped ligament and the brace. He had to go to the shitaku-beya leaning on someone’s shoulder. He will make a decision whether to go kyujo or not tomorrow morning.

aminishiki-hurt
Aminishiki. Couldn’t get back on the dohyo for the bow.

Next to Kaisei, Chiyoshoma looks like a teen. However, after he finishes his Harumafuji-like shikiri, they both struggle for a mawashi grip. Chiyoshoma gets a secure shitate grip, and uses it for a shitatenage. Once Kaisei is on the floor, Chiyoshoma gives him a helping hand up. Now that’s the Chiyoshoma I want to see.

Tochiozan doesn’t manage to get any grip on Ikioi, and starts to back away as Ikioi pushes, but then manages to catch at Ikioi’s neck and pull him down for a hatakikomi.

In the battle of the “Ikemen” (manly men), Okinoumi just can’t repeat his success from the previous basho. Endo fights him for the grip, and they end up in a hidari-yotsu, but apparently Endo’s hold is stronger and he pushes relentlessly for the yori-kiri.

Takarafuji, however, is back in the land of white stars. Arawashi doesn’t seem to even pose a problem for him. A harite, a nodowa, and an oshi-dashi. This despite the TV team (Kasugano oyakata commentating) speaking at length about the type of yotsu each of them prefers.

Shodai gets a good grip on Ichinojo, and proves to him that even mountains can be moved. Losing to Shodai, Ichinojo? Ichinojo gets his favorite grip first, but Shodai manages to switch grips without penalty, gets him all the way to the edge, and then dances a bit on the tawara and lets Ichinojo’s momentum do the rest. The Yokozuna must be thinking “Is it that easy?”.

BTW, In the “fun facts” box on Abema TV, they wrote that Ichinojo can sleep on the back of a horse. The TV team – especially Kasugano oyakata – start to crack jokes about the poor horses in Mongolia and Ichinojo’s weight…

What was supposed to be the highlight of the evening, the tadpole battle, ended up with Takakeisho doing the splits within seconds, and Onosho with another easy win.

Mitakeumi and Tamawashi get into a pushing battle. But Mitakeumi is the stronger one of these two, and Tamawashi can do nothing but retreat until he’s out.

Although he lost to Hokutofuji twice already, in addition to one fusen, Takayasu is fearless as he comes to the dohyo today. Takayasu combines a mawashi grip with oshi, and expertly gets Hokutofuji out in an oshidashi. Keeps himself within one loss of the leader group.

Now, Tochinoshin‘s bout with Goeido is one for the history books. Kasugano oyakata at the commentator seat looked like a cat who swallowed a bowl of cream. At first, the two battled for a grip, each denying the other his hold and looking for his own opening. Tochinoshin managed to secure a firm grip, and started pushing Goeido relentlessly towards the tawara. Goeido didn’t go out without a fight, though, and tried a leg trip. Tochinoshin maintained perfect balance, and kept applying his unbelievable force. Goeido joins Takayasu in the “1 behind” group. Great match.

tochinoshin-goeido

Kakuryu keeps sailing from one bout to the next with poise and hinkaku… Chiyotairyu is really no match, as Kakuryu gets a grip on him right off the tachiai and lifts and pushes, lifts and pushes until the Sumo Elvis passes the bales. I was relieved to see that Kakuryu’s attempt at gaburi-yori yesterday vs. Ichinojo (didn’t work, he had to change tactics and move the mountain sideways to win) did not cause him to wake up this morning with his back wrecked again. Keep up the good work, Yokozuna!

And now, to the musubi-no-ichiban. The last bout of the day. Yokozuna Kisenosato vs. Yokozuna bane, Yoshikaze. And the man in the green mawashi was not giving the crippled Yokozuna an inch of slack. Yoshikaze tried a pulldown at first, then got into a morozashi, and dropped him unceremoniously off the dohyo. He went down to offer him a hand up, which Kisenosato rejected. Things are not looking good for the one-year-old Yokozuna.

yokozunameter-hatsu-2018-day5

So Hakuho is out for repairs, Kisenosato has a serious kinboshi leak, and only Kakuryu is in a state of “Need a Yokozuna? I’m right here!”.

Yusho Arasoi

The leader list is now down to four:

  • Yokozuna Kakuryu
  • Sekiwake Mitakeumi
  • M3 Tochinoshin
  • M16 Asanoyama

(Asanoyama? “Been there, done that, got the sansho”)

Hatsu Day 1 Highlights

battle formation

Top headline of the day: Kisenosato drops his match against Takakeisho. There are two things to learn from this: First and foremost, Takakeisho is gunning hard for Sekiwake and above. I slight him for his oshi-only approach, but he is making it work for him. He looked strong, fast and relentless today against the struggling Kisenosato.  The second thing of note is that Kisenosato looked much better than I had feared. He moved well, he attacked with strength, and kept moving forward. Fans who fear the Great Pumpkin being on the ropes should keep in mind he has not really had matches in a while, and will be rusty for a few days. If he walks out with 10 wins, he’s good.

Highlight Matches

Asanoyama defeats Daiamami – Decent throw that took some time to set up. Moving much better than he was in Kyushu. The happy rikishi has a long path ahead of him, and to reach his potential, he must stay healthy.

Ryuden defeats Nishikigi – Ryuden looked strong in his first Makuuchi bout, easily dominating Nishikigi. Ryuden kept his eblows tight, and prevented Nishikigi from establishing a grip, while Ryuden set up for a well executed throw to end the match.

Ishiura defeats Yutakayama – A flurry of activity in which Ishiura was everywhere at once and overwhelmed Yutakayama. He was able to get his head against Yutakayama’s chest a couple of times, which helped him keep the larger rikishi’s center of gravity high.

Daieisho defeats Abi – Massive oshi fest as Abi took the initiative and was landing tsuppari with purpose. But he over committed, got too far forward and Daieisho brought him forward and down.

Kagayaki defeats Takekaze – Kagayaki was very high at the tachiai, but managed to get Takekaze off balance and moving backwards. His excellent sumo instincts took over and he kept moving strongly forward. Good, solid win.

Kotoyuki defeats Aminishiki – Not quite the battle I was looking for, it was over in a blink of an eye as Aminishiki slipped trying to find his footing. Kotoyuki recognized this quickly, and finished what gravity had started.

Chiyomaru defeats Terunofuji – In spite of Chiyomaru’s enormous belly, Terunofuji was able to land a mawashi grip. But without abilty to transmit power through his legs, he was unable to halt Chiyomaru’s counter attack.

Chiyoshoma defeats Ikioi – Massive tachiai, with Ikioi taking the early initiative, but Chiyoshoma pulled out a win at the edge thanks to excellent ring sense and a great deal of balance.

Endo defeats Takarafuji – Keep your eyes on Endo! He wants back in the upper ranks, and he seems to finally have his body in order. This fight saw both rikishi try to establish an offense only to be countered quite effectively, but Endo kept working forward. Fantastic effort from both.

Arawashi defeats Okinoumi – In spite of Okinoumi showing some solid sumo moves, he let Arawashi land a deep left hand grip right away, and from there Arawashi kept working Okinoumi towards being thrown. 800th bout for Arawashi.

Tochinoshin defeats Shodai – Shodai, for once, had a solid tachiai, but he immediately went chest to chest with Tochinoshin, which had to delight the big Georgian. In spite of Shodai’s right hand mawashi grip, Tochinoshin out-matched him in strength and power.

Mitakeumi defeats Kotoshogiku – Mitakeumi has a very sloppy start, he was high and immediately off balance. Kotoshogiku was able to set up a solid defense, and as Mitakeumi was struggling (more than he should) to finish him, Kotoshogiku apparently stepped out. The match was stopped by the shimpan.

Takayasu defeats Yoshikaze – Takayasu still working that forearm blast into the tachiai, but it seems to leave him high and forward. Yoshikaze could not exploit it, and was moving backwards in a hurry. Both men re-engaged, and kept the battle running, with Yoshikaze pushing to land a mawashi grip. Takayasu prevailed and Yoshikaze took a slow motion roll to the clay. Hopefully he was ok.

Goeido defeats Ichinojo – As predicted, Goeido came in fast and low, but Inchinojo’s mass and forward momentum was too much for Goeido to simply power out. Goeido 2.0 is all about keeping up the pressure, and he did eventually get Ichinojo to step out, but Goeido was on the verge of falling down as it happened.

Kakuryu defeats Hokutofuji – This was classic Kakuryu, letting his opponent open the offense, then making him pay. I am thankful that Kakuryu was able to open strong today.

Takakeisho defeats Kisenosato – Wow, what a battle! Twice, Kisenosato let Takakeisho set up his “wave action tsuppari”, with devastating effect. But twice the Yokozuna was able to escape. The match ended when Takakeisho grabbed a hold of Kisenosato’s right arm and twisted, bringing the Yokozuna down. Kisenosato looks worried, but it may take a few bouts for him to hit his stride.

Hakuho defeats Onosho – The boss made short work of Onosho, who once again over-committed and was too far forward.

Hatsu Day 1 Preview

Sumo-Manga

It’s finally here, sumo fans! Day one is upon us, and the Tachiai crew are eager for action. Everyone keep in mind, the first 3 days of any basho include quite a bit of rikishi in the top division trying to get themselves into tournament mode so we may see some rusty moves, some strange outcomes, and some favorites looking a little off-tempo. Interestingly enough, even though there is a good crop of new faces in Makuuchi, day one does not include any first-time match-ups. Maybe that will mean some careful strategy straight off the line.

With Makuuchi going down to Maegashira 17e, we are going to see a lot more action at the lower end of the torikumi, and as such it’s going to be tough for the NHK crew to decide how to fit it all into 20 minutes. Several of the shin-Makuuchi rikishi have a decent fan base already, and there may be a lot of good content to pare down to each day’s 20-minute​ show. For the hardcore​, find Kintamayama’s channel on Youtube and enjoy the whole thing!

What We Are Watching Day 1

Daiamami vs Asanoyama – Let’s start it off right! After having a disappointing basho in Kyushu, Asanoyama the happy rikishi faces off against Daiamami in the first Makuuchi match of 2018. These two tend to grab a hold of each other’s mawashi, so maybe we will get a yotsu-zumo contest right off the bat. Career record 3-2 in Daiamami’s favor.

Ryuden vs Nishikigi – Hopefully the NHK guys will include some of the crowd reaction to Ryuden stepping onto the Dohyo. The fans really like this guy, and they are not afraid to show it. Even better is that these two have a tendency to try to throw each other, and that is seldom dull. Career record 2-1 in Nishikigi’s favor.

Ishiura vs Yutakayama – From sumo’s scratch and dent bin comes this battle of rikishi we wish were doing better. Ishiura started Makuuchi strong last year, and then everyone figured out his “one weird trick”, and he faded. Yukatayama seems to have confidence or focus problems as soon as he’s listed on the Makuuchi side of the banzuke. Both of them have the potential for explosive sumo, so there is hope. These two have split their prior 2 matches.

Abi vs Daieisho – Can Abi give Asanoyama a run for his money as the “Happy Rikishi”? Sumo fans finally get to see. With any luck, we will get to see Abi bring some magic shiko to the hatsu dohyo. Their only prior meeting was back in 2015 when Abi was fighting under Horikiri, and was in Makushita.

Kotoyuki vs Aminishiki – Uncle Sumo vs The Penguin! Aminishiki (Uncle Sumo) started strong in Kyushu, but I think his knees suffered terribly over the course of 15 days of top division matches. Now ranked Maegashira 10, he has a difficult path to climb. Kotoyuki seems to be an all-or-nothing proposition, and typically ends the match in the second row of zabuton. Career record 4-2 in Aminishiki’s favor.

Terunofuji vs Chiyomaru – Former Ozeki Terunofuji will face down surprisingly-super-sized Chiyomaru, who is still operating in sumo-Elvis mode. Due to a lack of knees, the yobidashi will likely pre-position the over-sized wheelchair on the east side hanamichi.

Takarafuji vs Endo – Heads up sumo fans, Endo is possibly the big sleeper this basho. He has been nothing special for more than a year and then sought surgery to repair some of his most serious problems. After dropping down to the bottom of Makuuchi, he has turned in two excellent tournaments. Takarafuji is a steady rikishi, who can be expected to calmly employ a fairly defensive bout strategy. This could be an excellent match. Career record of 6-2 favors Takarafuji.

Okinoumi vs Arawashi – Okinoumi’s sumo is very much a function of his chronic injury. When he has it under control, he is a solid upper Maegashira. When it’s bothering him, he is in trouble. With Okinoumi, it’s always hit or miss, and day one against Arawashi should show us how Okinoumi is doing. Watch for Arawashi to leave a small amount of salt on top of his mawashi.

Shodai vs Tochinoshin – The Tachiai team give Shodai a hard time because he tends to lose matches on the first step. His tachiai is usually a half step slow, and fairly high. Everyone knows this now, and they use it to dismantle him. Today he may compound his mistake by giving Tochinoshin a mawashi hold. Simply put, Tochinoshin has the strength of a bear that has the strength of two bears. Career record of 4-2 favors Tochinoshin, unless he has just woken from his hibernation, in which case Tochinoshin eats Shodai and Shikimori Inosuke while the NHK cameras pan away.

Mitakeumi vs Kotoshogiku – The San’yaku battle fleet is especially charged up and ready for action this tournament. Though he managed to land a kachi-koshi for every 2017 tournament, Mitakeumi can rightfully be cited for loitering. Hey, double digits Mitakeumi! Kotoshogiku is no pushover, so I guess Mitakeumi stays mobile to avoid the hug-n-chug from the Kyushu Bulldozer.

Yoshikaze vs Takayasu – Yoshikaze wants back in San’yaku. And everyone should note this guy can really dish it out. Takayasu is finally back to practicing with Kisenosato, so I am expecting him to revert to his former excellent sumo that focuses on strength and endurance. I am hoping NOT to see a forearm blast at the tachiai (hat tip to Murray Johnson of NHK).

Goeido vs Ichinojo – Wow! What a match. Goeido 2.0 is a speed demon who will have you backward and out before you can blink. Ichinojo is a large object suspected to be laid down over centuries during the Carboniferous era. Look for Goeido to launch low and inside hoping to catch Ichinojo not quite out of his tachiai crouch, and slap the big boulder down. The 6-5 career record slightly favors the mighty Ichinojo.

Kakuryu vs Hokutofuji – Can we take this to 11? Yes, yes we can! Hokutofuji’s careful offense vs Kakuryu’s reactive sumo. Can Big K keep Hokutofuji off his belt long enough for Kaio Jr to make his first and only mistake? My money is on the Yokozuna to keep Hokutofuji from going chest to chest and throw in a lateral move or two. Probably one for slow-motion replays.

Takakeisho vs Kisenosato – Please Japan, remember to breathe during this showdown. The schedulers give Kisenosato no easy start. Takakeisho is going to go hard left and attack without quarter. I am looking for Kisenosato to try to land a right-hand grip, not his favorite, and use that to try and remove Takakeisho’s “wave action” tsuppari from the match. These two have split their only 2 matches.

Hakuho vs Onosho – By thunder, Onosho, wear that red mawashi or stay home. This one will be all Hakuho, but I really think Onosho will make him work for it if he does not over-commit out of the tachiai. Of course “the Boss” knows this and will possibly give ground on the first step to draw Onosho forward.

 

Kyushu Day 14 Highlights

onosho

Day 14 saw a conclusion to the battle for the Emperor’s Cup, with Yokozuna Hakuho winning his 40th career yusho among a decimated field of upper ranked rikishi.

Some fans are already complaining that the Kyushu basho was somehow boring or anti-climatic. True, there were few legitimate challengers to Hakuho, but then again that would likely be true no matter what. Out of the 8 rikishi in sumo’s two highest ranks, only two men are able to mount the dohyo on the final day of this tournament. Some readers took exception to Tachiai’s early forecast that the relentless Jungyo-Honbasho schedule currently in force was crushing sumo as a marketable televised sport, but now with a string of basho piling up where the top men are not present, that prediction may be worthy of examination.

The good news is that a large, vigorous crop of young men are ready to fill the gap, but first, the Kyokai will need to nudge several long-suffering athletes into retirement. Thus far it has not happened, but we may see that change in the next few months.

Sumo has enjoyed a rather welcome revival in its home country of Japan. First and foremost, Grand Sumo is a business, and we can trust the Sumo Kyokai to do what it thinks is best to keep sumo’s revival healthy and growing.

Highlight Matches

Kotoyuki defeats Asanoyama – Kotoyuki went straight for a nodowa and marched the struggling Asanoyama backward off the dohyo. After a terrible start in Kyushu, Kotoyuki rallied and is now kachi-koshi.

Ikioi defeats Kaisei – A power sumo battle dominated by Kaisei who landed a left-hand outside grip early. Ikioi was able to pivot at the tawara and land the Brazilian out and down to pick up his 8th win.

Chiyomaru defeats Aminishiki – Uncle Sumo’s bum legs have a tough time generating too much force, especially when he is facing a hefty rikishi like Chiyomaru. For the 4th straight day, Aminishiki failed to pick up his 8th win.

Tochinoshin defeats Kagayaki – After a somewhat shaky tachiai, both men battled to get an inside grip. Tochinoshin landed his right hand inside and took control of the match. His win gives him a kachi-koshi, while at the same time Kagayaki’s defeat secures his make-koshi.

Chiyonokuni defeats Tochiozan – With Tochiozan seeming to suffer problems with his lower body, this mobile battle of tsuppari favored Chiyonokuni from the start. Both men are suffering painfully disappointing records this basho, and desperately need to regroup.

Tamawashi defeats Okinoumi – Tamawashi has employed the push-then-pull tactic before in this basho, and Okinoumi was on the defensive straight out of the tachiai. Where Okinoumi prefers to get some kind of grip established, Tamawashi was not going to let that happen. Tamawashi is looking like a strong contender to return to San’yaku for January.

Takakeisho defeats Chiyoshoma – From the tachiai, Chiyoshoma started aiming to land blows on Takakeisho’s damaged face and lip. Sadly for Chiyoshoma, this really seems to have gotten Takakeisho very motivated. While Chiyoshoma was focusing on Takakeisho’s face, Takakeisho landed his left-hand grip and quickly proceeded to give Chiyoshoma a vigorous exit from the dohyo.

Kotoshogiku defeats Shohozan – Both men have deep make-koshi records, both are local favorites, and both decided to turn it up to 11. The highlight of the match, and possibly the day: Shohozan uses Kotoshogiku’s solid grip on his body, to lift and swing the former Ozeki around, with his feet flying off the ground. But Kotoshogiku landed both feet back on solid earth and began his hug-and-chug attack. When he can set it up, there are few ways to counter the Kyushu Bulldozer, and it was seconds later that Shohozan was out.

Onosho defeats Hokutofuji – “The power of the red mawashi could not be undone” –  After a matta appetizer, the main event saw Hokutofuji quickly drive Onosho to the edge. But that was all that was needed for the red mawashi to activate, and Onosho basted back, driving Hokutofuji backward and out. After losing 6 of his first 7 matches, Onosho reverted to the red mawashi and has now won 6 of the last 7. A win tomorrow would lock in a great come from behind kachi-koshi. With Hokutofuji’s loss, the door was now open of Hakuho to clinch the yusho.

Ichinojo defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze clearly is having a lot of problem with the foot he injured earlier this week and has very little defensive or offensive push available. Thus Ichinojo only needed to use his massive size and strength to push Yoshikaze out. Yoshikaze is now make-koshi, and will possibly be out of San’yaku for January.

Mitakeumi defeats Arawashi – Mitakeumi locks in his kachi-koshi, overcoming a set of lower body injuries as well. While not yet performing at a level that could indicate a chance at campaigning for an Ozeki rank, his ability to hang onto San’yaku has been worthy of note. Mitakeumi’s 6th winning tournament this year.

Goeido defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji put up great resistance to Goeido’s offense, but the Ozeki carried that day. Goeido was in control of the match from the tachiai, and for a moment both men struggled for grip. Goeido landed a right hand inside early, and proceeded to use that leverage to progressively contain Takarafuji, and force him out.

Hakuho defeats Endo – This was always an odd match, with Endo not in a rank range that would typically face a Yokozuna, especially this late in the tournament schedule. But with so many Ozeki and Yokozuna out with injuries, it was pretty much “anything goes”. The match was over in a flash, with Hakuho’s tachiai blasting Endo completely off balance, and on his way off the dohyo. Hakuho then finished the job but sadly applied one of his dame-oshi at the close.

Everything You Need to Know After Act Two

Sumo wrestlers line up as they pray before the start of the annual 'Honozumo' ceremonial sumo tournament dedicated to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan

The curtain has dropped on act two. The stage is now set, and the actors are ready for the grand finale of the Kyushu basho. While the early days of this tournament were overshadowed by scandal, the sumo took center stage in act two. So far we’ve seen triumph, defeat, skill and and even a little luck. But the best is yet to come! Here is a quick run down of everything you need to know going into the last five days of sumo in 2017.

Yusho Race

After two acts, only one man remains lord on high in the yusho race: Dai-Yokozuna Hakuho. With a 10-0 record and a two-win cushion separating him from second place, this is truly Hakuho’s yusho to lose. The story is not over yet, however, as two men are trailing Hakuho, just waiting for him to make one crucial mistake that will bring them closer to yusho contention. These rikishi are Okinoumi and Hokutofuji, who both ended day 10 with eight wins apiece. Should he keep his record spotless, Hakuho can clinch the yusho with a win on day 14, if not sooner.

Kachi Koshi and Make Koshi

There were only three men who secured their kachi koshi by the end of act two. In addition to Hakuho, only Okinoumi and Hokutofuji have earned a winning record so far, and are safe from demotion for the New Year Tournament. Conversely, there are three rikishi with make koshi losing records, beginning with Tochiozan who went winless in his first eight bouts. Chiyonokuni and Kotoshogiku also have losing records and can expect to move down the banzuke for January. For a closer look at the kachi koshi and make koshi  projections, please see this article by fellow Tachiai authour lksumo.

Kinboshi

Yokozuna Kisenosato surrendered three more kinboshi during the second act of the kyusho basho, bringing the overall total to six. These kinboshi were claimed by Hokutofuji, Ichinojo, and Takarafuji respectively. Having lost to five Maegashira rikishi, Kisenosato tied the record for the most kinboshi given up in a single basho since 1949.

Kyujo and Absences

On day 3 it was announced that Aoiyama had withdrawn from competition due to issues with his ankle. He returned to action on day 8 in what many believe to be a desperate attempt to stave off a major demotion down the banzuke. Since the end of act one, only one more rikishi has joined those who have pulled out of the Kyushu basho. Early in day 10, Kisenosato withdrew from the competition due to ankle and lower back issues. This marks the third time he has had to end a tournament prematurely this year. The kyujo and Absentee list so far includes Kakuryu, Ura, Takanoiwa, Harumafuji, Terunofuji, and Kisenosato.

Tozai-Sei

After ten days, the West now leads the East by a score of 104-85. The West side of the banzuke is really beginning to pull away from the East, mostly due to Hakuho, Hokutofuji, Ichinojo, and Arawashi, who have all won seven or more matches. That being said, the East has been far more affected by injuries and has lost many top point-earners this basho. The next five days will see the crowning of the first unofficial Tozai-sei championship.

Like a play, each act of the Kyushu basho has been better than the last. There’s still so much fantastic sumo that awaits us as we head into the final days of competition. So with that, let’s open the curtain on act 3. Let the finale begin!

Kyushu Day 9 Highlights

Kisenosato-Dohyo-Iri-Kyushu-Day-1

Let’s start with this – what on earth is Kisenosato doing? I do love some “Great Pumpkin” sumo, especially this close to Halloween, but he is fighting at mid-Maegashira level now. He certainly should not be out there as a Yokozuna, and I am sure that the Sumo Kyokai and the YDC are in an uproar that he returned to the dohyo well ahead of his full recovery. Last night prior to my US bed time, I was scanning all of the “usual sources” looking for the expected announcement that Kisenosato had withdrawn from the Kyushu basho with <insert malady here>. None came. I would guess that he is being counseled otherwise tonight.

In the race to catch Hakuho, all of the rikishi going in today one loss behind each went down to defeat, leaving “The Boss” out in front of everyone, undefeated, and with a 2 win lead starting the second week.

Highlight Matches

Kotoyuki defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi has been on a winning streak, and it was a bit of a surprise to see Kotoyuki take control of this match and lead Okinoumi to his demise. People with skill in predictions have already been forecasting Kotoyuki’s return to Juryo for Hatsu, but perhaps he can in fact rally and stay in the top division.

Asanoyama defeats Nishikigi – The happy sumotori gave Nishikigi a solid fight right from the tachiai. Both men battled to the tawara where Nishikigi started the throw, but Asanoyama finished it. Asanoyama is not quite as genki as he was at Aki, but he still has some room to recover.

Takekaze defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama needs every win he can squeeze from the remainder of the Kyushu basho. Getting off balance around Takekaze is a recipe for a loss, as Takekaze is experienced enough to make you pay.

Myogiryu defeats Ikioi – Ikioi gives up the inside grip in spite of clearly being a step ahead at the tachiai. Myogiryu is looking quite genki this basho – maybe he is back to his old self? Flagging Ikioi needs to pull himself together. I am going to assign this as another casualty of the intense jungyo schedule.

Daieisho defeats Aminishiki – Now that the push-me-pull-you pattern has run its course, Aminishiki is struggling to dominate matches. We all love uncle sumo, but the reality is he has damaged legs and there are limits to what he can do in a power battle with a young rikishi.

Chiyomaru defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki clearly owns the start of this match, but Chiyomaru keeps giving ground, and Kagayaki is all too happy to chase him around the dohyo. This, of course, is a mistake as he gets his balance too far forward, and Chiyomaru pulls him down.

Kaisei defeats Shodai – Fairly good mawashi battle from these two, Shodai gave it everything he had and established moro-zashi almost right away. However, the massive Brazilian kept his defense solid. The match ended with a throw attempt at the tawara that Kaisei thought he lost, but Shodai touched down a split second earlier.

Endo defeats Tochinoshin – It was Endo from the start. I am going to guess that Tochinoshin’s knee is bothering him greatly, and he is unable to push against it with his massive strength.

Daishomaru defeats Ichinojo – The great boulder of Mongolia was not dialed in today, and Daishomaru got him high and out before he could gather his moss and recover. A bit surprising given how solid Ichinojo has been for the first 8 days. Hopefully, Minato Oyakata switches him back to Frosted Flakes, as the Count Chocula makes him seize up and idle rough.

Hokutofuji defeats Chiyoshoma – There was some naughty business just after a matta, with Chiyoshoma putting an extra “post matta” thrust into Hokutofuji’s face. Matta, matta again. On attempt 4 they get a successful launch, and with Hokutofuji now completely pissed off he blasted Chiyoshoma straight back and out.

Tochiozan defeats Arawashi – Now that he has his make-koshi secure, Tochiozan decides to win one. It’s clear that Tochiozan’s left knee can barely support doing sumo. The first match ended with both men touching down / out together, so a torinaoshi was called.

Chiyotairyu defeats Shohozan – “Sumo Elvis” takes down local favorite Shohozan in this mawashi match. Both men prefer to win by bludgeoning their opponents to victory, but for some reason, they decided to go chest to chest. Solid match, and with any luck, we are seeing a shift in Chiyotairyu’s strategy.

Onosho defeats Takakeisho – Onosho’s magic red mawashi is doing its job and seems to have reversed his fortune. For today Takakeisho got gravely off balance, and Onosho swung to the side and put him on the clay. So help me, the kimarite looked like a dog groomer trimming a collie. But it’s a win, and Onosho needs them.

Tamawashi defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku launches out of the tachiai and applies maximum pressure, but Tamawashi was able to pull out a kotenage at the edge. From the crowd reaction, they thought that local favorite, Kotoshogiku, had prevailed.

Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – A messy, crazy match. They both opened with tsuppari, but Takayasu tried to go chest to chest. Mitakeumi wanted no part of that (Was it the Rolling Stones that sang “I’m Not Your Teppo Pole?”) and Mitakeumi danced away from Takayasu’s embrace. This unrequited invitation to support his burly bulk seemed to drive Takayasu into a rage and he chased down a now fleeing Mitakeumi and drove him to the clay.

Goeido defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze dominated this match, but kept overcommitting to each attack. Goeido worked to just stay on his feet and stay inside, waiting. His persistence was rewarded with Yoshikaze put himself off balanced and Goeido was able to flick him out with minimal effort. Very sloppy match that Yoshikaze should have won.

Hakuho defeats Chiyonokuni – I am not sure anyone can stop Hakuho if he remains uninjured, and it was certainly not going to be this form of Chiyonokuni. I am surprised to see Hakuho go for the mini-Henka two days in a row. Perhaps he is bored and wants to see how many times he can deploy it before his opponents get wise.

Takarafuji defeats Kisenosato – I am sure they gave Kisenosato a solid but middling Maegashira 5 in order to define just how poorly he is doing. The answer is – quite poorly. I love some Takarafuji in the mornings, yes I do. But Kisenosato should have been able to bag and tag this guy in the blink of an eye. Instead, the match raged on as a mighty yotsu battle that saw Kisenosato take Takarafuji to the edge and run out of gas. Go kyujo, Great Pumpkin. High marks for your enthusiasm to return to competition, but you are not quite ready yet. You and Takayasu need to spend a couple of months hulking out again.