Well, my early “un-shielded” post somewhat gave this away. So for followers of the site who have asked us for daily podcasts they can listen to while driving or riding the train to work, we have figured out how to have Alexa & Siri do it for us.
She is butchering Japanese words terribly, so I am hoping we can work with her on pronunciation.
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.
Day 11 dialed this basho up to maximum and then added a box of firecrackers. Takarafuji’s battle against Tochinoshin was magnificent, no other way to describe it. Time and again Takarafuji blunted the big Georgian’s move to land his mighty grip and out-muscle him. But the rikishi with no neck would have none of it. Sure Tochinoshin won in the end, but what a battle!
With that win, and Kakuryu’s loss, the Yusho race is now a head to head run to Sunday. If each man can close out the remainder of his bouts without a further loss, they will face off for the second time at the end of the basho. There are fans in Japan who are ready to dismiss it as an uninteresting battle of foreigners, but for sumo fans globally, it’s more about the strength, skill, and speed of the contestants that matter. To get to that Sunday showdown, Yokozuna Kakuryu has the harder path. He faces both Ozeki and Mitakeumi, though neither Goeido nor Mitakeumi are looking formidable at this point.
Mitakeumi, in particular, is proving he is not yet ready to try to compete at Ozeki levels. That said, look at the bench standard here: Goeido. I hate to say it, but Goeido needs to take 2 of the last 4 matches to avoid once again being kadoban. Sure, you tell me – no worries. He faces Takayasu on day 12 and will face Mitakeumi soon. With his past two losses, he has proven that even Wakaichiro might have a fair chance against him. Not good.
Hatsu Leader Board
The Yusho race is down to two for now. Both of them have already matched, with Kakuryu the winner.
Leaders – Kakuryu, Tochinoshin Hunter Group – Takayasu, Daieisho
4 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 12
Nishikigi vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki is working closer to his kachi-koshi, and he may pick it up today. Somehow, Nishikigi is hanging on to Makuuchi with everything he has. Who can blame him? The chicks dig the top division guys, plus you can score free bi-ru (ビール) at any pub in Japan. Career record is 5-3 in Kagayaki’s favor.
Kotoyuki vs Asanoyama – Kotoyuki looked like he got a bit hurt in his day 11 match, but this guy has limped off the dohyo more times than I can accurately count. He tends to rebound and return, even if it looked like he was dismembered and on life support the prior day. Asanoyama is one win away from kachi-koshi, and a move away from the bottom edge of Maegashira. Kotoyuki took their only prior match.
Ryuden vs Daishomaru – Also in the category of new faces looking to pick up their 8th win is Ryuden. In his first ever match against Daishomaru, he will be looking to get things mobile and light, which favors his sumo. Daishomaru will look to pummel Ryuden into a disoriented mess and shove whatever remains out with enthusiasm.
Shohozan vs Sokokurai – Shohozan is fighting well, and a win here would give him kachi-koshi and Sokokurai make-koshi at the same time. Brutal but effective. Last basho, Sokokurai took the Juryo yusho, but he has been struggling in his return to the top division.
Abi vs Chiyomaru – The winner of this match will pick up the coveted kachi-koshi and an interview slot on the NHK broadcast. Plus, I would guess, several additional bi-ru payable on demand. Of course, Abi has never won against Chiyomaru, but perhaps Chiyomaru’s enormous bulk will somehow prevent him from winning. NAH! Of course, he will do just fine.
Shodai vs Chiyoshoma – What happened here? How is Shodai winning? Where did the man-droid version of Shodai go? That one was pretty crappy at sumo and just sort of flopped around like day old fugu in Tsukiji. Shodai is actually 2-0 against Chiyoshoma, and a win here would leave us facing the ugly possibility that Shodai could actually be promoted going to Osaka. Please, more bi-ru here. I need to get my head straight on this one.
Yoshikaze vs Ichinojo – There is no good way for this to go. Their career record is 3-3, and Ichinojo is looking genki, and Yoshikaze is not. As much as I love to see the berserker’s arms move at speed, there may be little to do against the boulder save to get him off balance and roll him over. Ichinojo, on the other hand, could probably bounce Yoshikaze on his knee like a toddler. Please, oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, don’t let this happen, and if it does, don’t let it make it to video.
Takakeisho vs Kotoshogiku – Both of these guys are in a bit of a mood to throw caution to the wind it seems. Takakeisho’s flipper fight against Yoshikaze left him bloody. Kotoshogiku has been finding people giving him the chance to land the hug-n-chug. Maybe everyone thinks because he is Maegashira 2, they don’t have to guard against it. I am sure that Takakeisho won’t let him grab hold. Their career record is an even 1-1.
Mitakeumi vs Okinoumi – Okinoumi is make-koshi. So, my guess is that he drops Mitakeumi who once again regains his feet blinking in surprise. Get it together man!
Tochinoshin vs Tamawashi – This is THE big match of the day. Tamawashi is the first, and so far only rikishi to put dirt on Kakuryu, and in doing so he pulled Tochinoshin back into the yusho lead. Now Tochinoshin gets to face down the same Tamawashi, who seems to have regained his sumo. Tamawashi typically presents a nearly unstoppable thrusting attack, which will be the antithesis of Tochinoshin’s yotsu style. We will see who sets the terms of the match coming out of the tachiai. Hopefully, Tamawashi is studying Takarafuji’s masterful defense.
Goeido vs Takayasu – Normally I would be very excited for an Ozeki battle. But Goeido is on hard times. He needs this win to keep outside of the kadoban penalty box, but Takayasu is looking slightly more genki. Notice I didn’t say a lot more genki. What is plaguing Takayasu, I can’t tell. It might be that he is worried about his senpai Kisenosato.
Kakuryu vs Endo – Lesson from day 11, Big K. Keep moving forward. Once you stepped back, Tamawashi had your number and you had no way to correct. Take the fight to Endo and power him out. You have this one, just be strong and go tonbo (蜻蛉) on him.
Today marks the return of Terunofuji. Why? I have no idea. That guy is horribly injured, suffering from diabetes, and already make-koshi. But I suppose he is trying to save some rank in the coming demotion to Juryo.
Day 11 seems to be the day the scheduling team decided to toss the banzuke and match some of the fresh faces at the bottom of the ranking sheet with some in the middle. Sort of a “trial by fire” phase for many of them, and it has led to some really interesting matches. I must admit, I am following the Maegashira 17-13 match more closely than the Maegashira 12-7 matches. It just seems that the crop at the bottom of the banzuke this time has all the fire, energy and crazy “danger be damned” sumo that the sport needs.
Aoiyama vs Nishikigi – Man-Mountain Aoiyama comes up to Makuuchi for the day, and faces off against Nishikigi. Both men are at 5-5 and need to win 3 of the next 5 matches to maintain rank, so there is a lot on the line. During his tenure in Makuuchi, Aoiyama was at times a powerful force of sumo. Some of it was an aversion by the other rikishi to land a hold in his upper torso region, and some of it was he is huge and fairly strong. But Nishikigi has bested him 3 of the 4 times they have fought.
Ryuden vs Daieisho – Daieisho is already kachi-koshi and the only rikishi besides Tochinoshin who as any chance of catching Kakuryu, should the surviving Yokozuna falter. His opponent is Ryuden, who is doing fairly well in his long-anticipated debut in Makuuchi. Daieisho’s winning streak may put him in line for a significant boost in rank for March.
Sokokurai vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama was red hot to start Hatsu, and now he can’t beg a win from anyone. Sokokurai took the Juryo yusho in Kyushu and has really struggled this basho. I do like the fact that Asanoyama shows up each day with what seems to be the same positive attitude.
Kotoyuki vs Kagayaki – Kotoyuki is another rikishi who is struggling for wins in the second half of the basho. He opened strong and now is 5-5. Kagayaki, whose man-boobs are nothing compared to Aoiyama, may find that can pick up pointers from the Bulgarian. Either way, I am guessing it’s going to be Kotoyuki trying to shove Kagayaki, with Kagayaki working to get a mawashi grip and toss the little brick-shaped rikishi off the dohyo.
Daiamami vs Aminishiki – I pray to Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan that any available Kami protect Aminishiki’s knee. I am still wincing from day 10, and I don’t want to see Uncle Sumo exit the sport forever riding that giant wheelchair.
Terunofuji vs Ishiura – Better make it two wheelchairs at the ready because the Ghost of Terunofuji is returning to the dohyo day 11. He exited the basho earlier citing complications from diabetes. But even that is not going to help his fragile undercarriage. What madness has possessed Isegahama?
Yutakayama vs Kaisei – Kaisei really stacked on the weight over the holidays, and following his day 10 match he looked like he was going to pass out. I suspect that if Yutakayama slaps him in just the right location, it will set up a standing wave across his various fat pockets that could damage or fracture the dohyo. Interestingly enough, Kaisei has never won against Yutakayama.
Tochiozan vs Abi – Both of the Maegashira 8s fight the Maegashira 14s. Sure, why not? So we get Abi going against Tochiozan. This is their first meeting, and I am going to expect Abi to open with double arm thrusts, and Tochiozan to grab him under the arms and send him sailing.
Chiyomaru vs Endo – This should be an easy pickup for Endo, who is not looking nearly as genki as he was at the start of the basho. Chiyomaru has only taken one match from Endo, and that was back in 2013.
Takarafuji vs Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin, will someone please stop him from eating more spinach? Maybe that someone can be humble but capable Takarafuji. They have evenly split their 14 career matches, with Takarafuji dominating the last 7 of those. But this basho Tochinoshin is in firm contact with his spirit animal, a hydraulic car crushing machine.
Hokutofuji vs Ichinojo – Hokutofuji loves to win. For a long stretch of years, he never failed to rack up a kachi-koshi. Now here he is with the sting of a losing record. He faces our favorite boulder, who somehow has revived himself from his years-long sumo slumber and is happy to rumble around the dohyo crushing everything. You boys play safe now!
Takakeisho vs Yoshikaze – Scratch and dent bin match. I have no idea what has happened to Yoshikaze. But I would be willing to bet a can of Ebisu and a trip to Yoshinoya that he’s suffering from something along the lines of the flu. He just seems to have no energy right now, and that’s not possible under normal circumstances. Takakeisho has sadly found that most of the rikishi have figured out that when he starts his double arm “Wave Action Tsuppari” that you can lay a nodawa right in there and he stops it.
Mitakeumi vs Shodai – Mitakeumi! Get it together man, you are a total mess right now! You lose to Shodai and I am going to give you a new nickname. You may not get another decent chance to start an Ozeki run for a while, so don’t squander this one. Hey, Shodai. You win this one and I may have to start believing in you again.
Okinoumi vs Takayasu – Takayasu by a mile. Okinoumi is a shadow of his former self.
Goeido vs Arawashi – Should be an easy Goeido win, but what the hell? This guy seems to be booted up in some kind of lame diagnostic mode that only plays Tetris. Goeido!, LEFT, LEFT, DOWN, RIGHT, DOWN, DOWN clears the level.
Kakuryu vs Tamawashi – Kakuryu, short of an injury, is looking likely to seal up his next yusho, and I am delighted that he is fighting well, looking strong and dominating. Tamawashi was eager to leave his mark in Sekiwake territory again, but he seems to be injured and not fighting well.