Natsu 2018 Jungyo Newsreel – Day 14

 

🌐 Location: Nanyo, Yamagata

nobori

The Jungyo continues to make its way north, and stopped this time at cloudy Nanyo.

Like the Nobori in the above picture, the rikishi were all over town – not just inside the venue. Onosho was appointed Chief of Police for the day:

onosho-chief-of-police
Break the law on my watch, I dare you!

Ikioi went to a local charitable facility to cheer the residents. No pics – modest guy, I guess.

August 11th is a public holiday called “Mountain day” – “Yama no hi”. And some rikishi were showing appreciation for mountains, or rather, for slopes:

playful-rikishi

This quickly turned into this:

roll-me-over-in-the-clover

Note that in Japanese, practice outdoors is called “mountain practice” (yama-geiko). But this looks suspiciously more like fun than like practice.

Inside the venue, two Yokozuna who missed the previous day’s keiko reported for duty today:

kisenosato-back
He can smile!

Kisenosato apparently hurt his heel a couple of days ago. Yesterday he was excused from all activities and didn’t show up in the venue at all. Today he was doing some basics around the dohyo, and his dohyo-iri. No torikumi. He says the heel is improving.

hakuho

Hakuho gave a more detailed report of his injury. Apparently no cartilage was found found out of place in his knee, only some soft tissue “lump” which he’ll be treating with medication. He has already begun, and will have to take it easy for a few days. He says it’s like “having a bomb”, which I guess means he wants to be very careful about returning to activity. In addition, he also received some treatment for his other knee, where he had an old injury.

He returned to his routine so far, which included light off-dohyo practice:

And also a rope-tying demonstration and dohyo-iri. Again, no torikumi. The only Yokozuna participating in the bouts was Kakuryu.

The star of the day was Hakuyozan, the Makushita yusho winner who is about to return to Juryo. He hails from Yamagata. This made him the chosen victim partner for Goeido for some butsukari:

hakuyozan-butsukari-goeido

Yes, Goeido seems to be back as well. I didn’t see any explanation of the nature of his absence.

Hakuyozan also became very sought after for fansa:

And the reason you see him wearing an oicho-mage in this video is because he had a Juryo torikumi as well, facing Homarefuji:

hakuyozan-homarefuji

Here is another moshi-ai photo for you. Takakeisho is going all out to be chosen:

moshiai
Look into my eyes… there’s only me… you cannot choose another…

Chiyomaru’s torikumi with Myogiryu. Apparently, Chiyomaru belly-bumps the veteran over the tawara. It’s called a yori-kiri, but only because the name hara-kiri is already taken:

chiyomaru-myogiryu

But fear not, I shall not leave you with just stills of bouts. Here is a video which includes:

  • Sanyaku soroi-bumi (synchronized shiko of the participants of the last three bouts)
  • Tamawashi vs. Shohozan. Whoa, where are they going?
  • Takayasu vs. Mitakeumi. Takayasu continues his quick tsuppari barrange. This seems to be very effective against Mitakeumi.
  • Kakuryu vs. Goeido.
  • Yumi-tori, which was performed again today by the young Hokutoo. So you have a chance to get a first impression of him.

By the way, those makeshift kensho flags are another one of the duties of gyoji in the Jungyo:

writing-signs-gyoji
Gyoji Kimura Satoshi

To wrap things up, here is Enho, this time with guest stars Terutsuyoshi and Chiyonoo:

enho-terutsuyoshi-chiyonoo

Natsu 2018 Jungyo Newsreel – Day 13

🌐 Location: Shirakawa, Fukushima

Today’s newsreel is going to be short, as little material floated my way from that location.

shirakawa

First, for those who worry when they hear the name “Fukushima”, let me assure you that Shirakawa is not really anywhere near the unfortunate nuclear disaster area. You can verify on the Japan Radiation Map. The latest reading from Shirakawa is 115nSv/h.

The star of the day – appearing for the first time in his home prefecture as a sekitori – was Wakatakakage. As such, he was trying to give a good show during morning practice, but when he was about to do some butsukari with yusho winner Mitakeumi, the oyakata around the dohyo stopped him. “What’s that on your forehead? Having issues adjusting to the Jungyo?” (It’s his first).

wakatakakage-cold-sore

As it turns out, a big fat cold sore found the worst timing to make an appearance on the young wrestler’s forehead. He was told to take it easy and rest a bit.

But he did participate in the torikumi and enthusiastically answered fan requests for photos and autographs.

There have been reports that Kisenosato was also absent from keiko this day – he was definitely not in the torikumi, and visitors reported not seeing him anywhere, though he was not officially reported as absent.

Absent stars did not disrupt the usual energetic flow of keiko:

moshi-ai

This is moshi-ai. Or rather, the part of it where somebody just won and every wrestler tries to be picked as the next opponent. You snooze – you lose.

After practice was done, Takayasu and Onosho found a spot suitable for more practice in a publc park:

See, doing sumo is very simple. Find a clear spot of hardened earth, mark a circle and two lines with a stick, and off you go. Of course, no tawara tricks are available.

In addition to Wakatakakage and Terunohana (Terutsuyoshi’s tsukebito), who also happens to be from Fukushima, there was a third Fukushima man who caught some limelight:

hokutoo-yumi
Hokutoo, the backup yumi-tori performer

Introducing the backup performer of the yumi-tori. This is Hokutoo, 25 years old, from Hakkaku beya. And he is no less than 196cm tall, which could make for a very impressive performance. That’s taller than Ikioi, believe it or not.

Being a local boy, he got to do the duty today rather than Kasugaryu.

This probably means that, alas, the chances of us ever seeing Satonofuji holding a bow again are getting extremely slim. I have a feeling that Harumafuji’s retirement ceremony may well be his last performance, and may be the reason he has not retired as yet.

At the end of the day, Hakuho re-joined the Jungyo, just in time to catch the bus as everybody was leaving for the next destination. Apparently, he will need neither arthroscopy nor surgery.

Signing off this short report, here is your Enho. With the Yokozuna back, Enho will stay with us for the rest of the Jungyo. Yay!

enho

Natsu 2018 Jungyo Newsreel – Day 11

🌐 Location: Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo

takayasu
Welcome back, big bear

The Jungyo made its way back to Tokyo on day 11, and in the middle of a typhoon, took place at the Aoyama university campus in Shibuya, Tokyo.

Tokyo is a convenient places for rikishi to join or leave the Jungyo. Joining today was Ozeki Takayasu – just in time for the next event, which takes place in his home prefecture of Ibaraki.

But though it would have been understandable if he took it easy in Tokyo which served as a convenient convergence point, he decided all of a sudden to go up the dohyo and have san-ban with Asanoyama and Onosho. The results were less than spectacular – at least as far as the Ozeki was concerned:

The Ozeki’s shoulder is still not quite right?

Ah, finally, a win:

So, although he managed 4 wins and 1 loss to Asanoyama, he was completely smashed by Onosho, 3 wins and 12 losses.

In between, Nishikigi-mama and his assistant, Takanosho, wiped what little dirt Takayasu managed to put on Onosho.

Ryuden: “you missed a spot!” 🙂

So that was the man joining. But there were also men leaving. First, the whole Arashio gang which went to Suwa lake with Sokokurai disappeared. I thought they were joining to be there in time for Fukushima – especially the two elder Onamis – but no, they just made an appearance on that particular day. Special sponsor request, I guess. Perhaps specifically an Arashio beya sponsor.

But that’s a minor disappearance. The major one was, of course, Hakuho, who announce that he will go kyujo as of the next day. He did make an appearance as usual, and worked out lightly below the dohyo:

hakuho

But he informed the press that his knee was bothering him more than he let on at first. A few days ago he said that his knee was “feeling odd” but “there was no pain”, but today he qualified that to “I’m taking strong painkillers, so there is no pain”. Ouch.

He will be re-examined, and while he expressed his hope that he’ll be able to re-join the Jungyo at some point, he said there was a possibility he’ll need surgery or at least an arthroscopy. This may well mean he’ll be absent from Aki.

The Yokozuna is going to stay at Tokyo, but not with his full entourage. Kasugaryu will be needed to perform the yumi-tori, as there is no backup currently at the Jungyo (Satonofuji stayed home this time). And what will be the fate of our  daily Enho photos?

Hakuho is not the only worry – two notable participants were off the torikumi this day: Takekaze and Goeido. I believe they did participate in the keiko session, but can’t find evidence of any on-dohyo activity of these two.

But the show must go on! Yokozuna Kakuryu is still around, and probably slept at home, so he didn’t have time to get a decent shave in the morning:

unshaven-kakuryu

But later in the day he became pretty to celebrate his birthday – although that’s actually on the 10th. That’s probably because it’s easier to get those cakes in Tokyo:

kakuryu-early-birthday
Soccer cake to celebrate his unofficial soccer analyst position in the recent World Cup?

Aoiyama lent his chest to a lower ranked rikishi (I would guess his tsukebito). Interestingly, his usual bracing is not used for this exercise:

aoiyama-butsukari

Ryuden was using his tsukebito for weight training. Version one:

 

And version two:

The ever rounder Chiyomaru was doing some fansa right before his bout. His brother-come-tsukebito was fanning himself:

chiyomaru-chiyootori

Onosho continued to goof around just before the dohyo-iri, and got a bit of shoulder massage:

So here are some bouts for you:

Kagayaki vs. Ikioi:

Shodai not only serves as padding for the fall but also politely folds Ikioi’s sagari.

With Goeido off the bouts, Takayasu faced yusho winner Mitakeumi. The bout is part of the following news report:

Sigh. Mitakeumi should watch the Hakuho-Tochinoshin bout from Natsu to learn how to deal with tsuri-yori. That leg wriggling – not helpful!

The musubi:

And here is your Enho. I think this photo ranks pretty high on the heart throb Richter scale:

enho

So let’s hope he didn’t leave the Jungyo together with Hakuho…

PS: more synchronized workout by Enho and Tobizaru:

Yokozuna Hakuho Kyujo For Haru

Hakuho Toe 2018

As expected, Hakuho’s big toe injury is still causing him problems, and in an abundance of caution, he has decided to not compete in Osaka’s Haru basho.  This is the first time in his career that he has been kyujo for two consecutive tournaments. He underwent surgery to repair this same toe in 2016, which caused him to miss the Aki basho.

While some fans may wonder why problems with a single toe might be cause to withdraw, in sumo all power is transmitted to the dohyo via the feet. The role of the toes, and most especially the “big toe” (or as the Japanese call it, the foot thumb) is crucial in maintaining balance while in motion.

This leaves Yokozuna Kakuryu as the only Yokozuna who will start the Haru basho.

We hope Hakuho is able to recover and re-join competition in May.

Rikishi of the Future – The Hakuho Cup 2018

Following the two hana-zumo events, the dohyo in the Ryogoku Kokugikan was not left unattended. On Monday, February 12, the 8th Hakuho Cup took place.

hakuho-cup

The Hakuho Cup is a children’s sumo event, second only to the annual Wanpaku National Championship. Its origins are actually in the Asashoryu Cup. The Wanpaku National Championship is an all-Japanese event, and Asashoryu wished to put some Mongolian kids on the dohyo in the Kokugikan. This dream has finally come to fruition in August 2009, in an event for boys age 8-12, won by the Mongolian delegation winning all of its bouts. Asashoryu wanted to make this an annual event, but unfortunately he was forced to retire a few months later, and the event was never repeated.

With Asashoryu gone, Hakuho took his place as the leading (and only) Yokozuna, and starting in 2011, established his own event. And as usual with Hakuho, anything Asashoryu did, he improved upon. The Hakuho cup in its current form is an event for boys from first to ninth grade. No less than 1300 boys attended this year’s event, hailing not only from Mongolia and Japan, but also from the USA, Taiwan, Hong-Kong, Mainland China, Thailand and South Korea.

The Mongolian delegation practiced at Tomozuna beya:

mongolia-tomozuna

While the “Aloha State” team practiced at Musashigawa:

Other heya have also opened their dohyo to the various sumo school clubs and delegations.

On the day itself, many bouts took place on temporary dohyos spread around the kokugikan. At lunch break, Hakuho and Yoshikaze – always involved in children sumo – sat down for a public chat on the dohyo. They were joined by a surprise guest:

hakuho-cup-talk-show
Hakuho, Hanada, Yoshikaze

This was none other than the 66th Yokozuna, the former Wakanohana, Mr. Masaru Hanada. Yes, Takanohana’s older and estranged brother.

This was the first time for the 66th and the 69th Yokozuna to meet face to face, and also the first time for the former Wakanohana to step up the dohyo in the Kokugikan since his retirement in 2000. Hakuho told Hanada that he has been watching his videos since he entered into the sumo world, and always thought he would be a tough one to engage with. Hanada said “You’re huge!”, and then addressed the child wrestlers: “Don’t worry. Even small ones can become Yokozuna, like I did. Just be diligent with your keiko!” (Wakanohana was merely 181cm tall).

Among the participants in the event was Hakuho’s own eldest son, Mahato. That’s the same kid who participated in the 2017 summer Jungyo and asked to engage Mitakeumi, to take revenge (Mitakeumi has beaten Hakuho in the Nagoya basho).

Hakuho Jr. is 9 years old, in the third grade, and therefore this has been his third appearance in his father’s tournament. And for the first time, he actually won a bout – he was winless in the previous two occasions. He overcame a henka, got a brief migi-yotsu and finished with an uwate-nage. The proud father said “Keiko doesn’t lie. He does 200 shiko stomps… but not every day.” The boy was defeated in his next bout, though.

hakuho-comforting-son
Hakuho, comforting his son Mahato after his loss in his second bout

The tournament winner for the second grade was Takaaki Uno from Kanazawa.

hakuho-cup-yusho

The Kanazawa delegation got a lot of support from the latest Kanazawa sekitori, Enho:

enho-kanazawa-team

And finally, here is a video with a summary of the events of the day, including the Hakuho jr. bout and various other bouts:

Yes, they are children. The tears are real.

 

Comparing the Great Ones: The Lasting Impact of Generational Athletes

Hakuho-Gretzky Final

Today marks one week since the end of the 2017 Kyushu basho, and while most of the post-tournament media has centered around the unfortunate retirement of Harumafuji, there are still several stories to be covered as we move on from Fukuoka. One such story is the milestone 40th yusho win by Yokozuna Hakuho Sho. In a post last week, Bruce summarized Hakuho’s decorated career by comparing him to several of the worlds most talented athletes. While all of these comparisons are accurate, when I explain the Dai-Yokozuna to my non-sumo friends and family, there is only one man whose achievements in his respective sport are equal to those of Hakuho: The Great One, Wayne Gretzky.

While sumo and hockey couldn’t be more different, there are striking similarities between the careers of Hakuho and Gretzky. For starters, both men began their professional careers in their late teens, with Hakuho having his maezumo tournament at 16, while Gretzky made his first WHA appearance at the age of 17. It took less than seven years for each of them to achieve the top prize in their respective sports, with Hakuho earning his first yusho six years after his debut and Gretzky winning The Stanley Cup in his fifth season. But the most comparable characteristic Hakuho and Gretzky share is the lasting impact they have had on their sports. As the most dominant athletes to ever compete in sumo and hockey respectively, Hakuho and Gretzky have accumulated an impressive array of achievements and accolades. While Gretzky holds the records for points, goals, and assists in hockey, sumo’s records for most yusho (40), zensho yusho (13), career wins (1064), and top division wins (970) belong to Hakuho. With such colossal records as these, and with no athlete past or present coming close to equaling them, the legacies of these two men may never be surpassed. As the Wayne Gretzky of sumo, Hakuho’s impact on Japan’s national sport will be felt for decades to come.

So what does this all mean to sumo fans moving forward? Well, as a hockey enthusiast, I’ve learned of several realities one must come to terms with when their favourite sport is dominated by generational athletes such as Hakuho and Gretzky.

1. Hakuho’s records will go unbroken for a very long time
The majority of Gretzky’s records were set in the 1980’s, and since then no player has come close to breaking them. They have stood for over 30 years, and sumo fans could see Hakuho’s records stand just as long, if not longer. Hakuho may be a once in a lifetime athlete, but a bit of luck also played a part in his success. He has remained relatively injury-free for much of his career and staying in fighting form for so long allowed him to set the bar to such a high degree. It will take another generational athlete with a similar set of circumstances to come close to rivaling Hakuho’s legacy.

2. Second is the new first
Since Gretzky’s time, there have been a select few who have made runs at his records. The only active player within sight of these lofty achievements is Jaromir Jagr, who despite playing well into his forties, still trails Gretzky by a staggering 937 points. Despite being the ultimate second fiddle, Jagr is considered one of the all-time greats of the sport. Much in the same vein, as Hakuho’s achievements rise further and further out of reach, many a Yokozuna’s career will be defined by how close they can get to his records. Sumo’s future legends will be those who can surpass Taiho’s 32 yusho mark, or Kaio’s 1047 career wins, and end their careers nearest to Hakuho.

3. Future greats of the sport will be compared to Hakuho
It is no secret that a changing of the guard is poised to take place in the world of Sumo. Many veterans will soon begin to leave the fighting to younger generations, and new stars will emerge to take their place. Much like every standout NHL rookie has been called the next Gretzky, sumo’s great rikishi of tomorrow will undoubtedly be compared to Hakuho at every milestone. Hakuho will be the measuring stick upon which every future Yokozuna will be judged, for better or for worse.

Love him or hate him, it is undeniable that Hakuho’s achievements will remain a part of sumo’s rich tapestry for years, if not decades, to come. He is The Great One of sumo, the Gretzky of rikishi, and the most dominant Yokozuna of all time. Hakuho has climbed to the top of the mountain, and it will take a hell of a man to knock him down.

Everything You Need to Know After Act Two

Sumo wrestlers line up as they pray before the start of the annual 'Honozumo' ceremonial sumo tournament dedicated to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan

The curtain has dropped on act two. The stage is now set, and the actors are ready for the grand finale of the Kyushu basho. While the early days of this tournament were overshadowed by scandal, the sumo took center stage in act two. So far we’ve seen triumph, defeat, skill and and even a little luck. But the best is yet to come! Here is a quick run down of everything you need to know going into the last five days of sumo in 2017.

Yusho Race

After two acts, only one man remains lord on high in the yusho race: Dai-Yokozuna Hakuho. With a 10-0 record and a two-win cushion separating him from second place, this is truly Hakuho’s yusho to lose. The story is not over yet, however, as two men are trailing Hakuho, just waiting for him to make one crucial mistake that will bring them closer to yusho contention. These rikishi are Okinoumi and Hokutofuji, who both ended day 10 with eight wins apiece. Should he keep his record spotless, Hakuho can clinch the yusho with a win on day 14, if not sooner.

Kachi Koshi and Make Koshi

There were only three men who secured their kachi koshi by the end of act two. In addition to Hakuho, only Okinoumi and Hokutofuji have earned a winning record so far, and are safe from demotion for the New Year Tournament. Conversely, there are three rikishi with make koshi losing records, beginning with Tochiozan who went winless in his first eight bouts. Chiyonokuni and Kotoshogiku also have losing records and can expect to move down the banzuke for January. For a closer look at the kachi koshi and make koshi  projections, please see this article by fellow Tachiai authour lksumo.

Kinboshi

Yokozuna Kisenosato surrendered three more kinboshi during the second act of the kyusho basho, bringing the overall total to six. These kinboshi were claimed by Hokutofuji, Ichinojo, and Takarafuji respectively. Having lost to five Maegashira rikishi, Kisenosato tied the record for the most kinboshi given up in a single basho since 1949.

Kyujo and Absences

On day 3 it was announced that Aoiyama had withdrawn from competition due to issues with his ankle. He returned to action on day 8 in what many believe to be a desperate attempt to stave off a major demotion down the banzuke. Since the end of act one, only one more rikishi has joined those who have pulled out of the Kyushu basho. Early in day 10, Kisenosato withdrew from the competition due to ankle and lower back issues. This marks the third time he has had to end a tournament prematurely this year. The kyujo and Absentee list so far includes Kakuryu, Ura, Takanoiwa, Harumafuji, Terunofuji, and Kisenosato.

Tozai-Sei

After ten days, the West now leads the East by a score of 104-85. The West side of the banzuke is really beginning to pull away from the East, mostly due to Hakuho, Hokutofuji, Ichinojo, and Arawashi, who have all won seven or more matches. That being said, the East has been far more affected by injuries and has lost many top point-earners this basho. The next five days will see the crowning of the first unofficial Tozai-sei championship.

Like a play, each act of the Kyushu basho has been better than the last. There’s still so much fantastic sumo that awaits us as we head into the final days of competition. So with that, let’s open the curtain on act 3. Let the finale begin!

Everything You Need to Know After Act One

 

With the first act of the Kyushu basho coming to an end, here is a quick rundown of everything you need to know to get all caught up.

Yusho Race

Five days in and the leaderboard has already dwindled down to three men, all with perfect records. Maegashira 13 Aminishiki, Ozeki Goeido, and a very genki Yokozuna Hakuho have five wins each and are neck and neck in the yusho race. Behind them with four wins are Takayasu, Mitakeumi, Hokutofuji, Ichinojo, Arawashi, and surprisingly, Okinoumi. I expect this group to be much smaller by the end of act two.

Kinboshi

So far, there have been three kinboshi surrendered this basho. Tamawashi earned the first of these gold star victories on day 1 when he defeated Yokozuna Kisenosato. Up and comer Takakeisho claimed the other two when he beat Harumafuji on day 2 and Kisenosato on day 4.

Kyujo and Absences

There are currently six men on the banzuke who have pulled out of the competition. Ura, Takanoiwa and Yokozuna Kakuryu withdrew citing health issues before the start of the basho. Aoiyama joined them on day 3 after sustaining an ankle injury in his match with Okinoumi. Day 3 would also see Yokozuna Harumafuji pull out of the competition following accusations of an assault on Takanoiwa during the October jungyo tour. After four straight losses, former Ozeki Terunofuji withdrew on day 5 to address the multiple health issues that have been plaguing him as of late.

Tozai-Sei

On day 1, I mentioned that I would be keeping track of the unofficial Tozai-sei Championship going on between the East and West sides of the banzuke. The Tozai-sei was an award used in the early 20th century and was given to the side of the banzuke with the most wins, and I’ve decided to resurrect it for a bit of added fun this basho. The rules are simple: for every win a rikishi gets, his side receives a point. After five days, the West leads the East with a record of 53 to 46. This lead is no doubt thanks to Aminishiki, Ichinojo, Takayasu, and Hakuho, who have a combined 18 points thus far. The top point earners on the East side are Okinoumi, Mitakeumi, and Goeido, who have 14 points between them.

With day 6 set to start in just a few short hours, there are still so many great sumo highlights to look forward to as the Kyushu basho rolls on.

Harumafuji Scandal Development

Hakuho

There has been another development in the Harumafuji scandal today. While speaking to the press, key witness Yokozuna Hakuho stated that there was a bottle involved in the incident, but it was not used in the assault on Takanoiwa.

横綱・白鵬が取材に応じ、「やってはいけないことで、手を出したのは事実です。私もその場にいたわけだし、相撲界として世間に本当に申し訳ない気持ちでいっぱいだ。報道されているようにビール瓶で殴っていたわけではありません。ビール瓶は持ちましたが、手から滑り落ちそのあとに私が間に入って部屋から連れ出しました」

Hakuho noted that Harumafuji had been holding a beer bottle before the altercation, but it slipped from his hand before Hakuho separated him from Takanoiwa. The Dai-Yokozuna also expressed his sorrow for not stepping in and breaking up the fight sooner, and apologized to sumo fans for the entire incident.

Former Yokozuna Asashoryu has also remarked on the incident and stated via his Twitter account that there was no bottle involved in the conflict.

モンゴル出身の元横綱朝青龍もツイッターで「ビール瓶で殴ってないらしいよ」

Despite this claim, there has yet to be any proof that Asashoryu was present at the scene of the event on October 26th, and could be basing his opinion on second-hand knowledge.

This development raises the question of how Takanoiwa could have been seriously injured without the use of a weapon. Hakuho’s word is highly respected in the sumo world, but should evidence come forward that the night’s events were drastically different than how he described them he could find himself in hot water as well. Tachiai will continue to cover this story as it develops.

Link to the NHK article:

Five Quick Thoughts on Day 3

Asanoyama

 

With day 3 done and dusted, and day 4 on the horizon, here are a few quick thoughts on some of the lower Makuuchi matches that I wanted to give a little extra time and attention to.

1. Mr. Happy and the Day 3 Blues

Let’s start with one of my favorite rikishi, Mr. Happy himself, Asanoyama. Today he went head to head with Kagayaki, who not only defeated Asanoyama but also beat his own archenemy, gravity. In September, Asanoyama remarked that he felt jinxed by the east entrance early on in the basho, as his first two losses came from that side of the dohyo. He doesn’t seem to be jinxed in Kyushu so far, as he has now lost on the east and the west side, marking the first time Asanoyama has had consecutive losses in the top division. This is not the start he or his fans had hoped for. It is still very early in the tournament though, and it will be interesting to see how Asanoyama handles this setback.

2. Shodai Comes Alive

Now where has this Shodai been!? After two lackluster basho, Shodai appears to have found a bit of the fighting spirit that had carried him to such great success in 2016. His match with Endo began with a shocking turn of events, as Shodai actually looked like he took a step forward at the tachiai! From there, the two young mawashi-grapplers fought with some uncharacteristic otsu-sumo thrusts. Despite Endo putting up most of the offense early in the bout, once he strayed into Shodai’s grip he was done for, and quickly found himself on the wrong side of the tawara. Shodai showed some much-needed passion today, and I hope this is the beginning of an upward trend for him.

3. What is Up With Chiyomaru?

On the opposite side of the passion spectrum, was Chiyomaru. The rotund rikishi looked deflated (not physically of course), and put up no resistance against Daishomaru. This has led me to speculate that he may be dealing with an as of yet undisclosed injury. Considering his physique, it would not be a surprise if he is dealing with back or knee issues. Chiyomaru could benefit from following Kaisei’s example and shedding a bit of mass to improve his health and sumo. I’d hate to see sumo lose its most kawaii rikishi because of injury.

4. The Great Wall of Ichinojo

There are only three certainties in life: death, taxes, and a genki Ichinojo is nearly impossible to push around. Today it was Hokutofuji’s turn to take on the immovable object, but he was not up to the task and immediately fell to the clay after making contact with Ichinojo’s mighty frame. The giant Mongolian is undefeated thus far and could be a major force in the yusho race. With Terunofuji a shell of his former self, Ichinojo could one day find himself taking on the mantle of sumo’s resident Kaiju.

5. A Look on the Bright Side

With the shadow of the Harumafuji scandal cast on this basho, it is important to recognize that there are still many positive stories coming out of Fukuoka. For starters, the young crop of rikishi continue to make their mark in the Makuuchi division and their matches remain competitive and enjoyable. Kisenosato and Takayasu seem up to the task of competing this basho, with the later of the two looking like an early contender for the yusho. Finally, Hakuho appears focused and determined to make more history this November, and become the first man to ever to win forty yusho. With so much to look forward to, let’s remember that there is still some great sumo to come.

 

I Got Next: Searching for the Next One, Tachiai Introduces Readers to the “Tatakiage”

Hakuho is “The One.” He owns just about every conceivable record in the books. This past tournament he registered his 1050th win, surpassing Kaio’s mark of 1047. He will complete the “Hakuho Conquest” (1066 wins) in time for the Olympics in 2020. His career was made possible by the fact that he started so early, joining a heya at 16. These youngsters who start so low and achieve so much are called the “Tatakiage.”

The Many Hands Began To Scan For the Next Plateau

Now that he’s achieved so much, and set so many bars so extraordinarily high, the question becomes “Who is next?” Will anyone be able to do what Hakuho the Conqueror has done? The current crop of champions do not have the health to come anywhere close. Hakuho’s the only Yokozuna left standing for the summer Jungyo tour, Terunofuji and Goeido are in a dangerous cycle punctuated by recurring injuries and threats of demotion. Takayasu, our shin-ozeki, will need six and a half years of zensho yushos to catch up to where Hakuho is now. And with Hak winning yushos, it’s not only a moving target but one where all current wrestlers are losing ground.

None of the up-and-comers, like Mitakeumi, will have a chance at such a long career. In spite of his rapid rise to the upper divisions and makuuchi, he got a comparatively late start in professional sumo. We’re now watching another up-and-comer, Yago, skip the lower divisions on the heels of their successful college careers and start in the Makushita division in their early twenties. Even Hakuho’s disciple, Enho, got a bit of a late start, like Shodai. Tatakiage wrestlers like Hakuho forgo high school and college to pursue their dohyo dreams.

So who has the chops? We are familiar with Wakaichiro, the Texan rikishi who started his career last year at 18. After securing his kachi-koshi in Nagoya we hope to see him continue his strong progress. However, this article profiles a Musashigawa-beya stablemate named Tokuda who has begun his sumo career before finishing high school. After a strong Jonidan tournament in Tokyo, he was promoted into sandanme, but will fall back down into Jonidan in September.

It’s a difficult path for these youngsters. Not all will make it to the upper divisions and many will drop out. But Hakuho has demonstrated what they can achieve. It may be this early start in sumo which imbues a successful wrestler with the ring presence and the canny abilities required for a long career. Kisenosato started at 16. Kotoshogiku at 18. Many impressive wrestlers will come out of the universities ready for successful careers in sumo. But anyone who hopes to become “The Next One” and come close to any of Hakuho’s records will need to come from the ranks of the Tatakiage.

Kaisei Favoring Right Knee After Hakuho Sparring Session (updated)

According to the Nikkei Shimbun, Hakuho sparred with Kaisei the other day, winning all fourteen bouts. Kaisei seemed to be checking his right knee but hopefully he’ll be ready to go this weekend*. (If I took on Hakuho, I’m pretty sure my knee would be the least of my worries, so I’m not reading too much into Kaisei’s soreness.) Since Kaisei is pretty far down the banzuke, I hope he will do well and ease back into the upper maegashira ranks where he seems to belong.

The real point of this post is the hidden tidbit buried in the third paragraph that I’m embarrassed to say I did not realize before. This is the longest yusho dry spell of Hakuho’s long and distinguished Yokozuna career. Perhaps a little extra motivation? I like to see that Hakuho and Kisenosato are being rigorous in their tournament prep.

*updated*

Kaisei is, indeed, listed as absent for the Osaka tournament.