Nagoya Day 3 Preview

Bruce is working a tough programming gig, far away from home. So some of the reporting this week will be foreshortened, full of typos, and generally as genki as Yoshikaze’s sumo. You have been warned.

What We Are Watching Day 3

Terutsuyoshi vs Kaisei – Kaisei has suddenly been beset by a swarm of tiny, fast moving rikishi. After experiencing first hand Enho’s unique take on the “Death Spin”, he has to be wondering what manner of fresh hell Terutsuyoshi brings to day 3.

Kotoyuki vs Enho – I this “Penguin meets Fire Pixie” story, we will see how far Kotoyuki makes it into the crowd today, after he only made it to the area just beside the dohyo on day 2. Enho is fighting hurt, but he is fighting well. They met twice in Juryo, splitting the pair.

Toyonoshsima vs Yago – Both are solid rikishi who have started 0-2, and now one of them will have started 0-3. Talk about pulling an Ikioi…

Chiyomaru vs Kagayaki – The key to defeating Chiyomaru is lateral motion. Kagayaki likes to move forward at almost all times, so it’s straight into the fire for Mr Fundamentals.

Tochiozan vs Sadanoumi – Two technical rikishi, with 1-1 records, coming in with a 5-5 career record. Could we be any more symmetrical?

Kotoeko vs Takagenji – This is probably the highlight match of the first half, Takagenji has opened strong, and Kotoeko has shown excellent mobility and stability in his first 2 matches. I expect Takagenji to open strong, and Kotoeko to react today.

Nishikigi vs Daishoho – Nishikigi appears as lethargic and uncertain as his bad days of yore, clinging tenaciously to the bottom scrap of the banzuke. This guy kachi-koshied in upper Maegashira. Please the genki version of Nishikigi back!

Onosho vs Okinoumi – I am going to dare to say that maybe Onosho is getting some of his sumo back. We will know more following day 3 when he faces Okinoumi, who has yet to score his first white star.

Shohozan vs Tomokaze – Tomokaze has actually won both of their prior matches, and I have to wonder just how well Oguruma’s new top rikishi is going to do in July. Shohozan should be almost done removing his ring rust.

Chiyotairyu vs Shimanoumi – I don’t know what Shimanoumi is going to do about the cannon ball charge. Shimanoumi is not large, though he is fairly stable. If ever there was a time for a Henka or near-Henka, this might be it.

Myogiryu vs Takarafuji – Both of these guys are in the middle of the banzuke, and need to really crank it up. Both are capable of great sumo, but seem to have fallen into a middling rut.

Meisei vs Ichinojo – Fans are still wondering which version of Ichinojo is active right now. We want the powerful giant who tosses 150kg people around like straw. This is the first time Meisei has faced, “The Boulder”.

Kotoshogiku vs Daieisho – I expect that Kotoshogiku’s stamina is going to give out some time in week 2, but until then I am enjoying the genki, bouncing, throwing version of the Kyusho Bulldozer.

Abi vs Shodai – Someone probably said, “Let’s give Abi a bit of a break. I know… Shodai!”. But as we all know, once Shodai gets besieged by an oshi practitioner, random things tend to happen, and usually to Shodai’s advantage.

Mitakeumi vs Tamawashi – Maybe a bit early for the traditional Sekiwake brawl, but we will take it. This should be a big running battle if Tamawashi does not blow Mitakeumi up at the tachiai.

Endo vs Takayasu – Takayasu dropped a match in week 1, and everyone who hopes he will one day actually win a yusho has to just shake their head and hope for “next time”. As a life long Cubs / Bears fan, I know how this works. Now he has Endo, and Endo is full on heck’n an bam-boozl’n these days.

Goeido vs Aoiyama – When I see the 21-3 career advantage Goeido has over the Man-Mountain, I have hope that we will see some real sumo from the Ozeki today. I know Aoiyama would love to start Nagoya 3-0, but he will have to survive Goeido’s all out offensive.

Ryuden vs Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin is doing so poorly right now, that I am sort of worried to even watch this match. Ryuden already has one Ozeki scalp, and if he can shut down Tochinoshin’s battle for that left hand outside grip, he may get another.

Hokutofuji vs Hakuho – We know what is going to happen here. We love you Hokutofuji, please don’t get discouraged.

Kakuryu vs Asanoyama – Last chance for an Asanoyama kinboshi, so lets see what Kakuryu will do against the Natsu yusho winner. This is their first ever match.

Natsu Day 9 Preview

As lksumo has pointed out, the day 8 results have thrown what had been a fairly orderly basho into chaos. I love it. In addition to defeats of both yusho race leaders, we seem to have a possible re-kyujo of shin-ozeki Takakeisho. I can almost guarantee that the YDC is going to complain about it should he re-kyujo. To some extent, they have a point. Stay off the dohyo unless you are fit to compete. I give Takakeisho a lot of latitude myself, as he is young and has a foreshortened sense of the long road that could be / should be ahead of him. Should he decide he is out for good, Tochinoshin would get the fusen-sho white star, and his kachi-koshi by default win.

There are 3 leaders now in the Makuuchi yusho arasoi, each one of them is far from invincible, and everyone knows that. This makes the week 2 matches against the Ozeki and Yokozuna that much more meaningful, as any of them, or all of them, could be taken down again. For Goeido and Takayasu, they are still walking a narrow path to their 8, but each needs just 3 more wins to avoid kadoban. For Takayasu, I forsee trouble on day 9.

Natsu Leaderboard

Are you ready for this? Because this is how nuts it became.

Leaders: Kakuryu, Tochinoshin, Asanoyama
Chaser: Abi, Ryuden, Enho, Kotoeko
Hunt Group: Goeido, Takayasu, Mitakeumi, Shodai, Shohozan, Tochiozan, Daishoho

7 Matches Remain

The first reader who dares to comment “Shodai Yusho!” Is going to be fined 1000 Genki points.

What We Are Watching Day 9

Toyonoshima vs Enho – Sumo fans can’t get enough Enho, myself included. Veteran Toyonoshima has yet to beat him, so we may see more pixie magic on Monday.

Chiyomaru vs Terutsuyoshi – Enho’s day 8 match makes a good template for a small guy to tie someone like Chiyomaru in knots, so let’s see if Terutsuyoshi can enact a similar battle plan. Just don’t slow down, don’t stand still and never be in any one spot for more than 1 second.

Ishiura vs Yago – Ishiura is trying to copy some of Enho’s fire, but he’s still a work in progress. Yago is a giant who packs a lot of power but is not capable of rapid lateral motion. He’s leagues better than Chiyomaru, but it should be possible to keep Yago from getting too stable on his feet, and use that to divert his own energy into Ishiura’s offensive moves.

Kotoeko vs Tochiozan – I am really looking forward to this match, as they are basically the same guy (much like Ikioi and Ryuden) about 5 years apart. That 5 year gap leaves Kotoeko employing a lot of frantic energy, and Tochiozan employing a lot of guile and cunning. Kotoeko won their only prior meeting.

Shodai vs Kagayaki – Whatever is plaguing Kagayaki is not easing up, and if Shodai can continue to put that much energy into his post-tachiai sumo, it’s going to be a fun match. I am sure Kagayaki will consult his mental catalog of great sumo, and then Shodai will unleash some sort of strong random stuff and leave Mr Fundamentals stumped. Shodai leads their career series 3-1.

Onosho vs Yoshikaze – I can only imagine that Onosho re-watched that match with Meisei in slow motion a few dozen times, each time wondering what he could have done differently to prevent that whole attack from blowing up in his face. Shake it off Jr Tadpole! You have to face a faltering Yoshikaze on day 9. This match makes me sad on many levels.

Takarafuji vs Nishikigi – Let me guess, Nishikigi lets Takarafuji get morozashi, then pins his arms and uses that to push Takarafuji around like a hand truck.

Asanoyama vs Ryuden – Yusho co-leader Asanoyama faces shin-Ikioi in the first match of the second half. Asanoyama has lost the last 5 consecutive matches to Ryuden. But I don’t think I have seen Asanoyama in better form, ever. These guys are going to be joi-jin mainstays next year, I would guess. So let’s hope this turns into a great sumo rivalry.

Tamawashi vs Daieisho – After putting dirt on the lone surviving Yokozuna, it’s time for Tamawashi to patrol the upper Maegashira ranks. He holds a 5-2 advantage over Daieisho, so I am starting to wonder if we might see Tamawashi kachi-koshi and possibly a candidate for san’yaku yet again.

Endo vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu is in a pretty deep hole, and I want him to rally starting day 9 and press hard. Endo can execute amazing technical sumo as we saw on day 8, but sometimes there is no remedy for 400 pounds of high-energy rikishi on a collision course.

Hokutofuji vs Mitakeumi – In spite of what you may assume, they are fairly evenly matched with a 5-4 career advantage for Mitakeumi. Hokutofuji is still a bit hit-or-miss with his sumo, so I am going to assume that if the gyoji can keep out of the way, we will see Mitakeumi inch closer to his 8th.

Aoiyama vs Kotoshogiku – Both of these men are in a deep hole in terms of win/loss, but frankly I would rather see Kotoshogiku make it to kachi-koshi right now. Give the old guy one more run at the top as a way to say thank you for being one of the best in a generation.

Goeido vs Abi – I am going to state that this match is going to be over quickly. If Goeido can get a proper launch off, it’s going to be unlikely for Abi to stop his forward pressure. This is why I think we will see at least one matta, to help dither Goeido’s timing.

Takakeisho vs Tochinoshin – I am going to assume this one won’t happen. The story is all over the Japanese press that Takakeisho will return to kyujo status, but no official word from the NHK as of right now. But if it does happen, I think we are going to see Tochinoshin struggle to land a grip, and Takakeisho possibly blow out his knee, joining Ura on the “could have been” list of sumo. Update: NHK has announced the withdrawal. -lksumo https://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20190520/k10011922041000.html

Myogiryu vs Takayasu – You might think “Maegashira 5 vs Ozeki, this is a gimme”. Well, Takayasu has a 7-11 Myogiryu deficit. Granted, all of their recent meetings have been all Takayasu, but we know for certain that Myogiryu knows how to beat him. Takayasu needs 3 more to pick up his kachi-koshi.

Okinoumi vs Kakuryu – Yokozuna Kakuryu’s day 8 loss has punctured the illusion of superior invincibility that tends to surround sumo’s Yokozuna. With that mental barrier broken (both in Kakuryu’s mind and the mind of the rest of his opponents), the chances of his tasting clay again have gone up. Okinoumi is only in fair condition this basho, so I am not looking for him to produce an upset on day 9.

Hatsu Day 1 Preview

Kisenosato Aki 2018

The time has come, and we are happy for it! It has been a long break since the Kyushu basho, and fans have had scant news to enjoy since the jungy ended several weeks ago. But now the sumo world gets back in action as the first tournament of the new year, the final year of Emperor Akihito’s reign, gets underway.

There has been a lot of speculation around the 6 men who occupy sumo’s top ranks, but it seems all 6 will start Hatsu, and we hope all of them can participate for all 15 days, and achieve good results. But we will be watching to see if Tochinoshin’s muscle injury, Takayasu’s flu / fever, Goeido’s latest buggy software update or Kisenosato’s general lurgy take their toll.

But with all of the old dragons fighting it out at the top, all eyes will be watching Kyushu yusho winner Takakeisho, competing at his highest ever rank, and within striking distance of a promotion to Ozeki. Should he find the energy, determination and sumo to pull it off, he would be the first of the new cohort to reach the top ranks. Only the next 2 weeks will tell what may come to pass, and frankly Team Tachiai is eager to get the show underway.

What We Are Watching Day 1

Terutsuyoshi vs Daishomaru – Many hoped that Terutsuyoshi would make the cut to Makuuchi for this basho, but instead he is posted to the top Juryo slot. As a consolation, he gets to visit the top division on day 1, and we may see him vie for his first ever prize money.

Chiyonokuni vs Daiamami – Former top Kokenoe man Chiyonokuni finds himself perilously close to the bottom edge of the banzuke, and will need to open strong, and keep the pressure up for the next 2 weeks to regain his rightful spot in mid-Makuuchi. He has a 2-1 career record against Daiamami, but his disasterous 5-10 finish in Kyushu, Chiyonokuni is under pressure to win early and often.

Yutakayama vs Kotoyuki – Former Maegashira 2 Yutakayama scored a Jun-Yusho in Nagoya, then was beaten to within an inch of his life at the brutal Aki basho. Since his withdrawal on day 5, he has been on a steady downward trajectory, in spite of his excellent sumo fundamentals. He faces off day 1 against Mr 5×5 – Kotoyuki. Kotoyuki seems to do very well in Juryo, but performs almost comically in Makuuchi. He frequently is seen diving into he zabuton rows, and always seems just one hair away from explosive disassembly. We hope he can do better for Hatsu.

Yago vs Meisei – Yago (spoken 2 octaves lower than normal), did not get re-labled with his expected “kaze” moniker, even though the folks at Tachiai put considerable effort on Twitter into suggesting many worthy shikona. But here is this bulky, aggressive rising star from Oguruma heya, making his Makuuchi debut. Yago and Meisei have fought before, and Yago has yet to take a single match from Meisei, so we will be eager to see if Yago can change that trend on day 1.

Sadanoumi vs Abi – Will we see a return of Abi-zumo, or did the smiling stick-insect of the sumo world hone any new attacks during the New Year’s break? As much as some fans claim “why should Abi branch out, what he is doing works”, his demotion to Maegashira 10 might indicate otherwise. I expect that Sadanoumi will come to the match expecting his normal offensive style, and may be able to finally take his first match from Abi.

Kaisei vs Asanoyama – Two solid rikishi that are in recovery mode at Maegashira 8. Kaisei will bring unmatched enormity to the match, along with a healthy measure of body hair. Asanoyama will bring his beaming positive attitude and perhaps some good fundamental sumo. In the case of these two, Kaisei’s sheer bulk is nearly impossible for Asanoyama to overcome.

Ryuden vs Daieisho – Ryuden suffered a heavy 6-9 make-koshi at Kyushu, in spite of some well executed sumo and some notable winning matches. Daieisho is very comfortable at this rank, and tends to pick up enough wins to keep himself in a narrow M4-M9 range. I expect that this is exactly the kind of rikishi Ryuden will need to beat predictably to advance to the next level. I give a slight advantage to Ryuden’s reach, but it’s an even fight.

Chiyotairyu vs Onosho – Possibly the highlight match of the first half (prior to the NHK World live stream). Onosho is still working to regain his former power following kyujo and knee surgery last year at this time. Onosho’s compact, powerful body will be put to the test against Chiyotairyu’s potent tachiai. If Onosho can stay inside the ring and upright for the first 10 seconds, the match should be his to lose.

Aoiyama vs Yoshikaze – Aoiyama has been looking very genki in practice, and his day 1 match against Yoshikaze will be an excellent test on just how genki the big Bulgarian is this January. Aoiyama has all of the right tools to be a top flight Maegashira, but he has to put them together and field them consistently. Meanwhile, Yoshikaze seems to be fading a bit each tournament, and it’s clear the years of sumo’s spoiler has caught up with him. He is still capable of nearly unstoppable sumo, but we see it less frequently, and his fans (myself included) worry that he’s hurt and going through each bout to stay connected to the sport he loves.

Shohozan vs Tamawashi – My suggestion to NHK that the live video of this match be replaced with “Batman” style animation (Biff! Pow! Slam!) went unanswered. But if both men come to the Hatsu dohyo ready to battle, there could be some peerless pugilistic power presented for the fans.

Takakeisho vs Shodai – A fan could be forgiven for thinking: “Wave action from the Sekiwake, Shodai goes jelly jiggler and bounces around until beaten”. But Shodai seems to have this uncanny power to invoke cartoon physics against his opponents, and many of them seem to suffer odd missteps and accidents that hand Shodai a win. If Takakeisho can keep Shodai centered, this should go Takakeisho’s way. If Shodai can land a mawashi grip, he will have control.

Hokutofuji vs Tochinoshin – What impressed me quite a bit about Hokutofuji’s performance at Kyushu – he looked hungry. He looked like he was going flat out to take each win, and he was leaving nothing in reserve. He will step up against a possibly injured Tochinoshin, who has had trouble with a muscle pull in his thigh during the work up to the basho. If Tochinoshin can land his “skyhook” grip, I am sure we will see the Georgian strong-man lift and shift his first win for January.

Nishikigi vs Goeido – I am so impressed that Nishikigi made it this far. More amazing is that Nishikigi won their only prior bout. But I am going to guess that Goeido is at least starting the basho in fine form, and we will see him apply a fierce amount of speed and power against the surprise darling of the joi-jin. But I am too big of a Nishikigi fan to discount him entirely. Everyone loves an underdog and survivor, and Nishikigi is both.

Takayasu vs Ichinojo – I am sure Ichinojo wants to return to San’yaku, but his week 1 is going to be a brutal parade of the upper ranks tuning up against him. Which Ichinojo will we get? The frighteningly powerful Mongolian behemoth, or the plush and cuddly pony tosser who goes soft at the tawara? With Takayasu at reduced fighting power due to the flu, this cold be a chance for Ichinojo to start off with an Ozeki scalp.

Kakuryu vs Tochiozan – 43 matches between these two, and they are almost evenly split. It’s been 4 months since we have seen Kakuryu compete, and we hope he returns rested and powerful. His reactive sumo is not especially effective against Tochiozan, who excels at working his opponent’s center-mass and keeping the fight bracketed to his forward 90°.

Myogiryu vs Hakuho – Myogiryu is a great come-back story, and he’s going down quickly on day 1. I am going to guess that Hakuho is at least genki enough to plow through his week 1 appetizers, and we won’t see what condition he is actually in until nakabe.

Kisenosato vs Mitakeumi – All of Japan will be dreading the outcome of this final match of the day. I think everyone who follows sumo expects Kisenosato is actually a shambolic sumo wreck who is ready to be run up on the beach and swarmed by ship-breakers in some far off equatorial country. Should the Yokozuna prevail, there will be a collective sigh of relief that may push the earth slightly out of orbit for a time. I would expect that either way, the NHK cameras will catch fans in the Kokugikan wiping tears from their eyes. Oh, and expect a LOT of kensho.

Bruce’s Banzuke Commentary

Bruce-Kokugikan

Hello Tachiai readers, and I hope all of you are enjoying the festive holiday season. The Japan Sumo Association delivered the Hatsu banzuke for Christmas, and it was full of potential for a fantastic tournament in just over 2 weeks. While most of the world takes a year-ending breather, what could be a tumultuous January tournament lurks just around the corner.

Yokozuna Kisenosato’s posting to the 1 East slot is the first surprise. While he entered the Kyushu basho in November, he failed to win a single bout before he pulled out of the tournament citing an injury. We have written extensively about the tragedy that is Kisenosato’s tenure as Yokozuna, and in the past we have forecasted that it would become increasingly farcical if he chose to try and gamberize his way through things. But a “zero win” promotion has to be one of the more farcical things I have seen in sumo for a while.

None of the three current Yokozuna are presenting as blazing examples of genki power at the moment. Each sat out part or all of Kyuhshu, each have some lingering injury that is hampering their performance. None of them participated much in the Fuyu jungyo, either because of their injuries, or wisely conserving whatever health they had mustered for the January tournament. Could we end up with a second straight “nokazuna” tournament?

The Ozeki ranks also have their worries, with Goeido being the most banged up of the bunch. Only Takayasu seems to be in fighting form as we close out 2018, with Tochinoshin a potent but fragile rival.

But just past the Ozeki ranks, we find the upstart challenger. After blasting his way through Kyushu and scoring his first yusho, it’s Takakeisho who is at the Sekiwake 1 East slot. It’s tough to tell how much impact the promotional appearances and awards ceremonies will have on his sumo, but I expect him to show up strong and dominant from the start. His youthful vigor and stamina may give him an edge over the experience and boundless skill of some of his higher-ranked opponents for January. He comes into Hatsu with a string of kachi-koshi tournaments: 13-2, 9-6, 10-5, 10-5. For those keeping count, with 11 wins at Hatsu, he could be considered for promotion to Ozeki.

Mitakeumi finds himself still in the San’yaku, but in dire need to regroup, reorganize and reconnect with his sumo. He has been a “Future Ozeki” for a while, and should Takakeisho bypass him and reach sumo’s second highest rank, it would either be a source of frustration, or a stiff motivation to elevate his sumo to the next level. That’s an evolution his fans (myself included) have been looking forward to for a couple of years.

Further down the banzuke, it’s kind of interesting to see how many long-serving veterans are in the joi-jin for this tournament. The problem with that is that many of these rikishi are towards the end of their careers, and the cumulative injuries and problems mean that they struggle to perform consistently. I would include in this group: Tochiozan, Shohozan, Kotoshogiku, Okinoumi and Yoshikaze. This would mean that it is possible that the joi may give up a lot of white stars to the named ranks, giving someone an easy path.

Then there are a handful of rikishi that I think are worth some excitement. This would include Nishikigi, who against all expectations was able to earn his kachi-koshi at Maegashira 3, and finds himself at Maegashira 2. This guy really is a bit of a Cinderella story, and every time he wins, I cheer. Hokutofuji has struggled with injuries and stamina issues during tournaments, but he has sound fundamentals in his sumo, and few specializations that give him an exciting fighting edge in any match. Aoiyama has all of the pieces needed to be an upper ranked rikishi, but between injuries and what I can only guess might be “jitters” in some matches, he falls a bit short. He’s making another run towards the top now, and we wish him a solid tournament. Then there is Onosho, who seemed in November to still be recovering from his summer injury and reconstructive surgery. While his friend Takakeisho has become a driving force in sumo, I personally think Onosho is the stronger rikishi, and has greater upside potential. I am looking to see him continue to improve over November, and I think Maegashira 6 is a great rank for him this time. He is outside of the joi, and he will fight a lot of hit-or-miss vets who may struggle with his speed and energy.

With the table set, fans around the world are counting down the days to the start of Haru. The rikishi will begin to train in earnest starting in the next few days, and we will be following the workup to Sunday January 13th with eager anticipation!