Ozeki Prediction Contest

We learned the other day that Takakeisho was denied an Ozeki promotion, for now. Obviously, it’s on him to perform well in March with potential promotion for May. In truth, he’s not the only wrestler on an Ozeki run. He’s also not the only wrestler on an Ozeki run with the strength of a yusho on his résumé.

Tamawashi enters the next tournament on 22 wins of the 33 “standard”. 10 wins is likely a bubble number but it would be very difficult to deny promotion with a repeat of 13 wins, however unlikely that may seem. Add Tochinoshin’s kadoban status to the mix and the composition of the Ozeki corps could be very different by summer.

So, how many Ozeki do you think there will be in May? Guess the correct number of ozeki for the May tournament, in banzuke order, and I will select one of the correct answers and send you a T-Shirt of your choice from the Tachiai Shop. My guess is five Ozeki: O1E Goeido (+ Osaka yusho), O1W Tochinoshin, O2E Takayasu, O2W Takakeisho, O3E Tamawashi.

Hatsu Day 4 Highlights

It looks like it was hair-pull Wednesday. None of it seemed like a deliberate tactic, but it took at least one clear win from a rikishi on a no-loss streak. There are an impressive number of rank-and-file rikishi who are still 4-0, and sadly two Ozeki who are in real trouble with injuries, and might want to consider kyujo and immediate medical attention.

Highlight Matches

Chiyonokuni defeats Aminishiki – A couple of false starts, Chiyonokuni was worried about an Aminishiki henka, and who would not be? Aminishiki took the tachiai, but Chiyonokuni was able to overwhelm uncle sumo’s offense.

Yutakayama defeats Daiamami – Yutakayama picks up his third win, in this evenly balanced oshi/tsuki match. Yutakayama was consistently in better position, and kept Daiamami moving to his tune. My favorite part comes when Daiamami has a solid nodowa, and Yutakayama applies a vigorous slap to his attacker’s face.

Kotoyuki defeats Chiyoshoma – Kotoyuki got into his favorite mode of sumo, and after trading a short series of thrusts, he had Chiyoshoma off balance, and spinning toward the East side.

Yago defeats Kagayaki – Excellent fundamentals as usual from Kagayaki, and he controlled the early part of the match, moving Yago backward, keeping Yago higher and reacting to his sumo. Yago worked to bring Kagayaki to his chest, and when he got Kagayaki wrapped up, he went to work. Although Kagayaki struggled, Yago kept his opponent centered and marched him out. More evidence that Yago is probably going to be a big deal in the next few years.

Abi defeats Endo – It was a cloud of flailing arms immediately from the tachiai, and Abi put himself at risk by attempting an early pull down. Respect to Endo for doing a better job than most at repelling the Abi-zumo attack, but Abi continued to apply pressure, and Endo landed in a heap.

Ryuden defeats Asanoyama – A solid, protracted mawashi battle. Asanoyama was in control for a good portion of the match, but failed to pick up his first win. It looked like Asanoyama got tired, and Ryuden exploited his opponents exhaustion. Good sumo from both.

Kaisei defeats Daieisho – Kaisei seems to have his sumo at full power for the first time in a while, and he remains undefeated. Daieisho gave it everything he had, but there is just too much Kaisei to toss around.

Onosho defeats Aoiyama – This match was all Aoiyama, and Onosho could not overcome the Man-Mountain’s superior reach, and was bodily thrown to the clay. But a Monoii was called, and it was determined that Aoiyama had contact with Onosho’s hair during the throw, and was disqualified.

Chiyotairyu defeats Yoshikaze – I hate to say it, but it’s painful to watch Yoshikaze right now. He seems completely out of energy and drive, and he presents little offense in any of his matches. Injury? We don’t get to know.

Shohozan defeats Kotoshogiku – Shohozan scores his first win by shutting down Kotoshogiku’s hug-n-chug attack, and getting to Kotoshogiku’s side.

Mitakeumi defeats Takakeisho – A critical tadpole battle, this match did much to shape the second act, and it’s a fair question to wonder if Takakeisho needs to work out a mechanism to defend against this kind of attack. Mitakeumi was able to shut down the “wave-action” by never letting Takakeisho get enough distance to effective push against him. At close range, Mitakeumi’s bulk and grip carried the match. Excellent strategy from Mitakeumi, and he moves to 4-0. I can point to Takakeisho’s early attempt at a pull-down as the fatal flaw that allowed Mitakeumi to close the gap and back Takakeisho to the bales as the moment he lost the match.

Tamawashi defeats Tochinoshin – Ozeki Tochinoshin needs to just go kyujo, and work to get his injury treated. He is going to be kadoban either way, and he may as well save himself from any potential damage that might arise.

Ichinojo defeats Goeido – A wide range of thoughts about this, firstly a lot of credit to Ichinojo for outstanding, aggressive sumo two days in a row. He looked like a real champion, and I can’t get enough of this when he is fighting well. Goeido gave it everything he had, and we saw some fantastic attempts to overcome Ichinojo’s size and mass advantage. But with Goeido pressed tightly to his chest, Ichinojo expertly wore him down, and then tossed him aside like a spent ice cream bucket. Fantastic sumo from both, but Goeido likewise needs to own up to his injury and seek treatment before it becomes permanent.

Takayasu defeats Tochiozan – Influenza patient Takayasu blasts through his fever to drop Tochiozan. As the scion of Tagonoura now, I expect Takayasu to further harden his already grim determination to win every time he mounts the dohyo. On a related note, it seems the flu is ripping through Japan right now, and there may be several more rikishi who end up sick before this tournament is complete.

Kakuryu defeats Myogiryu – It was not pretty, but it was a much needed win.

Hakuho defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji lost this match because Hakuho used anything he could think of to delay the moment he touched out. It was a masterful act of agility and poise, but it was really a toss up who was the dead body in this match. Although Hakuho won, this is a great barometer of just how far Hokutofuji’s sumo has come. The boss remains undefeated.

Fuyu Jungyo 2018 – Final Day (Dec. 22)

🌐 Location: Tsuchiura/Ushiku, Ibaraki
😝 Goofometer: ◽️◽️◽️◽️◽

It’s the end of the winter Jungo. The two towns of Tsuchiura and Ushiku probably planned this event with the intention of celebrating the return of Kisenosato. Takayasu comes from Tsuchiura, while Kisenosato comes from Ushiku. However, since the event was planned, Kisenosato had the disastrous Kyushu basho, followed by a long kyujo.

And so, Takayasu had to be the star of the day, all on his own.

Hey Takayasu! Today you are going to get so… loved… by the Yokozuna! Enjoy!

But there were other rikishi in the venue as well! There was Aminishiki, showing one of those rarer and rarer smiles:

I guess being around his heya’s yobidashi, Teruya, makes Uncle Sumo happy.

Ichinojo managed to convince Mitoryu to let him play a little

Mitoryu doesn’t seem to take this too seriously, though.

Kakuryu practiced with hand weights. In the past, this exercise was mostly associated with Harumafuji.

Shohoryu watches and learns.

Hakuho, on the other hand, was working mainly on his legs. He started with plain suri-ashi:

Then he did this… thing:

I’m rather amused by Nishikigi getting trapped in the hana-michi and not being able to escape. 🙂

Then the Yokozuna did this:

Hehe… Yokozuna, try the Abi shiko. It will do wonders for your thighs (and your dohyo-iri)!

I wonder if the reason they called this janitor was to clean up after him…

There’s something very familiar about this janitor, though…

On the dohyo, the usual moshi-ai sessions took place, and there were several lengthy kawaigari sessions for the spectators to enjoy. Kakuryu decided to give his former tsukebito, Gokushindo, some love

Hey, even the gentle Kakuryu kicks!

Gokushindo took this as an encouragement to get himself back to sekitori status as soon as possible. He is going to drop back to Makushita tomorrow when the Banzuke is published. “Get back to the white mawashi quickly and you’ll be able to practice with me again!”, so to speak.

Goeido once again took on Chiyonoumi. I’m not sure why exactly, but hey, as long as somebody loves my man from Kochi!

Even Hakuho stops to watch, and nods his head approvingly!

Then, of course, the highlight of the keiko part of the day, was Hakuho’s kawaigari for Takayasu. There was six minutes of this:

This:

“[Get on your] feet! feet! feet! feet!”. Then finally, this:

Among the encouragement calls for Takayasu were also shouts of “Thank you, Hakuho!” coming from the Ozeki’s townspeople. Hearing this, the Yokozuna reacted: “The people of Ibaraki know their sumo”.

Which tells me the Yokozuna is well aware of the latest outrage campaign against his “evil kawaigari” going through the social media.

Poor Takayasu had to go through a lot of adoring fans when he got finished with that lovemaking session:

The people of Ibaraki may know their sumo, but they sure don’t know when to back off and let a man breath…

It’s time for shower, lunch and hairdos. And I have another behind-the-scenes revelation for you today!

Well, no controversial, um, reading material today. Just an amusing Asanoyama moment captured by Wakamotoharu:

In the afternoon part, Hakuho was doing the rope tying demo:

Here is the East side of the Makuuchi dohyo-iri:

Note Abi tugging at Kagayaki to get him to respond to some fans his eye caught. Kagayaki obliges. It seems he is softening a bit! He also had a lively chat with Abi while they were both at the side of the dohyo waiting for their respective bouts. Maybe it’s the effect of Tamawashi’s kiss! 😘

I have two bout clips today. Here is Endo vs. Chiyoshoma:

Endo quite happily allows himself to win for a change, as Chiyoshoma is not a local boy.

The local boy himself was matched with Hakuho. And there was a lot of kensho riding on this match!

That’s not exactly common for a Jungyo bout… So Hakuho made his salt throw:

And went on the attack!

How surprising! The local boy won!

And this is it. The last bout of the last Jungyo day of this year! Now let’s get on that banzuke!

Your final pin-up is here

Fuyu Jungyo 2018 – Day 15 (Dec 20)

Beam me up, Scotty… Oh damn, my communicator badge is on my yukata!

🌐 Location: Kumagaya, Saitama
😛 Goofometer: ◽️◽️◽️◽️◽️

Having completed the tour through the traditional region for the Fuyu Jungyo, that is, Kyushu and Okinawa, the rikishi returned to Tokyo. But the Jungyo is not ended yet – some towns in the Kanto region requested winter visits, and the NSK obliged. So we get to enjoy three additional events following a few days’ break.

That break didn’t include any particular plans at first, but the Takanoiwa scandal caused it to be a bit more eventful. First, Takakeisho had a yusho parade at his high school, which was put off and then moved ahead again. Then, the rikishi received a lecture about the treatment of tsukebito which was supposed to be given in February. And third, the NSK board had a meeting to set the standards of punishment for violence, and for some reason, focused on violent Yokozuna despite the fact that there were four known violent events in the past year that did not involve a Yokozuna in any way.

So I’m pretty sure the rikishi were really glad to get on their busses and get out of Tokyo again:

Indeed, that’s a lot of busses!

And we have two important faces show up again! First, there is this guy:

Yep, Goeido is back and giving butsukari to Chiyonoumi here.

Then, there is this guy:

“Oh, I’m on camera…”

Kakuryu is back! We’ve missed you!

One face that’s conspicuously still missing is that of Kisenosato, the third Yokozuna. All the signs are that he is in a bad state. The knee injury, which was the reason for him pulling out from the last basho, and not showing up for the Jungyo, is still bothering him. Most of the Japanese press interpreted the YDC’s “Encouragement” decision about him as meaning that he cannot go kyujo in Hatsu basho. So an injury that has not healed yet and reports that his practice so far includes only shiko and suri-ashi are not encouraging. He said at first that he will join the Jungyo at this stage, especially the event in his home turf of Ibaraki, but he can’t, and his fans have every reason to worry.

So we have a Jungyo day with three Ozeki and two Yokozuna. Who else showed up?

Takanosho sure did, and has pulling at a rubber tube held by a slightly anxious Taichiyama

The oyakata showed up together with their mini-brooms:

Kokonoe oyakata, who took this picture, informs us that the mini-brooms are there to shake off any dirt flying from the dohyo.

Takakeisho was there for the handshake part. He got to meet a baby. The baby was not so happy to meet him and expressed his opinion at a very high volume. So Takakeisho made this face:

I think somebody is absorbing the true Chiganoura spirit.

Don’t worry, unlike what your grandmother would tell you, he didn’t get stuck in with this face forever. Here he is a while later, with his bestie, Daieisho:

See? No long-term damage to facial features!

Another pair of besties were engaging in mock bouts in one of the corners:

That’s Abi and Wakamotoharu. Wakamotoharu was asked the other day what he would take with him to a desert island. His answer was “I guess I’d take Abi”. These two are pretty tight.

At the side of the dohyo, we once again have a line forming to greet the Yokozuna. Only, it’s another Yokozuna:

Note how Kakuryu takes care to acknowledge each one’s greeting.

And if that doesn’t give you a warm, fuzzy feeling, how about these two practicing together?

Yep, that’s Kotoshogiku and Toyonoshima. And they seem to be enjoying themselves immensely.

Tochinoshin also received an occasional morning greeting:

Not the same thing as a Yokozuna, but it’s still good to be an Ozeki.

Here are a couple of practice bouts. We have Chiyonoumi vs. Gokushindo, and Chiyomaru vs. Azumaryu:

Chiyomaru definitely concentrates on practicing with Juryo wrestlers. He has no illusions about his position on the next banzuke.

As for Hakuho, he must have been very bored today. He took up both Takayasu and Tochinoshin for butsukari. There is not much about his session with Takayasu, but with Tochinoshin he had no less than 10 minutes of kawaigari:

Kaio enjoyed a good spectacle

Ten minutes! A six-minute kawaigari is considered tough. I have been covering Jungyo for almost two years and I don’t recall a 10 minute kawaigari.

I’m pretty sure Hakuho was giving him a repeat performance because last time he didn’t seem exhausted enough. So ten minutes this time. And yet the Ozeki rose again and again and kept going. I’m sure the Yokozuna took a mental note: “In a bout with Tochinoshin, don’t rely on being able to wear him down. Find a way to end it quickly”.

After practice, the usual shows took place. There was Shokkiri, with my favorite part in which a toothpick of a gyoji somehow overpowers a big rikishi who was trying to grab his gunbai:

That’s Shikimori Tomokazu rescuing his gunbai.

And there was an oicho-mage demonstration, with the Yusho winner as the model:

This was followed, as usual, with the Juryo dohyo-iri and bouts, and then we had Yokozuna dohyo-iri. So I give you one we haven’t seen for a while:

Yoisho!

The city of Kumagaya is supposed to host a rugby event next year. So they set up a contraption to take promotion pictures with rikishi. The concept was simple: a vertical piece of fake turf with a background that allows anybody who touches a rugby ball to the “grass” to look like he just scored a flying try… if the photo is rotated by 90º.


Good concept, but it had a few difficulties. For example, take a look at Tochiozan “scoring his try”:

Umm… besides the problems with the viewing angle, his sagari is a dead giveaway. Here is the much better actor, Abi:

He succeeds in working around the obvious issue of the yukata sleeves by pretending to hold his sleeve up. But the angle really kills the illusion.

Enho also got photographed. And they really tried their best here:

Yeah, cut away the pesky ceiling and avoid the sagari. If only there wasn’t a gap between the turf and the background panel… or the turf didn’t look like it was held by scaffolding… or the white line didn’t look like a piece of tape…

But hey, it’s the cutest try attempt ever.

So it seems I have more “rugby” photos than I have any sumo bouts. There is absolutely no material about the bouts in this event, other than a report on the musubi-no-ichiban: Hakuho beat Goeido by yori-kiri. Which tells us that Kakuryu was off the torikumi.

And so we arrive at the pin-up corner of this post, and I’ll bid you adieu with Tomokaze:

Fuyu Jungyo 2018 – Day 5 (Dec 6)

🌐 Location: Beppu, Oita
😛 Goofometer: ◽️◽️◽️◽️◽️

We have only a short report today, and less goofy than the usual. But those who are new here are going to learn about kawaigari. Learning is a good thing, isn’t it?

So, let’s start in the morning. The first activity of the day is handshakes with the fans. Yoshikaze participates.

But notice that he does it in a yukata, which is rather unusual. Most of the rikishi do the handshakes in their practice mawashi. This tells us that not only is Yoshikaze off the torikumi, he is also not doing any keiko. One has to wonder what ails him, or rather, what is it that ails him enough not to do keiko, but still not enough to excuse himself from part or all of the Jungyo.

On the sidelines, we have Okinoumi doing some push-ups:

I think he is not quite up to par by military standards.

Next we have some moshi-ai bouts. First, Takakeisho vs. Daieisho, followed by Takakeisho vs. Onosho:

I wonder who it was who got tossed off the dohyo.

Next we have Abi vs. Onosho, followed by Abi vs. Ichinojo.

A direct push doesn’t work against the boulder, so Abi goes for a (somewhat crude) death spin.

Next up, Takayasu vs. Endo, then Takayasu vs. Tochiozan:

Tochinoshin with Ichinojo:

Oof, Ichinojo’s legs don’t look very pretty.

And neither does his sumo. 😩

Finally, the Yokozuna gets on the dohyo. This is significant, as up till now he didn’t do any on-dohyo activity. Well, technically he did some stretches and shiko at the corner of the dohyo, but that’s not something he really needs a dohyo for.

The Yokozuna – all of them – tend to scale their activity up through the Jungyo. There are different degrees of intensity. Doing basics is ground level. Then you have butsukari geiko (where you are the dominant), which is slightly higher (you have to use your feet and you get smashed in the chest). Then there is doing your own butsukari, and doing bouts with low and high ranking rikishi.

The Yokozuna is not yet on the torikumi list – the Musubi is between the two participating Ozeki – but he did start giving butsukari today. The pushing partner was Takakeisho.

Butsukari is a drill in which one side – usually higher-ranked – offers his chest, and the other side has to push him, again and again, all the way to the edge of the dohyo. If you succeed, you do a squat, and continue until the high-ranker decides you’ve had enough. If you fail, the dominant throws you on the floor, or he may choose to get you to walk around in what I call a “monkey walk” – it’s not exactly the same as suri-ashi, and the dominant usually has his hand on your neck to bend you down.

That’s the basics. But then there is kawaigari. Now, you wouldn’t know it from the NSK video above, but this was actually a kawaigari session.

A kawaigari session is butsukari with extra testosterone. On the dominant’s part, that is. It’s a show of dominance, and a serious challenge for the submissive. You get shouted at. And kicked. And your hair may be pulled, or your ass slapped. And all you can do is go “yes, sir”, “yes, sir”, and keep up. At some point you get exhausted. But you have to get up and keep going. You are not supposed to waste the time of the high-ranking rikishi who is giving you his precious attention.

This is a well known ritual in the sumo world. And watching it is not easy for newcomers. Though the original version is worse – it includes spits and hard beating with a bamboo stick. I’m told this still goes on today – though not in public. The public version is not really hazardous to one’s health.

Hakuho loves kawaigari. Having been a Yokozuna so long, nobody can give him one. But he can sure give it to others, they can’t refuse, and it’s considered an honor – while it makes it very clear who’s boss, which is exactly how the Yokozuna likes it. And so, you won a Yusho, young man? Get some “TLC” (that’s what “kawaigari” means) from the Yokozuna. Here is the extended version:

Hakuho is an excellent performer. He makes sure all of the spectators get a good view – standing at different edges of the dohyo each time. He gets more laughs than the shokkiri team – but also signals to the audience when to applaud the exhausted Komusubi. He kicks and growls – and makes sure that Takakeisho’s mawashi knot doesn’t come undone.

But this performance caused quite a stir with one faction of sumo fans – the so-called “Takanohana cultists” (not all Takanohana fans belong to this category). They – or rather, some of them, because I don’t believe anybody who has been a sumo fan for any serious length of time would be – were outraged by Hakuho’s “hideous” treatment of Takakeisho. “That man does not deserve to be a Yokozuna!”. “Why did the NSK censor all the kicking and hair pulling?”. “I really hope Takakeisho makes it through this Jungyo uninjured”. “Hakuho makes sure no young talent can rise in the sumo world”. Some even searched the Internet and found evidence that Harumafuji used to do the same! Those awful Mongolians!

That, my friends, is called “cherry picking”. Because the practice is quite widespread, and no, it’s not restricted to awful Mongolians. Here we have some kawaigari Goeido gave Hokutofuji in 2016.

I think Goeido has never been in Mongolia. Here is one Takayasu gave a youngster from his heya a few years back in a public training:

OK. Lesson over. Now, unlike those cultists, you’ll know a kawaigari when you see one.

I do not have much from the latter part of the day. I do have these two serious, stern-faced sekitori doing their dohyo-iri:

Who are we kidding? You think Abi can stay serious for more than two seconds?

Hey, concentrate on the dohyo-iri, Daddy-Long-Legs.

To wrap up, here is a pixie:

Enho is giving butsukari to one of the low-rankers. Thing is, Hakuho is on the dohyo, and seems to be saying something to his wee uchi-deshi, which gives Enho an expression which is completely incompatible with butsukari or sekitori dominance in general. 🤗