A look at the last winners of the most matches in a calendar year – part II

In our first episode we looked at Hakuho’s extended winning era, which started back in 2007 and ceased – in terms of most wins during a calendar year, at least – in 2016. Let’s look at the first rikishi to end Hakuho’s incredible run : Kisenosato.

Kisenosato Yutaka – 2016

The road to the top

Kisensosato’s rise from the bottom of the banzuke to the upper division has been as impressive as Hakuho’s, needing just fifteen tournaments to reach makuuchi. His rise from here, however, became quite slower. Spending several years from upper maegashira to komosubi, Kisenosato finally trusted a sekiwake slot in March 2009, five years after his makuuchi debut. After two final maegashira appearances, he finally brought his career upwards, and after good performances during the year 2011, was promoted to ozeki at the beginning of 2012. Being considered as one of the greatest Japanese hopes, Kisenosato’s crowning had then been awaited.

Kisenosato finished runner up in thirteen tournaments and missed several opportunities to clinch the first yusho of this career and/or yokozuna promotion.

He was tied for first before the last day of the May tournament of 2012, alongside Tochiozan and Kyokutenho, and lost to former ozeki Baruto, despite pushing him to the tawara after a great start. He would have been the huge favorite to win the ensuing playoff.

Kisenosato’s loss to Baruto on day 15 of the May 2012 honbasho

Kisenosato won his first thirteen matches in May of next year, and saw his lead shared by Hakuho. They faced each other on the decisive bout of the tournament, on day 14. I recommend everyone to watch the bout as well as its make up; the atmosphere was tense as the whole crowd waited for Kisenosato to finally find his way to the top. The fight was mightily contested, and Hakuho, despite slipping from the dohyo, managed to throw his rival to the ground shortly before falling himself. Another great chance was gone, and, for once, the ozeki’s mental frailties were not in cause.

Kisenosato’s decisive bout against Hakuho on day 14 of the May 2013 tournament

Indeed, three consecutive runner-up performances thereafter, Kisenosato was told he would be promoted to yokozuna by winning the yusho with at least thirteen bouts. However, pressure war perhaps too much to his shoulders as he even failed to get his kachi koshi. Quite symptomatic of his troubles was his fifth bout against Aoiyama, where he tried to intimidate the Bulgarian wrestler at the tachi-ai, before ending pushed to the crowd seconds after.

The story was not too different in 2016, the year he collected more wins than any other rival. Indeed, Kisenosato was told again he would earn yokozuna promotion, on three separate occasion, but fell short each time. His sumo was solid in Kyushu, being the only wrestler to defeat eventual winner Kakuryu and ending up 12-3. The three rikishis to defeat him ? Maegashira Endo, Shodai and Tochinoshin.

Nevertheless, consistent performances enabled him to earn an impressive total of 69 victories in 2016. Nobody matched that record.

Kisenosato handed Kakuryu’s sole loss during the Kyusho Basho of 2016

Quite paradoxically, 2016 must have been quite hard to swallow for Kisenosato. Before all his efforts, he had to watch fellow ozeki Kotoshogiku and Goeido clinch a yusho themselves, in January and September.

What happened next ?

The rest of his career is already part of the legend. Kisenosato finally managed to chase his old ghosts the tournament after, in January of 2017, defeating Hakuho in the process an ending up the undisputed winner with a 14-1 record. He was promoted to yokozuna after the tournament.

His debut as a shin-yokozuna was dream-like, as he managed to grab twelwe straight wins, much to the fans delight. But the honeymoon abruptly came to an end the day after, as Kisenosato tore his pectoral muscle at the tachi-ai, during his bout against Harumafuji. Kisenosato was brought outside the dohyo limit without putting any resistance against Kakuryu the day after, but benefited from Terunofuji’s own injuries to still notch a debut yusho as a yokozuna.

Sadly, his pectoral muscle turned out to be an career ending injury. Irony was very much presentt, as Kisenosato never missed a single bout until then. He sat out partly or entirely during each scheduled honbasho until his retirement, with the exception of the Aki basho of 2018, when he managed to produce a honourable 10-5 result.

Kisenosato announced his retirement after failling to compete properly at the January tournament of 2019.

Hakuho won the most bouts in 2017. We won’t stress out Hakuho’s achievements once again; instead, we’ll move to another wrestler who illuminated the 2018 sumo year : Tochinoshin.

A Word On Kisenosato

Farewell

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aki 2018 Jungyo – Final Day (Oct 28)

Here it is, the final chapter of this Jungyo series. I hope you have a lot of free time this weekend, because I stumbled across a treasure trove of raw footage. Usually I give you short bouts or scenes from the side lines. But this person has what seems like the entire event uploaded to YouTube, and that is bound to give you a whole different perspective of what going to a Jungyo event must be like.

So hang on to your coat tails, here we go.

the-jungyo-is-over
The Jungyo is over!

🌐 Location: Shunan, Yamaguchi
🚫 Scandal level: depends how you look at moob groping

I’m skipping the videos that show the venue from outside, the sekitori arriving and the concession stands. Also the handshake part. Let’s start with some still photos from the side lines instead. Here are Chiyonoumi, Hokutofuji and Tomokaze. All graduates of the Nippon Sports Science University. Which, apparently, has its own not-so-secret hand gesture. Demonstration:

university-grads

And that’s the only wholesome sidelines picture you’ll see today. Because the Tamawashi bug seems to have taken in everybody. Here is Gokushindo with Dewanojo:

gokushindo-dewanojo-boobies

But Gokushindo himself does not escape abuse. From our university graduate, Tomokaze, both front:

tomokaze-gokushindo-boobies-front

and back:

tomokaze-gokushindo-boobies-back

Kagayaki is lifting his tsukebito as a form of weight. And that’s no problem. But what is Wakatakakage looking at?

what-is-wakatakakage-looking-at

OK, OK, better get on with those videos, shall I?

There aren’t any sekitori from Yamaguchi prefercture at the moment. So attention was focused on the lower-ranking wrestlers from that prefecture. This video starts with Harada, who is one of those Yamaguchi wrestlers, receiving butsukari. The chest is offered by none other than Enho.

The video then moves on to some moshi-ai among the Jonidan and Sandanme wrestlers.

I must say seeing Enho as the dominant in butsukari is rather comical. Harada is taller than him, and although light, Enho doesn’t seem to offer much of a stamina challenge for him.

No wonder, then, that the exercise is soon over. Moving on to the moshi-ai session. Remember, moshi-ai is a series of bouts in which the winner gets to stick around and chooses his next opponent. Therefore, the wrestlers who want to get some exercise vie for the winner’s attention as soon as the match is decided.

I didn’t like the first winner (sorry, at this level, I really can’t recall names from faces. If you know, please let me know) too much. He is prone to dame-oshi. The second one sticks around for quite a while – but you see his stamina seeping out with every bout until at last he is ousted.

I didn’t think that Mr. Huge there would be called by anybody, but I guess some rikishi like a challenge. So he was.

The attention wars are also quite amazing. Wrestlers are not shy of hanging on to the winner’s neck or poking his cheek or whatever it takes.

And all the while, Aoiyama and Tochiozan stand on the sides and do their shiko.

In the following video, the Sandanme-and-below moshi-ai continues, when sekitori start mounting the dohyo, and give short butsukari sessions to the low-ranking rikishi. You’ll see Akiseyama, Jokoryu, Enho (again) and Abi.

When no sekitori offers, the lower ranking wrestlers just continue on their own. Each butsukari session ends with a tap on the dominant’s chest and, answered with a throw for a korogari (roll).

In the next video, we start with some yobidashi activity on the dohyo – pouring new sand, watering, and sweeping. Then the moshi-ai starts again, with Makushita and some more rikishi joining in. You can see Kyokusoten and Musashikuni.

Kyokusoten is doing the typical Mongolian mawashi sumo. And despite winning, he just gives the right-of-way to a new pair and rests. Musashikuni’s koshi-daka is still unresolved and he isn’t likely to get a second chance quickly.

Apart from what’s going on on the dohyo, though, it’s interesting to watch the opposite corner where a little Mongolian clique is gathered to do some stretches, and apparently, joke around: Kyokushuho, Chiyoshoma and Azumaryu. Also, watch the lower left part of the screen for Tamawashi. Shodai shows something on his smartphone. Smartphone? In keiko? Anyway, that exchange of course evolves into Tamawashi slapping Shodai around.

Next vid. The moshi-ai continues, and then, once again, sekitori mount the dohyo, and we get a series of butsukari: Yago, Kotoshogiku, Jokoryu, Yoshikaze, Ichinojo, You can see how Ichinojo’s submissive actually asks him to do it. Some guys like challenges, as I said.

And now it’s time for the sekitori to start their own practice. The moshi-ai is more relaxed at this point. There are three men on the dohyo and when one of the two wrestlers loses, the third goes in.

We start with Meisei-Tochiozan-Takanosho. In the background you can see Kisenosato doing his wobble exercise, and various rikishi coming to hand him some water. I assure you, in this ladle there is not even a single grain of salt. Nobody is suicidal.

Kisenosato switches to Shiko. On the opposite side you can see Goeido doing the same. Takayasu is not far away from his Yokozuna. From time to time the wrestlers on the dohyo take a towel break.

It’s nice to see Aoiyama and Ryuden move to save Meisei from a bad fall.

After Tochiozan leaves the field and only Meisei and Takanosho are left, again, as if by magic, other sekitori get on the dohyo and a sequence of butsukari follows. If you notice, the first session is always with the winner of the last moshi-ai. Endo lends his chest to Takanosho. Then Aoiyama-Tochiozan, and finally, Ryuden takes Meisei.

The next video continues in the same pattern. This time we have four men on the dohyo – Aoiyama, Ryuden, Daieisho and Myogiryu. This means the two “free” wrestlers have to vie for the winner’s favors.

This session, too, ends with a series of butsukari, though curiously, the first two are between the same four wrestlers. We then switch to Nishikigi-Onosho-Shodai.

I’m going to skip the next sequence, which is just a continuation of that trio, and go to the next one, which shows you a san-ban session. Goeido engages Shodai. Reminder: san-ban is a series of bouts between the same two wrestlers, who do as many bouts as the higher-ranked one wants.

As the session progresses, you can see the increasing frustration on Shodai’s face and in his body language. Goeido is relentless, and Shodai can’t stay in the ring for more than two seconds, let alone win.

Note how every time the Ozeki wants a rest he has his two tsukebito hurry up with a ladle of water and a couple of towels to service him. Shodai has to settle for Nishikigi-mama, who keeps handing him his towel, then folding it back neatly.

Eventually, after 16 minutes of this Goeido love, Shodai is saved by Tochinoshin. Again, the proper way to finish a session is with some butsukari, so poor Shodai, who is already out of juice, has to also push an ozeki for a while for his trouble. Tochinoshin doesn’t make a full-fledged kawaigari of this, though. So the nightmare is soon over.

What follows is reverse butsukari. Nishikigi offers his chest, Goeido pushes. But of course, Nishikigi runs around so as not to waste the Ozeki’s precious time, and there is no rolling in the mud. Finally, a short one between Onosho and Daieisho. Apparently, the etiquette here is that all participators in the moshi-ai or san-ban session (Remember this started with Nishikigi-Onosho-Shodai) get to do some butsukari.

This next one starts with a san-ban session between Asanoyama and Mitakeumi. Not as lengthy as the one between Goeido and Shodai, though. Then Asanoyama goes out and Tochinoshin engages Mitakeumi.

Earlier, in that butsukari session with Shodai, Tochinoshin only had taping on his knee. Now that he is about to engage in san-ban, he puts on his brace.

Of course, being Ozeki, he also gets serviced by his tsukebito. One for ladle, one for towels.

A few minutes later he switches to Asanoyama.

The session, of course, ends with butsukari. Reverse ones this time. Tochinoshin pushes Mitakeumi, and Mitakeumi pushes Tochiozan. Then, not to leave the third man out, Aoiyama takes Asanoyama.

In the background you can see Mitakeumi thanking Tochinoshin for his attention by offering him a ladle of chikara-mizu.

I’m going to skip the lower-ranks bouts, the Jinku, drum demo and shokkiri, and skip right to the Juryo bouts. By the way, here are Yago and Wakatakakage, waiting for their dohyo-iri. Yago seems to also be a man who loves to keep his hands on other people’s bodies:

yago-wakatakakage-love

But at least there doesn’t seem to be much fondling going on. So let’s see how these guys (and the rest of the rather miserable division) did in the bouts:

JokoryuChiyoarashiTsuridashi
TomokazeEnhoUwatenage
AzumaryuNakazonoTsuridashi
GokushindoChiyonoumiOshidashi
TobizaruGagamaruYorikiri
TsurugishoWakatakakageYorikiri
KotoekoTakekazeUtchari

Enho is fast!

Watch out for the faces Tobizaru makes at Gagamaru. :-)

Note how the “fillers” from Makushita don’t have their rank called out. The gyoji announcer describes each Juryo wrestler by shikona, rank, shushin and heya. But the “fillers” only get shikona, shushin and heya.

Next we have Kisenosato’s rope tying demonstration, and then the rest of the Juryo bouts:

DaiamamiKyokushuhoYorikiri
DaishohoAkiseyamaYorikiri
MeiseiYagoYorikiri

Ah, the look of frustration on Yago’s face.

In the Makuuchi dohyo-iri, of course we have the continuing Mitakeumi-Tamawashi saga:

mitakeumi-loves-tamawashi

Skipping the Makuuchi dohyo-iri, the Yokozuna dohyo-iri and the mayor’s speech video, we move straight to the Makuuchi bouts.

The first bout is missing a few seconds.

ChiyoshomaYoshikazeTsuridashi
RyudenTakanoshoYorikiri
SadanoumiOkinoumiYorikiri
NishikigiDaieishoUtchari
HokutofujiAoiyamaYorikiri
TakarafujiKotoshogikuYorikiri
ShohozanTochiozanOkuridashi
OnoshoAsanoyamaTokkurinage
MyogiryuKagayakiYorikiri

Takanosho gets a fast morozashi there, and Ryuden can’t make the makikae.

Daieisho rains tsuppari on Nishikigi. Nishikigi doesn’t lose his cool – saves himself at the edge with a nice utchari. Speaking of Nishikigi, where are his glasses today?

nishikigi-glasses-1

Apparently, right on Shohozan’s nose.

nishikigi-glasses-2

Onosho steals Aminishiki’s tokkurinage (“sake bottle throw”). But hey, Aminishiki does that in honbasho.

Continuing right from Abi’s shiko:

ChiyonokuniAbiUwatenage
ShodaiEndoUtchari
YutakayamaChiyotairyuTsukidashi
KaiseiTakakeishoYorikiri

Chiyonokuni goes on a shiko match with Abi. He is a little shaky on the left side, but still pulls it off, much to the appreciation of the crowd. He also gives Abi a serious stare-down. All is well and good – but Abi finishes him off within half a second.

Kaisei yori-kiris Takakeisho, but has an inertia problem. Takakeisho flies off the dohyo straight onto Tomozuna oyakata (ouch), but then Kaisei falls on top of both of them. That’s… well, a real-life drop-bear (hi, Australians). He helps Takakeisho up, and poor Tomozuna oyakata also asks for a hand up. Everybody is still in one (albeit squashed) piece.

Finally, we have the last four Makuuchi bouts. This includes Tamawashi vs. Ichinojo. And of course, Goeido still has his tsukebito heckling Tamawashi:

goeido-still-heckles-tamawashi

Kakuryu doesn’t seem to approve. So what did Tamawashi (and Goeido, and Kakuryu) do?

Now, Tochinoshin’s leg has neither taping nor brace.

TamawashiIchinojoOshidashi
MitakeumiTochinoshinTsuridashi
GoeidoTakayasuUwatenage
KakuryuKisenosatoYorikiri

Tomozuna oyakata gets hit again! Luckily, Ichinojo’s brakes are better than Kaisei’s, so he didn’t get hit by yet another drop bear. And that is Ichinojo’s killer nodowa making an appearance again.

I have a feeling of déjà vu about Mitakeumi’s bout with Tochinoshin. Haven’t we seen this bout a few days ago? First Mitakeumi attacks, tries a couple of gaburi, then Tochinoshin takes over and forklifts him out?

Takayasu seems pretty amused about how his match turned out.

And Kakuryu’s left foot is once again doing circles in mid-air. I thought his problem was his right foot.

Here is a link to the complete YouTube playlist from which these clips were taken. It’s a bit of a mess, so if you want to watch in order, pay attention to the numbers.

And your final pin-up boy for this Jungyo, I give you Asanoyama:

asanoyama

Aki 2018 Jungyo – Day 22 (Oct 26)

venue

🌐 Location: Kure, Hiroshima
🚫 Scandal level: 0

Let’s walk along the sidelines and pick up some rikishi photos. We have Endo practicing his very fine shiko:

endo-shiko

I don’t know who gave him that lash mark across the chest, apparently it’s not just a smear of blood, as it is there the next day as well.

Speaking of marks of injury, Ichinojo practices with his tsukebito, Minatoryu. And what he practices is his fearsome Nodowa:

ichinojo-minatoryu-nodowa

He then moves on to teppo, but take a look at Minatoryu’s throat:

ichinojo-minatoryu-teppo

Wow, that really was a killer nodowa… being Ichinojo’s tsukebito is a bit of a health risk.

Somehow, I don’t think Tochiozan would have chosen this photo as his OKCupid profile pic:

what-me-worry
What, me worry?

Impressive array of bandaging on that left leg.

Tomozuna oyakata takes a selfie with Takakeisho:

takakeisho-selfie-tomozuna

I think Tomozuna oyakata is one of the coolest oyakata around.

Here is one side of the Makuuchi dohyo-iri. From the NSK official account. And as usual, the dohyo-iri just can’t pass without some antics:

Kaisei is posing for the camera. Tamawashi – who else – messes with his mawashi knot.

Here is a fine shiko match between Chiyonokuni and Abi:

 

abi-chiyonokuni-side-a
Side A

abi-chiyonokuni-side-b
Side B

Konosuke seems to be enjoying the view.

Here is a summary video of the day, including:

  • A variety of keiko – bouts and butsukari
  • Jinku
  • Quite a bit of shokkiri
  • Juryo dohyo-iri
  • Drumming demonstration
  • Jokoryu-Chiyoarashi
  • Gagamaru-Tobizaru
  • Yokozuna rope tying demo (Kakuryu)
  • Meisei-Yago
  • Makuuchi dohyo-iri (and continuation of the Tamawashi and Kaisei saga)
  • Yokozuna dohyo-iri
  • Yoshikaze-Chiyoshoma
  • Okinoumi-Sadanoumi
  • Aoiyama-Hokutofuji
  • Abi-Chiyonokuni
  • Shodai-Endo
  • Takakeisho-Kaisei
  • San-yaku soroi-bumi
  • Tochinoshin-Mitakeumi
  • Takayasu-Goeido
  • Kakuryu-Kisenosato

No Tobizaru, Enho or Wakatakakage today, so your pin-up boy of the day is…

ichinojo-pinup

Ichinojo!