Natsu Day 12 Preview

Natsu Day 12

The yusho race is down to Ozeki hopeful Tochinoshin, and both Yokozuna. Faced with a lack of San’yaku rikishi, and possibly a desire to have a three way yusho race going into the final weekend of the basho, the planned match between Hakuho and Tochinoshin has been scheduled for day 12. Sure we can talk about other matches of note, but this one is going to be pivotal for several reasons.

Firstly, we can think of it as Tochinoshin’s final exam for his Ozeki bid. Many would successfully argue that he is the only rikishi in this tournament who is performing and Ozeki levels, and they would certainly not be wrong. But beating the dai-Yokozuna would dismiss even the most negative decision maker’s concern.

We can also consider that a loss by Hakuho here would possibly knock him out of the yusho race, and it would be the strongest signal yet that his days are waning. Given how fierce a competitor Hakuho is, and how ruthless he is when the chips are down, I think he will bring everything he has to this day 12 match.

At this point, the topic of a Tochinoshin yusho is front of mind as well. He is looking as least as good as he did in January when he took the Hatsu yusho, and many of the weakness in the upper San’yaku ranks persist today. Simply put, the promotion lanes are wide open. Some rikishi who have been wanting to get in position for some time, Mitakeumi and Tamawashi, appear to be missing their chance as a tougher, stronger, more dedicated man beats them to the prize.

In the rest of the matches, the schedulers are starting to give us huge leaps in the banzuke, with mid-Maegashira taking on men at the bottom of the roster. Many of these are simple “gimme” matches, others are fun examples of testing out the lower ranked men against their possible slots in Nagoya. Others represent the problems in the torikumi due to kyujo, dominant heya and other factors that impinge on rank-appropriate matches.

Natsu Leaderboard

Leader – Tochinoshin
Chasers – Kakuryu, Hakuho

4 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 12

Daishomaru vs Nishikigi – Daishomaru has a legitimate chance to pick up kachi-koshi, as it’s possible that Nishikigi will succumb to the 9-2 career advantage, and huge difference in the banzuke between M9 Daishomaru and M17 Nishikigi.

Takekaze vs Kagayaki – M14 vs M8 with Kagayaki needing 2 more wins for kachi-koshi. Takekaze in converse is 1 loss away from make-koshi. The career records favors Kagayaki 5-2.

Ryuden vs Sadanoumi – M7 vs M14, with Ryuden already make-koshi and Sadanoumi having a legitimate shot at kachi-koshi. They have fought 3 times before, with Ryuden taking 2 of them. Having watched Ryuden the last few days, he seems genuinely dispirited at this point, so the outcome is very much in play.

Aoiyama vs Chiyomaru – A battle of the big’uns, we get M13 Aoiyama vs M7 Chiyomaru, both of whom are within reach of a kachi-koshi. Chiyomaru has shown some glimpses of sharp sumo in the last few days, including his day 11 match with Asanoyama.

Chiyoshoma vs Takakeisho – M10 Takakeisho is a fierce competitor who has displayed overwhelming tenacity thus far. His sumo may appear to some as “run around crazy and get the other guy to fall down”, but his oshi-style sumo is quite distinct, and in some ways more effective than the rest of the army of pusher-thruster rikishi. He holds a 4-2 career advantage over M6 Chiyoshoma.

Shohozan vs Shodai – Even though Shodai lost his day 11 match with Yokozuna Hakuho, he once again produced a slapstick result, with Hakuho somehow bumbling his face into Shodai’s shoulder. This leads me to consider if Shodai is actually some kind of cartoon character, and will manage to drop an anvil on Shohozan. Surprisingly, out of their 9 prior matches, Shodai has won 6 of them.

Daieisho vs Abi – Abi’s day 11 match was a fine example of how to dismantle his offense, and if Daieisho was watching, I hope he spends the morning practicing with his tsukebito. Otherwise his short reach may be to Abi’s advantage.

Mitakeumi vs Chiyotairyu – A Mitakeumi win here would give him a kachi-koshi and Chiyotairyu a make-koshi at the same time. Chiyotairyu is looking dispirited in the past few days, as it seems everyone has his number right now. His biggest issue is lateral movement. He’s very strong forward. His balance is also hampered by his belly.

Kaisei vs Endo – Now that he is make-koshi, perhaps Endo will win a few to cushion his fall down the Banzuke. I am sure the NSK would like Endo healthy, genki and back in the San’yaku for September in Tokyo. So I am going to guess they want him as close to 7-8 as he can manage.

Kotoshogiku vs Ichinojo – Ichinojo pushing for kachi-koshi here. Kotoshogiku will try to go chest to chest right away, and I am sure that Ichinojo will give it to him for the asking. The Kyushu Bulldozer holds a slight 5-4 advantage over The Boulder, so this match is far from certain.

Kakuryu vs Ikioi – Ikioi limps around and is in pain, but he’s also kachi-koshi now. Kakuryu needs to dispatch him to keep 1 behind Tochinoshin. Ikioi has won 3 of their 11 career matches, but with his injuries and Kakuryu’s focus on staying in range for the yusho weekend barnyard brawl, I am guessing Ikioi is going down.

Tochinoshin vs Hakuho – Tochinoshin has never beaten Hakuho. If that changes today, it will (as described above) mark a fundamental shift in sumo. Welcome to the final exam, Tochinoshin. We are eagerly waiting your outcome.

Natsu Day 11 Preview

Tochinoshin Raids The Vending Machine

Ready or not, here comes act 3! This is where we sort the winners from losers, and hand some hard-working rikishi the Emperor’s cup. Right now the cup is Tochinoshin’s to lose, and the only way this is competitive is if someone gets dirt on the undefeated man on an Ozeki run. That Ozeki run is looking more likely from a numbers standpoint. The only question so far is the “quality” of the wins.

Some fans and readers have very passionate positions on this, so I will mention up front that I am an armchair sumo fan living in Texas. I am not a member of the YDC, I don’t look like Colonel Sanders, and I have never been a holder of elder stock in the NSK. So my opinions count for exactly ZERO in the sumo world.

As I mentioned in the podcast, there is a means by which Tochinoshin might reach double digits, but be declared “not quite there yet” in terms of Ozeki. It all comes down to who he beats. He has yet to face any Ozeki this tournament (sorry, fresh out) or any Yokozuna (they are on the plan). But a shiroboshi from either of them would likely remove that as a possible criticism. Of course a yusho win would assure promotion.

I would also point out that to this date, Tochinoshin has never beaten Yokozuna Hakuho. Were he to accomplish that (and Tochinoshin is looking mighty genki right now), it would mark a turning point in both men’s careers, in my humble opinion. Tochinoshin is also 2-21 vs Yokozuna Kakuryu. One of those wins came last tournament, and was Kakuryu’s only loss. Clearly Tochinoshin as a big wall to climb, but I think at this point, he is at peak performance and more than ready to challenge the top men in the sport.

Natsu Leaderboard

Leader – Tochinoshin
Chasers – Kakuryu, Hakuho
HunterChiyonokuni

5 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 11

Gagamaru vs Kyokutaisei – Planet Gagamaru orbits into Makuuchi for a day. He is already make-koshi so this match may just be some kind of battle-reunion for Kyokutaisei, who needs one more win for a kachi-koshi. Kyokutaisei holds a 4-2 career lead.

Nishikigi vs Hokutofuji – Honestly, what the hell sumo world. Hokutofuji is hopefully going to get completely checked out by a neuro-medicine specialist and cleared for combat before he returns to the dohyo. If the sumo world thought there was trouble with a medical incident on the dohyo during jungyo, let there be some poor fellow have a stroke, a seizure, and aneurism or even convulse and die right there on the dohyo. No amount of salt will purify it again. I want to see Nishikigi go kachi-koshi by fusensho, thanks.

Sadanoumi vs Kagayaki – Both men still within reach of a winning record for Natsu, both of them fairly evenly matched. Sadanoumi looked very good in his day 10 match against Arawashi, and Kagayaki looks like he might be losing focus / running out of steam. They are 4-3 career, with a slight edge to Sadanoumi.

Yoshikaze vs Tochiozan – Both of these storied veterans have seen better days, both come in in some state of disrepair. Both of them 5-5, both of them wanting to secure a winning record. For some fans, it’s kind of a tough match to watch. We hate to see our heroes fade.

Takakeisho vs Takarafuji – Takakeisho is starting to look a bit better as the tournament goes forward, and it’s a great time to pair him up against Takarafuji. Takarafuji is very careful, forceful and under control. Takakeisho, when he is on his sumo, is a rippling vortex of conflicting force vectors, most of which he is going to transmit through your body. I am eager to see what he does with the very stable Takarafuji. Takakeisho won both their prior matches, but Takakeisho is not quite up to full power.

Daishomaru vs Ikioi – Winner gets kachi-koshi. Ikioi has had a bit of a rough ride with Mitakeumi on day 10, but I think he is a good match for Daishomaru right now. Ikioi still seems to be very stiff, in pain and moving with difficulty every match.

Shohozan vs Abi – Shohozan has a pair of massive arms. But note they are actually a bit short. Abi on the other hand has shown just how useful his near cartoon like reach can be. This is underscored that Shohozan has yet to win a match from Abi. It’s just possible that Abi might go kachi-koshi at Maegashira 2, which would mean a second basho in the job for Abi, and frankly would further elevate his profile to his growing base of fans around the world.

Tamawashi vs Endo – Loser of this one make-koshi. Tamawashi and Endo are very evenly matched across the board, and this has the potential of being an outstanding bit of sumo. Tamawashi will try to stay mobile, and I would look for Endo to go for a shallow grip straight off the tachiai. He will take a couple of fierce blows to get his grip, but if he can hold, he will control the match.

Chiyotairyu vs Ichinojo – Day 10 saw Ichinojo once again summon overwhelming strength against Shodai. So much so that he seems to simply push Shodai away like an empty udon bowl that could no longer hold his interest. Chiyotairyu likes to win at the tachiai with speed, force and power. Frankly Ichinojo might actually feel that, or he may be focus solely on checking the crowd for wolves. History for the two of them is an even split of 2-2.

Tochinoshin vs Kotoshogiku – Former Ozeki Kotoshogiku, aka the Kyushu Bulldozer, has a lot of frustration to discharge. He faces off against the man who would be Ozeki, who is looking like the strongest, most energetic man in sumo today. Kotoshogiku holds a 24-7 advantage over Tochinoshin, but in the last few tournaments, it’s been Tochinoshin who prevails. Tochinoshin will try to go chest to chest early, and that is just fine with Kotoshogiku. Kotoshogiku is looking stronger and healthier this tournament than he has in a while, so the hug-n-chug might actually overpower Tochinoshin. We know that Tochinoshin is strong enough to lift Kotoshogiku over his head and twirl him like a button, but Kotoshogiku has a surprising portion of his body weight below his mawashi, making his center of mass difficult to manipulate. This will either be a roaring match of the day, or a complete snooze fest. Double points if Tochinoshin pulls a henka.

Shodai vs Hakuho – Shodai is having a good basho, but Hakuho is getting himself amped up to stop Tochinoshin, and claim his 41st yusho. So Shodai is a bit of a warm up. But just a bit. There is that nagging problem of the one time Shodai beat him, so Hakuho will be on his guard, and hopefully not do anything too exotic just for the fun of it.

Kakuryu vs Mitakeumi – Not really sure what to say here. Kakuryu and his henka on day 10 was a ridiculous surprise, which he beclowned himself. I am sure he has and will catch a lot of grief over that. He is 3-3 against Mitakeumi, who copes well with Kakuryu’s reactive style.

Natsu Day 9 Preview

Natsu Day 9

After last night’s marathon live-blogging session, most of the Tachiai team is rightfully tired and looking for an early bed. But first, let’s discuss the matches that will happen day 9 in Tokyo while the US portion of the crew is tucked into their beds.

With two days remaining in act 2, the one remaining goal for the scheduling team is to get Tochinoshin to pick up at least one loss. They also would like to get (as lksumo points out) a loss or two onto Chiyonokuni and Daishomaru. The ideal situation would be a three-way tie between Hakuho, Kakuryu and Tochinoshin going into or shortly after the start of act 3. This would drive some excitement, and some ratings. The difficulty being that for the moment, Tochinoshin is the most genki of the whole Makuuchi division.

Normally one could place their trust in Hakuho as the ultimate governor of who wins and loses, but his sumo is off at the moment. Many fans are speculating like mad as to why, but you need to look no further than the recent death of his father, and the disruption to his family life and emotional state.

Natsu Leaderboard

Leader – Tochinoshin
ChasersKakuryu, Hakuho, Daishomaru, Chiyonokuni
Hunt Group – Shodai, Kotoshogiku, Ikioi, Daishomaru, Kyokutaisei, Myogiryu

7 Matches Remain.

What We Are Watching Day 9

Onosho vs Aminishiki – As we expected, Onosho is making a visit to Makuuchi to fill a gap left by Endo’s kyujo. It’s also likely the case that he is going to be back in the top division for July. Poor Uncle Sumo is in terrible shape right now, and likely to pick up his make-koshi against Onosho.

Ishiura vs Nishikigi – As the lowest ranked man in the top division, Nishikigi needs nothing less than a kachi-koshi to remain a Maegashira. Today’s match is tough luck for him, as he has a 7-4 deficit when facing off against Ishiura. Nishikigi needs 3 more wins out of the remaining 7 to hold on.

Takekaze vs Chiyonokuni – Takekaze seems to be fading fairly rapidly, and has not really had much sumo this tournament. He is still at 4-4, so it’s possible he could pick up enough wins to keep out of Juryo. Takekaze is highly evasive, where Chiyonokuni is direct and violent. The veteran holds a 5-3 career advantage over Chyonokuni.

Aoiyama vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki has never won against Aoiyama, but for this basho, Aoiyama is clearly hurt, and Kagayaki is fighting in possibly his best form ever. If there was a chance to start correcting that 0-5 losing streak against Aoiyama, day 9 looks like it could be the day.

Takakeisho vs Chiyomaru – I think this one will be a blast. We have the near constant motion of Takakeisho against the bulbous Chiyomaru, who showed on day 8 that he actually has some decent sumo chops against Okinoumi. Takakeisho has won 3 of their 4 prior meetings.

Hokutofuji vs Takarafuji – Notable to me in that Hokutofuji seems to be getting some sense of his sumo back together, and may actually offer some kind of challenge to Takarafuji who has been struggling this tournament with rikishi who tend to stay low. Hokutofuji has a long way to go to recover to the kind of genki he was last year, but his fans believe he has it in him.

Chiyotairyu vs Ikioi – This match is more even than it may seem. Ikioi has been fighting above his recent average during Osaka and Natsu. Ikioi delivered a winning hatakikomi, and I think he will find a way to overcome Chiyotairyu’s cannon ball tachiai and win again.

Abi vs Kaisei – This one seems just for fun, as I am going to guess that unless Abi applies some force behind his long-arm tsuppari, it’s going to come down to Kaisei’s mighty bulk as the deciding factor. They have split their two other matches, so it’s anyone’s guess. I know Abi is having a fun time regardless.

Tochinoshin vs Daieisho – Tochinoshin needs just three more, and I am guessing that his 3-1 career advantage over Daieisho means he’s going to likely get one of them today. Daieisho did surprise Goeido, but I doubt he will be able to overcome Tochinoshin.

Ichinojo vs Goeido – If my guess that Goeido is having ankle problems again is correct, he won’t have much resistance to whatever Ichinojo brings to the early portion of the match. Goeido’s only hope is to use his favorite and best tuned offense – speed. Rapid movement is not an Ichinojo aspect.

Kotoshogiku vs Hakuho – Hakuho leads the series 53-6. I am going to say 54-6 shortly. Kotoshogiku is looking better this basho than he has in some time, and Hakuho looking rough and chaotic. But I still think “The Boss” will dispatch the Kyushu Bulldozer. Maybe not cleanly, but effectively.

Kakuryu vs Shodai – The career record favors Kakuryu 7-0, so he is clearly likely to win this one. But Shodai has been getting his opponents to more or less defeat themselves somehow this tournament. Perhaps some kind of Jedi mind trick. So there’s a small chance he my find a way to get Kakuryu to do himself in, and I will be eagerly watching the final match of the day.

Natsu Day 5 Highlights

Endo-Badge

With Act 1 in the books now, we can start to look forward to Act 2, where we sort the strong from the struggling, and a lot of hopes and dreams get crushed. While it may seem brutal to put it that way, each basho is a clean slate, and each rikishi has a chance to be completely different than the time before, if they have the means to do so. I would say the biggest surprise for me thus far is Shodai. How or why Shodai is 5-0 at the end of act 1 is a complete mystery to me, but I congratulate him on the effort and the achievement. I have always maintained the man has seeds of greatness within him, if he could just fix some of the mechanics of his sumo.

A close second place would be Ikioi. He was a force of nature in Osaka, in spite of what looked like the kind of injuries that might require hospitalization. Nope! He’s at it again. He has one loss but he is in “badass” mode every day. Today he dismantled Kotoshogiku in a wild “kitchen sink” match that delighted and entertained. I swear he has decided that playing it safe is no way to close out a sumo career, and he’s just going to throw caution to the winds and fight like a angry swan. For those of you who have never had a swan attack you, let me tell you, don’t try it.

Highlight Matches

Aminishiki defeats Takekaze – Uncle sumo finally wins one. It has been awesome to see him battle his way back up to Makuuchi once again, but he’s a poor broken fellow with more courage than fortitude remaining.

Aoiyama defeats Nishikigi – The giant Bulgarian wins by getting an armpit grip on Nishikigi and forcing him out. It’s painful watching Aoiyama fight, as it’s clear he is in a bunch of pain, but pushing to keep himself in the top division. Nishikigi’s position is even more precarious, so any loss must be a worry for him.

Tochiozan defeats Asanoyama – Asanoyama, featuring a massive elbow bandage, had the initiative for the bulk of this match. Tochiozan, to his credit, waited for an opportunity. Asanoyama continued to thrust against Tochiozan’s chest but eventually went off balance, and Tochiozan converted that quickly into a win. Experience pays.

Chiyonokuni defeats Daiamami – Wow, what a match! The start out with some oshi, punctuated with Daiamami taking a round house slap to the face. Having had enough of that he latches onto Chiyonokuni’s mawashi. Chiyonokuni struggles for a bit, but responds in kind. At one point Daiamami gets the deep double inside grip, but Chiyonokuni blazes ahead, forcing his opponent backward and out. Great match.

Takakeisho defeats Arawashi – This was won at the tachiai. Take a good look at how Takakeisho lands his first thrust against Arawashi’s shoulders before Arawashi can finish lunging forward. There was no recovering from that.

Kagayaki defeats Okinoumi – Kagayaki’s battle plan was simple, powerful and effective. He got under both arms of Okinoumi and marched forward. This guy keeps reminding me at times of a young Kisenosato, and I think if he can keep working upward and stay free of injury, he may follow a similar trajectory. Never glamorous, just solid sumo fundamentals.

Ryuden defeats Chiyomaru – Ryuden picks up his first win, much to his relief. Chiyomaru really made him work for it.

Yoshikaze defeats Takarafuji – I am starting to get hopeful. Yoshikaze looked stronger and faster today, and maybe a touch genki. The match was all about battling for grip, until Takarafuji lunged forward, and Yoshikaze instantly converted to exploiting his off-balance stance.

Ikioi defeats Kotoshogiku – Ikioi comes in low and goes chest to chest with the Kyushu Bulldozer straight out of the tachiai. When Kotoshogiku flexes to lift him up, Ikioi declares he will have none of that, and moves forward strongly, causing them both to lose their grip. After a failed attempt to throw Kotoshogiku, the resulting mess was completely off balance, but under Ikioi’s control, which he kept in motion until Kotoshogiku found the edge of the ring. Great work by Ikioi today, but once again post match he can barely walk.

Shodai defeats Chiyoshoma – Another mediocre to lame tachiai from Shodai, but then he takes over and just fork-lifts Chiyoshoma at the edge of the dohyo. Undefeated Shodai? I am going to make a bet that the scheduling team has some fun with him in act 2.

Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Mitakeumi took a head butt as the price to get inside, but he got his preferred offensive stance and went to work. Tamawashi immediately gave ground, but rallied. In his aggressive forward attack, he put his balance too far forward and Mitakeumi pulled him forward. His own momentum carried him out. Tamawashi is looking poorly right now, and I wonder if he is hurt. Mitakeumi ended the match dripping blood from his right eye, ouch!

Endo defeats Ichinojo – The big outcome of the day, and it was not an easy match for either man. Ichinojo gave Endo the inside grip immediately and went chest to chest, I am going to assume that his superior size and strength would carry the day. While Endo latched his right hand on Ichinojo’s mawashi, Ichinojo could not find a reciprocal grip. Finally getting deep with his right hand over Endo’s back, Ichinojo tried repeatedly to load an uwatenage, but Endo countered with some very impressive footwork. Stalemated, Ichonojo locks up Endo and works out a stage 2 plan, but Endo lands a left hand frontal grip for his third attack. Ichinojo realizes that his size is not going to stop this onslaught, and he is too high, with Endo buried in his chest, he has no room to lower his hips. Endo gives it all he has, and advances, winning a fantastic match. Complements to both rikishi on some outstanding sumo. The roar in the Kokugikan must have been deafening.

Tochinoshin defeats Kaisei – Kaisei was completely out-classed. No one can match the intensity of Tochinoshin right now, it’s a think of beauty.

Goeido defeats Yutakayama – Goeido almost attempted a pull against today. Someone fit that guy with a shock collar and give his oyakata the button to set it off.

Hakuho defeats Daieisho – I am going to assume that Hakuho is bored right now. No one has really given him even a decent warm up.

Kakuryu defeats Abi – Much as I assumed, Kakuryu found those long arms a bit of a problem, but they also are great leverage if you can grab one. Big K pulling again, but he got the win.

Natsu Day 3 Highlights

Endo Trinket

Internet… Satellite TV… Fiber Optic Cables… What happens when several of these malfunction at once? Sumo fans take to their mobiles to get their burly men fix. Sadly it’s balls for posting to tachiai.org. But through the magic of standing outside my front door waving money around, one of the multiple repair people who were supposed to come to my house and do work has actually arrived. Whats more, they actually did work.

Day 3 continued the evolution more or less along predictable paths, but with a small exception or two that shall be noted below. Thus far, the Natsu basho is being incredibly predictable. Sumo fans may have gotten spoiled by some of the topsy-turvy action of the past year, and coming across a tournament where the favorites win each day may seem quite pedestrian. But then many of the agents of disruption are either lower down the banzuke, banged up, or simply not genki. This would include Yoshikaze, Onosho, Takakeisho, Ura and Hokotofuji. The other option is that the banzuke is so perfectly tuned, that everyone is fighting more or less at their predicted ability.

Also of note, there are additional stories in the Japanese sumo press that Yokozuna Kisenosato is arranging affairs for his post-rikishi life. This includes getting his kabu in order, establishing a residence in Tokyo (outside of the stable), and other matters. For fans who were behind him all the way, or leanered to respect him because he never let up, it’s going to be a bitter time. As we covered extensively at the time, his injury was repairable with immediate surgery and a lengthy recovery period. But now it seems there is no way for him to regain his former left arm/chest strength.

Highlight Matches

Myogiryu defeats Aminishiki – We knew coming out of jungyo that Uncle Sumo would be shaky this time due to injuries. He had a strong tachiai, but tried to pull Myogiryu down, that was the signal; and Myogiryu then took over and dispatched him with ease.

Asanoyama defeats Aoiyama – It’s quite obvious that Aoiyama has enough damage to his knees and possibly hips that he is barely able to do sumo at all. A kyujo at this point is a certain ride back to Juryo, while staying in may get him a win or two, he runs the real risk of compounding his injuries. On the other side of this, Asanoyama with a 3-0 start. Good job!

Daiamami defeats Takakeisho – Notable in that Takakeisho is still not 100%, he was too far forward and easily slapped down. We need the angry tadpole back!

Chiyonokuni defeats Hokutofuji – Part 1 of the sad sack back to back story arc. Hokutofuji is really a mess right now, and I wonder if he would be better off just going to Hawaii (no the part that is on fire) and relaxing for a while.

Kagayaki defeats Yoshikaze – And part 2. Clearly Yoshikaze had a step change downward a couple of tournaments ago, and is in some sort of lower energy state. Short of a Fukushima Daiichi onsen trip, or a lightning strike, I am not sure what can re-energize my favorite rikishi. Kagayaki looked very good, though!

Takarafuji defeats Chiyoshoma – This was a fun bout, maybe some of the better sumo of the day. Watch towards the end where Chiyoshoma escapes Takarafuji’s uwatenage just to lose his balance and backslide into a waiting Ryuden.

Ikioi defeats Ryuden – Theory. In some mystical ritual that involved a visit to Yakushima and a ceremony in front of a protected grove of Yaku Sugi, Yoshikaze’s genki was transferred to Ikioi. Much like loaning out a kabu, Yoshikaze is loaning is boundless battle energy to Ikioi. Also Ikioi has decided to just put it all on the line every day.

Shodai defeats Chiyotairyu – I am delighted that Shodai is winning, but lets be honest. He is stumbling through the matches and winning by sheer luck. But that’s good enough for sumo! I do hope that it gives him back the confidence and courage that seems to have left him last year.

Kotoshogiku defeats Yutakayama – I love how terrifyingly fast Kotoshogiku can be off the line. Yes he has faded from his Ozeki days, but the guy still has some outstanding moves. I just wish we could get him back in San’yaku so he would do his back stretches again.

Mitakeumi defeats Abi – Abi looked like a spider on a hot plate. That, or each of his limbs were individually trying to escape from Mitakeumi in different directions, dragging his foreshortened torso along for the ride. Welcome to the joi, Abi. You are going to get past this hurdle one day, ad we will be cheering you on.

Ichinojo defeats Daieisho – Daieisho attempted a henka, and to my surprise Ichinojo was able to recover. Daieisho maintained the initiative for several more seconds, until Ichinojo rallied at the center of the dohyo and tried to pull Daieisho down. It almost didn’t work. Move forward, great Boulder.

Tochinoshin defeats Tamawashi – Tochinoshin looking very genki, but this match had at least one notable. At the end, Tochinoshin falls. Note the extreme motions he goes through to protect that knee. The fact that he lost his balance after the match ended should be an event of note. I sincerely hope we don’t see him succumb to injury on the eve of securing a valid Ozeki ticket.

Endo defeats Goeido – Field testing of Goedio 2.1 suffered a set back today, as the production system branched into the reverse protocol that engineers have been trying for years to correct. Endo, being a wily sort, saw this at once and put the naughty sumo-bot down before he could endanger the grannies in the 3rd row, once again forever endearing himself to his vast brigade of fans across Japan.

Hakuho defeats Shohozan – Blink and you miss it!

Kakuryu defeats Kaisei – If you wanted to head to the Ryogoku station a few minutes early, you could have skipped this match and no one would blame you. I think all of the Salarymen who were there for the day did exactly that.

Haru Day 15 Preview

Macaroon
Time To Hoist The Giant Macaron of Victory And Call It a Basho!

And so we come to the close of a most enjoyable tournament. It ends with a satisfying result, and with the Sekitori corps advancing well along the path. The Tadpole league took a body blow, with Onosho not starting, Takakeisho going kyujo, and Mitakeumi ending up make-koshi. The veterans had much to celebrate, with Ikioi and Kaisei racking up double digit wins, Endo clearly on the mend, and Tochinoshin still potent. The Freshmen are finding their footing now, and I expect some great challenges by the time we get to kyushu, with the first of that cohort looking to enter san’yaku for their introductory make-koshi.

The match preview is brief on this final day, as most questions have already been settled, but I am sure there will be some good sumo for all the fans.

Haru Leaderboard

Yokozuna Kakuryu Wins the Haru Yusho!

What We Are Watching Day 15

Aminishiki vs Myogiryu – The mind boggles! Uncle Sumo, who if he wins is kachi-koshi, and possibly headed back to Makuuchi for Natsu, faces off against Myogiryu, who is already make-koshi and probably headed to Juryo. Go Uncle Sumo!

Daiamami vs Yutakayama – I think it would be fun if Daiamami ended up with 10 wins, but he’s going up against a very genki Yutakayama. It’s a tough climb, but I think Daiamami has a good chance.

Asanoyama vs Ryuden – You would think that the Maegashira 9 Ryuden would be favored to pick up his final win, and his kachi-koshi, over a Maegashira 13 opponent. But Ryuden has never won against Asanoyama.

Kagayaki vs Ishiura – Can Ishiura henka another win? He just needs one. Kagayaki, can you spare a white star for a brother rikishi?

Abi vs Daishomaru – This battle of the 9-5 Freshmen has a lot of potential for good sumo. Its a challenge for Daishomaru to get inside Abi’s enormous reach, but it will be easiest at the tachiai.

Kaisei vs Ikioi – Both men 11-3, both of them must be genuinely proud of their performance this tournament. This match will probably decide a special prize, and a slice of the jun-yusho. Well deserved, both!

Daieisho vs Shodai – Tough to think that with all of the energetic beatings Shodai has suffered this basho that he still has a chance at kachi-koshi. I have a soft spot in my heart for the guy, and I do hope he picks up his win here.

Kotoyuki vs Takarafuji – Both men in the 10+ loss club. Maybe they should just spread out a checkered square of cloth between the shikiri-sen, and enjoy rice-balls and sake instead.

Endo vs Shohozan – Shohozan wants that 8th win, and he’s going to really have to work for it. Endo is kachi-koshi, but he’s keen for 10 wins at his highest ever rank, giving him a firm launch into San’yaku. Endo leads the series 5-2.

Ichinojo vs Tochinoshin – This has a lot of potential. As we say from Hatsu, Tochinoshin can actually lift Ichinojo, so what will the Boulder do? Who would not love to see an Ichinojo henka? It would be like seeing Mt. St.Helens sing opera.

Mitakeumi vs Goeido – History favors Goeido, but Mitakeumi showed some real painful sumo to Takayasu on Saturday. Hopefully Mitakeumi knows that Goeido is going to come out hard, fast and low.

Kakuryu vs Takayasu – Both of these guys are very chaotic in their sumo. I would expect Kakuryu to allow Takayasu to take the lead until he over-comits, and then it’s time for an Osaka clay norimaki.

Haru Day 14 Preview

Chiyomaru
If I win, yes, that big meaty leg is mine!

It is with great celebration that we welcome the final weekend of the Haru basho. It’s been fun and exciting for fans around the world, and it’s been our pleasure to have been along for the ride. Yokozuna Kakuryu has one job to do – if he wins just one of his two remaining matches, he claims his fourth yusho. But to accomplish that, he needs to beat either Ozeki Goeido or Ozeki Takayasu. Can he do it? I think he will. Kakuryu has looked better this basho than in any I can remember in recent years, and it’s possible that if he has his medical problems solved, he may be the one the Kyokai depends on for a time. I expect that Hakuho is going to pace himself, and Kisenosato may be a lost cause.

What has really surprised me about this tournament is that no rikishi were able to take advantage of the open promotion lane. The expected candidates (Mitakeumi, Ichinojo, and Tochinoshin) could not muster the endurance and strength to maintain the performance needed over the first 13 days. Should Hakuho return genki and well, it could be months before we see another basho with a single, somewhat damaged Yokozuna holding court.

Even more puzzling is that Ozeki Takayasu did not exploit this opportunity to push for his first Yusho. His sumo has become somewhat chaotic and uncontrolled, and I think it’s really kept him from the next step forward in performance that it would take for him to make a bid to be Yokozuna.

Haru Leaderboard

Leader: Kakuryu
Hunt Group: Takayasu, Kaisei, Ikioi

2 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 14

Ishiura vs Ikioi – I am hoping that the slippery Ishiura receives some brawny sumo training from hometown favorite Ikioi on day 14. Ishiura is still pushing for kachi-koshi, but I think a good rough defeat would be instructive. Double points to Ikioi if he catches Ishiura doing a henka and makes him regret it.

Daiamami vs Kotoyuki – As a sumo fan, I wonder what is going on with Kotokuki. The guy has 12 losses going into day 14. I get that he is hurt, but why not go kyujo at that point? You could at least take a chance to heal. But Daiamami has a chance to get 9 or 10 wins, and I don’t think Kotoyuki is going to be taking this one.

Asanoyama vs Yutakayama – Another yama battle, this one between two of the bright and hopeful Freshmen, who are both already kachi-koshi, so this is to see who gets closer to the joi, and chance to be beaten to a pulp during May’s Natsu basho.

Chiyoshoma vs Aoiyama – As much as Chiyoshoma dearly wants to pick up his kachi-koshi today, Aoiyama still seems to have a lot of aggression to work out of that massive body. Where he seems to get into trouble is chasing after his opponents and getting maneuvered into tight spots. Word to the man-mountain, let the little Mongolian fellow come to you!

Chiyonokuni vs Daieisho – Chiyonokuni seems frustrated, as frustrated as only a grumpy badger can ever be. He’s all the way down at Maegashira 10, but he’s still getting used as a washcloth daily. He’s one loss away from make-koshi, but I think with his back against the wall like this, he may find the fortitude to win. Daieisho needs one more win to move to mid-Maegashira for Natsu, so he’s eager to go. Chiyonokuni holds a 4-1 career advantage.

Kotoshogiku vs Abi – Sure, why not? Abi is like some sumo doll with slinkies for joints going against the aging and poorly maintained Kyushu bulldozer. If Kotoshogiku can keep Abi in front of him (no easy task), it’s all bumppity-bumppity bump. But Ojisan Kotoshogiku can be out-maneuvered many times.

Arawashi vs Ryuden – Ryuden needs to win both his remaining bouts to get a kachi-koshi. He is not quite the powerhouse he was at Hatsu, but he has turned in a fairly solid basho. Arawashi has a ton of battle damage and either needs to be dry docked or turned into an artificial reef.

Kagayaki vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji: The hardest working double-digit-loss rikishi in all of sumo-dom. His case is truly one for the epic bards of Iceland. Kagayaki’s about right at Maegashira 8 for his sumo right now, so he’s not a lock to get his 7th win today.

Endo vs Hokutofuji – Future and long anticipated san’yaku rikishi Endo is going to be seeing if he can run up the score. Hokutofuji gave fading Mitakeumi an energetic scrum today, and seems to have recovered some of his sumo. I like the chances for this bout being full of well executed technique, with swooning grandmothers and cheering salarymen.

Shohozan vs Tamawashi – Winner kachi-koshi. Both of them like to beat victory out of their opponents, with Shohozan being more of a “low-rider” model. Tamawashi looked lost in his day 13 match against a degraded Yoshikaze. Hopefully Tamawashi is not injured.

Ichinojo vs Shodai – I would love to tell you that our Boulder is going to pick up the soft and squishy Shodai like a plush toy, stick his enormous thumb in his mouth and waddle back to the shitaku-beya for a long cuddle and some ice cream with his favorite pony. But someone turned Shodai from stink bug to holy hell. God only knows how this one is going to turn out, as Shodai wants one more shiroboshi.

Yoshikaze vs Chiyotairyu – Did I see a flash of the Berserker day 13? Was that the spirit of some blazing warrior of old that overwhelmed Tamawashi “the Jackhammer”? Dare I hope that he is getting over whatever problems plagued his first week? Or will the kami-infused sideburns of might power Chiyotairyu to victory in the name of a dozen empty, stacked soba bowls left on the counter of Ryogoku Bandai at midnight?

Chiyomaru vs Tochinoshin – Ever since he was accused of cooking and eating Ura in a quest for more calories, Chiyomaru has had his eye on Tochinoshin’s uninjured leg. At long last the hungry man will face the Hatsu Yusho winner in single combat, winner eat all. Sadly for Chiyomaru, he’s never beaten Tochinoshin, so his only hope is to show up hungry.

Takayasu vs Mitakeumi – Hey, Takayasu Pooh-Bear. Your senpai was a fan of jun-yushos, and it was kind of sad. I know you think the sun shines out of his mawashi’s rear flap, but it’s no way to go through life, son. This was your chance to hoist the hardware and rack a portrait. Mitakeumi, time for you to regroup and think about why you want to be Sekiwake. Sure, the chicks dig a san’yaku man, but either get to some double digits like your opponent did, or go practice you Chanko recipe for later.

Kakuryu vs Goeido – Easily today’s most calamitous bout, no one at Tachiai central is certain who is going pull whom down how many times. There is a non-zero chance that we may see a startup fault in GoeiDOS and he ends up in “Bouncy Castle” mode again. Meanwhile Kakuryu needs to avoid both the henka and the cannonball charge from Goeido. Big K is convinced he is Mr. Genki now, but Goeido can not only win this one, but the risk of injury to the lone surviving Yokozuna is very real. Loss + Kyujo would cause a ruckus in the sumo world unlike any seen in many years.

Haru Day 10 – Kinjite, Henka, and a Lone Yokozuna

What a marvellous day we had today at the EDION arena in Osaka.

ikioi-yutakayama
Ikioi grabbing Yutakayama’s oicho-mage

The first bout in Makuuchi featured a visitor from Juryo, Takekaze, who seems to be quite on the genki side and ready to come back to the top level. He was faced with Aoiyama, still part of the Yusho arasoi.

This time, no Henka, and Aoiyama pulled away from the tachiai to give himself space for his usual tsuppari attack, then pushed Takekaze forward – but one advantage the little bullfrog has over Aoiyama is that he is much lighter on his feet. Lateral movement, and the Bulgarian’s inertia did the rest. Aoiyama now out of the yusho race, but he will get his kachi-koshi, and probably double digits.

Asanoyama faced shocking pink Hidenoumi, but was not blinded by his mawashi. He got a safe hold on Hidenoumi’s mawashi, tried a yori in one direction, then a yori in the other direction, then just pulled the man down. Uwatedashinage, and Hidenoumi is make-koshi and heading back to Juryo.

Ishiura didn’t do the most flagrant henka on the dohyo today. It was only a half-henka. Myogiryu managed to turn around at the edge, but not quickly enough to avoid the push.

Kotoyuki must be spending a large fraction of his keiko time perfecting his rolling technique. Even when he doesn’t roll off the dohyo, he still manages to roll. And today the bowler was Sokokurai, with a very typical uwatenage. Kotoyuki still winless.

Daiamami, who has had a strong basho this far, surprises by doing a henka. Still not the most flagrant one of the day. And also rather ineffectual. Tochiozan easily recovers and returns the favor, and it’s Daiamami who is on the receiving end of the hatakikomi, and off the yusho race.

Ikioi seems as good as he has been this basho. Pushes here and there, and then slams Yutakayama to the ground. Yutakayama’s hand goes straight to his topknot before he even rises, and for a good reason. His hair got pulled. Was it a forbidden hair pull or a hand accidentally getting caught in the elaborate hairdo? A monoii is called. The shimpan confer and decide: he pulled.

It’s worth noting that the point here is not so much if the hand in the hair is what caused Yutakayama to fall, and it’s also not whether it was intentional or not. Japanese culture regards people’s intentions and feelings as something that can’t be judged easily from the outside, so it tends to concentrate on observable behavior. The point is, therefore, whether Ikioi was grabbing the hair or not. And the replays show him bending his fingers as they get caught in the hair. This makes it a grab. Hatakikomi experts like Aminishiki know to keep their fingers straight when this happens. If your fingers are straight, you’re pretty much safe.

Ikioi, therefore, loses by hansoku – a disqualification – for using a kinjite – a forbidden technique. This is very rare in the top divisions. Ikioi says he thought his hand was already free of the mage when he pulled down.

Chiyonokuni gives Nishikigi his standard treatment. Forward attack with fierce tsuppari, and then a sharp pull. Nishikigi, as he has been for quite a few basho, is struggling to string wins together.

Kagayaki beats Daishomaru by a straightforward yori-kiri. Kagayaki has really improved his sumo style, and I would have expected him to be more than 5-5 at this point. Daishomaru missed his kachi-koshi opportunity this time.

Daieisho tries to develop an oshi battle against Chiyoshoma, but Chiyoshoma catches his mawashi and it turns into a yotsu battle. Chiyoshoma goes back and forth trying to create one of his favorite throws. He is having a hard time of it this basho, though. Eventually he gives up and completes this by a simple, straightforward yori-kiri.

The two rikishi who won the kanto-sho together last basho, Ryuden and Abi, are now being sorted into two different levels. Ryuden, though he is a very nice rikishi, will stay at the low to middle ranks, while Abi is definitely going places. Abi did his standard routine. Long hands landing a barrage of tsuppari, long legs moving forward fast. Ryuden could not withstand that attack or try anything. Abi, if he improves his footwork, may get to sanyaku in a couple of basho.

Something very strange is happening to Yoshikaze. Are we seeing the initial signs of concussion-related issues? He looks pretty much alright in his match with Okinoumi, when suddenly his left foot develops a mind of its own and he crumbles to the ground. The kimarite is kainahineri, but it doesn’t really look like one, and the only reason he escaped being sent off with a tsukihiza (which is a hiwaza – a non-technique, a default) is that Okinoumi was, in fact, applying some force to his body.

Takakeisho continues his weak, supposedly injury-related, sumo vs. the struggling Hokutofuji. For a couple of basho, the tadpoles have been the great hope for the future, and now they are all crumbling together.

Takarafuji showed today what he is really worth, in a patient and strong match with Kotoshogiku. He even attempts to gaburi the gaburi-master at some point there, but eventually finishes with a cleanly executed throw. The Isegahama man is a clear demonstration of the hardship of the joi. In the first week he got pummeled by much superior rikishi, and then, with low confidence and accumulated bangs, lost a couple of matches he should have won if they were in the beginning of his schedule. Thus, a make-koshi for an otherwise excellent wrestler. All he can do is try to pad his slide down the banzuke with a few wins.

Arawashi, whose left knee bandage seems to grow larger every day, is no real match for Endo, who gets him quickly out of the circle. Off-dohyo issues may also be affecting the injured Eagle, as apparently his tsukebito, Hikarugenji, is involved in yet another violence scandal and is kyujo as of today.

And now we come to the highlight match of the day. 420kg on the dohyo, not counting the gyoji. On one side, the new kaiju, Ichinojo, flexing his muscles and looking for young horses to toss around. On the other side, Kaisei, with a perfect 9-0 record, eyeing the yusho. Tachiai. Boom! The meeting of bodies nearly causes the seismographs in the Kansai area to send the signal for all shinkansen to stop in their tracks. It’s lucky that the honbasho dohyo is not made of beer crates like the jungyo dohyo are.

Kaisei takes the initiative and manages to get Ichinojo to the bales, but the Kyomusubi rallies and step by step pushes back to the middle of the ring. Then he sets his alarm clock for the next day, finds a soft spot on Kaisei’s shoulder to rest his head and goes to sleep. Remember, there are no wolves in Japan. Ichinojo can allow himself to sleep deeply, while Kaisei’s eyes start to bulge. The next day, Ichinojo wakes up, pushes a bit, sees that Kaisei still has some stamina left, hits the snooze button, and sleeps some more. Then he wakes up, picks the spent Brazilian up, and heaves him across the tawara.

Kaisei is too heavy to stop dead, and drops down, but Ichinojo still has enough stamina to pull at the Tomozuna man, enough to make him land lightly on his feet with little impact. Well done, Kyomusubi. Ichinojo is kachi-koshi, and Kaisei receives his first loss.

(OK, OK, I’m sure my Japanese jokes are lost on the crowd here. I’m calling him Kyomusubi because Komusubi – 小結 – means “little knot”, but 巨結 – Kyomusubi – giant knot – seems somehow more appropriate).

ichinojo-kaisei
Ichinojo, feeling refreshed after a long nap

But would you believe that this battle of titans, with immediate implications for the yusho run, was honored with not a single envelope of kensho? None. Zero. Ichinojo got to take home only his pride and the fans’ adoration.

Tamawashi has settled into a “one day sunshine, the next day rain” pattern. Where is the strong Tamawashi of yesterday? Chiyotairyu pushes him off the dohyo before the gyoji completes his first “hakkioi”.

The bout between Mitakeumi and Shohozan turns out to be a very nice piece of sumo. Shohozan goes for a harizashi but doesn’t quite gets the “zashi” part (slap-and-grab, but where’s the grab?). Then a slapfest ensues. Another harite! And another! And a body clash! Then Shohozan attempts to pull and sidestep. Mitakeumi keeps his balance and manages to re-engage. But Shohozan has now achieved the “grab” he was looking for, with a right-hand-outside. Mitakeumi’s left hand goes outside Shohozan’s grip, and he attempts to grab at Shohozan with his right, but this only ends with Shohozan having a tight morozashi with both hands firmly on Mitakeumi’s left back mawashi. Mitakeumi tries to do something with the arm he has on Shohozan’s neck, but Shohozan’s mighty pythons are doing their job, and Mitakeumi finds himself rolling below the dohyo.

Takayasu makes short work of Shodai. Kachiage. A couple of Nodowa, and good-bye. Takayasu is kachi-koshi, safe from kadoban, and looks pretty much like he did in the previous basho.

And now we come to the most flagrant henka of the day. By, you guessed it, Ozeki Go-Away-Do. And I don’t want to hear any complaints about me using that nickname when he does this. Are you under 170cm, Ozeki? Perhaps you weigh less than 100kg? Are you injured? Coming back from a long, rust inducing kyujo? In kadoban? Facing a man ranked 10 levels above you? Bah. Chicken. His home crowd at Osaka didn’t like it, either. There was a babble of disapproval where there should have been applause for their hero. The Osaka crowd are sumo aficionados. They know what’s right and what’s not. Tochinoshin managed to circle around in time, but couldn’t rally fast enough. He is now out of the yusho race. But I certainly hope he can continue the Ozeki run. Goeido, on the other hand, gets about 20 envelopes of kensho for this display.

Kakuryu, after his display of tawara-waltz yesterday, probably decided it’s time to show some Yokozuna-worthy sumo. He starts with a harizashi (which some argue is not yokozuna sumo. Well, at least not when the Yokozuna is Hakuho). Then gets his typical migi-yotsu, firmly holding to Chiyomaru‘s mawashi with his right hand.

This was, in fact, only the second time he used that grip in this basho. That’s the injured hand, and most of his bouts have been about working around it. He attempts to use it for the yori, but it’s actually Chiyomaru who advances. The yokozuna changes his overarm grip – the left hand – placing it closer to the front of Chiyomaru’s mawashi, and then uses it cleanly and efficiently and Chiyomaru finds himself outside in no time. This has been the first time for Chiyomaru to appear on the musubi-no-ichiban, or engage with a Yokozuna at all. He said “It was an atmosphere which I have never experienced before”.

chiyomaru-kakuryu
Sniff, sniff. Love your aftershave, Maru.

Kakuryu achieves his “Yokozuna kachi-koshi”. It now remains to see if his faith is going to be different than in the previous basho, as he goes into the last third where he faces the strongest opponents. And the first challenge is Kyomusubi Ichinojo!

Yusho Arasoi

  • 10-0 – Y1E Kakuryu
  • 9-1 – M6E Kaisei
  • 8-2 – OE Takayasu, KE Ichinojo

Juryo

As I said, I’m combining my coverages today, and here is the Juryo summary.

homarefuji-takanoiwa
Takanoiwa can’t find his sea legs as yet

At the very bottom, Enho is edging closer to a make-koshi, and his chance of winning all of his next five bouts are vanishingly small, much like himself. He will need to spend some more time at Makushita and get those kilograms rolling.

 

 

Tobizaru pretty much sweeps the floor with him.

Terutsuyoshi is not fairing much better, and I believe he is heading back to Makushita yet again, despite being stronger than Enho. He complains of various injuries on the Isegahama website.

 

The rest of the Isegahama sekitori surprisingly all won today, while all of Takanohana’s lost. In fact, Takanoiwa lost to Homarefuji.

Homarefuji got him into an oshi battle, which is clearly not his specialty.

Terunofuji got to meet the much higher-ranked Kyokutaisei. And once again, showed a glimpse of the old Terunofuji:

Harizashi, yotsu, yori-kiri. The former Ozeki and Kyokutaisei both hit the even 5-5 mark.

For some reason, One And Only seems not to like Aminishiki, and never posts a video of his bouts. So here is a time-stamped (46m 18s) full Juryo video from Miselet:

I have a hunch Aminishiki is going to announce his retirement soon – after this basho, or maybe the next. He is having a real hard time, and I suppose he is getting tired of suffering pain day after day and seeing not much in return.

But for the time being, he manages to scrape another win and break his fall down Juryo somewhat. Tokushoryu tries a tottari, but Aminishiki uses the same elbow to push him away and out.

Mitoryu and Sadanoumi are the only two Juryo wrestlers to achieve kachi-koshi by day 10. Tsurugisho and Amakaze are, alas, make-koshi.

Finally, at Jonokuchi, here is the Hoshoryu of the day. Congratulations, first kachi koshi!

Haru Day 8 Preview

monoii

Please note – all articles written by Bruce H, IE Bruce Henderson formerly of San Diego, are in fact his opinion alone, and represent only his twisted outlook on the world of sumo. The very young, the very old and the easily outraged may find challenges ahead. [Occasionally there are comments from the proofreader, too. Those are objective fact. –PinkMawashi]

Day 7 was brutal for the chase group, with four contenders picking up losses and being demoted to the hunt group. While at the moment it looks like the zero loss crew can run away with it, keep in mind that the scheduling team is just starting to work their voodoo on the torikumi. The front-runners still face many challenges, and we may yet see both Kaisei and Kakuryu taste clay before we hit day 10.

As mentioned in the day 7 highlights, I am looking for Oitekaze-beya to get a strong showing in the post-basho power rankings. All of the Dai* crew are fighting well, and looking like they are moving towards a lift in basic rank, based on the steady improvements of their sumo. It will be interesting to watch them compete against the likes of Takakeisho and Onosho for lead tadpole.

I will say it again, I am damn impressed with Ikioi this basho. The last few tournaments, he seemed to be really struggling physically, but he put in his days on the dohyo with focus and workmanlike determination. This time (possibly due to his lower rank), he is finding ways to win. I am glad he is not yet ready for the downdraft into Juryo, but at his age his injuries may be slowly overtaking him.

Then there is the depressing case of Yoshikaze. Injuries are not widely publicized in sumo, even less so for rank and file rikishi, but there is no way that a warrior like Yoshikaze goes passive like this. The good news is that he can retire at any time, he has a kabu, he has a huge following, he has a passion for youth sumo, and as long as he has his health, he is going to be a big deal in the sumo world.

It would be remiss of me to go without stating that Kaisei also remains unbeaten at the start of the second week. He has done remarkably well, and I salute his effort and his skill. He has been hit or miss in the past, but this is great to see.

Haru Leaderboard

Leaders: Kakuryu, Kaisei
Chasers: Daishomaru, Daiamami
Hunt Group: Takayasu, Goeido, Mitakeumi, Tochinoshin, Ichinojo, Shohozan, Chiyonokuni, Okinoumi, Ikioi, Aoiyama

7 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 8

Ikioi vs Kyokutaisei – Kyokutaisei comes up from Juryo for the day and draws the injured but fierce Ikioi. I predict an Ikioi win, and then he’s 2 away from his kachi-koshi, and likely kyujo.

Daiamami vs Nishikigi – Team Oitekaze starts early on day 8, and the rikishi who never gives up is going to take on a member of the chase group. I predict a Daiamami win, with some good form. This is in spite of the fact that he has never taken a match from Nishikigi (0-3).

Daishomaru vs Aoiyama – Back to back bouts for team Oitekaze, this time the fierce Daishomaru goes up against the man-mountain Aoiyama. Aoiyama has won both of their prior matches, and this may be a tall order for Daishomaru. But a win against the Bulgarian would likely result in a tough match further up the banzuke for Monday. [The Monday torikumi will be set before Aoiyama’s match, so if the torikumi committee decide to start giving him tougher opposition, they’ll have to wait until Tuesday. –PinkMawashi, with thanks to Sakura]

Sokokurai vs Asanoyama – The Freshmen are having a painful basho, and that’s part of them settling into Makuuchi. Asanoyama has a 4-3 winning record, and he has never lost a match to Sokokurai, so I am hoping his sunny outlook will carry the day on Sunday.

Kagayaki vs Yutakayama – An all Freshman battle, Yutakayama has won their only prior match, but I think there is a slight advantage to Kagayaki for today’s match. Kagayaki is slowly improving, and I think his sumo is stronger than Yutakayama’s right now.

Tochiozan vs Daieisho – The highest ranked rikishi for Team Oitekaze takes on veteran Tochiozan. Tochiozan has been a half-step slow this basho, but his form is still very good. I think this comes down to Daieisho being about 2x as genki as Tochiozan, so advantage to Daieisho.

Abi vs Chiyonokuni – Massive ultra-mega oshi-battle here, and folks take note! Both of these young men could work a speed bag like a hungry man taking down the buffet at the Tropicana so this will be one for the slow-motion cameras. Abi will get too far forward, and Chiyonokuni’s tendency to go for haymakers will be the perils. I give an advantage to Chiyonokuni in this first-time match up.

Chiyoshoma vs Yoshikaze – I don’t even want to know. I am tempted to get on a plane and just hand Yoshikaze a bottle of scotch as some shallow form of comfort.

Kaisei vs Okinoumi – Their history shows this to be an even match up, but I am going to guess Kaisei has the advantage going into this. The thing about Okinoumi is that he has the experience and skill to dismantle Kaisei, but will the Brazilian give him an opening?

Ryuden vs Hokutofuji – Ryuden is getting his “welcome to mid-Maegashira” beating, while Hokutofuji is having a bad basho in a string of bad basho. The frustration for both men is palpable, and there may be some extreme effort as a result. This is their first meeting, but I am giving a slight edge to Hokutofuji because he looks a bit like Kaio.

Chiyomaru vs Takarafuji – The best 0-7 rikishi in the basho goes against the spherical man from Kokonoe. Given their upper bodies, there should be few if any neck attacks deployed today. Chiyomaru has yet to win one from Takarafuji, so maybe Takarafuji gets his first white star today. I promise to drink a generous shot of whisky if he does!

Shodai vs Tamawashi – I know Shodai is feeling genki now after his last two matches. But Tamawashi practices his sumo by driving nails into planks by hitting them with his thumb. The man has so much pectoral strength that he shoved Ichinojo around with ease. So I am guessing Shodai goes high at the tachiai, and Tamawashi helps to keep him moving up, up and away.

Ichinojo vs Arawashi – Arawashi can’t buy a win. Ichinojo needs to regroup. Someone get him some ice cream before its too late!

Endo vs Chiyotairyu – Sumo Elvis takes on the man in gold. Endo also needs to re-group, and this might be his time to get his sumo back together. One thing is clear now on day 8, Chiyotairyu’s might was all in his sideburns. He’s been soft and ineffective without them.

Mitakeumi vs Tochinoshin – Highlight bout #1. Anyone who tells you how this is going to end is guessing. I predict it’s going to be fast and brutal. Both are 5-2, and both want to stay in contention with the leaders. Loser goes to the back of the bus.

Takayasu vs Takakeisho – I know Takayasu triumphed in a protracted battle with Shohozan on day 7, but let’s be clear here. Pooh-bear tried three times to set the tempo of the match, and each time he had to follow Shohozan’s lead. His sumo was chaotic but powerful. Now he faces the man who I am pretty sure beat Kakuryu on day 7. This could be a great battle, as Takayasu is going to try to overpower Takakeisho, and Takakeisho’s proportions make him sumo’s greatest weeble. Dear Takayasu, make sure you have a really good plan B and don’t get too far forward or you are going down.

Kotoshogiku vs Goeido – Long and storied history between these two. They have turned in some great matches in the past. It’s not a given that the Ozeki is going to win this one, as Kotoshogiku may find a way to wrap up Goeido and drive him out. Slight advantage to Goeido, as he seems to be fighting well this tournament, and he wants to stay in contention for the cup.

Kakuryu vs Shohozan – Just to be clear, even though Shohozan wants to stay in the hunt group, this match is a challenge for Kakuryu. Shohozan is big, fast and incredibly aggressive. Kakuryu tends to face these matches with a defensive strategy, buying time until his opponent makes a mistake, and then he attacks. But Shohozan is so amped up this basho, Kakuryu may need to be brutal, fast and direct to prevent Shohozan from setting the pace and tone of the match like he did to Takayasu.

Haru Day 7 Highlights

Kakuryu Day 7 Dohyo Iri

All hail the wisdom of the scheduling team – tasked to begin to separate the good from the great, their will was enacted with great effect during day 7. There is some fantastic sumo action to enjoy today, so it’s another day to find Kintamayama or Jason’s sumo channels and soak in the excellence on display during the Haru basho.

It should be noted, the Oitekaze Makuuchi guys [That’s Endo, Daiesho, Daishomaru, and Daiamami –PinkMawashi] are on fire right now. They have, during past basho, had nicely above average records, but they seem to be on the march this time. I am looking towards them for some future sumo leadership, and I am seeing reasons to hope.

Highlight Matches

Myogiryu defeats Hidenoumi – I am a sucker for a strength and endurance match, and these two lower end Maegashira men provided a great example of the type. Really good form from both, and it was a pleasure to watch.

Ikioi defeats Aoiyama – Oh yes he did indeed! In spite of the pain and injuries, Ikioi explodes out of the tachiai, leaving Aoiyama on the defensive and moving backward. He tried to grab Ikioi’s head, while Ikioi dropped his hips, spread his feet and hugged the man-mountain. Aoiyama now realizes he’s in deep deep trouble, he’s high, and his heels are on the tawara. A strong and smooth shove by Ikioi and the Bulgarian is out. What a great win for a rikishi who is giving it everything in spite of his problems.

Daishomaru defeats Sokokurai – Daishomaru stays with the chasers in a really strong win over Sokokurai. Daishomaru may be one to watch, as he seems to be coming into his own, and showing some very strong sumo in the first half of Haru.

Asanoyama defeats Tochiozan – Try as he might, Tochiozan could not disrupt Asanoyama’s offense today. Asanoyama’s form was excellent today, hips low, feet wide and at 45° to the front, moving low and strongly. This is why I am sure that in a year or so, we are going to be looking at Asanoyama as a mainstay of mid to upper Makuuchi. Tochiozan fought well, but his injuries leave him at only 70% of full power.

Daiamami defeats Chiyonokuni – Both Oitekaze rikishi stay in the chase group, one off the leaders. Chiyonokuni gave Daiamami a rough ride, but Daiamami absorbed it all and worked to get into an attack position. After Chiyonokuni’s failed throw attempt, Daiamami rallied and took the Grumpy Badger to his chest. The closing uwatenage seemed to have an extra kick to it, as if Daiamami were disposing of an unpleasant burden. Excellent sumo.

Ryuden defeats Ishiura – For the second straight day, Ishiura tries doing some battle sumo. He’s not winning, but he looks to be doing better. Ryuden is getting dangerously close to the make-koshi line, and its increasing his drive to win.

Okinoumi defeats Yutakayama – As anticipated, strength and experience overcame youthful vigor to carry the day. Okinoumi is at a welcome 5-2 record at the end of the first week of sumo.

Daieisho defeats Hokutofuji – Yet another Oitekaze win. Daieisho kept in motion, with Hokutofuji pursuing. This has been a key to defeating him, as he does not move with superior stability. The throw at the tawara is a great example of Daieisho’s ability to keep himself planted to the clay, even in awkward moves.

Kaisei defeats Kagayaki – Kaisei stays in the leader group today. It was an easy bout, Kaisei moved forward, and Kagayaki stepped out and collapsed.

Chiyomaru defeats Abi – Chiyomaru’s mighty chin-bag kept Abi confused and off rhythm, never getting his thrusting attack started. As fans have noted, Abi tends to lean in quite a bit on offense, so Chiyomaru simply stepped aside and let Issac Newton do the rest.

Shodai defeats Yoshikaze – Congrats to Shodai, but what on earth happened to Yoshikaze? This is killing me, folks.

Kotoshogiku defeats Endo – Endo made the mistake of letting the Kyushu Bulldozer start the bump and grind. In his heyday, there were few who could withstand this attack, and Endo should have gone into the match with a means to prevent it. Kotoshogiku went chest to chest immediately, got his grip, and started his motor.

Tamawashi defeats Ichinojo – Big surprise for day 7. Ichinojo withered under Tamawashi’s powerful oshi-zumo. Ichinojo seems to have tried for a pull-down, but Tamawashi kept up the pressure and had the giant backward and out before he could mount a counterattack. Good work Tamawashi!

Tochinoshin defeats Arawashi – Arawashi is really in rough shape physically and provided no actual challenge to Tochinoshin. As soon as the Hatsu Yusho Winner landed his left hand, it was just a matter of when not if.

Mitakeumi defeats Chiyotairyu – I do believe Mitakeumi smells the winds of change blowing, and he knows it may be “now or never” for him to elevate his sumo. Chiyotairyu opened strong, but Mitakeumi found an opening and counter-attacked. Due to poor camera work, it’s tough to tell how the match ended, but I think Chiyotairyu touched out first.

Goeido defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji can’t buy a win, and the much feared “Bouncy Castle Mode” did not activate today for Goeido. Takarafuji battled strongly, but each time it seemed he would put the Ozeki to the clay, Goeido rallied. If any man deserves recognition for fighting spirit this basho, it’s Takarafuji.

Takayasu defeats Shohozan – Shohozan was never going to go down easy, and he opened with a blistering oshi-attack. Takayasu realized he was getting moved, and went chest to chest. Pinning Shohozan’s left arm, the Ozeki worked to contain his opponent and wear him down. A failed attempt to throw Shohozan resulted in an escape and Shohozan delivering a brutal nodowa, moving Takayasu back. Back to tsuppari, then once again chest to chest. Shohozan was going to find a way to win, no matter what! Shohozan had a right-hand shallow grip, with Takayasu pinning his left arm high and straight. They broke their grips, and the oshi-battle resumed! Both were clearly tired, and the match ended with Shohozan losing his footing, and hitting the clay. Fantastic effort from both men.

Kakuryu defeats Takakeisho – Kakuryu was in real danger two times, as Takakeisho was able to unleash his “Wave Action Tsuppari”, the force and aggression of which moved the Yokozuna back to the bales. He rallied, but Takakeisho once again attacked. The close was a chaotic tumble for Takakeisho from the west side of the dohyo. A monoii is called, as there is some question who stepped out first. Replays showed that as Takakeisho was airborne, Kakuryu’s big toe of his left foot touched the sand outside the ring. The shimpan upheld the gyoji’s decision, and even though I think it should have been a kinboshi, the result was a spotless record for the Yokozuna.

Haru Day 6 Highlights

bow twirling

The second act gets off on the right foot, with several of the undefeated picking up their first loss, but not (so far) Yokozuna Kakuryu and Kaisei. Both men remain unbeaten, with a growing crowd at one loss.

Point two – Who turned up the sumo to awesome mode today? Lots and lots of good matches from Osaka, so you may want to consider watching Jason’s channel and Kintamayama to get a broader look at all of the excellent sumo action that I am sure won’t fit into NHK’s highlight reel.

Highlight Matches

Sokokurai defeats Meisei – Meisei is in his first ever Makuuchi bout, and he puts up a valiant effort against Sokokurai, who manages to pick up his second win. This ends up a yotsu-zumo match, with both men working hard for a winning grip on the other’s mawashi.

Daiamami defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu looking like he has run low on fuel (quick, someone go to Hiroshima and get some okonomiyaki!), while Daiamami turns this into another yotsu-zumo match. Daiamami shows off some truly classic sumo form delivering a yorikiri.

Daishomaru defeats Ikioi – Keep in mind, Ikioi is fighting hurt. Yes, he went on a 4-0 tear to start the basho, but it seems his pain is taking over. Daishomaru, with only a single loss, continues to look strong. I am going to watch for his upcoming match against Aoiyama.

Aoiyama defeats Asanoyama – Unlike some of his prior opponents this tournament, Asanoyama gave the man-mountain from Bulgaria a good fight. But let’s keep in mind that Aoiyama, in spite of his 5-1 record, is, in fact, undefeated so far this basho. He’s like some overflowing dollop of belligerent sour cream out there.

Ishiura defeats Chiyoshoma – Are you sitting down? Ishiura brought his real sumo today, and it was awesome. Chiyoshoma may have been expecting a henka, and when none appeared, he unleashed a frenzied series of blows on Ishiura’s shoulders and head. Then… what’s this? Ishiura initiates yotsu-zumo? Why yes he does! The two men go chest to chest, and Ishiura is getting the job done. The crowd loves it, and so do I! More of this please, Ishiura.

Chiyonokuni defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki returns after taking a day off to nurse injuries suffered from (surprise surprise) falling off the dohyo into the random “lap of the day”. So Chiyonokuni does his best grumpy badger, flailing away at Mr 5×5, who withers under the attack. Chiyonokuni turns him around, and into today’s lap in the front row, which may or may not have been a stable master. Okinoumi is inches away from the impact zone, but looks completely un-phased, as it’s just another day at the office. Someone get Kotoyuki a towel and a coke.

Yutakayama defeats Ryuden – Ryuden seems to be getting tired of losing, as we have yet another yotsu-zumo match break out, with Yutakayama clearly dominating. Ryuden battles strongly, and flatly refuses to be pushed over the bales. Yutakayama tries twice for a leg trip, ultimately succeeding, and has the presence of mind to make sure he falls on top of Ryuden. I like the “help the man up” we see from Yutakayama following. This group I am calling “The Freshmen” really are a breath of fresh air into the top division.

Kaisei defeats Daieisho – An odd little match, the kimarite is listed as oshidashi, but really Daieisho falls over at the edge while Kaisei is about 3m away.

Hokutofuji defeats Kagayaki – Straightforward match, notable because Hokutofuji actually won.

Chiyomaru defeats Yoshikaze – I don’t know what is plaguing Yoshikaze, but it’s sad to watch. Yoshikaze was in charge at the start, but Chiyomaru got him off balance and out. Yoshikaze looked a bit hurt getting up. Ugh.

Shodai defeats Abi – Abi loves to start a match by leaning forward and smacking the dickens out of his opponent’s upper body. Shodai, being Shodai, absorbs a bit of it, seemingly waiting for inspiration. Abi is relentless, backing Shodai up. Then, much like his match against Hokutofuji, he decides he has had enough and hurls Abi to the clay. Ok, win #3 for Shodai!

Ichinojo defeats Chiyotairyu – Sumo Elvis blasts out of the tachiai and delivers a tsuppari salad to Ichinojo. Ichinojo laughs to himself, “Silly pony! I don’t like salad…” And puts his arms around Chiyotairyu, whose arms continue to work by their own purpose to continue the slap-fest. Now flailing like a trout, but completely ineffective, Chiyotairyu can do nothing but obey as the giant marches forward and delivers him to the edge.

Takakeisho defeats Mitakeumi – In this basho’s ultimate tadpole throw-down, it’s Takakeisho who comes out on top. Mitakeumi never really got his offense started, and could not counter Takakeisho’s attack. This is one of the reasons you see Takakeisho competing near the top: His sumo technique enables him to usually get the first hit in, and from that moment, his opponent is reacting.

Tochinoshin defeats Endo – Good golly miss Molly! What a bout! Endo sacrifices his face to Tochinoshin’s shoulder blast to land a morozashi double inside grip from the tachiai. While the Hatsu yusho winner continues to work on his head, Endo is getting ready to deliver some doom. Tochinoshin realizes he’s been had as Endo rotates him, threatening to send him out. In a hurry, Tochinoshin lands his lethal left, but Endo is not going anywhere. Tochinoshin cocks a throw as Endo rotates to take him to the clay. Tochinoshin’s superior strength carries the day, but it was a clear display of how far Endo has come from being injured and weak. Damn, that man has some sumo moves.

Takayasu defeats Takarafuji – It is at this point I feel really bad for Takarafuji. He’s given each opponent a solid match, and he is just always an inch short of the win. His match against Takayasu devolves into a chest-to-chest contest of strength and endurance, and he gives the Ozeki a run for his money. There was a moment early in the match where Takayasu attempted a pull-down. More rikishi should be looking for that, and make him eat it.

Goeido defeats Shohozan – Hometown Ozeki Goeido hands Kyushu’s Shohozan his first loss of the basho. As always, Goeido’s sumo is wild, chaotic and prone to pulling, but Shohozan fell for it… literally.

Kakuryu defeats Kotoshogiku – Kakuryu has managed to keep his sumo rolling for 6 days so far, and it’s great to see him win. Kotoshogiku went chest to chest early and launched him hip-pump attack. Kakuryu times it beautifully, waiting for a forward thrust from his opponent and converts that push into a flying trip to the clay.

Haru Day 5 Highlights

Makuuchi Dohyo iri

Act one comes to a close, and we had a number of undefeated rikishi pick up their first black stars. As guarded as everyone was about how the lone Yokozuna would do, Kakuryu is thus far warming up nicely against lower ranked rikishi.  I am even starting to have hope he may deliver some good sumo in the second week when he faces higher ranked rikishi.

Act two starts tomorrow, and this is where we separate the good from the great for Haru. Even the rikishi who have one loss may hold their ground in the second act, and we will be hard-pressed to see anyone exit act two undefeated with the current banzuke.

But day 5 was a great day of sumo, and as expected we had some great matches from Kagayaki, Shohozan, and Ichinojo.

Highlight Matches

Myogiryu defeats Aoiyama – I completely do not agree with this call. All the replays show Myogiryu down before Aoiyama stepped out. So one undefeated rikishi gets his first black star…

Sokokurai defeats Hidenoumi – Sokokurai gets his first win of Haru, and actually looked fairly good doing it. I guess going chest to chest with someone roughly his own size was the key to getting his sumo running.

Daiamami defeats Ikioi – Ikioi also picked up his first loss for Haru. Daiamami chose a hit-and shift tactic from the tachiai, and it worked against Ikioi. This is the danger of a shoulder-blast tachiai. It leaves you off balance and committed to a direction, which leaves you open for an immediate slap / thrust down from the side.

Chiyonokuni defeats Ishiura – Ishiura attempts a “hit and shift” from the tachiai, but Chiyonokuni recovers and launches his frantic thrusting attack. In an instant, he is behind Ishiura and pushing him out.

Tochiozan defeats Ryuden – Ryuden looking surprisingly lost this basho, with only a single win. Tochiozan is competing hurt, but I marvel at the efficiency the veteran brings to this match. Every move has a purpose and a flow to it. Great sumo from Tochiozan.

Daieisho defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze seems to be slowly, day by day, regaining his fierce energy. Today’s match against Daieisho began with high-velocity oshi, but quickly went to Yoshikaze grabbing a thigh for a leg trip. Daieisho had the presence of mind to keep moving backward while Yoshikaze held his leg, bringing him to the clay.

Kagayaki defeats Abi – As anticipated last night, this turned out to be a great contest of clashing sumo styles. Abi tried for a henka, but there was no way Kagayaki was fast enough into the tachiai for that. Kagayaki seems to have styled himself on Kisenosato’s younger days. He is careful, deliberate and moves with purpose. So he turns and persues Abi, who is now retreating and using his superior reach to land blows to Kagayaki’s neck and head. Kagayaki gives ground and endures Abi’s attacks. But of course, Abi over-commits, and Kagayaki throws him to the clay. Nice sumo here.

Kaisei defeats Chiyomaru – Chest to chest from the start, Kaisei’s long arms are enough to go around Chiyomaru’s enormous belly. Kaisei lowers his hips and advances, but Chiyomaru shuts him down. Kaisei’s strength seems to be back, and he digs to find the energy to back Chiyomaru up and then lifts him over the tawara. That’s 5-0 for the Brazilian.

Shodai defeats Hokutofuji – A battle of the “Should have been” rikishi, Hokutofuji unleashes a fierce tachiai, which Shodai absorbs. Pushing Hokutofuji back, Shodai then turns his opponent, who rockets out and over the edge of the dohyo. It’s over in a flash.

Shohozan defeats Arawashi – Excellent opening from Arawashi, who nearly gets Shohozan out immediately after the tachiai with an armbar throw. But “Big Guns” is not to be denied today, and pivots to return the attack. He grabs a handful of Arawashi’s belt and marches forward, tossing him aside at the tawara. 5-0 for Shohozan, 0-5 for Arawashi.

Ichinojo defeats Endo – Ichinojo decides to unleash his battle-cuddle for a second day, this time tasking Endo to support his quarter-ton bulk until he gets tired. After an initial drive by Ichinojo that almost takes Endo out, the two lock up in the center of the dohyo, chest to chest. There they stay for a minute or more, Ichinojo calmly resting, and daydreaming of eating ice-cream with his favorite pony, while Endo is losing stamina. Endo rallies first and digs deep to raise the Mongolian giant up and start moving him back. But there’s just too much Ichinojo to move. Sensing Endo had reached the end of his endurance, Ichinojo returns the favor and finds Endo light enough to lift and push. Yorikiri. I firmly think Endo is going to be a san’yaku regular before long. He will need to find a way to deal with Ichinojo’s mass.

Tochinoshin defeats Chiyotairyu – Quick bout, after the tachiai, Tochinoshin circles around Chiyotairyu in a blink of an eye, and pushes him out from behind. Done and done.

Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi’s tachiai delivered his skull squarely into Mitakeumi’s face with a wet sounding crunch. I am going to guess that hurt. The match goes oshi-pushy, but Mitakeumi is able to give as well as he gets from Tamawashi. Already close to the edge of the ring, a well-placed shove at center-mass moves Tamawashi back over the bales for Mitakeumi’s 4th win.

Goeido defeats Takakeisho – Quite straight forward Goeido 2.0 bout. He stays stable, and apply wax on / wax off thrusts to keep Takakeisho moving backward and off balance. Still no “wave action” from Takakeisho? Nicely done Goeido.

Takayasu defeats Kotoshogiku – Poor Ojisan Kotoshogiku seems to be hurt, drained and on his last legs. We love the guy, but enough already.

Kakuryu defeats Takarafuji – I like how low Kakuryu was at the tachiai, and he moved forward strongly. His nodowa keeps Takarafuji high and moving backward. With his heels on the tawara, Takarafuji mounts his counter-attack, thrusting Kakuryu to the side. Takarafuji lunges and drives Kakuryu backward towards a loss. With his heels on the bales, the Yokozuna pivots and brings Takarafuji down. But a monoii declares the touched down at the same time, it’s a rematch!

The second bout started the same as the first, Kakuryu low and strong at the tachiai, into a nodowa. But this time he kept driving Takarafuji back and out.

Haru Day 5 Preview

Tochinoshin Flying Lesson

We come to the end of the first act, and it’s clear that there are a few “sleepers” in the ranks. Rikishi who have been ranked higher who have returned to their previous, genki ways. They are now ripping their opponents apart and having marvelous runs. The pace and rhythm of a basho takes this into account. The first act is all about seeing who is hot, and who is not. Starting on Friday, act two will take the hot, feed them into increasingly difficult bouts, seeking to winnow the great from the good. This should include Aoiyama, Kaisei, Shohozan and oddly enough, an injured Ikioi.

What We Are Watching Day 5

Aoiyama vs Myogiryu – The big Bulgarian will likely continue to act as a massive, flabby wrecking ball at the bottom end of the banzuke. Myogiryu has split their career record 9-9, but right now Aoiyama seems to be a man possessed, and he is giving everyone black stars as prizes.

Ikioi vs Daiamami – How long can Ikioi keep winning? He has only faced Daiamami once, and he won that match. So far the Osaka native has had a very good run, and he is halfway to a kachi-koshi. His key to winning has been moving fast and low out of the tachiai and for most of his opponents that has left them reacting, usually poorly, to his authoritative opening moves.

Nishikigi vs Asanoyama – Both men are fairly safe in Makuuchi if they can get at least 6 wins, but both are struggling to get past two. Asanoyama showed a lot of potential during his debut tournament, Aki 2017, but seems to have lost the throttle on his sumo. He faces off against Nishikigi who is working hard to keep himself at or above 50%.

Ishiura vs Chiyonokuni – In his 5 prior matches against Chiyonokuni, Ishiura has not found a way to beat the Grumpy Badger. Like many of the younger rikishi, they seem to have hit some kind of wall and are struggling to move to higher levels of performance. Ishiura at 2-2 could get his “go ahead” win on day 5 if he can stand up to Chiyonokuni’s typically frantic attacks.

Tochiozan vs Ryuden – The first match between the two, and Tochiozan is looking questionable already. I would give a definite advantage to Ryuden.

Daieisho vs Yoshikaze – Also a first-time match, we saw some small amount of fire from Yoshikaze on day 4, and fans can begin to hope that he will return to his high-energy sumo. But then again, he does turn 36 next week. Sumo life likely takes a heavy toll on his body.

Abi vs Kagayaki – Both are tall, Abi is lanky, Kagayaki is deliberate. Abi seems to jump about and attack with rapid blows, Kagayaki plans and moves with care and power. Could be a good match, or a complete snore fest.

Chiyomaru vs Kaisei – I love me some Chiyomaru, but I am not sure if anyone is going to slow down Kaisei during week one.

Arawashi vs Shohozan – Arawashi holds a 5-3 career advantage over Shohozan, but right now “Big Guns” is on a tear, and I don’t think the winless Arawashi will have any mojo to slow him down.

Ichinojo vs Endo – Oh you wonderful schedulers. It’s time to take a couple of hard-charging, genki guys from the joi, and face them off. I could say Ichinojo holds a slight 3-2 career advantage, but that’s not going to matter this time. The Boulder has outrageous mass, love of ice cream and no fear of wolves on his side. Endo has his enchanted golden mawashi, a legion of swooning little old ladies and some kind of bionic foot it seems. Who’s going to win? Maybe Endo shows up Thursday leading a horse to the dohyo. Ichinojo loses focus and it’s easy from there. I am hoping Endo is watching Mitakeumi’s day 4 bout.

Chiyotairyu vs Tochinoshin – Sumo Elvis against the Yusho Man. I am going with Tochinoshin, as I think day 4’s loss really motivated him.

Mitakeumi vs Tamawashi – The thing to note, Mitakeumi leads their career series 9-2, so in this case, that’s a clear advantage. Tamawashi is looking “good enough” to handle Mitakeumi this time around. I would be interested to see if we get a Henka here, it is almost begging for Mitakeumi’s cannonball tachiai to meet thin air.

Takakeisho vs Goeido – Takakeisho steps onto the dohyo with a plan to dismantle nearly everyone he might face. You can see it in the way he conducts himself, and how he fights. Goeido, sadly, is riddled with doubts and worries. I think Takakeisho will psych out the Ozeki, and that we are going to see a fast match, one way or the other. Slight edge to Goeido here, as he is in his hometown, and he’s not happy about his loss to Endo.

Takayasu vs Kotoshogiku – the match of great sadness, We have an Ozeki who discarded his excellent sumo form to become a street fighter, facing off against a broken wreck of a former Ozeki who’s body can no longer support his favorite technique. Someone please just let them toss a coin and go drinking.

Kakuryu vs Takarafuji – Takarafuji has only won a single time in 13 matches against Kakuryu. So my hope is that their match does not result in further injury to the surviving Yokozuna relic.

Haru Day 4 Highlights

 

Takakeisho Extra Point
Sadly, No Extra Points In Sumo

 

Absolute blockbuster day of sumo, as the cobwebs of the early days are almost all swept away, and we race towards the end of Haru’s first act. Today we saw some of the best sumo thus far from Ichinojo and Mitakeumi, with Takakeisho and Tochinoshin a close second. In fact, I would say that both of those matches are worthy of study in sumo school, as each show an opponent going against a larger, strong rikishi, and finding a way to win.

Apologies for the late highlights today, much insanity has broken loose in life. I will gamberize for Thursday.

Highlight Matches

Aoiyama defeats Hidenoumi – Aoiyama to gut and fillet everyone who stands against him. Hidenoumi had no chance as his tachiai hit a wall of flesh, and then the nodowa landed on his throat. Aoiyama finished with him and tossed him aside like a bag of rotten miso. With Aoiyama back to genki status, I predict he is going to inflict a lot of pain at the bottom of the banzuke.

Kyokushuho defeats Myogiryu – Visiting from Juryo, Kyokushuho takes a bite out of the struggling Myogiryu. Both men started with thrusts, and then went chest to chest. The closing kotenage looked on the painful side, but Myogiryu seemed ok afterward.

Ikioi defeats Asanoyama – The injured Ikioi remains unbeaten at Maegashira 14 and is managing to best his opponent each day, no matter what. He is already halfway to a kachi-koshi. Today it was Asanoyama. Ikioi absorbed a fury of blows, then drove forward. Asanoyama seemed ill-prepared to shift to defense, and Ikioi applied a yoritaoshi for a rapid win.

Tochiozan defeats Kotoyuki – Fusen-sho, Kotoyuki has withdrawn from Haru. Possibly too many air-express trips into the front row.

Yutakayama defeats Ishiura – Ishiura attempted a mini-henka, but Yutakayama was ready. Following that, Ishiura could never set his feet at all, and it was a bit of a dance/chase routine that had Ishiura out in a hurry.

Chiyoshoma defeats Ryuden – Chiyoshoma gets his first win, in a thrusting battle with Ryuden that left the Freshman unable to find his balance or set up for any kind of stable offense. Chiyoshoma uses this with great skill and keeps him unsteady. Ryuden was a bit slow to get up, hopefully, he is ok.

Abi defeats Daieisho – Once again Abi plays the part of the bull fighter. He uses his superior reach to goad Daieisho into a fierce forward charge, then steps out of the way as Daieisho launches out of the ring. We like to make fun of Abi and his long limbs, but watch this bout in slow motion, Daieisho can’t even really touch the man.

Yoshikaze defeats Kagayaki – Yoshikaze looked a bit better today, but nowhere near full berserker strength. Kakayaki was unable to cope with the raging chaos that is Yoshikaze, and he was overwhelmed. Both men are now 2-2.

Hokutofuji defeats Chiyomaru – Great to see that Hokutofuji finally picked up his first win. He has been turning in poor performances for a few months, and fans have to wonder what problem is plaguing him. Chiyomaru was soft at the tachiai, while Hokutofuji launched with abandon. Strictly a thrusting battle, Hokutofuji focused on pushing Chiyomaru from center mass, and it worked.

Kaisei defeats Shodai – The worst part of this match? A moment before he steps out, you can see Shodai visibly give up. Can we please find some way to put Shodai through whatever self-help session fixed Ichinojo? Maybe some time with a couple of nice ponies, or maybe chasing down wolves in the streets of Sumida? Kaisei looking quite genki, and picks up his 4th straight win.

Shohozan defeats Kotoshogiku – Damn, Shohozan is looking quite fierce so far. Kotoshogiku is a fraction of his former self, and he tried to rush forward and go chest to chest. But Shohozan gave ground under his control, and Kotoshogiku could never plant his feet and bounce forward. Shohozan picked up a nice win, also 4-0 to start.

Chiyotairyu defeats Takarafuji – Chiyotairyu also picking up his first win of the tournament today against Takarafuji. It was clear from the start that Chiyotairyu was going to make this an oshi-battle, and Takarafuji planted his feet and dug in. But the more massive Chiyotairyu took control, got Takarafuji off balance, and slapped him down.

Mitakeumi defeats Ichinojo – Now we start the really GOOD stuff. Wow, very impressed with Mitakeumi this fight. Ichinojo was going to once again apply the “I’m incredibly large, deal with it” strategy, but I think he was unprepared that yes, Mitakeumi was ready to deal with it. From the start, Ichinojo is just physically much higher than Mitakeumi, and Mitakeumi works with that. He gets inside of Ichinojo, but rather than going for the belt, he puts his hands on the giant’s chest and starts pushing. Ichinojo thinks to himself “silly pony!”, and leans forward. The weight is clearly taxing Mitakeumi, but he dials up the pressure. 500 pounds of Mongolian is crushing down on Mitakeumi, but he’s not going to relent. Ichinojo moves to shift his grip, and Mitakeumi takes Ichinojo’s armpits. He lifts and pushes hard. There was no recovery, and Ichinojo could never again plant his feet. Fantastic win by Mitakeumi!

Takakeisho defeats Tochinoshin – Day 4 was not done giving us things to cheer about. A fantastic match between Hatsu Yusho winner Tochinoshin, and the grumpy tadpole Takakeisho. You know, of course, that Tochinoshin wants to get his left hand on the Bowling Ball’s mawashi. And he gets it. But rather than shock or defeat, a look of intensity and motivation sweeps across Takakeisho’s face, and he drives forward, lifting Tochinoshin’s left arm with everything he has… and breaks the grip! This leaves Takakeisho off balance and stumbling, but Tochinoshin pursues. They continue to stagger like drunken Tanuki across the dohyo, with Takakeisho doing a pirouette as Tochinoshin takes in a mouth full of clay. Nicely done to Takakeisho! The crowd cheers as both men bow, what an effort!

Takayasu defeats Tamawashi – Kind of boring oshi-fight, with Takayasu delivering his now obligatory shoulder blast. He does manage to out slap Tamawashi, which is quite an accomplishment. Bout ends with a hatakikomi. Kind of boring… but hey, Ozeki got his second win, now 2-2 for the basho.

Endo defeats Goeido – Endo has a sequence of moves he has used a few times now at Haru and Hatsu. He employed it again today against Goeido, and shame on the Ozeki for falling for it. He meets the tachiai low and strong, makes sure his opponent ramps up the pressure to full power, and then while keeping his hands on his opponent’s upper body, steps aside and releases. Worked again today. Everyone, keep an eye on Endo!

Kakuryu defeats Arawashi – Very straightforward match. Big K meets Arawashi at the tachiai and marches him straight backward. Very happy that the lone Yokozuna is doing well this basho. Perhaps his detractors will gain some respect for him?

Haru Day 4 Preview

Haru 2018 Dohyo Iri

We Need A Hero

I wanted to hold judgment for a few days, with the long break between Hatsu and Haru dulling everyone’s sumo, but it’s clear now that the upper ranks are still in turmoil, and the coming period of change may be even greater than expected. Is the sky falling? Not at all. Sumo is a completely Darwinian environment. The strong survive and rise and the weak are left behind. That is one of the great appeals of sumo, and that principle is core to its enduring place in the world of sport.

With only one damaged Yokozuna on the field for the last two basho, at least one San’yaku holder should be ⅔ of the way to an Ozeki claim. But instead, we have the chief tadpole unable to break double digits, a hard-charging yusho winner who is one bad fall away from retirement, a promising giant, and sumo Elvis. Before the year is out, I am going to guess that sumo will need another Ozeki. Please keep in mind that it takes at least two Ozeki to convene a Honbasho. This can be two Yokozuna, a Yokozuna and an Ozeki, or two Ozeki. Having two Ozeki and one damaged Yokozuna is just bad math, but so far no one has emerged who can contend for the Ozeki slot.

What We Are Watching Day 4

Aoiyama vs Hidenoumi – Aoiyama has returned large and in charge of the bottom end of Makuuchi. I expect him to beat Hidenoumi like a rug before dropping him to the clay. Aoiyama is fighting with mid-Maegashira class sumo right now, so I expect him to clean up the bottom end of the banzuke.

Ikioi vs Asanoyama – Ikioi winces in pain every day, and he still has 3 wins. I am not sure if he is going to be able to pull the plug on Asanoyama for day 4, but I am hoping that the guy can quickly get his 8 and then go kyujo. Asanoyama will likely move fast to get inside, and if Ikioi follows the same formula, he will lure him into over-committing.

Ishiura vs Yutakayama – Ishiura fought well on day 3, with a left-hand grip he would not release. Yutakayama is quite a bit larger in every measurement, but I am looking for Ishiura to continue his winning streak. It’s time for “Scary Dude” to help educate the Freshmen.

Okinoumi vs Chiyonokuni – I am impressed that Chiyonokuni has gone 3-0. Not very long ago he was Maegashira 1, but that ended poorly for him. He seems to have lost a bit of weight around his middle and maybe added it to his legs, so maybe he is more comfortable with his mass and is moving better. Okinoumi seems to be fading hard.

Abi vs Daieisho – These two should go at it like two ferrets in a bathtub, and I think this could be a real winner of a match. You have Daieisho, who seems to care nothing for how much he gets tossed about, always driving forward against the man with freakishly long limbs. Abi has yet to win a match from Daieisho, but you know he is going to give it his all.

Kagayaki vs Yoshikaze – I will come out and say it, Yoshikaze should win this one, but I have my doubts. Something has robbed him of his boundless energy and overwhelming attack power. This is their first match, ever, so experience may carry the day. But Kagayaki has been looking like he has stripped his sumo down to the fundamentals, and that is usually a winning formula.

Kaisei vs Shodai – Shodai seems to have given up. I hate to say it, as he has a lot of potential. The problem is squarely between his ears, and I am not sure who can help him cure that. Needless to say, Kaisei is going to increment their career record to 5-0 tomorrow, in my opinion.

Kotoshogiku vs Shohozan – Shohozan is on a roll right now, and it looks like he has something in his bag of pain for everyone. Kotoshogiku is even more damaged than he was at Hatsu and continuing to fade. The guy has skill and courage, but his body is done with sumo at the top division. That being said, if he can lock up Shohozan, I am sure he can still apply his trademark kimarite with vigor.

Mitakeumi vs Ichinojo – This one is akin to having a giant use you as a doormat. I suspect that unless Mitakeumi has a really well-executed strategy, that Ichinojo is simply going to envelop him like some kind of tiny, round pony that needs a good battle-cuddle. No shame to Mitakeumi, but some great force has possessed Ichinojo now, and  everything sent to stop him will be thrust aside.

Takakeisho vs Tochinoshin – I am leaning towards the Hatsu yusho winner, Tochinoshin for this one. Takakeisho has a lot of problems when it comes to the mawashi, as day 3 displayed clearly. Takakeisho would be wise to try and block Tochinoshin’s grip, but the Georgian has a much greater reach. Takakeisho, it’s wave-action for you or a black star.

Takayasu vs Tamawashi – Tamawashi strikes me as a happy go lucky guy, but I could understand if he held a bit of a grudge against Takayasu. They were co-Sekiwake for a while, and Takayasu got himself to Ozeki while Tamawashi ate clay. Takayasu’s sumo is a chaotic mess, as you can plainly see any day of this basho. Only one win, and that had at least one moment where he was off balance and headed out. Tamawashi will know exactly what to do, let’s see if he can seal the deal.

Endo vs Goeido – Keep an eye on Endo. He is looking better than I have seen him in a long while. Goeido is not doing too bad. His sumo is rough, but I chalk that up to ring-rust that is quickly coming off under the stress of Honbasho competition. Goeido holds a 4-2 career advantage, but Endo is on a mission.

Kakuryu vs Arawashi – Easy win for Big K, I just want him to not hurt anything in putting Arawashi away.