Tokyo July Basho – Day 1 preview

Sumo’s back! Finally! I believe many of us have never been as excited as today, looking forward for the great return of our favorite wrestlers.

The mock Natsu basho, conceived by our colleagues of Grand Sumo Breakdown, has provided us some nice moments while we were waiting, including an unlikely Ishiura run, and Mitakeumi’s eventual triumph.

I believe, however, we have grounds to expect quite different results. Indeed, the mock basho was supposed to fake the May tournament. Rikishi, on the contrary, have been able to have some welcomed rest, and there’s no doubt some of them have taken all benefit of it.

So, first day’s torikumi is up, and brings the promise of an exciting start :

Terunofuji v Kotoyuki. So, the very first makuuchi bout will be the one I’ll expect most! It’s Terunofuji’s long awaited makuuchi return, and it’s fair to say he comes back from hell. If his road back certainly deserves much praise, the final steps almost proved to be stumbling blocks. More worringly, he still practises under painkillers, and it’s doubtful whetever he’ll successfully defend his makuuchi status. He defeated Kotoyuki last time in March; if he manages to avoid Kotoyuki’s early tsuppari attacks, he should edge that one.

Nishikigi v Kotoeko. A bout between two recent demotees to juryo. Nishikigi’s makuuchi has been underwhelming in March, with a 6-9 record that barely allowed him to keep a makuuchi spot. It’ll be their third meeting, and Nishikigi is yet to defeat his smaller opponent. I expect that trend to go on.

Kotoshoho v Chiyomaru. It took just three basho for Kotoshoho to move from juryo debut to makuuchi debut, which will take place this Sunday! Interestingly, he has won his last five basho’s shonichi, but Chiyomaru has done better: that’s eight win in a row during shonichi! From a more practical point of view, Chiyomaru’s experience may well prevail over newbie Kotoshoho.

Kotoshogiku v Wakatakakage. The former ozeki is slowly running out of energy. Furthermore, he struggled against other pixies: 0-2 v Enho, 1-2 v Terutsuyoshi. Remarkably, Wakatakakage is still undefeated in makuuchi, as he went kyujo after a 4-0 record in November of last year. He’ll eventually suffer his first loss, but I do not think this will happen on Sunday.

Takayasu v Kotonowaka. Takayasu’s elbow is still a major concern, although the break might have given him a lift. Kotonowaka had a good 9-6 makuuchi debut, and usually starts decently. I think he’ll edge this one as well.

Sadanoumi v Shohozan. An interesting style opposition between two experienced rikishi. Neither of them has been performing extremely well recently, with just one kachi kochi combined, during the last three basho. I tend to favour Shohozan on that one, and so do the matchups: 10-5 for the veteran.

Shimanoumi v Tochinoshin. The Mie-ken born has been largely disappointing lately, after a bright makuuchi debut in 2019. If Tochinoshin is given time to heal his knees, he still can do wonders. I’m sure he relished the time he has been given to heal, and I expect him to start strongly this basho.

Kaisei v Myogiryu. Another battle between two experienced battlers – they’re both 33. Maegashira 10 is Kaisei’s highest rank for a while, and it’s Myogiryu lowest for a while. Advantage to Myogiryu, who also leads their matchups 11-7.

Tamawashi v Ikioi. Ikioi’s resurgence after his feet troubles is quite impressive. Tamawashi’s sekiwake days, on the opposite, seem to be a century ago. The dynamic is on the Osaka born’s side, despite the matchups favouring the one time yusho winner (11-6).

Ishiura v Chiyotairyu. That should be an interesting matchup. Ishiura has been repeatedly yo-yoing between makuuchi and juryo, but his results have appeared to settle up a bit lately. His larger opponent has left the joi by the end of last year, and will look to regain a place in the upper maegashira spots.

Terutsuyoshi v Tokushoryu. Right after Ishiura, the Isegahama pixie will take another big boy, the surprise yusho winner back in January. It unfortunately appears Terutsuyoshi is suffering from a knee problem, which is likely to hamper his results here. He’ll need to push on his knees if he wants to move heavy opponents like Tokushoryu.

Enho v Ryuden. Enho will to bounce back after the only third make kochi of his young career. So far, Ryuden has not found the key against the last pixie of the day (0-2), although Enho’s last tachi-ai against Ryuden was henka-ish. Will the latter find a way to defeat him, this time ?

Abi v Hokutofuji. An interesting battle between two members of the « komusubi quartet », back in November of last year. If staying in san’yaku has proved too difficult for Hokutofuji (three make kochi), Abi has left the higher ranks after your consecutive appearances due to injury issues. Let’s hope the break has enabled him to fix this, although he has the bad habit of losing on shonichi (just one win over the last nine occurrences !).

Kagayaki v Aoiyama. Kagayaki is definitely on the rise again, after two double digit wins, and a 8-7 tournament in March. After six straight losses to Aoiyama, he finally defeated Big Dan two times, including an oshidashi win in January. I expect Kagayaki to fare well this tournament, although the maegashira 4 spot has been a ceiling glass to him so far.

Daieisho v Kiribayama. I became a massive fan of Kiribayama, who undoubtly benefited of Kakuryu’s advice. But he lacks first division experience, to say the least, and he’ll enter the joi for the very first time of his fledging career. Therefore, I consider the reliable Daieisho to dominate their coming encounter.

Takarafuji v Mitakeumi. If the discreet Takarafuji has granted us a rare pre-basho interview, let’s be clear : his brand of sumo remains defensive, no-nonsense. If it could be useful during Mitakeumi’s regular mid-basho meltdown, he’ll have a hard time containing Mitakeumi’s power. The two time yusho winner should dominate the yotsu zumo debate.

Shodai v Onosho. Not an easy one to call. Their early career was full of promise, and both have largely failed to deliver so far. Shodai is currently trying to establish himself as a sekiwake, if not more. If their matchups is level (2-2), Shodai has started excellently his six last basho, being 2-0 five times, and 1-1 the sixth time. On the contrary, Onosho has lost four of the last five shonichi. The sekiwake has to be touted as the favourite.

Takanosho v Asanoyama. Takanosho has caught the eye with a formidable 12-3 basho in March. If Asanoyama has his ups and downs during a basho, I’m sure he’ll do his best to have a bright ozeki start. He has won their only meeting so far, and I expect him to double his lead.

Takakeisho v Yutakayama. That’s another match where both rikishi’s dynamic are going the opposite way. Yutakayama has rosen quite impressively through the maegashira ranks recently, but will it be enough to defeat the kadoban ozeki ? His lack of san’yaku experience might prove too big a disadvantge against Takakeisho, who desperately needs eight wins, and a good start.

Endo v Kakuryu. Endo seemed to be a big threat to the yokozuna in recent times. After a san’yaku breakthrough, Endo seemed to have lost his way again. Here too, I expect the break to have helped the Mongolian healing his injury troubles. Kakuryu has to win that one.

Hakuho v Okinoumi. The dai-yokozuna is of course the big favorite of that pairing. Let’s not underestimate Okinoumi’s, those solid yostu zumo has provided stern opposition to Hakuho. I expect the Mongolian to edge comfortably that one, nevertheless.

Natsu 2018 Jungyo Newsreel – Day 11

🌐 Location: Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo

takayasu
Welcome back, big bear

The Jungyo made its way back to Tokyo on day 11, and in the middle of a typhoon, took place at the Aoyama university campus in Shibuya, Tokyo.

Tokyo is a convenient places for rikishi to join or leave the Jungyo. Joining today was Ozeki Takayasu – just in time for the next event, which takes place in his home prefecture of Ibaraki.

But though it would have been understandable if he took it easy in Tokyo which served as a convenient convergence point, he decided all of a sudden to go up the dohyo and have san-ban with Asanoyama and Onosho. The results were less than spectacular – at least as far as the Ozeki was concerned:

The Ozeki’s shoulder is still not quite right?

Ah, finally, a win:

So, although he managed 4 wins and 1 loss to Asanoyama, he was completely smashed by Onosho, 3 wins and 12 losses.

In between, Nishikigi-mama and his assistant, Takanosho, wiped what little dirt Takayasu managed to put on Onosho.

Ryuden: “you missed a spot!” :-)

So that was the man joining. But there were also men leaving. First, the whole Arashio gang which went to Suwa lake with Sokokurai disappeared. I thought they were joining to be there in time for Fukushima – especially the two elder Onamis – but no, they just made an appearance on that particular day. Special sponsor request, I guess. Perhaps specifically an Arashio beya sponsor.

But that’s a minor disappearance. The major one was, of course, Hakuho, who announce that he will go kyujo as of the next day. He did make an appearance as usual, and worked out lightly below the dohyo:

hakuho

But he informed the press that his knee was bothering him more than he let on at first. A few days ago he said that his knee was “feeling odd” but “there was no pain”, but today he qualified that to “I’m taking strong painkillers, so there is no pain”. Ouch.

He will be re-examined, and while he expressed his hope that he’ll be able to re-join the Jungyo at some point, he said there was a possibility he’ll need surgery or at least an arthroscopy. This may well mean he’ll be absent from Aki.

The Yokozuna is going to stay at Tokyo, but not with his full entourage. Kasugaryu will be needed to perform the yumi-tori, as there is no backup currently at the Jungyo (Satonofuji stayed home this time). And what will be the fate of our  daily Enho photos?

Hakuho is not the only worry – two notable participants were off the torikumi this day: Takekaze and Goeido. I believe they did participate in the keiko session, but can’t find evidence of any on-dohyo activity of these two.

But the show must go on! Yokozuna Kakuryu is still around, and probably slept at home, so he didn’t have time to get a decent shave in the morning:

unshaven-kakuryu

But later in the day he became pretty to celebrate his birthday – although that’s actually on the 10th. That’s probably because it’s easier to get those cakes in Tokyo:

kakuryu-early-birthday
Soccer cake to celebrate his unofficial soccer analyst position in the recent World Cup?

Aoiyama lent his chest to a lower ranked rikishi (I would guess his tsukebito). Interestingly, his usual bracing is not used for this exercise:

aoiyama-butsukari

Ryuden was using his tsukebito for weight training. Version one:

 

And version two:

The ever rounder Chiyomaru was doing some fansa right before his bout. His brother-come-tsukebito was fanning himself:

chiyomaru-chiyootori

Onosho continued to goof around just before the dohyo-iri, and got a bit of shoulder massage:

So here are some bouts for you:

Kagayaki vs. Ikioi:

Shodai not only serves as padding for the fall but also politely folds Ikioi’s sagari.

With Goeido off the bouts, Takayasu faced yusho winner Mitakeumi. The bout is part of the following news report:

Sigh. Mitakeumi should watch the Hakuho-Tochinoshin bout from Natsu to learn how to deal with tsuri-yori. That leg wriggling – not helpful!

The musubi:

And here is your Enho. I think this photo ranks pretty high on the heart throb Richter scale:

enho

So let’s hope he didn’t leave the Jungyo together with Hakuho…

PS: more synchronized workout by Enho and Tobizaru:

Hatsu Day 1 Highlights

battle formation

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

Highlight Matches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five Interesting Matches on Day 7

 

Things are beginning to get more and more exciting as the midway point of the 2017 Kyushu basho draws closer. With another day of action ahead of us, here are five matches of interest for day 7.

Nishikiki vs. Kagayaki

Sitting right on the line between Makuuchi and Juryo, Maegashira 15 Nishikigi is desperately trying to prolong his time in the top division. He is set to face Kagayaki on day 7, who is also at risk of a return trip to Juryo should he not get his sumo in gear. While Nishikigi may be battling one opponent this Saturday, Kagayaki is facing two, as the young rikishi from Kanazawa is constantly fighting his own poor balance. Kagayaki leads their series 4 to 3.

Asanoyama vs. Myogiryu

The Asanoyama we all remembered from Aki finally showed up today and delivered a commanding performance against Aminishiki. While it was disappointing to watch everyone’s favorite uncle take his first loss, I’m sure many were relieved to see the promising young rikishi halt his four-day losing skid. Asanoyama’s day 7 opponent will be Myogiryu, who has also been struggling to collect wins in Fukuoka this basho.

Kaisei vs. Chiyomaru

Those of you averse to ample fields of sweaty back hair may want to give this match a pass. The only thing Chiyomaru has been consistent with this basho is his inconsistency. The rotund rikishi has flip-flopped between winning and losing every day and can expect his fourth loss tomorrow if he continues to follow this pattern. His rival for Saturday, Kaisei, is having a somewhat better basho and comes into day 7 with four wins.

Takarafuji vs. Shodai

Early in the basho, it was looking like we would finally see a bit of the Shodai who took the sumo world by storm in 2016. He’s since fallen back into his old habits and suffered a third consecutive loss yesterday in a one-sided bout against Daieisho. Tomorrow he meets Takarafuji, who managed to bring his win-loss ratio back to 50% with a day 6 victory over Chiyonokuni. Shodai needs to figure out his sumo, and soon, or he risks another make-koshi, while Takarafuji is probably just glad Ishiura is down in Juryo untying other mens’ mawashi.

Tamawashi vs. Mitakeumi

Tamawashi really wants back in the San’yaku, and I mean really! The former Sekiwake brought his A-game to his day 6 match with Yoshikaze and must have peeled a few layers of skin off the veteran brawler’s face with his blistering tsuppari attacks. Tamawashi takes on Mitakeumi tomorrow, who may be the worse for wear despite winning his bout with Onosho on Friday. Mitakeumi appears to have hurt his leg after landing on the stadium floor and was limping as he made his way back on to the dohyo. Tomorrow’s match will be a good indicator of just how serious this leg injury is. Mitakeumi leads their series 8-1.