Natsu Day 14 Highlights

The-Boulder

Great day of sumo… Our operatives inside the Kokugikan report that the Great Cat himself was well pleased with today’s activities, and blessed sumo fans with some fantastic matches. Find a way to watch all of day 14.

Nagoya has enormous potential, given today’s results. I will discuss more in the day 15 preview. The Natsu yusho is for Kakuryu to lose now, and his sumo was absolutely amazing today. Many sumo fans had dismissed Kakuryu in the prior year, perhaps thinking he was lazy, or would rather not compete. His style of sumo is rather unique, and it’s quite difficult to watch at times. Many fans want to see an all out, guns blazing battle. Where the best attack wins. Sometimes, the best attack is not to try and overpower your opponent, but rather to keep your opponent from winning. It’s somewhat alien in western sports, but it’s amazing to see Kakuryu use it with such great effect.

In Juryo, we are indeed going to have a final day barnyard brawl for the yusho. There are 3 Juryo rikishi with 11 wins at the end of day 14: Onosho, Kotoeko and Tsurugisho. I urge you to find and watch Kotoeko’s day 14 match – because he is bringing that kind of sumo to Makuuchi in Nagoya.

Highlight Matches

Ishiura defeats Kyokutaisei – Ishiura wins doing actual sumo. This is noteworthy.

Aoiyama defeats Daiamami – A large man oshi-matsuri, with Aoiyama once again focusing on his opponents head. This is not really working for him, and then he decides, “Yeah, let’s put some force center-mass!”, and shifts to Daiamami’s chest. Hey! Look, out goes Daiamami! Aoiyama gets his 8th win and his kachi-koshi.

Chiyonokuni defeats Tochiozan – Chiyonokuni takes it to 11, and hands Tochiozan his make-koshi. I would guess we may see Chiyonokuni pick up a special prize, and that would be his first! If he can stay this genki, he is going to be a lot of fun in Nagoya.

Takakeisho defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu having a great basho, but Takakeisho seems to have snapped back into his sumo finally, and he’s on a mission. I am so eager now for Nagoya, as Takakeisho will be in the top half of the banzuke, Onosho will be back, and it’s going to be tadpole time.

Yoshikaze defeats Nishikigi – First match resulted in a monoii, and a re-match. Second match was a clear Yoshikaze win. It’s still possible for him to pick up a kachi-koshi on the final day, when his opponent will be Abi. That, dear readers, could be a wild and chaotic match.

Kagayaki defeats Asanoyama – Asanoyama failed to get his kachi-koshi today, and will have to hope for a win on the final day. Kagayaki continues to execute solid, basic sumo, and has been winning with it. Any hopes Kagayaki has for double digits are going to be tempered by his final day bout against Chiyonokuni. Yikes!

Aminishiki defeats Ryuden – Ryuden (now 2-12) in a world of hurt with the Nagoya banzuke now, as Uncle Sumo uncorks some kind of magic genki sauce and blasts him out of the ring after some preliminary struggle. As always, the crowd in the Kokugikan goes nuts whenever Aminishiki is on the dohyo, and goes double nuts when he wins.

Sadanoumi defeats Chiyomaru – Sadanoumi somehow survives a really powerful osha-battle with Chiyomaru to pick up his kachi-koshi. To me it looks like Chiyomaru had a tough time getting into basho mode, and is struggling with his sumo. Maybe a bit too much mass from the bulbous one? Sadanoumi lands his 8th win and can take comfort in his kachi-koshi.

Shohozan defeats Daieisho – This one was another in a series of Shohozan brawls disguised as sumo matches. Both men were going for some kind of painful death grip on the other, and the winning move was a nicely executed watashikomi thigh trip. Shohozan can still finish kachi-koshi if he wins day 15.

Tamawashi defeats Ikioi – Tamawashi switches to freight-train / densha michi mode and runs Ikioi down the tracks, improving to 7-7 going into the final day.

Kotoshogiku defeats Kaisei – Kotoshogiku kachi-koshi!!! The two go chest to chest straight away, and the enormous mass of Kaisei is clearly near the limit for the Kyushu Bulldozer. But he revs up, engages his tracks and lowers his blade.

Shodai defeats Mitakeumi – What the hell Shodai? Again, his mechanics are abysmal, but his instincts are dead on. Big outcome of this match may be the fact that Shodai seems to have crushed Mitakeumi’s right ankle when they both went to cuddle the kita-kata shimpan.

Kakuryu defeats Tochinoshin – Watch this match, maybe a few times. Tochinoshin really puts a lot into this match, and Kakuryu does some of his best “Big K Sumo” ever. Kakuryu is a reactive sumo expert. His plan is to stalemate Tochinoshin until he makes some kind of mistake, and then use that mistake to finish him. Tochinoshin immediately goes to land his left, and Kakuryu shuts that down, opting for a palm to the face. Tochinoshin tries to go left again, and gets a bit of a grip, but Kakuryu shifts his hips and denies him leverage. Tochinoshin now has a double outside grip on Kakuryu’s loose mawashi, and can’t find a way to keep the Yokozuna from shifting around, robbing Tochinoshin of his ability to lift and shift (his primary weapon). Kakuryu is deep double inside, and leaning in at 45 degrees, stalemate for the Georgian Ozeki hopeful. Tochinoshin tries to pull out a leg trip, but Kakuryu is too far back for the trip, shifting his hips again as Tochinoshin is now dangerously unbalanced. Kakuryu advances, and Tochinoshin tries to pivot for a throw, further impeding his defensive stance, Kakuryu has his opening now, raises his foot and pops a trip against Tochinoshin’s left knee (the good one), and collapses the Georgian at the tawara. Holy smokes! What a match!

Ichinojo defeats Hakuho – Sumo fans could have ended their day with the Kakuryu v Tochinoshin match with satisfaction, but the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan had one last treat in store for us. The Boulder squared off against the dai-Yokozuna, but this was not the passive version of Ichinojo today. Huge, powerful and motivated, Hakuho, who is clearly not quite at full power, had his hands full with 500 pounds of pony tossing, ice cream eating behemoth. Hakuho unleashed a pair of his usually disruptive moves at the outset, but Ichinojo must have gone into the match with the intent to endure the Yokozuna’s initial attacks however he could. It seems he wanted to play a longer game. With Hakuho’s initial gambits exhausted, they spent a moment leaning chest to chest in the center of the dohyo. As Ichinojo moved to advance, Hakuho timed a weight shift to load a throw against Ichinojo. Ichinojo sensed the Yokozuna shifting for leverage, and took advantage of it, pivoting into the uwatenage as the Yokozuna went to the clay. Kokugikan erupts, cushions fly and it’s ice cream and ponies for everyone.

Natsu Day 9 Preview

Natsu Day 9

After last night’s marathon live-blogging session, most of the Tachiai team is rightfully tired and looking for an early bed. But first, let’s discuss the matches that will happen day 9 in Tokyo while the US portion of the crew is tucked into their beds.

With two days remaining in act 2, the one remaining goal for the scheduling team is to get Tochinoshin to pick up at least one loss. They also would like to get (as lksumo points out) a loss or two onto Chiyonokuni and Daishomaru. The ideal situation would be a three-way tie between Hakuho, Kakuryu and Tochinoshin going into or shortly after the start of act 3. This would drive some excitement, and some ratings. The difficulty being that for the moment, Tochinoshin is the most genki of the whole Makuuchi division.

Normally one could place their trust in Hakuho as the ultimate governor of who wins and loses, but his sumo is off at the moment. Many fans are speculating like mad as to why, but you need to look no further than the recent death of his father, and the disruption to his family life and emotional state.

Natsu Leaderboard

Leader – Tochinoshin
ChasersKakuryu, Hakuho, Daishomaru, Chiyonokuni
Hunt Group – Shodai, Kotoshogiku, Ikioi, Daishomaru, Kyokutaisei, Myogiryu

7 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 9

Onosho vs Aminishiki – As we expected, Onosho is making a visit to Makuuchi to fill a gap left by Endo’s kyujo. It’s also likely the case that he is going to be back in the top division for July. Poor Uncle Sumo is in terrible shape right now, and likely to pick up his make-koshi against Onosho.

Ishiura vs Nishikigi – As the lowest ranked man in the top division, Nishikigi needs nothing less than a kachi-koshi to remain a Maegashira. Today’s match is tough luck for him, as he has a 7-4 deficit when facing off against Ishiura. Nishikigi needs 3 more wins out of the remaining 7 to hold on.

Takekaze vs Chiyonokuni – Takekaze seems to be fading fairly rapidly, and has not really had much sumo this tournament. He is still at 4-4, so it’s possible he could pick up enough wins to keep out of Juryo. Takekaze is highly evasive, where Chiyonokuni is direct and violent. The veteran holds a 5-3 career advantage over Chyonokuni.

Aoiyama vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki has never won against Aoiyama, but for this basho, Aoiyama is clearly hurt, and Kagayaki is fighting in possibly his best form ever. If there was a chance to start correcting that 0-5 losing streak against Aoiyama, day 9 looks like it could be the day.

Takakeisho vs Chiyomaru – I think this one will be a blast. We have the near constant motion of Takakeisho against the bulbous Chiyomaru, who showed on day 8 that he actually has some decent sumo chops against Okinoumi. Takakeisho has won 3 of their 4 prior meetings.

Hokutofuji vs Takarafuji – Notable to me in that Hokutofuji seems to be getting some sense of his sumo back together, and may actually offer some kind of challenge to Takarafuji who has been struggling this tournament with rikishi who tend to stay low. Hokutofuji has a long way to go to recover to the kind of genki he was last year, but his fans believe he has it in him.

Chiyotairyu vs Ikioi – This match is more even than it may seem. Ikioi has been fighting above his recent average during Osaka and Natsu. Ikioi delivered a winning hatakikomi, and I think he will find a way to overcome Chiyotairyu’s cannon ball tachiai and win again.

Abi vs Kaisei – This one seems just for fun, as I am going to guess that unless Abi applies some force behind his long-arm tsuppari, it’s going to come down to Kaisei’s mighty bulk as the deciding factor. They have split their two other matches, so it’s anyone’s guess. I know Abi is having a fun time regardless.

Tochinoshin vs Daieisho – Tochinoshin needs just three more, and I am guessing that his 3-1 career advantage over Daieisho means he’s going to likely get one of them today. Daieisho did surprise Goeido, but I doubt he will be able to overcome Tochinoshin.

Ichinojo vs Goeido – If my guess that Goeido is having ankle problems again is correct, he won’t have much resistance to whatever Ichinojo brings to the early portion of the match. Goeido’s only hope is to use his favorite and best tuned offense – speed. Rapid movement is not an Ichinojo aspect.

Kotoshogiku vs Hakuho – Hakuho leads the series 53-6. I am going to say 54-6 shortly. Kotoshogiku is looking better this basho than he has in some time, and Hakuho looking rough and chaotic. But I still think “The Boss” will dispatch the Kyushu Bulldozer. Maybe not cleanly, but effectively.

Kakuryu vs Shodai – The career record favors Kakuryu 7-0, so he is clearly likely to win this one. But Shodai has been getting his opponents to more or less defeat themselves somehow this tournament. Perhaps some kind of Jedi mind trick. So there’s a small chance he my find a way to get Kakuryu to do himself in, and I will be eagerly watching the final match of the day.

Natsu Day 5 Highlights

Endo-Badge

With Act 1 in the books now, we can start to look forward to Act 2, where we sort the strong from the struggling, and a lot of hopes and dreams get crushed. While it may seem brutal to put it that way, each basho is a clean slate, and each rikishi has a chance to be completely different than the time before, if they have the means to do so. I would say the biggest surprise for me thus far is Shodai. How or why Shodai is 5-0 at the end of act 1 is a complete mystery to me, but I congratulate him on the effort and the achievement. I have always maintained the man has seeds of greatness within him, if he could just fix some of the mechanics of his sumo.

A close second place would be Ikioi. He was a force of nature in Osaka, in spite of what looked like the kind of injuries that might require hospitalization. Nope! He’s at it again. He has one loss but he is in “badass” mode every day. Today he dismantled Kotoshogiku in a wild “kitchen sink” match that delighted and entertained. I swear he has decided that playing it safe is no way to close out a sumo career, and he’s just going to throw caution to the winds and fight like a angry swan. For those of you who have never had a swan attack you, let me tell you, don’t try it.

Highlight Matches

Aminishiki defeats Takekaze – Uncle sumo finally wins one. It has been awesome to see him battle his way back up to Makuuchi once again, but he’s a poor broken fellow with more courage than fortitude remaining.

Aoiyama defeats Nishikigi – The giant Bulgarian wins by getting an armpit grip on Nishikigi and forcing him out. It’s painful watching Aoiyama fight, as it’s clear he is in a bunch of pain, but pushing to keep himself in the top division. Nishikigi’s position is even more precarious, so any loss must be a worry for him.

Tochiozan defeats Asanoyama – Asanoyama, featuring a massive elbow bandage, had the initiative for the bulk of this match. Tochiozan, to his credit, waited for an opportunity. Asanoyama continued to thrust against Tochiozan’s chest but eventually went off balance, and Tochiozan converted that quickly into a win. Experience pays.

Chiyonokuni defeats Daiamami – Wow, what a match! The start out with some oshi, punctuated with Daiamami taking a round house slap to the face. Having had enough of that he latches onto Chiyonokuni’s mawashi. Chiyonokuni struggles for a bit, but responds in kind. At one point Daiamami gets the deep double inside grip, but Chiyonokuni blazes ahead, forcing his opponent backward and out. Great match.

Takakeisho defeats Arawashi – This was won at the tachiai. Take a good look at how Takakeisho lands his first thrust against Arawashi’s shoulders before Arawashi can finish lunging forward. There was no recovering from that.

Kagayaki defeats Okinoumi – Kagayaki’s battle plan was simple, powerful and effective. He got under both arms of Okinoumi and marched forward. This guy keeps reminding me at times of a young Kisenosato, and I think if he can keep working upward and stay free of injury, he may follow a similar trajectory. Never glamorous, just solid sumo fundamentals.

Ryuden defeats Chiyomaru – Ryuden picks up his first win, much to his relief. Chiyomaru really made him work for it.

Yoshikaze defeats Takarafuji – I am starting to get hopeful. Yoshikaze looked stronger and faster today, and maybe a touch genki. The match was all about battling for grip, until Takarafuji lunged forward, and Yoshikaze instantly converted to exploiting his off-balance stance.

Ikioi defeats Kotoshogiku – Ikioi comes in low and goes chest to chest with the Kyushu Bulldozer straight out of the tachiai. When Kotoshogiku flexes to lift him up, Ikioi declares he will have none of that, and moves forward strongly, causing them both to lose their grip. After a failed attempt to throw Kotoshogiku, the resulting mess was completely off balance, but under Ikioi’s control, which he kept in motion until Kotoshogiku found the edge of the ring. Great work by Ikioi today, but once again post match he can barely walk.

Shodai defeats Chiyoshoma – Another mediocre to lame tachiai from Shodai, but then he takes over and just fork-lifts Chiyoshoma at the edge of the dohyo. Undefeated Shodai? I am going to make a bet that the scheduling team has some fun with him in act 2.

Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Mitakeumi took a head butt as the price to get inside, but he got his preferred offensive stance and went to work. Tamawashi immediately gave ground, but rallied. In his aggressive forward attack, he put his balance too far forward and Mitakeumi pulled him forward. His own momentum carried him out. Tamawashi is looking poorly right now, and I wonder if he is hurt. Mitakeumi ended the match dripping blood from his right eye, ouch!

Endo defeats Ichinojo – The big outcome of the day, and it was not an easy match for either man. Ichinojo gave Endo the inside grip immediately and went chest to chest, I am going to assume that his superior size and strength would carry the day. While Endo latched his right hand on Ichinojo’s mawashi, Ichinojo could not find a reciprocal grip. Finally getting deep with his right hand over Endo’s back, Ichinojo tried repeatedly to load an uwatenage, but Endo countered with some very impressive footwork. Stalemated, Ichonojo locks up Endo and works out a stage 2 plan, but Endo lands a left hand frontal grip for his third attack. Ichinojo realizes that his size is not going to stop this onslaught, and he is too high, with Endo buried in his chest, he has no room to lower his hips. Endo gives it all he has, and advances, winning a fantastic match. Complements to both rikishi on some outstanding sumo. The roar in the Kokugikan must have been deafening.

Tochinoshin defeats Kaisei – Kaisei was completely out-classed. No one can match the intensity of Tochinoshin right now, it’s a think of beauty.

Goeido defeats Yutakayama – Goeido almost attempted a pull against today. Someone fit that guy with a shock collar and give his oyakata the button to set it off.

Hakuho defeats Daieisho – I am going to assume that Hakuho is bored right now. No one has really given him even a decent warm up.

Kakuryu defeats Abi – Much as I assumed, Kakuryu found those long arms a bit of a problem, but they also are great leverage if you can grab one. Big K pulling again, but he got the win.

Natsu Day 3 Highlights

Endo Trinket

Internet… Satellite TV… Fiber Optic Cables… What happens when several of these malfunction at once? Sumo fans take to their mobiles to get their burly men fix. Sadly it’s balls for posting to tachiai.org. But through the magic of standing outside my front door waving money around, one of the multiple repair people who were supposed to come to my house and do work has actually arrived. Whats more, they actually did work.

Day 3 continued the evolution more or less along predictable paths, but with a small exception or two that shall be noted below. Thus far, the Natsu basho is being incredibly predictable. Sumo fans may have gotten spoiled by some of the topsy-turvy action of the past year, and coming across a tournament where the favorites win each day may seem quite pedestrian. But then many of the agents of disruption are either lower down the banzuke, banged up, or simply not genki. This would include Yoshikaze, Onosho, Takakeisho, Ura and Hokotofuji. The other option is that the banzuke is so perfectly tuned, that everyone is fighting more or less at their predicted ability.

Also of note, there are additional stories in the Japanese sumo press that Yokozuna Kisenosato is arranging affairs for his post-rikishi life. This includes getting his kabu in order, establishing a residence in Tokyo (outside of the stable), and other matters. For fans who were behind him all the way, or leanered to respect him because he never let up, it’s going to be a bitter time. As we covered extensively at the time, his injury was repairable with immediate surgery and a lengthy recovery period. But now it seems there is no way for him to regain his former left arm/chest strength.

Highlight Matches

Myogiryu defeats Aminishiki – We knew coming out of jungyo that Uncle Sumo would be shaky this time due to injuries. He had a strong tachiai, but tried to pull Myogiryu down, that was the signal; and Myogiryu then took over and dispatched him with ease.

Asanoyama defeats Aoiyama – It’s quite obvious that Aoiyama has enough damage to his knees and possibly hips that he is barely able to do sumo at all. A kyujo at this point is a certain ride back to Juryo, while staying in may get him a win or two, he runs the real risk of compounding his injuries. On the other side of this, Asanoyama with a 3-0 start. Good job!

Daiamami defeats Takakeisho – Notable in that Takakeisho is still not 100%, he was too far forward and easily slapped down. We need the angry tadpole back!

Chiyonokuni defeats Hokutofuji – Part 1 of the sad sack back to back story arc. Hokutofuji is really a mess right now, and I wonder if he would be better off just going to Hawaii (no the part that is on fire) and relaxing for a while.

Kagayaki defeats Yoshikaze – And part 2. Clearly Yoshikaze had a step change downward a couple of tournaments ago, and is in some sort of lower energy state. Short of a Fukushima Daiichi onsen trip, or a lightning strike, I am not sure what can re-energize my favorite rikishi. Kagayaki looked very good, though!

Takarafuji defeats Chiyoshoma – This was a fun bout, maybe some of the better sumo of the day. Watch towards the end where Chiyoshoma escapes Takarafuji’s uwatenage just to lose his balance and backslide into a waiting Ryuden.

Ikioi defeats Ryuden – Theory. In some mystical ritual that involved a visit to Yakushima and a ceremony in front of a protected grove of Yaku Sugi, Yoshikaze’s genki was transferred to Ikioi. Much like loaning out a kabu, Yoshikaze is loaning is boundless battle energy to Ikioi. Also Ikioi has decided to just put it all on the line every day.

Shodai defeats Chiyotairyu – I am delighted that Shodai is winning, but lets be honest. He is stumbling through the matches and winning by sheer luck. But that’s good enough for sumo! I do hope that it gives him back the confidence and courage that seems to have left him last year.

Kotoshogiku defeats Yutakayama – I love how terrifyingly fast Kotoshogiku can be off the line. Yes he has faded from his Ozeki days, but the guy still has some outstanding moves. I just wish we could get him back in San’yaku so he would do his back stretches again.

Mitakeumi defeats Abi – Abi looked like a spider on a hot plate. That, or each of his limbs were individually trying to escape from Mitakeumi in different directions, dragging his foreshortened torso along for the ride. Welcome to the joi, Abi. You are going to get past this hurdle one day, ad we will be cheering you on.

Ichinojo defeats Daieisho – Daieisho attempted a henka, and to my surprise Ichinojo was able to recover. Daieisho maintained the initiative for several more seconds, until Ichinojo rallied at the center of the dohyo and tried to pull Daieisho down. It almost didn’t work. Move forward, great Boulder.

Tochinoshin defeats Tamawashi – Tochinoshin looking very genki, but this match had at least one notable. At the end, Tochinoshin falls. Note the extreme motions he goes through to protect that knee. The fact that he lost his balance after the match ended should be an event of note. I sincerely hope we don’t see him succumb to injury on the eve of securing a valid Ozeki ticket.

Endo defeats Goeido – Field testing of Goedio 2.1 suffered a set back today, as the production system branched into the reverse protocol that engineers have been trying for years to correct. Endo, being a wily sort, saw this at once and put the naughty sumo-bot down before he could endanger the grannies in the 3rd row, once again forever endearing himself to his vast brigade of fans across Japan.

Hakuho defeats Shohozan – Blink and you miss it!

Kakuryu defeats Kaisei – If you wanted to head to the Ryogoku station a few minutes early, you could have skipped this match and no one would blame you. I think all of the Salarymen who were there for the day did exactly that.

Natsu Day 2 Preview

Natsu Day 2b

After re-watching day 1 matches several times, an idea comes to mind. On the day 1 recap, there is some discussion about Hakuho. Some of our readers think he was pure Hakuho, arrogant, brash and in command. Herouth, myself and a few others are worried that he’s not quite 100% at the moment. Please feel free to weigh in with your thoughts in the comment section. I also note that Aoiyama looked a fraction of his normal self. There are some reports that he has damage to his undercarriage, and that could explain a few things. With his rank (M13w), he would be at real risk of a return to Juryo if he were to be kyujo without at least a few wins first.

I have to note, the NHK world broadcast has replaced many of the rikishi head-shot photos with a set of images that range from hideous to laughable. Please folks, consider a bit of color correction on those things.

A number of sumo fans, including the great Kintamayama, found day 1 unsurprising and perhaps a bit plain. I was just happy to have sumo back for a couple of weeks, even if all of the matches turned out as predicted. But in Act 1, we find out who is hot, and who is not. The only two I would cite as bringing a lot of “fire” to the dohyo on day 1 were Ichinojo, Tochinoshin and (surprisingly), Shodai. Let’s see what kind of fun day 2 can bring. It appears the schedulers have a real “folks with 1 win face off, folks with one loss face off” theme at work today.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Myogiryu vs Nishikigi – Myogiryu looked fairly solid day 1, but he comes up against Nishikigi who has a career 3-1 record against Myogiryu. Myogiryu like the belt throws, so this will be all about footwork and grip. Could be a good match.

Aminishiki vs Kyokutaisei – Uncle Sumo has only taken 1 match from Kyokutaisei, and word is that Aminishiki’s already questionable knees are recovering from strain or injury during the April jungyo tour. Everyone hoping for a storybook kachi-koshi for sumo’s most beloved uncle will need to temper their outlook. I just hope he can make it to senshuraku without going kyujo.

Takekaze vs Aoiyama – This will be a good test for how banged up Aoiyama actually is. Takekaze will be using every move in his considerable, judo-inspired inventory to best the big Bulgarian who holds a career 13-7 advantage.

Asanoyama vs Chiyonokuni – Both men won their first day matches, but they have never faced each other. Chiyonokuni is an absolute explosive powerhouse of oshi-zumo, and I am curious to see if he completely overwhelms Asanayama.

Okinoumi vs Takakeisho – Okinoumi have never won against Takakeisho in their 2 prior matches. In addition I think Takakeisho, who is normally set to 11, has found a way to reach for 11.5, as he wants to regain his position near the top of the banzuke. Okinoumi is very hit-or-miss, and its unclear how healthy his is this basho.

Daiamami vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji continues to look energetic but vague. His day 1 match was a sloppy mess that he let Takakeisho control, missing at least 2 opportunities to make the bowling ball with legs eat clay. To his advantage today is the 3-0 career lead he has over Daiamami.

Yoshikaze vs Daishomaru – I saw a glimmer of Berserker mode on day 1. After two tournaments where Yoshikaze looked like he had been coming to the dohyo straight from his sick-bed, it was refreshing to see him fight with vigor. As a bonus for day 2, Daishomaru has not ever won against Yoshikaze.

Chiyoshoma vs Ryuden – Ryuden got disposed of like a bad sandwich at Lawson’s on day 1. On day two he faces the always unpredictable Chiyoshoma, and I would guess will hold the advantage of guile over the Freshman.

Takarafuji vs Ikioi – These two have a 17 match career history, that favor the neckless rikishi 11-6. But does Ikioi care? Of course not! I am beginning to think that Ikioi has reached the point in his career where he is saying “Oh, F’ it all!”, and just using his mass and willingness to damage himself to overwhelm his opponents. Takarafuji is a careful and skilled fighter, and is no easy opponent. Could be a solid match.

Daieisho vs Shodai – So the day 1 Shodai was fun to watch. This is the kind of stuff that we used to see from Shodai much more frequently, and frankly its why some fans thought he was going to be a staple of the top of the banzuke for some time to come. Can he keep that going? Let’s see him take down the even match up he has with Daieisho.

Yutakayama vs Endo – Endo gets a bit of a breather after falling face first to Kakuryu. Their only prior match went to Endo, but Yutakayama seems to be in his groove these days. I would expect Endo to win this one, but it is my hope that Yutakayama really makes him work for it.

Tochinoshin vs Abi – Well, Abi gets a traditional Tokyo welcome to the joi. Smacked around, tossed to the grannies and generally made to question his own sumo to the point of worry. Day 2 he is cannon fodder to a brute on a mission to higher rank. I am pretty sure Abi will try something insightful and clever, and I am equally sure it will come down to Tochinoshin picking him up and tossing him to the cheering little old ladies, who will smother him with adoration. Everybody wins…

Kaisei vs Ichinojo – This much Waygu in motion is always cause for a safety briefing and careful evacuation drills on the part of the Kokugikan staff. Both men prefer big, slow and forceful, but I would give a distinct edge to Ichinojo, who may have promised himself story time with his favorite pony if he wins. The career record shows a 7-2 advantage for the Boulder.

Shohozan vs Goeido – We may have seen the first use of Goeido 2.1 on day 1, and it looked really good. Sharp, fast, no thought of defense. But then again, Shohozan and Kaisei are worlds apart. No one leaves a match with Shohozan without getting sore, and Goeido tends to react badly to being pounded. Like many gadgets, percussive maintenance could void the warranty. Even so Goeido holds a 11-7 career lead.

Kakuryu vs Tamawashi – Hopefully this match is less bizarre than day 1’s Hakuho “gimme a hug” posture mid-fight. People knocked Kakuryu for pulling Endo down, but Big K’s style is to stalemate his opponent and wait for his opening. What kind of opening Tamawashi is going to give him will be interesting to watch, but as Tamawashi is a brutal tsuppari practitioner, we may see the Yokozuna moving backwards again.

Mitakeumi vs Hakuho – This match might settle questions about Hakuho’s condition. Mitakeumi will come straight at him, no doubt about it. I am going to say that we may see a Harumafuji style mini-henka here.

Natsu Day 1 Preview

Sumo-Evolution

Yes, dear readers, it is time! We have waited long enough. In the next few hours, set aside your worries about your favorites being hurt: It’s honbasho time! It’s a full day of raging action for day 1 at the Kokugikan, and frankly I can’t wait for all the amazing stories that are about to unfold. Many folks will be focused on the top of the banzuke as the drama there plays out, but I find myself increasingly draw to Josh’s “Ones to watch”. This series has proven remarkably insightful while educating and entertaining. Most folks in the US (and other parts of the world) don’t even get to see all of Makuuchi, let alone all of the great action in Juryo, Makushita, Sandanme and Jonidan.

Just as it was in Osaka, my favorite stories are likely to be at the lower end of the Makuuchi banzuke. Nishikigi continues to refuse to ever give up, and somehow holds onto the last Maegashira slot at the edge of the earth. Aminishiki may have nothing more than courage and gristle left in his knees, but he will mount the dohyo today and give challenge. Kyokutaisei somehow adapted to life in the sumo heya, and excelled. Now he’s in Makuuchi and Hokkaido can finally represent once more. Go Hams!

Fans, keep in mind it will take a few days for everyone to settle into the tournament, so you may see some favorites looking like they are not quite their normal genki selves, and some great surprises. So expect anything!

What We Are Watching Day 1

Hell, I am going to watch all of it. But I am sure you don’t have the time to read everything I might write up about the outstanding fight card we have to start the basho. I will do my best.

Nishikigi vs Aminishiki – Nishikigi will never make San’yaku. He’s kind of blind as a bat without his specs, but even blind he’s good enough to find a way to stay in Makuuchi. Now he’s up against Uncle Sumo on day 1. I am sad for folks who are going to view the highlights, as you are not going to believe the roar that will rip through he Kokugikan as the yobidashi sings out his name. People LOVE Aminishiki. To many folks who might struggle with some challenge in their life, he is a reminder that “Nana korobi ya oki” can always apply! (Fall down seven times, get up eight)

Myogiryu vs Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei’s first match in the top division is against Myogiryu, a solid veteran who has been drifting between the top of Juryo and the bottom of Makuuchi during the past year.  These two are no strangers to each others’ fighting style. I will be curious to see if Kyokutaisei has any top division jitters.

Tochiozan vs Takekaze – I am very glad to see Takekaze back in the top division after a brief tour of Juryo. For reasons that I can’t imagine, all of the Oguruma upper echelon has been on the skids as of late. I have to wonder if maybe they are having problems with their Chanko supply… Tochiozan, on the other hand, has been reported to be ripping through folks during joint training in the past week. We know Tochiozan is capable of some explosive and powerful sumo, it would be acres of fun to see him have a great basho this May.

Sadanoumi vs Aoiyama – The Bulgarian man-mountain is back for more, like a giant angry dollop of sour cream with the reach to slap you from across the dohyo. Sadanoumi is a seasoned veteran who is probably happy to be pulling down Makuuchi pay again. My bet is on Aoiyama, who always seems to start tournaments strong. With Sadanoumi preferring the belt, he will have to survive the withering rain of blows from Aoiyama to get there.

Ishiura vs Asanoyama – The happy rikishi goes up against Ishiura, whose sumo seems a bit lost these days. He opened big a bit over a year ago, but his limited arsenal of moves has left him in something of a corner. I think he has amazing potential if he can find his sumo again. We can count on Asanoyama being happy just to get to do sumo today, even though he really likes to win.

Arawashi vs Chiyonokuni – As discussed in the podcast, both of these rikishi are tremendous fighters. They bring huge energy and go flat out with nothing in reserve. Both of them deserve a good, turn-around basho this May, but first they need to beat the daylights out of each other.

Takakeisho vs Hokutofuji – One of my highlight matches. Hopefully both men are healed up from the injuries that have left them underperforming. With significant changes at the top of the banzuke anticipated this year, now is the right time for both of them to press hard for the top ranks. We have not seen Takakeisho’s wave action tsuppari in several basho, and we need him to bring it back with gusto. Likewise I want to see Hokutofuji channel Kaiō again. There is a big role that may open up for a huge, powerful rikishi who moves low and balances offense and defense.

Yoshikaze vs Chiyomaru – Another match where the fans are going to erupt when the yobidashi call the rikishi. People adore Yoshikaze, in part because he never ever gives up, and is always bright, witty and a gentleman. And people love Chiyomaru because who the hell can hold a grudge against a guy like that? Word on the street is that with Yoshikaze getting free meals anywhere in Sumida, they are going out for supper afterwards. The same rumor cites Chiyomaru for a spate of early restaurant closures in the area (they run out of food), as well as a rash of missing house plants, vending machines and even a pair of manhole covers. Listen for him to clank suspiciously as he mounts the dohyo.

Ryuden vs Takarafuji – One of my freshmen takes on the highest ranking man remaining at the once-mighty Isegahama beya. Both men are going to go for a mawashi grip early, but I would give Takarafuji a slight edge.

Chiyoshoma vs Ikioi – Only question to ask here – is Ikioi healed up? It was painful to watch him walk the hanamichi in Osaka. We can only hope that he was able to heal fully. This is two seasoned vets going head to head, so I am sure it’s going to be a solid match.

Kotoshogiku vs Shodai – Well, Shodai is probably going to get owned. Mostly because he tends to let Kotoshogiku do whatever he wants, and he wants to give you a sweet, passionate battle hug.

Chiyotairyu vs Yutakayama – Another of my freshmen, Yutakayama, is going up against Chiyotairyu, who had BETTER HAVE HIS SIDEBURNS! Seriously, the kami that inhabits his sideburns is the source of his sumo power. Granted the kami is some kind of sprit of a smelly mountain aesthetic from the feudal period who never ever washed, and ate nothing but fermented sardines, but we take what we can get in life, right?

Mitakeumi vs Daieisho – The King of the Tadpoles needs to make a comeback. The big jump ball at the top of the banzuke is coming, and if Mitakeumi wants a ticket to that dance, he needs to be producing double-digit wins every basho from here on out. He has the body, the skill, the heart to do it. But I suspect he doubts himself just a tiny bit. That’s all it takes at the top of this sport to keep yourself from greatness. Daieisho, however, is point man on team Oitekaze. I can’t wait to see if he starts Natsu as genki as he ended Haru.

Abi vs Ichinojo – Could be the match of the day. We get the lead Freshman against The Boulder. Large, tough as granite, and when roused, quite dangerous. He has added an astonishing 20 kg to his already ponderous bulk, and rumor has it, two new cuddle-ponies at Minato beya. Much to the chagrin of his tsukebito. Abi has to stay mobile, and use Ichinojo’s mass against him.

Tochinoshin vs Shohozan – If you wanted cake and ice cream for Mothers Day, here we go. Big guns goes up against unstoppable strength. Win or lose, nobody leaves a match with Shohozan without being sore. But Tochinoshin’s fantastic strength will likely carry the day, provided his upper body is healed.

Kaisei vs Goeido – I think this one is all Goeido. Goeido is lightning fast, and Kaisei seems to be huge, powerful and kind of slow. Andy thinks that he’s been upgraded to GoeiDOS 2.1, so we will see what shows up tomorrow.

Tamawashi vs Hakuho – It’s Hakuho time! It will be good to see The Boss back in action. But Tamawashi is a tough first customer. As long as Tamawashi is not psyched out by facing the dai-Yokozuna, I think he will give him a good, if brief, fight. Boss all the way on this one. [Past history is 10-0 in Hakuho’s favour. –PinkMawashi]

Kakuryu vs Endo – Woo! Saving the best for last, and what a match-up. Endo is a very technical rikishi, I have heard that he studies video of his opponent before each match. He looks for habits, things they like to do. He comes up with ways to counter strong moves and attack weak ones. He starts against Kakuryu who is the master of “reactive sumo”. He loves to stalemate an opponent and wait for them to make a mistake, which he turns against them in a blink of an eye.

Haru Day 14 Preview

Chiyomaru
If I win, yes, that big meaty leg is mine!

It is with great celebration that we welcome the final weekend of the Haru basho. It’s been fun and exciting for fans around the world, and it’s been our pleasure to have been along for the ride. Yokozuna Kakuryu has one job to do – if he wins just one of his two remaining matches, he claims his fourth yusho. But to accomplish that, he needs to beat either Ozeki Goeido or Ozeki Takayasu. Can he do it? I think he will. Kakuryu has looked better this basho than in any I can remember in recent years, and it’s possible that if he has his medical problems solved, he may be the one the Kyokai depends on for a time. I expect that Hakuho is going to pace himself, and Kisenosato may be a lost cause.

What has really surprised me about this tournament is that no rikishi were able to take advantage of the open promotion lane. The expected candidates (Mitakeumi, Ichinojo, and Tochinoshin) could not muster the endurance and strength to maintain the performance needed over the first 13 days. Should Hakuho return genki and well, it could be months before we see another basho with a single, somewhat damaged Yokozuna holding court.

Even more puzzling is that Ozeki Takayasu did not exploit this opportunity to push for his first Yusho. His sumo has become somewhat chaotic and uncontrolled, and I think it’s really kept him from the next step forward in performance that it would take for him to make a bid to be Yokozuna.

Haru Leaderboard

Leader: Kakuryu
Hunt Group: Takayasu, Kaisei, Ikioi

2 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 14

Ishiura vs Ikioi – I am hoping that the slippery Ishiura receives some brawny sumo training from hometown favorite Ikioi on day 14. Ishiura is still pushing for kachi-koshi, but I think a good rough defeat would be instructive. Double points to Ikioi if he catches Ishiura doing a henka and makes him regret it.

Daiamami vs Kotoyuki – As a sumo fan, I wonder what is going on with Kotokuki. The guy has 12 losses going into day 14. I get that he is hurt, but why not go kyujo at that point? You could at least take a chance to heal. But Daiamami has a chance to get 9 or 10 wins, and I don’t think Kotoyuki is going to be taking this one.

Asanoyama vs Yutakayama – Another yama battle, this one between two of the bright and hopeful Freshmen, who are both already kachi-koshi, so this is to see who gets closer to the joi, and chance to be beaten to a pulp during May’s Natsu basho.

Chiyoshoma vs Aoiyama – As much as Chiyoshoma dearly wants to pick up his kachi-koshi today, Aoiyama still seems to have a lot of aggression to work out of that massive body. Where he seems to get into trouble is chasing after his opponents and getting maneuvered into tight spots. Word to the man-mountain, let the little Mongolian fellow come to you!

Chiyonokuni vs Daieisho – Chiyonokuni seems frustrated, as frustrated as only a grumpy badger can ever be. He’s all the way down at Maegashira 10, but he’s still getting used as a washcloth daily. He’s one loss away from make-koshi, but I think with his back against the wall like this, he may find the fortitude to win. Daieisho needs one more win to move to mid-Maegashira for Natsu, so he’s eager to go. Chiyonokuni holds a 4-1 career advantage.

Kotoshogiku vs Abi – Sure, why not? Abi is like some sumo doll with slinkies for joints going against the aging and poorly maintained Kyushu bulldozer. If Kotoshogiku can keep Abi in front of him (no easy task), it’s all bumppity-bumppity bump. But Ojisan Kotoshogiku can be out-maneuvered many times.

Arawashi vs Ryuden – Ryuden needs to win both his remaining bouts to get a kachi-koshi. He is not quite the powerhouse he was at Hatsu, but he has turned in a fairly solid basho. Arawashi has a ton of battle damage and either needs to be dry docked or turned into an artificial reef.

Kagayaki vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji: The hardest working double-digit-loss rikishi in all of sumo-dom. His case is truly one for the epic bards of Iceland. Kagayaki’s about right at Maegashira 8 for his sumo right now, so he’s not a lock to get his 7th win today.

Endo vs Hokutofuji – Future and long anticipated san’yaku rikishi Endo is going to be seeing if he can run up the score. Hokutofuji gave fading Mitakeumi an energetic scrum today, and seems to have recovered some of his sumo. I like the chances for this bout being full of well executed technique, with swooning grandmothers and cheering salarymen.

Shohozan vs Tamawashi – Winner kachi-koshi. Both of them like to beat victory out of their opponents, with Shohozan being more of a “low-rider” model. Tamawashi looked lost in his day 13 match against a degraded Yoshikaze. Hopefully Tamawashi is not injured.

Ichinojo vs Shodai – I would love to tell you that our Boulder is going to pick up the soft and squishy Shodai like a plush toy, stick his enormous thumb in his mouth and waddle back to the shitaku-beya for a long cuddle and some ice cream with his favorite pony. But someone turned Shodai from stink bug to holy hell. God only knows how this one is going to turn out, as Shodai wants one more shiroboshi.

Yoshikaze vs Chiyotairyu – Did I see a flash of the Berserker day 13? Was that the spirit of some blazing warrior of old that overwhelmed Tamawashi “the Jackhammer”? Dare I hope that he is getting over whatever problems plagued his first week? Or will the kami-infused sideburns of might power Chiyotairyu to victory in the name of a dozen empty, stacked soba bowls left on the counter of Ryogoku Bandai at midnight?

Chiyomaru vs Tochinoshin – Ever since he was accused of cooking and eating Ura in a quest for more calories, Chiyomaru has had his eye on Tochinoshin’s uninjured leg. At long last the hungry man will face the Hatsu Yusho winner in single combat, winner eat all. Sadly for Chiyomaru, he’s never beaten Tochinoshin, so his only hope is to show up hungry.

Takayasu vs Mitakeumi – Hey, Takayasu Pooh-Bear. Your senpai was a fan of jun-yushos, and it was kind of sad. I know you think the sun shines out of his mawashi’s rear flap, but it’s no way to go through life, son. This was your chance to hoist the hardware and rack a portrait. Mitakeumi, time for you to regroup and think about why you want to be Sekiwake. Sure, the chicks dig a san’yaku man, but either get to some double digits like your opponent did, or go practice you Chanko recipe for later.

Kakuryu vs Goeido – Easily today’s most calamitous bout, no one at Tachiai central is certain who is going pull whom down how many times. There is a non-zero chance that we may see a startup fault in GoeiDOS and he ends up in “Bouncy Castle” mode again. Meanwhile Kakuryu needs to avoid both the henka and the cannonball charge from Goeido. Big K is convinced he is Mr. Genki now, but Goeido can not only win this one, but the risk of injury to the lone surviving Yokozuna is very real. Loss + Kyujo would cause a ruckus in the sumo world unlike any seen in many years.

Haru Day 8 Preview

monoii

Please note – all articles written by Bruce H, IE Bruce Henderson formerly of San Diego, are in fact his opinion alone, and represent only his twisted outlook on the world of sumo. The very young, the very old and the easily outraged may find challenges ahead. [Occasionally there are comments from the proofreader, too. Those are objective fact. –PinkMawashi]

Day 7 was brutal for the chase group, with four contenders picking up losses and being demoted to the hunt group. While at the moment it looks like the zero loss crew can run away with it, keep in mind that the scheduling team is just starting to work their voodoo on the torikumi. The front-runners still face many challenges, and we may yet see both Kaisei and Kakuryu taste clay before we hit day 10.

As mentioned in the day 7 highlights, I am looking for Oitekaze-beya to get a strong showing in the post-basho power rankings. All of the Dai* crew are fighting well, and looking like they are moving towards a lift in basic rank, based on the steady improvements of their sumo. It will be interesting to watch them compete against the likes of Takakeisho and Onosho for lead tadpole.

I will say it again, I am damn impressed with Ikioi this basho. The last few tournaments, he seemed to be really struggling physically, but he put in his days on the dohyo with focus and workmanlike determination. This time (possibly due to his lower rank), he is finding ways to win. I am glad he is not yet ready for the downdraft into Juryo, but at his age his injuries may be slowly overtaking him.

Then there is the depressing case of Yoshikaze. Injuries are not widely publicized in sumo, even less so for rank and file rikishi, but there is no way that a warrior like Yoshikaze goes passive like this. The good news is that he can retire at any time, he has a kabu, he has a huge following, he has a passion for youth sumo, and as long as he has his health, he is going to be a big deal in the sumo world.

It would be remiss of me to go without stating that Kaisei also remains unbeaten at the start of the second week. He has done remarkably well, and I salute his effort and his skill. He has been hit or miss in the past, but this is great to see.

Haru Leaderboard

Leaders: Kakuryu, Kaisei
Chasers: Daishomaru, Daiamami
Hunt Group: Takayasu, Goeido, Mitakeumi, Tochinoshin, Ichinojo, Shohozan, Chiyonokuni, Okinoumi, Ikioi, Aoiyama

7 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 8

Ikioi vs Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei comes up from Juryo for the day and draws the injured but fierce Ikioi. I predict an Ikioi win, and then he’s 2 away from his kachi-koshi, and likely kyujo.

Daiamami vs Nishikigi – Team Oitekaze starts early on day 8, and the rikishi who never gives up is going to take on a member of the chase group. I predict a Daiamami win, with some good form. This is in spite of the fact that he has never taken a match from Nishikigi (0-3).

Daishomaru vs Aoiyama – Back to back bouts for team Oitekaze, this time the fierce Daishomaru goes up against the man-mountain Aoiyama. Aoiyama has won both of their prior matches, and this may be a tall order for Daishomaru. But a win against the Bulgarian would likely result in a tough match further up the banzuke for Monday. [The Monday torikumi will be set before Aoiyama’s match, so if the torikumi committee decide to start giving him tougher opposition, they’ll have to wait until Tuesday. –PinkMawashi, with thanks to Sakura]

Sokokurai vs Asanoyama – The Freshmen are having a painful basho, and that’s part of them settling into Makuuchi. Asanoyama has a 4-3 winning record, and he has never lost a match to Sokokurai, so I am hoping his sunny outlook will carry the day on Sunday.

Kagayaki vs Yutakayama – An all Freshman battle, Yutakayama has won their only prior match, but I think there is a slight advantage to Kagayaki for today’s match. Kagayaki is slowly improving, and I think his sumo is stronger than Yutakayama’s right now.

Tochiozan vs Daieisho – The highest ranked rikishi for Team Oitekaze takes on veteran Tochiozan. Tochiozan has been a half-step slow this basho, but his form is still very good. I think this comes down to Daieisho being about 2x as genki as Tochiozan, so advantage to Daieisho.

Abi vs Chiyonokuni – Massive ultra-mega oshi-battle here, and folks take note! Both of these young men could work a speed bag like a hungry man taking down the buffet at the Tropicana so this will be one for the slow-motion cameras. Abi will get too far forward, and Chiyonokuni’s tendency to go for haymakers will be the perils. I give an advantage to Chiyonokuni in this first-time match up.

Chiyoshoma vs Yoshikaze – I don’t even want to know. I am tempted to get on a plane and just hand Yoshikaze a bottle of scotch as some shallow form of comfort.

Kaisei vs Okinoumi – Their history shows this to be an even match up, but I am going to guess Kaisei has the advantage going into this. The thing about Okinoumi is that he has the experience and skill to dismantle Kaisei, but will the Brazilian give him an opening?

Ryuden vs Hokutofuji – Ryuden is getting his “welcome to mid-Maegashira” beating, while Hokutofuji is having a bad basho in a string of bad basho. The frustration for both men is palpable, and there may be some extreme effort as a result. This is their first meeting, but I am giving a slight edge to Hokutofuji because he looks a bit like Kaio.

Chiyomaru vs Takarafuji – The best 0-7 rikishi in the basho goes against the spherical man from Kokonoe. Given their upper bodies, there should be few if any neck attacks deployed today. Chiyomaru has yet to win one from Takarafuji, so maybe Takarafuji gets his first white star today. I promise to drink a generous shot of whisky if he does!

Shodai vs Tamawashi – I know Shodai is feeling genki now after his last two matches. But Tamawashi practices his sumo by driving nails into planks by hitting them with his thumb. The man has so much pectoral strength that he shoved Ichinojo around with ease. So I am guessing Shodai goes high at the tachiai, and Tamawashi helps to keep him moving up, up and away.

Ichinojo vs Arawashi – Arawashi can’t buy a win. Ichinojo needs to regroup. Someone get him some ice cream before its too late!

Endo vs Chiyotairyu – Sumo Elvis takes on the man in gold. Endo also needs to re-group, and this might be his time to get his sumo back together. One thing is clear now on day 8, Chiyotairyu’s might was all in his sideburns. He’s been soft and ineffective without them.

Mitakeumi vs Tochinoshin – Highlight bout #1. Anyone who tells you how this is going to end is guessing. I predict it’s going to be fast and brutal. Both are 5-2, and both want to stay in contention with the leaders. Loser goes to the back of the bus.

Takayasu vs Takakeisho – I know Takayasu triumphed in a protracted battle with Shohozan on day 7, but let’s be clear here. Pooh-bear tried three times to set the tempo of the match, and each time he had to follow Shohozan’s lead. His sumo was chaotic but powerful. Now he faces the man who I am pretty sure beat Kakuryu on day 7. This could be a great battle, as Takayasu is going to try to overpower Takakeisho, and Takakeisho’s proportions make him sumo’s greatest weeble. Dear Takayasu, make sure you have a really good plan B and don’t get too far forward or you are going down.

Kotoshogiku vs Goeido – Long and storied history between these two. They have turned in some great matches in the past. It’s not a given that the Ozeki is going to win this one, as Kotoshogiku may find a way to wrap up Goeido and drive him out. Slight advantage to Goeido, as he seems to be fighting well this tournament, and he wants to stay in contention for the cup.

Kakuryu vs Shohozan – Just to be clear, even though Shohozan wants to stay in the hunt group, this match is a challenge for Kakuryu. Shohozan is big, fast and incredibly aggressive. Kakuryu tends to face these matches with a defensive strategy, buying time until his opponent makes a mistake, and then he attacks. But Shohozan is so amped up this basho, Kakuryu may need to be brutal, fast and direct to prevent Shohozan from setting the pace and tone of the match like he did to Takayasu.

Haru Day 7 Highlights

Kakuryu Day 7 Dohyo Iri

All hail the wisdom of the scheduling team – tasked to begin to separate the good from the great, their will was enacted with great effect during day 7. There is some fantastic sumo action to enjoy today, so it’s another day to find Kintamayama or Jason’s sumo channels and soak in the excellence on display during the Haru basho.

It should be noted, the Oitekaze Makuuchi guys [That’s Endo, Daiesho, Daishomaru, and Daiamami –PinkMawashi] are on fire right now. They have, during past basho, had nicely above average records, but they seem to be on the march this time. I am looking towards them for some future sumo leadership, and I am seeing reasons to hope.

Highlight Matches

Myogiryu defeats Hidenoumi – I am a sucker for a strength and endurance match, and these two lower end Maegashira men provided a great example of the type. Really good form from both, and it was a pleasure to watch.

Ikioi defeats Aoiyama – Oh yes he did indeed! In spite of the pain and injuries, Ikioi explodes out of the tachiai, leaving Aoiyama on the defensive and moving backward. He tried to grab Ikioi’s head, while Ikioi dropped his hips, spread his feet and hugged the man-mountain. Aoiyama now realizes he’s in deep deep trouble, he’s high, and his heels are on the tawara. A strong and smooth shove by Ikioi and the Bulgarian is out. What a great win for a rikishi who is giving it everything in spite of his problems.

Daishomaru defeats Sokokurai – Daishomaru stays with the chasers in a really strong win over Sokokurai. Daishomaru may be one to watch, as he seems to be coming into his own, and showing some very strong sumo in the first half of Haru.

Asanoyama defeats Tochiozan – Try as he might, Tochiozan could not disrupt Asanoyama’s offense today. Asanoyama’s form was excellent today, hips low, feet wide and at 45° to the front, moving low and strongly. This is why I am sure that in a year or so, we are going to be looking at Asanoyama as a mainstay of mid to upper Makuuchi. Tochiozan fought well, but his injuries leave him at only 70% of full power.

Daiamami defeats Chiyonokuni – Both Oitekaze rikishi stay in the chase group, one off the leaders. Chiyonokuni gave Daiamami a rough ride, but Daiamami absorbed it all and worked to get into an attack position. After Chiyonokuni’s failed throw attempt, Daiamami rallied and took the Grumpy Badger to his chest. The closing uwatenage seemed to have an extra kick to it, as if Daiamami were disposing of an unpleasant burden. Excellent sumo.

Ryuden defeats Ishiura – For the second straight day, Ishiura tries doing some battle sumo. He’s not winning, but he looks to be doing better. Ryuden is getting dangerously close to the make-koshi line, and its increasing his drive to win.

Okinoumi defeats Yutakayama – As anticipated, strength and experience overcame youthful vigor to carry the day. Okinoumi is at a welcome 5-2 record at the end of the first week of sumo.

Daieisho defeats Hokutofuji – Yet another Oitekaze win. Daieisho kept in motion, with Hokutofuji pursuing. This has been a key to defeating him, as he does not move with superior stability. The throw at the tawara is a great example of Daieisho’s ability to keep himself planted to the clay, even in awkward moves.

Kaisei defeats Kagayaki – Kaisei stays in the leader group today. It was an easy bout, Kaisei moved forward, and Kagayaki stepped out and collapsed.

Chiyomaru defeats Abi – Chiyomaru’s mighty chin-bag kept Abi confused and off rhythm, never getting his thrusting attack started. As fans have noted, Abi tends to lean in quite a bit on offense, so Chiyomaru simply stepped aside and let Issac Newton do the rest.

Shodai defeats Yoshikaze – Congrats to Shodai, but what on earth happened to Yoshikaze? This is killing me, folks.

Kotoshogiku defeats Endo – Endo made the mistake of letting the Kyushu Bulldozer start the bump and grind. In his heyday, there were few who could withstand this attack, and Endo should have gone into the match with a means to prevent it. Kotoshogiku went chest to chest immediately, got his grip, and started his motor.

Tamawashi defeats Ichinojo – Big surprise for day 7. Ichinojo withered under Tamawashi’s powerful oshi-zumo. Ichinojo seems to have tried for a pull-down, but Tamawashi kept up the pressure and had the giant backward and out before he could mount a counterattack. Good work Tamawashi!

Tochinoshin defeats Arawashi – Arawashi is really in rough shape physically and provided no actual challenge to Tochinoshin. As soon as the Hatsu Yusho Winner landed his left hand, it was just a matter of when not if.

Mitakeumi defeats Chiyotairyu – I do believe Mitakeumi smells the winds of change blowing, and he knows it may be “now or never” for him to elevate his sumo. Chiyotairyu opened strong, but Mitakeumi found an opening and counter-attacked. Due to poor camera work, it’s tough to tell how the match ended, but I think Chiyotairyu touched out first.

Goeido defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji can’t buy a win, and the much feared “Bouncy Castle Mode” did not activate today for Goeido. Takarafuji battled strongly, but each time it seemed he would put the Ozeki to the clay, Goeido rallied. If any man deserves recognition for fighting spirit this basho, it’s Takarafuji.

Takayasu defeats Shohozan – Shohozan was never going to go down easy, and he opened with a blistering oshi-attack. Takayasu realized he was getting moved, and went chest to chest. Pinning Shohozan’s left arm, the Ozeki worked to contain his opponent and wear him down. A failed attempt to throw Shohozan resulted in an escape and Shohozan delivering a brutal nodowa, moving Takayasu back. Back to tsuppari, then once again chest to chest. Shohozan was going to find a way to win, no matter what! Shohozan had a right-hand shallow grip, with Takayasu pinning his left arm high and straight. They broke their grips, and the oshi-battle resumed! Both were clearly tired, and the match ended with Shohozan losing his footing, and hitting the clay. Fantastic effort from both men.

Kakuryu defeats Takakeisho – Kakuryu was in real danger two times, as Takakeisho was able to unleash his “Wave Action Tsuppari”, the force and aggression of which moved the Yokozuna back to the bales. He rallied, but Takakeisho once again attacked. The close was a chaotic tumble for Takakeisho from the west side of the dohyo. A monoii is called, as there is some question who stepped out first. Replays showed that as Takakeisho was airborne, Kakuryu’s big toe of his left foot touched the sand outside the ring. The shimpan upheld the gyoji’s decision, and even though I think it should have been a kinboshi, the result was a spotless record for the Yokozuna.

Haru Day 6 Highlights

bow twirling

The second act gets off on the right foot, with several of the undefeated picking up their first loss, but not (so far) Yokozuna Kakuryu and Kaisei. Both men remain unbeaten, with a growing crowd at one loss.

Point two – Who turned up the sumo to awesome mode today? Lots and lots of good matches from Osaka, so you may want to consider watching Jason’s channel and Kintamayama to get a broader look at all of the excellent sumo action that I am sure won’t fit into NHK’s highlight reel.

Highlight Matches

Sokokurai defeats Meisei – Meisei is in his first ever Makuuchi bout, and he puts up a valiant effort against Sokokurai, who manages to pick up his second win. This ends up a yotsu-zumo match, with both men working hard for a winning grip on the other’s mawashi.

Daiamami defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu looking like he has run low on fuel (quick, someone go to Hiroshima and get some okonomiyaki!), while Daiamami turns this into another yotsu-zumo match. Daiamami shows off some truly classic sumo form delivering a yorikiri.

Daishomaru defeats Ikioi – Keep in mind, Ikioi is fighting hurt. Yes, he went on a 4-0 tear to start the basho, but it seems his pain is taking over. Daishomaru, with only a single loss, continues to look strong. I am going to watch for his upcoming match against Aoiyama.

Aoiyama defeats Asanoyama – Unlike some of his prior opponents this tournament, Asanoyama gave the man-mountain from Bulgaria a good fight. But let’s keep in mind that Aoiyama, in spite of his 5-1 record, is, in fact, undefeated so far this basho. He’s like some overflowing dollop of belligerent sour cream out there.

Ishiura defeats Chiyoshoma – Are you sitting down? Ishiura brought his real sumo today, and it was awesome. Chiyoshoma may have been expecting a henka, and when none appeared, he unleashed a frenzied series of blows on Ishiura’s shoulders and head. Then… what’s this? Ishiura initiates yotsu-zumo? Why yes he does! The two men go chest to chest, and Ishiura is getting the job done. The crowd loves it, and so do I! More of this please, Ishiura.

Chiyonokuni defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki returns after taking a day off to nurse injuries suffered from (surprise surprise) falling off the dohyo into the random “lap of the day”. So Chiyonokuni does his best grumpy badger, flailing away at Mr 5×5, who withers under the attack. Chiyonokuni turns him around, and into today’s lap in the front row, which may or may not have been a stable master. Okinoumi is inches away from the impact zone, but looks completely un-phased, as it’s just another day at the office. Someone get Kotoyuki a towel and a coke.

Yutakayama defeats Ryuden – Ryuden seems to be getting tired of losing, as we have yet another yotsu-zumo match break out, with Yutakayama clearly dominating. Ryuden battles strongly, and flatly refuses to be pushed over the bales. Yutakayama tries twice for a leg trip, ultimately succeeding, and has the presence of mind to make sure he falls on top of Ryuden. I like the “help the man up” we see from Yutakayama following. This group I am calling “The Freshmen” really are a breath of fresh air into the top division.

Kaisei defeats Daieisho – An odd little match, the kimarite is listed as oshidashi, but really Daieisho falls over at the edge while Kaisei is about 3m away.

Hokutofuji defeats Kagayaki – Straightforward match, notable because Hokutofuji actually won.

Chiyomaru defeats Yoshikaze – I don’t know what is plaguing Yoshikaze, but it’s sad to watch. Yoshikaze was in charge at the start, but Chiyomaru got him off balance and out. Yoshikaze looked a bit hurt getting up. Ugh.

Shodai defeats Abi – Abi loves to start a match by leaning forward and smacking the dickens out of his opponent’s upper body. Shodai, being Shodai, absorbs a bit of it, seemingly waiting for inspiration. Abi is relentless, backing Shodai up. Then, much like his match against Hokutofuji, he decides he has had enough and hurls Abi to the clay. Ok, win #3 for Shodai!

Ichinojo defeats Chiyotairyu – Sumo Elvis blasts out of the tachiai and delivers a tsuppari salad to Ichinojo. Ichinojo laughs to himself, “Silly pony! I don’t like salad…” And puts his arms around Chiyotairyu, whose arms continue to work by their own purpose to continue the slap-fest. Now flailing like a trout, but completely ineffective, Chiyotairyu can do nothing but obey as the giant marches forward and delivers him to the edge.

Takakeisho defeats Mitakeumi – In this basho’s ultimate tadpole throw-down, it’s Takakeisho who comes out on top. Mitakeumi never really got his offense started, and could not counter Takakeisho’s attack. This is one of the reasons you see Takakeisho competing near the top: His sumo technique enables him to usually get the first hit in, and from that moment, his opponent is reacting.

Tochinoshin defeats Endo – Good golly miss Molly! What a bout! Endo sacrifices his face to Tochinoshin’s shoulder blast to land a morozashi double inside grip from the tachiai. While the Hatsu yusho winner continues to work on his head, Endo is getting ready to deliver some doom. Tochinoshin realizes he’s been had as Endo rotates him, threatening to send him out. In a hurry, Tochinoshin lands his lethal left, but Endo is not going anywhere. Tochinoshin cocks a throw as Endo rotates to take him to the clay. Tochinoshin’s superior strength carries the day, but it was a clear display of how far Endo has come from being injured and weak. Damn, that man has some sumo moves.

Takayasu defeats Takarafuji – It is at this point I feel really bad for Takarafuji. He’s given each opponent a solid match, and he is just always an inch short of the win. His match against Takayasu devolves into a chest-to-chest contest of strength and endurance, and he gives the Ozeki a run for his money. There was a moment early in the match where Takayasu attempted a pull-down. More rikishi should be looking for that, and make him eat it.

Goeido defeats Shohozan – Hometown Ozeki Goeido hands Kyushu’s Shohozan his first loss of the basho. As always, Goeido’s sumo is wild, chaotic and prone to pulling, but Shohozan fell for it… literally.

Kakuryu defeats Kotoshogiku – Kakuryu has managed to keep his sumo rolling for 6 days so far, and it’s great to see him win. Kotoshogiku went chest to chest early and launched him hip-pump attack. Kakuryu times it beautifully, waiting for a forward thrust from his opponent and converts that push into a flying trip to the clay.

Haru Day 5 Highlights

Makuuchi Dohyo iri

Act one comes to a close, and we had a number of undefeated rikishi pick up their first black stars. As guarded as everyone was about how the lone Yokozuna would do, Kakuryu is thus far warming up nicely against lower ranked rikishi.  I am even starting to have hope he may deliver some good sumo in the second week when he faces higher ranked rikishi.

Act two starts tomorrow, and this is where we separate the good from the great for Haru. Even the rikishi who have one loss may hold their ground in the second act, and we will be hard-pressed to see anyone exit act two undefeated with the current banzuke.

But day 5 was a great day of sumo, and as expected we had some great matches from Kagayaki, Shohozan, and Ichinojo.

Highlight Matches

Myogiryu defeats Aoiyama – I completely do not agree with this call. All the replays show Myogiryu down before Aoiyama stepped out. So one undefeated rikishi gets his first black star…

Sokokurai defeats Hidenoumi – Sokokurai gets his first win of Haru, and actually looked fairly good doing it. I guess going chest to chest with someone roughly his own size was the key to getting his sumo running.

Daiamami defeats Ikioi – Ikioi also picked up his first loss for Haru. Daiamami chose a hit-and shift tactic from the tachiai, and it worked against Ikioi. This is the danger of a shoulder-blast tachiai. It leaves you off balance and committed to a direction, which leaves you open for an immediate slap / thrust down from the side.

Chiyonokuni defeats Ishiura – Ishiura attempts a “hit and shift” from the tachiai, but Chiyonokuni recovers and launches his frantic thrusting attack. In an instant, he is behind Ishiura and pushing him out.

Tochiozan defeats Ryuden – Ryuden looking surprisingly lost this basho, with only a single win. Tochiozan is competing hurt, but I marvel at the efficiency the veteran brings to this match. Every move has a purpose and a flow to it. Great sumo from Tochiozan.

Daieisho defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze seems to be slowly, day by day, regaining his fierce energy. Today’s match against Daieisho began with high-velocity oshi, but quickly went to Yoshikaze grabbing a thigh for a leg trip. Daieisho had the presence of mind to keep moving backward while Yoshikaze held his leg, bringing him to the clay.

Kagayaki defeats Abi – As anticipated last night, this turned out to be a great contest of clashing sumo styles. Abi tried for a henka, but there was no way Kagayaki was fast enough into the tachiai for that. Kagayaki seems to have styled himself on Kisenosato’s younger days. He is careful, deliberate and moves with purpose. So he turns and persues Abi, who is now retreating and using his superior reach to land blows to Kagayaki’s neck and head. Kagayaki gives ground and endures Abi’s attacks. But of course, Abi over-commits, and Kagayaki throws him to the clay. Nice sumo here.

Kaisei defeats Chiyomaru – Chest to chest from the start, Kaisei’s long arms are enough to go around Chiyomaru’s enormous belly. Kaisei lowers his hips and advances, but Chiyomaru shuts him down. Kaisei’s strength seems to be back, and he digs to find the energy to back Chiyomaru up and then lifts him over the tawara. That’s 5-0 for the Brazilian.

Shodai defeats Hokutofuji – A battle of the “Should have been” rikishi, Hokutofuji unleashes a fierce tachiai, which Shodai absorbs. Pushing Hokutofuji back, Shodai then turns his opponent, who rockets out and over the edge of the dohyo. It’s over in a flash.

Shohozan defeats Arawashi – Excellent opening from Arawashi, who nearly gets Shohozan out immediately after the tachiai with an armbar throw. But “Big Guns” is not to be denied today, and pivots to return the attack. He grabs a handful of Arawashi’s belt and marches forward, tossing him aside at the tawara. 5-0 for Shohozan, 0-5 for Arawashi.

Ichinojo defeats Endo – Ichinojo decides to unleash his battle-cuddle for a second day, this time tasking Endo to support his quarter-ton bulk until he gets tired. After an initial drive by Ichinojo that almost takes Endo out, the two lock up in the center of the dohyo, chest to chest. There they stay for a minute or more, Ichinojo calmly resting, and daydreaming of eating ice-cream with his favorite pony, while Endo is losing stamina. Endo rallies first and digs deep to raise the Mongolian giant up and start moving him back. But there’s just too much Ichinojo to move. Sensing Endo had reached the end of his endurance, Ichinojo returns the favor and finds Endo light enough to lift and push. Yorikiri. I firmly think Endo is going to be a san’yaku regular before long. He will need to find a way to deal with Ichinojo’s mass.

Tochinoshin defeats Chiyotairyu – Quick bout, after the tachiai, Tochinoshin circles around Chiyotairyu in a blink of an eye, and pushes him out from behind. Done and done.

Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi’s tachiai delivered his skull squarely into Mitakeumi’s face with a wet sounding crunch. I am going to guess that hurt. The match goes oshi-pushy, but Mitakeumi is able to give as well as he gets from Tamawashi. Already close to the edge of the ring, a well-placed shove at center-mass moves Tamawashi back over the bales for Mitakeumi’s 4th win.

Goeido defeats Takakeisho – Quite straight forward Goeido 2.0 bout. He stays stable, and apply wax on / wax off thrusts to keep Takakeisho moving backward and off balance. Still no “wave action” from Takakeisho? Nicely done Goeido.

Takayasu defeats Kotoshogiku – Poor Ojisan Kotoshogiku seems to be hurt, drained and on his last legs. We love the guy, but enough already.

Kakuryu defeats Takarafuji – I like how low Kakuryu was at the tachiai, and he moved forward strongly. His nodowa keeps Takarafuji high and moving backward. With his heels on the tawara, Takarafuji mounts his counter-attack, thrusting Kakuryu to the side. Takarafuji lunges and drives Kakuryu backward towards a loss. With his heels on the bales, the Yokozuna pivots and brings Takarafuji down. But a monoii declares the touched down at the same time, it’s a rematch!

The second bout started the same as the first, Kakuryu low and strong at the tachiai, into a nodowa. But this time he kept driving Takarafuji back and out.

Haru Day 4 Preview

Haru 2018 Dohyo Iri

We Need A Hero

I wanted to hold judgment for a few days, with the long break between Hatsu and Haru dulling everyone’s sumo, but it’s clear now that the upper ranks are still in turmoil, and the coming period of change may be even greater than expected. Is the sky falling? Not at all. Sumo is a completely Darwinian environment. The strong survive and rise and the weak are left behind. That is one of the great appeals of sumo, and that principle is core to its enduring place in the world of sport.

With only one damaged Yokozuna on the field for the last two basho, at least one San’yaku holder should be ⅔ of the way to an Ozeki claim. But instead, we have the chief tadpole unable to break double digits, a hard-charging yusho winner who is one bad fall away from retirement, a promising giant, and sumo Elvis. Before the year is out, I am going to guess that sumo will need another Ozeki. Please keep in mind that it takes at least two Ozeki to convene a Honbasho. This can be two Yokozuna, a Yokozuna and an Ozeki, or two Ozeki. Having two Ozeki and one damaged Yokozuna is just bad math, but so far no one has emerged who can contend for the Ozeki slot.

What We Are Watching Day 4

Aoiyama vs Hidenoumi – Aoiyama has returned large and in charge of the bottom end of Makuuchi. I expect him to beat Hidenoumi like a rug before dropping him to the clay. Aoiyama is fighting with mid-Maegashira class sumo right now, so I expect him to clean up the bottom end of the banzuke.

Ikioi vs Asanoyama – Ikioi winces in pain every day, and he still has 3 wins. I am not sure if he is going to be able to pull the plug on Asanoyama for day 4, but I am hoping that the guy can quickly get his 8 and then go kyujo. Asanoyama will likely move fast to get inside, and if Ikioi follows the same formula, he will lure him into over-committing.

Ishiura vs Yutakayama – Ishiura fought well on day 3, with a left-hand grip he would not release. Yutakayama is quite a bit larger in every measurement, but I am looking for Ishiura to continue his winning streak. It’s time for “Scary Dude” to help educate the Freshmen.

Okinoumi vs Chiyonokuni – I am impressed that Chiyonokuni has gone 3-0. Not very long ago he was Maegashira 1, but that ended poorly for him. He seems to have lost a bit of weight around his middle and maybe added it to his legs, so maybe he is more comfortable with his mass and is moving better. Okinoumi seems to be fading hard.

Abi vs Daieisho – These two should go at it like two ferrets in a bathtub, and I think this could be a real winner of a match. You have Daieisho, who seems to care nothing for how much he gets tossed about, always driving forward against the man with freakishly long limbs. Abi has yet to win a match from Daieisho, but you know he is going to give it his all.

Kagayaki vs Yoshikaze – I will come out and say it, Yoshikaze should win this one, but I have my doubts. Something has robbed him of his boundless energy and overwhelming attack power. This is their first match, ever, so experience may carry the day. But Kagayaki has been looking like he has stripped his sumo down to the fundamentals, and that is usually a winning formula.

Kaisei vs Shodai – Shodai seems to have given up. I hate to say it, as he has a lot of potential. The problem is squarely between his ears, and I am not sure who can help him cure that. Needless to say, Kaisei is going to increment their career record to 5-0 tomorrow, in my opinion.

Kotoshogiku vs Shohozan – Shohozan is on a roll right now, and it looks like he has something in his bag of pain for everyone. Kotoshogiku is even more damaged than he was at Hatsu and continuing to fade. The guy has skill and courage, but his body is done with sumo at the top division. That being said, if he can lock up Shohozan, I am sure he can still apply his trademark kimarite with vigor.

Mitakeumi vs Ichinojo – This one is akin to having a giant use you as a doormat. I suspect that unless Mitakeumi has a really well-executed strategy, that Ichinojo is simply going to envelop him like some kind of tiny, round pony that needs a good battle-cuddle. No shame to Mitakeumi, but some great force has possessed Ichinojo now, and  everything sent to stop him will be thrust aside.

Takakeisho vs Tochinoshin – I am leaning towards the Hatsu yusho winner, Tochinoshin for this one. Takakeisho has a lot of problems when it comes to the mawashi, as day 3 displayed clearly. Takakeisho would be wise to try and block Tochinoshin’s grip, but the Georgian has a much greater reach. Takakeisho, it’s wave-action for you or a black star.

Takayasu vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi strikes me as a happy go lucky guy, but I could understand if he held a bit of a grudge against Takayasu. They were co-Sekiwake for a while, and Takayasu got himself to Ozeki while Tamawashi ate clay. Takayasu’s sumo is a chaotic mess, as you can plainly see any day of this basho. Only one win, and that had at least one moment where he was off balance and headed out. Tamawashi will know exactly what to do, let’s see if he can seal the deal.

Endo vs Goeido – Keep an eye on Endo. He is looking better than I have seen him in a long while. Goeido is not doing too bad. His sumo is rough, but I chalk that up to ring-rust that is quickly coming off under the stress of Honbasho competition. Goeido holds a 4-2 career advantage, but Endo is on a mission.

Kakuryu vs Arawashi – Easy win for Big K, I just want him to not hurt anything in putting Arawashi away.

Haru Day 3 Highlights

Kakuryu

It seems the top division is starting to clear the cobwebs of two months without sumo and get into fighting form. Already there are a number of great surprises and some expected outcomes that are nice to see.

I have to give massive respect to Yokozuna Kakuryu. On the final day of the Hatsu Basho, he took a fall off the side of the dohyo in his match with Goeido, and in the process injured several fingers on his right hand. He is right-handed, and this has kept him from generating much – if any – grip strength. For whatever reason, he decided not to go kyujo, but instead gamberized and entered the competition. It’s quite early in the basho, but I am impressed that he has managed 3 consecutive wins. If you watch carefully, you can see him wince when he employs that right hand.

Then there is the case of Ichinojo. I know I had a bit of fun with his interview during last night’s preview, but if this giant of a man really has gotten his sumo back in fighting form, everyone is going to have to step up their game. He weighs over 500 lbs in the US system [over 225 kilos –PinkMawashi], yet he does not suffer from some of the mobility issues that plagued the Great Konishiki towards the end of his career at a similar weight. There are practical challenges with combating an opponent who is north of a quarter ton, as very few things will actually impact that kind of mass. The downside is that he is one ungraceful dismount from a career limiting mechanical injury. We wish him, his opponents, the shinpan, and everyone in the zabuton zone good luck and safety.

There was a LOT of good sumo on day 3, as everyone is starting to get their basho-grade sumo on.

Highlight Matches

Daiamami defeats Aminishiki – Aminishiki seems to put up some resistance, but this match is 100% Daiamami. I am glad that Uncle Sumo was able to push to return to Makuuchi earlier, but I fear he’s not got the mojo to compete at the top division level.

Aoiyama defeats Nishikigi – Very quick win for Aoiyama, who pulls Nishikigi down straight out of the tachiai. Aoiyama seems in better condition than he has been for a while, and may be well on his way to returning as a fixture of Makuuchi.

Ikioi defeats Hidenoumi – In spite of his injuries and pain, Ikioi keeps finding ways to win. Granted, Ikioi competing at Maegashira 14 is a bit silly, but he seems to be able to survive down here in his injured state.

Daishomaru defeats Kotoyuki – Once again, Daishomaru focuses on this opponents center of mass, applies pressure and marches forward. This guy has an excellent command of the fundamentals, and I like it. Of course, Kotoyuki goes airborne off the dohyo. I may give Kotoyuki a nickname – “The Porg”

Asanoyama defeats Ishiura – What a match! Neither man was willing to give an inch in this battle. No henka from Ishiura today, thank goodness. Asanoyama found himself challenged to get Ishiura under control, as Ishiura kept pressing inward and moving forward. Ishiura landed a left-hand grip, and try as he might, Asanoyama could not break it. The match was not so much won as lost, as I think Ishiura lost his footing, and Asanoyama let him drop.

Chiyonokuni defeats Ryuden – Chiyonokuni had a game plan, and he was able to execute it well. Ryuden over-committed at the tachiai (which he is inclined to do). Chiyonokuni gave token resistance, then allowed Ryuden to follow through all the way to the clay. Nicely done to Chiyonokuni, who has started this basho 3-0.

Okinoumi defeats Daieisho – Okinoumi finally picks up his first win. Daieisho was on the attack from the tachiai, but Okinoumi was able to shift his forward motion downward and to the right for the win.

Kagayaki defeats Chiyoshoma – I know Kagayaki does not attract much attention, as he is quiet and composed, but this guy is showing steady improvement. He’s off to a solid start, and I would guess this may another basho where he shows incremental increases in the power and skill of his sumo. Much like Kisenosato, he is not a gifted rikishi like Hakuho or Enho, but is willing to work himself endlessly to improve.

Abi defeats Hokutofuji – Abi pulls up early for a matta, but they get underway with reckless abandon on the second try. Hokutofuji is working with everything he has, but Abi’s freakishly long reach is giving him the advantage. Hokutofuji is relentlessly moving forward, but Abi plays matador and sends the charging Hokutofuji down and out.

Kaisei defeats Yoshikaze – Not sure if this is “What happened to Yoshikaze” or “What happened to Kaisei” question. Yoshizake is clearly a fraction of his normal attack power, while Kaisei seems to have decided to dust off his sumo and win. As a Yoshikaze fan, I would rather see him dominate, but it’s nice to see Kaisei running up the score for a change. Kaisei lands a deep left-hand grip early, and Yoshikaze seems to have no counterattack available.

Shohozan defeats Shodai – As predicted, Shodai was beaten up and lost his lunch money for a week. Shohozan applied a rotating “slap, slap, shoulder blast” program, and kept Shodai reacting to his sumo. Shohozan even landed a nice slap to Shodai’s face in there. Match finished with Shohozan applying a rolling sukuinage, with Shodai tumbling to the clay. Please, Shodai – get it together man!

Chiyomaru defeats Takakeisho – A surprising mawashi battle here, as both men are so rotund that their belts could be considered unreachable. Takakeisho is clearly looking to improve his yotsu chops, but in this bout, Chiyomaru comes out on top. Much respect to Takakeisho for working to expand his attack repertoire.

Ichinojo defeats Takarafuji – Over the past 24 hours, we have come to find out more about Ichinojo, including the fact that he used to wrestle small horses when he was living on the steppes of Mongolia. So now we will forever try to visualize what kind of pony he imagines each opponent to be. In the case of Takarafuji (aka, treasure-fuji), it’s better not to consider. Takarafuji, as always, gives it everything. But he is attempting to overpower a 500-pound mountain of Mongolian beef. With both men latched on to the other’s belt, there was only one way this was ever going to end. We can assume that Ichinojo routinely sleeps standing up against various fixtures and support beams, so leaning against the comparatively tiny and lightweight Takarafuji was unlikely to tire him. I do like the fact that when it came time to finish Takarafuji, Ichinojo was both careful and gentle. Neither man faced injury. Well done.

Tochinoshin defeats Kotoshogiku – Tochinoshin got his left-hand grip early, and no matter which way Kotoshogiku rotated, the Georgian stayed with him. Solid win for Tochinoshin using his preferred form.

Endo defeats Mitakeumi – Still sticking with my pre-basho proclamation: Keep an eye on Endo. Today he handed Mitakeumi his first loss of Haru, and he looked solid in the process. Mitakeumi launched low and compact into the tachiai, and once again Endo read the situation and reacted in a blink of an eye. He collapsed into Mitakeumi’s charge, turned him and got out of the way. Endo has always had outstanding ring sense, and split-second reactions. If he has resolved his health and injury issues, we could be seeing a new contender for a long duration San’yaku slot.

Goeido defeats Chiyotairyu – Don’t blink or you will miss it. Goeido delivers a face slap at the tachiai and then steps to the side. Chiyotairyu’s massive forward momentum does the rest.

Takayasu defeats Arawashi – Shoulder blast again from Takayasu leaves him dazed and off balance for a split second, but Arawashi does not notice or cannot capitalize. From there it’s a ragged chase scene that sees Arawashi step backward out of the ring. Kind of a dud match.

Kakuryu defeats Tamawashi – No complaints about that pull, as we all know Big K is hurt, and that right hand is the worst part of his body right now. Quite impressive that he beat Tamawashi off the line – that’s hard to do. Tamawashi once again came in strong, but Kakuryu was just enough ahead that he could force him back and up. From there the pull-down worked, and the Yokozuna had a victory before anyone got hurt.

Haru Day 3 Preview

Ichinojo

We are only on day 3, but it strikes me that we are back to a roster very similar to Hatsu, with a somewhat injured Yokozuna Kakuryu really the only upper ranked rikishi who seems to be delivering wins. Takayasu is all over the map and looking out of control. Goeido is working to settle down and focus on his sumo. Much as we suspected leading up to this basho, it’s going to be a free for all, and we may, in fact, see another Maegashira win the yusho this time, too.

This is all part of the transitional period that is natural after we have had a dominant cohort who have been able to hold on to and maintain the top slots for 10+ years in many cases. Much as I love Yoshikaze, Ikioi, Shohozan and all of that crowd, they are in their final tournaments of the top division, and we should enjoy them. They have an important and useful function – knock the youngsters around enough to make them proper sekitori.

Then there is Ichinojo (whom we affectionately call The Boulder); rarely have I seen a better return from a moribund state in any athlete. He seems strong, confident, poised and clearly benefiting from the lack of wolves prowling Japan, which allows him ample rest.

What We Are Watching Day 3

Daiamami vs Aminishiki – Uncle Sumo once again returns to the upper divisions. Sadly he enters with zero wins and is in fact not looking very genki at all this time around. He and Daiamami are evenly matched with a 4-3 career record in Daiamami’s favor.

Aoiyama vs Nishikigi – Bulgaria’s own self-propelled man-mountain is eager to defeat everything so he can earn his stay in Makuuchi. Nishikigi is likewise focused on survival but may have problems with Aoiyama’s superior reach, and impressive bulk.

Ikioi vs Hidenoumi – It was clear following day 2 that Ikioi was injured and in pain. He is clearly on the bubble this tournament, and a losing record or kyujo might put him in Juryo for a while, or for keeps. Hidenoumi has never found a way to beat Ikioi, but with Ikioi hurt, this may be his change.

Ishiura vs Asanoyama – Ishiura’s henka dispenser is getting boring. Sadly there is a good chance that Asanoyama will buy it at full price. Ideally, we would see these two scrap it out, but Ishiura seems to be very worried about his height disadvantage these days. It’s a far cry from his sumo during Kyushu 2016.

Chiyonokuni vs Ryuden – Maegashira 10 seems to be a comfortable rank for Chiyonokuni, who has always fought well no matter what rank he holds, but at this point, he is (so far) winning. Chiyonokuni delivers frantic, high energy action on the dohyo, and I am expecting he will overwhelm Ryuden.

Abi vs Hokutofuji – It makes me sad to think that Hokutofuji seems to have become the Eeyore of the sumo world. There is always some sort of negative outcome for him, no matter what. He can’t seem to muster a winning record these days, and his sumo is just not cutting it, even down at Maegashira 6. Abi gets his first meeting with him on day 3, and he is eager to bounce back from being Kaisei’s toy on day 2.

Kaisei vs Yoshikaze – Kaisei seems to be back in the groove with his sumo. It’s odd because he was doing poorly for a while, clearly fading out from his heights in 2016. But he rallied during his time in Juryo and seems to be on the march now. Sadly Yoshikaze has yet to look genki or even really at 80% of his normal crazy levels. Is time finally nipping at the heels of our favorite berserker? Yoshikaze fans may want to look away, the big Brazilian holds a 10-4 career advantage.

Shohozan vs Shodai – Oh lord. Shodai continues to be reactionary rather than dictating the match. When you are reacting, Shodai, you are like the worm waiting for the hook. Now he goes up against a resurgent Shohozan. Let me guess, more round-house slaps inbound to Shodai’s face. Interestingly enough, Shodai holds a 6-2 career advantage.

Chiyomaru vs Takakeisho – Chiyomaru has yet to take a match from Takakeisho, and the fact that it’s day 2 and the angriest tadpole in the squadron has already dusted off the “Wave Action” attacks may indicate that he’s looking to do more than an 8-7 kachi-koshi.

Ichinojo vs Takarafuji – Ichinojo seems mega-genki right now. That’s a lot of genki. Today, Tachiai’s own Herouth found an article on him in the Japanese press where he actually talked about tossing young horses about in his native Mongolia. Takarafuji is going to put up a good fight, he always does, but Ichinojo holds a 10-2 advantage over the man with no neck.

Kotoshogiku vs Tochinoshin – Kotoshogiku seems to be undergoing a gradual mummification process, where he had large amounts of his right abdomen and hip covered with flesh colored tape. Tochinoshin’s fans know that he’s only a fierce competitor when he’s not hurt, and we are all dreading the haunting possibility that one of these matches could see him hurt. Over their career, Kotoshogiku holds a 24-6 advantage over Tochinoshin, but with Kotoshogiku hurt, and Tochinoshin looking to move past his day 2 loss, that trend may have no meaning.

Mitakeumi vs Endo – Endo wants to recover from his hasty leap to take Kakuryu’s bait on day 2, which cost him the match. Mitakeumi pushes to do well the first week, knowing that many times he fades against the more senior rikishi. They are evenly matched 2-2 over their career, but I would give a slight edge to Endo this time.

Chiyotairyu vs Goeido – Goeido, look past the fact you have a losing record against super-sized-sumo-Elvis. Just plow him over. Takayasu is in trouble this time, and we need you to carry the Ozeki banner. Should Kakuryu get (more) hurt, you could end up the senior man for the rest of the basho.

Takayasu vs Arawashi – Oh Takayasu, please get your sumo under control. I think I know why Kisenosato was winning practice matches against you. You may have gone a bit off the rails with your technique. Arawashi’s dismounts are usually high on drama, and he has given Takayasu an excellent 2-3 career run. Pooh-bear, you don’t want to go into day 4 with zero wins.

Kakuryu vs Tamawashi – This one may be the match that puts Kakuryu out of action for the basho. Tamawashi has not been really genki for a while, and he is no joke this basho. I expect Kakuryu to attempt a pull or two, and he may not have much power from his primary right hand. Tamawashi, of course, is going to try to slap the Yokozuna into a mistake, and then make him pay.

Haru Day 1 Preview

Wasabi Mawashi

It seems like a long time, waiting for the Osaka basho to get underway. Part of that was due to the Olympic news blackout – the sumo world kept quiet in order to let the Olympics have the stage. Now the snow party in Korea is done, it’s time for the big men of Japan to take to the dohyo and compete. Oh boy, are we ready for some sumo!

If you are just now joining our coverage, a few things to note

  1. Tachiai is not spoiler free – we report things as they happen. If you want to wait until you can watch things on NHK or YouTube, you will want to visit us after you watch the highlights.
  2. We will attempt to live blog tonight, in conjunction with NHK showing the second half of Makuuchi live on NHK World. It may be a spectacular flaming train wreck, but it will be fun read along as we all watch live sumo together
  3. Tachiai is a team effort. There are multiple authors contributing to the content here, and we are greatful for all their efforts. Please be kind to them, or at least respectful. They give up their free time to comment on a sport we all love. Nobody here gets paid, we do it for the love of sumo.

With that down in writing, lets get started!

What We Are Watching Day 1

Aoiyama vs Kyokutaisei – The man-mountain Aoiyama made it back to the top division by the barest of margins, and his first match is against a Juryo rikishi filling a gap brought on by Onosho going kyujo. Aoiyama has been struggling, and frankly his mass has gotten out of control. We will be looking for him to put everything he has to stay in the top division.

Ikioi vs Sokokurai – Ikioi at Maegashira 14? What manner of cataclysm is this? Ikioi has been struggling for the last several basho, and his nursing injuries. With no jungyo tour this February, we all hope that he has gotten himself back together, and is ready to compete. Going against Sokokurai should be a fairly easy win for a healthy Ikioi, so it will be time to guess if he’s genki. Sokokurai holds a 5-1 career advantage

Daishomaru vs Asanoyama – Sumo’s happy boy goes up against Daishomaru, who has never lost to Asanoyama. This is usually a thrusting battle that gets Asanoyama off balance and out. With Asanoyama looking to bounce back from a somewhat disappointing Hatsu, he will need to break with tradition and defeat Daishomaru top one strong.

Ishiura vs Kotoyuki – My compliments to both rikish for surviving Hatsu, both of which have spent a good amount of time slumming in Juryo over the last year. Ishiura is still looking for a way to compete in spite of his small size, and tends to get confounded by larger opponents. Kotoyuki goes all out, and quite possibly Ishiura will use this against him. Even chances of a henka on this one.

Yutakayama vs Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni’s Grumpy Badger Sumo has not taken him as far as one might imagine, and after a disastrous Hatsu, he’s now down at Maegashira 10. Yutakayama won their only prior match, and his 30 kg mass advantage will likely be the deciding factor.

Okinoumi vs Ryuden – The perpetually injured veteran Okinoumi faces off against rising start Ryuden. One has to wonder how much longer Okinoumi will stick with professional sumo, where Ryuden has caught quite a bit of attention with double digit wins during his first Makuuchi tournament. This is their first match.

Abi vs Yoshikaze – I hope and pray that the NHK live stream starts here. This is possibly the highlight match of the day. Yoshikaze was a fraction of his normal level of genki during Hatsu, and I expect him to be fully recovered from the flu or cold or whatever plagued him. He faces off for the first time against leading man of the Freshman class, Abi. This will either be Yoshikaze dispatching the youngster with a deft and rapid kimarite, or it could be a great battle that rotates between oshi and yotsu-zumō in the blink of an eye. This is their first career match.

Kaisei vs Hokutofuji – Kaisei is near the top of his effective rank these days, given his weight and the limitations it places on his sumo. For a time Hokutofuji was a force of nature, but a series of small, but performance limiting, injuries kept him from living up to his awesome potential. With the Hatsu-Haru break, we can only hope that he returns to the dohyo healthy and ready to advance once more. These two have split their prior 2 matches.

Chiyomaru vs Shodai – The crew are all waiting for the day that Shodai fixes his tachiai and becomes a contender. Could Haru be the time we see him snap off shikiri-sen, catching the bulbous Chiyomaru by surprise? More likely, Chiyomaru will use his enormous belly to keep Shodai away from his mawashi, and dominate the match. Chiyomaru has won their only prior match.

Shohozan vs Takakeisho – Oh goodie! “Big Guns” Shohozan goes against Takakeisho’s “Wave Action Tsuppari!” In their prior two matches, Takakeisho has carried the day. But Shohozan is a street brawler with the strength to overwhelm the tadpole. This is likely to be fast and brutal, and we can watch it live!

Ichinojo vs Kotoshogiku – Ichinojo’s back in San’yaku, and he’s put on a vast amount of additional weight. This guy is so seriously huge that an awkward fall is an instant mechanical injury and possibly a ride in the oversized wheelchair. Day one he faces fading former Ozeki, the much loved Kotoshogiku. We all know that Kotoshogiku’s going to try for his hug-n-chug, and will likely get it. But will Ichinojo’s ridiculous bulk be too much for Kotoshogiku’s damaged knees?

Takarafuji vs Tochinoshin – January’s yusho winner goes up against Takarafuji the neck-less wonder. There have been reports that Tochinoshin may have injured himself in training, and this will be our first peek at if the party circuit post-Hatsu took its toll. Their match in January was some solid sumo, with Takarafuji able to block and counter Tochinoshin’s left hand with impressive skill. They are evenly matched with the 8-7 career score slightly favoring Tochinoshin.

Mitakeumi vs Arawashi – The Mitakeumi faithful are hoping that he will finally elevate his sumo and be able to turn in double digit wins at Sekiwake. With a likely cull in the Yokozuna ranks coming in the next 12 months, there is no better time to start driving for higher rank. But Arawashi is not going to be an accomplice to that plan. Though Mitakeumi leads their career bouts 3-1, Arawashi is fast, flexible and not afraid to deliver a henka.

Tamawashi vs Goeido – Tamawashi is frustrated. After losing his coveted Sekiwake slot, he has been a man on the outside looking in. He starts Haru by facing home town favorite Goeido, who may be the key man in this basho. If he delivers his “good” sumo style, he could be unstoppable. Tamawashi is a powerful oshi practitioner, and Goeido will need to get inside fast, and then endure punishing blows to win.

Takayasu vs Endo – Since his thigh injury, Ozeki Takayasu’s sumo has gotten sloppy. He tends to bounce around, not minding his hips or his center of gravity. He relies on a shoulder blast at the tachiai to put him in control of the match. Endo is my sleeper favorite going into Haru, and I would delight to see him counter the Ozeki’s predictable opening move. They are evenly matched at 6-6 for the career, so this is no easy walk over win for Takayasu.

Kakuryu vs Chiyotairyu – Though he is missing his side burns, Chiyotairyu will always be sumo-Elvis to me. We know he’s facing an injured and diminished Kakuryu, who’s main right hand weapon is not working well at all after a bad fall on the final day of Hatsu. So fans should restrain their reactions if Kakuryu uses a lot of pulls and “reverse sumo” this tournament. I give him huge credit for showing up and giving it his all.