Tokyo July Basho – Day 1 preview

Sumo’s back! Finally! I believe many of us have never been as excited as today, looking forward for the great return of our favorite wrestlers.

The mock Natsu basho, conceived by our colleagues of Grand Sumo Breakdown, has provided us some nice moments while we were waiting, including an unlikely Ishiura run, and Mitakeumi’s eventual triumph.

I believe, however, we have grounds to expect quite different results. Indeed, the mock basho was supposed to fake the May tournament. Rikishi, on the contrary, have been able to have some welcomed rest, and there’s no doubt some of them have taken all benefit of it.

So, first day’s torikumi is up, and brings the promise of an exciting start :

Terunofuji v Kotoyuki. So, the very first makuuchi bout will be the one I’ll expect most! It’s Terunofuji’s long awaited makuuchi return, and it’s fair to say he comes back from hell. If his road back certainly deserves much praise, the final steps almost proved to be stumbling blocks. More worringly, he still practises under painkillers, and it’s doubtful whetever he’ll successfully defend his makuuchi status. He defeated Kotoyuki last time in March; if he manages to avoid Kotoyuki’s early tsuppari attacks, he should edge that one.

Nishikigi v Kotoeko. A bout between two recent demotees to juryo. Nishikigi’s makuuchi has been underwhelming in March, with a 6-9 record that barely allowed him to keep a makuuchi spot. It’ll be their third meeting, and Nishikigi is yet to defeat his smaller opponent. I expect that trend to go on.

Kotoshoho v Chiyomaru. It took just three basho for Kotoshoho to move from juryo debut to makuuchi debut, which will take place this Sunday! Interestingly, he has won his last five basho’s shonichi, but Chiyomaru has done better: that’s eight win in a row during shonichi! From a more practical point of view, Chiyomaru’s experience may well prevail over newbie Kotoshoho.

Kotoshogiku v Wakatakakage. The former ozeki is slowly running out of energy. Furthermore, he struggled against other pixies: 0-2 v Enho, 1-2 v Terutsuyoshi. Remarkably, Wakatakakage is still undefeated in makuuchi, as he went kyujo after a 4-0 record in November of last year. He’ll eventually suffer his first loss, but I do not think this will happen on Sunday.

Takayasu v Kotonowaka. Takayasu’s elbow is still a major concern, although the break might have given him a lift. Kotonowaka had a good 9-6 makuuchi debut, and usually starts decently. I think he’ll edge this one as well.

Sadanoumi v Shohozan. An interesting style opposition between two experienced rikishi. Neither of them has been performing extremely well recently, with just one kachi kochi combined, during the last three basho. I tend to favour Shohozan on that one, and so do the matchups: 10-5 for the veteran.

Shimanoumi v Tochinoshin. The Mie-ken born has been largely disappointing lately, after a bright makuuchi debut in 2019. If Tochinoshin is given time to heal his knees, he still can do wonders. I’m sure he relished the time he has been given to heal, and I expect him to start strongly this basho.

Kaisei v Myogiryu. Another battle between two experienced battlers – they’re both 33. Maegashira 10 is Kaisei’s highest rank for a while, and it’s Myogiryu lowest for a while. Advantage to Myogiryu, who also leads their matchups 11-7.

Tamawashi v Ikioi. Ikioi’s resurgence after his feet troubles is quite impressive. Tamawashi’s sekiwake days, on the opposite, seem to be a century ago. The dynamic is on the Osaka born’s side, despite the matchups favouring the one time yusho winner (11-6).

Ishiura v Chiyotairyu. That should be an interesting matchup. Ishiura has been repeatedly yo-yoing between makuuchi and juryo, but his results have appeared to settle up a bit lately. His larger opponent has left the joi by the end of last year, and will look to regain a place in the upper maegashira spots.

Terutsuyoshi v Tokushoryu. Right after Ishiura, the Isegahama pixie will take another big boy, the surprise yusho winner back in January. It unfortunately appears Terutsuyoshi is suffering from a knee problem, which is likely to hamper his results here. He’ll need to push on his knees if he wants to move heavy opponents like Tokushoryu.

Enho v Ryuden. Enho will to bounce back after the only third make kochi of his young career. So far, Ryuden has not found the key against the last pixie of the day (0-2), although Enho’s last tachi-ai against Ryuden was henka-ish. Will the latter find a way to defeat him, this time ?

Abi v Hokutofuji. An interesting battle between two members of the « komusubi quartet », back in November of last year. If staying in san’yaku has proved too difficult for Hokutofuji (three make kochi), Abi has left the higher ranks after your consecutive appearances due to injury issues. Let’s hope the break has enabled him to fix this, although he has the bad habit of losing on shonichi (just one win over the last nine occurrences !).

Kagayaki v Aoiyama. Kagayaki is definitely on the rise again, after two double digit wins, and a 8-7 tournament in March. After six straight losses to Aoiyama, he finally defeated Big Dan two times, including an oshidashi win in January. I expect Kagayaki to fare well this tournament, although the maegashira 4 spot has been a ceiling glass to him so far.

Daieisho v Kiribayama. I became a massive fan of Kiribayama, who undoubtly benefited of Kakuryu’s advice. But he lacks first division experience, to say the least, and he’ll enter the joi for the very first time of his fledging career. Therefore, I consider the reliable Daieisho to dominate their coming encounter.

Takarafuji v Mitakeumi. If the discreet Takarafuji has granted us a rare pre-basho interview, let’s be clear : his brand of sumo remains defensive, no-nonsense. If it could be useful during Mitakeumi’s regular mid-basho meltdown, he’ll have a hard time containing Mitakeumi’s power. The two time yusho winner should dominate the yotsu zumo debate.

Shodai v Onosho. Not an easy one to call. Their early career was full of promise, and both have largely failed to deliver so far. Shodai is currently trying to establish himself as a sekiwake, if not more. If their matchups is level (2-2), Shodai has started excellently his six last basho, being 2-0 five times, and 1-1 the sixth time. On the contrary, Onosho has lost four of the last five shonichi. The sekiwake has to be touted as the favourite.

Takanosho v Asanoyama. Takanosho has caught the eye with a formidable 12-3 basho in March. If Asanoyama has his ups and downs during a basho, I’m sure he’ll do his best to have a bright ozeki start. He has won their only meeting so far, and I expect him to double his lead.

Takakeisho v Yutakayama. That’s another match where both rikishi’s dynamic are going the opposite way. Yutakayama has rosen quite impressively through the maegashira ranks recently, but will it be enough to defeat the kadoban ozeki ? His lack of san’yaku experience might prove too big a disadvantge against Takakeisho, who desperately needs eight wins, and a good start.

Endo v Kakuryu. Endo seemed to be a big threat to the yokozuna in recent times. After a san’yaku breakthrough, Endo seemed to have lost his way again. Here too, I expect the break to have helped the Mongolian healing his injury troubles. Kakuryu has to win that one.

Hakuho v Okinoumi. The dai-yokozuna is of course the big favorite of that pairing. Let’s not underestimate Okinoumi’s, those solid yostu zumo has provided stern opposition to Hakuho. I expect the Mongolian to edge comfortably that one, nevertheless.

Kyushu 2019, Day 3, Bouts From The Lower Divisions

In the lower divisions, we start the elimination stage, in which wrestlers with equal number of wins face each other. In the third day, maezumo also begins. Let’s go then!

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Kyushu 2019, Day 2, Bouts From The Lower Divisions

Day 2 in the lower divisions (except Juryo) complements day 1. The rikishi who did not fight on day 1 get to meet the closest ranked opponent possible. From Day 3, opponents will be chosen – in most cases – from the ones who have the same number of wins, thus creating a quick elimination for the yusho, and balancing the sides as much as possible.

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Kyushu 2019, Day 1, Bouts From The Lower Divisions

Kyushu basho is off to a great start, with some exciting sumo all around. Let’s tune in!

Jonokuchi

The day started with a match between Okunihisashi, from Nakagawa beya, who has been banzuke-gai for a while and returns this basho, and Tatsunami beya’s latest recruit, Yutakanami, here on the right:

Looks like Tatsunami oyakata got lucky with his pick this time. This boy goes on the “ones to watch” list.

We continue our watch Hakuho’s latest recruit, Senho, who had a meh basho in Aki, to see if the Dai-Yokozuna’s Midas touch is still effective. Senho, on the left, faces Shishimaru from Tagonoura beya.

While Senho’s tachiai is still naive, and his body language is still hesitant, he certainly learned how to yori-kiri like a pro.

At the top of Jonokuchi we meet Yamane, from Naruto beya. He is not quite in the same category as his formidable heya mates (Motobayashi, Sakurai, Marusho, and Mishima), but he is definitely the cutest. He meets Ogitora from Dewanoumi beya, on the right.

Too high, cutie-pie. It’s Ogitora who walks away with the white star.

Jonidan

The next division’s bouts start with Fujinoteru (the off-brand rikishi) from Onoe beya on the left, attempting to get his first white star from Shoryudo, a Shikihide beya opponent. Fujinoteru on the left.

That, my friends, was a sleek tsutaezori, and it’s only the 17th time it has been performed in Grand Sumo. You don’t need flashy back bends to perform that, apparently. It’s Fujinoteru’s win.

The next bout features the man best known for flashy back bends. That’s Ura. He is back, and he is here to conquer Jonidan. The first hurdle is Daishojo from Oitekaze beya, on the left.

Wham! This was a bout with one wrestler and one crash-test dummy. Sorry, Daishojo. Ura safely carries the white star back home.

Another one of my favorite watch list is Chiyotaiyo, the stick insect from Kokonoe beya. He is on the left, and Asahinishiki, from Asahiyama beya, is on the right.

Although Chiyotaiyo seems to have put on a half-kilo, maybe even a whole one, it is also apparent that he has leg issues. Too bad. I hope we’ll see better sumo from him in the coming days, because he certainly has some waza.

Last from Jonidan, our all time favorite bow twirler (emeritus), Satonofuji. On the right, the 42 years old faces Shunpo from Minezaki beya, less than half his age.

We can argue about this opening move. Is it a henka? Is it a half-henka? A HNH? A hit-and-shift? Whatever it is, Satonofuji is not here to get an easy slap-down. He grabs Shunpo and practices some heave-ho. Okuridashi.

Sandanme

Let’s start with Kaishu, from Musashigawa beya, whom we have been following for a while. Today he faced Miyabishin, from Futagoyama beya. Kaishu is on the left.

Kaishu makes up for his lack of weight with an extra helping of aggressiveness. He is all over Miyabishin in a jiffy, and ends up with a yori-kiri.

Now we move on to the first big gun from Naruto beya, Sakurai. His opponent today, on the right, is Oka, whom we formerly knew as Minatoryu, Ichinojo’s slightly cheeky tsukebito.

I was very surprised to learn that Sakurai lost on the first day. It’s certainly not something he is used to. We’ll see how he bounces back. Oka goes back to Minato beya with a white star in his belt.

We move from Naruto beya’s lead charmer to Hakkaku beya’s holder of the same position. Kitanowaka, a sujo favorite, stands opposite Kawabuchi from Shikoroyama beya. Kitanowaka is on the left.

And he is definitely not here just to be eyed by the ladies. Kawabuchi barely knows what hit him.

Finally, the top Naruto, Motobayashi. The man who wants to join the 21 club this basho. He also meets a Shikoroyama opponent, Seigo this time. Motobayashi is on the left.

If Motobayashi’s style reminds you of Takakeisho, you’re not alone. He considers himself a rival of the current Ozeki, who was in high school at the same time as he, and their score against each other is 2-2. Motobayashi chose to continue to university when Takakeisho opted to join the sumo world, but they have similar size, similar style, and similar ambition, and he hopes to catch up with his old rival.

Makushita

We start by introducing a youngster who should probably be on our “ones to watch” list. The reason? He made it to Makushita, being only 17 years old. That’s not at all common. Even Hakuho and Ama were 18 when they hit Makushita. Kisenosato did make it at 17. The boy had straight kachi-koshi since he enlisted. His name is Tanakayama, and he is from Sakaigawa beya. On the opposite side (the left) we have Fukuyama from Fujishima beya.

Unfortunately, this was a bad match to follow that grandiose introduction, as Tanakayama is defeated in his first bout. It is the second time it happens in his career, and he has a good chance of keeping up his kachi-koshi machine going.

Next, we continue our follow up of the “Chiyoshoma wannabe”, Shiraishi. The man from Tamanoi beya is on the right, facing Bushozan from Fujishima beya.

The reason I call him “Chiyoshoma wannabe” is that he is quickly gaining notoriety for a backward moving sumo style, despite considerable bodily strength. Bushozan is not letting himself get slapped down, though, and shows the young rascal the way out.

Do you want another rare kimarite? Say no more! Here are Kizenryu (Kise) and Ichiki (Tamanoi). This was quite a prolonged bout, with lots of twists and turns, so it has been split over two videos. It starts with Ichiki with his back to us, and the taller Kizenryu facing us.

The kimarite is harimanage. And here it is from a better angle:

Kizenryu’s expression is worth a chuckle.

We move to the upper part of Makushita, and start with the former Ozeki, Terunofuji, who has been practicing with Makuuchi wrestlers before the basho, eyeing the Makushita yusho, which he’ll need if he wants to return to Juryo by Hatsu.

Terunofuji is on the right, and his opponent is Tsurubayashi from Kise beya.

Off the Tachiai, Terunofuji gets pushed all the way to the Tawara. He manages to circle and turn Tsurubayashi back, and catch him in a double “kime” (crucifixion by armpits).

But seriously, I’m getting very tired of those dame-oshi. As soon as the gyoji goes “shobu-ari”, let go. It’s dangerous, and it’s unsportsmanlike. And I’m a fan, dammit.

Next up is his heya-mate and former tsukebito, Tomisakae, the back-flipping rikishi. He meets Shonannoum (Takadagawa beya, left). But he looks almost more banged up than Terunofuji.

No back-flipping or acrobatics today. Shonannoumi takes this one decisively.

Next up, Chiyonoumi (Kokonoe), who dropped from Juryo, wants to get back there as soon as possible. Opposite him is Seiro (Shikoroyama), recuperating from Aseptic Meningitis, and hoping to also regain his place in Juryo. Seiro is on the right.

Chiyonoumi is on the attack from the get-go, and Seiro circles and circles but can’t get away. But unlike you-know-who, Chiyonoumi grabs hold of Seiro as soon as he’s out to prevent him from falling. Yay sportsmanship! Go go Bonito man!

The Makushita matches end with yet another Kokonoe man, Chiyootori, who needs a kachi-koshi to regain his long lost sekitori status. But his way is blocked by Asagyokusei (Takasago), who lost it just now and also wants back. Chiyootori, if you can’t recognize him, is on the right.

Although Chiyootori starts with great vigor, Asagyokusei traps him in his arms and finishes off with a tsukiotoshi. Chiyootori has plenty of time to pick those 4 wins elsewhere, though.

BTW, if you noticed, he is wearing a black tabi sock. When rikishi have wounds or injury in their feet, they are allowed to wear tabi socks to cover it. In Makushita and below, the tabi is black. Sekitori are allowed to wear white ones.

Juryo

Almost all of today’s matches in Juryo were fun. We have newcomers, like the rikishi formerly known as Kototebakari (memorize “Kotoshoho”), and the much celebrated Hoshoryu, and the returning Aqua and Wakamotoharu. We have Kotonowaka, who is the bees knees if he’s healthy (he was kyujo from the latter part of the Jungyo). And there are veterans who are gaining back some of their power, like Ikioi and Kaisei.

Luckily, I found a YouTube Channel that aspires to bring Juryo digests every day. I’m not sure if it will stay around long, as Abema TV tend to be very impatient with the use of their materials, but for the time being, enjoy:

Hoshoryu is off to a good start! Akiseyama is very sticky, but his legs are his weakness and Hoshoryu made good use of that with this uchigake. He even got a Twitter compliment from his uncle.

Kotoshoho continues in his usual aggressive style, and beats veteran Gagamaru by yorikiri.

Now, Akua (Aqua) vs. the hapless Wakamotoharu. He is not going to be out-performed by his younger heya-mate when it comes to leg techniques. That kakenage deserves a replay.

Toyonoshima, Ikioi, Kyokutaisei and Kaisei seem to be genki. Kotonowaka seems to have come back from that kyujo with vigor. Takagenji, on the other hand, is very sloppy in that bout with Kiribayama.

And with this we complete our day’s report, tomorrow is also full of great matches!