Nagoya Day 1 Highlights

Nagoya Day 1 Yusho Banner
Yusho Banner Being Returned – From the NSK Twitter Photo Stream

At long last the sumo drought has ended, and with some fantastic match we welcome the Nagoya basho. The stakes this time are fairly high for two of the Ozeki, and we expect that this basho will continue the theme where the 30+ crowd continue to fade. Keep in mind, it may take several days for everyone to be up to full power and skill. So days 1 and 2 are sometimes a bit rough.

Highlight Matches

Hokutofuji defeats Ryuden – Hokutofuji looked less banged up, and almost strong. He was low and heavy today without outstanding foot placement. He took the fight to Ryuden and just kept moving forward. A healthy Hokutofuji is an upper Maegashira class rikishi, so if he is over his injuries, he could really run up the score this time.

Okinoumi defeats Ishiura – Ishiura continues to struggle, and so dearly want him to find some sumo that makes him a credible threat on the dohyo.

Asanoyama defeats Kotoeko – What a match! Both men traded control of the bout back and forth, and frankly it was impossible to know who was going to prevail. Multiple throw attempts from both that were successfully blocked or reversed. This is a must see match. Welcome to Makuuchi Kotoeko, what a way to get started (even though you lost).

Tochiozan defeats Arawashi – Arawashi attempts a Harumafuji style mini-henka, but Tochiozan reads it well and makes him pay. Never able to mount a defense or plant his feet, Arawashi is quickly ejected from the dohyo.

Onosho defeats Sadanoumi – Onosho leaves the red mawashi at home, but he overpowered Sadanoumi at the tachiai and just kept up the attack. His ability to get inside and push continues to impress.

Nishikigi defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama comes out strong, using his massive reach and overwhelming strength to take Nishikigi to the edge of the ring. But then Nishikigi gets a grip on the massive Bulgarian and launches his attack. Chest to chest, Aoiyama looks somewhat out of his element, and quickly goes soft as Nishikigi presses forward. It’s quite possible that due to a lower body injury, Aoiyama wisely decides that past a certain point that he will protect his body as a first priority.

Myogiryu defeats Kyokutaisei – When Myogiryu is “on” he can deliver some very effective oshi-zumo. Today he and Kyokutaisei traded thrusts, but Myogiryu held the superior stance and carried the match. As humans we naturally watch people’s heads and maybe their upper bodies, but so much about a sumo match can be learned by watching the rikishi’s legs and feet. This match is a great example of that. Take careful note of how Myogiryu’s balance is so very well placed over the front part of his feet, and Kyokutaisei is constantly struggle to find a stable rhythm to his steps.

Chiyotairyu defeats Takarafuji – Notable because Chiyotairyu typically leads with a flurry of offense, but quickly runs out of gas. In this match, he comes in nice and low at the tachiai, but nearly loses his balance. But his endurance in this match is better than I have seen in a while, and he keeps the pressure on Takarafuji, who is no easy opponent. Nice win for Chiyotairyu, and his sideburns are clearly in peak form.

Endo defeats Yoshikaze – This was a bell-weather match as cited in the preview. Endo exited the Natsu basho for a few days with a reported tear to his bicep, and then returned to action to lose every subsequent match. Yoshikaze brought the fight to Endo, and moved him back with power and confidence. He placed Endo’s injured right arm in an arm-lock over the bicep (way to target, Yoshikaze!). This should have been the match there, but Endo stood Yoshikaze up and applied force with that same hand against Yoshikaze’s belly. Out goes Yoshikaze and sumo’s golden boy racks a win.

Kagayaki defeats Daishomaru – This match lacked the lighting speed of Yoshikaze’s blistering attack, as both opponents seem to move with deliberate strength. Daishomaru attempted an early pull down which left him off balance. Kagayaki exploited this mistake and put Daishomaru on defense. Again with this match, watch Kagayaki’s feet! With Daishomaru moving backwards and struggling to organize a defense, Kagayaki’s excellent fundamentals kick in and it’s oshitaoshi time!

Kaisei defeats Takakeisho – I do love Takakeisho, but sometimes it’s not the rikishi that carry the match, but Isaac Newton. When the world’s most combative tadpole runs into 500 pounds of Brazilian meat, the Brazilian wins if he’s able to transmit power to the clay. Kaisei wins by being enormous and knowing how to remain moving forward. Nice sumo from Kaisei. Never fear Takakeisho fans, give him a day or two to get back into his sumo.

Mitakeumi defeats Abi – I am going to assume Mitakeumi spent time working out how to negate Abi’s single attack mode, and Mitakeumi used it to great effect. The match is fairly quick, and Abi starts by exploiting his long reach. But if you look, Mitakeumi’s hips are lower, and he is planted firmly in the clay. As long as Mitakeumi is willing to absorb the force Abi is applying to his neck, there is no offense coming from Abi. Abi begins a rhythmic thrust series with alternating arms, and Mitakeumi gets the timing perfectly, and moves in each time Abi releases. Abi is landing thrusts, but Mitakeumi keeps his hips low and moves forward. That’s what it takes folks!

Chiyonokuni defeats Ichinojo – Chiyonokuni goes hard against Ichinojo’s chest and just blasts forward. Ichinojo loses his balance and rocks forward, almost scraping the clay with his left hand. From here Chiyonokuni is in control and he never lets Ichinojo recover. We can mark Ichinojo in the “ring rust” category.

Tochinoshin defeats Ikioi – The Shin-Ozeki wins his first match, and looked good doing it. Tochinoshin landed his left hand early, and Ikioi really did not have any recourse after that.

Takayasu defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku really made him work for it. Again, for clues on this bout, watch Takayasu’s foot work. He continues to try to escape from Kotoshogiku’s repeated attack, and each time Kotoshogiku resets and attacks again. At the tachiai, Takayasu again goes for that useless and ridiculous shoulder blast, and ends up too high. Kotoshogiku attacks and Takayasu quickly plants his feet to shut down the Kyushu-bulldozer. But Kotoshogiku keeps advancing, and Takayasu is running out of room. The only thing that saved the match for Takayasu was a list moment tsukiotoshi, to which Kotoshogiku has always been susceptible. Some fans think there was a Takayasu hair pull in there. Regardless, Kadoban twin #1 not looking super genki right now.

Shodai defeats Goeido – But Kadoban twin #2 picked up a kuroboshi (loss) against what should have been an easy opponent. Goeido frequently suffers from crippling ring-rust, and perhaps that is what is going on now. His sumo looked very good, but against somehow Shodai gets his opponents to more or less defeat themselves. Goeido’s failed attempt to cock the throw at the edge of the ring is masterfully converted by Shodai into an okuridashi. Better luck tomorrow, Goeido.

Hakuho defeats Tamawashi – Fans who were wondering about The Boss have a very clear indication that Hakuho is quite genki this time. Fast, dominant and highly effective, the dai-Yokozuna dismantled one of the more powerful oshi-zumo rikishi in the sport today. Tamawashi’s mid-bout attempt to go chest to chest just gave Hakuho the grip needed to toss him into the second row.

Kakuryu defeats Shohozan – Wow, Big K looked outstanding in this bout. Shohozan is one tough rikishi, especially if you let it turn into a street fight, as Shohozan loves to do. But as Kakuryu always does, he waits for his opponent to over extend, or over commit and makes them pay.

Ozeki Goeido In A Perilous State

Exploding Robot

Long-serving Ozeki Goeido lost in a shocking match against Daieisho in day 8 action, dropping to 3-5. It was notable because while Daieisho is a solid rikishi, he should be no trouble for a man who is clearly capable of dispatching Yokozuna. Instead, the troubled Ozeki found himself stood upright, pushed around and thrust out on the east side of the dohyo. The sumo world is always very tight lipped about injuries to rikishi, especially during a basho, but I am going to assume that Goeido has re-injured his ankle. That injury limits the amount of offensive force he can muster, and the amount of lateral / shifting pressure he can maintain. This makes him weak going forward, and slow to turn or move side to side.

Goeido had his right ankle completely reconstructed with pins and screws last year, and returned to action possibly before the surgery could completely heal. This is, in part, driven by kadoban rules for Ozeki and the 60 day period between honbasho.

With this loss, Goedio now needs to win 5 of the remaining 7 matches. This may be impossible as he must still face Tochinoshin, Hakuho and Kakuryu. A make-koshi for Natsu would mean the Nagoya basho would once again feature both Ozeki kadoban, and facing a risk of demotion.

Before any readers assume too much, we cheer Goeido when he’s fighting well, and scold him when he takes short cuts or seems to just phone it in. In this case, it’s clear he’s not able to generate full offensive power, and we have to assume injury. A healthy Goeido is a terrifying rikishi of nearly pure offense. We wish him well and hope he can find some way to return to health.

Natsu Day 5 Preview

Natsu Day 5

With day 5 we mark the end of the first act of the Natsu basho. The goal of the first act is to see who is hot, and who is not, and the schedulers have met that goal. Clearly at this point we are starting to get some good indications of who is going to at least start Natsu ahead of the pack. Let’s have a look.

  • Hakuho – Clearly whatever injuries other may have thought plagued “The Boss”, he is competing well enough to defeat all comers thus far. With any luck, he is getting warmed up and the week 2 matches will be (as Josh says) “Box Office”.
  • Tochinoshin – Well, Mr. Ozeki run is executing well. So far no one has given him a decent challenge, and the one hopeful for act 1, Mitakeumi, was no challenge at all.
  • Ichinojo – Not a surprise, but the Boulder is either hot or cold, and right now he remains hot. Where is all of this heading? I think if Ichinojo can keep motivated and fighting well, he is going to be a Sekiwake for a while.
  • Shodai – I am sure this is going to change, but Shodai? Ok, the guy has potential aplenty, but he gets the jitters and goes to pieces at times. But happy to see him get a solid start.
  • Kakuryu – In spite of one loss, I think he’s still in solid shape for this tournament, even if he may be really disappointed in himself now.

What We Are Watching Day 5

Sadanoumi vs Kyokutaisei – After a day 1 loss, new comer Kyokutaisei seems to be getting his confidence together, and focusing on his sumo. This will be a good test as these two have faced off 5 times in the past, and are just about evenly split. They also come into the bout with matching 3-1 records.

Tochiozan vs Asanoyama – Tochiozan was reported to be in fine form in the practice sessions leading up to the basho, but sputtered at the start. Has he gotten his sumo together? I am curious to see if Asanoyama can deliver his 4th win today. Asanoyama won their only prior match.

Daiamami vs Chiyonokuni – Again a pair with 3-1 records are going to face off in a match that could get high-intensity. Chiyonokuni always gets crazy if you let him get going, but Daiamami is once again showing solid, steady sumo.

Daishomaru vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji is still probably looking shaky, and Daishomaru has his sumo where he wants it. I would dearly love to see Hokutofuji get genki and go on a winning streak, but I am going to assume he is still hurt. Hokutofuji won all 3 of their prior engagements.

Yoshikaze vs Takarafuji – These two are fairly evenly matched, as their 7-6 career record would indicate. But Takarafuji has been looking sooth and confident, and I would give him an edge over the struggling Yoshikaze. But as a Yoshikaze fan, I am going to be hoping he can put on a solid showing for a second straight day.

Kotoshogiku vs Ikioi – Another great 3-1 match up. These two have had 13 prior matches, with Ikioi taking only 5. Kotoshogiku looks like he has strong command of his sumo right now, so this could be a great battle for day 5.

Chiyoshoma vs Shodai – Ok, I give up. Is Shodai going to stumble to a 5th straight win? Part of me wants to see him do that, just to get a broader understanding of how chaos works its magic. But to be honest, Chiyoshoma is not looking very good yet, and he has never beaten Shodai.

Mitakeumi vs Tamawashi – Ok, get this. During all those tournaments when they were both Sekiwake, these two racked up a 12 bout record that favors Mitakeumi 10-2. This one has potential.

Endo vs Ichinojo – The other really interesting match today, but it may be a complete dud. I know Endo wants to use his technical sumo on Ichinojo, but I think Ichinojo may be far too massive for Endo to have much effect unless he can get the Boulder to chase him around. That may be his strategy, but pulling against 225 kg is just a bit suicidal.

Tochinoshin vs Kaisei – Just hoping Tochinoshin does not injure himself trying to lift and shift that much Kaisei.

Yutakayama vs Goeido – If Goeido does not win this one clean and easy, I am going to start calling for a re-flash to factory settings.

Daieisho vs Hakuho – Should be another easy win for Hakuho.

Kakuryu vs Abi – All it takes is one crazy bad bout for Kakuryu, and fans like myself start to wonder if he can hold it together. While he is “on” he is really excellent, but he has bad modes (not unlike Goeido). So today he at taking on Abi, who should be fairly easy for him, but with that crazy body structure of his, it could give him an excuse to default to his “bad mode” sumo.

Natsu Day 3 Highlights

Endo Trinket

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

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

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

Highlight Matches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hakuho defeats Shohozan – Blink and you miss it!

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

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 4 Highlights

 

Takakeisho Extra Point
Sadly, No Extra Points In Sumo

 

Absolute blockbuster day of sumo, as the cobwebs of the early days are almost all swept away, and we race towards the end of Haru’s first act. Today we saw some of the best sumo thus far from Ichinojo and Mitakeumi, with Takakeisho and Tochinoshin a close second. In fact, I would say that both of those matches are worthy of study in sumo school, as each show an opponent going against a larger, strong rikishi, and finding a way to win.

Apologies for the late highlights today, much insanity has broken loose in life. I will gamberize for Thursday.

Highlight Matches

Aoiyama defeats Hidenoumi – Aoiyama to gut and fillet everyone who stands against him. Hidenoumi had no chance as his tachiai hit a wall of flesh, and then the nodowa landed on his throat. Aoiyama finished with him and tossed him aside like a bag of rotten miso. With Aoiyama back to genki status, I predict he is going to inflict a lot of pain at the bottom of the banzuke.

Kyokushuho defeats Myogiryu – Visiting from Juryo, Kyokushuho takes a bite out of the struggling Myogiryu. Both men started with thrusts, and then went chest to chest. The closing kotenage looked on the painful side, but Myogiryu seemed ok afterward.

Ikioi defeats Asanoyama – The injured Ikioi remains unbeaten at Maegashira 14 and is managing to best his opponent each day, no matter what. He is already halfway to a kachi-koshi. Today it was Asanoyama. Ikioi absorbed a fury of blows, then drove forward. Asanoyama seemed ill-prepared to shift to defense, and Ikioi applied a yoritaoshi for a rapid win.

Tochiozan defeats Kotoyuki – Fusen-sho, Kotoyuki has withdrawn from Haru. Possibly too many air-express trips into the front row.

Yutakayama defeats Ishiura – Ishiura attempted a mini-henka, but Yutakayama was ready. Following that, Ishiura could never set his feet at all, and it was a bit of a dance/chase routine that had Ishiura out in a hurry.

Chiyoshoma defeats Ryuden – Chiyoshoma gets his first win, in a thrusting battle with Ryuden that left the Freshman unable to find his balance or set up for any kind of stable offense. Chiyoshoma uses this with great skill and keeps him unsteady. Ryuden was a bit slow to get up, hopefully, he is ok.

Abi defeats Daieisho – Once again Abi plays the part of the bull fighter. He uses his superior reach to goad Daieisho into a fierce forward charge, then steps out of the way as Daieisho launches out of the ring. We like to make fun of Abi and his long limbs, but watch this bout in slow motion, Daieisho can’t even really touch the man.

Yoshikaze defeats Kagayaki – Yoshikaze looked a bit better today, but nowhere near full berserker strength. Kakayaki was unable to cope with the raging chaos that is Yoshikaze, and he was overwhelmed. Both men are now 2-2.

Hokutofuji defeats Chiyomaru – Great to see that Hokutofuji finally picked up his first win. He has been turning in poor performances for a few months, and fans have to wonder what problem is plaguing him. Chiyomaru was soft at the tachiai, while Hokutofuji launched with abandon. Strictly a thrusting battle, Hokutofuji focused on pushing Chiyomaru from center mass, and it worked.

Kaisei defeats Shodai – The worst part of this match? A moment before he steps out, you can see Shodai visibly give up. Can we please find some way to put Shodai through whatever self-help session fixed Ichinojo? Maybe some time with a couple of nice ponies, or maybe chasing down wolves in the streets of Sumida? Kaisei looking quite genki, and picks up his 4th straight win.

Shohozan defeats Kotoshogiku – Damn, Shohozan is looking quite fierce so far. Kotoshogiku is a fraction of his former self, and he tried to rush forward and go chest to chest. But Shohozan gave ground under his control, and Kotoshogiku could never plant his feet and bounce forward. Shohozan picked up a nice win, also 4-0 to start.

Chiyotairyu defeats Takarafuji – Chiyotairyu also picking up his first win of the tournament today against Takarafuji. It was clear from the start that Chiyotairyu was going to make this an oshi-battle, and Takarafuji planted his feet and dug in. But the more massive Chiyotairyu took control, got Takarafuji off balance, and slapped him down.

Mitakeumi defeats Ichinojo – Now we start the really GOOD stuff. Wow, very impressed with Mitakeumi this fight. Ichinojo was going to once again apply the “I’m incredibly large, deal with it” strategy, but I think he was unprepared that yes, Mitakeumi was ready to deal with it. From the start, Ichinojo is just physically much higher than Mitakeumi, and Mitakeumi works with that. He gets inside of Ichinojo, but rather than going for the belt, he puts his hands on the giant’s chest and starts pushing. Ichinojo thinks to himself “silly pony!”, and leans forward. The weight is clearly taxing Mitakeumi, but he dials up the pressure. 500 pounds of Mongolian is crushing down on Mitakeumi, but he’s not going to relent. Ichinojo moves to shift his grip, and Mitakeumi takes Ichinojo’s armpits. He lifts and pushes hard. There was no recovery, and Ichinojo could never again plant his feet. Fantastic win by Mitakeumi!

Takakeisho defeats Tochinoshin – Day 4 was not done giving us things to cheer about. A fantastic match between Hatsu Yusho winner Tochinoshin, and the grumpy tadpole Takakeisho. You know, of course, that Tochinoshin wants to get his left hand on the Bowling Ball’s mawashi. And he gets it. But rather than shock or defeat, a look of intensity and motivation sweeps across Takakeisho’s face, and he drives forward, lifting Tochinoshin’s left arm with everything he has… and breaks the grip! This leaves Takakeisho off balance and stumbling, but Tochinoshin pursues. They continue to stagger like drunken Tanuki across the dohyo, with Takakeisho doing a pirouette as Tochinoshin takes in a mouth full of clay. Nicely done to Takakeisho! The crowd cheers as both men bow, what an effort!

Takayasu defeats Tamawashi – Kind of boring oshi-fight, with Takayasu delivering his now obligatory shoulder blast. He does manage to out slap Tamawashi, which is quite an accomplishment. Bout ends with a hatakikomi. Kind of boring… but hey, Ozeki got his second win, now 2-2 for the basho.

Endo defeats Goeido – Endo has a sequence of moves he has used a few times now at Haru and Hatsu. He employed it again today against Goeido, and shame on the Ozeki for falling for it. He meets the tachiai low and strong, makes sure his opponent ramps up the pressure to full power, and then while keeping his hands on his opponent’s upper body, steps aside and releases. Worked again today. Everyone, keep an eye on Endo!

Kakuryu defeats Arawashi – Very straightforward match. Big K meets Arawashi at the tachiai and marches him straight backward. Very happy that the lone Yokozuna is doing well this basho. Perhaps his detractors will gain some respect for him?

Haru Day 3 Preview

Ichinojo

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

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

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

What We Are Watching Day 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haru Day 1 Preview

Wasabi Mawashi

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

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

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

With that down in writing, lets get started!

What We Are Watching Day 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haru Story 2 – An Ozeki’s Opportunity

Goeido-Mug

Since Harumafuji’s untimely fall from honor, a gap has opened in the Yokozuna front. No longer able to consistently field grand-champions, both of the current Ozeki can’t help but set their sights on the Emperor’s cup, and a slim chance at promotion to sumo’s highest rank. But for both Goeido and Takayasu, this greatest of sumo’s prizes seem frustratingly out of reach.

First and foremost, the case of Goeido. Famously inconsistent, his Aki 2016 appears to have been an amazing and spectacular fluke, not to be repeated any time soon. Since his blazing 15-0 zensho yusho at that fabled Aki 2016, Goeido has reverted to form, and only achieved double digit wins at the 2017 Aki, when he took his 6th jun-yusho with a 11-4 record. Readers will have noticed that we frequently refer to Goeido in terms of a poorly constructed and malfunctioning piece of technology, rather than one of two men who hold the exalted rank of Ozeki. This comes down to our burning desire to see the Goeido of Aki be the Goeido who steps onto the dohyo every tournament. Until he can capture and summon that wild, unstoppable rikishi at will, he will continue to struggle.

Takayasu, on the other hand, has been confronting injuries since his promotion in May of 2017. At the Aki tournament he tore a major muscle in his thigh, and proceeded to struggle to regain his sumo. Since that injury, his technique on the dohyo has relied far too much on a massive shoulder blast at the tachiai, followed by wild and chaotic (almost frantic) moves across the dohyo. This is a far cry from the sumo that took him to Ozeki: calculated, confident, incredibly strong; with every move deliberate and with terrible purpose. That sumo has the potential to take him to a Yokozuna’s rope, but I fear he lost it, and cannot find it again.

So while it may seem that with a possible no-yokozuna basho on the horizon that the Ozeki are cleared to push for higher rank, both men are far from ready to mount the two consecutive wins needed to be eligible for promotion. But my intuitiuon tells me that we may see a new Yokozuna within the next 12 months, and it’s a 50/50 chance that it may not be either of the current Ozeki.

Hatsu Day 15 Wrap Up

Abi Shiko

It was a satisfying end to a really tremendous basho. Over the course of the last 15 days, we have all enjoyed some really tremendous sumo in a tournament that once again featured only a single Yokozuna. Since the start of the Asashoryu era, much of each basho revolved around the absolute dominance of a pair of dai-Yokozuna. Tournament coverage was almost bifurcated along who the dai-Yokozuna would crush today, and then the battle for the remaining scraps.

For the past year or so, we have seen the emphasis shift. We continue to see an evolution, a “changing of the guard” in some sense, within the ranks of sumo. Rikishi who have been mainstays of Makuuchi for years or decades are making way for cohorts of healthy, strong and eager sekitori, ready for their time in the spotlight. While we are going to miss our long-time favorites, this basho helped us come to realize that the future of sumo is bright, and the next generation is going to continue to impress.

Look for 2018 to continue this trend, with at least one more Yokozuna headed for intai, and at least one more rikishi taking up the Ozeki rank.

As always, Tachiai will be along for the ride. We can’t help ourselves – we love sumo.

Highlights From Day 15

Daiamami defeats Aoiyama – Fairly straightforward oshi battle, with Daiamami picking up his 8th win, and keeping himself in Makuuchi for March. Aoiyama did not look amazing, but then he really did not need to pour it on for this match.

Nishikigi defeats Kyokutaisei – Nishikigi never gave up, stuck with it and managed to get kachi-koshi. That being said, he’s probably going to find himself down in Juryo soon if he cannot bring his performance up at least one notch. Nishikigi was slow at the tachiai, and let Kyokutaisei dominate the match right up until the final moments when Nishikigi rallied and forced Kyokutaisei out.

Asanoyama defeats Takekaze – I have been wondering what is wrong with the Oguruma team. I would guess they are suffering from the flu. All of them have been limping through this basho, and look to be in poor health. Hopefully by the time March rolls around, their health will return. Asanoyama stood Takekaze up at the tachiai, rolled left and guided the veteran to the clay. There is some discussion on if Takekaze will remain in Makuuchi, but I would think he will.

Ishiura defeats Kotoyuki – A pair of matta as each tried to smoke the other out on their tachiai plans. Yes, it was a raging henka fest that Ishiura got the better of. Kind of an uninspiring win, but a win nevertheless. Kotoyuki is make-koshi, but safe in Makuuchi for now. Ishiura will get promoted, but I am not sure his sumo will support his remaining at higher ranks. Train-train-train little muscle man!

Abi defeats Shohozan – Matta from Shohozan prior to the start, but the actual tachiai resulted in a slap-fest similar to day 14’s Tochinoshin match. Abi switched to double arm thrusts and started moving Shohozan back, and managed to turn him around and get behind. From here Shohozan is in serious trouble, and now struggling to recover while Abi continues to press the attack. Shohozan recovered for just a moment, but then it was all Abi. Nice win from the new Maegashira. I look for some wonderful sumo from him for the rest of the year.

Kagayaki defeats Shodai – This should have been a “gimme” for Shodai, but once again his weak tachiai cost him the match. Kagayaki moved forward aggressively from the line, and came in solidly underneath Shodai, lifting him under the arms. Though Shodai was able to counter and thrust Kagayaki back, Shodai’s feet were crooked, his hips high, and his lower body off balance. Kagayaki grappleds and marched Shodai out. This kind of match helps me think that Kagayaki has tremendous potential. His instincts are solid, and he does not hesitate to exploit even the smallest opening. Shodai needs more work.

Tochinoshin defeats Endo – This match was really all about Endo. Tochinoshin already had the yusho, but Endo needed to “win up” to stake a solid claim for the last remaining san’yaku slot. But Tochinoshin is genki enough for an entire heya, and although Endo gave him a good match, there was no stopping Tochinoshin. Endo has a great tachiai, coming in low and under Tochinoshin, who immediately grabs a hold of Endo’s arms and marches forward. Endo stops the charge at the tawara and nearly rolls Tochinoshin into a throw. Try as he might, Tochinoshin cannot land a solid grip on Endo, whose impressive flexibility and agility stymie the yusho winner time and again. Tochinoshin takes Endo to the edge again, and again Endo loads a throw that Tochinoshin backs away from. That final move puts Endo off balance, and sees him shoved out. Fantastic match from both men, very good sumo.

Chiyotairyu defeats Daieisho – Chiyotairyu gets his 8th win, against a much lower ranked opponent. This was a standard oshi match that was all Chiyotairyu (as it should have been). We will see Chiyotairyu at the top of the Maegashira ranks in March.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoshogiku – The day’s Darwin match. Winner advances, loser declines. This was actually a really solid match, with great sumo from both men. I had kind of wanted to see Kotoshogiku pick up kachi-koshi, but it seems the old Kyushu bulldozer is still on his way out to pasture. Takarafuji got a solid left hand inside grip early and kept Kotoshogiku bottled up. His first attempt to yorikiri Kotoshogiku was solidly beaten back, much to everyone’s delight. From there Kotoshogiku attempted to start the hug-n-chug assault, but sadly he can no longer generate the forward pressure due to his failing knees. Takarafuji turned him around at the tawara and took the win.

Ichinojo defeats Kaisei – If you want jumbo sized sumo, this match really packed the pounds. There was close to 1,000 pounds (yes, half a ton!) of rikishi fighting it out for one little shiroboshi. The fight was all Ichinojo: he got Kaisei sideways early and escorted him out. Huge, unbelievable turn around in Ichinojo the last two tournaments. This massive Mongolian has the potential to be a force within the san’yaku as long as he can stay healthy.

Arawashi defeats Takakeisho – Two real stories here, Arawashi was able to pick up kachi-koshi in spite of his debilitating knee injuries, and the mighty tadpole Takakeisho had a dud of a tournament. Takakeisho – he will be back, more fierce and determined than ever. This young rikishi is not ever going to settle for defeat, and I predict he will be invigorated by this deep make-koshi and the resulting demotion. Arawashi’s problems will probably require medical intervention, but as we have seen, the Kyokai and the Heyas don’t seem inclined to perform medical maintenance on their kanban rikishi. Kind of sick when I put it that way.

Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – Takayasu storms into a strong jun-yusho closer. This match is worth a watch in slow motion. Takayasu starts with the now habitual shoulder blast that leaves him on one foot and high. Mitakeumi is braced on his left foot and marching forward. Suddenly the Ozeki has had the tables turned, and his wild bull tachiai has left him open and vulnerable. Mitakeumi is thrusting strongly against the Ozeki’s chest, and it’s moving him backward. Takayasu tries to pull but fails. They go chest to chest, and Mitakeumi channels the kami of Kotoshogiku’s mawashi and starts gaburi-yori. Takayasu is moving backward, and in real trouble. At the tawara, he suddenly remembers his “real” sumo, and switches modes into the Takayasu of 2016 – right hand outside grip, he lowers his hips and marches. Mitakeumi is now moving backward, and in deep trouble. Watch the Ozeki’s feet as he attacks. Low to the ground, each step just grazing the surface of the Sotho, his hips down, his shoulders forward. THIS is Takayasu sumo. Thank you, oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, for bringing him back, even for a moment. Mitakeumi stops the surge for just a moment by planting his left foot. Takayasu, now back in his old, amazing mode, senses the weight shift and helps Mitakeumi follow through by rolling him to his left and down to the clay. Wonderful, wonderful match.

Kakuryu defeats Goeido – Please note that Kakuryu created almost no forward pressure in this win, and instead used Goeido’s reliable cannon-ball tachiai to power his exit. I continue to maintain that Kakuryu re-injured himself, and that is why we had a sudden cold snap from the sole remaining Yokozuna. Hopefully, with this senshuraku win, Kakuryu can keep the critics quiet for a few months. Way to survive, Big-K.

That’s it for Hatsu – what a great tournament it’s been. Thank you, dear readers, for spending your time with us. We dearly appreciate all of you and hope you will be with us in the lead up to March’s Osaka tournament.

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.

Hatsu Day 13 Preview

Tochinoshin Hatsu Day 12

Can we beat the fountain of amazing sumo that was day 12? It’s possible, but day 12 set a very high bar indeed. Rolling into day 13, we have a real chance to see a rank and file rikishi take the Yusho for the first time in many many moons. In fact, I think the last time was Natsu 2012 when Maegashira 7 Kyokutenho (now Tomozuna Oyakata) hoisted the hardware. Prior to that, we have to go all the way back to Aki 2001 to find Kotomitsuki at Maegashira 2 winning the cup. Maegashira winning the cup is rare in the last 20 years, in part due to the absolute dominance of Asashoryu and Hakuho. Before we try to figure out who will carry the banner for Tochinoshin, keep in mind only one win separates Tochinoshin from Kakuryu, and Takayasu may still have a chance if they both drop a match or two.

As some readers have commented, there has been a flurry of pulling attempts in the past two days. Almost all of them have led to the defeat of the rikishi who pulls. Its baffling to see Kakuryu use this gambit two days in a row, but if we look at Kakuryu’s matches historically, he tends to pull for a win more frequently. But the difference being is that under normal conditions he develops the position to make it pay off. He coaxes his opponents into mistakes and over-committing. The past two days have seen him rush the process, and his opponents were waiting for it and exploited his mistake.

The day 13 torikumi shows a number of high/low battles, where the mid-Maegashira fight the bottom of the banzuke. In many cases, it seems like a happy rest period for the middle of the ranks, but in this tournament, the lower ranks have been excelling, and many mid-level Maegashira are finding themselves in a tight spot.

Hatsu Leader Board

Tochinoshin needs to stay off the clay and he will carry the day!

Leader – Tochinoshin
Chaser – Kakuryu
Hunter – Takayasu

3 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 13

Sorry, abbreviated notes for day 13, as I am in bed with the flu

Sokokurai vs Yutakayama – Yutakayama pushing for the 8th win. Sokokurai is already make-koshi, so my guess is Yutakayama picks up the shiroboshi.

Asanoyama vs Chiyomaru – Asanoyama also looking for win #8, but Chiyomaru is in the same position. Chiyomaru has been fighting well and is ranked 14 slots higher. Ouch!

Shohozan vs Daieisho – Both of them kachi-koshi, but the M9e vs M13w battle could be a bit intense. Daieisho is no pushover, but “Big Guns” Shohozan seems to really have his sumo dialed in.

Abi vs Kaisei – M14e vs M8w bout, with M8w now seemingly immune to all thrusting attacks due to the curvature of space-time around his ever-expanding gravity well. Given that’s all Abi does, this is going to be a tough day. Both are kachi-koshi, so only promotion velocity is on the line.

Nishikigi vs Chiyonokuni – Nishikigi forever has a place in my heart, he will not give up. No matter how bad his situation looks, he comes in and gives it his all. Now Nishikigi (M15w) goes up against the angry badger Chiyonokuni (M7w). Chiyonokuni is no easy draw, and Nishikigi needs two wins to survive in the top division.

Chiyoshoma vs Kagayaki – Also in the “one win to survive” camp is the buxom Kagayaki (M12w) who faces down Chiyoshoma (M7e) who needs two wins to secure a winning record. Of their 10 prior matches, Chiyoshoma has taken 6.

Takarafuji vs Ryuden – At the bleeding edge of the scale, neckless teamster boss Takarafuji (M6e) matches up against freshman MVP Ryuden (M16e) in a bout that will likely feature a lot of struggling and awkward battle-cuddles from Takarafuji. Thankfully Ryuden is already kachi-koshi

Endo vs Kotoshogiku – Can you believe its possible that Kotoshogiku could be back in San’yaku? Unlikely, but possible. But to get there he needs to win out. Stop one in that crazy train is Endo who is fresh from his Mongolian minted kinboshi.

Tochinoshin vs Ichinojo – THE match, hell if you can only watch one match, watch this one. I have NO CLUE how this one is going to go, as tame Ichinojo has been replaced with this wild and aggressive one. Tochinoshin has been over-the-top genki, and when that much strength goes up against that much boulder, someone is going to get hurt.

Hokutofuji vs Yoshikaze – I love both these guys, they are outstanding rikishi. They need to heal what ails them and return in Osaka ready for battle.

Shodai vs Tamawashi – I am not sure how, but Shodai needs one win to hit kachi-koshi. It seems quite odd to me, given that he has been a mess for the last few basho, but I am kind of hoping that he can keep it together. Tamawashi is a tough brawler who got Tochinoshin a bit too motivated day 12. Over their career, Shodai has only beaten Tamawashi once in 5 tries.

Arawashi vs Takayasu – A win here would give Takayasu his first double-digit win since he became an Ozeki. But Arawashi is coming in hungry as he needs 2 more wins to secure kachi-koshi. Takayasu has settled down a bit, but I fear that in the long run without Kisenosato to train against, he will continue to compound some of the bad habits he has picked up in the last 9 months.

Goeido vs Okinoumi – Well, now I want Okinoumi to hit Goeido really hard in his CPU chassis, in hopes it reboots him out of debug mode and back into Osumo mode. But I am pretty sure that the CPU board is no longer under warranty, and is going to require an expensive factory reset.

Kakuryu vs Mitakeumi – Oh how embarrassing. The two chokers who like to back up and pull for a loss face off on day 13. Which one will choke harder, pull first and lose with vigor? Or will both of them remember they are outstanding rikishi with amazing technique and unique skills and decide to fight like the top men in the sport?

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!