While Hoshoryu has hit the Makushita wall, his sometimes rival, Naya, finished day 7 with a 4-0 record. Already kachi-koshi, he now enters the yusho bracket, along with any other rikishi who manage to finish their 4th match with 4 wins. Day 7 also saw Terunofuji win, to bring him to 4-0, and into the Jonidan yusho bracket. Meanwhile Wakaichiro dominated his day 7 match against Kotourasaki, and improved to 2-2.
On to day 8 action!
Hoshoryu vs Kotodaigo – This is an even match of two lean, fast moving rikishi who focus on technical sumo over size or brute strength. At Makushita 7, Hoshoryu is finding the competition especially tough, and is challenged as never before in his sumo career. While very optimistic fans entertained the notion of a strong kachi-koshi launching Hoshoryu to Juryo, the top 10 ranks of Makushita are a slaughterhouse, and most feel thankful just to rack up their 4th win.
Ichiyamamoto vs Gokushindo – Former Juryo man Gokushindo dropped to Ms20 for Haru, but his 3-0 record brings him up to battle Ichiyamamoto. Gokushindo has been a sekitori, and he wants back in the life of sumo’s nobility, and he is fighting like he means it. Ichiyamamoto’s sumo is red-hot this basho, so this might be an epic clash of rikishis battling for their kachi-koshi.
Wakatakamoto vs Chiyootori – Another former sekitori, Chiyootori, is also in the 3-0 bracket. The winner gets their kachi-koshi and moves on to join Naya in the yusho bracket. The last of the lower ranked Onami brothers seems to have strong motivation to join his brothers in Juryo.
Torakio vs Oisato – Naruto heya scion, Torakio, is having a terrible Haru. He is 0-3, and a loss on day 8 would mean make-koshi. His rank means he is safe in Sandanme, but it would be a setback for his work to reach Makushita.
Torakio vs Mori – Sumo’s leviathan, Kenho, looks to pick up his second win against the much much smaller Mori.
Hattorizakura vs Toya – Hattorizakura has faced Toya 3 times, and lost every time. Although not as meek as Hattorizakura, Toya has yet to achieve a single kachi-koshi tournament.
Tachiai fan favorite Ura finds himself in the thick of a very competitive Makushita division to start 2019, and it will be his biggest challenge in more than a year. Out of all of the stories that will be woven through Hatsu 2019, Ura’s battle to return to the top division continues to attract an increasing number of followers, as the master of “What the hell was that?” Sumo continues to fight his way though the ranks.
Ura attracted a great deal of attention from the start. A youth sumo competitor, he began his professional sumo career in May of 2015, and made quick work of the lower divisions. His promotion to Makushita in November of 2015 (his 4th basho) did not seem to slow him down at all, and he dispatched nearly every opponent. His arrival in Juryo in May of 2016 came just 1 year after his Jonikuchi debut. The man is a fierce competitor, and is the bane of any rikishi who faces off against him across the shikir-sen. He gained a well deserved following for his dynamic, acrobatic and sometimes unbelievable sumo.
But a tragic injury during Aki 2017 damaged his right knee, and he assumed at the time that his sumo career had ended. He opted for reconstructive surgery, and sat out healing tournament after tournament while his rank plunged down the banzuke, falling to the bottom of Sandanme before he was strong enough to return to competition a year after his injury. Since his return, it’s clear that his months spent healing his lower body allowed him to focus on his upper body, and he returned to the dohyo with a rather impressive gain in strength. He tore through his first two tournaments, scoring only a single loss.
After taking the Sandanme yusho in November, he has been ranked Makushita 23 for the Hatsu basho. The top quartile of Makushita is some of the most brutal, tough and flat out rank in sumo. This area is populated with rikishi who have fallen from the lofty ranks of Sekitori, and up and coming youngsters who are so close to the glory, money and privileges of the top two divisions. In some way it’s more rough and tumble than any other sumo group. Ura will be in this grinder, slugging it out for rank.
Some of Ura’s fans have asked if he should score a 7-0 yusho (possible but not likely) would he would be returned to Juryo. Truth be told, the climb through the top of Makushita into Juryo is sometimes referred to as “the wall”, and we can expect even a 7-0 finish to probably not be enough to do more than move him into the top 10 of Makushita for March. In order to reach Juryo, a rikishi must have both a strong winning score at the top of the division, and a slot must open up in Juryo by make-koshi, injury or retirement.
How tough will the competition be? Let’s look at some possible opponents:
Hoshoryu – Yes, that guy; Asashoryu’s nephew. He’s fast, strong and like Ura, has his eye set on a Sekitori rank.
Kizakiumi – A former college rikishi, he is another tough competitor who so far has not had to deal with injuries.
Chiyootori – Yes, the former Komusubi currently fighting it out to return to the top divisions, but mired in the Makushita mosh pit. This would be a tough, and exciting match.
It should be noted, that bout scheduling in Makushita works differently than the upper divisions. The first match will be someone close to the rikishi’s rank, then rikishi with the same score (ie, 2-0) will face each other in each successive match, with the schedule trying to keep huge rank mismatches from taking place.
Team Tachiai will be glued to our screens for each of Ura’s matches, as he has finally reached the rank where his recovery will be put to the test.
We now move to the Kagoshima prefecture, which boasts several rikishi of fame. There are the Kinoshita brothers, Chiyomaru and Chiyootori, Meisei and Daiamami. There is even a rikishi who is from Hioki city itself, though admittedly, a less well-known one:
Early morning, and in the handshake corner, we finally get to see Yoshikaze in his mawashi rather than yukata:
Inside, as usual, the Kokonoe rikishi are diligently working out around the dohyo. Kokonoe oyakata assures us that Chiyosakae is, in fact, serious:
As you know, the rikishi don’t have commercial weights available during the Jungyo, so they lift each other. Chiyomaru starts by lifting up Chiyonoumi, a reasonable 140kg weight. But then Chiyonoumi starts lifting Chiyomaru:
Now, that’s a 140kg rikishi lifting 191kg… 😨
By the way, notice those zabuton (sitting cushions) laid down on the floor? Take a look at one close-up:
The organizers of the event commissioned the design for these cushions from Kototsurugi. And Kototsurugi did a wonderful job – the light reflecting off Hakuho’s eyes! The shadow of the oicho-mage on the reflective, oiled hair! It’s a wonderful memento to take home with you… only… sitting on a Yokozuna’s face?
Some fans did sit on these zabuton. Not Hakuho fans, I guess. Others preferred sitting on zabuton they brought with them and holding the gift ones in their hands (“I hugged it and watched sumo!” said one of the spectators). The next day, when Asashoryu saw this he tweeted his indignation in two separate outraged tweets and even tried to get a reaction from Hakuho. Hakuho is not an idiot, of course, and didn’t react. At least not in public. He just kept on doing his thing:
I’m betting he got to sign a lot of those cushions at the end of the day.
His little pixie uchi-deshi also did his thing. That is, turned on the kawaii production to max:
Standing up, cute. Crouching down, also cute:
Tochinoshin was doing his shiko below the dohyo:
And Juryo rikishi were practicing on the dohyo:
I’m not sure when Chiyomaru had time to interview for the local news:
Maybe during the Makuuchi practice?
I guess he is getting himself used to being in Juryo.
Here is Tochinoshin vs. Takakeisho:
Tochinoshin doesn’t like to lose.
In the afternoon part of the event, Daiamami took the opportunity to get a photo with the sumo club of his alma mater, the Kagoshima Commercial Senior High School:
Enho was taking a stroll through the concession stand, where some fan sneaked in some unspecified unlicensed cheeky merchandise that managed to make Enho gasp, laugh, and apparently, feign anger:
No, I really have no idea what the fake merchandise was. The tweets I read that in had that part intentionally redacted. All we are left with is a pixie who is cute even when he tries to look fierce. And of course, Tomokaze who gets his share of pixie skin.
You can catch some glimpses of bouts in this video. Yes, it’s a video of a TV set showing a news segment. What you see are the local stars:
Also, enjoy Abi’s shiko:
And here is an expression you’ll never, ever see on the Yokozuna’s face when he gets ready to throw his salt in honbasho. Jungyo exclusive face here:
The day ends with Kasugaryu twirling his bow:
And this post ends with a double header in the pin-up corner:
We complete our journey through Kumamoto in Uto, home to two active rikishi. One is Ryuko, a Makushita wrestler who did well this basho and will be in the race for sekitori status in the next basho:
Um, Narutaki. What are you doing? I thought we were done with this stuff last jungyo. Anyway, you’re drawing attention away from the local boy!
So, in yesterday’s post’s comments, I was asked whether these tsukebito actually get any practice. Well, yes they do:
The practice session is more or less the same as that of the sekitori, only held earlier. It consists mostly of moshi-ai sessions, punctuated by quick butsukari for the participants. At the later stages, that butsukari is offered by sekitori:
Not that Enho is much of a pushing challenge. In Midorifuji’s case, it seems he got his butsukari from Tamawashi. At least, the mud on his back says he got rolled.
That’s a bit more of a challenge, and apparently Tamawashi makes sure that he didn’t hurt the micro-rikishi.
While the low-ranking wrestlers have their time on the dohyo, the sekitori are either outside in the corridors doing handshakes, or finding themselves quiet spots for some exercise. Meisei, who is out doing handshake, is so cold, he starts laughing uncontrollably:
Ishiura is all like “Who put me next to Crazy here”?
Which may be the reason why later Meisei had to settle for an isolated spot between a stroller and some derelict equipment:
Don’t worry, he didn’t stay alone for long:
A bit earlier, near the dohyo, just as yesterday, the Kokonoe guys do their morning workouts in front of their oyakata. This includes not just the sekitori but also Chiyosakae, who does this:
This seems to embarrass Kokonoe oyakata, whose voice you can hear in the background “take it seriously, will you?”. He also assures us in the tweet that Chiyosakae actually does take it seriously.
Around that same time, Akiseyama arrives at the dohyo and greets Kasugano, the Jungyo master.
I have a feeling Kasugano wishes he didn’t.
In some corner of the venue, Toyonoshima works out with a piece of rubber, assisted by his loyal Miyazaki:
The Juryo men start their own practice on the dohyo. Here is some butsukari between Chiyonoumi and Hakuyozan:
Jokoryu gets to have Ikioi’s chest:
And Enho… well, Enho is everywhere and practices with everybody. That is, anybody who can possibly find an excuse to lay his hands on the pixie:
Even the Yokozuna smiles when his little uchi-deshi greets him with a respectful ladle of water:
You’d think that Enho is the star of the show rather than Shodai. But actually, Shodai got a lot of attention. Some keiko with Asanoyama:
And some with Tochinoshin:
To which Tochinoshin also adds a hearty Kawaigari:
Practice part over, everybody gets cleaned, have their oicho-mage started, and have lunch. There are food stalls outside, and… it’s the perfect oportunity to grab Enho and ask him for a pic:
Hey, is that a way to start a conversation with a sekitori? Is there a single rikishi in the whole sumo world who doesn’t think the Japanese National Sport is actually “grab the pixie”?
As practice mawashi dry in the sun…
Inside the venue it still seems pretty cold. Take a look at Terutsuyoshi, all bundled into his… is that a kimono or a Mongolian Deel?
Sure looks like a Deel to me, but Terutsuyoshi is not Mongolian.
Nishikigi, on the other hand, gets warm by pestering his tsukebito:
In the entrance, however, Shodai was being photographed with his grandmother:
The Japanese press love Shodai’s grandmother, because of her name. Shodai is one of the wrestlers, like Takayasu, Endo and Yago, who wrestle under their own name. His grandmother’s name is 正代正代 – yes, twice the same pair of kanji, two completely different readings: Masayo Shodai.
It’s time for the Juryo dohyo-iri, and Enho is turning up the kawaii level:
Gokushindo is doing the same thing on the East side:
Those two are supposed to face each other this day. And they both exude kawaii like two idol group members on a save-the-cute-bunnies campaign. Enho signals to Gokushindo across the dohyo as they wait their turn:
When Gokushindo gets up on the dohyo, Chiyonoumi gives him the good old salted ladle routine:
Which you can’t blame him for doing, when that’s the reaction he gets. Then the two kings of cute battle in the cutest sumo bout you have ever seen:
I did warn you to prepare the insulin in advance, didn’t I? And those two kept it up even after the bout was over!
Well, Toyonoshima and Tomokaze were a little more serious about it:
But then came the Makuuchi dohyo-iri and of course, the usual suspects were goofing around. Abi had an arm-wrestling contest with Chiyotairyu:
And Nishikigi was still looking for somebody to bother, and found Shodai:
Shodai: “Come on, my grandma is here!”.
Looks like a little bit of cute rubbed off even on Takarafuji and Asanoyama:
But if you want to see a little actual sumo, here is this short video:
Shodai was paired, unsurprisingly, with Endo, who must be rather frustrated at having to constantly lose to local boys. Utchari, no less!
And how about that tsuridashi Hakuho did on Takayasu? It’s very encouraging to see him do that. Remember, Jungyo bouts are not something anybody is advised to put money on. There are lots of “gentlemen’s agreements” there, and at the very least, nobody is going to risk injury to win. But still, you can draw some conclusions about wrestlers’ health, and if Hakuho can do something like picking Takayasu up, it means his legs are up to the extra load.
By the way, Yoshikaze was back on the torikumi this day for the first time since the Jungyo began – while Yutakayama dropped off it.
With the sun setting, everybody’s Akeni was packed and wrapped and loaded onto the truck (the side-loading Japanese trucks are very clever):
The Akeni and their wraps carry the names of the sekitori. I always amuse myself by trying to identify as many names as possible. Try to learn the kanji for the wrestlers names!
During this visit to Uto, the Yokozuna paid a visit to the grave of Shiranui Nageimon, the 8th Yokozuna, performing his Shiranui dohyo-iri in front of the grave:
Shiranui Nageimon was actually the master of the 11th Yokozuna Shiranui Kotsuemon to whom that dohyo-iri style is (mistakenly) attributed.
And with this, we wrap up the day, tying it all up with Tobizaru:
That lovely Tobizaru really needs to be credited, so here is the Tweet from which he was taken:
We continue our journey through the Kumamoto prefecture. As always, the day starts with the low-ranking wrestlers around the dohyo, while some of the sekitori are shaking hands, some exercise around the venue, and some around the dohyo. The Kokonoe sekitori seem to be very diligent. Earlier than everybody, they start exercising around the dohyo:
The reason for this is that Kokonoe oyakata is in the Jungyo, and watching his flock like a hawk. He is the one who took this picture, by the way.
Hmm… where is Chiyoshoma? I guess not everybody is that stressed out about the oyakata. Chiyoshoma, as usual, gravitates toward the Mongolian corner:
Mitoryu is not the only one doing resistance training. Takanosho is hard at work, simultaneously stretching his rubber strap and being cute.
Ishiura is busy stretching his tendons:
You can do better than that!
Takekaze was doing… something…
The tweet says suri-ashi, but it doesn’t really look like it.
Takayasu is busy lifting one of his tsukebito. Ozeki and Yokozuna get to bring more than one tsukebito to Jungyo. His other tsukebito is also by his side – Musashikuni.
Now let’s see Takayasu try that with Musashikuni…
The local boys are Sadanoumi and Shodai. Sadanoumi does a frog impression:
OK, OK, it’s another type of stretch. I get the impression that Sadanoumi tries to avoid the limelight, as opposed to Shodai who is in full fansa mode:
Shodai is accompanied by Asakura, who demonstrates the duties of a tsukebito to us.
Other rikishi take their time and chat a little. Here is a rare smile from Kagayaki:
Kagayaki once said the only rikishi he is on friendly terms with is Enho. But it seems he found some companionship in Onosho. Onosho seems to be a friendly guy in general:
Here he is with Midorifuji. Midorifuji seems to enjoy the same popularity Enho had when he was still in a black mawashi and doing the Jungyo as Hakuho’s tsukebito: he seems to hang out with many sekitori, not even from his own ichimon, which is a bit unusual for a low-ranker. I’ve seen him chatting with Chiyoshoma (who rarely chats with anybody other than his own heya-mates or the Mongolian rikishi), and even with some of the oyakata. It’s the pixie dust, I’m sure!
On the dohyo, we have some Juryo moshi-ai:
And some Makuuchi: Ryuden vs. Sadanoumi
Endo vs. Aoiyama:
I expect Aoiyama to cut through the ranks like a hot knife in butter next basho. Tamawashi vs. Shohozan:
I always like to watch these two going at it. I expect the bartender to dive under the counter any minute.
And here are Tochinoshin and Asanoyama:
No explicit information, but it seems Meisei has been through some kawaigari:
And so we get to the second part of the day. Not many photos from the actual bouts, but remember, Hakuho is back! Therefore, we have this familiar scene:
That’s Hakuho, leaning on the Yobidashi after the sanyaku-soroi-bumi, awaiting his bout. He invariably does that in Jungyo – and sometimes runs some pranks on the yobidashi while he’s at it.
Here’s a short video with some shokkiri and some bouts (alas, no complete ones):