Osaka Day 15 Highlights

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.

Highlight Matches

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.

Osaka Day 14 Preview

The evolution of sumo demands Darwin matches. Lots and lots of Darwin matches…

It’s the final weekend of the Haru Basho, and as odd as it has been to have nobody in the stands, I must say, as the world has gone progressively more crazy, shutting down everything, how glad I am to still have sumo to watch. The weekend promises to be sort of spectacular, with a possibly multi-way challenge for the cup on the final day, and a really disturbing number of Darwin matches. If you have not read lksumo’s write ups of the story lines or the yusho race, go check them out now.

I am going to be very interested to see what the ratings are (in Japan) for this basho. Much as in the US and the EU, all sports have been shut down as the world holds its breath and hopes they don’t start to cough. With nothing else to follow, I suspect that sumo’s numbers will be up dramatically, and just maybe that will help some people re-connect with Japan’s national sport. For fans who have been urging the NSK to throttle back on the intensity and duration of the jungyo regional tour, the jungyo following the Haru Basho has been called off or at least delayed until next year. Following senshuraku (and no senshuraku parties, I am told), the stables will return to Tokyo. For the top men of sumo, that’s 6 weeks of sequestered training, rather than a grueling tour of Japan. We don’t know what will happen for the May / Natsu basho, but given that Osaka seems to have worked, they may conduct the next tournament in the same way. If so, most of the world will be 10 weeks into societal disruption of some level, and it will be wonderful to see the ranks of the top division come together for a brutal 15 days of sumo, fresh from 6 weeks of non-stop training.

What We Are Watching Day 14

Kotonowaka vs Nishikigi – After opening strong, Kotonowaka has lost his last 4, and just can’t seem to cross the kachi-koshi line. He had better win today, or it’s Darwin time for him. He won the only prior match with already make-koshi Nishikigi.

Ishiura vs Meisei – What a position. If Meisei loses today, it’s make-koshi time, and likely a trip on the Juryo demotion barge. If he wins, it’s into the hell of a day 15 Darwin match. He holds a 3-1 career lead over Ishiura.

Shimanoumi vs Ikioi – The converse for this match—if Shimanoumi wins, he reaches the safety of kachi-koshi, and if he loses, it’s Darwin for him as well. Though he won the only prior match with Ikioi, the Osaka native is looking fairly genki, so hold on tight, this one could get rough.

Chiyotairyu vs Kotoshogiku – Oh and the brutality continues! Winner of today’s match is kachi-koshi, loser goes into the Darwin pool for day 15. Now Kotoshogiku holds a 16-2 advantage over Chiyotairyu, and he seems to have found some magic knee grease to keep what’s left of his patellas moving. Chiyotairyu has about 3 seconds at the tachiai to take care of business, and after that I am sure the Kyushu Bulldozer will lower the blade.

Chiyomaru vs Terutsuyoshi – Can you sense a theme here? Winner: kachi-koshi, Loser: DARWIN! As a bonus it’s the spherical Chiyomaru vs the Isegahama mobile attack platform, Terutsuyoshi. Whose sumo will reign supreme? (Oh, sorry – this is not kitchen stadium…)

Azumaryu vs Tochiozan – They had to slide the battle of the damned in here somewhere, so let’s take a look at a couple of sad cases of violent, explosive demotion. Tochiozan could very well end up being the skipper of the Juryo barge. And I don’t see how he can prevent Azumaryu throwing him overboard to try to save his own Maegashira 16 self. [Note: this is Azumaryu’s 7th basho ranked in the top division. He sat out one, and finished make-koshi in each of the other 6, including the current one. Twice, he dodged demotion with a 7-8 record, most recently in January. -lksumo]

Shohozan vs Sadanoumi – It’s another game of “Blow the man down” as fellow grizzled veteran Shohozan takes on water. He holds a 10-4 career advantage over Sadanoumi and his speed sumo. But right now Shohozan is lacking quite a bit, probably due to injuries, and I worry he is gone from the top division after the next tournament.

Daiamami vs Tamawashi – In still more demotion follies, it’s Daiamami on the bubble for Juryo in this match, as already make-koshi Tamawashi works to muster enough genki to send the Oitekaze man into exile in the junior division. This is a first-time match between the two, so who knows what kind of fight they will choose.

Enho vs Myogiryu – Have you had enough brutality yet? No, you have not! Because here comes another. Myogiryu is already in the double-digit-loss column, and he’s headed south in a big way. No, not onto the Juryo barge, but he’s going to be able to see Juryo from where he ends up. Enho will probably use his high-mobility sumo this time, and may end the tournament 7-8. I have to wonder if he has some injury.

Yutakayama vs Tochinoshin – A Yutakayama win today, and he’s kachi-koshi. A loss and he joins the ranks of the Darwin meat grinder. Tochinoshin is already make-koshi, and clearly in a bunch of pain along with having mobility and power problems. So I am going to guess that the “Big Unit” is going to get his first win over the former Ozeki today.

Takanosho vs Mitakeumi – Yes! It’s the first of our big matches! Both are 10-3, both are fighting very well, and only one of them can exit with their 11th win. If its Mitakeumi, the Ozeki talk may start up again. He certainly has shown better sumo than injured Takakeisho, and sumo really needs like 3 more Ozeki. But then there is Takanosho. This guy really has over-performed this March, and I hope it’s the shape of things to come.

Okinoumi vs Kiribayama – And yet again – Winner is kachi-koshi, loser joins the Darwin crew for day 15. It’s going to be a blood bath of epic proportions Sunday, yes indeed. This is a first-time match, so some guesswork will be required by both rikishi as far as tactics to use. I expect Okinoumi to dive inside and try to get his favorite grip, and Kiribayama to try and stay mobile.

Kaisei vs Tokushoryu – Will kachi-koshi Kaisei take pity on the Hatsu yusho winner? I am not suggesting match fixing, but Tokushoryu is already at double digit losses, and these two have some history together (9-3 advantage Kaisei).

Daieisho vs Ryuden – Daieisho needs a win to avoid joining the Darwin crew on day 15. He’s up against make-koshi Ryuden, who has lost 5 out of the last 6 matches. Ouch!

Hokutofuji vs Kagayaki – Hokutofuji, who is also suspected of nursing some form of injury, is already at double-digit losses, and will be trebuchet’d down the banzuke with a resounding, fleshy thud. But if he drops into the double-digits of Maegashira land, and can recover his health, he is going to be an absolute terror in the next tournament. If Kagayaki wins – a nice kachi-koshi for March. If he loses to Cap’n Stompy – that’s right, MOAR DARWIN!

Abi vs Endo – Abi beat the stuffing out of Shodai on day 13, only to find that he was mostly made of sawdust and burlap moments before the golem of Shodai hurled him down. That would be enough to shake any man to his soul, but he’s going to try to give Endo the business today. Yeah, Endo has a one track mind of that right hand frontal mawashi grip. But if Abi can breath some life into the embers of his sumo, its… MOAR DARWIN FOR ENDO! Abi holds a 7-2 career advantage.

Takarafuji vs Shodai – Takarafuji is already kachi-koshi, and he’s really done a solid job of earning it this tournament. But how far does he want to run up the score? At Maegashira 7, he’s already a candidate for the joi-jin. If he beats Shodai, he’s going to be in the thick of it next time. If Shodai wins today, he’s going home with a well deserved 8th win, and a retention of his Sekiwake rank. If not, well… its… DARWIN TIME!

Takakeisho vs Onosho – Readers know I have been looking forward to this match for over a year. Yes, I had to wait to the penultimate day to get my tadpole battle Royale, but here it is. I just wish that Takakeisho were in better condition. They are tied 2-2 across their career, but I am going to guess that Takakeisho takes Onosho apart, which means the Ozeki gets to play with the Darwin troopers. A loss and he is kadoban.

Hakuho vs Aoiyama – A word to Big Dan Aoiyama. Fire up the V-Twin and open the throttle. Yes, the boss is probably going to put you on the clay, but ride this one out hard and fast. Give him everything in your powerful, moving forward style. It’s what the fans want to see, and you just might get the job done.

Asanoyama vs Kakuryu – High-stakes match. A win here and I am going to guess that Asanoyama becomes worthy of consideration for Ozeki. Even though the discussed number is 12 (and it should be), the NSK may look at the banzuke and decide they need another Ozeki, stat. He has beaten Kakuryu before, so it’s possible. But Kakuryu of Haru 2020 is a focused, forceful Yokozuna who has ample skill and power to deal with this upstart from Toyama.

Osaka Day 11 Highlights

It’s time to start worrying about Ozeki Takakeisho. Clearly whatever is happening on that left leg is getting worse, and he’s looking more likely to be kadoban for the next basho, which we hope will be in May. With only one Ozeki remaining, and likely to be kadoban, it will likely be an influence into the question of Asanoyama’s promotion to sumo’s second highest rank. Sadly for the sumo world, it is likely that Asanoyama is not quite ready for the rank, and there are really no other candidates who are showing any kind of consistency in their sumo.

I also expect there to be similar consideration for the Yokozuna, there are really no candidates for promotion to sumo’s highest rank, and both of the current Yokozuna are getting toward the end of their careers. But if Hakuho’s day 11 performance is any indication, at least one of them is showing no lack of vigor when the mood suits him.

Highlight Matches

Aoiyama defeats Kotonowaka – Big Dan retains his share of the tournament lead with a resounding defeat of Kotonowaka. Kotonowaka had a couple of solid face attacks, but that only got Aoiyama fired up, and the V-Twin went to work. I was impressed that Kotonowaka had the ring sense to circle and deflect quite effectively for a while.

Kotoshogiku defeats Chiyomaru – Welcome back Chiyomaru! But Kotoshogiku had your number today, the Kyushu Bulldozer blasted straight through Chiyomaru’s initial tsuppari attack, grabbed him around the chest and powered forward. Kotoshogiku improves to 6-5.

Ikioi defeats Daiamami – Daiamami had the better of the tachiai, and a brief ottsuke battle ensued. A failed advance from Daiamami, and it was a stalemate in the center of the dohyo, which ended with Ikioi swinging Daiamami out for the win. Ikioi improves to 6-5.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Azumaryu – Terutsuyoshi seems to have surprised Azumaryu, driving inside and getting a fight hand inside position. As Azumaryu was adjusting to defense, Terutsuyoshi advanced strongly and drove Azumaryu over the bales. Terutsuyoshi improves to 6-5.

Kaisei defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu did a great job of getting inside, and applying force to Kaisei’s chest. But Kaisei shoved Chiyotairyu away, and dove in for the grip. Finding a left hand outside, it was time for another episode of Newtonian Sumo, this time against an extremely large opponent. Both men exit day 11 with 7-4 records, well on their way to well deserved kachi-koshi.

Meisei defeats Sadanoumi – Great side step and deflect move by Meisei in the opening moments of the match brought him behind Sadanoumi, and it was an easy push out for the win. Sadanoumi picks up his 8th loss and is make-koshi for March.

Takanosho defeats Ishiura – Takanosho continues to dominate, but I really thought Ishiura had a great tachiai. But his gambit of using straight ahead sumo met Takanosho’s power and strength, and was found lacking. Takanosho improves to 9-2.

Kiribayama defeats Nishikigi – Grim match for Nishikigi, he was high at the tachiai, stumbled past Kiribayama, and immediately found himself in his opponent’s bear-hug. With triumphant force, Kiribayama slammed him to the clay. Nishikigi picks up his 8the loss and is make-koshi.

Shimanoumi defeats Shohozan – Shohozan continues to have absolutely no power this March, and finds himself outclassed by Shimanoumi. This is quite uncharacteristic for Shohozan, whose upper body strength is epic, when he is healthy. Shimanoumi improves to 6-5.

Tochiozan defeats Tamawashi – It seems no matter how hurt or in pain Tochiozan might be, he’s always got a mug full of smack down for Tamawashi. It was a simple “stand him up and throw him down” affair, but it was enough for Tochiozan’s first win of the basho.

Tochinoshin defeats Kagayaki – Well, that was quite the henka from the former Ozeki. He executes a couple of them every tournament now that he is walking wounded. Really a big let down to me as I wanted to see Tochinoshin battle Mr Fundamentals, but I understand.

Yutakayama defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji’s “Defend and Extend” sumo could not contain Yutakayama, who seems to be really back in his pre-injury form now. Take a look at Yutakayama’s ottsuke! His foot position is less than optimum, but I am going to assume he can get that worked out. Now if we could just graft Yutakayama’s upper body on Kagayaki from the hips down…

Enho defeats Tokushoryu – Hatsu yusho winner Tokushoryu continues to suffer, and Enho fans rejoice as he staves off make-koshi another day. Enho even let Tokushoryu do most of the work, with a perfectly timed side step at the tawara.

Okinoumi defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu opened strong with a series of attacks to Okinoumi’s face, but it left him high and a bit off balance. Okinoumi used the opening to get a left hand inside position, and got the yorikiri. Okinoumi improves to 6-5.

Mitakeumi defeats Daieisho – This match was all Daieisho until somehow Mitakeumi made his enormous tadpole body more or less vanish at the tawara as Daieisho lunged forward to finish him off. That was one hell of a move, and I am sure Daieisho was wonder “where did he go?”. I had to watch it on slow motion a few times myself, and marvel at Mitakeumi’s exquisite foot work and timing. Mitakeumi improves to 9-2.

Endo defeats Onosho – Master sumo technician Endo dismantles the Red Tadpole with uncanny awareness of Onosho’s attempt to pull. In fact, it seems Endo may have known he was going to do it even before Onosho did. Perfectly replaced to avoid Onosho’s attack, Endo used the mistake to drive Onosho from the ring for the win. Both men leave the dohyo with 6-5 records on day 11.

Asanoyama defeats Ryuden – Ryuden make Asanoyama work for that right hand inside position, shutting it down at the tachiai. But once Asanoyama set up shop, he caught Ryuden with his feet out of position, and with no defense. Asanoyama continues to move towards Ozeki consideration, but I worry that his sumo is still very narrow right now. It’s excellent sumo, but he may struggle as Ozeki until / unless he diversifies a bit.

Abi defeats Takakeisho – Takakeisho gets his arms out early, to grab Abi’s hands as they move to their first attack. A worthwhile gambit, and it works for a bit, giving Takakeisho the inside position and clear range to attack Abi’s body with his thrusting attack. But Takakeisho can’t make the timing work, and Abi masterfully resets, and lays down volley after volley against Takakeisho, driving him from the ring. Both end the match at 5-6.

Kakuryu defeats Shodai – As predicted, Shodai put up a strong effort, but it was all Kakuryu. The Yokozuna looked very strong and focused today, and given the worrisome state of the lone Ozeki, I think all talk of pressuring him to retire is off the table for the rest of the year.

Hakuho defeats Hokutofuji – I am sure Hakuho was really upset with himself after day 10. He decided to toy with Onosho, and found that the Red Tadpole has quite the bite. Today he showed what kind of power he has when he is focused, intense and absolutely looking to win with overwhelming power. Hokutofuji is well north of 150 kg, but he was ejected in moments by Hakuho’s opening attack.

Osaka Day 10 Preview

Image of Itadaki’s Amazing Hand-Made Bento Shamelessly Stolen From The NSK’s Twitter Feed, To Whom We Sincerely Apologize.

Hey! We made it to day 10! The closing day of act 2, and the act 2 mojo has been quite strong. Act 2 is where we narrow the field to find out who has what it takes to compete for the yusho, and to start sorting the survivors from the damned. It’s clear that Hakuho, whatever his aches and pains may be, is still the greatest living rikishi, and perhaps the greatest ever. He is undefeated at 9-0, and the only rikishi 1 loss behind are ranked far down the banzuke. Suffice it to day, I think we are looking at a Hakuho yusho.

We are awaiting with eager anticipation the results of Chiyomaru’s COVID-19 test results, which we expect at some point on Tuesday. Should he test positive, that will be the end of a foreshortened Haru basho. What does that mean for the yusho, the May banzuke, and everything else? Nobody knows for sure, and I would guess that if we ever get that far, the sumo kyokai will decide what to do. There is no real precident for this sort of thing, and that is enough to make any Japanese organization quite uncomfortable.

Haru Leaderboard

Leader: Hakuho
Chasers: Takanosho, Aoiyama
Hunt Group: Kakuryu, Asanoyama, Mitakeumi, Ishiura, Kotonowaka

6 matches remain

What We Are Watching Day 10

Kotoyuki vs Daiamami – Hey sumo fans, guess who is back? None other than “The Penguin” Kotoyuki! He was on a rather impressive run of sumo until he got injured just before Hatsu, and dropped from Maegashira 3 all the way down to Juryo 1. He is back to visit for a match against 4-5 Daiamami, but Kotoyuki’s sumo is looking poorly again.

Kotoshogiku vs Azumaryu – The 5-4 Kyushu Bulldozer mounts the dohyo again today to push toward his 8. Frankly, I am really impressed that Kotoshogiku can continue to lay down winning sumo in spite of his injuries. The only prior match went to Azumaryu, but given the fact that Azumaryu is not fighting so well, it is probably an even fight.

Shimanoumi vs Aoiyama – Aoiyama hit his 8th win on Monday, and now it’s all down to him running up the score. As we have seen throughout his history in sumo, Big Dan is not one to back off the throttle just because he is kachi-koshi.

Ishiura vs Kaisei – Henka complaints aside, Ishiura has been doing very well this basho, and in fact there is a good chance he can reach kachi-koshi today, if I can prevent the massive Kaisei from invoking the icon of all massive objects in motion—Isaac Newton. Should Ishiura fail to get out of Kaisei’s way, there are few forces short of Ichinojo that can slow him down. Stay nimble!

Meisei vs Ikioi – Yeah, sure, Meisei holds a 2-0 record, but does anyone think that Meisei has any mojo right now? I think he has laid in a course for make-koshi, as is proceeding at full impulse.

Kotonowaka vs Terutsuyoshi – A win today gives Kotonowaka his 8th, and the glory of the kachi-koshi interview. Say, ever wondered what would happen if there were a make-koshi interview? Get Raja Pradhan to do it, they give him all of the terrible jobs.

Nishikigi vs Tochiozan – I can’t belive it, but there is a solid chance that Nishikigi will be able to dodge make-koshi for another day. The exquisitely skilled Tochiozan is a walking bandage right now, and I would not expect him to do much if anything with vigor.

Shohozan vs Tochinoshin – Say, lets take two really strong rikishi, make sure they are really hurt, and watch them fight. No, that’s not theoretical, that happens day 10 (again) as we see the battle-damaged former Ozeki Tochinoshin take on the relic of “Big Guns” Shohozan. A Shohozan loss today means make-koshi, which we all know is coming, but we just don’t know when.

Chiyotairyu vs Kiribayama – A first time meeting between Chiyotairyu and Natsu basho kanto-sho winner, Kiribayama. Is he, at his relatively feather weight (94 kg vs 166.8 kg), ready for the overwhelming, thunderous tachiai? Word to Kiribayama, the occasional henka is not only useful, it can be amusing to the fans.

Takarafuji vs Takanosho – Another first-time match. We get to see the kachi-koshi Takanosho encounter the “defend and extend” sumo of Takarafuji. Takanosho is a straight-ahead yorikiri kind of guy, so I am really keen to see what happens when Takarafuji invites him to go chest to chest, but makes sure there is nothing he can do with it.

Sadanoumi vs Tamawashi – Both of these rikishi seem to be setting course for the same make-koshi system that Meisei is headed to at full impulse. Both are high-skill, capable rikishi who just seem to be having a stinker of a tournament. A Tamawashi loss today would be his 8th, which, given Sadanoumi’s 9-3 career advantage, may be the outcome.

Yutakayama vs Kagayaki – Oh, now this one looks tasty! Yutakayama really gave Takakeisho the business on day 9. For his longterm followers, it was not really out of character, but I am going to watch what he does with Kagayaki. They have split their prior 8 matches, so this is a great bell-weather bout on whether Yutakayama is doing better than his normal level.

Okinoumi vs Tokushoryu – Can Tokushoryu come back from 2-7 to rescue a kachi-koshi at Maegashira 2? Most unlikely, but given that his sumo fundamentals are strong (if narrow), and he has a toolkit of winning moves, it’s just possible. The more likely outcome is that veteran Okinoumi rides him like a hoppy toy around the edge of the dohyo before sending him on a jog around where the spectators should be for his 8th loss.

Daieisho vs Abi – I think Abi is still injured from Hatsu, and his double arm attack is still front and center in his sumo, but that sore knee means he lacks the stable platform to give his double arm thrust sufficient power to overwhelm his opponents. On top of that, Daieisho is on a hot streak, winning his last 6 in a row.

Hokutofuji vs Myogiryu – Loser gets make-koshi, that’s really all you need to know here.

Mitakeumi vs Endo – Mitakeumi unleashed an uwatedashinage on Endo in their January match, handing him his 3rd consecutive loss in the middle of the basho. If Mitakeumi can repeat that performance, it will be his 8th win, and a well deserved kachi-koshi for March. Endo seems to have hit a dead spot, losing 2 of his last 3.

Asanoyama vs Enho – Asanoyama is on a narrow path to an Ozeki promotion bid, and he needs quality wins to even get serious consideration. A loss to Enho on day 10 would most likely shut down the hype train for March, and cause him to try again next basho, whenever that happens.

Takakeisho vs Shodai – Fans should consign themselves to the very real possibility that Takakeisho will be kadoban following March. It’s pretty obvious he has an injury, and he’s just gamberizing as hard as he can. He holds a 7-3 career lead over Shodai, but right now Shodai is fighting better than Takakeisho is. The Ozeki needs 3 of his last 6 to make his 8, a tough climb for a man in pain.

Hakuho vs Onosho – This is some sort of twisted nod to Onosho’s fightback to the top ranks of sumo. He has finally completed his quest to return to the highest levels of competition, as he faces the dai-Yokozuna on day 10. True, Hakuho has and likely will mop the dohyo with him, but… what an honor!

Ryuden vs Kakuryu – In the “time to take your lumps” bucket with Onosho, it’s Ryuden’s turn to face Kakuryu. Ryuden is more aggressive, and I would love to see him unleash something unexpected and dangerous before Kakuryu shuts him down and sends him flying.