Hello, and welcome to Tachiai’s coverage of the July basho, coming once again from Nagoya, Japan. In spite of the concerns in Japan about the Olympics, COVID-19 and the creeping doom of mass infection by the “Delta” variant, the Japan Sumo Association took the show on the road this summer, back to the sweat box that is Nagoya Dolphin’s Arena. We have 15 days of sumo action ahead of us, and fans around the world are eager to see how the story lines unfold. We will get our first Yokozuna dohyo-iri since March, and all eye will be on “The Boss” to see if he can last all 15 days.
This has been named a “Make or break” basho for the dai-Yokozuna, and should he falter here, it will most likely be retirement. He has not competed since March of this year, and has missed most of the last year due to increasing trouble with his right knee, which underwent extensive surgery in March following his withdrawal from the Haru basho.
Be aware, Team Tachiai will post information about the matches as they happen in Japan, when we can. Global fans who prefer to know the outcomes of matches via the NHK video feed (many hour delayed from actual action) would be advised to read Tachiai after they enjoy the daily show.
What We Are Watching Day 1
Ichiyamamoto vs Ishiura – Welcome to the top division, Ichiyamamoto! He’s going to be using a thrusting technique, I would expect, aimed around the head and neck of Ishiura. Ichiyamamoto has a height and weight advantage, but it’s tough to beat the compact power of Ishiura, if he’s genki to start Nagoya.
Chiyonokuni vs Tokushoryu – Chiyonokuni sat out the May tournament, but managed to remain in the top division, due to the challenges of ranking so many rikishi with dismal records following Natsu. He has a brutal 9-1 career advantage over one-time yusho winner Tokushoryu. If Chiyonokuni is healthy, this should be a quick fight.
Tsurugisho vs Chiyonoo – Chiyonoo has not been ranked in the top division in 4 years, and I am curious to see how the 30-year-old from Kagoshima can do in the heat of Nagoya. Tsurugisho needs to bounce back vigorously from his terrible 4-11 performance in May at Maegashira 8. Chiyonoo has a 7-5 career advantage over the much heavier Tsurugisho.
Daiamami vs Ura – Welcome back Ura! I worry that every time the press talks to him, he sounds extremely cautious, and warns that his knee could just surrender to physics at any moment, day or night. Screw that! Let’s enjoy the man in the pink mawashi’s first matches ranked in the top division since September of 2017. Daiamami won their only prior match, but I am looking for the new, highly powerful and enormous Ura to quietly rack up a good run of wins in July.
Chiyomaru vs Kagayaki – I am not sure who put diesel in Kagayaki’s unleaded tank, but he has been idling rough and misfiring for several tournaments now. He has a nearly even record against the bulbous Chiyomaru, and I have to hope that Mr Fundamentals can shake off whatever is clogging up his sumo and get back to stable mid-Maegashira performance.
Tochinoshin vs Kotonowaka – At the start of every tournament for the past year, I look at the injured relic of Ozeki Tochinoshin, and wonder how much longer he’s going to be able to keep doing this. Having lost Ozeki at the end of 2019, he has been holding fast in the mid-Maegashira ranks, but turned in a depressing 5-10 finish to Natsu in May. But given how miserable many rikishi’s records were that basho, he is only down to Maegashira 12 for July. All his fans are looking for this month are 8 wins.
Kaisei vs Terutsuyoshi – Sumo fans love the classic giant vs little guy match, and this one is checking all the boxes. Kaisei at M11e tends to start a tournament playing to his brand of sumo, being huge and not moving very much. Terutsuyoshi has been struggling since July of last year, and I have to hope he can find some power on day 1 and use his superior mobility against Kaisei.
Tamawashi vs Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi is another of the cadre of rikishi who had a terrible May tournament, and caused a lot of trouble sorting out the banzuke (4-11). He will provide a moderate challenge for the fading relic of long-time San’yaku mainstay Tamawashi, who is aging out of the top division.
Hidenoumi vs Aoiyama – Big Dan Aoiyama spent most of the May tournament kyujo, but returned on day 8 to finish 4-3, and likely save himself from a big demotion. If he is healthy, he is in a great position to really cause some trouble in the middle ranks. He is 2-0 against Hidenoumi, who is too large to really dodge the V-Twin attack.
Takarafuji vs Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma has been a pleasant surprise, fighting well with a minimum number of henka and cheesy moves. In fact, all of this tournaments (save the COVID-kyujo in January) have been kachi-koshi, and maybe he’s ready to take on the middle ranks. I would be delighted to see him continue his good form, and maybe kachi-koshi yet again. His record with Takarafuji is an even 5-5, so let them fight it out!
Myogiryu vs Kiribayama – Kiribayama and Myogiryu have both been make-koshi the last two tournaments, and I hope that one of them can get some fighting spirit up this July. Kiribayama won their only prior match (Hatsu 2021), with a glorious katasukashi.
Onosho vs Hoshoryu – I continue to enjoy Hoshoryu’s steady, incremental progress. I recall that last year, the common idea from the sumo commentators in the Japanese media was that he was not quite ready to be a power in the top division. Too small, too much in his uncle’s shadow, …, the reasons were plentiful. After a 7-8 make-koshi in May, he has to be looking to resume his climb. Sad news is that he faces Onosho, who had an identical record last basho, but clearly has a formula for beating Hoshoryu.
Okinoumi vs Chiyotairyu – I am genuinely surprised and pleased to see Chiyotairyu this far up the banzuke. His last run through the joi-jin was in 2019, and lasted for roughly 3 tournaments. He has recently lost some weight, and changed up his fighting style. I hope he can continue to do well. He holds a 10-5 career advantage over today’s opponent, Okinoumi.
Kotoeko vs Tobizaru – Tobizaru went 5-10 in May, and only dropped one full rank. You know what that is? It’s a gift. Meanwhile how did Kotoeko become the heyagashira for Sadogatake? Congrats sir, your sumo has been solid for a while, and I hope you can send Tobizaru on one of his now common run-outs into what will pass for a crowd in Nagoya.
Wakatakakage vs Hokutofuji – Firstly, huge compliments to Wakatakakage for reaching the San’yaku. Your sumo has steadily improved, and I think you may have a great run ahead of you. Hokutofuji, who always fights with a lot of power, needs to find a way to string together consecutive kachi-koshi tournaments if he wants to hit and stay in the named ranks.
Ichinojo vs Mitakeumi – Which version of Ichinojo will show up? If it’s the big, powerful pony-tosser, Mitakeumi is going to need his best sumo today. But Ichinojo’s 4-11 career deficit indicates that the legend of Mongolia’s steppes is not frequently seen against home-town favorite Mitakeumi.
Shodai vs Takanosho – Shodai is not kadoban this time, so maybe the pressure will be off, and we can see him use his “good” sumo for the first time since January. That would be nice, wouldn’t it? Hopefully Takanosho cleaned up whatever gave him a 5-10 sink-burger in May and knocked him well clear of the San’yaku for now. Shodai has a 6-2 career advantage, and hopefully he does not disappoint.
Daieisho vs Takakeisho – Ah, we get into juiciest parts of the torikumi. I am looking for Takakeisho to open strong, and that features giving Daieisho a real shove fest on day 1. Daieisho tends to try and set up an overwhelming “mega-thrust”, and we all know that Takakeisho prefers his “wave-action” attack. I think it will come down to who gets their hands inside at the tachiai.
Terunofuji vs Endo – Fans may look at Endo’s 5-4 career record against Terunofuji, and assume that he will dominate on day 1. In reality, since Terunofuji’s return to the top division, its 2-1 in Terunofuji’s favor. Of course that “1” was a loss to Endo on day 14 of the May tournament. I am delighted to see the Kaiju get a crack at a “return to sender” to start Nagoya.
Hakuho vs Meisei – I expect this to be a bit of a “ring rust” session for Hakuho. He’s not faced anyone outside of Miyagino heya in a bout in months. In normal conditions, he would be giving Meisei one of the dia-Yokozuna’s famous “Flying lessons” today. But I am guessing that we may see plan a/b/c sumo instead as Hakuho figures out what manner of sumo his damaged body can support.