Tanabata Wishes

This post originates in quote-retweets I made of the relevant NSK tweets. Josh suggested I collate them into a post. So for the benefit of those who don’t follow my Twitter account, here is the collation:

tanabata

Tanabata is an ancient Japanese festival, celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month. Nowadays, it’s mostly celebrated on July 7th.

The main Tanabata custom is to write one’s wishes on a small piece of paper called “tanzaku”, hang the wishes from a bamboo – sometimes with other decorations – and then float the bamboo, wishes and all down a river or burn it around midnight or the next day.

This year Tanabata falls on Saturday, July 7th – the day before the Nagoya basho.

A couple of days ago, a rikishi-kai took place. “Rikishi-kai” is both the name of the meeting of sekitori taking place before each basho, and the body of sekitori itself. As a worker’s association, it’s pretty useless. But they have a fun meeting before each basho, sometimes raising money for charity, and sometimes just giving fans an opportunity to meet their idols and get photos.

Given the date Tanabata falls on, it’s no wonder that sekitori attending the rikishi-kai were handed tanzaku, and asked to write their wishes on them. Their wishes will be hung at the Dolphins Arena (the location of the basho) during Tanabata. Here is what they came up with:

Sokokurai: “I wish my injury to heal”. Ouch.

Yago (in an Oguruma yukata): “Promotion to Makuuchi”.

Seiro: “To aim for the top!!”. So, you wish to aim for the top or you wish to get to the top?

Hidenoumi: “Establish myself at Makuuchi”. No moro yo-yo for Mr. Magenta Mawashi, please.

Daishoho (in a Kakuryu yukata): “Promotion to Makuuchi”. Well, if a cute duck-face can get you there…

Takanosho: “Promotion to Makuuchi”. I hate to tell you this, but the gods can only arrange for a small number of promotions each basho. 😁

Takagenji and Shohozan kept their wishes a secret (they are showing the side with their names):

Daiamami (in a Fuji TV yukata? wow): “I want brand new kneecaps”. Ouch.

Up to Makuuchi, Hokutofuji wishes to advance to san-yaku:

Ishiura: “I want to make another child”. Heh, give your wife a little rest, will you? She just had a baby. Or is this just code for “I want to get some”?

Asanoyama (in the ever-popular Chiyoshoma yukata): “Double digit wins”

Nishikigi-mama: “Health above all”. Nishikigi for chairman of the board! Who’s with me?

Kyokutaisei (in a Hakuho yukata): “Have savings!!”. Let me guess, the guy is recently married. 😆

Chiyotairyu: “I need money”. Somebody please give the Kokonoe koen-kai a call. Help a poor rikishi, will ya?

Endo: “Get through the group stage”. Bruce claims this is about the Tachiai Sumo World Cup. I have a hunch he was talking about Team Japan in the FIFA World Cup. And he got his wish, though I wish those last 10 minutes would be erased from history.

(Yeah, yeah, derailed here).

Abi worrying what he should wish for. Yes, that’s his worried face.

Chiyonokuni (in the new designer Kokonoe yukata) wants to advance to sanyaku:

Shodai: “I want a watch”. I’m sure he’s not addressing the gods… You want Japanese make or Swiss make? I’ll bet many of his sashi-ire (gifts to rikishi… or prisoners…) in the coming weeks are going to be ticking.

Mitakeumi: “I want to become handsome”. Well, he is using the word “ikemen” which is a manly man kind of handsome. There has been an argument about this on Twitter, in which some of the ladies claim that he already has his wish, whereas I claim that despite his obvious sumo prowess and good nature, he looks like a carp in a mawashi.

Tochinoshin: “I want the yusho”. Well, duh!

Hakuho: “Win #1000”. He is referring to number of wins in Makuuchi – he wants to pass 1000. He won’t make it this basho, though, as he is still 17 or so short, and I’m sure he doesn’t want the gods to extend the basho to 17 days.

Finally, we end with the leader of the banzuke, the surprisingly genki yokozuna Kakuryu: “I wish not to be injured”. I’ll add my voice to that, Amen. Chuckle for coming up with a wish that requires no kanji (“kega” is written in hiragana or katakana more frequently than in kanji).

Natsu Day 3 Preview

Natsu Day 3

A bit abbreviated tonight due to urgent circumstances. Sheltering here in the wilderness of Texas, it’s become apparent that my means of watching sumo have all given out on the same day, and I am eager to return to troubleshooting my wiring. So let’s crack on. But first… Something I noticed today……

Abi-Tochinoshin

The above screen grab is from Jason’s YouTube channel today. Yes, Tochinoshin tore Abi up and fed him to the cameramen in the corner of the dohyo. Abi is young, he’s been oshi-zumo forever, and is now finding out that you can’t usually push your way to a joi win. But that’s not the point of this.

I saw a potential for something amazing. Granted its probably at least a year from now, but I think it could be damn impressive. Tochinoshin is a big, big man. He’s about maximum of what Northern Europe can produce as far as a powerful, well muscled battle wagon. Sure there are variations on that theme, but he is close to an optimum. But look at Abi. He has Tochinoshin high, head back with a powerful nodowa. That reach.. that reach..

The situation is would be more extreme against Asian opponents. If that young man can train, practice and fight on the mawashi, there could be big things for him in the future. Able to achieve a grip in situations that many others could never negotiate, he could be one of the greatest yotsu-zumo men ever.

What We Are Watching Day 3

Aoiyama vs Asanoyama – This should be a chance for Aoiyama to pick up a much needed win, but I think instead it’s going to be further validation of the theory that he’s having a lot of problems with his knees, and it is genuinely impacting his sumo. As a large fellow, and damage to his undercarriage compounds quickly, as the stress his body is already under trying to support his incumbent enormity.

Daiamami vs Takakeisho – Takakeisho is still not looking 100%. This guy was the meanest tadpole in the puddle for about a year, and many were talking (justifiably) about him as a San’yaku feature by mid 2018. But like so many promising rikishi, and injury has left him adrift, and the sumo world has figured out his schtick, so now he’s not the threat he used to be. Interestingly enough, this is the first time these two have fought.

Yoshikaze vs Kagayaki – This should be a straightforward Yoshikaze win. However I fear that will not be the case. Kagayaki does not get a lot of attention because he is quiet, workman like, and very steady. He has been mid-Maegashira quite a bit, and he seems to be comfortable here. Yoshikaze won their only prior match.

Ryuden vs Ikioi – Ryuden needs to turn things around. It’s clear he is struggling, and finding his new rank a challenge. But I think given how Ikioi has been performing he is not going to find relief on day 3. Frankly, I am thrilled to see Ikioi looking genki for once, after many basho where he seemed to just be trying to survive.

Chiyotairyu vs Shodai – Can Shodai complete his Chiyo collection? The big problem here will be Shodai’s weak tachiai, and Chiyotairyu’s habit of launching like a 450 pound cannon ball at his opponent. If Shodai can survive the impact, and if the sideburns don’t grab a hold and pin him to the clay, he will have a narrow window to try to do something effective. I can’t wait to see what that is.

Mitakeumi vs Abi – Sucks to be Abi this week. Next up is King Tadpole. I know he’s going to deliver a lot of oshi to Mitakeumi, but I also do think Mitakeumi is going to let it bother him too much. Fans who are curious as I am, let’s see what kind of impact Abi’s superior reach has on the early moments of Mitakeumi’s battle plan.

Daieisho vs Ichinojo – Daieisho has been fighting well, not winning much, but putting a lot of effort into his matches. But the bad news for him is the appearance of Ichinojo on the west side of the fight card. Right now the Boulder looks to be in charge most matches, and as long as they keep the ice cream flowing, he might just keep winning.

Tochinoshin vs Tamawashi – The Ozeki hopeful will work to get a shallow belt grip against a Mongolian hitting machine. And he hits HARD when he can set up his offense. So Tochinoshin’s going to take a couple of angry blows on his way to his 3rd win.

Endo vs Goeido – Great test for Goeido 2.1. Endo is happy to find ways to stalemate his opponents, much as Kakuryu does. I heard there is a new feature that takes care of this logic loop in the prior Goeido version. If Endo wants to hold a San’yaku slot, he needs to surprise a couple of top men with a visit to the zabuton.

Shohozan vs Hakuho – Shohozan is no easy mark, but we may see him surprise a Hakuho that looks increasingly out of his comfort zone. Money on the toes or that right knee. Any way to goes, I have confidence he will pull out of the tournament if things get too serious. But like the other Yokozuna match, Shohozan has yet to find any way to defeat Hakuho.

Kakuryu vs Kaisei – Not sure what kind of offense Kaisei can produce here. Kakuryu has 12-0 against him. Possibly a snooze fest.

Natsu Day 2 Highlights

Hakuho-Dohyo-Iri

With Andy’s apt description of the GoeiDOS 2.1 upgrade described below, what is there left to say?  Another day with few surprises in the top division, but some entirely watchable sumo with plenty of matches to enjoy. It’s clear that both Ichinojo and Tochinoshin are in good form, and Goeido has yet to revert to “bad” form yet. Let’s go straight to the highlights.

Natsu Day 2 Highlights

Nishikigi defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu opened strong, but Nishikigi rallied with considerable strength and prevailed. I wonder if his precarious position on the banzuke motivates Nishikigi to higher levels of performance.

Kyokutaisei defeats Aminishiki – Uncle Sumo tries a henka, but Kyokutaisei reads it correctly and overpowers the aged rikishi, winning with a susoharai leg sweep. Hopefully Aminishiki did not pick up an additional injury.

Sadanoumi defeats Tochiozan – Word in the practice sessions leading up to the basho was that Tochiozan was in fantastic condition and performing very well. He seems to be genuinely struggling in the first two days.

Takekaze defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama opened strong and kept up the pressure, which was probably a mistake. Takekaze got Aoiyama moving forward, and then got out of his way.

Arawashi defeats Ishiura – Ishiura attempts a henka, and Arawashi is ready for him, grabbing him with his wide spread left arm and reeling him in for a quick push out. Ishiura needs some new tricks.

Okinoumi defeats Takakeisho – Takakeisho opened strong, and got some mighty shoves into Okinoumi, but Okinoumi returned the favor. As Takakeisho gave ground, he attempted a pull down, but Okinoumi was quite prepared for that, and thwarted his attack.

Daiamami defeats Hokutofuji – Wow, Daiamami made fast work of Hokutofuji who seems to be low-energy and somewhat uncertain of how to regain his former mojo. It’s sad to watch, and I am going to assume its due to some injury we fans don’t know about.

Daishomaru defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze did not look good today.

Chiyoshoma defeats Ryuden – Ryuden took the fight to Chiyoshoma with vigor and strength, but it was all Chiyoshoma, who completely ran this match and finished it with a resounding shitatenage. Ryuden is good, but has more work to do.

Ikioi defeats Takarafuji – Ikioi once again throws caution to the wind, and gives Takarafuji a stiff battle, ending with Ikioi hurling the man with no neck to the clay like a boss. The crowd goes wild.

Kotoshogiku defeats Chiyotairyu – Kotoshogiku was large and in charge today. He paid no attention to Chiyotairyu’s massive bulk and cannon-ball tachiai. It’s good to see that the Kyushu Bulldozer can still be a force of sumo.

Shodai defeats Daieisho – Daieisho opened strong and kept up the pressure on Shodai, who was on the defensive and moving backwards, a lucky pull from Shodai put Daieisho off balance and he could not recover. An ugly win for Shodai, but a white-star none the less.

Endo defeats Yutakayama – Endo struggled more than he should have in this match. That is a sign that Endo is not quite all there yet, and that Yutakayama put his heart into this match. Endo’s win came via a pull down from the edge of the ring.

Tochinoshin defeats Abi – I did not expect Abi to win, but he impressed the hell out of me with the fight he brought to Tochinoshin. Abi’s superior reach was used with great effect out of the tachiai, and frankly caught Tochinoshin by surprise. With the Ozeki hopeful in a strong nodowa, Abi had early control of the match. But Tochinoshin was not to be denied, and remember to go for the belt. Well done to Abi, a glorious loss. Your intro to the joi will be painful, but it’s part of the sport.

Ichinojo defeats Kaisei – A battle of the super-heavies, and as anticipated, it was all about how could do more with their ponderous bulk. Kaisei found the mawashi early, but it seemed to have little effect on The Boulder. After a bit of leaning on each other, Ichinojo stood Kaisei up and marched him out.

Goeido defeats Shohozan – Andy may have been right, the maintenance release Goeido 2.1 may be stable, on line and doing well. He make quick work of Shohozan with many characteristics of the “good” Goeido. Moving forward strongly with lightning speed and no consideration to restraint for the sake of any defense. Please do keep it up Goeido!

Kakuryu defeats Tamawashi – Kakuryu’s reactive sumo takes the day again. It’s not too tough to get Tamawashi to shift his weight quite far forward, and he readily obliged the Yokozuna, who politely encouraged him to exit the ring.

Hakuho defeats Mitakeumi – Hakuho struggled, no two ways about it. Mitakeumi is probably bringing everything he can to his sumo this outing, but I am starting to come around to Kintamayama’s point of view that “The Boss” is not quite healed up yet.

Tachiai drops in on the YDC Soken

Kokugikan Interior - YDC Soken
The Makushita division moshiai during the Yokozuna Deliberation Committee’s soken

Once a year, the Yokozuna Deliberation Committee opens their soken to the public. Anyone can simply turn up to the fabled Kokugikan in the Ryogoku neighborhood of Tokyo and watch all the stars (and more besides) work out in front of the Committee and a selection of esteemed stable-masters, several of whom are also on the board of the Sumo Association. Oh, and by the way – it’s free.

The soken started from 7:30am and ran until just after 11am. The open training session and assessment contains a few features, the two most prominent being moshiai (where two rikishi fight and the winner stays on and picks his next opponent from an eager crowd) and butsukari (one rikishi holds firm while the other tries to essentially plow him across the dohyo). At the end of the day, each Yokozuna also picked a handful of friends to come up for some sanban (a series of 1 on 1 matches).

The crowd at this event was overwhelmingly elderly in nature, though there were a handful of families in attendance. Again, a gift shop was set up, and curiously, I spotted a rare piece of Harumafuji merch: a statue that retailed for about $120, a beautiful collector’s item for any super fan of the former champion. In the arena, the lower boxes were almost completely full, and the upper deck of Kokugikan was about 10% full. Owing to my vantage point, occasionally the odd punter walks in front of my camera, so please mind any interruptions in the videos below.

Juryo & below

Soken - Kaisho, Tomisakae, Enho
Kaisho and Tomisakae do battle as Enho awaits his turn. (Photo credit: @nicolaah)

Terutsuyoshi gave Enho butsukari, but the wee Miyagino man either really had some trouble pushing the wee Isegahama man across the dohyo, or Terutsuyoshi was digging in with some incredible strength. The soken is meant to be a quiet training session, but the first sign of the day that that clearly wouldn’t be the case was the big cheer given to Enho when he mounted the dohyo for this first practice.

Wakatakakage put a nice little run together when picked for moshiai, but got a little over ambitious in picking the experienced Azumaryu, as he was no match for the veteran on this day. Wakatakakage seems a little more ready than Enho was for the lower end of Juryo, and his promotion may be well timed.

Fellow Juryo promotee Hakuyozan was by far the most popular pick in the Juryo moshiai, and also the recipient of the most losses. That said, no one in the Juryo division was really able to put a run of more than 3 wins together in the moshiai. Rikishi were presumably getting tired quite quickly with so many repeated matches under the hot lights. Tokushoryu managed to stay up for 5 matches which seemed the longest run in the division.

Lower Makuuchi

Soken - Sumo Elders & Oyakata
Several oyakata look on as their charges mount the dohyo. (Photo credit: @nicolaah)

Uncle Takarafuji (the heir to the Uncle Sumo mantle whenever Aminishiki hangs em up) put together a nice run in the moshiai. He also called on shin-makuuchi man Kyokutaisei for his first moshiai in the top division. The Hokkaido movie-star gave him a good match before disposing the veteran. Kyokutaisei in turn then got even more ambitious and selected Mitakeumi, and… he learned a lesson.

Everyone wanted a piece of Tochinoshin. And a lot of them were able to get it, because he was an absolute monster on the dohyo. The only time the Georgian relented during a remarkable stretch where he laid waste to about 10 rikishi in a row was simply to get his man servants to come over and wipe him down from all the sweat he accumulated under the lights.

Chiyotairyu was the man to finally beat him, and must have enjoyed it so much that he then pushed the crowd away to give the Kasugano-beya star a rematch, which he also won. Chiyotairyu must make a great DJ because he was in a real crowd pleasing mood, and evoked a massive applause from the crowd by giving shin-Komusubi Endo his first outing of the day.

For those of you who haven’t been to Kokugikan, if you walk around the halls, the only non-yokozuna rikishi that you see anywhere is Endo. He’s on advertisements, he’s on cardboard cutouts where you can have your picture taken with him, he’s a bona fide sumo rock star. That said, his wins were far and few between today as he did not look particularly genki.

Here’s Endo knocking off Myogiryu before losing again to Chiyotairyu:

Chiyonokuni was tapped by Yoshikaze to take the stage and this was a brilliant street fight, with Yoshikaze getting dumped off the dohyo having been thrusted out by the man from Mie. I cursed myself for missing out on filming this (but an iPhone battery can only take so much abuse in one sitting), but I look forward to a rematch here in the Natsu basho, Great Sumo Cat-willing.

Maegashira basement-dweller Nishikigi was a popular selection for many rikishi in the moshiai. Here he is, taking on and defeating everyone’s favorite pony-tossing sekiwake:

Notable absentees included many of the same men absent from jungyo, as Ikioi and Aoiyama were nowhere to be seen. Injured men Takakeisho and Aminishiki were in attendance, and fan favorite Abi did not take the dohyo but performed stretching activities out to the side. Another man who didn’t spend much time on dohyo was Chiyomaru, but he was certainly a favorite amongst the fans gathered outside after the event: when the rikishi exited the soken, many of them had to walk right through the fans and over to the taxi rank outside Ryogoku station, and the hungry man had to stop to pose for more fan photos than anyone else I saw.

San’yaku

Soken - Kisenosato v Kakuryu
Kisenosato drives Kakuryu back. (Photo credit: @nicolaah)

The men of the top ranks mostly fought against each other, and this was prime fare for the sumo watcher. Luckily for you, dear reader, we’ve got lots of video!

Kisenosato was very active and got several rounds in, mostly against Goeido and Kakuryu. He snuck a couple wins but didn’t look great. Again, Goeido showed no mercy and looked like he had the beating of him. If this Goeido shows up to Natsu, it could be a really good basho.

Kakuryu looked really good. He looked like a yokozuna. Ichinojo was on hand for the san’yaku moshiai but didn’t as feature much either in the moshiai, or later, the butsukari, as the other men of the san’yaku.

Takayasu spent most of the day hanging out on the sidelines with his man-servant and doing stretching activities. It was clear before he even got on the dohyo that he was not in good shape, and his feet were heavily taped. Goeido wasn’t in the mood to show any man from Tagonoura-beya any mercy today: when Takayasu eventually did mount the dohyo, he was dispatched multiple times by his fellow ozeki. His final attempt at battle had the hairy man ending up howling in pain, grasping his right shoulder, and stumbling back to the corner to stretch out for the rest of the morning.

Hakuho showed once again why he is such great entertainment. As you can see from the videos, he waits off to the side for ages. After everyone has had their little fun, The Boss takes the stage and he is utterly and completely box office. It’s san-ban time and Hakuho goes several rounds with Mitakeumi, then Endo, then Mitakeumi again. Mitakeumi gives him more of a game than Endo, who just looks totally overmatched. Hakuho looked like he still had it in for Mitakeumi for breaking his win streak last summer. Towards the end it gets humiliating, like when Hakuho spins Mitakeumi around and just kicks his leg out from under him. The very next fight, Mitakeumi finally pushes his man out of the dohyo, only to be rewarded with yet more san-ban.

Soken - Hakuho & Endo
Hakuho and Endo in butsukari. (Photo credit: @nicolaah)

Hakuho later gave absolutely brutal butsukari to Endo that lasted at least 10 minutes. I captured perhaps the least humiliating parts of that encounter in the below video, because I didn’t want Endo to see much video evidence of what happened today on the internet. From time to time Hakuho threw a few kicks in for the dirt-covered star while he’s lying prostrate on the clay. Hakuho also took reverse butsukari from new maegashira Kyokutaisei, in what must have been another cool moment for the Tomozuna rikishi.

Tochinoshin and Kisenosato were butsukari bros for the day, alternating attacks. When Tochinoshin was on the offensive it looked like he was targeting Kisenosato’s injured left pectoral in particular, and I wondered if that might have been more with Kisenosato in mind than Tochinoshin, perhaps to show those in attendance (and perhaps the Yokozuna himself) how much the beleaguered Yokozuna could withstand from a strong Sekiwake at the peak of his performance. Tochinoshin was absolutely on fire all day, displaying a confident and authoritative presence, and if he turns up to the upcoming tournament displaying the form we saw today, then he will make a very strong case for a promotion to Ozeki.

Many thanks to Tachiai’s instagram moderator Nicola for many of the photos in this post. For more photos from the soken, head over to Tachiai’s instagram profile!

Natsu Banzuke – Bruce’s Comments

Mole Boss vs Dia Yokozuna

The Tachiai team will gather for their banzuke podcast next weekend, but with the Banzuke just published, it’s time for some comments and remarks. If you are looking for lksumo giving himself a hard time over his estimates, he will likely publish those soon.

Yokozuna / Ozeki – no surprises here, Kakuryu remains at 1 East. Although Kisenosato has been participating in Jungyo, and making competition noises, it’s far from certain that he will actually compete in Natsu. Takayasu is starting to dream of trying for the rope himself, but this basho will likely feature Hakuho in the roster. Not that the dai-yokozuna is unbeatable, but Takayasu needs to dominate across the board to make a play for the yusho.

In the lower San’yaku is where the excitement starts. We have Ozeki hopeful Tochinoshin taking the Sekiwake 1 East slot, with our favorite boulder Ichinojo taking West. Tochinoshin continues to look very strong, incredibly focused and driven to excel. With Hakuho back in action, the challenge to reach double digits again will be significantly increased. Mitakeumi drops down to Komusubi East, with Endo making his San’yaku debut at Komusubi West. It’s been a long, hard road for Endo, and I am sure that he is savoring this achievement.

Kaisei rocketed up the banzuke to grab Maegashira 1 West, from 6 East last tournament. There were some who speculated that his impressive 12-3 Jun-Yusho should put him in the San’yaku, but there was a pack of over-achievers in Osaka, and the Brazilian is forced to settle for M1. This is further evidenced by Tamawashi only moving from West to East, even though he produced a 9-6 record.

In the Freshmen, Abi continues to over-accomplish. He is now firmly in the Joi at Maegashira 2, with fellow Freshman Yutakayama taking Maegashira 3. Ryuden rises a respectable 4 slots to 7 East, while Asanoyama is settling for a mild promotion at 12 West, thanks to another cohort of solid performance in the lower end of the banzuke in March.

The Oitekaze brute squad is further represented by Daieisho at 3 East, thanks to his 9-6 in March from 8 West. Can someone please get the Oitekaze chanko recipe? I feel it could have wonderful benefits for the infirm and the aged (starting with me!). Daiamami picks up 11 East after 10-5 from 16 East in March.

The tadpoles are licking their wounds to be certain, now. With Mitakeumi out of Sekiwake, Takakeisho down to 10 West, and the fighting red mawashi of Onosho dropped down to Juryo without so much as a “すみません” (Sumimasen). Is Takakeisho a Maegashira 10 rikishi? Ha! No, no and hell no. Is Onosho a Juryo riksihi? Lower division folks, make sure you are taped up when you face the red terror. The tadpoles are down, but not out.

But speaking of large objects, everyone’s favorite spheroid, Chiyomaru, dropped to 7 East while his stable-mate Chiyotairyu took the Koumusubi express back down the banzuke to 4 East.

But let’s not end hungry! Down at the lower rungs of the banzuke, there are some happy faces. Kyokutaisei makes his debut in the top division. He joins returning faces Sadanoumi, Takekaze and… UNCLE SUMO! Yes, Aminishiki returns like that favorite pair of jeans you though were too beat up to wear. Nope, still plenty of life, but enjoy them while you can.

I would be remiss if I did not comment that much farther down the banzuke, our favorite Texan, Wakaichiro, finds himself back in Jonidan at 14 East. This is certainly a disappointment to him, but we encourage him to recall he always fights better in Tokyo. Give ’em hell!

Jungyo Newsreel – Day 1, Ise Shrine

Preface and apology

Some of the readers may know that I’m currently on vacation in Tokyo. I thought that from Japan, I would be able to post better, high quality matter. As it turns out, it’s very difficult to post anything larger than a tweet when all you have is a tablet and a smartphone. Well, today I finally got myself to Akihabara and got an external keyboard for my tablet, so I’m ready to brave posting again, but I still can’t promise these jungyo posts will be up to par – or even that I’ll be able to post them daily. I’ll do what I can.

The Jungyo actually started on April 1st. So I’m sorry about the delay. Let’s start!

🌐 Location: Ise Shrine, Mie Prefecture

The Ise Shrine is Japan’s holiest and most ancient shrine – the main shrine of the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu. The visit to Ise Shrine was not just your regular jungyo visit, intended to entertain the residents of small towns and let them share in the national sport. It’s a “Honozumo” event – sumo bouts that take place inside the precincts of a shrine. Sumo originated as an entertainment for the gods, and Honozumo events bring it back to its origins.

12 sekitori are absent from the Jungyo. This includes Kisenosato who – unsurprisingly – still has that problem in his left chest. It also includes every sekitori from the Takanohana stable, except for Takagenji. Takanoiwa’s medical certificate indicates mental stress.

That same Takagenji stood a long time at the edge of the dohyo. The sekitori were doing moshi-ai, where the winner of a bout stays on the dohyo and chooses his next opponent. Nobody chose Takagenji and he looked pretty frustrated.

Takagenji is used to having his twin around during jungyo.

While the rest of the rikishi were practicing, the Yokozuna performed a ceremonial dohyo-iri. This is much like the one performed in the beginning of every year at the Meiji shrine, with a few differences. First, at Meiji it is performed right in front of the main Shrine building. At Ise, the grand shrine is actually off-limits to anybody but high priests.

Second point, the Meiji shrine yard is hard cement. Here, the Yokozuna had to do their dance in the sand. Hakuho had a really hard time doing the seriagari (the part where he gradually rises):

Kakuryu managed it slightly better:

As I said on Twitter, I’m pretty sure there were a couple of tsukebito that night who were muttering curses under their breath as they were trying to clean all the sand out of the fringes of the two Yokozuna’s kesho-mawashi.

Ah, you did notice that Hakuho is back and beaming, didn’t you? He was in a very good mood the whole day, and said that he was really eager to get back on the dohyo. When asked about the condition of his big toes, he said “so-so”, but was still wearing that big smile when he did.

The torikumi that day was in the form of an elimination tournament. Here is a demonstration of the kimarite known as “kekaeshi”. It’s a minor trip, usually accompanied by a pull that causes the rival to lose his balance.

Hakuho in a magnanimous mood, helping Chiyotairyu up. The final and deciding bout of the day was this:

That boy in the front row? He is not going to forget this visit to the shrine. And a very genki Hakuho takes the yusho for the day.

Note that dohyo, by the way. It’s not your regular beer-crate jungyo dohyo. It’s an old permanent dohyo. Many of those are scattered around Japan, in school yards and shrines. Not as pretty or straight as the one in the honbasho venues, but one where you really feel the Earth under your feet.

Haru Final Day Highlights

Kakuryu Yusho.Parade

You might not know it by watching the matches today, but it was the final day of the Haru basho. Across the torikumi, everyone was fighting with some of their best sumo of the tournament. It was one of those days where it will be a good idea to seek out Jason’s All Sumo Channel or Kintamayama on YouTube to see all the bouts, and not just the highlights from NHK.

Highlight Matches

Aminishiki defeats Myogiryu – It’s kind of magical to me that we may see Uncle Sumo back in the top division yet again for Natsu. This guy should be an inspiration to everyone to stick to their dreams and keep working. Good things happen for those who refuse to give up. The match starts with a henka-matta, so Uncle Sumo needs to re-set and goes for a simple hatakikomi.

Daiamami defeats Yutakayama – Daiamami gets to double digits, but Yutakayama really made him earn it. A close-quarters thrusting match in which both men stayed low and kept applying the pressure. Daiamami closed the deal when he finally got inside on Yutakayama and drove forward.

Chiyonokuni defeats Hidenoumi – Chiyonokuni reminds us that he is a real battle machine with his energetic win over Hidenoumi. He finishes make-koshi, and we have to wonder what it will take for him to get his sumo to the next level.

Chiyoshoma defeats Nishikigi – Chiyoshoma’s leaping henka results in an airborne uwatenage. Go watch it! It’s amazingly acrobatic.

Ryuden defeats Asanoyama – Ryuden secures kachi-koshi on the final day. Asanoyama took him to his chest out of the tachiai, and from there it was a struggle. Multiple times Asanoyama went to throw Ryuden, but Ryuden somehow found a way to block the uwatenage. Great, great sumo from both.

Okinoumi defeats Aoiyama – After a strong start to the basho, Aoiyama faded down the stretch. Part of this may have been from the fact that he started facing much higher ranked rikishi, and some of it may be some unreported injury or just plain exhaustion.

Kagayaki defeats Ishiura – Ishiura tries a straight ahead fight, and can’t find a way to blunt Kagayaki’s forward drive. Ishiura seems to have forgotten some of his sumo from a year or two ago, or maybe his opponents are just much bigger / tougher now.

Abi defeats Daishomaru – A leaping hatakikomi at the edge gives Abi the win after a monoii. Impressive ring sense there! For his second tournament in a row, Abi is able to rack up double digit wins.

Kaisei defeats Ikioi – Sadly Ikioi could not pick up the special prize, but he has nothing to apologize for this basho. Even with a bandaged head, he met Kaisei with vigor and strength. But there is a lot of Kaisei to move, and even for Ikioi, it was a tall order. Ikioi has been progressively more injured each day of the basho, so I hope he goes and heals up.

Daieisho defeats Shodai – Even though he is make-koshi, Shodai seems to have found his sumo. Daieisho knew when to put him off balance and send him across the tawara. I do hope that Shodai can focus on returning in this form for the start of Natsu. He still has massive potential if he can get his sumo under control.

Kotoshogiku defeats Hokutofuji – Both men are deeply make-koshi, but you would never know it from watching their bout. This was one of the better matches of an already awesome day. The two men were chest to chest for most of the match, but neither seemed to be able to employ their favorite sumo attacks for more than a moment. In the end, it was Kotoshogiku who set up his hip-pump attack and ended the match.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoyuki – Is anyone surprised? Kotoyuki ends the the basho with a single win.

Yoshikaze defeats Arawashi – Arawashi needs to go heal. Yoshikaze finishes 7-8.

Tamawashi defeats Chiyomaru – Tamawashi is likely back in San’yaku for May, and will try again to muscle his way to his preferred Sekiwake position. Chiyomaru, meanwhile, is headed for the buffet table.

Shohozan defeats Endo – It takes a powerful tachiai from Shohozan and a couple of quick thrusts to put Endo the Golden back and out. Shohozan is kachi-koshi on the final day, after an alarming cold streak starting on day 6.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tochiozan – This looked like a Tochiozan win, and the gyoji gave the gumbai to Tochiozan, but then the sideburns of Chiyotairyu called out to the spiritual world, and the shimpan rose to their feet in abeyance. The monoii did not so much give the match to Chiyotairyu, but more to his sideburns. What did we learn here? Chiyotairyu must never remove his sideburns again. Whispered legends say that the kami that inhabits them is the same that gave Takamiyama his might, and they will only live in the facial hair of one who is worthy. [What. –PinkMawashi]

Tochinoshin defeats Ichinojo – Two enormously powerful rikishi test each other’s strength. After Ichinojo decided to lift Tochinoshin, he decided he was done playing and dialed his muscles to “Hulk” mode, finishing the boulder. With his 10-5 record, Tochinoshin has started an Ozeki campaign. Protect that knee, sir!

Mitakeumi defeats Goeido – Mitakeumi seems to have given Goeido 1.5.1 a solid match, and dropped the Osaka favorite on his backside in the middle of the ring. His sumo against both Ozeki has been great to watch. Maybe he is on the cusp of elevating his technique after all?

Takayasu defeats Kakuryu – The initial call by the gyoji went to Kakuryu, and it looked like Takayasu may have injured his right leg and maybe even re-damaged his right thigh. But just before they hand Kakuryu the kensho diorama of Osaka-jo, the shimpan decide it’s time to review it. The replays show Kakuryu’s heel touching out, so it’s torinaoshi time, with Takayasu limping. This time, Takayasu centers the Yokozuna and drives forward with his considerable strength. Kakuryu can’t plant his feet to defend, bringing the match and the basho to an exciting end as it’s Takayasu who hoists the kensho fort from the gyoji’s gumbai.

Haru Day 14 Highlights

Goeido - Kakuryu

As much as I hate to do this, I am putting a buffer up for people who cry about “spoilers” in a live sport they watch on delay. Some great sumo, especially from Mitakeumi and Ryuden today. Sadly for Mitakeumi, he’s dropping from his Sekiwake slot. It remains to be seen if he drops from san’yaku completely, but he really put forth excellent sumo in today’s match.

But the headline is Yokozuna Kakuryu’s 4th yusho. He earned it in spite of injuries and pain. He mounted the dohyo every day and battled with skill, guile and strength. He has been excellent in all of his matches, and thus far only dropping one match. As his only loss was to the prior yusho winner, there is no shame in that at all. With any luck, his detractors will be silent for a year or so. With Kisenosato possibly un-repairable, and Hakuho amazing but unreliable, Yokozuna Kakuryu may be the only rope-holder to oversee our dawning transitional era.

Highlight Matches

Kyokushuho defeats Nishikigi – Juryo visitor Kyokushuho is still one win shy of his kachi-koshi, but he was in good form over the struggling Nishiki, who is himself headed back to the Junior League for May.

Ikioi defeats Ishiura – Ikioi mounts the dohyo with a giant bandage over his right eye, looking like Franken-Ikioi. Does the crowd care? Hell no! It’s the home-town dashing and handsome rikishi, even if parts of him are taped together. Ishiura, to his credit, tried to give him a straight up fight, but Ikioi moved forward strongly, and kept Ishiura in front of him. [Ikioi is now an amazing 11-3 and will hopefully take home a special prize. –PinkMawashi]

Daiamami defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki charged forward strongly, and actually looked like he would deliver his second win of the basho. He had Daiamami pinned against the tawara, but then somehow just ran out of gas as Daiamami charged forward and won. I am unsure what kind of misery Kotoyuki suffers, but he seems to be fairly hopeless at this point.

Yutakayama defeats Asanoyama – Yutakayama certainly looks dialed in now, hitting his 10th win with one day to go. He completely dominated Asanoyama in today’s match.

Chiyoshoma defeats Aoiyama – The formula for winning over Aoiyama is to keep moving and get him to chase you. Chiyoshoma had this one down cold, and eventually the man-mountian had Chiyoshoma grab his arm and pull a throw. Chiyoshoma picks up his kachi-koshi, which was well earned today.

Daieisho defeats Chiyonokuni – Some impressive defense from Chiyonokuni, as Daiesho delivered some powerful nodowa at the edge. Chiyonokuni ends the match with a make-koshi, and Daiesho with his kachi-koshi.

Kaisei defeats Daishomaru – It can be fun to watch big-man sumo like this. Daishomaru gets bold at the tachiai and charges face first into the giant meat balloon that is Kaisei, and lands with a wet smack. With his face still embedded in Kaisei’s expansive upper torso, the giant Brazillian goes for an westward stroll, taking the now trapped and helpless Daishomaru along for the win. We can expect a big move up the banzuke for Kaisei in May.

Abi defeats Kotoshogiku – Abi’s henka is perfectly timed, and defeats Kotoshogiku’s only possible attack. But wait! (you say) – Bruce, you complain about Ishiura’s henkas! Yes, it gets old fast when a rikishi uses that as their go-to weapon. But in this case, it’s the correct way to blunt Kotoshogiku’s obligatory offensive opening. Well executed and correctly deployed. Abi goes to 9 wins.

Ryuden defeats Arawashi – Good gravy what a match this one is! The men lock up into a battle for grip at the tachiai, with Arawashi pinning Ryuden’s arms time and again. But Arawashi has control and works with what he has, backing Ryuden up to the bales strongly enough that Ryuden’s heels are dangerously close to being out. But Ryuden recovers! Arawashi advances strongly again, a second time Ryuden is a centimeter from being out, but rallies to the center of the dohyo. Stalemated, Arawashi is out of energy, and Ryuden backs him up and out. Excellent sumo from them both. Miraculously, Ryuden can still achieve his kachi-koshi.

Takarafuji defeats Kagayaki – Straightforward match at first, Takarafuji gets the gumbai, but then the shimpan want to talk it over, fairly late in the post-bout ritual. The judges decide on a torinaoshi, which Takarafuji wins by letting Kagayaki fall to the dohyo.

Endo defeats Hokutofuji – Endo now with 9 wins after this bout with a struggling Hokutofuji. The match featured Endo and Hokutofuji trading attempts to slap or thrust each other down, with Endo’s superior ring sense helping him time his third attempt to be at the edge, where Hokutofuji had no room to recover. Endo is headed to San’yaku for May, and the valiant Hokutofuji is make-koshi and desperately needing to re-group.

Tamawashi defeats Shohozan – As expected, it was energetic! Both men were landing a lot of powerful blows on each others neck and head, grabbing each other’s arms and generally carrying on in an aggressive sumo fashion. Shohozan seemed to have the advantage, setting the pace and moving forward while Tamawashi kept giving ground. The win came at the tawara when Tamawashi twisted to his right, guiding Shohozan down and out.

Ichinojo defeats Shodai – The super genki Shodai was not able to show up today, but he did a reasonable job against the man that NHK commentator Hiro Morita calls “The Mongolian Behemoth”. Fans started to worry that Ichinojo had re-injured his back due to his soft performance the day prior, but he was large and in charge today, getting Shodai airborne for the win.

Yoshikaze defeats Chiyotairyu – I am very pleased to see Yoshikaze fighting well again. I had some serious worries during week 1. Chiyotairyu opened strong, pushing Yoshikaze back, but then they go chest to chest, and Yoshikaze starts to control the match. He did a great job of keeping the massive Chiyotairyu high and unable to generate forward pressure.

Tochinoshin defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru left the dohyo today not only without a hope of kachi-koshi, but also without Tochinoshin’s meaty left leg, which he had planned as a victory snack. Tochinoshin still has an outside hope of continuing his Ozeki bid by winning his match against Ichinojo tomorrow.

Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – Possibly Mitakeumi’s best match of the basho [Possibly the best match of the basho, period –PM], and sadly it gave him his demotion from the Sekiwake slot he has enjoyed for many tournaments. If this is not a wake-up call to Takayasu, I am not sure what is. Mitakeumi had him contained, restrained and for a time, in pain. All the Ozeki could do was react to the next contortion Mitakeumi placed him into and struggle to escape. Even when Takayasu managed to escape Mitakeumi, the Sekiwake re-secured control and kept the punishment coming. But Mitakeumi got too eager, ended up off balance and thrust down. The difference between Sekiwake Mitakeumi and Maegashira Mitakeumi is the ability to finish Pooh-Bear off when you have him at your mercy. [Mitakeumi’s match against Goeido tomorrow may determine whether he falls to Komusubi or Maegashira, so we’ll all be watching that one closely. –PM]

Kakuryu defeats Goeido – You have to wonder if Kakuryu is THE master of reactive sumo. Goeido must know that somewhere in his poorly formatted flash drive. Why do you advance strongly into the guy you KNOW is going to make you pay if your weight is not centered over the arches of your feet? Herouth tells us from inside EDION that she may have been the only soul cheering for the Yokozuna in the Ozeki’s home-town. But Kakuryu shows us that he is every bit a Yokozuna, and takes his fourth yusho.

Haru Day 12 Preview

kakuryu-kensho

For the third time (at least) this Haru basho, sumo fans are roiled by discussions over a controversial call from the shimpan. This time it was Tochinoshin seeming to defeat Takayasu, but it was ruled that his heel had stepped out several seconds before he tossed Takayasu to the clay. For myself, after looking at multiple sources, it was inconclusive, and quite impossible for me to decide what I think happened.

By sealing his 11th win, Yokozuna Kakuryu is looking very good indeed now. Even if he should re-injure himself and withdraw, all but the harshest critics would admit he had done his duty as a Yokozuna well. It’s clear, though, that such an outcome is the last thing on his mind. He wants to win, and win as big as he can. He stated prior to the basho when it was known he was injured and in pain, that it was his goal to win a basho as Yokozuna 1E, and he is only a few more wins from making that real.

Day 12 has a fantastic set of matches, with the challenges for the Yokozuna and Ozeki ramping up in difficulty. The drama is playing out further down the torikumi, as the schedule continues to grind on, sorting rikishi into the defeated and the survivors. As with the end of most recent basho, we are seeing matches between rikishi of widely different ranks now, and some of the matches are interesting, while some are likely comical.

Haru Leaderboard

Leader: Kakuryu
Chaser: Kaisei
Hunt Group: Takayasu

4 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 12

Ishiura vs Aoiyama – Ishiura is very fond of his henkas, and I do hope that Aoiyama knows not to rush headlong into him. Ishiura has yet to win a match over Aoiyama, so I am going to guess we get a tachiai where Aoiyama stands up and starts round-house blasting Ishiura on his head and neck.

Sokokurai vs Ryuden – Ryuden is getting dangerously close to make-koshi, and he’s going up against Sokokurai who had a rough start, but has won 3 of his last 4.

Kagayaki vs Nishikigi – If Nishikigi loses, he is make-koshi, and is a candidate for return to Juryo. He has been trying everything he can for the last 3 basho to avoid that outcome, and it may finally be time to face the music.

Asanoyama vs Daieisho – Asanoyama could pick up kachi-koshi, but he faces a much higher ranked Daieisho. Daieisho is not looking as genki as his fellow Oitekaze stable mates, but he is ranked well above Asanoyama.

Abi vs Yutakayama – Abi has yet to ever beat Yutakayama, and at 6-5, Abi needs every win he can get. But his sumo has become repetitive, and everyone is predicting his next move correctly. The man has talent, but he needs to broaden his approach. Yutakayama is already kachi-koshi, but I expect he is pushing for 10.

Daiamami vs Hokutofuji – The big crazy spread of the day, Daiamami (M16) takes on Hokutofuji (M6), whom he has fought twice but never beaten. A win here would not only be a surprise, but would give Daiamami a well earned kachi-koshi.

Endo vs Kaisei – Big match of the day. Endo can remove Kaisei from contention if he wins, and move a step closer in his bid to finally make it to san’yaku. Kaisei wants to maintain his pace just behind Kakuryu, but Endo holds a 6-4 career edge. Both men are looking their best right now, so I expect some solid sumo from this match.

Takarafuji vs Tamawashi – Takarafuji will end make-koshi, which belies the fact that he put up a strong match each day, win or lose. Tamawashi is on a campaign to return to san’yaku, and it’s still well within reach. Takarafuji holds a 11-7 career advantage.

Shohozan vs Chiyotairyu – Historically, Shohozan’s brute-oshi style has struggled to beat Chiyotairyu (2-5), and both men are fighting well this tournament. Chiyotairyu already has 9 losses, so this is for pride, and to soften his landing.

Mitakeumi vs Shodai – Mitakeumi is fading like a 1980’s poster in a shop window, and for some reason, I think Shodai is going to give him a good fight today. Many fans still have hope that some day Shodai can elevate his sumo, and be a contender in the uppermost ranks.

Takayasu vs Chiyomaru – A battle of big round men who are fond or blasting off the line with overwhelming force. Takayasu won their only prior meeting, and I expect he will win this one unless Chiyomaru gets a lucky hit at the tachiai.

Ichinojo vs Goeido – I think I speak for many sumo fans when I say I am praying there is not another Goeido henka. I think he can take Ichinojo, and I want to see him try it in direct battle. They are tied 6-6 over their career matches, so it could actually be a good bout.

Kakuryu vs Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin has had a rough ride this basho. A number of tough calls went against him, and he has struggled to repeat his outstanding performance at Hatsu. I expect Kakuryu to stay mobile, and keep Tochinoshin from landing a mawashi grip. Out of their 22 prior matches, Tochinoshin has only won one.

Haru Day 7 Preview

Tochinoshin Raids The Vending Machine

It will be difficult to beat the level of action and excitement across the board from day 6, but the scheduling team is going to give it a try. We enter the middle weekend of the basho with a solid, competitive group of sumotori all within fighting range of a bid for dominance in act 3, and the race for the emperor’s cup. Act 2 will narrow this broad field of contenders considerably, and that is the thinking behind the scheduling team for the next four days. Give the fans exciting sumo, and get the number of contenders down to a manageable number.

Some of the rikishi below may be fairly easy to pick off and will drop back, some of them will probably prove surprisingly resilient. On day 6 we saw some fire from Tochinoshin, and Ichinojo continues to dominate, as well as disrupting the local gravity field.

Haru Leaderboard

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

9 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 7

Ikioi vs Aoiyama – Ikioi is visibly hurt more each day. I think that everyone is hoping he can make his 8 and go kyujo, but his progress ground to a halt in the last 2 days. Now he faces Aoiyama, who takes no prisoners. They have a long record, with Ikioi holding a 13-9 advantage. It won’t do him any good tomorrow, except with the fans.

Daishomaru vs Sokokurai – Daishomaru is on fire right now, and I don’t see any way that Sokokurai is going to slow him down. FYI, for those of you who (like me) are fans of the “Mole Boss”, he is supposedly Sokokurai’s cat. Does this give him magic powers? Perhaps. We know that Hakuho fears the mole boss, but sadly the Dai-Yokozuna is not in this tournament.

Daiamami vs Chiyonokuni – Both come into the match with 5-1 records, and this is their first meeting. Hello scheduling crew! Time to get one of the 5-1 rikishi out of the Chaser group. I think that I would give a slight edge to Chiyonokuni, if for no other reason than he’s very streaky, and right now his streak is running hot.

Okinoumi vs Yutakayama – Two of the hunt group face off, with identical 4-2 records. Okinoumi takes a careful approach to his sumo, in part to avoid aggravating his chronic injuries. I am going to take him over Yutakayama, in this one. The loser drops out of the hunt group.

Kaisei vs Kagayaki – Kaisei shows no sign of slowing down yet, and the schedulers have yet to have him face anyone higher up the banzuke, but I think Sunday may remedy this. Kagayaki is a good rikishi, but Kaisei is good, and huge. Interestingly enough, Kagayaki holds a 3-1 career advantage.

Chiyomaru vs Abi – Ultra-mega slap fest 2018! It’s going to be on like the fall of Saigon, with Abi mobile and pushing like mad, and Chiyomaru being huge and deploying his defensive chin-bag to block any nodowa attempts. Who will win? Tough to guess.

Yoshikaze vs Shodai – For me, Yoshikaze’s matches this time out are like watching a funeral. Shodai has never won a match against him, but who knows. I don’t know what malady has befallen my favorite Sekitori of all time, but I wish him well.

Endo vs Kotoshogiku – Time for Endo to run up the score, provided he was not injured when he and Tochinoshin took their dive at the end of their day 6 match. I dearly love Kotoshogiku, but he’s out of mojo right now, and Fat Bastard is nowhere to be found.

Ichinojo vs Tamawashi – This one may not go how we think. Tamawashi is famous for baking. How many cookies would it take to get Ichinojo in a giddy mood? Could he get so distracted that he forgets to compete? Not a chance – Ichinojo is driving hard for wins, and I expect him to hold on to his position in the group chasing down the leaders. There’s just too much of him to move!

Arawashi vs Tochinoshin – Arawashi is really hurt. Easy Tochinoshin win.

Mitakeumi vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu has a size advantage, and they are matched 3-3 over their career matches. I will say that Mitakeumi has a slight edge in this one, as he knows he may never have a better chance to rack up double-digit wins.

Takarafuji vs Goeido – Takarafuji can’t buy a win, so Goeido unless there is some kind of software error at the tachiai and he boots up into bouncy castle mode.

Takayasu vs Shohozan – I have been and remain a big backer of Takayasu, but for this match, I really want Shohozan to up-end the big Ozeki. If for no other reason than I want Shohozan to stay in contention. Their career record is 6-5 in Takayasu’s favor, so it’s an even match.

Kakuryu vs Takakeisho – This one is VERY interesting. Takakeisho has been struggling a bit, but he is capable of beating Kakuryu, and he may be able to uncork some serious, unpredictable sumo. Kakuryu is all about reactive sumo, he often engages to blunt his opponent’s offense, and waits for them to make a mistake, which he then exploits for the win.

Hatsu Day 15 Preview

 

Tochinoshin Victorious
Kasugano Heya Welcomes Their Hero

 

We come to it at last, the final day on a thoroughly enjoyable sumo tournament. One of the better ones in the last few months, and a real delight to watch over the past two weeks. Some of my favorite rikishi have been doing poorly, but the overall Makuuchi crew has been competing with skill, vigor, and flashes of brilliance.

While none of the crew here at Tachiai (nor anyone I know of) predicted Tochinoshin would dominate this basho, his performance continues to follow the arc we believe will continue. That starting with Kotoshogiku’s yusho in 2016, the age of the Mongolian stranglehold on sumo is ending. This gives us great hope, as this is not the sumo of 20 years ago. The sport continues to have an ever-increasing international appeal, to the puzzlement of Japan.

For now, let’s enjoy the images and video that will flow from today, and know that we continue to see the glorious evolution of a great and ancient sport.

What We Are Watching Day 15

What, you thought because it’s senshuraku there’s nothing going on? Ha! But it does seem like a few folks were brought up from Juryo to try on their Makuuchi moves in preparation for March in Osaka.

Daiamami vs Aoiyama – For Daiamami to pick up his 8th win, and stay in the top division, he must overcome the man-mountain Aoiyama, and his enormous man-boobs. No easy accomplishment. I beg NHK to not show any slow-motion replays.

Kyokutaisei vs Nishikigi – Another likely Juryo promotee for March, he squares off against Nishikigi who also needs his 8th win. The good news for the man who never gives up, he holds a 6-1 career lead over Kyokutaisei.

Kotoyuki vs Ishiura – Someone call the henka police! Kotoyuki is also looking for #8 against the somewhat inconsistent Ishiura. I am sure that Kotoyuki is ready for Ishiura’s submarine tachiai.

Shohozan vs Abi – I am guessing the winner secures a special prize, both are 9-5, both are fighting well. Abi has had a great debut tournament, and I predict he is going to do great things for the next year or so.

Shodai vs Kagayaki – Shodai looking for win #8, and a small but interesting move higher in the Maegashira ranks for March. Shodai may in fact still be salvageable as a good san’yaku rikishi. Much of it will depend on him fixing some of the mechanical problems he has. His spirit and dedication are first rates. Kagayaki survived a somewhat rocky Hatsu, and comes out with a winning record. I look for him to be mid-Maegashira in Osaka.

Endo vs Tochinoshin – Sure, Tochinoshin has the yusho, and Endo is kachi-koshi, but this one is very interesting to me. Endo was at one time the “Great hope”, but injuries have hampered him. Surgery last year brought him back to some level of health, and he has been working hard to recover as a contender. I am fairly sure Tochinoshin will take this one, but Endo has shown some fantastic sumo this January. Perhaps he has one more surprise left for us.

Chiyotairyu vs Daieisho – Super-sized Chiyotairyu looks for a kachi-koshi and elevation to one of the top 4 slots of the Maegashira ranks for March. Chiyotairyu holds a 5-1 career advantage over Daieisho, and Chiyotairyu recently has been adding a sprinkle of neutron-star matter to his chanko, which has given him a steep gravity well.

Takarafuji vs Kotoshogiku – Ugly Darwin match. Winner kachi / loser make kochi. Not sure who I would rather have win. Takarafuji had a pretty tough card this basho but kept up the fight. But it’s tough to see Kotoshogiku fade away. Either way, Kotoshogiku holds a 12-6 career advantage.

Yoshikaze vs Ikioi – The saddest match of the whole basho, which could only be topped if Aminishiki and Terunofuji battled in wheelchairs with IV bottles hanging on them. Both of these great rikishi are in broken states, and I just hope they face each other on the dohyo, shrug and walk off to find a bar.

Kaisei vs Ichinojo – “Why don’t you go pick on someone your own size?” In response, I present you a battle of the gas giants. Both are kachi-koshi at this point, so this is just to see what happens when two massive objects collide. Hopefully, LIGO is tuned up and running.

Hokutofuji vs Aminishiki – Ok, I give up. Why is this happening?

Takakeisho vs Arawashi – Takakeisho wants a win to keep his banzuke drop as restrained as possible. Arawashi’s knees won’t give him too much support as he tries to resist Takakeisho’s powerful thrusting attack. This is actually the first time the two of these rikishi have faced off.

Mitakeumi vs Takayasu – Current Ozeki vs Future Ozeki. Good match here. If Mitakeumi can keep himself in touch with his sumo, and stay calm and strong, he can take this one from Takayasu. But I predict that Takayasu is going to go for his cannonball tachiai. Maybe Mitakeumi will give him a bit of a Harumafuji mini-henka, and send the fuzzy Ozeki launching into the shimpan gallery.

Kakuryu vs Goeido – Happy to see Goeido booted up in 2.0 mode on day 14. Kakuryu back to injured, so this one is all Goeido, I predict. Big K has no power to ground, possibly due to strain and pain once again in his lower back. I call 10-5 a worthy return, and he should get that back adjusted before it’s chronic again.

Day 14 – Yusho, packed and delivered

We have ourselves a yusho winner. The first from Georgia. The first Maegashira to win the title since Kyokutenho in in Natsu 2012. The first Kasugano yusho winner in 46 years (Tochiazuma Tomoyori, Hatsu 1972 – also Maegashira at the time). No wonder the Kasugano support club wanted to see a fish and to see it now:

tochinoshin-with-fish
I lifted Mitakeumi, I almost lifted Ichinojo. What’s this puny fish to me?

Down at Jonokuchi, I’m glad to inform you that Yoshoyama managed to scrape his kachi-koshi today, facing the hapless Osumifuji.

Now I hope someone at Tokitsukaze – preferably not Shodai – will use the time until Haru to teach the kid how to do a tachiai properly. Osumifuji joins the droves of make-koshi rikishi from Isegahama.

yoshoyama
Yoshoyama. Now you’ll be able to pick him up in a lineup.

37 year old Hokutogo from Hakkaku beya says goodbye to the sumo world after 22 years. Never made it higher than Makushita 54.

His heya mates brought him flowers to the hana-michi.

In Makushita, Wakamotoharu lost his final bout and is make-koshi. No video at this time.

Up in Juryo, Meisei goes against Takagenji:

Takagenji still doesn’t have kachi-koshi. Both he and Meisei will need a win tomorrow. Takagenji will face the strong Hidenoumi who wants the Yusho.

On to the top division we go:

Sokokurai and Daiamami engage in a lengthy hidari-yotsu, with Sokokurai burying his head in Daiamami’s chest. Eventually Sokokurai tries a throw, but it doesn’t quite work and Daiamami uses it to yori-kiri him.

Kotoyuki and Daieisho go on a tsuppari battle, that ends up with Kotoyuki spread across the dohyo. Hikiotoshi. Kotoyuki’s last chance of a kachi-koshi is tomorrow.

Yutakayama pushes Daishomaru mightily to the edge. Daishomaru tries a side step. Yutakayama slams to the ground – but Daishomaru is also out. Gunbai says Yutakayama, a monoii is called – but Daishomaru’s foot was out first, and it is indeed Yutakayama’s win – and kachi-koshi.

Aminishiki tries to be as genki as he can and bumps into Nishikigi. Gives a harite and tries to get a mawashi grip. This doesn’t quite work, and Nishikigi drives him to the edge. Then hovers around with a worried face to see that he didn’t damage the old man. On the Isegahama web site, Aminishiki writes “Tomorrow is the last match, so I want to win”. Somehow it sounds to me that he means that it’s the ultimate last match. He may not want to go down to Juryo again.

And… Ishiura does a henka against Chiyomaru. Ishiura kachi-koshi. So we’ll see more of his henka in Haru. Sigh.

Ryuden takes on Kaisei and gets in a quick morozashi. Kaisei has the weight advantage and good mobility on his side, and he shifts and turns and gets one of Ryuden’s hands out. Then tries to pull an uwatenage, but he ends up on the floor first, and it’s declared Ryuden’s shitatenage. Ryuden hits the double digits on his debut – which is impressive because he was never a double digits man.

Chiyoshoma gets a fast hold on Asanoyama and they go on a raging battle, but Chiyoshoma loses his hold, and once Asanoyama has his grip, he pushes the Mongolian out with a defiant head nod. Chiyoshoma make-koshi, Asanoyama kachi-koshi again. It’s funny to hear people in the crowd cheering for him using his real name (Ishibashi).

The Ghost of Terunofuji vs. Ikioi. Move along. Nothing to see here. It’s a yoritaoshi despite Ikioi both hurting and trying to be gentle. Terunofuji says that he wants to win at least tomorrow’s bout. Fat chance.

Takekaze comes in strong at the tachiai and gets his left hand inside… but that’s about all he can manage. Okinoumi brushes him out as if he was a fly.

Kagayaki starts an oshi battle vs. Endo, but after a couple of clashes, falls pray to slippiotoshi, Endo swiftly moving aside to let him “split the dohyo” as the Japanese expression goes.

The camera has been following Tochinoshin through the previous two bouts. A few obligatory shots of Shohozan as well, but he is not the story here. When those two finally get at it, you can cut the tension with a knife. Shohozan starts a tsuppari barrage which Tochinoshin can only fend off. This goes on for some time, then Shohozan tries to sidestep. This nearly gets Tochinoshin, and the spectators let out a big “whoa”. But he quickly turns around, and when he does, he also gets a good grip on Shohozan, and from there it’s a couple of yori followed by a yori-kiri. The man from Georgia gets his first yusho. The crowd bursts into applause. It’s party time… but there are still bouts to go.

Yoshikaze and Chiyotairyu are apparently graduates of the same university. So they are sempai and kohai. But Chiyotairyu doesn’t give Yoshikaze any precedence, and quickly pulls at him for a hatakikomi. Yoshikaze looked for a moment like he was going for an outstanding performance prize, but that moment passed several bouts ago.

In yet another battle of opposite ends, Abi draws former Ozeki Kotoshogiku in a battle of the up-and-coming vs. the down-and-going. However, Kotoshogiku is not going anywhere without a fight. Abi tries to pull Kotoshogiku down quickly, but Kotoshogiku not falling for that. Abi then sticks his head in Kotoshogiku’s chest and grabs at his armpits. But a yori battle will favor the Chrisanthemum. Abi’s pelvis is about the height of Kotoshogiku’s chest, so Kotoshogiku refrains from pumping his hips, but he does know how to push, and yori-kiris Abi right out. In Yiddish we call this “rebe-gelt” – “tuition”, what you pay when you learn a lesson.

Chiyonokuni doesn’t give Hokutofuji even two seconds before slapping him down. Hatakikomi, and the Kokonoe man slowly reduces the damage of his make-koshi, while Hokutofuji is 4-10 and will drop way down the banzuke at Haru.

Now, I hate it when the torikumi guys pit two guys I like against each other, but oh well, I can always be happy for the winner. This time Takarafuji was trying to get his kachi-koshi from Ichinojo. And Ichinojo is not in the business of letting his rivals win this basho. If they want to, they have to work for it. Ichinojo unbelievably tries for a nodowa on his left and momentarily allows Takarafuji to get his hand in on his right. Nodowa? The boulder quickly realizes his mistake, abandons the nonexistent throat, and changes his grip on the right. Now it’s migi-yotsu, which favors Ichinojo. But there is no extended leaning battle this time, as Ichinojo grabs Takarafuji’s mawashi tightly and throws him outside for a shitatedashinage, no ifs, ands and buts.

Today it was the old Shodai vs. the old Takakeisho. Shodai stands up at the tachiai. Doesn’t get anything done. Takakeisho bumps him a couple of time. No kachi-koshi for Shodai as yet.

In the match of the Eagles, Arawashi with his bad knees gets a better tachiai. I would even call this one a matta. But Tamawashi regroups and goes into a tsuppari attack. Arawashi sidesteps, and Tamawashi flies over the edge. Arawashi still has a chance for a kachi-koshi tomorrow.

Goeido avoids kadoban and gets Mitakeumi all the way to the tawara in a blink of an eye. Correct bootup today, apparently.

Musubi no ichiban. Takayasu  drives hard and gets Kakuryu to the edge. But Kakuryu is looking better today, circles and regroups. Tries to get a grip on Takayasu, but Takayasu turns him around. The Yokozuna quickly turns right back and lunges at Takayasu. And then…. he… pulls… again…. Oshidashi, yet another loss for the Yokozuna. And Takayasu has the jun-yusho (though theoretically he can lose tomorrow and Ryuden or Kakuryu win).

kakuryu-meter-hatsu-2018-day14

So the yusho goes to Tochinoshin. Both the Georgian prime minister and president tweet their congratulations.

Tochinoshin's family in Georgia
Tochinoshin’s family watching his bout back in Georgia

The jun-yusho, with high probability, goes to Takayasu. My assumption is that he will do his best to win tomorrow, to make it a decent 12-3 jun-yusho, which may allow him to lay claim to a rope should he win the yusho in Haru. One of my twitter followers says that not having been in the yusho picture, this wouldn’t count for Takayasu, but I think that if he does happen to win Haru, given that he has the all-important Japanese birth certificate, the NSK and the YDC may avoid nitpicking.

What’s left tomorrow is to see if the Yokozuna can pull at least the win from Goeido. To see who gets the various sansho (Abi still has a shot, Ryuden certainly has, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Ichinojo gets one). And then we will get to see Tochinoshin lifting cup after cup, and being driven around in the NSK’s spiffy new Mercedes-Benz.

 

Day 13 – It’s Georgia. Not the US state, the country.

The Makuuchi Chamipionship is all but determined, as Tochinoshin goes from chasing to being chased. But before we make ourselves familiar with the Caucasus and the Georgian cuisine, rich in walnuts and cheeses, we already have a champion today – in the Makushita division.

wakatakakage
Your shikona is Wakatakakage. Now repeat that 10 times at high speed.

The schedulers matched Wakatakakage (Ms #17) with the other yusho contender, Tochiseiryu (Ms #47). Both came into the bout with 6-0.

Tochiseiryu’s pre-bout looks similar to Tochiozan’s, doesn’t it? Anyway, W.T.K. dispatches of him easily, as the difference in rank would suggest, and wins a zensho-yusho. I believe his position is just below the Juryo promotion line, though, and in any case the upper Makushita have many kachi-koshi wrestlers waiting for one of the (probably 7) open Juryo positions.

One of those on line for those 7 positions is Prince Enho, who today had a battle for the kachi-koshi with Shonannoumi. Both coming into this match 3-3.

Ah… Enho… I guess with Hakuho’s royal feet being kyujo, Enho has to settle for taking lessons from Ishiura. Which is not something I’d recommend. What’s with the henka? Was that really necessary?

OK, I’ll try my hand at a bit of demotion-promotion speculation. Here is a summary of the situation of the bottom of Juryo:

#14E Akua Make-koshi, only four wins so far.
#14W Kizenryu Make-koshi, only three wins so far.
#12E Yamaguchi Make-koshi, only two wins so far.
#12W Tochihiryu Make-koshi, only four wins so far.
#11E Ura Full kyujo due to surgery.
#9W Toyohibiki Full kyujo due to injury.
#8W Osunaarashi 1 win. Kyujo due to scandal. Drop from Juryo certain, may face retirement.

The others in between are either kachi-koshi or minimal make-koshi. So these are seven potential slots, though I suppose Tochihiryu may still be saved.

The situation at the top of Makushita is:

#1E Yago kachi-koshi
#1W Terutsuyoshi kachi-koshi
#2W Shimanoumi kachi-koshi
#3W Tobizaru kachi-koshi
#4W Akiseyama kachi-koshi
#6E Enho kachi-koshi
#7E Takayoshitoshi kachi-koshi

So Takayoshitoshi is on the bubble, it seems, but he still has one bout to go, and if he wins it, he’ll have a better kachi-koshi than Enho and may pass him in on the promotion line.

Down in Sandanme, unfortunately, Torakio suffered an injury. I will not post his bout from yesterday as I don’t like to share videos of people rolling around in pain. He could not return to the dohyo for his bout after his loss, and he is now on the kyujo list. He will be make-koshi. Too bad to have an injury at such an early stage of his career, let’s hope it’s not as bad as it looked – shoulder and arm issue).

I’m not going to give you the Hattorizakura video this time – because the kid is back to his old way, walking backward just being looked at, which is a real shame. Anyway, he has now completed is usual set of 7 losses, and will have to wait until Haru to show us some progress again.

Tomorrow Yoshoyama-Osumifuji, both 3-3, vying for the kachi-koshi.

Up in Juryo, Kyokutaisei has ensured his kachi-koshi, and being Juryo #1, has ensured his promotion to Makuuchi. The papers make much of the fact that he is from Hokkaido, but I’m making much of the fact that he is from Tomozuna beya (Kaisei’s heya), and will therefore help the Isegahama ichimon a little bit in the coming power rankings. 🙂

kyokutaisei-kachi-koshi
Kyokutaisei vs. Takagenji

Mitoryu has also ensured his kachi-koshi and will continue wearing his kesho-mawashi for a second tournament.

If you’re interested in the Juryo bouts, there’s this channel where the owner seems to upload each of the lower division’s complete bouts a few hours after each day ends.

So… we go up to Makuuchi, and what do we see?

Sokokurai trying hard to stay at Makuuchi. Today he faced Yutakayama who is still looking for a kachi-koshi. He can’t get a mawashi hold on Yutakayama, but eventually sidesteps and gets a hikiotoshi.

Today Ishiura decided to go for plain, forward-moving sumo. Maybe because Daishomaru is not much taller than he is. And what do you know, it worked! He grabs Daishomaru’s mawashi with his left hand and shows him the way out, yori-kiri.

Kotoyuki gets an easy one against Daiamami. They call this a tsukitaoshi, but I’d say it was a tsukite (which is a hiwaza).

The ghost of Terunofuji meets Takekaze and gives the old man a little more padding against the Juryo drop. Terunofuji unable to do a proper tachiai, let alone keep from being pushed.

A… Asanoyama… where are you? Who is that scarecrow who mounts the dohyo in your place in the second week? Chiyomaru needed exactly half a second to pull Asanoyama to the ground. Is Asanoyama sitting too close to the Isegahama guys in the shitakubeya or what?

Shohozan makes short work of Daieisho, who seems to have lost his will to do sumo once he secured his kachi-koshi. Shohozan gets in a couple of harite, then wraps Daieisho’s body and flips him for a sukuinage.

Abi really looks like he is enjoying his work, even during the actual bout. He got Kaisei, who has a huge weight advantage on him. He starts as usual with a “morotezuki”, which means he thrusts with both hands. Then he sidesteps and nearly gets Kaisei off-balance. Kaisei stays on his feet but it’s enough for Abi to grab at his mawashi, turn him around and send him out by okuri-dashi. What weight advantage? The youngster is 9-4, and may actually get one of those sansho prizes he talked about.

Chiyonokuni seems to have improved once he got his make-koshi. He starts with his tsuppari attack before Nishikigi completes his tachiai, and then pulls for a tsukiotoshi.

Chiyoshoma gets in for a fine tachiai, but Kagayaki gets a grip on his belt, and they start dancing around the dohyo. Although Chiyoshoma manages to escape from that grip, that wild dance ends with him putting a foot outside the dohyo. Kagayaki secures his first kachi-koshi since Natsu.

The shimpan gave poor old Aminishiki a real scare. This match was nervous for both him and Ikioi (which one is more injured?), with two mattas to begin with. And then he threw a flying henka and somehow managed to get Ikioi down  before he ran out of dohyo. Not his usual precision, though. Anyway, Konosuke called it Aminishiki’s. The shimpan called a monoii. And as Kintamayama will tell you, a monoii on Konosuke’s shift is an exercise in futility. Finally the shimpan agree that Konosuke is right, and the head shimpan tries to explain the decision. But he seems to be in his cups – mutters and forgets what he wanted to say. He goes as far as saying that it was a “gunbai sashi-chigae” – which it certainly was not, before the crowd’s murmur wakes him up and he corrects himself and lets Aminishiki get his kensho. Poor Uncle.

Ryuden gets a better start than Takarafuji, but Takarafuji manages to get his left hand inside, which is his favorite grip. Ryuden circles and squirms and gets rid of that hand, while himself maintaining a hold on Takarafuji’s mawashi. A battle of grips ensues. Takarafuji gets Ryuden’s hand off his mawashi, but Ryuden still has a hold on his body. Ryuden tries to make a throw. Loses the mawashi grip he momentarily regained. Takarafuji manages to lock both Ryuden’s arm in front of his chest. But at this point Takarafuji runs out of stamina and eventually Ryuden yori-kiri’s him. I hope Takarafuji hasn’t contracted that Isegahama flu. Ryuden is an excellent wrestler, and I believe we’ll see him in sanyaku at some point. And yes, he has 9 wins, like Abi, and may also become a sansho winner.

Endo starts by pulling and sending a couple of slaps in Kotoshogiku‘s direction. Grabs at Kotoshogiku’s hand, then converts that into a right-hand-inside mawashi grip with Kotoshogiku between him and the tawara. Kotoshogiku dances and gains some ground. Grabs at Endo’s right hand and tries for a kotenage. Endo manages to retain his footing. Kotoshogiku still has his right hand, but he has his left on Kotoshogiku’s torso. He then pushes against the right hand – the one Kotoshogiku is still latched onto – for a yori-kiri. Excellent match, and Endo gets a kachi-koshi.

Ichinojo and Tochinoshin… what is a yusho-related bout doing here, so early in the day? Well, Ichinojo and Tochinoshin grab at each other’s mawashi right off the tachiai. It’s a migi-yotsu and both of them have firm mawashi grips on both sides. So who’s going to be stronger? For a moment it looks undecided, but Ichinojo loses his left hand grip, and Tochinoshin goes for the kill. Ichinojo sticks to the tawara – good boy! But Tochinoshin applies some sideways force and gets Ichinojo out. Titanic.

ichinojo-tochinoshin
Note to self: don’t try tsuri-dashi again on this guy

Hokutofuji comes in strong at Yoshikaze. The man in the green mawashi seems not to have completely recovered from yesterday’s Force-choke. Hokutofuji finally gets to show the sumo he became famous for. Oshidashi.

Chiyotairyu overwhelms Takakeisho who once again finds himself flying off the dohyo (and into Arawashi’s lap). Oshitaoshi.

Shodai once again comes straight off the tachiai into a morozashi. But Tamawashi gets himself released and answers with an expert tsuppari attack that sends Shodai outside, looking for his kachi-koshi elsewhere.

Arawashi, still suffering the effects of a Takakeisho bomb landing on him, has to suffer yet again as the Takayasu locomotive slams into him. Boom! Seismographs around Tokyo register a level 3 tremor while the Eagle flies into Goeido’s arms. Sitting on the East side of the dohyo today has been a serious health risk. Takayasu gets double digits for the first time since his Ozeki run.

Goeido gets a grip on Okinoumi‘s body and pushes forward, though it looks half-hearted. Gets his 7th win. Will try to get his kachi-koshi vs. Mitakeumi tomorrow.

And now, the musubi-no-ichiban. It’s a bit of an anti-climax as we already know that Tochinoshin maintained his lead. But let’s see…

Mitakeumi just lifts the Yokozuna’s upper part with his left hand and pushes forward. Kakuryu finds himself backpaddling again. And out again. And… the yusho flies away, probably never to return.

kakuryu-meter-hatsu-2018-day13

The Yokozuna has his Yokozuna kachi-koshi, that’s true. But this crumble at money time is bound to raise murmurs among the YDC this Monday. One of the guys on Twitter wrote something along the lines of: “In the first few days, all my friends were saying Kakuryu stands up to pressure much better than Harumafuji. I had to nod. But now we can see the real difference, because Harumafuji’s nerves held up much better once the yusho was on the table”.

The Yokozuna still has a couple of days to improve his score. But the chances that Tochinoshin will drop two consecutive bouts are very slim. And who knows if it’s the Yokozuna who’ll be doing the playoff with him if that happens.

Yusho Arasoi:

Leader (12-1): M3 Tochinoshin

Chasers (10-3):

  • Yokozuna Kakuryu
  • Ozeki Takayasu

Tomorrow those two face each other, and oh boy, Takayasu looks much better at the moment.

So, start learning about Georgia, because it sure looks like the Emperor’s Cup is going there right now.

 

Hatsu Day 12 Highlights

Kakuryu-Hand

The mad-cap roller-coaster of Sumo that is our wonderful Hatsu basho took another wild and exciting turn on day 12. Unlike Kyushu, which was another relentless march of the dai-Yokozuna towards an inevitable victory, the sole remaining (weak) Yokozuna has made this basho exciting, unpredictable and frankly a whole lot of fun. Read no further if you don’t want to know what happened.

On day 11, Yokozuna Kakuryu lost to Tamawashi, making a tactical mistake that his opponent knew would come, and was eager to exploit. In that moment when Kakuryu, the sole undefeated rikishi lost, the yusho race opened wide, and a giant bear of a man stepped up. On day 12, that picture changes again.

So many good matches today. Many good bouts from all rikishi at all levels of the banzuke. The Hatsu basho continues to delight and impress.

Following Herouth’s approach, let’s start at the bottom of the list

Day 12 Matches

Hidenoumi defeats Ishiura – Visiting from Juryo, Ishiura gifts him with a shiny new kachi-koshi. From the tachiai, Ishiura attempts to hit and shift left, but Hidenoumi tracks him perfectly. Now Ishiura’s gambit is in trouble, as his back is to the tawara, and he’s very close to being out. Ishiura manages to break contact and attempt a slap, but Hidenoumi is completely dialed into Ishiura’s sumo, wraps him up, and delivers the yorikiri.

Nishikigi defeats Kagayaki – Massive respect for Nishikigi, who refuses to give up and go away to Juryo again. The match starts with a big hit at the tachiai, and both men lock up with each going for a left hand inside grip. The crowd goes quiet as each leans in, working to wear the other down. When Kagayaki lifts and shifts to try to get his right hand inside, Nishikigi makes his move. Well executed sumo from both, but Nishikigi showed superior skill.

Kotoyuki defeats Asanoyama – It’s clear from the tachiai that Asanoyama wants to get a belt grip and negate Kotoyuki’s oshi attack. Asanoyama comes in low aiming for the belt, and Kotoyuki opens by pounding on Asanoyama’s face and neck. To his credit, Asanoyama stands up to the beating for a while, struggling to land a grip, but Kotoyuki knows this game, and keeps moving forward. Asanoyama changes tactics, and tries to pull, but his transition puts him off balance and Kotoyuki finishes him off. Oshidashi for the win.

Ryuden defeats Daishomaru – Ryuden kachi-koshi. This bout was quite one sided, with Ryuden landing a double inside grip straight out of the tachiai. Driving forward, Ryuden prevented Daishomaru from mounting any real defense. It’s been a long hard road for Ryuden, and this winning record from his first Makuuchi tournament must be a sweet victory indeed.

Daiamami defeats Terunofuji – Rather the Ghost of Terunofuji. The poor Kaiju has nothing left. I rarely feel sorry for anyone who competes in a warrior sport, but this is just brutal to watch.

Takekaze defeats Aminishiki – Really Isegahama? What on earth are you doing? You are already somewhat diminished by the Harumafuji scandal, and now you put on this show of pain and suffering for the fans?

Shohozan defeats Sokokurai – What an awesome match! It starts with a traditional Shohozan bull rush with arms flailing, and Sokokurai gives ground, but does not give up. As they circle, Sokokurai is trying like mad to wrap up one of Shohozan’s massive arms, and he gets a good hold on the left arm at the wrist. He parlays that into a left hand inside grip, and the two are dancing to set up a throw. Shohozan launches an uwatenage attempt first, but Sokokurai counters masterfully. As Sokokurai rotates to try his own throw, Shohozan moves forward strongly and Sokokurai collapses. Yoritaoshi. Shohozan is kachi-koshi.

Abi defeats Chiyomaru – Abi tries a slap down henka at the tachiai, but Chiyomaru is either expecting it, or his bulbous midsection kept him slow off the line. Either way the move fails and Chiyomaru attacks a now back-tracking Abi. But Abi is an unstoppable ball of energy, and launches his now familiar thrusting attack, most of which is landing on Chiyomaru’s neck and face. Chiyomaru rallies at one point, but Abi’s attack is too intense, and Chiyomaru steps out. Oshidashi, with Abi kachi-koshi in his first top division tournament.

Kaisei defeats Daieisho – The new plus size Kaisei seems to be nearly impossible to move. Even Daieisho’s normally solid pushing attack had no effect. The bulk of the match is Kaisei breathlessly chasing Daieisho around the dohyo until Daieisho steps out. Kaisei gets his 8th win.

Shodai defeats Chiyoshoma – What has happened to the soft, flabby and unimpressive Shodai? I think he’s on holiday somewhere in Okinawa. This is the other Shodai, the one who wants to be an Ozeki, has fairly good sumo and can win in spite of a somewhat high tachiai. His win over Chiyoshoma was straightforward, he kept moving forward while Chiyoshoma was trying to find a grip. Solid sumo again from Shodai.

Chiyonokuni defeats Arawashi – This match was lost at the tachiai, when Arawashi went to land a left hand outside grip and missed. Chiyonokuni opens with an oshi attack, and Arawashi does not really get a good second chance to lock things up on his terms. Arawashi keeps trying to work inside, but Chiyonokuni has his thrusting attack on full, and Arawashi can’t even establish a solid defensive footing. Chiyonokuni wins by tsukiotoshi as Arawashi does his gymnastics tumble once more.

Chiyotairyu defeats Takarafuji – Straightforward thrusting match. Takarafuji could not overcome Chiyotairyu’s massive bulk and strong upper body. Takarafuji still needs one win for kachi-koshi.

Hokutofuji defeats Ikioi – Ikioi is hurt, and not really able to execute Makuuchi grade sumo. From the tachiai Hokutofuji stood him up with a firm nodowa, and then slapped him down. Both men are make-koshi and will need to try again in Osaka.

Ichinojo defeats Yoshikaze – As predicted last night, this match was almost painful to watch. Yoshikaze seems to be only at 75% of his normal self, and Ichinojo’s massive size and strength mean that normal forces of sumo, much like space-time, are warped and distorted the closer you get to him. Yoshikaze comes in low at the tachiai, looking to get a grip at center-mass, but Ichinojo lands a brutal choke hold, and moves forward. There was absolutely nothing that Yoshikaze could do to stop it. Ichinojo goes kachi-koshi while Yoshikaze is now make-koshi, and probably has a headache. Ichinojo faces Tochinoshin on day 13. Hoo-boy!

Kotoshogiku defeats Takakeisho – Dare I whisper it? Kotoshogiku may come back from a dismal start to be in striking distance of kachi-koshi? Takakeisho is a bold young man of immense strength, and he decided to try to push against the Kyushu Bulldozer. Kotoshogiku masterfully shuts down Takakeisho’s wave action tsuppari, and it’s down to a contest of strength. While not quite able to get the hug-n-chug running, Kotoshogiku keeps moving forward, and avoids Takakeisho’s last minute attempt at a hineri at the edge. Takakeisho kept grabbing his mage after the match, I was curious if he was trying to signal something. Yeah, Kotoshogiku’s hand was on the back of his head, but I am not sure it’s a mage pull at all. Takakeisho now make-koshi.

Okinoumi defeats Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi continues his meltdown, and it’s quite a disappointment to watch. As with prior matches, he tries to pull early on, but Okinoumi uses his backward motion to take control and win. After his failed pull, Mitakeumi cannot recover any forward momentum. Bad move, bad strategy, bad outcome for the Ozeki hopeful. Go back and try again.

Tochinoshin defeats Tamawashi – Tochinoshin prevails to stay at one loss, while Tamawashi is now make-koshi. From the tachiai Tamawashi lands a strong nodowa, but this seems to only power up the Georgain battle mech. With a strong shove, Tochinoshin breaks the neck grip and goes on the attack. Tamawashi puts everything he has into a couple of huge tsuppari, and nearly brings Tochinoshin down, but it also left him wide open. Tochinoshin surges forward and lands a double inside grip. We, of course, know how this ends with Tochinoshin’s massive yorikiri.

Takayasu defeats Goeido – Goeido, unable to exit debug mode, is once again stuck playing Tetris instead of Osumo. Takayasu is a half step ahead at the tachiai, and focuses on applying rapid pressure to Goeido’s shoulders. Goeido never has a chance to produce any offense, or set up any kind of defensive stance. Goeido now needs to pick up 2 wins to not go kadoban.. again.

Endo defeats Kakuryu – Yes, sumo fans. Big K dropped his match with Endo, leaving Tochinoshin as the sole leader of the yusho race at the end of day 12. As with day 11, his attempt to pull left him off balance, and Endo was ready for it. Endo moved strongly forward and made the Yokozuna pay. Endo picks up a kinboshi, and Kakuryu loses his share of the lead. The cushions fly in the Kokugikan.

That’s it for day 12. It’s a brawl right to the end now, with a decent chance that a rank-and-file rikishi could lift the Emperor’s Cup!

Day 5 – New Hopes, Dashed Hopes

So let’s start at the very bottom.

naya-hoshoryu
Naya and Hoshoryu – didn’t look like maezumo

There are mae-zumo bouts in every tournament. They usually pass almost unobserved, with only the sumo database to recall them from oblivion. But this tournament, we have two sublime scions who promise to make sumo interesting 10 years from now.

These are, of course, Taiho’s grandchild, Naya (who also happens to be Takatoriki’s son, but that fact is not paraded on TV and the press as much), and Hoshoryu, formerly known as Byambasuren, Asashoryu’s nephew.

And today, these two were matched against each other.

Hoshoryu is certainly channeling his uncle there when the gunbai points to his rival. Anyway, this looks a lot better than maezumo usually is.

Moving up a little bit, Torakio suffered his first loss today, after two wins.

The technique is not quite there yet.

And unfortunately, my main man Terutsuyoshi also suffered his first loss, in the battle of the former sekitori with Yago:

A valiant attempt at an ipponzeoi there at the end, but Yago had him from the get-go.

Let’s get up to Makuuchi, then. It was my day off today, so I was able to watch some live sumo for the first time. I caught the stream (Abema TV + VPN) right when Kakuryu was finishing his dohyo-iri. I must say I prefer the NHK broadcasts (which I got to watch recorded, never live). Too much stuff on the screen obscures the view, and the “female guests” that they promised only enhance the image of the “stupid broad who doesn’t understand sports and needs to be told basic things”. Bah.

But all this doesn’t make for bad sumo, right? So let’s go through the bouts:

Asanoyama got a Juryo rival today, Kyokutaisei, who was not really a match for the revamped Asanoyama. Yorikiri within the blink of an eye.

Ishiura was impressive in the first three days but now seems to be slumping back. We’ll have to see if he really improved when the sample size grows a bit. Ryuden did not let him do anything, really, and rebalanced his score a bit.

Daiamami, tells us Abema TV, has a pre-bout routine in which he pulls at his nose. Hmm… I prefer Arawashi’s salty mawashi. His bout with Yutakayama starts with some tsuppari, he follows with a nodowa. Yutakayama overcommits as he pushes him forward, but who got out first? Quite a long monoii ensues, and although Yutakayama was already flying out of control, Daiamami touched first, so Yutakayama gets the oshidashi win.

Nishikigi seemed to be in control of the bout, but Daieisho circled, causing Nishikigi to lose balance and winning by hatakikomi.

Abi and Kagayaki are of the same age. Abi just advanced from Juryo, and Kagayaki has more Makuuchi experience and looked strong in the beginning of the basho. He also has a slight height advantage over the Shikoroyama Peter Pan. But all of this list of advantages doesn’t do much for the buxom rikishi, as Abi moves quickly and pulls him down for a hikiotoshi.

Takekaze‘s game plan has been pulling down Daishomaru. Tried once, didn’t work, tried again. Tsukiotoshi and the old man’s first win this basho.

Sokokurai can’t seem to produce whatever magic he produced in Juryo. Kotoyuki pushes him out very easily for a tsukidashi.

Shohozan and Chiyomaru start with a tsuppari barrage, but Shohozan tries to get a mawashi grip. Chiyomaru evades and evades, but eventually Shohozan catches on and pushes him towards the edge. Chiyomaru only manages to stop himself when his toes are already outside. Hikiotoshi.

Now, the Aminishiki vs. Chiyonokuni battle did not look good. First, there’s Uncle Sumo’s sumo. I mean, it isn’t there. He can’t catch a grip on his rivals nape for one of the pull downs he likes, and he can’t get inside for a mawashi grip. But the worst part is that as Chiyonokuni rolls him to the exactly same corner when he ended up yesterday,  Uncle lands badly and hurts his right leg – the one with the snapped ligament and the brace. He had to go to the shitaku-beya leaning on someone’s shoulder. He will make a decision whether to go kyujo or not tomorrow morning.

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Aminishiki. Couldn’t get back on the dohyo for the bow.

Next to Kaisei, Chiyoshoma looks like a teen. However, after he finishes his Harumafuji-like shikiri, they both struggle for a mawashi grip. Chiyoshoma gets a secure shitate grip, and uses it for a shitatenage. Once Kaisei is on the floor, Chiyoshoma gives him a helping hand up. Now that’s the Chiyoshoma I want to see.

Tochiozan doesn’t manage to get any grip on Ikioi, and starts to back away as Ikioi pushes, but then manages to catch at Ikioi’s neck and pull him down for a hatakikomi.

In the battle of the “Ikemen” (manly men), Okinoumi just can’t repeat his success from the previous basho. Endo fights him for the grip, and they end up in a hidari-yotsu, but apparently Endo’s hold is stronger and he pushes relentlessly for the yori-kiri.

Takarafuji, however, is back in the land of white stars. Arawashi doesn’t seem to even pose a problem for him. A harite, a nodowa, and an oshi-dashi. This despite the TV team (Kasugano oyakata commentating) speaking at length about the type of yotsu each of them prefers.

Shodai gets a good grip on Ichinojo, and proves to him that even mountains can be moved. Losing to Shodai, Ichinojo? Ichinojo gets his favorite grip first, but Shodai manages to switch grips without penalty, gets him all the way to the edge, and then dances a bit on the tawara and lets Ichinojo’s momentum do the rest. The Yokozuna must be thinking “Is it that easy?”.

BTW, In the “fun facts” box on Abema TV, they wrote that Ichinojo can sleep on the back of a horse. The TV team – especially Kasugano oyakata – start to crack jokes about the poor horses in Mongolia and Ichinojo’s weight…

What was supposed to be the highlight of the evening, the tadpole battle, ended up with Takakeisho doing the splits within seconds, and Onosho with another easy win.

Mitakeumi and Tamawashi get into a pushing battle. But Mitakeumi is the stronger one of these two, and Tamawashi can do nothing but retreat until he’s out.

Although he lost to Hokutofuji twice already, in addition to one fusen, Takayasu is fearless as he comes to the dohyo today. Takayasu combines a mawashi grip with oshi, and expertly gets Hokutofuji out in an oshidashi. Keeps himself within one loss of the leader group.

Now, Tochinoshin‘s bout with Goeido is one for the history books. Kasugano oyakata at the commentator seat looked like a cat who swallowed a bowl of cream. At first, the two battled for a grip, each denying the other his hold and looking for his own opening. Tochinoshin managed to secure a firm grip, and started pushing Goeido relentlessly towards the tawara. Goeido didn’t go out without a fight, though, and tried a leg trip. Tochinoshin maintained perfect balance, and kept applying his unbelievable force. Goeido joins Takayasu in the “1 behind” group. Great match.

tochinoshin-goeido

Kakuryu keeps sailing from one bout to the next with poise and hinkaku… Chiyotairyu is really no match, as Kakuryu gets a grip on him right off the tachiai and lifts and pushes, lifts and pushes until the Sumo Elvis passes the bales. I was relieved to see that Kakuryu’s attempt at gaburi-yori yesterday vs. Ichinojo (didn’t work, he had to change tactics and move the mountain sideways to win) did not cause him to wake up this morning with his back wrecked again. Keep up the good work, Yokozuna!

And now, to the musubi-no-ichiban. The last bout of the day. Yokozuna Kisenosato vs. Yokozuna bane, Yoshikaze. And the man in the green mawashi was not giving the crippled Yokozuna an inch of slack. Yoshikaze tried a pulldown at first, then got into a morozashi, and dropped him unceremoniously off the dohyo. He went down to offer him a hand up, which Kisenosato rejected. Things are not looking good for the one-year-old Yokozuna.

yokozunameter-hatsu-2018-day5

So Hakuho is out for repairs, Kisenosato has a serious kinboshi leak, and only Kakuryu is in a state of “Need a Yokozuna? I’m right here!”.

Yusho Arasoi

The leader list is now down to four:

  • Yokozuna Kakuryu
  • Sekiwake Mitakeumi
  • M3 Tochinoshin
  • M16 Asanoyama

(Asanoyama? “Been there, done that, got the sansho”)