Takekaze Retirement Ceremony Feb. 1.

The Japanese Sumo Association has announced a date for former Takekaze’s danpatsushiki at Kokugikan. For those who will still be around Tokyo for the week after Hatsu basho, which runs through Jan 27, the retirement event would be a great way to see some more action. There will likely be hanazumo and shokkiri, and sumo culture demonstrations that are more familiar scenes in Jungyo tours rather than hon basho.

The ceremony will culminate in the hair cutting for the former Sekiwake. For Takekaze this will surely have participation from former Oguruma stablemates Yoshikaze and Yago, and likely contemporary Yokozuna or two.

A Word On Kisenosato

Farewell

As Liam reported, Kisenosato has finally put an end to the drama and announced his retirement. Herouth explained how we got here and Bruce did a great job pointing out why this was what needed to be done. Minutes before the announcement came down, I had retweeted survey results from Sponichi that 78% of respondents thought he should retire, belying the idea that he had a groundswell of fan supporting the idea that he should continue. We could hear it in the crowds’ reaction to each of his three losses.

The great thing is, that drama is over now. Kisenosato will continue his sumo career as coach, then as head of his own stable of wrestlers. And there really was no other way forward. If he had lost again, the howls would grow along with the discomfort of the Sumo Kyokai and Yokozuna Deliberation Council. If he won, the inevitable may be delayed by a day or two. But with more wins, or some dream (fantasy) comeback kachi-koshi record, surely questions would arise about their legitimacy given his recent poor results. Perhaps this is where the idea of yaocho, that it’s all fixed, can finally be put to bed.

The second thing that I hope comes out of this is a real reform within stables regarding the treatment of wrestlers’ injuries, if it hasn’t started to happen already. We’ve seen some chronic injuries rested, but others continue to come back, tournament after tournament, only to finish with 1, 2, or at max 4 wins and never really healing completely…I’m looking at you Ikioi…not to mention the entire Ozeki corps. It would be a slow change but hopefully the days are over where a shattered arm would be patched up with an expectation of continuing with keiko bright and early the next morning.

I look forward to seeing Kisenosato wearing a blue jumpsuit of the NSK during future basho, in a hakama and presiding over mono-ii as shinpan, or in jeans, laughing with fans during jungyo in Ibaraki as he guides his own deshi through their own careers. Undoubtedly, he’s now free from the pressure to perform that has been hanging over his every appearance over the past year.

And a final note: Kisenosato owes Nishikigi a beer. Odds of a second kinboshi have now surely plummeted. If Nishikigi gets a kinboshi against Hakuho this tournament, I’ll eat my hat — with a special wasabi marinade — during the next podcast.

I wish Kisenosato well as he begins the next chapter of his sumo career as Araiso oyakata (荒磯親方).

Bouts from the lower divisions – Day 13

Look who is back in the interview room!

Today has been a day of decisions in the divisions below Juryo, and yet another fun day in Juryo. Let’s look at some sumo!

Jonokuchi

Before taking a look at the yusho race, we bid goodbye to the record holder in the anti-yusho ranking, our friend Hattorizakura. Today he said his farewells to Kyushu 2018 by way of Azumayama:

It seems we are safe for a while yet from having to memorize a new shikona for this icon of sumo (which his stablemaster promised him he will be given if he gets a kachi-koshi).

On to the Yusho race. As I explained yesterday, if Hatooka lost his bout today, we would have a complex playoff situation on our hands.

Hatooka vs. Kojikara

Fortunately, Hatooka resolved that issue decisively. A harizashi followed by pushing forward like a locomotive. Hatooka is the Jonokuchi yusho winner. In his interview today on NHK he talked about his injury and recovery. You can see his knee is in a massive brace. It’s the aftermath of an injury to the knee that saw him go kyujo and drop all the way to Jonokuchi from Makushita. In Aki, he did the same trick as Ryuden to avoid dropping off the banzuke completely, and participated in one bout, which he won. Now he came back with a vengeance. He said in his interview that he was inspired by the sekitori in his heya, such as Ura, Akiseyama and Shimanoumi (who was also kyujo for several consecutive basho).

Jonidan

Here is a video with several Jonidan bouts, the first of which is the yusho decider between Kotourasaki and Kenho. Other bouts in this video:

  • Kamada-Watatani
  • Umizaru-Osumifuji
  • Zendaisho-Satonofuji
  • Yukiumi-Abezakura
  • Sakurafuji-Imai

The size differences between Kenho and Kotourasaki are striking. Nevertheless, Kotourasaki knows how to defeat the big guy. He is 7-0 – sorry, Kenho fans. At this stage he waits for the result of the Mitsuuchi-Fukunofuji bout in the beginning of the Sandanme bouts.

Satonofuji’s bout (around 9:30 min.) is quite interesting, with the yomi-turi performer emeritus going for a half-henka, an attempt at tottari, then sticks his head into Zendaisho’s chest. It takes the shimpan quite a while to declare the kimarite (watashikomi).

The final torikumi (about 13:30) introduces you to Sakurafuji, one of the tallest in the low ranks at Isegahama beya at 183cm. He currently serves as Takarafuji’s tsukebito and is considered a nice guy all around, but for a man with his build, his career has been less than satisfactory, stalling way too long at Jonidan.

Sandanme

The first bout of the day at Sandanme is between Mitsuuchi, who has 6-0 at Jonidan, and Fukunofuji, with 6-0 at Sandanme. If Mitsuuchi wins, there will be a playoff in Jonidan. If Fukunofuji wins, a playoff in Sandanme.

Well, that was decided very quickly. Mitsuuchi railroads Fukunofuji off the dohyo, and the Jonidan playoff between him and Kotourasaki will take place on Senshuraku.

Before moving on to the other yusho decider, let’s take a look at Torakio vs. Rao. Both are 4-2, thus kachi-koshi.

Again, Torakio displays rather good sumo, but loses at the edge, and again expresses his frustration by shoving his opponent slightly. Doesn’t his oyakata watch his bouts?

Now on to the yusho decider, and now the participants know that whoever wins this is the Sandanme yusho winner then and there. The participants, by the way, are Ura (Sd33E) and Hikarifuji (Sd81W). It’s a no-brainer, really.

This reminds me of an old anime, Yu-Yu Hakusho, where the protagonist’s most formidable weapon was the tip of his finger, which was loaded with a huge amount of energy. The bout here starts with a mutual attempt at getting inside, until Ura decides he has had enough and seems to blow Hikarifuji away by the power of the tips of his fingers. He looks at him and nods apologetically, before he returns to his place on the dohyo with an expression of “Oops, did I do that?” on his face.

Ura is Sandanme yusho, and it will be rather entertaining to see him go through Makushita (and possibly meet Hoshoryu there. Yummy).

Makushita

Here is a match between the two Ms9 wrestlers, Kotokamatani and Satoyama. Both 3-3, so winner kachi-koshi, loser make-koshi.

No monoii there. The kimarite is shitatenage, and Satoyama is kachi-koshi.

About an hour after this bout is over, the NSK informs the public that this was, in fact, Satoyama’s last bout as an active wrestler. Satoyama was formerly a long-time sekitori, and seems to have given up the hope of returning to the top. He is retiring and joining the NSK as Sanoyama oyakata, apparently borrowing the Sanoyama kabu from Chiyootori. (I wonder if he purposely picked a kabu which sounds so similar to his own name!)

On to the yusho decider. In Makushita, it’s the simplest situation: Sokokurai and Takaryu are the only ones with 6-0. Winner takes the yusho.

And after a matta, Sokokurai works hard to prevent Takaryu from getting a grip with his left arm, then goes for the pull down. Sokokurai is the Makushita yusho winner, and ensures himself of promotion to Juryo in Hatsu. There has never been a case where a yusho winner at Ms5 was not promoted.

Interestingly, he may actually go over the heads of the two kachi-koshi wrestlers at Ms1. If the shimpan department decides not to relegate more than two wrestlers from Juryo, Daiseido, who currently has 4 wins at Ms1W, and may earn his fifth today, might find himself promoted merely from Ms1W to Ms1E.

Sokokurai was also interviewed on NHK and assured the interviewer that his leg is “fine” now. By the way, I haven’t been around long enough to hear Sokokurai before, so I was rather impressed with his Japanese. It sounds as good as Kakuryu’s.

Juryo

  • Enho seems to have rallied back a bit. Yesterday he looked totally lost and unsure what to do. Today he is back to seeking that grip of his. But Tomokaze denies him, despite the little one’s quick attacks. Enho finally lands his grip, but only at the edge of the dohyo where Tomokaze shows him out. Enho must be feeling grateful that he managed to secure his kachi-koshi before this slump. Tomokaze has a double-digit winning score, which is very impressive for a newcomer to Juryo.
  • Gokushindo tries to be careful and watches his own feet, but he is not protecting his mawashi and gets easily trapped by Azumaryu.
  • Chiyonoo once again tries everything he can and hangs on to his opponent’s mawashi, but Jokoryu gets him out nonetheless. Chiyonoo’s fall down to Makushita is going to be a long hard one.
  • Kyokushuho is quickly dispatched by Shimanoumi, who is now kachi-koshi.
  • Toyonoshima complained yesterday that he doesn’t know what to do with small opponents. Today Terutsuyoshi seems not to have posed any problems. The Isegahama homunculus seems to have run out of steam. He looks very disappointed at the end of this bout, as he is relegated to the chaser group. I hope he still has it in him to get that extra win and go double-digits.
  • Tobizaru pushes Ishiura down. Ishiura manages to survive two additional seconds by hanging on to the monkey’s legs, but that’s not a tenable position. Tobizaru kachi-koshi. Ishiura may get there yet. I think we haven’t seen him henka for two or three bouts, so there will probably be one tomorrow.
  • Chiyonoumi fights bravely, with several nodowa, lots of thrusts, and even a mawashi attempt. However, he repeats a mistake we have seen from his heya-mate, Chiyonokuni, several times in the previous basho – foot out on the Janome, and the bout is over. Chiyonoumi’s make-koshi deepens and the fires of purgatory are already reaching his feet.
  • Takagenji can’t afford another loss, and attacks aggressively to stave it off. Hakuyozan is overwhelmed by the young angry twin. Still no kachi-koshi.
  • The loser in the next battle is make-koshi. Two veterans face off. Tokushoryu has Takekaze trapped almost immediately, and the make-koshi goes to Takekaze. Again, he will assess his situation and let us know by Banzuke meeting day, as he has in the past two basho.
  • For some reason, the Kotoyuki-Mitoryu duel is completely one-sided. Has Mitoryu’s leg issue reasserted itself? Luckily, he is kachi-koshi already. Kotoyuki – double digits! Not much rolling this basho!
  • Aminishiki also can’t afford a loss. He slaps, he pushes, and Tsurugisho finds himself doing the Kotoyuki roll. Tsurugisho is make-koshi.
  • Akiseyama turns the bout with Daishoho into a leaning match. Daishoho is Mongolian, and resolves the long stalemate Mongolian-style, with a kick that gives him enough room to maneuver Akiseyama to the edge. Yori-kiri. Daishoho closer to a kachi-koshi, Akiseyama can’t afford another loss.
  • Kotoeko tries a henka. Kyokutaisei recovers, but can’t quite overcome Kotoeko’s barrage of tsuppari. Kotoeko kachi-koshi. Kyokutaisei has two more chances at his.
  • Wakatakakage very impressive today. I saw his brother’s bout earlier today (Wakamotoharu-Gagamaru) and despite having a very similar body, their skill level is completely different. Yago must be happy his kachi-koshi is secure already. Wakatakakage has two days to get the win he needs for his own.