Tokyo July Basho Day 3 Preview

Your humble editor did in fact miss posting a day 2 preview. Some of you may say, “Bruce, what gives?”. Much as I love sumo, I admit that I have gotten myself tangled with a high priority software development project which, at least for the first half of the basho, is consuming most of my waking hours. It’s not my first startup. I love a good bootstrap effort, and this one may help a lot of people if we can get everything to work. If my writing seems like its coming from a point of bleary eyed exhaustion, give yourself +100 genki points. I do manage to sacrifice some sleep to watch the top division, and I give my undying thanks to Kintamayama and Natto Sumo for serving it up via YouTube for me to consume in bits when I can throughout the day.

What We Are Watching Day 3

Meisei vs Kotoyuki – Meisei returns from Juryo for the day to fill the torikumi gap left by Kakuryu’s absence. Kotoyuki is off to a slow start at 0-2, and seems to have put on a bit of weight during the quarantine period. There is some logic to top division rikishi striving to carry as much mass as their sumo can handle, I suspect that Kotoyuki may have over-shot by about 10kg.

Terunofuji vs Chiyomaru – I was fairly sure that Terunofuji’s day 2 match was headed for disaster. Kotoeko kept a high energy tug-and-shift routine going, trying to apply maximum torque to the relics of Terunofuji’s knees. We don’t get to know how much pain he is in following a match, and today he has to find a way to shift around the epic bulk of Chiyomaru. He has fought him 6 times before, taking 4. Terunofuji is certainly strong enough to muscle Chiyomaru around somewhat, but those knees…

Kotoshoho vs Nishikigi – After being a complete limp fish day 1, Nishikigi came back with some vigor on day 2. But it’s anyone’s guess which version shows up today against Kotoshoho. On the topic of Kotoshoho, he young rookie to the top division has opened strong with two straight wins, and may be in for a traditional first basho 10 win run.

Kotoeko vs Wakatakakage – Speaking of first basho streaks – Wakatakakage, why are you winless? Get it in gear sir! In their 3 prior matches, Kotoeko has not lost one, so there is a solid chance that the fellow that makes Raja Pradhan sound like a typewriter (Wakatakakage) may start July 0-3. Cue the worried sumo ladies in 3..2..1

Takayasu vs Kotoshogiku – Oh how I loved Takayasu’s day 2 match. A sight not seen in a few years. Shohozan was being his traditional self, and flagrantly attacking Takayasu’s injured left elbow. Takayasu eventually just grabbed Shohozan and held him still for a while. A long while. This was traditional Takayasu sumo, with enough stamina to keep 30 normal people turning cartwheels for an hour. I swear he took a nap in there too. No rush… You tired yet Shohozan? No? Zzzz. Zzzz ZZ. How about now? Going to be a different contest today as Kotoshogiku is going to get close fast and press ahead hard. They have 27(!) career matches, with a slight 15-12 Takayasu edge.

Kotonowaka vs Shohozan – I have my concerns that Kotonowaka will join the elite group that includes Aoiyama and Kagayaki. The guy has some solid sumo moves, and that should carry the day against a fading but surly Shohozan. As this is their first ever match, I am sure that “Big Guns” Shohozan is going to give him the full street brawl routine.

Shimanoumi vs Sadanoumi – Much like in the mock basho, these two seem to be stuck in an indeterminate sumo state, perhaps by observing them we can collapse their wave function into something genki? All I know is that the bulkier Shimanoumi seems to be susceptible to Sadanoumi’s lightning tachiai.

Tochinoshin vs Myogiryu – 25 career matches and the score is 12-13! I am delighted that Tochinoshin is appearing at least somewhat genki, and has none of the “roadkill” aura that he has carried the last two tournaments. I am not sure his knee is up for any sky-crane action, but fans can hope.

Tamawashi vs Kaisei – I really liked both of these veteran stalwart’s wins on day 2. Tamawashi gave Chiyotairyu a near tea-bagging, and Kaisei out-bruted Tochinoshin. Maybe Kaisei’s wedding recently has motivated him to higher levels of performance. Sumo fans, there is a whole lot of Kaisei, and if he gets motivated, they may need to have the dohyo repair crew on standby.

Ikioi vs Chiyotairyu – I think that both of them are a bit rusty at this stage, and are looking to keep fairly close to even by the end of the first act. Chiyotairyu has a slight 9-6 career lead, mostly due to his high energy cannonball tachiai, and his propensity to stand his opponent up and immediately knock them down at the start of the match. A gambit that works fairly well against the straight ahead Ikioi.

Terutsuyoshi vs Ishiura – Battle of the pixies, round 1. This time Terutsuyoshi is having a solid start, and Ishiura seems to be struggling. If you are asking yourself, “What happened to Ishiura?”, your judgement may be colored by the mock basho in May, where Ishiura was, at one point, the sole leader in the yusho race. I am sure real Ishiura would like to tap into fake Ishiura’s genki power right about now.

Tokushoryu vs Ryuden – Hatsu yusho winner and all around everyman Tokushoryu has started 0-2, possibly another victim of ring rust brought on by lack of joint training. Ryuden seems a bit under his normal performance level as well, but has managed to put his first white star on the board. I think that gives a slight edge to Ryuden today, but I am still looking for Tokushoryu to maintain a kachi-koshi pace.

Abi vs Enho – Straight up, Abi seems to also be a bit too massive for his sumo. Coupled with everyone getting a good hang of the ins and outs of “Abi-zumo”, his extra bulk have increased his ability to hold ground at the expense of attack speed. And frankly attack speed was the key to his sumo. The more he evolves closer to some kind of inflatable beach toy form, the easier it will be to overcome his offense. I give the nod to Enho if he can put down the beer for 10 minutes…

Hokutofuji vs Aoiyama – Hokutofuji also is looking quite rough. I know he is inherently streaky, and so once his sumo locks on, he should at least get to 7. But boy is it an uneven start for him. Big Dan has a matching 1-1 record, but looked more consistent in his first two matches. His day 2 match against Abi – brutal.

Kagayaki vs Kiribayama – For some reason, Kiribayama can’t yet get to a win. He’s up against Mr Fundamentals, who normally suffers a lot of ring rust. Not this July! He is focused and his sumo is sharp. While I would like to think that the young rising star, Kiribayama, can pull out a win here, I am going to favor Kagayaki keeping the streak alive.

Daieisho vs Takarafuji – So far we have yet to see Takarafuji deploy his defend and extend strategy. Everyone has just bundled him up and rushed him out with great effect. Daieisho is a good opponent to get back in stride, even though Takarafuji has a 4-6 career record against him. But Daieisho’s is prone to the stalemate tactics that Takarafuji prefers.

Onosho vs Mitakeumi – As an Onosho fan, his 0-2 start is disappointing, and it’s not going to get any better today when he steps off against an incredibly focused and genki Mitakeumi. During the mock basho, we had Mitakeumi likewise focused, strong and dominating nearly every match. I think it would be surprising and a bit spooky if he can replicate the Not-so-Basho result as well.

Shodai vs Takanosho – In the “What happened here” category – Shodai? He seems really hard, sharp and focused. Where his sumo and the past has been less than aggressive, so far this July he has come out strong and effective. I would guess Takanosho is smarting after two consecutive losses, and I would like to see him give Shodai a tough match.

Yutakayama vs Asanoyama – These two were once rivals when they first broke into the top division, and Yutakayama reached the top of the rank and file first, before injury forced him to regroup. Now its Asanoyama who is looking like a rock-solid Ozeki, and Yutakayama is struggling with an 0-2 start to July. They are tied 3-3 for their career, and both know how to disrupt and defeat the other. If Asanoyama can get his grip early, and shut down Yutakayama’s mobility, it’s going to be an 3-0 start for the shin-Ozeki.

Takakeisho vs Okinoumi – I think the 4 month stretch of relative isolation did Takakeisho quite a bit of good. He thus far seems to be strong, confident and back in control of his his body and his sumo. That day 1 shove against Yutakayama? BOOM! Okinoumi also seems to have benefited from the extended recovery period, and while he was no match for Hakuho, Kiribayama got a satisfying ejection from the ring. I favor Takakeisho in this one (6-2 career), especially because the Grand Tadpole seems to be back in the groove.

Hakuho vs Endo – A juicy, ripe morsel to finish the day. These two have had a bit of a blood feud going on for several tournaments, and both have shown a willingness to pound the other into a bloody mess. Hakuho looked rather tentative day 1, but gave Yutakayama a fast roll in the clay on day 2. We know the boss has been less than thrilled with the lack of test bouts leading up to the basho, and I suspect that the population of Oitekaze beya probably gave Endo somewhat better prep. Will there be blood?

Mock Natsu Day 2 Highlights

Our contestants shook off some of their ring rust, and brought a solid set of matches to day 2. Today featured a tadpole battle (Takakeisho vs Onosho) and a freshman battle (Yutakayama vs Asanoyama). Both of these rivalries are ones that I think are going to be driving factors for the next stage of sumo, and it was great to seem them on full display today. On to the matches!

Highlight Matches

Kotoyuki (2-0) defeats Nishikigi (1-1) Oshitaoshi – Not sure what kind of chanko they are feeding Kotoyuki, but today was another great example of the “Genki” form of the Penguin. He blasted forward at the tachiai, using his taped hands to plant a painful looking nodowa on Nishikigi, who tried to counter and break Kotoyuki’s grip. While Nishikigi was distracted, Kotoyuki’s left hand found the back of Nishikigi’s mawashi, and a solid tug dropped Nishikigi to the clay. Wow.

Kotoeko (1-1) defeats Terunofuji (0-2) Hatakikomi – It’s disappointing to see Terunofuji struggle. Everyone wants him to do well, have a solid recovery and at least inhabit the lower reaches of the top division for a while. But today’s match was a great example of how his damaged knees have robbed him of some of the technique needed to be effective in Makuuchi. His weight was too far forward at the tachiai, and it was trivial for Kotoeko to just help him fall forward. The most painful thing? The look on Terunofuji’s face as the bowed at the end of the match. I think he’s worried too.

Kotoshogiku (2-0) defeats Chiyomaru (1-1) Yorikiri – Kotoshogiku steps onto the dohyo with so much tape each day – knees, shoulder, lower back, you have to wonder if that’s the only think holding him together. But for the second day in a row he showed he still has Ozeki skill. Chiyomaru opened strong, and got the inside position to begin his preferred thrusting attack. But Kotoshogiku kept up forward pressure and reduced the gap between them to limit how much Chiyomaru could push. Unable to reach around Chiyomaru’s enormous belly to land enough grip to use his gaburi-yori attack, Kotoshogiku focused on a hazu/armpit attack, and got Chiyomaru off balance. Chiyomaru took a small hop to try and re-center himself, and Kotoshogiku charged belly first and took him out.

Wakatakakage (1-1) defeats Kotoshoho (0-2) Oshidashi – Wakatakakage rallied to get his first win of the tournament. He came off the shikiri-sen like a wild man, throwing his body and hands into Kotoshoho’s chest and face, constantly pushing forward and up. Wakatakakage dropped his hips and charged forward while maintaining pressure, dumping Kotoshoho out of the ring in a heap. Solid, textbook sumo today from Wakatakakage.

Takayasu (2-0) defeats Sadanoumi (1-1) Oshidashi – Second time in 2 days we see Takayasu come out strong. I dare say that if he’s even somewhat healthy, this far down the banzuke, he is going to unleash complete hell. Again he led with a shoulder blast, today into Sadanoumi’s lightning tachiai. Sadanoumi tried to keep his elbow tight to his body, but the shoulder blast opened a route for Takayasu’s left hand to come inside and push, standing Sadanoumi up. Switched to defensive, Sadanoumi found it tough to counter volley after volley as the former Ozeki completely dominated this match.

Shohozan (1-1) defeats Kotonowaka (0-2) Yorikiri – Shohozan fans can rest easy, “Big Guns” is back. We saw a soft tachiai go directly into a face slap that rang out in the empty Kokugikan. This seemed to daze Kotonowaka, and once emboldened, Shohozan gave him two more. Rather than respond in kind, Kotonowaka dove for Shohozan’s mawashi, getting a right hand inside grip. But Shohozan was not unprepared, and lowered his hips, landed a grip and drove Kotonowaka out.

Shimanoumi (2-0) defeats Kaisei (1-1) Okuridashi – Kaisei came out strong at the tachiai, and met only token resistance from Shimanoumi who executed a very Hamumafuji style hit and shift mini-henka. With that much Kaisei in forward motion, it takes several city blocks for him to slow and stop, and it was trivial for Shimanoumi to circle behind and push the big man out to start the tournament 2-0.

Myogiryu (1-1) defeats Tochinoshin (0-2) Yorikiri – Nice shoulder blast from Tochinoshin at the tachiai shut down Myogiryu’s attempt at a left hand mawashi grip. Instead Tochinoshin’s left hand went deep and found Myogiryu’s blue silk. I was waiting for the sky-crane to kick in, but it seems Tochinoshin’s knees just could not get ready. After a moment’s pause where Myogiryu seemed to be waiting for the lift, Myogiryu unleashed a brilliant makikae, changing his grip and advancing. Tochinoshin could not return the forward pressure, and found himself forced out.

Ishiura (2-0) defeats Tamawashi (1-1) Sukuinage – In the “what’s in this guy’s chanko?” department comes that ass-kicking throw Ishiura produced today to send Tamawashi to the clay. The match shifted from run-and-gun to Ishiura having a grip, loading the throw and pivoting in a blink of an eye.

Chiyotairyu (1-1) defeats Ikioi (0-2) Hikiotoshi – Sumo’s thunder god found an opponent that would not side step him in Ikioi. But Ikioi had a bandage on that right elbow that Tamawashi’s kotenage took a piece of day 1. Ikioi drove that damaged right arm inside, and endured Chiyotairyu clamping his arm to his chest, squeezing that injured joint. Ikioi seemed oblivious to the pain, and drove forward, but too strongly as Chiyotairyu opened a gap, and using a hand behind Ikioi’s neck, pushed him to the clay.

Terutsuyoshi (1-1) defeats Enho (0-2) Yorikiri – In this all pixie battle, they had a bit of trouble getting started, with a stare down and reset before we saw Enho try to go underneath diminutive Terutsuyoshi. He did manage to get inside, but could not find a grip with his right hand as Terutsuyoshi’s ottsuke shut him down. Enho tried no less than three times to load a throw, but Terutsuyoshi kept his feet and stayed in the match. The final pivot from Enho left him off balance, and Terutsuyoshi squared his shoulders and advanced for a win. Nice sumo from Terutsuyoshi today.

Tokushoryu (2-0) defeats Ryuden (1-1) Yoritaoshi – Tokushoryu made ample use of that huge belly of his to keep Ryuden struggling for grip. Twice Tokushoryu moved to advance, and twice Ryuden was able to shut him down by lowering his hips and returning pressure. But the third time apply some Kotoshogiku hug-n-chug attack, but Ryuden’s heels locked in against the tawara and held firm. Reaching around his belly, Tokushoryu lifted Ryuden and fell on forward, crushing him against the bales. Nice 2-0 start for the Hatsu yusho winner.

Kagayaki (2-0) defeats Abi (1-1) Oshidashi – Abi-zumo started strong and help a punishing rain of thrusts going into Kagayaki, who seemed to absorb it all. Most importantly he maintained his balance and his footing. This guy keeps reminding me of Kisenosato, I swear. Abi seemed to get frustrated, and put a bit too much power into his right hand, which Kagayaki used to brush aside the double arm thrust and grab Abi by the chest and lift him. With most of his weight no longer on his feet, Abi offered little resistance to Kagayaki’s finishing move.

Hokutofuji (1-1) defeats Aoiyama (0-2) Tsukiotoshi – Hokutofuji’s handshake tachiai found its mark, but Aoiyama had the V-Twin throttled up from the start, and one meaty blow to the face sent Hokutofuji reeling back. Again we saw Hokutofuji’s upper body take punishment, but his lower body seems to have its own command and control system. Forward went the hips and up went the right hand, gripping Aoiyama. Another blow from Aoiyama’s left unbalanced Hokutofuji, but did not break his grip, and his lower body was on the march. A follow up left left Big Dan off balance, and Hokutofuji swung him to the clay. Aoiyama starts the tournament with a disappointing 0-2 record.

Kiribayama (1-1) defeats Okinoumi (0-2) Yorikiri – Kiribayama went chest to chest with veteran yotsu-zumo practitioner Okinoumi and came up with a white star. While some may say, well it was just Okinoumi – it’s an important milestone for the young up and coming Mongolian rikishi. He got his preferred right hand outside grip at the tachiai, and controlled the flow of the match from the start. Okinoumi did manage to pivot and load a throw, but Kiribayama rapidly shut it down and prevailed for his first win of the basho.

Takarafuji (1-1) defeats Shodai (1-1) Yorikiri – Textbook Takarafuji defend and extend sumo today against a rikishi who can pull together random movements to constitute surprising sumo, or what I call “Shodai’s Cartoon Sumo”. Shodai got left hand inside but Takarafuji kept Shodai’s right hand tied up. Shodai was so focused on freeing his right hand, he seemed to not notice that Takarafuji was slowly dancing him to the bales. Then it seems Shodai’s heel touched straw, and he realized what had happen. As Shodai shifted to focus on forward pressure, Takarafuji rallied and pushed him out. Lesson here Takarafuji will try to give you a puzzle to solve while he is robbing you of a win. Stay focused.

Takanosho (2-0) defeats Mitakeumi (1-1) Okuridashi – Takanosho takes another high profile match to start the basho 2-0. At the tachiai, Mitakeumi got superior position and what seemed to be a working grip, but Takanosho was able to shift / slide to his left, and Mitakeumi found himself misaligned with his opponent. Rather than moving forward, Mitakeumi put all of his force and focus on trying to square himself with Takanosho, who turned Mitakeumi and pushed him out with less dignity than a bouncer might apply to an irate, drunken salaryman.

Takakeisho (1-1) defeats Onosho (0-2) Tsukidashi – As much as I hate to see my two favorite tadpoles fight it out, this match is all about why I was hoping that Onosho could bounce back and become a mainstay of the joi-jin. Onosho got the inside position at the tachiai, but focused on Takakeisho’s face, which I think he long ago has written off. The answer? Yes, the long awaited return of the wave-action tsuppari attack. Much as I love the wave-action, I would rather it not be used on Onosho. But use it he did, and it was only 3 blasts before Onosho’s arms and legs were moving in different directions and he left the ring in a chaotic jumble.

Asanoyama (1-1) defeats Yutakayama (1-1) Yorikiri – Sure, next have my two favorite Freshmen fight. Asanoyama was taking no chances at starting the basho 2-0, and he evaded Yutakayama’s opening gambit and went straight for the belt. You know what I saw? Remarkable improvement on the part of Yutakayama on his belt sumo. He dug in and gave Asanoyama a real fight for about 30 seconds, before Asanoyama’s ozeki grade sumo kicked in and pushed Yutakayama over the bales. Glad Asanoyama got his first win, but I am absolutely giddy to see Yutakayama reach into the yotsu-zumo bag and pull out some candy.

Hakuho (2-0) defeats Endo (0-2) Uwatenage – Hopefully Endo has fond memories of that Hatsu 2020 win fixed firmly in his mind, because the boss is going to work hard to own him utterly every time they meet from here on out. Hakuho’s face slap hit home, but Endo got that shallow left hand grip he loves. Pivoting, Hakuho unleashed that right elbow to Endo’s face, breaking his grip. With Endo now fully exposed, in went Hakuho’s right hand, but only for an instant as he rolled his shoulders and put Endo in the air. Brutal and humiliating. I am curious to see what Endo does in their next match.

Kakuryu (2-0) defeats Daieisho (1-1) Yorikiri – Daieisho came out strong from the tachiai, and Kakuryu let him think he was doing well, draining his energy. But the master of reactive sumo gave him no opportunity to take control of the match. Daieisho would thrust and move ahead, Kakuryu would deflect and shift, waiting Daieisho out. The Yokozuna found the smallest loss of balance in his opponent, and drove in for the kill, with both men falling over the tawara locked together. The gyoji gave the match to Kakuryu, but the Shimpan wanted to review it, and confirmed the win.

Video Of Asanoyama’s Promotion Ceremony

Courtesy of the magic that is YouTube, some enterprising soul has encoded and uploaded a segment covering Asanoyama’s promotion ceremony. For your viewing pleasure!

From the always amazing Sumo Forum:

The acceptance phrase of the new ozeki:

相撲を愛し力士として正義を全う

Loving sumo and as a rikishi entirely righteous

sumo o ai shi, rikishi to shite, seigi o mattou

Hey, what can I say, did I call it or what? Asanoyama ❤️ Sumo…

[UPDATE] Also this clip below uploaded to Twitter… Note the rikishi pyramid, and the BIG-ASS FISH OF VICTORY!

Asanoyama Promoted to Ozeki

As reported today in the Japan Times, the Sumo Association has agreed that sumo rising star Asanoyama is to be promoted to Ozeki, sumo’s second highest rank. In comments following the completion of the Haru basho in Osaka, the shimpan committee had broadly signaled that they would vote in favor to promote Asanoyama. There will be a formal meeting held on Wednesday to compile the May banzuke, which will mark the official promotion. Following this meeting, representatives from the association will travel to the Takasago stable to announce the promotion. For fans who have seen this in the past, such as Tochinoshin and Takakeisho, the Asanoyama, Takasago oyakata and Takasago okamisan will all be in formal clothes, and will assume a saikeirei bow, and accept the promotion.

Although Asanoyama feel short of the customary 33 wins over 3 tournaments from San’yaku (he ended the run with 32), the NSK has decided that sumo needs to replenish the upper ranks, and have wisely bestowed Ozeki on this talented young man. With the only remaining Ozeki hurt, and now kadoban, and both Yokozuna nearing the point of retirement, a strong, healthy and talented younger rikishi is a perfect promotion candidate. We think that we will see at least one more top rank promotion this year, and likely at least one more next year as the old guard continues to fade, and the next generation of kanban rikishi take their places.

Asanoyama won his first yusho in may of 2019 from Maegashira 8, finishing 12-3, and picking up 2 special prizes. He also is the only rikishi to ever be awarded the Trump Cup. Since then he has picked up 2 more special prizes and a jun-yusho. He has scored double digits in 5 of the last 6 basho. Tachiai predicts that if he can stay healthy and keep his body working well, Asanoyama will make a fine Ozeki.