Day 9 In The Lower Divisions

Today was an interesting day in the lower divisions. Here are some stories (guided, I admit, mostly by what can be found by the way of videos, which is not much this basho):

Jonokuchi

First and foremost, it was Hattorizakura’s birthday today. He is now officially an adult by Japanese law. And he engaged in today’s bout like an adult:

This is the true meaning of gambarization. Too bad it didn’t work out. The rival, Houn, BTW, has only ever won against one person. Hattorizakura, of course.

Jonidan

Shunba, who is known to many of us as Terunofuji’s fatherly tsukebito, and who now serves as Takarafuji’s tsukebito, has lost some weight and seems to have gained some energy together with that. He is now kachi-koshi, and has a good chance of making it back to Sandanme next basho. Unfortunately, I found no shareable footage of this bout.

Sandanme

How are our three princes faring?

First, let’s look at Naya, Taiho’s grandson (and Takatoriki’s son, which is a fact the press likes to gloss over). Most of the bouts he engaged in looked one-sided, but today he met his high-school rival, Kototebakari.

Ah, apparently Naya stretches diligently. That didn’t look like a comfortable pose down at the edge of the dohyo. This loss probably denies him the Sandanme Yusho.

The second prince is, of course, Asashoryu’s nephew, Hoshoryu. He already dropped one bout on day 1. I’d say that was ring rust for sure, because he has been looking quite formidable since. Here he is against Tochikodai:

Kachi-koshi. The prince continues his ascent.

The third prince is the heir to the kingdom of Kotooshu, Torakio of Naruto beya. He has had a very strong basho so far – much better than his previous three. Unlike Naya and Hoshoryu, he still maintains the possibility for a yusho with this bout:

But wait, what was that at the end there? He seemed rather aggressive as he pulled his arm away Hokutoshu’s arm lock. Let’s look at this from a different angle (the following video has a glitch, but it’s time stamped to the replay of this bout which is fine):

Ahem. That’s not how a rikishi is supposed to behave. And his stable noticed.

Naruto beya’s tweet translates:

Good day, everybody. Here are the results for day 9:

Torakio wins, 5-0
Kawamura wins, 3-2

Some allowance may be made for the fact that Torakio has little dohyo experience. And yet his behaviour at the end of today’s match lacked respect towards his rival. He shall be strictly disciplined.

“When you win, don’t gloat. When you lose, don’t sulk”. “Start with a bow, end with a bow”. Fundamentals first.

In addition, it seems that Torakio once again ends a bout with some level of injury. Let’s hope that he learns manners and keeps up the good sumo.

Makushita

Tomisakae from Isegahama – known mostly for his agile backflips, his charming smile, and a shikona that stands out in a heya fulls of Terus and Fujis – has recorded five straight wins for the first time in his sumo careers. He seems to be bursting with genki:

If he does find himself with a surprising Makushita Yusho (which mathematically he is in the race for), he will find himself next basho in the Makushita purgatory – the zone separating heaven from hell. That will be a whole different story.

Enho is currently in that same purgatory, and his chances of making it back to sekitori heaven have improved with Murata dropping out of the basho after an injury. Of course, for this you have to have a kachi-koshi. And the schedulers were not merciful today, sending him to a Juryo bout against a rival 26 cm taller than him – Kizenryu, the purgatory yo-yo, who has spent no less than 9 basho in Juryo, but none consecutively.

Yo-yo or not, 26 cm, let alone the near 50kg weight difference, are something to be reckoned with. So let’s take a look at one of the best bouts of the day:

At first, Kizenryu denies Enho access to his mawashi. Enho takes a step back and then attacks again, this time finding his favorite mae-mitsu grip. Then he changes his grip to the back of Kizenryu’s mawashi. Kizenryu manages to get a grip on the pesky little mosquito’s mawashi. Enho tries a throw, realizes he doesn’t have the right hold, lets go of the mawashi with his right hand and grabs the leg. Within seconds – the end. Worth watching again from another angle:

This Ashitori got Enho first place in the kanto-seishin, the crowd favorite ranking, for the Juryo division – despite the fact that he is not in Juryo at all… yet!

Juryo

Alas, my personal Jurya favorites have all been losing today:

Aminishiki-Kotoyuki.

Aminishiki is doing well for his age and condition, and managed to tie Taiho’s record of career wins (8th place, 872 wins) yesterday, but not to pass him today. Still has 5 days in which to get 2 wins for a kachi-koshi.

Terutsuyoshi was trying for straightforward sumo against Chiyonoo, but it didn’t work out for him:

Another favorite of mine is Chiyonoumi, the newcomer to the Juryo division. He is not doing badly for a beginner, with 5 wins in 9 days, but today he didn’t get one of them:

Takanoiwa seems to be heading for the Juryo Yusho. He has made his kachi-koshi already, at a record speed for himself as a sekitori. That is, this is the first time in his sekitori career he has only one loss in 9 days.

Good survival skills, there! Whether or not he wins the Yusho, we are almost certain to see him back in Makuuchi next basho (well, unless he happens to be in the same place as a Yokozuna and a Karaoke remote control again).

Akiseyama, the local Aichi boy, has been suffering greatly in this basho. He was down to seven straight losses, when he decided to go back to wearing his old purple Mawashi.

In purpule mawashi – two wins.

Nagoya Day 1 across the divisions

tamawashi-bowling
Hakuho bowling with Tamawashi as the ball

Jonokuchi

The hardcore fans have been eagerly awaiting Hattorizakura’s best chance at securing a white star. The opponent was Wakaoyama. A 16 years old boy who weighs just 67kg, and whose record at Maezumo was a miserable 0-5. Hattorizakura weighs 88kg, and has a lot of experience.

Well.

Hattorizakura now has the interesting scoreline of 1 win – 111 losses in his career.

Tomorrow (or should I say, today) I’m going to watch Chiyotaiyo’s bout with interest. He is 175cm tall, weighs just 70kg, and looked like a stick insect in his shin-deshi presentation. But unlike the above Wakaoyama, he was 3-1 in Maezumo, and I think Kokonoe oyakata didn’t just pick him for the chanko and clean-up duties. He is up against Tanakayama, who is 183cm, 120kg, and was 3-0 in maezumo. Should be interesting.

Jonidan

Here is Shunba’s first match, up against Shikihide’s foreigner, Francis:

Sandanme

Sandanme is hot this basho. Well, everything in Nagoya is hot this basho, but Sandanme in particular. Here we have one we have been following for a while – Hoshoryu, Asashoryu’s nephew, who won the Jonidan yusho last basho. He faces Tagonofuji.

Well, there goes the Sandanme yusho.

Also in Sandanme, a bout between the two foreigners – Mongolian Yoshoyama from Tokitsukaze, and Bulgarian Torakio from Naruto. Both of them could be said to be somewhat underachieving. Torakio is the star of his heya, but has suffered injuries and setbacks and is only in Sandanme a year into his career. Yoshoyama was touted as very strong when he entered sumo. He is Tokitsukaze’s replacement for Tokitenku. So far he has been kachi-koshi, but not impressively so.

Torakio dispatches of him with a heave-ho. I guess young Mongolians suffer badly in extra hot Nagoya.

Makushita

Here are some bouts from the hot end of Makushita. First, Tomokaze-Wakatakamoto. Wakatakamoto aims to catch up to his little brother Wakatakakage up in Juryo. It’s going to be hard to do it like this:

Kiribayama-Ichiyamamoto:

Quick reversals in a slap fest.

Murata vs. Hakuyozan. Bouts at the top of Makushita are energetic, not no say frantic:

Juryo

Here is a digest of all Day 1 Juryo bouts (BTW, most of the videos in this post are from One and Only, now called “Sumo Channel”)

Homarefuji manages to reverse the charges at the edge. He is fighting for his life this basho, at the edge of a Makushita drop.

Tobizaru is trying everything he has, including an attempt at kicking, But Kizenryu just keeps him at bay and eventually grabs him and sends him flying like a… well… flying monkey.

Chiyonoumi in his first bout as a Sekitori. Land some heavy tsuppari at Wakatakakage, who joins his big brother on the black star list.

Mitoryu seems to be still a little bit on the injured side, and eventually resorts to the Ichinojo tactic – lean, then squeeze out.

Terutsuyoshi attempts a henka against Gagamaru, but executes it really sloppily and loses promptly.

Yago gets himself a birthday gift vs. Tokushoryu.

Azumaryu solid against Shimanoumi. Takes his time, wins in the end.

Adding to the list of Mongolians who can stand the heat – Kyokushuho who dispatches of Tsurugisho quickly. Seiro, on the other hand, has some trouble with Hidenoumi. The battle rages across the dohyo, but the man in the magenta mawashi gives way first.

Now, Aminishiki’s bout is worth watching from more than just that angle.

He goes straight for Daishoho’s mawashi. No henkas, no hatakikomis. Daishoho defends solidly, trying to prevent Aminishiki from making use of the handhold he has with his right hand. Aminishiki plants his head. Sets up his feet first one way and then the other, then applies all the strength he has with his right hand for a shitatedashinage. It is Aminishiki’s first Day 1 win this year.

Not sure about the Takanoiwa-Takanosho bout. Is Takanosho that good, or is Takanoiwa that rusty?

A battle of tsuppari ensues between Takagenji and Kotoyuki. Just as Kotoyuki is about to do his famous rolling stone impression, Takagenji’s heel touches outside of the tawara. No monoii needed.

Akiseyama doesn’t look like he is ready to face the challenge of Makunouchi just yet. Daiamami disposes of him rather quickly.

Makunouchi

Just a few comments here as Bruce covered this excellently.

Arawashi looks like he is heading down to Juryo. Of course, ring rust and everything. But he seems to be simply too weak.

Nishikigi continues his forward motion from last basho.

Takarafuji also seems to be nearing his expiration date. He lost this bout on lack of stamina.

Ichinojo must have been watching the Russia-Croatia game yesterday. Including overtime and penalty kicks. He came into the ring as if he hasn’t had much sleep and… that’s not the Ichinojo I want to see. It was painful to watch (unless you’re a Chiyonokuni fan, that is).

Now, I wonder how it is that whenever I watch Hakuho fight I see a totally different match than the other Tachiai members… Bruce described this match as “the dai-Yokozuna dismantling Tamawashi”. What I saw was the dai-yokozuna winning on plan C. First, he went for the harizashi. Yes, that forbidden harizashi – slap and grab. Only, he couldn’t really grab. Tamawashi blocked him quite effectively. OK, plan B. He starts a flying tsuppari attack, and manages to turn Tamawashi around. But unexpectedly, Tamawashi wheels back in an instant, and gets the surprised Yokozuna in a firm morozashi. OK, plan C, because nobody becomes a dai-yokozuna by being a one-trick pony, and certainly not Hakuho, who creates a diversion behind Tamawashi’s neck, and, quick as lightning, performs a makikae (change of grips from overarm to underarm). This usually results in losing ground, but Hakuho times this very well and by the time Tamawashi pushes him to the tawara he is already in his favorite migi-yotsu and in the middle of a sukuinage.

So a brilliant show of the walking sumo encyclopaedia that is Hakuho, but it was a close call and certainly not a good sign for the Yokozuna.

Nagoya Basho News

Hattorizakura

With just a handful of hours to go, here is the latest from Nagoya

The dohyo was consecrated this morning in the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium. Offerings to the deities were sealed in the center of the platform, in a ceremony that completes preparation for the Nagoya basho.

As hoped, some injured rikishi that we follow have decided to play it safe, and not compete in Nagoya. This includes Ura and Terunofuji.  Ura is being rightfully cautious in returning to action, as the surgery to repair his knee takes about 9 months to heal. He had also gained a large amount of weight that would put additional strain on his knee. With him sitting out Nagoya, he will drop to mid or lower Sandanme for Aki. The chances of a Wakaichiro – Ura match are still remote, but growing.

Terunofuji underwent surgery a few weeks ago for his knee problems, and is likely still a physical wreck.  We think it will be many months before we see him return. He may even have to re-start sumo from the bottom division, which would be both a complete shame for Terunofuji, and a terrifying ordeal for the young men he would be tasked to defeat to regain any sort of rank.

Wakaichro is in action early in day 1, with a rematch against Sadogatake heya’s Kotosato.  Their prior match, on day 10 of Natsu, went to Kotosato. This offers the rikishi from Humble, Texas a chance to even the score. The two of them are roughly the same height and weight, and it should be a great match.

Finally, thanks to Herouth for pointing it out, the opening match of the entire basho is none other than Hattorizakura vs. Wakaoyama. For sumo fans who don’t know, Hattorizakura is a scrawny kid who just can’t seem to win, but keeps training. The sumo word is on pins and needles at the thought that Hattorizakura might actually win the first bout tonight. If so, all of the hard core sumo nerds will celebrate.

Day 8 – The Lower Divisions

Short one today, as I really have to get going with my packing…

kotoeko-terutsuyoshi
Kotoeko toppling Terutsuyoshi

Let’s start with Takanoiwa vs. Yago. This was a lovely, prolonged bout, starting with a bit of tsuppari and continuing as a mawashi fight, with experience talking at the end.

A point to note on the sidelines: Takayoshitoshi arrives late and out of breath. His bout was the one after the next, and he should have been there on time in case his side lost, to give the chikara-mizu.

Josh included a video of Enho vs. Wakatakakage in his Ones To Watch summary, but Enho’s bouts are so entertaining, so here is the One-And-Only version, from a slightly closer angle:

Enho definitely needs to get himself at least a Terutsuyoshi body, and will need to do so in Makushita at Natsu, unless a miracle occurs.

Terutsuyoshi himself, as well as all the rest of the Isegahama Juryo rikishi, lost his bout today, to Kotoeko, whom he usually beats.

Yet another entertaining bout. I think they should create a division for rikishi under 175cm. It will be a marvel to watch.

At Makushita, the torikumi masters once again matched up zensho winners to test their strength and cull the race. Midorifuji met Nakazono:

The slight Midorifuji was no match for the massive Nakazono, and is now 3-1.

At Jonidan, I thought I’ll give you a glimpse of the oldest active rikishi – Hanakaze – who is nearly 48 years old – almost as old as myself! Here he is matched with Chida, a 20-year-old whose parents are probably younger than Hanakaze.

Nice to see his expression as he manages to escape the tawara that first time.

Finally, here are two Jonokuchi bouts, courtesy of the… Hattorizakura Channel… Yes, it’s a thing. And it features some darn high quality videos.

First, you won’t get away without Hoshoryu. Here he is pitted against one of the touchstones. That is, a rikishi who is extremely heavy, and whom you need good thinking and execution to beat. Kenho weighs 238kg, or so says the video title.

Hoshoryu tries a bit of tsuppari, then turns the big boulder around, and shows him the way out.

And since we are on the Hattorizakura channel, here is Hattorizakura’s 100th loss, at 4K, for your pleasure:

Note to lower division fans: I’m going to skip tomorrow, as I need to get ready for my trip. On Tuesday I’ll probably do a combined Juryo/Makuuchi post. After that, I’m on my way to Japan, and I hope I’ll be able to post stuff I have seen live on Saturday.

 

Day 6 – The Lower Divisions

Once again, Kintamayama has been in a generous mood and provided us with a Day 6 Juryo digest. Head over there and watch the whole thing.

Now, quickly repeat this sentence five times in a row: Takayoshitoshi beats Terutsuyoshi by okuritaoshi. The winner gets a free Acme Tongue Straightener.

Terutsuyoshi tried to reverse the charges and perform an ipponzeoi, but this time it didn’t work – his toe eventually touched the soft earth around the tawara and the gunbai pointed to Takayoshitoshi.

Why “this time”? Because he did something very similar with Takayoshitoshi’s twin brother back in November.

Takanoiwa got to do the splits, courtesy of Tochihiryu, a guy coming up from Makushita to fill in the gaps. Ouch.

Akiseyama is back to being a blob in a mawashi. He starts by launching a convincing tsuppari on Takagenji, but an attempt to switch to the mawashi gives Takagenji the initiative, and Akiseyama somehow manages to waddle his way out of the mess, and keep his place on the leaderboard.

Enho said in an interview on NHK yesterday that he wants to be a rikishi who gives the spectators an interesting match to watch. And he is certainly doing that. Only… he is already 1-5, has the worst balance in the three bottom ranks, and looks well on his way to lose the “zeki” suffix from his name and his newly assigned tsukebito.

mitoryu-helps-enho-up
Mitoryu lends Enho a hand up

Amakaze grabs his first win of the basho. I like Amakaze, I wish he may get a kachi-koshi, but winning his first white star on the sixth day means this is somewhat unlikely.

Homarefuji sends Gagamaru out under his own inertia, and is the only sekitori from Isegahama to win a bout today. By which I’m spoiling the next bout, which is Kotoeko vs. Terunofuji who is back to haunting the dohyo rather than dominating it. Kotoeko gets inside and lifts Terunofuji up, and the ex-Ozeki sums it in his own words: “My worst executed loss so far. If I don’t move forward I’m toast”.

(Well, my free translation of his own words, that is. He never mentioned any actual toasts in the Japanese version on the Isegahama website).

Tsurugisho can open a school to teach henka technique. That was the hennest henka in Kawashiland. Excuse the Japlish.

Aminishiki continues to suffer. He tries a heroic throw at the edge but can’t keep himself in balance long enough.

Sadanoumi loses for the first time in this tournament, and now nobody has a lossless record in Juryo.

Finally, Azumaryu meets Takekaze, who seems to be the genkiest we have seen him in months. Unless he gets very tired by the second half, the bullfrog is leaping back to Makuuchi.

Makushita

Midorifuji continues his winning streak, this time facing Ichiki:

Midorifuji is yet another rikishi in the “angry pixie” class – 169cm including his chon-mage. Ichiki here is slightly taller and heavier, but the more explosive Midorifuji wins the day.

Toyonoshima faces Asahiryu, the Mongolian from Asahiyama beya, and pretty much overwhelms him:

That boy is already two years in Sumo. He should put on some more weight.

Sandanme

Let’s take a look at Hikarugenji – that’s the man I introduced in the Pearl of the Day a couple of days ago. He is Arawashi’s tsukebito, and like most tsukebito, seems to be a fixture at Sandanme:

Here he is facing Chiyodaigo, the 20-year-old from Kokonoe. Can’t say this was exactly a matta, but Chiyodaigo seems to be caught off-guard.

Jonidan

Yoshoyama faced Kotoharamoto. I don’t have an individual bout so again, here is the complete Jonidan recording, time stamped for Yoshoyama’s bout (25:36):

I’m still not loving his tachiai, but the guy has technique alright. By the way, as the wrestlers start doing their shikiri, the announcer and the guest are discussing Kotoharamoto’s good sumo body, when the guy turns and shows the camera his front side. The guest promptly says “Oh, he reminds me of Kagayaki”. Jee, I wonder why.

The announcer calls that an okuridashi, but the official kimarite is actually tottari. He first has that hand in an ottsuke, and then converts that into a tottai.

Jonokuchi

And finally, we can’t do without Hattorizakura and his continued Sisyphean sumo life:

Day 4 – Juryo and Below

Not all divisions covered this time.

enho-terutsuyoshi
Terutsuyoshi picks on someone his own size

In the battle of the muscular pixies, the more muscular and experienced pixie, that is, Terutsuyoshi, had the day.

Enho has given Terutsuyoshi all kinds of trouble there, but eventually, the Isegahama man just grabbed his head and didn’t let go. Basically, trying for a hineri on a small opponent is not the greatest idea. Kotenage, and Enho will need to look for his second win someplace else.

In the match that followed that one, Akiseyama, the spud in the mawashi, gave Takanoiwa his second loss. Takanoiwa got a mawashi grip on him, but Akiseyama took advantage of an overcommitment and sent him to the floor in a tsukiotoshi.

Fans of the Flying Monkey, Tobizaru, will enjoy seeing him in his snowy Mawashi vs. Daiseido:

This was an energetic dance all over the dohyo, ending in a hikiotoshi by Tobizaru.

And of course I won’t leave Juryo without an update on the Ghost of Terunofuji, who suddenly looks a lot less ghostly:

Not quite kaiju as yet, but that was a convincing uwatenage, and the former Ozeki has three wins in a row and is probably safe from having to bid farewall to Shunba. On the Isegahama web site, he says he should avoid complacency, and first and foremost, go for a kachi-koshi. Well, now it seems like a realistic goal.

In Makushita, let’s take a look at Midorifuji in his bout vs. Ayanoumi. This developed into quite a lengthy battle, looking most of the time more like Mongolian Wrestling than plain sumo.

No monoii there at the end, and stamina king Midorifuji has the day.

Down at Jonidan, Torakio made another appearance:

That arm and shoulder clearly still bother him, but he uses them nonetheless. And his sumo style is improving.

At Jonokuchi, Hoshoryu made a second appearance as well. Again, I couldn’t find an individual video, so here is a time-stamped video of the complete Jonokuchi set of matches:

The rival is heavy Unzendake. Hoshoryu goes on the attack and manages to get that bulk to the tawara with a lot of gaburi yori. Unzendake does not rely on his weight alone to save him and tries to repel the Mongolian and even starts a throw, but Hoshoryu claims the throw for his own and makes sure he doesn’t touch ground first. That boy doesn’t look like it’s his first sumo tournament.

In an hour or so day 5 starts, and Jonokuchi has the interesting match between Naya and Hoshoryu. It will be Naya’s first real challenge, although he did beat Hoshoryu in the past.

And of course, the Hattorizakura loss-du-jour:

“It’s not a sport. It’s a lifestyle.” A Conversation with John Gunning – Part 3

John Gunning with Tochinoshin

This is the third and final part of our chat with journalist and sumo pundit John Gunning. Click here to read part 1 and click here to read part 2 to get caught up on our conversation if you haven’t yet! Many thanks to the Inside Sport Japan founder and NHK World and Japan Times man on taking the time to chat with us and answer many reader questions. While I wish we could have asked all of our reader questions, John was very gracious and giving with his time and volunteered the opportunity to do it again.

That being said, we weren’t going to miss the opportunity to talk about someone who’s become a bit of a curiosity to Tachiai readers (and the Tachiai team itself!), so let’s start with a question about our favourite hapless rikishi…

Tachiai: On a completely different end of the spectrum, have you heard of Hattorizakura? 
JG: Yeah, yeah. Of course.
Tachiai: We’re huge fans of his enthusiasm, and the fact that he continues to have a go despite his incredible losing streak. Has there ever been anyone like that in sumo before that continues to not put up wins but just get up there on the dohyo and keep going?
JG: There have been lots of guys over the years. Do you remember Sugishita?
Tachiai: Nope.
JG: He lasted 2 years in sumo and didn’t win a single fight. He got one win by fusen-sho. And he retired soon afterwards. He was something like 0 and 40. [nb: fantastic memory – including the fusen win, he was 1-41]. People were thinking he was just doing it as a piss-take. You never know. But you have guys that go their whole 20 year careers and never get past lower Sandanme.
You get all types of people. It depends on their own motivation to be a rikishi as well. Some guys you know from day 1, if somebody comes into sumo like Baraki who’s in Kitazakura’s place –
Tachiai: Shikihide-beya. Same as Hattorizakura.
JG: He’s about 161… 163 centimetres tall, right? What’s he going to do? There’s no way… no way in hell he’s ever going to get to the top division, or even become a sekitori, it’s just an impossibility. He’s too small. So… why is he even interested?
You’ve got guys who love the sport, guys that just love the lifestyle of it, guys who may be doing it for some other reason. Maybe their grandfather or grandmother loves sumo. Maybe they just don’t have anything else to do. A lot of the kids who join sumo at 15, if they’re leaving school at junior high school level, they’re not going to go on and get their doctorate in mathematics. So, for somebody who doesn’t really have any desire to continue education, what are they going to do? They might go and work in construction or farming or something like that, and sumo is a better option for them. So they give it a go, and when they retire they can go do that other thing anyway.
I know guys like that and I ask them that question – why do you stick with it? They just love sumo, they love being a rikishi. They might not be a sekitori, but it’s still special. They’re still part of a very unique group of people. Even if you’re not a Yokozuna and you’re just in Jonidan, you’ve got the mage, so that’s something you can say. You’re on the banzuke which has been published for a few hundred years, it’s a special thing!
Tachiai: Yeah, of course. Here’s more of a cultural question from AG. He says: “Mr. Gunning, we have all seen the tensions between the ‘sumo for Japanese rikishi only’ crowd, and those who accept or even celebrate the infusion of international talent. As Japan changes demographically, how do you expect that to change?”
JG: Sumo for Japanese only rikishi crowd? In the Sumo Association or online?
Tachiai: I think he means in the fan community. Let’s say that.
JG: If it’s in the fan community, it doesn’t really affect anything. In the Sumo Association there’s no “sumo for Japanese only” feeling – it’s one of the most open to foreigner-organisations in all of Japan. I think this may be a misconception among some foreign fans, that there’s some inbuilt dislike or distrust of foreigners. Look at all of the Mongolians who have become Yokozuna.
There is the one foreigner per stable rule, but that wasn’t introduced along racial lines. It was introduced because you would have ten Hawaiian guys in the same stable, they weren’t learning Japanese, and were just hanging out. That was about protecting the culture of stables.
Tachiai: So that people would culturally assimilate?
JG: Sumo’s remit is to protect sumo, not to give way to different thoughts and ideas. So with having one foreigner per stable as a rule, it’s to ensure anyone who comes does assimilate because they don’t have a little clique where they can just live in their own culture. There are still Mongolians that do hang out together, but if you come to join sumo there are no concessions made. You become a rikishi, the same as anyone else. There are people who are racist in every walk of life, but there’s no “sumo for Japanese only” crowd or thinking like that in the Sumo Association. If people think that, then they just don’t understand the world of sumo.
Tachiai: Yamanashi is a Tachiai reader who wants to know if you are able to identify any innovators in sumo – an oyakata, or someone with new training ideas  – or someone who has invested in logistics, management, publicity, et cetera.
JG:  Hmm! There are some stables and some rikishi who do stuff in addition to the traditional sumo training. But go back to the question of “what is sumo?” Ozumo is not a sport, it’s a lifestyle. This is also a thing that people have trouble getting their heads around.
If you say, “rikishi should pull out for a year and heal up and be ready to come back,” then you’re putting a priority on tournament results over the lifestyle and doing the training of sumo. A truer sense of sumo is being a rikishi and doing sumo every day. The tournaments are part of what being a rikishi is, but the daily lifestyle of a rikishi is also part of what sumo is. Training is not a means to an end in sumo, training is what sumo is. So, you can’t just modernise that, because then you’re changing what sumo is.
You get guys who will still do stuff outside of that in addition. Like we were saying, the young guys like Mitakeumi or Takakeisho will add on extra stuff, either gym work or even working in a pool like we showed with Hokutofuji (on the NHK World Sumo preview before Hatsu). But that tends to be a much smaller part. That’s more about just improving yourself physically. You have to live the sumo lifestyle. That’s what sumo is.
You’re not going to get huge changes, but there are variations: every stable’s keiko is different. What they do is different because they’re all schools of thought, from master to student. You’ll see a variety of different types of things, but they all fall inside sumo tradition.
Shikihide makes sure all of his guys go to high school and graduate. They do yoga after training is finished. There are other oyakata who try to give a more rounded education. Like any sport, you have different coaches with different approaches, and some guys have a much more open mindset to new ideas. In some places, nothing has changed since 1750! But I wouldn’t call them innovators as such, because still everyone has to stick to what sumo is. There’s no skipping keiko and, for example, only doing resistance-band training. There’s nothing like that. Each stable still has the core of sumo training.
Tachiai: So, kind of along those lines, let’s go back to the post that you wrote in The Japan Times about the Jungyo and injuries. We’ll finish with a reader question from Bakanofuji, who says:
“Clearly you believe, and most of us fans agree, that there needs to be a series of changes in the Sumo Association geared towards injury prevention and allowing for full rehabilitation of injured wrestlers. Are there any groups within the Kyokai that are working towards making it happen? One would assume that the Rikishi Association would push for this, but it doesn’t seem like that’s in the works, potentially because some of those people will soon be oyakata themselves. Who else is there that can advocate for the rank and file wrestlers?”
There are probably about 3 or 4 questions in there for you!
JG: Clearly? Really? (laughs) I don’t know if I said that I clearly believe that or not!
I understand the questions, but again that’s making some jumps and assumptions. First of all, the rikishi association is nothing. It’s informal, they don’t have any power, they get together but don’t do anything. There isn’t a monolithic Sumo Association. The Sumo Association is a very loose group of competing interests and ideas. As I said, doing sumo training is sumo. There isn’t the push to change that, because that would change what sumo is and nobody wants that.
I’ve said lots of rikishi hate the jungyo because it’s badly organised, and it doesn’t really help the rikishi. But the problem with that is, again, going back to the sumo association’s remit, they have to popularise sumo in Japan. And a traditional way to do that is to visit the regions and local areas. Nowadays, I think it’s not required as much, because people have more access to sumo through the internet. People have a connection to sumo that they didn’t have before. People can also travel more and have more disposable income, so they see sumo live or online or in a lot of ways they couldn’t before. So sumo may not need jungyo as much as it did before, but still it’s where a lot of rikishi first encounter sumo. Like I said, I saw sumo on TV but when I first went to a tournament that’s what really kicked my sumo interest into high gear.
Tachiai: Same for me.
JG: Same for you, and also for a lot of people in Japan. Most people in Japan have no contact with sumo in a physical sense, so the first time they see a rikishi even if it’s only at a jungyo event, that can spark somebody into wanting to become a rikishi.
Obviously there’s a financial element to it as well: they get a lot of money from these places. So jungyo generates a lot of money, and it’s broadening their appeal and popularity in Japan which is key to them. There’s a competing tension to that: it may not be good for the rikishi in a physical sense. But again, the Sumo Association is run by older people who had a much harder time when they were young, so they feel that “young guys these days are soft and should toughen up!” (laughs). There’s that mentality too!
So, I don’t think there’s any big push to change it. Rikishi moan and complain about it, and it doesn’t help, but it’s not that bad either. You can pace yourself on jungyo if you want. I might have overemphasised the rikishi complaining a little bit.
It’s a contact sport! People are going to get injured regardless, whether they’re at home or not. You can’t avoid it. I never broke a bone in my life until I did sumo, and then I shattered my arm top-to-bottom in 3 places, I fractured my skull, I broke teeth. I didn’t do keiko once without ending up injured. You’re smashing into people on a hard surface, with no protection: that’s going to injure you. It’s almost inevitable! That’s the nature of it, and the nature of sumo is essentially being able to fight through those injuries. That’s the mental thing, you know?
Tachiai: Thanks again for taking the time to chat with us. 
JG: No problem!
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Day 13 – It’s Georgia. Not the US state, the country.

The Makuuchi Chamipionship is all but determined, as Tochinoshin goes from chasing to being chased. But before we make ourselves familiar with the Caucasus and the Georgian cuisine, rich in walnuts and cheeses, we already have a champion today – in the Makushita division.

wakatakakage
Your shikona is Wakatakakage. Now repeat that 10 times at high speed.

The schedulers matched Wakatakakage (Ms #17) with the other yusho contender, Tochiseiryu (Ms #47). Both came into the bout with 6-0.

Tochiseiryu’s pre-bout looks similar to Tochiozan’s, doesn’t it? Anyway, W.T.K. dispatches of him easily, as the difference in rank would suggest, and wins a zensho-yusho. I believe his position is just below the Juryo promotion line, though, and in any case the upper Makushita have many kachi-koshi wrestlers waiting for one of the (probably 7) open Juryo positions.

One of those on line for those 7 positions is Prince Enho, who today had a battle for the kachi-koshi with Shonannoumi. Both coming into this match 3-3.

Ah… Enho… I guess with Hakuho’s royal feet being kyujo, Enho has to settle for taking lessons from Ishiura. Which is not something I’d recommend. What’s with the henka? Was that really necessary?

OK, I’ll try my hand at a bit of demotion-promotion speculation. Here is a summary of the situation of the bottom of Juryo:

#14E Akua Make-koshi, only four wins so far.
#14W Kizenryu Make-koshi, only three wins so far.
#12E Yamaguchi Make-koshi, only two wins so far.
#12W Tochihiryu Make-koshi, only four wins so far.
#11E Ura Full kyujo due to surgery.
#9W Toyohibiki Full kyujo due to injury.
#8W Osunaarashi 1 win. Kyujo due to scandal. Drop from Juryo certain, may face retirement.

The others in between are either kachi-koshi or minimal make-koshi. So these are seven potential slots, though I suppose Tochihiryu may still be saved.

The situation at the top of Makushita is:

#1E Yago kachi-koshi
#1W Terutsuyoshi kachi-koshi
#2W Shimanoumi kachi-koshi
#3W Tobizaru kachi-koshi
#4W Akiseyama kachi-koshi
#6E Enho kachi-koshi
#7E Takayoshitoshi kachi-koshi

So Takayoshitoshi is on the bubble, it seems, but he still has one bout to go, and if he wins it, he’ll have a better kachi-koshi than Enho and may pass him in on the promotion line.

Down in Sandanme, unfortunately, Torakio suffered an injury. I will not post his bout from yesterday as I don’t like to share videos of people rolling around in pain. He could not return to the dohyo for his bout after his loss, and he is now on the kyujo list. He will be make-koshi. Too bad to have an injury at such an early stage of his career, let’s hope it’s not as bad as it looked – shoulder and arm issue).

I’m not going to give you the Hattorizakura video this time – because the kid is back to his old way, walking backward just being looked at, which is a real shame. Anyway, he has now completed is usual set of 7 losses, and will have to wait until Haru to show us some progress again.

Tomorrow Yoshoyama-Osumifuji, both 3-3, vying for the kachi-koshi.

Up in Juryo, Kyokutaisei has ensured his kachi-koshi, and being Juryo #1, has ensured his promotion to Makuuchi. The papers make much of the fact that he is from Hokkaido, but I’m making much of the fact that he is from Tomozuna beya (Kaisei’s heya), and will therefore help the Isegahama ichimon a little bit in the coming power rankings. 🙂

kyokutaisei-kachi-koshi
Kyokutaisei vs. Takagenji

Mitoryu has also ensured his kachi-koshi and will continue wearing his kesho-mawashi for a second tournament.

If you’re interested in the Juryo bouts, there’s this channel where the owner seems to upload each of the lower division’s complete bouts a few hours after each day ends.

So… we go up to Makuuchi, and what do we see?

Sokokurai trying hard to stay at Makuuchi. Today he faced Yutakayama who is still looking for a kachi-koshi. He can’t get a mawashi hold on Yutakayama, but eventually sidesteps and gets a hikiotoshi.

Today Ishiura decided to go for plain, forward-moving sumo. Maybe because Daishomaru is not much taller than he is. And what do you know, it worked! He grabs Daishomaru’s mawashi with his left hand and shows him the way out, yori-kiri.

Kotoyuki gets an easy one against Daiamami. They call this a tsukitaoshi, but I’d say it was a tsukite (which is a hiwaza).

The ghost of Terunofuji meets Takekaze and gives the old man a little more padding against the Juryo drop. Terunofuji unable to do a proper tachiai, let alone keep from being pushed.

A… Asanoyama… where are you? Who is that scarecrow who mounts the dohyo in your place in the second week? Chiyomaru needed exactly half a second to pull Asanoyama to the ground. Is Asanoyama sitting too close to the Isegahama guys in the shitakubeya or what?

Shohozan makes short work of Daieisho, who seems to have lost his will to do sumo once he secured his kachi-koshi. Shohozan gets in a couple of harite, then wraps Daieisho’s body and flips him for a sukuinage.

Abi really looks like he is enjoying his work, even during the actual bout. He got Kaisei, who has a huge weight advantage on him. He starts as usual with a “morotezuki”, which means he thrusts with both hands. Then he sidesteps and nearly gets Kaisei off-balance. Kaisei stays on his feet but it’s enough for Abi to grab at his mawashi, turn him around and send him out by okuri-dashi. What weight advantage? The youngster is 9-4, and may actually get one of those sansho prizes he talked about.

Chiyonokuni seems to have improved once he got his make-koshi. He starts with his tsuppari attack before Nishikigi completes his tachiai, and then pulls for a tsukiotoshi.

Chiyoshoma gets in for a fine tachiai, but Kagayaki gets a grip on his belt, and they start dancing around the dohyo. Although Chiyoshoma manages to escape from that grip, that wild dance ends with him putting a foot outside the dohyo. Kagayaki secures his first kachi-koshi since Natsu.

The shimpan gave poor old Aminishiki a real scare. This match was nervous for both him and Ikioi (which one is more injured?), with two mattas to begin with. And then he threw a flying henka and somehow managed to get Ikioi down  before he ran out of dohyo. Not his usual precision, though. Anyway, Konosuke called it Aminishiki’s. The shimpan called a monoii. And as Kintamayama will tell you, a monoii on Konosuke’s shift is an exercise in futility. Finally the shimpan agree that Konosuke is right, and the head shimpan tries to explain the decision. But he seems to be in his cups – mutters and forgets what he wanted to say. He goes as far as saying that it was a “gunbai sashi-chigae” – which it certainly was not, before the crowd’s murmur wakes him up and he corrects himself and lets Aminishiki get his kensho. Poor Uncle.

Ryuden gets a better start than Takarafuji, but Takarafuji manages to get his left hand inside, which is his favorite grip. Ryuden circles and squirms and gets rid of that hand, while himself maintaining a hold on Takarafuji’s mawashi. A battle of grips ensues. Takarafuji gets Ryuden’s hand off his mawashi, but Ryuden still has a hold on his body. Ryuden tries to make a throw. Loses the mawashi grip he momentarily regained. Takarafuji manages to lock both Ryuden’s arm in front of his chest. But at this point Takarafuji runs out of stamina and eventually Ryuden yori-kiri’s him. I hope Takarafuji hasn’t contracted that Isegahama flu. Ryuden is an excellent wrestler, and I believe we’ll see him in sanyaku at some point. And yes, he has 9 wins, like Abi, and may also become a sansho winner.

Endo starts by pulling and sending a couple of slaps in Kotoshogiku‘s direction. Grabs at Kotoshogiku’s hand, then converts that into a right-hand-inside mawashi grip with Kotoshogiku between him and the tawara. Kotoshogiku dances and gains some ground. Grabs at Endo’s right hand and tries for a kotenage. Endo manages to retain his footing. Kotoshogiku still has his right hand, but he has his left on Kotoshogiku’s torso. He then pushes against the right hand – the one Kotoshogiku is still latched onto – for a yori-kiri. Excellent match, and Endo gets a kachi-koshi.

Ichinojo and Tochinoshin… what is a yusho-related bout doing here, so early in the day? Well, Ichinojo and Tochinoshin grab at each other’s mawashi right off the tachiai. It’s a migi-yotsu and both of them have firm mawashi grips on both sides. So who’s going to be stronger? For a moment it looks undecided, but Ichinojo loses his left hand grip, and Tochinoshin goes for the kill. Ichinojo sticks to the tawara – good boy! But Tochinoshin applies some sideways force and gets Ichinojo out. Titanic.

ichinojo-tochinoshin
Note to self: don’t try tsuri-dashi again on this guy

Hokutofuji comes in strong at Yoshikaze. The man in the green mawashi seems not to have completely recovered from yesterday’s Force-choke. Hokutofuji finally gets to show the sumo he became famous for. Oshidashi.

Chiyotairyu overwhelms Takakeisho who once again finds himself flying off the dohyo (and into Arawashi’s lap). Oshitaoshi.

Shodai once again comes straight off the tachiai into a morozashi. But Tamawashi gets himself released and answers with an expert tsuppari attack that sends Shodai outside, looking for his kachi-koshi elsewhere.

Arawashi, still suffering the effects of a Takakeisho bomb landing on him, has to suffer yet again as the Takayasu locomotive slams into him. Boom! Seismographs around Tokyo register a level 3 tremor while the Eagle flies into Goeido’s arms. Sitting on the East side of the dohyo today has been a serious health risk. Takayasu gets double digits for the first time since his Ozeki run.

Goeido gets a grip on Okinoumi‘s body and pushes forward, though it looks half-hearted. Gets his 7th win. Will try to get his kachi-koshi vs. Mitakeumi tomorrow.

And now, the musubi-no-ichiban. It’s a bit of an anti-climax as we already know that Tochinoshin maintained his lead. But let’s see…

Mitakeumi just lifts the Yokozuna’s upper part with his left hand and pushes forward. Kakuryu finds himself backpaddling again. And out again. And… the yusho flies away, probably never to return.

kakuryu-meter-hatsu-2018-day13

The Yokozuna has his Yokozuna kachi-koshi, that’s true. But this crumble at money time is bound to raise murmurs among the YDC this Monday. One of the guys on Twitter wrote something along the lines of: “In the first few days, all my friends were saying Kakuryu stands up to pressure much better than Harumafuji. I had to nod. But now we can see the real difference, because Harumafuji’s nerves held up much better once the yusho was on the table”.

The Yokozuna still has a couple of days to improve his score. But the chances that Tochinoshin will drop two consecutive bouts are very slim. And who knows if it’s the Yokozuna who’ll be doing the playoff with him if that happens.

Yusho Arasoi:

Leader (12-1): M3 Tochinoshin

Chasers (10-3):

  • Yokozuna Kakuryu
  • Ozeki Takayasu

Tomorrow those two face each other, and oh boy, Takayasu looks much better at the moment.

So, start learning about Georgia, because it sure looks like the Emperor’s Cup is going there right now.

 

Day 8 – What an exciting “nakabi”!

The 8th day of a basho is called “nakabi” – 中日 – “middle day”. This exciting basho produced a no-less exciting nakabi, from bottom to top!

One nakabi tradition is the presentation of shin-deshi – new wrestlers who passed their maezumo this basho. So, leading the group is the young Naya, wearing his grandfather, Taiho’s, kesho-mawashi. Third, in the yellow kesho-mawashi, is Hoshoryu. No, he’s not wearing his uncle’s kesho-mawashi. That’s actually Akua’s spiffy new kesho-mawashi.

I believe this is the last we’ll see of these two for a while. Now they have to work hard to make promise reality.

Once again, I give you Hattorizakura. No, he still hasn’t managed to win, but the boy is showing real tenacity of late, and I’m sure that win is going to come:

This bout was nearly 2 minutes long!

Now, how long do you think Enho can hold on without breathing? His bout today was certainly an attempt to answer that question:

Talk about David and Goliath… By the way, that yobidashi who calls their names in the beginning sure has an impressive voice.

And what is happening with Torakio? Does he have the flu or what? His bout today was… somewhat disappointing:

Ouch.

Up we go to Makuuchi.

Abi decided to start the Makuuchi bouts with a flying henka. Attempts to pull Daiamami down, but it doesn’t work, so he works in some of his usual tsuki-oshi. Daiamami ends out flying outside for a tsuki-dashi. If you’re so strong, Abi, why do you have to henka?

Takekaze continues to slip slidin’ away. Yutakayama is lucky that the veteran is in such dire straits. He can’t seem to find his footing anymore. Too bad.

Sokokurai, on the other hand, finally shows some of the effects of experience. Keeps Ishiura‘s head away from his body. Ishiura tries to grab him by the arm. Doesn’t work. Holds Ishiura at arm’s length by his shoulders, but Ishiura manages to land his head in for his specialty torpedo… only Sokokurai grabs his mawashi from above, squats, and Ishiura finds himself on his knees.

Asanoyama manages to get a quick grip at Kagayaki. With Asanoyama being the yotsu man and Kagayaki the tsuki-oshi man, you’d think this favors Asanoyama. But Kagayaki is the one who lands a convincing uwatenage and Asanoyama finds himself on all fours and says bye-bye to the yusho race.

Now that we know that Daiamami pulls at his nose in his prebout, let’s introduce you to Ryuden‘s pre-bout routine: ragdoll on springs. He shakes and bounces. Kotoyuki starts this bout with an oshi attack, but bouncy-ball Ryuden bounces back from the tawara, gets a grip on Kotoyuki and yori-kiris him.

Daishomaru  makes short work of Nishikigi in the battle of the bottle-green mawashis, simply overpowering the Isenoumi man.

And in the bout of the wine-red mawashis, Daieisho puts an end to Chiyomaru‘s little series of wins. Comes at the eternally-round Kokonoe man from below and pushes him right out despite his tsuppari.

Takarafuji fights Shohozan for a grip – it’s really fascinating to see the battle of arms down there below their chests. The Isegahama heya-gashira (highest ranking deshi in a heya… yes… he is…) lands first a right-hand-outside, then his favorite left-hand-inside. From this point it’s all Takarafuji, in a battle of two very muscular men. We keep laughing at Takarafuji for having no neck, but the man certainly has shoulders and arms. Takarafuji: “I’m glad I broke out of my consecutive loss habit”.

Kaisei gets a firm grip on Ikioi‘s mawashi. Ikioi tries for a morozashi, but fails to get one before being pushed out. Apparently he has an ankle injury, which may serve as an explanation for his really bad form this basho.

Chiyonokuni tries every trick in the book against Okinoumi. First tsuppari, nodowa, then grabs on to Okinoumi’s arm. Tries a trip. Then finally he pulls at Okinoumi’s neck for a hatakikomi. The shimpan call a monoii, questioning whether Chiyonokuni may have pulled on Okinoumi’s mage. It looked like it from one angle – but no, the replay is very clear. Konosuke is right as usual, and Chiyonokuni got his white star fair and square.

Tochiozan doesn’t wait much time before landing Endo on the floor. Endo’s sumo is not stable.

Now, the next match was between Chiyoshoma and Arawashi. I have to say, though some pictures make them look very similar, I don’t really see why people will be confused between them. Anyway, Chiyoshoma on his fast attack, going for a hari-zashi (slap-and-grab) again,  then helps Arawashi out with his knee. Yori-kiri.

Tochinoshin got Yoshikaze today. Yoshikaze wisely not letting the Incredible Hulk anywhere near his Mawashi. So Tochinoshin just runs a tsuppari attack, which turns out to be effective and Yoshikaze finds himself out. Tochinoshin keeps himself in the chaser group.

tochinoshin-yoshikaze

Tochinoshin: “I just couldn’t grab the mawashi. So with my heart thumping I went for the tsuppari.”

Next we had two tadpoles meeting – Hokutofuji and Onosho. This was a push-me-pull-you bout which ended with Hokutofuji on his knees. Personally, I don’t like that sumo. Red mawashi comes on top. Hokutofuji not having the best basho of his life.

Mitakeumi, with 7-0, got intimate with the Mongolian boulder, Ichinojo, who quite quickly got a left hand outside. Mitakeumi works hard to deny Ichinojo the right hand inside on his mawashi, and tries to be patient. But patience doesn’t necessarily pay when you have 215kg leaning on you. Ichinojo can sleep riding a horse. He can also sleep leaning. Eventually Ichinojo wakes up, decides Mitakeumi is not so warm and fluffy that he should stay there much longer, and pushes the sekiwake to the edge. Mitakeumi drops to the chaser group.

mitakeumi-ichinojo

Tamawashi finally looks a little more like a sekiwake, pushing Kotoshogiku quickly away. I suspect the coconut clash there at the beginning might have had something to do with it. Tamawashi has had his skull rattled rather a lot this basho, I hope this doesn’t have long lasting effects.

Goeido goes into a nirami-ai (staredown) with Chiyotairyu right when they are supposed to be matching their breaths. This backfires, and Chiyotairyu gets his first on-dohyo win in this basho, giving the Ozeki the same de-ashi (forward-moving sumo) he usually gives his opponents when he boots up in the proper mode.

Takayasu is matched with another tadpole – Takakeisho – and decides to do some tadpole sumo. Push, pull, and now it’s Takakeisho on all fours. Did I mention that I don’t like this sumo? Anyway, the big bear wins. Oh, and if you haven’t noticed, he opened up with a hari-zashi (slap-and-grab). Do you want to be a yokozuna, Takayasu?

Finally, the musubi-no-ichiban. Could the new Shodai dent the invincible Kakuryu’s dragon scales? The tachiai looks pretty convincing, and Shodai begins to advance, but by his second step Kakuryu has a secure overarm grip on his mawashi, and just pulls. Pulls so hard, in fact, that Shodai finds himself flat on his face, and Kakuryu is checking to see if his elbow is still connected.

kakuryu-shodai

Michinoku oyakata, who served as Abema TV’s commentator for today, is asked about Kakuryu’s performance following his kyujo issues and all. He says “His sumo is much better than it was before he went kyujo”. Kakuryu hasn’t had a 8-0 opening since he won his last yusho in Kyushu 2016.

kakuryu-meter-hatsu-2018-day7

Our kakuryumeter remains the same, full to the top. The papers make much of the fact that Kakuryu secured his kachi-koshi, but we all know that this is not a Yokozuna kachi-koshi just yet, and Kakuryu himself says “I don’t care about that, there are 7 days to go”.

Yusho arasoi

8-0: Yokozuna Kakuryu.

7-1:

  • Sekiwake Mitakeumi
  • M3 Tochinoshin
  • M13 Daieisho

But tomorrow this chaser list will be down to no more than two, with Mitakeumi facing Tochinoshin.

Day 6 – It’s not easy being an Ozeki

First, I would have liked to bring you news of Hattorizakura’s first win, but alas, he lost his 70th consecutive bout today. However, this has been one of the best efforts we have seen from the “Inverted Hakuho” so far:

And if you want to see more of Hoshoryu, and how he looks when his rival isn’t Naya, here’s today’s maezumo:

(I have no idea why One And Only calls him Toyoshoryu. Both the yobidashi and the gyoji are pretty clear).

Sumidagawa from Naruto beya is currently the only one in his heya still in zanbara. He is also two losses to one win now:

And alas, Enho is having a worse time than we thought he would have at this level of Makushita:

…and with a rival who can’t seem to be able to bend his knees enough for the tachiai.

enho-has-the-sads
Enho today, doesn’t seem very happy

So, let’s ascend to Makuuchi and check what happened there today.

Just before Asanoyama starts his bout with Ishiura, the announcer wonders aloud “What is Asanoyama going to do about Ishiura’s quick movements?” The answer seems to be “Tsuppari, not let him get inside, and push him out within seconds”.

asanoyama-ishiura
“See there, that’s the tawara. Go to the other side. Thank you.”

If Asanoyama stays 7-0 tomorrow, don’t be surprised to find him matched with Tochinoshin the next day or so.

Nishikigi is not letting go of Makuuchi easily. Daiamami pulls at his nose and attacks, but Nishikigi takes a hold of his right arm and drags him to the edge for a quick kotenage. BTW, the gyoji who announced the torikumi just before the bouts began doesn’t know who Daiamami is, calling him “Oamami” instead (it’s an alternative reading of the same kanji).

Takekaze, on the other hand, seems to be past his swan song. Ryuden gets a grip on him very easily and pushes him out. Oshidashi, and Ryuden now even at 3-3. Takekaze worked very hard pumping iron before the basho – he was the only one in the gym during the New Year’s break – but those muscles are not bringing back his sumo.

Sokokurai is also in dire straits, and may find himself right back in Juryo, with Daieisho pushing him out faster than you can say “ah” (that’s an actual Japanese phrase). Daieisho is, in fact, in the chaser list for the Yusho, with only one loss so far.

Abi gets slapped down in another oshi match with Daishomaru. If Abi could learn yotsu zumo, which is a bit unlikely given his shisho, he may become known as the Yokozuna with the most beautiful dohyo-iri in history. Just sayin’.

Shohozan goes for a slap-fest with Kotoyuki. The latter finds himself rolling down the dohyo. What’s the bowling score for hitting 3 pins, er, spectators?

Kotoyuki may be pissed off because of Shohozan’s harite off the tachiai. In the first days of the basho, nobody was doing that. There was some speculation that this was due to the criticism Hakuho got for this move. Shohozan decided to break the “taboo”, and he is not the last one doing that today.

Chiyomaru vs. Tochiozan. “Ah”… And the Kokonoe man wins.

Chiyonokuni attacks Takarafuji with his trademark barrage of tsuppari. Takarafuji defends and defends, and tries to get an arm inside. He knows why: as soon as his left arm is inside, he pushes Chiyonokuni out like a rag doll. Currently Takarafuji is the only ray of light at Isegahama. 😲

Okinoumi finally looks more like himself against Chiyoshoma. The Kokonoe Mongolian still hasn’t mastered the channeling of Harumafuji as well as he would have liked. He finds himself hugged and with no room for one of his throws, and hurts his ankle in the process. I guess mimicking the Horse means his injuries as well…

Shodai uses an effective tachiai to… Wait, what did I just write? The words “Shodai”, “effective” and “tachiai” are shocked to find themselves together in the same sentence. But so it is. Shodai secures a quick morozashi on Endo and pushes him out. Perhaps his win against Ichinojo was not so much Ichinojo’s fault as I thought it was.

Ikioi seems to be in deep trouble, with only one win to his name so far, with Arawashi converting his attempt at a sukuinage into a beautiful sotogake. Kintamayama says Arawashi has bad knees, and that’s obvious from the mummy-like bandaging, but I suspect Ikioi also has some trouble in that department.

This sums up the low-to-middle maegashira. But the joi bouts is where the excitement is! Let’s move straight on to Tochinoshin vs. Takakeisho. Which style will win, Takakeisho’s in-and-out tsuki-oshi, or Tochinoshin’s “Red Incredible Hulk” mode?

Well, Takakeisho got as far as pushing Tochinoshin to one side and trying to send him out. This got Tochinoshin angry. And this Incredible Hulk (a) turns red rather than green when he’s mad, and (b) wraps the puny meatball of a rikishi in front of him with his long arm and shows him how sumo is supposed to be done. Tochinoshin still riding the zensho train!

Mitakeumi doesn’t even bother with any tsuppari, where Hokutofuji may have an advantage over him. He just applies force as if Hokutofuji was giving him a butsukari. Mitakeumi looks like he seriously wants that next rank, and with two Yokozuna missing again – who knows?

And here comes the second harizashi of the day (“slap and grab”). While the first one was just a slap, not a grab, Ichinojo goes for the full monty. What taboo? I want to win, dammit. Tamawashi barely knows which Mongolian mountain hit him before he hits the bottom of the dohyo with his head. I hope he’s alright.

Goeido meets the Yokozuna bane, Yoshikaze, and finds out that he also keeps a side job as an Ozeki bane. This was over so fast Goeido may still be wondering if the bout took place. The Ozeki finds himself, again, out of the yusho race – unless all four leaders drop two more bouts. My guess is that he’ll just concentrate on not going kadoban from now on.

yoshikaze-goeido
Yoshikaze. After a slow start, now a candidate for the Outsanding Performance Award

Takayasu prepared his usual kachiage for Onosho, but the red mawashi would have none of that. Blocking him with his outstretched arm, he started his own attack, and combined with an unfortunate slip, Takayasu joins Goeido in the “Maybe next time” club.

Maybe this is the time to pause and comment that both Takayasu and Kisenosato suffer from “koshi daka”… “high pelvis”, if you please. Meaning that their stance gets too high and unstable. This is a shame, because stability and balance used to be the Tagonoura brothers’ specialty. The combination of two injured rikishi losing their dohyo sense, followed by them mostly practicing with each other, may be the cause for both men’s troubles. This is why there are still some in the NSK who believe that Kisenosato can redeem himself – by curing that koshi-daka. The problem is less pronounced with Takayasu, of course, who is not permanently damaged, has been off the dohyo a shorter time, and has practiced with more people than did the damaged Yokozuna.

Ah, what, did I leave you hanging in the air? Let’s go to the musubi-no-ichiban. And what a bout that was! Kotoshogiku determined to show he is still Ozeki material, grabs Kakuryu right from the start and starts his gaburi attack. The Yokozuna hurriedly dances hither and tither, on the one hand evading the tawara, and on the other, looking for a grip. When he finally finds one, the two stop, assess the situation, and finally Kotoshogiku attacks again. And then, Kakuryu reverses that attack into his own attack and leads the former Ozeki out. He sure was winded when that ended.

tired-kakuryu
Man, this is tiring work

So the Yokozuna maintains his record. Let’s look at the Yokozuna situation at the moment:

yokozunameter-hatsu-2018-day6

So we have one Yokozuna carrying the basho on his shoulders (unpaid), and two Yokozuna undergoing repairs. And I think neither of them will be putting his main effort into the injury that he submitted on his medical certificate. Hakuho will have to figure out a winning tachiai technique or two. Kisenosato, who actually ran out of injuries and had to report his original one (“aggravated by a hit to the chest”) as the reason for his kyujo, will have to work on that koshidaka. And if that doesn’t work, he’ll have to work on a new hairstyle.

Yusho Arasoi

6-0

  • Yokozuna Kakuryu
  • Sekiwake Mitakeumi
  • M3 Tochinoshin
  • M16 Asanoyama

5-1

  • M9 Shohozan
  • M13 Daieisho

Tomorrow the leader list is going to be down one man, as Kakuryu is to face Tochinoshin. Will kakuryu lose a notch in my meter, or will he prevail against the Incredible Hulk? Don’t miss the next episode of Hatsu 2018!

 

Hattorizakura’s Day 1 Bout: The Dead Opponent *Corrected*

If you ever needed an example of a “dead” opponent, you’ll find it in today’s bout between Ishihara and Hattorizakura. As a refresher, Hattorizakura’s career is the epitome of futility. Aki was his eighth straight winless tournament. His bouts are more sumo out-takes than sumo highlights. Today was no exception but is likely the most clear cut example of how the technical “rules” of sumo are overturned to favor the dominant party rather than the one who merely was last to touch the ground. And it’s in this bout where I think we see the reason for no mono-ii in the later Goeido bout.

On paper, Hattorizakura comes into almost every bout as an instant underdog. His 70kg of mass was doubled by Ishihara’s 140, so his supposed arm-wrestling prowess aside, he was not going to be much of a match. As a small guy, he never seems to even attempt to demonstrate Harumafuji’s will to win, Ura’s flexibility, Ishiura’s trickery, or the agility of Urutora.

Click for video
Today, Ishihara wanted to take no chances so he simply secured morozashi, two handed belt grip, lifted the string bean, and walked him over the straw bales. However, Ishihara forgot to keep himself in bounds. He actually stepped over the bales first before gently setting his prone opponent down. No mono-ii needed, karmic justice is served, and the true winner of this bout walked away with a white star. No one enjoys seeing someone win “on a technicality”.

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Aki: Wrapping up the “Ones to Watch”

Enho

Many thanks to the readers of the blog who have mentioned that they liked digging into the interesting rikishi making their way through the lower reaches of the banzuke. We’ll look to make this a regular feature: picking a selection of guys who are interesting for some reason ahead of the basho, catching up with their progress midway through, and then seeing whether those story lines continued after the conclusion of the basho.

Of course, for many, many rikishi down in the lower divisions, the road is “long and winding” and their progress cannot be judged on one tournament alone. So, some rikishi will be featured next time out, while other rikishi with interesting stories may replace some of the crop from Aki 2017. Either way, I’ll be trying to keep it at around 20 rikishi per tournament and I look forward to Tachiai readers sharing stories of the lower division rikishi that they are following, as well.

Makushita

Ms3 Kizaki (Kise) – I had been very bullish on Kizaki, a rikishi who had never fallen to a make-koshi before Aki. However, the streak will always end somewhere and it ended at Ms3, so Kizaki will need to take a step back and we won’t see him in Juryo until at least Haru, barring a zensho next time out. Unfortunately, a very strong group of opponents provided a stern learning curve. Although he did beat a Juryo opponent in the demotion-bound Kitaharima, he couldn’t repeat the trick against Yago in his final bout and ended up 3-4.

Ms14 Mitoryu (Nishikido) – Mitoryu has been much hyped and delivered his best result yet, with a 6-1 record that should see him near the top end of the Makushita listings in Kyushu. Again barring a zensho yusho (which is possible given that he only coughed up the yusho on his final bout, to the eventual winner), he’ll likely need a couple more strong tournaments and it may be March at the earliest that we’d see him as a sekitori.

Ms16 Wakatakakage (Arashio) vs Ms16 Murata (Takasago) – These two had identical career records all the way until day 10 of this tournament, and had been quick movers, starting out their careers 18-3 over their first three tournaments. Wakatakakage finished the Aki basho 4-3 to Murata’s 3-4, the difference effectively coming down to their head to head on day 1.

Ms30 Ikegawa (Hakkaku) – Ikegawa started his career strong and I picked this as a bellwether tournament to see whether he could continue his recent progress at the level, which had slowed considerably. Ikegawa took another backward step here en route to a 3-4 record.

Ms56 Obamaumi (Sakaigawa) – I loved the story of this rikishi coming back from a very long layoff to force his way up the banzuke and to a career high in Nagoya. This was his second chance to establish himself in the third tier but he looks to have passed up the opportunity, going 3-4.

Ms57 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – The past few paragraphs make for grim reading, but here’s another pick we got right: Ichiyamamoto is a former university man who has absolutely cruised through the divisions so far and he’s set for another big promotion after a 6-1 record that saw him react to a second-bout loss to another yusho challenger in Asakoki by rattling off 5 straight wins.

Sandanme

Sd2 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – Nishikifuji started his career with a pair of zensho yusho and looked to be a fast mover but he’s found the Sandanme division tougher to negotiate. He’s still impressively made it through in no more than 4 tournaments, and will fight in the third tier for the powerhouse Isegahama-beya in Kyushu, having notched another 4-3 record this time out.

Sd11 Ryuko (Onoe) – I liked Ryuko as it seemed he was fighting below his level when compared to his more esteemed counterparts in Wakatakakage and Murata. This was confirmed as he cruised to a 5-2 that will probably see him promoted, having coughed up both losses to extremely difficult opponents – the first to the next man on this list and the second to Makushita yusho-challenger Asakoki.

Sd18 Enho (Miyagino) – The young rockstar of Miyagino-beya takes the yusho in some style after winning the only lower division playoff of this tournament. While his career record officially starts 21-0 after a remarkable three consecutive zensho yusho in the three bottom divisions, adding in playoffs and Maezumo you can consider it 25 consecutive wins to open his career. Given where the past several Sandanme champions have landed on the following banzuke, we will likely see him well inside the top half of the division and probably somewhere around Makushita 15-20 for Kyushu. Were he to repeat the trick again, he’d be Juryo bound in time for Hatsu but it will likely take him a few tournaments to cope with the jump in competition.

Sd68 Fukuyama (Fujishima) vs Sd71 Tanabe (Kise) – Going into this tournament the incredible stat here was that Fukuyama had only ever lost to Tanabe, who in turn had only ever lost to Enho. And after they posted identical 6-1 records yet again, nothing has changed. Fukuyama coughed up his sole defeat to Tanabe on Day 6, while the schedulers threw the 6-0 Tanabe up against the 6-0 Enho for their final scheduled bouts and, well, you know the rest. The cool thing is that we are getting to see some nice rivalries develop. These guys should both be pushing for promotion from somewhere around Sandanme 5-15 next time out. I’ve taken lumps before for asking minor questions of the NSK on the banzuke, but it will be incredible if they continue to rank Fukuyama above Tanabe next time.

Here’s Enho’s spirited zensho clinching win over the larger Tanabe (who will need to work on his Hatakikomi technique):

Jonidan

Jd4 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – As has been covered extensively, our main man Wakaichiro posted another kachi-koshi with a 4-3 record, and will find himself up a division in Sandanme next time out. Congratulations Wakaichiro!

Jd15 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – Tomokaze held the Jonokuchi yusho and I’m always interested to follow rikishi who can repeat the trick. He turned out not to be one of them as he coughed up an early loss, but should find himself comfortably promoted to the fourth tier in Fukuoka and will have a chance to continue to challenge for honors.

Jonokuchi

Jk25 Shoji (Musashigawa) vs Jk26 Torakio (Naruto) – I loved this battle of first timers on the banzuke. My pre-basho pick for the yusho was Shoji and he indeed delivered a zensho for his first career title. Torakio was the one man I thought might be able to stop him and he really came close, just losing their head to head and finishing 6-1. These guys may sweep all comers again in Jonidan, so we’ll continue to track their respective progress. Torakio, a rare Bulgarian rikishi, will no doubt attract interest – and here he is knocking off stubborn Jk1 Fukuazuma on his final bout:

Jk18 Sawanofuji (Isegahama) vs Jk28 Hattorizakura (Shikihide) – I called this the fight for futility and these two continued to deliver. Hattorizakura put up a remarkable 8th consecutive 0-7 tournament that leaves the enthusiast rooted to the bottom of the banzuke, and it will be interesting if the NSK ranks him above any newcomers at all next time out. I really want this guy to put together a nice run of results and at least get a promotion to Jonidan at some point in his career – perhaps a run of fixtures against a handful of 15 year olds at some point will see him someday get those magical 4 wins. As for Sawanofuji, his 2-5 record was artificially propped up by a fusen win. Whether he can muster a win against anyone not named Hattorizakura again, we’ll have to wait until November to find out.

Conclusion

Of the 18 competitive rikishi we picked this time out, we saw 12 kachi-koshi against 6 make-koshi (I’m not counting Hattorizakura and Sawanofuji), and yusho winners in 2 of the 4 divisions. I’m fairly happy with a 67% hit rate – while the goal isn’t simply to pick winners but interesting narratives, continued success and progress up the banzuke is certainly a part of the story. We’ll continue to follow a number of these guys, as well as add in some interesting stories next time out.

Thanks to YouTube’s incredible “One & Only” for the videos as ever.

Aki: Catching up on the “Ones to Watch”

Before the beginning of Aki, I selected 20 rikishi from the lower divisions to follow throughout the tournament, including some intriguing duels. While most of their selections were down to their impressive talent and track record in the areas of the banzuke we don’t usually cover, others were feel good stories — and in a couple cases down to potentially historic futility.

Makushita

Ms3 Kizaki (Kise) – Kizaki, who’s never suffered a make-koshi, got off to a rough start against should-have-been promotion contender Kotodaigo on Day 1. But he’s rebounded nicely to a 3-1 record, enhancing his promotion credentials if he can keep his win streak going. He faces Oitekaze’s Juryo rebound candidate Tobizaru on Day 9, who is also 3-1. The two men have never met in the ring.

Ms14 Mitoryu (Nishikido) – Challenging for the yusho at 4-0, he’s now won 8 straight matches going back to Nagoya. He’s not had a particularly easy schedule but it will intensify as he goes for his 5th win on Day 9, when he comes up against 4-0 Ms3 Masunosho.

Ms16 Wakatakagake (Arashio) vs Ms16 Murata (Takasago) – I noted before the tournament that these guys had tracked each other’s results with career 18-3 records and that has continued, as both are 2-2. Wakatakakage knocked off Murata head-to-head on Day 1. They won’t be in action again until at least Day 10.

Ms30 Ikegawa (Hakkaku) – After a promising start to his career, I marked this as an interesting basho to watch for Ikegawa who is fighting at a career high level, having reached it not without some difficulties. The difficulties may continue, as he’s 1-3.

Ms56 Obamaumi (Sakaigawa) – Obamaumi was my pick to follow as he has a second chance at consolidating his Makushita status, having stormed up to a new career high after a year-long layoff. He’s 2-2 after fortunately picking up a fusen win on Day 7 so he’s got a decent shot to hang in there.

Ms57 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – Ichiyamamoto has cruised through the lower levels after entering in Maezumo following University. That looks set to continue as he’s off to a 3-1 start, but will face a potentially stiff challenge on Day 9 in the also 3-1 Aomihama of Dewanoumi-beya.

Sandanme

Sd2 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – Nishikifuji looks set for a promotion as he’s 3-1 here, his sole loss coming from a visit to Makushita against Ichiyamamoto’s next opponent.

Sd11 Ryuko (Onoe) – He’s only lost once in each of his 3 basho before now, and he was on track to better that until he ran into Tachiai favorite Enho. He’s 3-1 and will also push for a Makushita promotion.

Sd18 Enho (Miyagino) – Miyagino’s burgeoning rockstar has continued his undefeated start to his career as he’s 4-0 and challenging for a third consecutive yusho. He faces a stern test on Day 9 against another 4-0 contender and former university man Ichiki, from Tamanoi-beya.

Sd68 Fukuyama (Fujishima) vs Sd71 Tanabe (Kise) – As I remarked before the tournament, Fukuyama had only ever lost to Tanabe and Tanabe had only ever lost to Enho. And that has also continued: Fukuyama is 3-1 having lost to Tanabe on Day 6, while Tanabe is 4-0 and likely won’t see Enho unless there’s a yusho playoff. Fukuyama is idle on Day 9 while Tanabe takes on 35 year old Kasugakuni in a battle of two unbeaten rikishi at the lower end of the Sandanme ranks, possibly to determine who gets to fight Enho later.

Here’s some video of Tanabe getting the better of Fukuyama for the third time:

Jonidan

Jd4 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – We love Wakaichiro and have covered his basho extensively. He’s 2-2, but while he has a slight margin for a error in so much as he’ll almost certainly get promoted to Sandanme with 4 wins, we’re cheering for him to finish wish the maximum wins possible!

Jd15 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – The reigning Jonokuchi yusho holder was the other Jonidan rikishi I was looking at in this basho, but it doesn’t look like he’ll follow in the footsteps of so many others and make it two on the spin. His 3-1 record so far foreshadows a promotion to Sandanme if he can keep it going, but nothing less than perfection will do for the yusho.

Jonokuchi

Jk25 Shoji (Musashigawa) vs Jk26 Torakio (Naruto) – I marked out Shoji as a potential yusho winner before the basho and he is fulfilling that prediction so far with a 4-0 start. I also remarked that Torakio gave him a good run for his money in a Maezumo match that was better than some of the stuff we’ve seen in Makuuchi. However, while Shoji knocked off Torakio early to establish his dominance in their burgeoning rivalry, Torakio is 3-1 and clearly on course for a Jonidan promotion next time out.

Jk18 Sawanofuji (Isegahama) vs Jk28 Hattorizakura (Shikihide) – And finally, the fight for futility. A refresher: Sawanofuji entered 9-48 with 7 wins against Hattorizakura. Hattorizakura entered 1-75 with 1 win against Sawanofuji. We knew they would match up, and they did, with Sawanofuji taking the match over the hapless Hattorizakura (video of a very difficult to watch match, below). Sawanofuji then picked up a fusen win – any more of that and we may see him in Jonidan next term! As for Hattorizakura… we wish him many bowls of chankonabe.

(video clips c/o One and Only on YouTube!)

Aki: More “Ones to Watch”

Enho

Much has been made on these pages of the opportunities for up and coming rikishi in this Aki basho. It’s exciting. And while we typically are looking at those Maegashira who will look to impose themselves and make things difficult for their most established counterparts, it’s worth taking a look further down the banzuke at the hundreds of sumotori outside the professional ranks.

Many of us have a few firm favorites – indeed, Wakaichiro‘s results will be well documented in these quarters – so I figured it’s worth sharing some of mine. I’m not going to catch all of the talented rikishi here, so feel free to share your own in the comments.

Makushita

Ms3 Kizaki (Kise) – I’ve covered Kizaki a couple times now in my Heya power rankings roundups as he may be the next name to make the jump to Juryo for Kise. Starting from maezumo in early 2016, he’s never suffered a make-koshi and has a pair of lower division yusho. He’s handled the transition to Makushita well and a strong tournament here could be the last before we see him as a professional.

Ms14 Mitoryu (Nishikido) – One of the most covered men at this level, he hasn’t made the dominant start that we’ve seen from others who have become household names in recent years after entering in the upper reaches of Makushita. This tournament could be a bellwether in determining whether he’s set for a fast track to sekitori status or whether it’s going to take some time for him to establish himself.

Ms16 Wakatakagake (Arashio) vs Ms16 Murata (Takasago) – Both these gentlemen entered the banzuke together at Sandanme 100 earlier this year and have more or less tracked each other’s results beat for beat (both are 18-3 lifetime with Wakatakagake holding a Sandanme yusho via a playoff win over Murata). As they start to make their move, it’ll be interesting to see if they can continue to match results or if one can pull ahead.

Ms30 Ikegawa (Hakkaku) – Another rikishi with back to back zensho in his first basho (being advanced for the levels), he’s stuttered a bit upon reaching Makushita. Will be interesting to see if he can assert himself upon reaching the upper tiers.

Ms56 Obamaumi (Sakaigawa) – Not actually named after the President, but I love stories of rikishi who fell completely off the map before storming back to career highs. He wasn’t able to capitalise on his Makushita debut (8 years into his career) in Nagoya, but he’s got a second bite at the cherry here.

Ms57 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – He’s thrashed his way through the lower divisions after entering the banzuke in March. What’s next?

Sandanme

Sd2 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – Another rikishi who made quick work of the bottom two divisions, he’s slowly made his way through the crowded Sandanme tier this year. With injuries ravaging the top dogs at Isegahama, can he mark himself out as a consistent “one to watch”?

Sd11 Ryuko (Onoe) – Wakatakakage and Murata are an entire division ahead of him having entered higher up the banzuke, but like his more esteemed rivals Ryuko has an 18-3 career record having coughed up 2 of those losses against the yusho winners in those respective basho. Now he’s placed to fight for his own yusho and in a position where a winning record could give him a strong Makushita bow in Kyushu.

Sd18 Enho (Miyagino) – It’s 2 yusho in 2 attempts and now we’ll see what he’s made of. We’ve talked a bit about where the next superstar in Hakuho’s heya could come from, and he’s well placed to continue his rise.

Sd68 Fukuyama (Fujishima) vs Sd71 Tanabe (Kise) – Fukuyama’s sole losses in his opening two basho have been to Tanabe (whose own sole losses have come at the hands of Enho). Bizarrely, Fukuyama continues to hold a slightly higher rank on the banzuke.

Jonidan

Jd4 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – Obviously!

Jd15 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – he won the Junokuchi yusho last time out, so worth a look. Will the schedulers put his road to another yusho attempt through our man Wakaichiro?

Jonokuchi

Jk25 Shoji (Musashigawa) vs Jk26 Torakio (Naruto) – The highest ranked of the five debutants after a clean performance in Maezumo, Shoji is “old” for the level at 23 having come from Saitama University, so it’ll be interesting to see if he sweeps all comers. Torakio meanwhile lost to Shoji in a really decent match (especially for maezumo!) that lasted about a minute, where he had Shoji on the edge and gave him a real good Kotoshogiku-style hug-n-chug that was ultimately unsuccessful as his elder counterpart lifted him up and turned him around. But mostly I’m interested in how he gets on being a new Bulgarian entrant making his first appearance in a basho.

Jk18 Sawanofuji (Isegahama) vs Jk28 Hattorizakura (Shikihide) – This is the battle of the bottom – two rikishi who just love sumo, and cannot possibly win. Sawanofuji is 9-48 lifetime with 7 of those 9 wins coming against Hattorizakura, whose astonishing 1-75 record in 11 basho served up his sole win against Sawanofuji. Sawanofuji (still only 16 despite making his 10th appearance at Aki) appears to be gaining some weight but Hattorizakura is unbelievably skinny despite being 3 years his foe’s senior. It seems unthinkable that these two will not meet again so long as they are both active, so perhaps Hattorizakura can break his streak of seven consecutive 0-7 tournaments!