With less than 2 days to go before the start of the Haru basho, we now know that Yokozuna Hakuho will compete in Haru, and that Yokozuna Kakuryu, will not. According to reports, Kakuryu, who had shown well at the Kyokai joint practice, injured his left thigh in practice a few days ago. He is currently unable to do shiko, and sadly will be unable to compete for March.
The Yokozuna were given an ultimatum last year – compete or retire. Both sat out January, and both were expected to compete in March. There is, of course, talk that Kakuryu will be directed to retire. While this would be a shame, he now has Japanese citizenship, and will likely become a sumo elder following his retirement. While there is no official word if Kakuryu holds a kabu, it is supsected that he holds the Izutsu kabu, and will take it up once he is intai. While we hope the YDC and the sumo association will allow him to fight it out, at least one last time, I personally do not hold much hope for that outcome.
Meanwhile, I am eager to see Hakuho return to the dohyo. If he competes for all 15 days, and is healthy, he has to be the likely favorite to take home the yusho. While it is likely Hakuho will stave off a directive to retire, it has been announced that he will acquire the Magaki kabu, and will become a sumo elder when that day comes.
The tournament grinds on through act 1, and its becoming clear that this is once again Hakuho’s basho to lose. But surprisingly, his deshi Ishiura is keeping pace. Granted this is only day 3, but Ishiura has had a remarkable start. There was a time 2 years ago where he was little more than a self propelled henka delivery machine, and his sumo was about as exciting as a gardening show on YouTube. But it seems that maybe his work with Enho as a direct competitor has driven him to new levels of performance, and we are enjoying it throughly. Speaking of Enho, his equally dismissal 0-3 start is starting to be alarming. There were reports of him nursing an injury from Osaka, and that would explain his flagging performance. Or maybe its the second basho with now fans to cheer him on that has robbed him of his power to win matches. We hope whatever it is, he returns to form soon.
Kotoeko (2-1) defeats Chiyomaru (1-2) Oshidashi – Chiyomaru blasted Kotoeko at the tachiai, and frankly I thought he would just fall down in place. I am sometimes amazed at just how fast and powerful Chiyomaru is, he does more than a little to cultivate the notion of a harmless, jolly fat guy. Sure, he has a blubbery coating, but the interior seems to be 100% terminator. But at the moment that Chiyomaru (or shall we call him a Chi-1000?) moves to finish the match, Kotoeko steps deftly to his left, puts his hands on Chiyomaru’s expansive belly and shoves for all he’s worth.
Kotoshoho (1-2) defeats Terunofuji (0-3) Yorikiri – Its breaking my heart to see Terunofuji start 0-3. I worried he would be a big shaky with almost no practice, but he seems to now be struggling mentally as well. Terunofuji got a right hand inside grip at the tachiai, and forced Kotoshoho to work to gain any sort of advantage. Kotoshoho reversed into a Terunofuji pivot and found himself with a working grip, and an oblique angle to Terunofuji. Turned partially to the side, Terunofuji was unable to offer much forward pressure to stop Kotoshoho’s advance, and he went out for his third straight loss.
Wakatakakage (2-1) defeats Kotoyuki (2-1) Yorikiri – Kotoyuki picks up his first loss of the basho when his opening gambit goes flat. Kotoyuki got in first at the tachiai, but focused both hands on Wakatakakage’s face and neck, while Wakatakakage drove forward and inside, finding a hold. Kotoyuki countered with a pivot, but found he could not break Wakatakakage’s left hand grip. That move gave Wakatakakage a chance to improve his hold, and it was a fast trip across the tawara for Wakatakakage’s second win.
Nishikigi (2-1) defeats Kotoshogiku (2-1) Oshidashi – We finally get to see Nishikigi employ that double arm bar hold against Kotoshogiku, though it placed him at risk of Kotoshogiku’s favorite mode of attack. The Kyushu Bulldozer lowered the blade and went to work, but could not muster the power to put Nishikigi over the tawara, and Nishikigi rallied to thrust Kotoshogiku out.
Takayasu (3-0) defeats Shohozan (1-2) Yorikiri – I am getting terribly excited about Takayasu now, as he has picked up his 3rd win, and truly seems to be able to work through whatever lingering problems he may have with his left elbow, and whatever happened to his knees during Osaka. Takayasu delivered a right shoulder blast to Shohozan’s face, and the two immediately began training windmill blows to each other’s upper bodies. Shohozan was getting the worse of punishment, and went left hand inside, taking Takayasu to his chest, but Shohozan managed to latch onto Takayasu’s left hand, twisting and pinning the injured arm to his belly. An attempt at a pull down from Shohozan freed up Takayasu’s left hand, and his lethal weapon found its mark. Trapped in a giant, hairy battle-hug. Shohozan twisted and writhed to find any escape, but Takayasu advanced with power to put him over the bales. Impressive 3-0 start for the former Ozeki.
Sadanoumi (2-1) defeats Kotonowaka (0-3) Yorikiri – Kotonowaka has a lot of useable mass, but I worry his tachiai is almost Shodai soft. He barely got his hands off the ground before Sadanoumi was latched onto Kotonowaka’s sky blue mawashi. With a left hand inside grip, Sadanoumi stood Kotonowaka up. Kotonowaka countered with a powerful right hand thrust to the side of Sadanoumi’s head, sending him off balance, but that left hand grip held. With Kotonowaka disrupted by his failed throw attempt, Sadanoumi landed the right hand inside, and with morozashi, lifted and propelled Kotonowaka over the tawara.
Shimanoumi (3-0) defeats Myogiryu (1-2) Hatakikomi – A drawn out test of stamina, both rikishi were amazingly low at the tachiai, but Shimanoumi was a half step faster. Both men went for a left hand inside grip, and pushed and grappled for advantage for over a minute, wearing each other down. Twice they broke contact, just to lock up yet again. Losing stamina, Myogiryu was leaning forward as the two were chest to chest in the center of the dohyo as the match passed just over a minute. Shimanoumi had his right arm wrapped around Myogiryu’s left arm, with the left hand having a deep inside grip. It looked like Myogiryu was working to set up a throw, when Shimanoumi’s release forward pressure and pulled Myogiryu to the clay. Shimanoumi starts the basho 3-0.
Tochinoshin (1-2) defeats Kaisei (1-2) Yorikiri – We hear a sigh of relief from Europe as former Ozeki Tochinoshin picks up his first win of the tournament. Kaisei put all of his effort into blocking Tochinoshin’s left hand outside grip, but left himself wide open for a shallow right hand / frontal grip. As Kaisei worked to set up an offensive position, Tochinoshin got his left hand seated, and found the strength in his knees to advance. Very happy to see him get a win.
Chiyotairyu (2-1) defeats Tamawashi (1-2) Hatakikomi – If you are fighting Chiyotairyu, you always have to be on guard for him to stand you up with a blast at the tachiai, and immediately slap you down. This worked flawlessly against Tamawashi who was driving for an inside position to move the big Kokenoe man around, but Chiyotairyu’s sudden release of forward pressure sealed Tamawashi’s fate, giving him his second consecutive loss.
Ishiura (3-0) defeats Ikioi (0-3) Yorikiri – It’s obvious that elbow is not doing well. Today’s match against Ishiura was a lesson in how grim determination keeps Ikioi in a tournament when he might just as well be in an orthopedic ward. Ikioi put a lot of energy into the tachiai, which rocked Ishiura back on his heels, but Ishiura managed to shift the follow through, leaving Ikioi off angle with his opponent. Ishiura latched on to that injured right arm and gave it a solid twist. Likely ultimately painful, but it opened Ikioi’s chest, and Ishura dug in. Lower than Ikioi with a solid left hand grip, there was little the injured Ikioi could do to stop Ishiura’s advance. Ishiura starts the basho with a surprising 3-0.
Ryuden (2-1) defeats Terutsuyoshi (1-2) Oshidashi – We were waiting for the first Ryuden matta fest, but Terutsuyoshi started this round. No fewer than 3 matta before the two finally got underway, and I do think that Konosuke was mad enough to eat his gumbai. Ryuden connected a left shoulder to Terutsuyoshi’s face at the tachiai, opening a cut above his right eye. In spite of his inside position, Ryuden contained him, shut down his offense and sent him flying across the east side tawara.
Tokushoryu (3-0) defeats Enho (0-3) Uwatenage – It takes a lot of guts to drop your hands at the tachiai against a big man like Tokushoryu. But Enho seems to have wagered he could get in beneath that giant belly and find a grip. Instead what he got was a meaty arm against his chest and a quick trip to the clay. I am not sure if I am more surprised by Tokushoryu’s 3-0 start or Enho’s 0-3.
Aoiyama (1-2) defeats Abi (1-2) Hatakikomi – With Abi already aiming high at the tachiai, it’s a simple move for Big Dan to stand him up and swat him down. Of course it takes size, strength and determination to whether the unrelenting facial assault you will receive while you set that up, but it makes the results no less glorious. I have to image Abi is going to get it in gear shortly. The lack of sparring in the last 8 weeks seems to have really left him struggling.
Hokutofuji (2-1) defeats Kagayaki (2-1) Oshidashi – I really like both of these guy’s sumo, so it’s a highlight for me any time they fight. The first half of this match was all Kagayaki, and it seemed that Hokutofuji could not make anything stick. But once Kagayaki put Hokutofuji’s heels on the tawara, Hokutofuji battled back with fierce determination, putting all of his energy into Kagayaki’s body. Shame the couldn’t both win.
Daieisho (2-1) defeats Takarafuji (1-2) Kotenage – Daieisho opened with a well placed nodowa, and that really set the tone for the match. Takarafuji eventually broke the choke hold, but his body was wide open for Daieisho to hook the arm inside and unleash the throw. Luckily it didn’t look like it injured Takarafuji.
Mitakeumi (2-1) defeats Onosho (0-3) Hatakikomi – I am glad we are getting these tadpole battles out of the way early, as they worry me. It surprises no one that Onosho was too far forward at the tachiai, or that Mitakeumi exploded it with pinpoint precision. I does surprise me that Onosho has started 0-3 for the tournament, but he does tend to go on hot / cold streaks. I hope he can regroup and start to rack up the wins.
Shodai (2-1) defeats Kiribayama (1-2) Uwatenage – A crappy tachiai from Shodai seemed to signal this was going to be Kiribayama’s match, but Shodai managed to sacrifice power at the start for a left hand inside grip just under Kiribayama’s arm. It seems Kiribayama knew he had trouble at once, and worked to circle away, but only managed to let Shodai get a right hand mawashi grip at Kiribayama’s waist. As Kiribayama rushed forward, Shodai pivoted to his left and dropped Kiribayama like a bag of sand. Solid “plan B” from Shodai today.
Asanoyama (2-1) defeats Endo (0-3) Yorikiri – I worry that the pasting Endo took from Hakuho on day 2 may have rattled Endo, as I think that these two should have been a closer fight. I certainly did not expect Endo to finish day 3 at 3-0. Endo had the better tachiai, he was lower, but could not land his desired frontal grip. Impressive to see him immediately go to a backup attack, pressing Asanoyama’s arms together and advancing strongly. But that left Endo wide open for Asanoyama to break out, and land a left hand outside grip. From there it was like looking at some Edo period wood block print of two powerful men locked in battle. Asanoyama had the advantage, and as he backed to the tawara, Endo tried a rescue throw, but could not get the pivot started before Asanoyama’s body plowed him down.
Takakeisho (2-1) defeats Okinoumi (0-3) Oshidashi – Takakeisho stood Okinoumi up at the tachiai, with both hands under an armpit each. Okinoumi took a big step back to give him room to recover, but Takakeisho kept up the pressure, and kept his hands driving into the tender flesh underneath the arms. Moving strongly away, Okinoumi moved to deflect Takakeisho’s advance, but found himself shoved over the bales for his 3rd straight loss.
Takanosho (3-0) defeats Kakuryu (2-1) Oshidashi – One of the challenges of Kakuryu’s reactive sumo is that it relies on your opponent being to eager to finish the match, and rushing into false openings the Yokozuna tends to present. I saw Kakuryu give Takanosho at least 2 chances to “finish him” but Takanosho took his time, and was almost toying with the Yokozuna. In the end, Kakuryu ran out of ring to play with, and found himself forced out by a well timed blast by Takanosho, scoring not just a win, but Takanosho’s first kinboshi.
Hakuho (3-0) defeats Yutakayama (1-2) Uwatenage – Does Hakuho get bored with unleashing uwatenage? I don’t get tired of watching him do it, even when its against favorites like “Big Unit” Yutakayama. Hakuho still seems to enjoy beating rikishi with their “own brand of sumo”, and today he traded blows with Yutakayama, giving better than he received. There was a moment when Yutakayama rallied and got both hands inside and around Hakuho’s chest, but this only signaled to the dai-Yokozuna that play time was over, and he set up the throw. The kimarite is listed as Uwatenage, but Hakuho only got it half executed before Yutakayama collapsed, with Hakuho landing on top of him.
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!
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.
A smashing ending to the March tournament, it was a Yokozuna battle in the final match of the final day. Both of them fought well, and Hakuho prevailed. Congratulations to the dai-Yokozuna, Hakuho Sho, “The Boss” for his 44th yusho. In some future age, there may be a rikishi that can equal or succeed what Hakuho has done, but I can’t conceive of a time or a rikishi who could best the marks and records he continues to exceed.
It seems that with his day 15 win over Takakeisho, Asanoyama has been deemed worth of Ozeki promotion. This is excellent news as with a single, injured and now kadoban Ozeki, and two remaining Yokozuna both nearing the end of their careers, it was high time to promote someone. I recall that for both Tochinoshin and Takakeisho they held the promotion back for one tournament to check for “good performance”. They both made the cut the next basho, but I am glad that they were flexible given the situation. The new Ozeki is young, healthy and strong. He is a convert to yotsu-zumo and he continues to gain skill. Long time readers will note the tag, “Asanoyama ❤️ Sumo” that has adorned some posts featuring him. When he first entered the top division, he would bring the same positive attitude to the dohyo no matter who he faced. He could get completely whacked and thrown into the shimpan, he would mount the dohyo to bow, and you could just read his face. “Man, what a great day to do sumo! I can’t wait for tomorrow.” With that kind of attitude, there was little doubt he would find his way higher in time. Congratulation to the new Ozeki.
Ishiura defeats Aoiyama – Nice up and duck tachiai from Ishiura, it bought him some time as Aoiyama had to shift to chase him down, and delayed Big Dan’s opening attack. As Aoiyama closed in, Ishiura deftly landed a left hand grip, and kept the match on his terms. What a surprise to see these two go chest to chest, and an even bigger surprise to see Ishiura prevail with a yorikiri. Ishiura finishes Haru 9-6.
Terutsuyoshi defeats Daiamami – Second match in a row where the smaller rikishi opts for a mawashi battle, and scores a win. Just seconds into the match, Terutsuyoshi has morozashi, and hapless Daiamami can find no way to use his superior height and mass to any advantage. Terutsuyoshi finishes Haru 9-6
Shimanoumi defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu gave it a strong start, but when it was clear that Shimanoumi had the match in hand, Chiyotairyu eased up and took his 7th loss. Shimanoumi finishes Haru at 9-6.
Nishikigi defeats Sadanoumi – An uncharacteristically slow tachiai from Sadanoumi, and he allowed Nishikigi to land a left hand inside grip that quickly turned to morozashi. Nishikigi engaged a lift-and-shift attack for the win. Both finish Haru at 6-9.
Kotonowaka defeats Tochinoshin – A huge back and forth battle, which saw Tochinoshin struggle for grip and body placement. He allowed Kotonowaka to box him in early, and found himself without many paths to execute offensive sumo. The match ended when Tochinoshin bucked his hips to grab the left hand outside grip, and it looks like that bandaged right knee collapsed. Painful sumo to watch, without a doubt. Kotonowaka ends Haru with 9-6.
Kagayaki defeats Meisei – Our first Darwin match goes to Kagayaki. Mr Fundamentals kept Meisei centered, and kept his feet heavy, thrusting at all times. It’s the kind of sumo that we see from Kagayaki when he is dialed in, and he finishes Haru 8-7. This is his 3rd kachi-koshi tournament in a row, and the highest rank he has ever had a winning record over 15 days.
Tochiozan defeats Myogiryu – It does my heart good to see Tochiozan muster one last win in the top division before he possibly ends up in Juryo for the next tournament. To be honest, it was as much Myogiryu’s slippiotoshi as anything Tochiozan did, but the win still counts.
Ryuden defeats Azumaryu – Azumaryu had the early advantage in this match, but could not finish it in the opening moments. It was great to see Ryuden battle back, and inch at a time and slowly gain control of the fight. Really nice endurance, persistence and incremental sumo from Ryuden today. He finishes Haru 6-9.
Abi defeats Kaisei – Abi went for the double arm thrust, and quickly discovered Issac Newton was in control of this match. The mass that is Kaisei was in motion, and no amount of force that Abi could muster would have a meaningful effect. But Abi deftly moved aside and let momentum do 90% of the work, finishing Kaisei with a well placed shove. Abi finishes Haru 7-8.
Enho defeats Ikioi – This was Ikioi’s first encounter with Enho’s pixie magic, and for the uninitiated, it can be quite the shock. That shallow right hand grip look like it was painfully close to Ikioi’s dangly parts, and the fact that it was the subject of a torque and pull my have given Ikioi a moment of grave concern. The kimarite is listed as shitatenage, but could also be called (at least in English) a “twisting genital pull down”. Anyone with higher skill in Japanese want to take a crack at that for me? Enho ends Haru 6-9.
Onosho defeats Mitakeumi – I am very happy that Onosho ended Haru with a 9-6, and he looked very dominant today. But I was hoping that Mitakeumi would hit 11, and force a slot to open for him. But a week 2 fade has always been part of his sumo, and he lost 3 of his last 4 against the likes of Takanosho and Aoiyama. Onosho finishes Haru with a winning record and a special prize. I look forward to him being a harrier to the named ranks in the next basho.
Yutakayama defeats Chiyomaru – Our next Darwin match, “Big Unit” Yutakayama stood up to Chiyomaru’s thrusting attack, and returned it measure for measure. Unable to move that much mass, Yutakayama gave ground and let Chiyomaru’s naturally foward center of gravity do some of the work for him. Risky move for a backward-motion pull down, but Yutakayama made it work. The gumbai went to Chiyomaru, but a monoii reversed that and gave the win to the Yutakayama. He finishes with an 8-7 kachi-koshi, and I am eager to see him join Onosho in being semi-permanent members of the next generation joi-jin.
Tamawashi defeats Tokushoryu – Everyone wanted Hatsu yusho winner Tokushoryu to close out with a win, except for Tamawashi. Tamawashi has been fighting poorly this basho, but managed to overpower Tokushoryu and score his 6th win to finish Haru 6-9.
Okinoumi defeats Kotoshogiku – The final Darwin match was two long serving veterans, who must be starting to think, “I am getting to old for this”. Although Kotoshogiku was able to get his hug-n-chug attack running, his damaged knees cannot support more than a fraction of the attack’s full power. Okinoumi circled away and when Kotoshogiku slipped, Okinoumi followed through and took him to the clay. Okinoumi finishes kachi-koshi at 8-7.
Kiribayama defeats Daieisho – Daieisho came out strong and aggressive, pushing Kiribayama back to the bales in the first 3 steps. Facing an immedate loss, Kiribayama pivoted into a last ditch uwatenage, which found its mark and won the match for Kiribayama. He ends Haru 9-6.
Takarafuji defeats Endo – Takarafuji shut down Endo’s preferred weapon, the left hand frontal grip, and dispatched him shortly after the tachiai. Interesting variation from a rikishi who typically will prolong a match and wear his opponent down. Takarafuji ends with a well deserved 9-6 record, and Endo finishes Haru make-koshi at 7-8.
Shohozan defeats Hokutofuji – A Shohozan henka was only partially effective, but when the two re-engaged, there was a well placed face slap that seemed to distract Hokutofuji at the exact moment Hokutofuji wanted to get his left hand inside. Shohozan showed outstanding mobility and kept Hokutofuji from really setting up much offense, and finished Shohozan with a move to the side and a shove over the bales. Both end Haru with 4-11 records, and badly need to return to Tokyo and regroup.
Takanosho defeats Shodai – I think Takanosho surprised Shodai today. Takanosho had Shodai turned to his side and was pushing from Shodai’s left two steps after the tachiai. From that position, even the best struggle to defend. But Shodai had the sense to try a desperation throw as he was headed out. It failed and the win went to Takanosho, who finishes Haru with a blistering 12-3, and the fighting spirit prize.
Asanoyama defeats Takakeisho – Takakeisho worked hard to keep Asanoyama away from his belt, and for the most part it worked. But all of the time and effort on defense meant the Ozeki generated precious little offense, and he spent the majority of the match reacting to Asanoyama. Asanoyama stayed focused and exploited an awkward step by Takakeisho. The win seems to have clinched his Ozeki promotion while simultaneously sending Takakeisho into make-koshi, and kadoban. Head home and heal up, Grand Tadpole. We await your next tournament. Asanoyama finishes Haru 11-4.
Hakuho defeats Kakuryu – Both had a lot of action in this match, but the defining moment was Kakuryu attempting to change his grip, and Hakuho getting lower than I have seen him in several months and driving forward like some over powered battle crab. I am very happy to see Hakuho can still summon sumo like that at least once a tournament. He finishes Haru 13-2, and takes home his 44th yusho. I think this is the 3rd oldest yusho in history, as Hakuho is 35 years old now, and still able to dominate the sport.
With the Haru basho in the history books, we pause to thank our readers, the Japan Sumo Association, and the sumo work for 15 days of much needed distraction from the increasingly worrisome headlines of the world around us. Against all odds they successfully conducted and completed an intensive event spanning more than 2 weeks in an age of a virulent disease. Nobody got sick (that we know of), and everyone gave it their best in spite of an empty hall that, in the beginning, seemed quite spooky. I am personally quite grateful for the competition, and the spectacle of sumo. Thank you all.