In its regular post-basho meeting on July 19th, the Yokozuna Deliberation Council unanimously approved the promotion of Ozeki Terunofuji to the rank of Yokozuna.
Following an approval by the NSK board and banzuke meeting, an acceptance ceremony will be held for the 73rd Yokozuna.
The expected procedure is:
July 21st – special board meeting, banzuke meeting, acceptance ceremony.
July 22nd – “tsuna uchi” – braiding of the new Yokozuna’s rope, and training the new Yokozuna to do the dohyo-iri.
July 23rd – first dohyo-iri at Meiji Grand Shrine in Tokyo
The schedule may be subject to changes, however, as July 23rd is also when the Olympic Games opening ceremony is to be held, near Meiji Grand Shrine, and some parts of the area may be closed off. On the other hand, COVID restrictions may render this point moot. We’ll keep our readers posted.
It’s great to have sumo back. I am a bit surprised at how many of the COVID Kyujo rikishi showed up with a thick, scaly layer or ring rust. I think the most oxidized of all is none other than Yokozuna Hakuho, who may wish to take a quick trip to Yokosuka and use the barncile blaster to remove some of the accumulation. I was a bit surprised that Terunofuji looked a bit rusty as well. By all accounts, he have been a training machine, grinding away in the world famous Isegahama sweat lodge dohyo. I can’t help but wonder if the goal that lays just before him provides more distraction now at the final step than motivation. Please know, mighty Kaiju, most of the sumo world wants to see you succeed. Who do you think has the biggest layer or ring rust? Leave your vote in the comments below.
What We Are Watching Day 2
Kaisei vs Akua – Their only prior match was in November, and it went to Akua. After a 5-10 record at Hatsu, I am sure Akua would like to kachi-koshi his way back to the top division, while Kaisei has a thick layer of COVID-kyujo ring rust to remove.
Daiamami vs Hidenoumi – These two have a 13 match history that is at 7-6, so they are evenly matched with no clear advantages. In all of their prior fights, it has ended via yori-kiri. So chest to chest at the start, and may the man with the best footwork win.
Kotoeko vs Yutakayama – Yutakayama’s bulk is a challenge for Kotoeko, who wants to work with strength and speed. Yutakayama will need to focus on “his brand” of sumo. Namely keeping his mobility focused, his steps small and his balance precise in order to present the fewest opportunities to Kotoeko.
Tsurugisho vs Chiyoshoma – Tsurugisho took and odd fall at the end of his day 1 match with Yutakayama, so I am going to be looking to see if that bad knee is bothering him once more. I think that Chiyoshoma may deliver something more henka like today.
Akiseyama vs Terutsuyoshi – I would think that Terutsuyoshi would have a lot of advantages to exploit. He is smaller and more agile by a good measure. With so much of Akiseyama front-loaded, all Terutsuyoshi needs to do is get to the side to create an opening. Their career record of 3-3 gives us yet another evenly balanced match for day 2.
Aoiyama vs Kotoshoho – Kotoshoho suffered a brutal 2-13 in January, dropping him from Maegashira 3 to 11. I had hoped he would show up at Haru looking better, and with some semblance of good sumo. If day 1 was any indication, this is going to be another tough tournament for him. He has beaten Aoiyama once before, in November.
Midorifuji vs Chiyotairyu – First time match, and I am looking for Midorifuji to put the man with the cannon-ball tachiai on the clay by the 3rd step. Chiyotairyu has not yet been on the receiving end of a Midorifuji katasukashi, but he has to know that it’s coming.
Ryuden vs Hoshoryu – Part of me really wants to see Ryuden deliver a henka today, and put Hoshoryu well and truly in the dog-house with his uncle. This is a first time match between the two, and I hope that Hoshoryu will be a bit more cautious today.
Kotonowaka vs Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni, in spite of his day 1 win against Tobizaru, did not seem satisfied. Sure, he got some solid thrusts and hits in, but for a rikishi like Chiyonokuni, he shows up every day looking for a big, energetic brawl. Will Kotonowaka join Chiyonokuni in a good-natured mosh?
Tobizaru vs Kagayaki – Tobizaru was completely out or sorts on day 1, and I hope he can collect his sumo and come back strong on day 2 against Kagayaki. Kagayaki’s dark mawashi still has me a bit unsettled, but even if he is in goth mode, hopefully he retains good sumo fundamentals. He has a 2-0 advantage over Tobizaru.
Tamawashi vs Tochinoshin – 34 match history, with Tochinoshin holding a 22-12 advantage. If Tochinoshin’s knees can handle the strain, he may be able to give Tamawashi an 0-2 start. I think it will all come down to Tochinoshin’s left hand outside grip.
Ichinojo vs Okinoumi – Big, heavy Ichinojo is a challenge for Okinoumi, who is at a 2-4 career disadvantage. If he can shut down Ichinojo’s throwing attempts, he can probably contain the big Mongolian, and will have a chance to score his second win for March.
Kiribayama vs Endo – Endo has a bad first day, and I expect he is going to be a lot more focused, a lot more conservative and he is going to stick to powerful straight ahead sumo today. He won the only prior match against Kiribayama, and has a huge edge in skill and experience.
Myogiryu vs Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi is a late bloomer, who at 31 is finally looking sharp. If he can take his second career win today against Myogiryu, I will start to hope that he may have a good basho.
Meisei vs Mitakeumi – Meisei may have a tough time today, as the mass-reduced Mitakeumi seems to be a real contender. His match against Shodai was quite sloppy, but Mitakeumi showed a lot of power, and a lot of flexibility. Meisei has almost matched his highest rank ever, and is at the point in his sumo career where we may see a step change up in capability. Here’s to hoping.
Terunofuji vs Wakatakakage – Kaiju vs lead Onami brother as we get into the big end of day 2. The only time Wakatakakage has won against Terunofuji was a year ago on day 6 during the “silent basho”. We have come a long way since then, as has Terunofuji. I think that Wakatakakage may have some work to do to shake off the ring rust after being forced to sit January out.
Hokutofuji vs Takanosho – I know I kid the Hokutofuji fans a lot about this man delivering “The most powerful make-koshi in all of sumo”, and I think Hokutofuji is due for a good basho. If this March is the time for him to advance, he may show that to us today against Takanosho, who has taken up a durable role in the San’yaku.
Shodai vs Onosho – If Onosho wants to see his first win, he will need to overcome Shodai’s defensive style. But he must keep his balance well behind his toes, or face an abrupt and surprising turn of fortune should Shodai unleash some of his brand of sumo (aka Cartoon Sumo). Shodai, as long as he is not secretly hurt, is going to have some great matches this tournament, I expect. I hope he saves them for week 2.
Takakeisho vs Daieisho – On his way to the yusho, Daieisho slapped down Takakeisho on day 2. Shall we have a re-run and see if anything has changed? I predict that Daieisho may have some mental challenges this March, but his sumo looks as strong as ever.
Takayasu vs Asanoyama – Every sumo fan I know is looking for a step change in Asanoyama. Some indication that he may be evolving toward the next higher level of sumo. It’s a difficult step to make, and most Ozeki do not. He has an even 1-1 score against Takayasu head to head, so I am looking for a big, burly battle today.
Hakuho vs Takarafuji – A fantastic opportunity for The Boss to knock off some ring rust over Takarafuji. While Takarafuji will try to deflect, defend and extend, Hakuho has a knack (15-2) for grabbing this guy and inducting him into the Space Force with a sub orbital flight.
I want to start today with something we have not seen in 8 months, a Yokozuna dohyo-iri.
Savor that one folks, I fear we won’t have too many more of them, and it’s grand and wonderful to see this grand ritual return to sumo for the first time since July of 2020. Of course, I know that we won’t see Hakuho retire tomorrow, and there is the open question of Kakuryu. But both of the top ranked men in Sumo are edging closer to retirement, and it could be some time once they leave active competition before we see another rikishi gain the rope.
The current Ozeki and the Ozeki hopeful have their fans, and rightfully so. However I watch them, and I don’t see Asashoryu, or Harumafuji, or even Kisenosato. I see solid Ozeki. That means that one of them will need to make a step change to evolve to another higher form. This might take a while, if it should ever happen. While I can see a post Hakuho era with a lot of strong Ozeki sumo, getting one of the current bunch to have back to back yusho may be a tall order just now.
What a glorious first day of sumo.
Daiamami defeats Tokushoryu – Interesting clash of opening gambits at the tachiai. Tokushoryu went for Daiamami’s face, and Daiamami kept his hands lower. This resulted in Tokushoryu getting a good combo in on Daiamami’s face, but when that ended, Daiamami was in control. With his power focused center-mass, Daiamami owned the rest of this match. An attempt at a last ditch defense at the tawara by Tokushoryu ended when his right foot skidded onto the janome. I really liked Daiamami’s focus and discipline today.
Hidenoumi defeats Kaisei – After coming back from COVID-Kyujo in January, it would seem that Kaisei has a fair amount of ring rust. Hidenoumi struggled quite a bit to capitalize on Kaisei’s poor balance and even worse footwork. There is just so much giant Brazilian to try to move. A final stumble as Kaisei tried to set up a rescue throw at the edge sent him tumbling from the dohyo, and I have to hope he did not injure himself with that one.
Yutakayama defeats Tsurugisho – Was looked like a fairly straightforward chest-to-chest battle took a worrisome turn as Tsurugisho’s knee appeared to give out and he tumbled down the dohyo. I know I gasped when I saw this, and Yutakayama’s body language could be read from Dallas – “Oh damn!” But Tsurugisho managed to get up, and seemed well enough.
Kotoeko defeats Chiyoshoma – No henka from Chiyoshoma today, but there 14 days left for us to see the “Flying Mongolian”. Chiyoshoma looked to have tried a hit and shift, but ended off balance and vulnerable. Kotoeko read this perfectly, and with a right hand on Chiyoshoma’s face, applied a massive thrust that put into the salt box. Points to the Yobidashi who yanked the chikara-mizu bucket out of the way before Chiyoshoma ended up with a swirly as well.
Aoiyama defeats Terutsuyoshi – There are matches where I think Big-Dan Aoiyama is going through the motions. Then there is today, where this giant bag of muscle and mayonnaise can surprise you. He opened with a V-Twin thrusting attack, and when Terutsuyoshi circled left to set up his attack, Aoiyama used Terutsuyoshi’s body position to hurl him to the clay. Nice move.
Akiseyama defeats Kotoshoho – Akiseyama also really over-performed today. He took Kotoshoho to his chest, which I think Kotoshoho was not quite quite expecting. With a solid right hand inside grip, Akiseyama went for a yorikiri, but Kotoshoho found his footing and ramped up the forward pressure. Akiseyama deftly converted and took one measured step back, and Kotoshoho hit the clay.
Chiyotairyu defeats Ryuden – Chiyotairyu without sideburns is a bit unsettling, possibly to Ryuden as well. In the past we have discussed the possibility that some minor kami resides in them, so this basho he may be without that boost in power. Chiyotairyu kept the pressure on Ryuden’s face and shoulders from the tachiai, and Ryuden never really had a chance to set up much if any offense. But did Chiyotairyu steal Midorifuji’s katasukashi?
Midorifuji defeats Hoshoryu – It seems Midorifuji mounted the dohyo to find that his prize katasukashi was missing, and he needed to do something else. By all accounts, Hoshoryu was not paying attention today, as he launched. hard and fast into the tachiai expecting Midorifuji to try for a shoulder / under-arm hand placement. Instead the Isegahama power pixie had stepped to the side, and Hoshoryu got a face full of Kokugikan clay.
Chiyonokuni defeats Tobizaru – I had high hopes for this match, but a clumsy Tobizaru tachiai mostly made Chiyonokuni’s win a foregone conclusion. Better luck day 2!
Kagayaki defeats Kotonowaka – Yeah, I know I mentioned Kotonowaka as a candidate for a breakout basho in the podcast. Perhaps I have now doomed him? Goth mode Kagayaki, who may have been humming the chorus from “Bella Lugosi’s Dead”, kept his feet heavy and is hips low. In response, Kotonowaka had. Well, frankly, nothing.
Ichinojo defeats Tochinoshin – You can forgive Tochinoshin for thinking that he should start the match with the assumption that Ichinojo was going to use his brand of sumo. That is to be large, heaving and immobile (aka “The Boulder”). Instead, Ichinojo was on the move from the first step, and came in aggressive and strong. Once Tochinoshin was off balance and mostly relying on his damaged right knee, he was an easy mark for Ichinojo’s throw.
Okinoumi defeats Tamawashi – This match was unique, in that the outcome stumped the unflappable Konosuke, who had his eyes on the moment when both men stepped out, and came away with the expression of “hell if I know…” has he pointed both east and west with his gumbai, tossing it to the shipman and the replay crew. The replay was equally as baffling as you can see two high-skill vets undertake the most amazing series of footsteps each defying physics and human body mechanics to keep their feet inside the ring. At the end, it seems that the replay crew concurred and flipped a coin, giving the win to Okinoumi. On the NHK replay, I saw the fine sand from the janome fly about thanks to Okinoumi’s heel. But I am sure the replay crew had access to more cameras (in 4K!) than I do. Kimarite was listed as isamiashi, or a non-winning technique of “Inadvertent step out”.
Myogiryu defeats Endo – Well, better luck day 2 Endo. There was a solid clash at the tachiai, and Endo either bounced away off balance, or tried to hit and shift. Either way, Myogiryu was ready for it, delivering a fast win for his shonichi.
Shimanoumi defeats Kiribayama – Shimanoumi’s first every win over Kiribayama. He had his hands inside and lower at the tachiai, and it was straight into an armpit attack that disrupted whatever Kiribayama had planned. Kiribayama finally was able to break Shimanoumi’s attack, but by that point Kiribayama was too high. Shimanoumi dropped his hips, dropped his head, squared his shoulders and drove forward. Nothing Kiribayama tried could do any better than stalemate until Shimanoumi’s finishing drive took them both out.
Meisei defeats Takayasu – Takayasu had this won at least twice, but Meisei’s higher mobility shut down Takayasu’s attempts to drive him from the ring. Takayasu had really sharp foot placement today, its a shame that he let Meisei hook a leg in when Takayasu drove forward to finish the match. Nice recovery into a kakenage for Meisei.
Takanosho defeats Wakatakakage – It seems that these two watched the Okinoumi / Tamawashi, and declared “hold my beer”. I am not sure I have ever seen more elaborate efforts to keep your feet in while your opponent is off balance from two rikishi. Once again the result was “hell if I know”, but this time it was declared a torinaoshi, and they fought again. The second match – Takanosho kept his focus and power on center mass, and quickly drove Wakatakakage from the ring.
Terunofuji defeats Hokutofuji – My compliments to Hokutofuji for a well fought match. He used the handshake-tachiai into a right hand nodowa. With his left hand on Terunofuji’s chest, he dialed up the pressure and began to advance. The risk of this attack strategy is that the attacker’s body is wide open. Terunofuji found easy handholds and collapsed the nodowa by taking Hokutofuji to his chest. In response, Hokutofuji shifted to defense smoothly, dropping his hips and pressing forward with his shoulders. But Terunofuji’s left hand found a mawashi grip, and moments later the Kaiju’s powerful shitatenage sent Hokutofuji tumbling. Nine more to go.
Takakeisho defeats Onosho – I really like both of these rikishi, but Takakeisho looked strong and healthy today, and I was happy to see him in good form. Onosho made contact first, but his hands were just an couple of inches too high. Takakeisho had an open route to center mass, and his feet were in excellent position. Realzing he was 2 steps from defeat, Onosho tried to pull and twist against Takakeisho’s head. But with his balance centered, his hips low and his feet heavy and wide, the pull failed, giving Takakeisho his first of 8 wins to secure his Ozeki rank.
Asanoyama defeats Takarafuji – Asanoyama got his preferred stance and grip at the tachiai, and Takarafuji found himself face first in the clay one step later.
Mitakeumi defeats Shodai – I had high hopes for this match, and it did deliver. Shodai was high at the tachiai, and his feet were in poor position. While Shodai tried to sort out his body, Mitakeumi went for the chest and began his attack. Shodai quickly set up a left hand outside mawashi grip, shutting down Mitakeumi’s chances for a quick win. Mitakeumi broke Shodai’s grip, and re-took command and bodily threw Shodai over the edge of the dohyo before the Ozeki could unleash any of his trademark cartoon sumo.
Hakuho defeats Daieisho – After sitting out for several months, I am expecting a lot of ring rust on Hakuho. He looked a bit shaky in his first competition match since July, and he let Daieisho set up a throw in the face of Hakuho’s overwhelming forward advance. But The Boss made sure that Hatsu yusho winner Daieisho went out first, and picked up his first win for March.
With day 1 providing a delightfully solid start to this odd Hatsu basho, sumo fans are eager to see what act 1 will be. At Tachiai, we divide the 15 days of the basho into 3 5 day acts, each of which seems to have its own goals and drivers. For act 1, its remove ring rust and see who is hot and who is not. With just one day in the record books, the only thing we can say is that the ring rust seems to be pretty minimal given the reduction of normal pre-basho join training.
The only non-kadoban Ozeki, Takakeisho, has a rare opportunity to bid for promotion to Yokozuna, should he manage to win this tournament in a commanding fashion. But sadly he let Mitakeumi dictate the terms of the match after he had a fairly strong opening. Several fans have noted that he does not look quite right, and I agree. His already massive body seems to have become even larger in the last 2 months, and I think he’s not really up to full power sumo at this size.
Meanwhile, the kadoban twins Asanoyama and Shodai had a mixed start. Asanoyama was unable to establish an offense or a defense, and got completely disrupted and defeated by Daieisho. Shodai on the other hand, as Tachai’s own Herouth put it, was “playing Sokoban“. For those of you who may not know, Sokoban is a kind of video game where you play a warehouse worker, doing much the same as Shodai did to Hokutofuji.
What We Are Watching Day 2
Shohozan vs Akiseyama – Welcome back Shohozan! “Big Guns” returns to visit the top division to help balance out the banzuke. This is a rematch of their November day 5 match, which went to Akiseyama. Truth be told, as Shohozan “ages out” of the competitive ranks, he is less able to overwhelm his opponents. But it’s great to see the old guard in action. Shohozan has a slim 3-2 career edge, going back to 2009!
Sadanoumi vs Kotonowaka – Kotonowaka came up 10% short on day 1, and he is going to be looking to bounce back against Sadanoumi today. Sadanoumi looked really sharp on the shonichi opening match, and he is due for a strong performance after falling to the final slot on the banzuke.
Yutakayama vs Midorifuji – First time match for these two, and it’s Shodai’s sparring partner (Yutakayama) vs yet another Isegahama pocket battleship. Both of them won their opening day matches, but I note that Midorifuji had the brass to try a flying henka in his first match ranked in Makuuchi. Had it not be called a matta, he might have made it pay off, too!
Ichinojo vs Hoshoryu – At least 80 kg different between these two, and if Ichinojo continues the form he showed day 1, it’s going to be ice cream time at Minato heya. While I love watching Hoshoryu fight, I think he has maxed out for what is current sumo can support. We are all hoping that he can evolve and reach higher levels of sumo intensity, but we know it’s going to be a challenge.
Akua vs Terutsuyoshi – The other Isegahama pocket monster has a track record of taking Akua’s booze money (6-1 favoring Terutsuyoshi). Both of them lost day 1, so maybe we can get some solid alternate-reality stuff like an Akua flying henka for a win here.
Shimanoumi vs Kotoeko – Shimanoumi went 11-4 in November, and on day one he looked like he had not slowed down at all. He will have to overcome a 9-1 career deficit to Kotoeko, who also took his day 1 match in decisive fashion.
Tokushoryu vs Aoiyama – Time to tell if Aoiyama simply got the timing of his tachiai completely wrong on day 1, or if he is hurt. I personally hope he is on the upper side of genki, as I would love to see him bludgeon his way though the middle of makkuchi this January. He holds a slight 6-5 career advantage over Tokushoryu.
Myogiryu vs Kiribayama – If Kiribayama actually did injure his knee in the pre-basho workup, this is going to be a rough 15 days for him. At Maegashira 8, he’s probably not going to risk demotion if he has a bad tournament. But for a bright young start, it’s terrible to see them take a set back that could require 2-3 tournaments to resolve. This is his first ever match with Myogiryu.
Ryuden vs Tobizaru – Both of these guys started a bit goofy, and lost day 1. I expect Tobizaru to focus in quickly and get a big push underway to return to joi-jin for March, where I think Ryuden is at a pretty comfortable rank right now. Tobizaru has a 2-1 career advantage, but that may not count for much on day 2.
Meisei vs Kagayaki – “I see a gumbai and I want it painted black…”
Tochinoshin vs Okinoumi – A healthy 16 career matches between these two, with Okinoumi taking 2 of the last 3. Both won their day 1 matches, and I am eager to see if Tochinoshin really has picked up enhanced skills in tsuki-oshi style sumo.
Endo vs Tamawashi – Another long running rivalry, with 23 career matches favoring Tamawashi 13-10, But Endo has taken 3 of the last 4 as Tamawashi ages out of high stakes sumo. I love watching him work, but he is slowly losing power and maneuverability as the injuries accumulate to his body.
Takarafuji vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi is probably feeling very energized after the gyoji handed him a diorama of Mt. Fuji made with kensho envelopes at the end of that day 1 pasting of Yokozuna hopeful Takakeisho. He has a strong track record of overwhelming Takarafuji’s defend and extend sumo by taking his tadpole power toe to toe against Isegahama’s neckless wonder. Could be a really tasty match in the second half.
Terunofuji vs Onosho – I love Onosho sumo, but your spheroid shape will only serve your undoing, dear tadpole. Did you know that Terunofuji, being a kaiju, bowls overhand? The legends say there is a secret special prize if he can get Onosho into the upper deck of the Kokugikan and take out at least 4 members of the sumo press.
Kotoshoho vs Takanosho – Now I fear Andy’s prediction, and I am very interested to see Kotoshoho put Takanosho in the clay. He won their only prior match, and that’s good enough for me.
(Chanting…) Go! Go! Koto-sho-ho! Do it fast, or do it slow! Beat that rice ball Taka-no-sho!
Takakeisho vs Daieisho – Dear Grand Tadpole. We know it’s really cool to think you might win PowerBall or a Yokozuna promotion. But put that stuff aside and start knocking some heads. Today if possible. Wave action at level 3, if you would please. I want to see Daieisho’s molars stay behind as he rockets into the stands.
Asanoyama vs Hokutofuji – Ol’Stompy might make Asanoyama question his own worthiness as a sumotori if he can get that handshake tachiai into the Ozeki’s throat. I really like Asanoyama, so he’s going to have to gamberize like mad and just overcome whatever brutal, high speed sumo Hokutofuji deploys today.
Takayasu vs Shodai – Shodai holds a 10-8 career advantage, and I am going to say that if Takayasu comes out with his big grunt and slam tachiai, he’s done for. The 2017 Takayasu is in there, still. The guy with nearly endless endurance who would grab an opponent and just slowly crush them into jelly. That, in my opinion, would be most effective against Shodai indeed.