With the Natsu Banzuke published, it’s officially Basho season again! With less than a week until the return of sumo action, here are some of the biggest stories and most pressing questions on the minds of sumo fans this May!
Keep watching until the end for a sneak peek of a new series coming soon.
Takagenji visited makuuchi today from Juryo to face Daiamami but left empty handed. After a well met tachiai, it was all Daiamami as he drove through the Chiganoura beya youngster for a swift yorikiri win, his first of the tournament. Both men are 1-1. Chiyonokuni followed up, dispatching Kotoeko with a few forceful slaps to pick up his second win. Before the bout, my money was on Chiyonokuni by hatakikomi but as it worked out, he got the tsukidashi win before he even needed to pull. Kotoeko falls to 1-1.
Chiyoshouma studied Daishomaru and feared the oshidashi loss, effectively neutralizing the threat posed with a glorious henka – to the groans of the spectators. It was the smart move. Chiyoshoma is a solid grappler, winning mostly with throws but vulnerable to oshidashi…and yorikiri. Chiyoshouma picked up his first win while Daishomaru fell to 0-2.
Yutakayama and Yago offered up a great bout of very similar competitors yet different styles. Yago’s mawashi is a bit darker but both sport the royal purple with very similar builds. Yago favors the belt but Yutakayama is a much more committed oshi/pusher-thruster. Which style would prevail? Yutakayama’s forceful nodowa immediately after the tachiai effectively kept Yago from getting a grip and backed to the edge. Rather than be forced completely out, Yago circled and regrouped to the center. The fatal mistake was going for the hatakikomi. The backwards pull worked to his opponent’s advantage as he followed through with a successful oshi attack. Yutakayama is off to a great 2-0 start while Yago’s setback has him at 1-1.
Kotoyuki put another W in the win column for Team Oshi as Meisei allowed him to fight their bout his way. Relentless pushing-thrusting favors the Sadogatake man and Meisei had nowhere to run, eventually shoved out hard, nearly landing face first in the salt basket. Kotoyuki’s on 1-1 while Meisei is still looking for his first win, 0-2.
Two bouts into the tournament and Kagayaki draws blood yet again, this time from chasing Sadanoumi. Kagayaki came charging like a Pamplona bull, as Sadanoumi tried ducking, twisting and turning any which way of escape. This time, though, I worry for Sadanoumi’s knee as it buckled awkwardly. He was slow to get up but made it back down the hanamichi under his own power. Kagayaki and Sadanoumi are 1-1.
Ikioi charged out like a barnstormer yesterday but I hope he goes kyujo after today’s bout with Abi. Abi’s slaps could not be contained and as Ikioi tried to weather the storm, I’m afraid he may have been briefly knocked out as he dove straight forward, face first into the tawara when Abi side-stepped. In the fall he appeared re-injure his ankle. He also reopened yesterday’s headwound but that may have come from Abi’s tsuppari. Ouch. Both are 1-1. As a side note, Ikioi is a big guy. I’m not sure if he’s still the tallest guy in makuuchi, but it’s really surprising. It doesn’t really sink in until he’s standing there next to a guy like Abi, making Abi look small.
Takarafuji has yet to wake up from his “long winter nap,” as Kaisei barely shifted and Takarafuji lost his balance. It wasn’t a henka. Takarafuji just fell. Hopefully the ring rust will be knocked off by the end of Act One? Takarafuji falls to 0-2 while Kaisei takes the gift to move to 2-0. Endo followed by convincingly backing Asanoyama over the straw bales. Endo also improves to 2-0 while Asanoyama falls to 0-2.
Ryuden was too eager to get things going against Chiyotairyu, initiating a matta. But once they got things going, he grabbed Elvis in a bear hug and then just barreled through, forcing the Kokonoe man into the first row of seats. Ryuden picked up his first win, 1-1, while Chiyotairyu falls to 0-2.
Shou-time (sorry) as Onosho tangled with Daieisho. After a well met tachiai, Onosho backed to the edge where he used the leverage from the tawara to slip to the side and allow Daieisho’s own momentum to force him out and pick up his second win while Daieisho falls, literally, to 1-1.
Aoiyama never let the hug-n-chug get going, nearly breaking Kotoshogiku in half with a forceful hatakikomi. Aoiyama is 2-0. I know it’s early but he has been in yusho races before, only to fold under the pressure of top level bouts. Will he be in the hunt at the weekend? Definitely one to watch. Kotoshogiku is at 1-1.
Yoshikaze never got going against Okinoumi. Rather than a nodowa, it seemed Okinoumi wanted to force Yoshikaze’s cheeks into his ears. Ho-po-wa? I don’t think I’ve seen that attack before. With the backwards force, Yoshikaze’s left knee gave out. Koshikudake was the call, with Okinoumi picking up his first win while Yoshikaze fell to 0-2.
Finally, sanyaku. Takakeisho fought Takakeisho’s bout. Shohozan was just along for the ride. Once those T-Rex arms get going…look out. If you’re in the crowd, you may end up with a rikishi in your lap. So, while Shohozan (0-2) conversed with the second row spectators, Takakeisho (2-0) strolled over to pick up his kensho envelopes.
Tamawashi learned from Takakeisho’s bout and blasted Shodai off the dohyo. The blueprint against Shodai is just like what you learn playing tennis and golf. Follow through. Rather than bouncing off at the initial charge, you’ve got to just keep running through and do not let Shodai get a hand of the mawashi or space to regroup. Tamawashi was all attack and picked up his second win while Shodai is 0-2.
Takayasu picked up his first win in controversial style against Myogiryu. This was a gift as Takayasu was clearly down first while Myogiryu was still in the air. Takayasu was looking solid, had good tsuppari going and great position in the center of the dohyo. But then he lowered his shoulder and bulldozed into Myogiryu, who appeared to everyone to successfully jump out of the way as Takayasu fell to the dohyo…but no mono-ii.
Take Nishikigi and Tochinoshin, plop them in the middle of the ring, both with firm two-handed grips of each other’s mawashi. I ask you, “Who wins?” Not in a million years would I have said Nishikigi. Tochinoshin even did his textbook lift today but it came up a few feet short, and that appears to be the difference. As Nishikigi’s feet came down, he was able to use his belt grip to throw Tochinoshin. Two Ozeki scalps in two days and the same absolutely bewildered look as he picked up another fat stack of kensho-kin.
Goeido gave it his all against Hokutofuji today. His mistake, the pull. He drove Hokutofuji to the edge but couldn’t get him over. So they regrouped in the middle of the dohyo. Rather than be patient and try again to drive forward, Goeido decided he wanted to end it now. So he backed up but ran out of real estate as Hokutofuji maintained his balance and ran the ozeki out for his second loss in two days. 6 ozeki bouts, 5* losses…with an asterisk on the one win. Unbelievable. Well, pretty soon they’ll be facing off against each other so some will have to win.
Someone finally got it through to Kisenosato that he needs to shift his style because of his injury. He tried with all his might to push the big boulder it was for naught. The pivotal moment came early when Kisenosato was laying into Ichinojo but Ichinojo was able to easily manhandle the Yokozuna and yank him around like a My Little Pony. Rather than try to expend energy and drive through Kisenosato, the Mongolian used his positional advantage, and adequate space for a pull, to unleash a hatakikomi pull down. He claimed a gold star and made it look effortless. This Ichinojo is dangerous, and 2-0. Kisenosato is 0-2 and on intai watch.
Mitakeumi sent more shockwaves through Kokugikan as he simply pushed Kakuryu off the dohyo. Kakuryu seemed to want the leverage of the tawara, letting Mitakeumi drive him like a blocking sled to the edge. But when his feet hit the tawara, Mitakeumi’s attack kept coming and the Yokozuna never had a chance to offer a counter-attack or to try to deflect and dance his way to victory. Kakuryu falls to 1-1 and is likely only saved from his own intai-watch by the hapless Kisenosato.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of all, however, was saved for the Boss. His Houdini-like escape from a Tochiozan throw only emphasizes the dire state of the senior sanyaku. We saw a tantalizing glimpse of the old Hakuho against Myogiryu yesterday. We were so eager for him to destroy the maegashira from Kochi and show us all that he’s back and ready for another yusho run.
All that was shattered, however, as Tochiozan got his left hand on the Boss’s mawashi, spun the Boss around and up to the very edge. Hakuho’s tune-up must have come with a new set of brakes because just as it looked like he was done and Tochiozan had the biggest kinboshi story, screeeeech! Hakuho brought his momentum to a stop and gently guided Tochiozan out. Tochiozan falls to 0-2, Hakuho escapes and improves to 2-0. He’s clearly still the Boss…but for how long?
Shodai, still with that drink in hand, was stopped inside the main hall for a photo. Now, if you look at Twitter photos of sekitori with fans, you may notice that they are almost never selfies. That’s another job of one’s loyal tsukebito, in this case, Asakura:
Kototsurugi, who apparently travels with the Jungyo, got Ryuden to sign one of his likenesses:
Now, let’s get closer to the dohyo. And get a couple of lessons in etiquette. First, here is Yokozuna Kakuryu. First, he bows to the oyakata. Only then he stands and start accepting bows from the other sekitori:
But of course, then comes the anti-etiquette part. Tamawashi just sticks around and starts having a conversation with Terutsuyoshi, and everybody else needs to go around him to greet the Yokozuna. How rude!
Here is Endo going to greet Yokozuna Kisenosato. Then he notices someone else and bows to him, too. Who is it?
This was actually Endo’s second bout of the day, as he was also pulled in to replace Daishomaru, who had some sudden health issue. Daishomaru joined two other absentees from the torikumi – Shohozan and Hakuho. Yes, this is the day Hakuho practically started his kyujo, although he still did the fansa. He did not participate in keiko nor do a dohyo-iri, according to eye witnesses. Here he is on his way back home (or rather, to the next location) at the end of the day:
And so, everybody went home. But Ryuden was still accompanied by a TV crew till the last possible moment:
Sorry, no Tobizaru nor Enho for you today. I hope your big helping of Ryuden softens the blow.
Asanoyama beats Tochinoshin? That’s not something you see every day.
There was also a practice bout between Ichinojo and Kaisei. The dohyo remained stable – which is remarkable for something made of polystyrene.
Here is the full Shokkiri of the day (by the Kasugano pair), taken by a very lucky fella who got a ticket in the front row:
This was followed by the Juryo dohyo-iri and Juryo bouts, and before the last three of those, Kisenosato demonstrated rope tying:
Note that stick thing stuck in the front tsukebito’s mawashi? No, it’s not a wand. This is used to adjust the “shide” – those zig-zag pieces of folded paper hanging from the Yokozuna’s rope. If any of them hangs too loosely or is bent, that stick has a flat head that helps push the straps of paper between the tight strands of the rope.
At this point of the Jungyo, all Yokozuna were still present and accounted for:
By the way, I read a post today where someone criticized Hakuho (or his team of tsukebito?) for having shide that were too short. “They used to reach all the way down to the fringe of the kesho-mawashi” he said. What do you think? I’m thinking they are about the same length as everybody else’s, only the dai-Yokozuna is rather taller than average.
I only got still photos from the Makuuchi bouts. So here is Ichinojo vs. Takakeisho:
What do you mean, you don’t recognize Ichinojo? He is very recognizable. His cheeks are his most prominent feature… OK… OK… Let’s try that again. Ichinojo vs. Takakeisho:
Ichinojo won that one.
I can give you a photo of Goeido-Kisenosato, but really, it’s from the same angle, so you may wish to skip that. Kisenosato won.
Let’s hope that the next destination sports more video-equipped phones.