Aki Day 1 – Bouts from the lower divisions

Looking up, Chiyonokuni

Yay, Aki basho is finally here! Here are some of the bouts that took place in the lower divisions on day 1.

Jonokuchi

We can’t start a basho or start the day without the Knight of the Woeful Countenance, Hattorizakura, here attacking, ahem, from the right, while his tiny opponent, Chiyotsurugi, attacks from the left:

Wow, he actually resists for a long while for Hattorizakura. Chiyotsurugi must be thinking “I was told it would be easier!”.

If you noticed in the background, a tall young man coming in and not exactly knowing what to do with himself and where to sit, that’s Senho, Hakuho’s latest recruit. And boy, is he green. He didn’t know when to mount the dohyo, and Kaio, er, Asakayama oyakata, had to explain it to him.

His bout is up next. Here we see him on the left side, and his tiny opponent, Urutora from Shikihide beya, is not exactly the cream of Jonokuchi. But…

Urutora wins by ashitori. The first “Ho” of the day suffers the same fate as the last “Ho” of the day.

Jonidan

Hakkaku’s prince charming, Kitanowaka (left), faces Shimomura, from Sakaigawa beya.

Round and round and round he goes, where he lands, nobody knows. Uwatenage, Kitanowaka (“The youngster of the North”) wins.

Sandanme

We have several bouts from Sandanme. First and foremost, Wakaichiro, here on the left, facing Fujitaisei from Fujishima beya:

Wakaichiro barely stops to blink.

Next we have some former sekitori who are looking for their way back up. First, Homarefuji, who was one of the proud lineup at Isegahama back in the day, starting from the left, facing Kasugakuni from Nakagawa beya.

Kasugakuni is out of his league against the veteran.

Then we have Amakaze, from Oguruma beya. For once, he is facing a rival bigger than he is, Dewanojo, whom we met during Jungyo as Mitakeumi’s tsukebito. He is about the same weight as Ichinojo. Amakaze on the left, Dewanojo on the right.

He may be Ichinojo-sized, but he is not Ichinojo-skilled. Amakaze deals with the giant without problem.

Makushita

We start relatively low, with a face we haven’t seen on the dohyo in a long time: Chiyonokuni! On the left we have Ayanoumi from Yamahibiki beya.

Chiyonokuni’s mobility may not be Makuuchi-level, but it certainly suffices for Ayanoumi, who gets hatakikomied.

Shiraishi from Tamanoi beya, a strong man whom I didn’t quite like last basho, because he was doing too many henkas and really had an annoying match with Terunofuji, faces Okinofuji from Hakkaku beya (right):

This is more what I expect from an up-and-comer. That was proper windmill tsuppari.

Further up the Makushita chart, blue-blooded Naya, on the left, faces experienced Toyohibiki:

…and once again fails to deliver on all the hype that has been heaped upon him. Toyohibiki wins by tsukiotoshi.

Midorifuji (left) and Kototebakari (right) are right at the doorstep to heaven.

Kototebakari is a man on a mission. Isegahama’s deputy pixie can’t really do much here.

Finally, the last bout of Makushita, and who is this in a black cotton mawashi and a modest chon-mage? Oh dear, it’s Arawashi. How many of you failed to notice that Arawashi fell out of the salaried ranks? Here on the right, he faces Akua/Aqua from Tatsunami beya.

Whoa. This bout had a monoii, but it went gunbai-dori. That is, the decision was held, and it’s Akua’s win.

Juryo

Makushita rikishi Wakamotoharu had a bout in Juryo today, and got to wear an oicho-mage again briefly. He is on the left, with fresh Juryo promotee Kaisho on the right:

Wakamotoharu is determined not to miss out on the opportunity to return to Juryo his rank gives him. He wins by yoritaoshi.

In a bout between two single-kanji, four-syllabled rikishi, Irodori, who is on his second stint in Juryo, on the left, faces Ikioi, who is trying to stay in Juryo:

This is the genkiest I have seen Ikioi in a while. He wins by tsukidashi.

Aki Story 3 – Fallen Heroes

We are now deep into a transitional period in sumo. The cohort that had been dominant for 10 years or more are finding time catching up to them. Their sumo is not as sharp, their bodies can no longer endure the punishment of the fight, and they are staring down a significant change in their careers. It’s heartbreaking to watch great rikishi close out their careers, and I suspect Aki is going to be the finishing stroke for more than one storied rikishi.

Yoshikaze – Fans who have been reading the blog know Yoshikaze is my absolute favorite, and has been for years. The guy has been an absolute giant-killer, and has been able to sumo a nearly demonic fighting spirit at times. Because of this, and his willingness to sacrifice his body to the fight, I nicknamed him “the Berserker”, which at least a couple of fans though of as an insult. For those who have studied Nordic history, we know that being called a Berserker is a high compliment. But Yoshikaze has been suffering a variety of physical problems for most of the last year. He had a mystery rash for a time, and in May he damaged a knee, which saw him seek surgery. He did not compete in Nagoya, and dropped to Juryo 7. Yoshikaze last competed in Juryo in 2007. There is also word from the Japanese sumo press that he has not recovered, and is unlikely for Aki. Failure to start in September would surely mean a demotion to Makushita. At 37 years old, he probably would rather not break back into Sekitori status. The good news for Yoshikaze fans – he has an oyakata slot waiting for him upon retirement. Already heavily involved with youth sumo, I think the future Nakamura oyakata is going to be responsible for bringing sumo to new generations of people in Japan.

Ikioi – Ranked at Juryo 12w for Aki, fan favorite Ikioi’s heart is still in the fight, but his body is too broken to really continue. His last kachi-koshi was at Hatsu of 2019, and there has been no sign that his injuries are actually improving. He continues to rack up double digit losses, in spite of being reduced to a lower division. While the full extent of Ikioi’s injuries are probably not published, we know that he has taken many blows to the head, suffered with cellulitis, and has ankle and knee problems. Each time the man steps on the dohyo, you want to call an ambulance. But the warrior spirit in him refuses to relent, and each bought he leaves just a bit more damaged. Like Yoshikaze, he has a oyakata slot waiting for him (Kasugayama). I think that if he gets his 8th loss in September, we may see him take a hair cut and put on a nice suit sooner rather than later.

Kaisei – The picture around Kaisei is less clear. As a foreigner (Brazil) he has no access to an oyakata slot. He is also quite banged up, ranked Juryo 8, and I think he is in serious peril of being demoted to Makushita with a losing record. He has managed only 7 wins over the last 3 tournaments. Ouch! He’s a fan favorite, and a real sweet heart in real life, so we can only hope that he can either rally in September, or he can find something to pay the bills if he is demoted further down the banzuke. At 32, he may only have 1 big campaign up the banzuke left, if any.

Arawashi – This guy is a mess. His sumo skill is fantastic, but he has been walking wounded since last year, and has struggled to hold onto a Juryo rank. Now 33 years old, and at Makushita 1, he has more or less one shot to get 4 wins against the brutal Makushita joi-jin to regain a salaried rank, or face a long, unfunded road to the exit. Like Kaisei, he is a foreigner and has no access to buying his way into a kabu.

A reminder to fans – sumo is a combat sport, and a literal zero-sum game. It is by its nature brutal and elminationist. It’s Darwin in action, and only the fittest of the pack can survive each new tournament. While we love our aging heroes, their slow fade makes room for new rikishi to leave their mark on the sumo world.

Bouts From the Lower Divisions – Day 13

Naruto oyakata, on duty today, with his 7-0 deshi Sakurai

We’re back on track! Today, although there were few “big names” on the torikumi list, there were many important matches. All the yusho deciders in Makushita or below were played today, resulting either in yusho winners, or in playoffs to take place on Senshuraku. We’ll go through these bouts, as well as some of our usual ones of interest.

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Haru Day 5 Recap

We had an interesting day today at the EDION arena in Osaka. Before I dive into the Makunouchi bouts, I’m sure the fans will be happy to see this:

Aminishiki finally lands a win

Aminishiki is in dire straits down at the bottom of Juryo, but he managed to get his first win today vs. Akiseyama – and do that moving forward!

So, fast forward through Juryo (Arawashi doing well this basho, Enho gets his second loss in a row), we begin with Yutakayama vs. Kotoeko. Kotoeko looking good this basho, and may just be able to get that Makunouchi kachi-koshi which has eluded him so far. He attacks Yutakayama with a harizashi, lifts his arm high, and sends him off to the arms of the time shimpan.

Due to Chiyonokuni’s injury, we have a visitor from Juryo every day, and today it was 0-4 Hakuyozan facing Ishihenka, I mean, Ishiura, who was 4-0. Ishiura tried to get under Hakuyozan’s attack, but as he pulls, his knee folds below him and he finds himself rolling. His first loss, Hakuyozan’s first win.

Toyonoshima slammed into Chiyoshoma and intended to railroad him with his bulk, as he is wont. But the nimble Mongolian freed himself, stepped sideways, and left the veteran to ponder the difficulties of age and sumo.

Kagayaki launches himself head-first into newbie Daishoho‘s chest, keeps himself low, keeps his opponent upright, and clears him from the dohyo. Basic and clean.

The TomokazeTerutsuyoshi bout ended almost as soon as it started, with a plain, almost dismissive, hatakikomi. I believe something is wrong with Terutsuyoshi’s legs. He keeps ending up with his center of gravity way ahead of his feet. There is an expression used for this state: “ashi ga nagaremashita” – “his feet have flowed away”. His legs don’t work as fast as he needs to support his lunge.

And the Isegahama pixie is not the only one in trouble. Yoshikaze also didn’t show up for today’s bout. He leads head-first into the tachiai, but Ryuden immediately lands a morozashi – two arms under the opponent’s arms – and Yoshikaze just goes limp. Ryuden is haveng a good basho with 4-1.

Meisei tries to take the initiative against Yago. Doesn’t quite land a grip. Short tsuppari ensues, and then the two engage in migi-yotsu. Meisei only has one layer of Yago’s mawashi, and the Oguruma man patiently maneuvers into a better grip and leads Meisei out.

An impressive Shohozan showed up today to face Sadanoumi. Starting his bout with a harizashi, he lands a grip, and then throws Sadanoumi in a beautiful uwatenage. I want more of this Shohozan.

Ikioi tries hard to keep Kotoshogiku‘s pelvis as far away from him as possible. But eventually the former Ozeki decides to use the pressure against him, moves, and shows him out. Ikioi limps back to his spot to give the bow.

Asanoyama has a good tactic against Aoiyama. Since he is a yotsu man and Aoiyama is known for his fierce tsuppari and soft knees, Asanoyama quickly drives in and gets a fistful of mawashi. But Aoiyama shows versatility, uses a kotenage to release himself from the Takasago man, complements that with a nodowa, and hands Asanoyama his second loss.

Abi starts his bout with Takarafuji, as usual, with that morotezuki and follows with tsuppari. Takarafuji is quite ready for that, patiently weathers it, moves slightly to the left and grabs Abi’s mawashi. Abi manages to release himself, tries a half-hearted hikiotoshi, and fails. Instead, the Isegahama man slaps hard, and Abi rolls all the way to the other side of the dohyo. Olé!

The next bout, Chiyotairyu vs. Okinoumi. Chiyotairyu does his locomotive tachiai. Okinoumi backs up and sidesteps. Chiyotairyu dives into the janome, hands first. And Kimura Konosuke calls it Chiyotairyu’s win! No monoii. I guess the shimpan trust Chiyotairyu’s heya-mate, Konosuke, too much. The replay clearly shows this was a mistake. Okinoumi’s feet are firmly on the tawara, so he is very much alive when Chiyotairyu hits the dirt.

Ichinojo starts off with a harite – it’s not a harizashi as there was no attempt to go for the belt – then follows with a kachiage, and finally paws Onosho down with both arms. Scary. Onosho finds himself in a heap as Ichinojo, as usual, worriedly checks if he hasn’t overdone things. I guess Ichinojo left his sleepy secret twin in Tokyo.

Endo gets a grip on Tochiozan‘s belt right off the tachiai, and rolls him like his favorite barrel of beer. Makiotoshi, Endo’s first win this basho.

Mitakeumi and Hokutofuji clash head-to-head. Mitakeumi leads at first, but Hokutofuji manages to stop the pressure, and it’s Mitakeumi who starts pulling back. Maybe it’s the knee, but whatever it is, the Mitakeumi magic is not working against his fellow komusubi, and after a short halt, again he pulls and finds himself below the dohyo.

After three losses, Tamawashi vindicates himself somewhat in this fierce battle with Takakeisho. Takakeisho leads at first and nearly bounces Tamawashi out the front side of the dohyo, but Tamawashi takes it in his stride, and returns with his own windmill. Tamawashi proves that even in oshi, Takakeisho is not invincible. With two losses in the first trimester, Takakeisho’s Ozeki run seems less certain than it looked before the basho started.

Nishikigi has run out of luck this basho. Takayasu slams into him with all his bear-power. Nishikigi tries an arm lock on the Ozeki’s left arm, but to no avail. Nishikigi is 0-5.

Kaisei and Tochinoshin lock into a “gappuri” stance – firm yotsu. Tochinoshin’s first attempt doesn’t work. There is a short impasse, and then Kaisei makes a mistake and tries to gaburi him, or at least, that’s how it looked. As a result, his center of gravity ends up just where the Ozeki wants it, and he actually lifts the heavy Brazilian – though he quickly abandons the idea. He then adds a couple of pelvis thrusts of his own, to bring his thick opponent across the tawara. 3-2, and his chances of clearing kadoban look slightly brighter.

Goeido treats Shodai like a ragdoll, and the Tokitsukaze man finds himself out of the dohyo almost straight out of the tachiai. What version of Goeido is this? Has his kernel been replaced?

Kakuryu butts heads with Daieisho (not a smart move in the long run, Yokozuna), then immediately pulls. Hatakikomi, and Kakuryu is visibly annoyed with himself. Trouble always begins when Kakuryu pulls. But the win is a win.

I’m not sure what’s going on with Hakuho. The bout itself looked fine. No dominance, but the Yokozuna leading with a kachiage, Myogiryu fending him off, and the Yokozuna coming in again and slapping his opponent to the ground. But like yesterday, he couldn’t quite stop his own movement after finishing his work. Yesterday he ended up in the crowd, and took quite a while to get up from there, and today he ended up doing the splits on top of myogiryu. Control of legs? Dizziness? We won’t know unless he goes kyujo and needs to publish yet another public proof of injury

So that’s the end of Act 1, and we have four men in the leader group – Hakuho, Goeido, Ichinojo and Kotoshogiku. Let’s see what the second trimester brings!