Natsu Day 5 Highlights

The Champions

We closed out the first act of the Natsu basho in fine style, though it is with some disappointment that we recognize that Ozeki Takakeisho has withdrawn from competition after injuring his right knee in the yotsu-zumo win over Mitakeumi. Watching the replays, you can see his right knee buckle slightly as he goes to finish lifting Mitakeumi over the tawara, and that’s likely when the injury happened. The good news is that its probably an over-extension of the tissue, rather than a complete fail like we saw take place with Ura. As of this morning there is no word how long Takakeisho will be sitting out, but the medical guidances states 3 weeks, and Chiganoura Oyakata seems to be the kind to err on the side of caution with the condition of his rikishi.

Exiting act 1, we have 3 rikishi with perfect records. Kakuryu and Tochinoshin are notable, but not unexpected, but Asanoyama is a stand-out. He has shown fairly milling performance during the past 4 tournaments, but looks strong, focused and confident. Furthermore, his sumo is almost textbook perfect in terms of body position, hand position and footwork. This is actually his best start since Hatsu 2018 when he won 6 straight to open the new year. But I would note, he was ranked Maegashira 16 for that tournament.

Highlight Matches

Kotoeko defeats Ishiura – If you were looking for lightning fast, high intensity struggle from the start, you got your wish. These two refused to let the other dictate the terms of the match, and it was quite the brawl. Ishiura’s technique is better now than it has been in a while, and it’s a shame he only has 1 win so far.

Kyokushuho defeats Terutsuyoshi – Juryo visitor Kyokushuho attacks Terutsuyoshi with great effect, as it almost looks as if Terutsuyoshi changes his intent just after the tachiai. That apparent indecision was all that was needed for Kyokushuho to completely encircle Terutsuyoshi and toss him out.

Enho defeats Chiyoshoma – I assumed going into this match that it was going to be a very busy contest, with lots of fierce action, and both rikishi were up to the task. The Enho tactic of “grab any piece of him you can” was in full effect, with the Pixie making do with whatever appendage belonging to Chiyoshoma was at hand. If Enho can stay healthy, he is going to be trouble.

Yago defeats Tokushoryu – For the second day in a row, we see Tokushoryu decide to go chest to chest, and it’s not really working for him. Given Tokushoryu’s somewhat unique body shape, the task is a tough one for Yago, but that fellow is determined, and may not know any better.

Tochiozan defeats Chiyomaru – Tochiozan seems to lack a measure of the strength he used to bring to the dohyo, but his skill has done nothing but improve as they years tick by. Chiyomaru keeps trying to circle away, but that gambit is completely ineffective as Tochiozan grabs a hold of Chiyomaru and keeps reeling him in.

Shimanoumi defeats Onosho – Shimanoumi picks up a much needed win, as Onosho falls into his old habit of being just a bit too far forward over his toes. Shimanoumi’s footwork is excellent as he delays stepping out until Onosho touches down. Well played by Shimanoumi.

Asanoyama defeats Kagayaki – In addition to remaining undefeated, Asanoyama’s form is absolutely fantastic. In fact I could see him modeling for any wood block print of sumotori from any era. Kagayaki is completely out-classed and has nothing to bring in response to Asanoyama’s near perfect offensive sumo.

Shodai defeats Yoshikaze – I am still sensing that Yoshikaze is having problems generating forward pressure, and that showed again today as he broke off and re-charged into Shodai a few times. Shodai’s superior lateral mobility carried the match, as he was able to execute a twisting side-step to reverse Yoshikaze into a losing position. Can this guy please fix his tachiai so he can be a big deal?

Takarafuji defeats Kaisei – Big strength yotsu battle between these two, and in spite of Kaisei’s mass advantage, the ever resolute Takarafuji gave no quarter and kept the Brazilian from overpower him.

Abi defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu decides he wants to meet the windmill-oshi attack from Abi in kind, and finds that there is no way he is going to overpower his opponent. I continue to be amazed that Abi-zumo continues to pay off, with Abi now 4-1.

Okinoumi defeats Ryuden – At last Okinoumi scores his first win. This was a high-strength, high-skill sumo contest that raged across the dohyo, with advantage changing hands multiple times. But what impressed me is that Okinoumi kept his hips low, his attention focused, and maintained visual contact with his opponent. The kimarite is listed as tsukiotoshi, but it looks more like Ryuden lost traction and his knee touched down. Excellent bout, well worth 2 replays.

Kotoshogiku defeats Endo – Genuine Kotoshogiku Kyushu-Bulldozer style sumo today. Not the “Hug-n-Chug”, but the hips low, plowing the other guy off the dohyo kind of sumo.

Tochinoshin defeats Hokutofuji – Points to Hokutofuji, as he was able to keep Tochinoshin in a “lead right” position, never allowing him to switch left and engage his primary weapon. But as a measure of how motivated Tochinoshin is right now, he found a way to get the sky crane running and carried the match. 5-0 now, half way to returning to Ozeki.

Mitakeumi defeats Ichinojo – It’s easy to spot how this goes wrong for Ichinojo in the footage of this match. Ichinojo continuously focuses on pulling Mitakeumi down by applying force to Mitakeumi’s head. Mitakeumi focuses on Ichinojo’s chest and moves forward. Sumo!

Daieisho defeats Goeido – A surprising match as Daieisho is able to beat Goeido at the tachiai, get inside and force the Ozeki high and back. Goeido was never able to set his feet, or generate any forward pressure.

Takayasu defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu owned this match from the tachiai, and Takayasu was able to recover by exploiting Chiyotairyu’s tendency to charge forward in hopes his opponent won’t move to the side, which Takayasu executed with great timing to send Chiyotairyu to the clay. Takayasu continues to look very rough.

Kakuryu defeats Aoiyama – To me, I am going to say that it looks almost like Aoiyama was holding back. When we see him power up those big, long arms, we tend to see him focus on blunt force trauma via tsuppari, but instead he seems to keep it only at 70% against Kakuryu. Big K continues in the undefeated column.

Natsu Day 5 Preview

Welcome to the final day of Act 1! As you may recall, act 1 is all about bringing the rikishi up to tournament performance while getting the ring-rust knocked off and scraped away. It’s clear that there are some rikishi who are in terrible condition coming into the end of act 1, and a surprisingly small number who have managed to remain undefeated. I think this portends a very flat, even competition for act 2 of the basho, where we sort the survivors from the damned. So far it looks like we will get to keep Kakuryu, and avoid the “No-kazuna” situation that was scandalous and unthinkable 2 years ago.

Meanwhile, shin-Ozeki Takakeisho is in unknown condition following him injuring himself in his day 4 match against Mitakeumi. Team Tachiai’s best medical consultants have declared that the attempt to graft even the smallest element of yotsu-sumo onto his body has resulted in a kimarite malfunction, and the damage could be extensive. Reports from Japan have stated that Chiganoura Oyakata is taking special care of his Ozeki. They are going to have a medical work-up done, and he is inclined to keep Takakeisho out of competition if he’s not 100%. Good Oyakata! EDIT: News reports from Japan now indicate that Takakeisho will be absent tomorrow. It is unclear at this point whether he will return later in the tournament. -lksumo

One of the aforementioned 4-0 score-holders is Ozekiwake Tochinoshin, who is on a mission to rack up 10 wins and reclaim his Ozeki rank. When he’s healthy, as he seems right now, the man is a force of nature. As with most other sumo fans around the world, we are eager to see him overcome the challenge in front of him and regain his title.

What We Are Watching Day 5.

Terutsuyoshi vs Kyokushuho – Kyokushuho visits from Juryo to face off against Terutsuyoshi, who may, at long last, be finding a working formula for his sumo in the top division. Mongolian Kyokushuho is looking for a path that returns him to the top division, with his last posting being as Maegashira 14 during Osaka 2017!

Chiyoshoma vs Enho – Oh this has train-wreck written all over it. You have the highly maneuverable Enho facing off for the first time against a known henka master. Not only henka, but flying henka! Will Chiyoshoma take flight before Enho can catch a grip, or will Enho find a way to lock his feet to the clay?

Tokushoryu vs Yago – Bottom-heavy Tokushoryu will square off against Yago in this battle of the twos. Both men have 2-2 records, and their career record is tied 2-2. Math-oriented fans can only hope that the first match is indecisive, and after a monoii, a torinaoshi is called, resulting in there being 2 matches between these 2.

Chiyomaru vs Tochiozan – I might say “keep on rolling!” to 3-1 Chiyomaru, but that is actually possible, and probably dangerous. In fact it has been learned by Tachiai that Chiyomaru is forbidden to climb hills or even steep sidewalks, as any slip or fall could cause damage to local buildings, parked cars and any nearby fishing fleet.

Shimanoumi vs Onosho – At Maegashira 10, Onosho should be cleaning up handily. Instead he is still struggling. So today’s match against Shimanoumi looks like a favor, as Shimanoumi has yet to find a way to beat the Mighty Tadpole on the dohyo.

Kagayaki vs Asanoyama – Oh, what a great match. Clearly the schedulers want to throw a wrinkle at Asanoyama, who has only beaten Kagayaki one time in their 6 prior meetings. Asanoyama comes in undefeated, and frankly looking to be executing the best sumo of his top-division career. Can Mr. Fundamentals make it 6 by putting the leading member of the Freshmen on the clay?

Shodai vs Yoshikaze – How is Shodai at 3-1? I am going to guess Yoshikaze is going to have a tough time with this match, as Yoshikaze has been hampered by a shocking lack of mobility this basho, and Shodai seems to be bouncing around every match, win or lose.

Myogiryu vs Abi – After it seemed that Abi-zumo had run out of useful life earlier this year, somehow it’s back to being quite potent. Maybe it’s the oddball “Chanko Napolitan” they serve at the heya. Myogiryu still seems to be looking for his sumo in a box somewhere at the heya, and needs to find it soon.

Okinoumi vs Ryuden – Only one rikishi in active competition still has zero wins: Okinoumi. Which is odd because he is fighting well. Maybe he can work out some of his frustrations against Shin-Ikioi / Ryuden, as Ryuden is quietly putting together quite a winning streak when you consider Osaka as well.

Endo vs Kotoshogiku – Both men are 1-3, and need to start turning things around if they want to avoid a typical Maegashira 1 / 2 outcome for this basho. Kotoshogiku’s attacks are still wonderfully effective, but he seems to lack the strength to get them to pay against the named ranks.

Hokutofuji vs Tochinoshin – The key to this match will be if Hokutofuji can land his nodowa before Tochinoshin can get that left hand grip. Hokutofuji will want to hit and shift; Tochinoshin will want to hold and lift. Hokutofuji holds a slight career advantage (3-2), and I think he may be the first rikishi to put dirt on the Ozekiwake.

Ichinojo vs Mitakeumi – I think we may see Ichinojo revert to his Osaka form sooner rather than later. Mitakeumi likes to rush in, and so the stand them up / knock them down tactic might carry this match. Of course it’s possible that Mitakeumi is still trying to figure out what happened against Takakeisho, and will be too baffled 24 hours later to execute proper sumo.

Goeido vs Daieisho – Engineers worked frantically to patch that Endo bug, and Goeido is now running GoeiDOS 2.4.1, which should be more than effective against Daieisho. (Perhaps surprisingly, Daieisho holds a 2-1 career edge, including the upset that derailed Goeido after his strong start last basho. -lksumo)

Takakeisho vs Tamawashi – I would say 50/50 chance this match does not take place, and Tamawashi ends up with a fusensho to boost him to 2-3. If it does take place, I am going to expect a real roaming oshi-battle with a lot of force, and maybe a couple of crowd-pleasing haymakers.

Chiyotairyu vs Takayasu – It’s clear that we likely won’t be talking about how Takayasu is finally going to get his first yusho. In fact, I am still trying to decide what he is up to these days. He is still winning, but he’s frankly all over the sumo spectrum every day. While it makes it tough on his opponents to guess what he’s going to do, it’s not really helping his score.

Kakuryu vs Aoiyama – Kakuryu is a delightful contrast to Hakuho, as Kakuryu allows his opponent to dictate the terms of the match to start, and them brutally applies his magic. The net result in terms of Aoiyama is a 17-1 career advantage that may not in fact improve on Natsu day 5.

Jungyo Newsreel – Day 7

🌐 Location: Tsu, Mie prefecture

The Jungyo doubles back to Mie prefecture where it began. This time to the beautiful city named Tsu. And I was very excited to receive a treasure of photos and videos from this event courtesy of Simon Davies and Blanca Bolea, who got up at 4:55 in Hasunuma and took no less 4 trains and a local bus to get to Tsu. Simon says it was worth it.

There were also many Japanese Twitter users who posted about this particular event, so this may turn out to be quite a long post. Brace yourselves, here we go!

Continue reading

Jungyo Newsreel – Day 5

🌐 Location: Toyooka, Hyogo prefecture

Today was the second day in Hyogo prefecture – but right on the opposite side of it than Day 4’s event. Early morning, the dohyo is already consecrated from the day before.

And… what’s this parking right in front of the entrance to the venue?

Why, it’s Ryota Hama’s Chanko Nabe bus!

While in Tokyo or Osaka honbasho you rely either on the food supply inside the venue or the regular restaurants around it, events in small towns rely on mobile stalls. So as yobidashi Hiromasa calls the townspeople with his drum, a little matsuri is being set up around the venue.

And early-bird Hama got the most lucrative location, right at the entrance! Mmmm… chanko!

But not yet, the stalls are just being set up. First, it’s time to shake hands with some favorite rikishi. For example, Hyogo local Terutsuyoshi.

Ah, the contrast between the beautiful kimono of those ladies gathering around him, and his own ratty yukata…

Yokozuna in the house!

Low-ranking rikishi practice on the dohyo, while around it some sekitori are starting to stretch and exercise:

Very entertaining squats on the left side there.

On the sidelines, Sadanoumi practices his oshi:

Ando is doing suri-ashi:

And so does Aoiyama, though in a totally different style:

It’s time for the Juryo rikishi’s practice on the dohyo. We have Kyokushuho with Wakamotoharu, then Kyokushuho with Azumaryu:

And in the session’s closure, Takakeisho gives butsukari to Wakamotoharu:

Then Makuuchi gets into the picture. Aoiyama faces Meisei, then Okinoumi, then Asanoyama, then the latter takes over and faces Ryuden.

This is not the end of the road for Ryuden, who later gets Mitakeumi (for some reason this bout appears twice in this video). Then we can see Mitakeumi vs. Tochinoshin:

Practice time is over, and we can relax and enjoy Shokkiri. Here is the full performance.

Apparently, in this Jungyo, the gyoji is getting creative. When the two performers fall down together, he leaves the dohyo, and consults with some spectator – preferably a child: “I should call that dotai, right?”.

“Dotai” is when both rikishi touch ground at the same time. In a normal bout, the gyoji doesn’t call it – the gyoji always has to point the gunbai one side or the other – and this is settled with a monoii and a torinaoshi. In shokkiri, of course, the gyoji makes all the decisions himself. Or with the help of a child, as it turns out.

Next up is the Jinku performance. And once again I have the full version:

But hey, aren’t you hungry? It’s nearly noon and we haven’t tasted that chanko, yet!

Apparently they also serve Udon. But who cares? Chanko!

There is also a mobile Takoyaki stall if you’re tired of Chanko, as some rikishi are

Both lunch and Jinku over, it’s time for the Juryo dohyo-iri. And Sokokurai is arguing some point with Gagamaru:

Skipping the Makuuchi and Yokozuna dohyo-iri, right before Makuuchi, Takakeisho, the local hero, receives a bale of rice as a gift – and apparently, a large amount of beef.

The area of Toyooka is known for its stork-friendly rice. Apparently, Japanese storks have been on the decline, and the city of Toyooka is making an effort to bring them back, by raising rice that coexists with the creatures that storks feed on to sustain themselves. So Takakeisho got a bale of stork-friendly rice. I don’t know how stork-friendly the beef is, though.

So let’s see some bouts! Here we have a series of bouts from Juryo:

  • Daiseido-Kiribayama
  • Kyokushuho-Azumaryu
  • Daishomaru-Tokushoryu
  • Daiamami-Chiyomaru
  • Shimanoumi-Kotoyuki

This is followed by bouts from Makuuchi:

  • Ishiura-Yutakayama
  • Kotoeko-Toyonoshima
  • Tomokaze-Kagayaki
  • Shohozan-Yago
  • Sadanoumi-Terutsuyoshi
  • Aoiyama-Asanoyama
  • Chiyotairyu-Okinoumi
  • Kaisei-Nishikigi

Tochiozan vs. Endo:

Sanyaku-soroi-bumi, and Mitakeumi vs. Tamawashi

Tamawashi’s killer nodowa does it again.

Takakeisho vs. Tochinoshin:

I think Tochinoshin forgot that he was supposed to let the local boy win.

Finally, Musubi-no-ichiban, Kakuryu vs. Goeido.

I think I have yet to see Kakuryu win a bout this basho.

Finishing with our pin-up… How about Nishikigi for a change?

The arms are strong with this one

Bouts from the lower divisions – Day 14

Hoshoryu means business

Although the yusho question has already been resolved below Juryo (save the Jonidan playoff), many wrestlers still fight for bigger promotions, smaller demotions, or for their kachi-koshi. The first example is from Sandanme. Prince Naya faces Takemasa. Both 4-2, so they are kachi-koshi, but they want to improve their banzuke position for Hatsu.

Naya gets a formidable-looking arm lock on Takemasa, but the smaller guy converts it to a shitatenage at the edge. Prince Debu keeps his minimal kachi-koshi. This should land him at the very bottom of Makushita in Hatsu.

Makushita

The other half of the princely duo, Hoshoryu, faces Takakento (Chiganoura, former Takanohana) who had an excellent basho, only losing to the jun-yusho wrestler. So both are 5-1 as they enter this day. And both mean business.

Hoshoryu faces some fierce thrusts there as he tries to get inside for his favorite grip. He defends well, and decides that instead of a throw he’ll go for a sotogake. Yes, the press actually interviewed him and asked him about that. How many non-yusho Makushita wrestlers get interviewed after a bout?

Hoshoryu is 6-1. This should land him around Makushita 20-23 for Hatsu (I’m not a banzuke genius – I just look for precedents at SumoDB), which means he’s probably not going to make it to Juryo even with a yusho next time, and will be wearing a kesho-mawashi no earlier than Natsu. Another man who is going to land around the same rank is Ura, so there is some likelihood of those two meeting each other in Hatsu. Yum.

The next bout involves Shiba and Akua. Akua is a popular rikishi from Tatsunami beya (the same as Asashoryu and Meisei) who has been in Juryo for five seconds. Shiba has yet to break through the purgatory. They are 3-3 into this bout, so this is for kachi-koshi for one, make-koshi for the other.

Akua reveals his henka card in the second matta. Has to think of a different tactic. Goes for a straight on, gets a grip, loses it, runs forward and kind of folds Shiba out. Not the prettiest sumo, but he is kachi-koshi. No chance of Juryo promotion, though.

Churanoumi and Seiro have years of sekitori experience between them. OK, averages are a lie, of course. Churanoumi only has one basho as a sekitori, while Seiro has spent a long time in his kesho-mawashi, even doing three rounds in Makuuchi in his day. But his day seems to be behind him.

And so, he uses that vast experience to henka. OK, so he is injured. Maybe that’s why he kind of botches that henka and has to resort to plan B, which is land a yotsu ond Churanoumi and gaburi him out. Chug-chug, and the Mongolian wins. Churanoumi make-koshi, Seiro kachi-koshi, but again, this will not be enough for him to unpack his white practice mawashi. In this case, it’s better for him to stay at 7 bouts per tournament with that injury, though.

Juryo

  • The schedulers bring in Tamaki from Makushita. Tamaki is 1-6 at this point, but he still manages to fiercely defeat the demoralized Gokushindo. I’m pretty sure Gokushindo just wants the nightmare to be over already. He just has tomorrow’s bout with Hidenoumi, and then it remains to be seen if he can rebound like Enho or remain in his black mawashi for a long while, like Akua.
  • Takekaze is trying to keep his make-koshi at a minimum, but all the tawara-dancingi is not working. It was a close call, though. Jokoryu staves off make-koshi for another day and may even be kachi-koshi, as he faces Ishiura – also 7-7 – tomorrow.
  • Tobizaru should never have allowed Kyokushuho to land that easy grip on him right off the tachiai. What was he thinking? The flying monkey flies again, and Kyokushuho keeps his losing score at a single digit for the time being.
  • Enho still not back to himself. Tsurugisho dispatches of him pretty quickly. Enho can be thankful that that devastating kimetaoshi he was given by Mitoryu only happened after he was kachi-koshi already. He’ll need to use the Jungyo to regroup and improve his tactics.
  • Chiyonoumi is still frustrated about his deepening make-koshi. He wanted to keep it at single-digits today, and went very aggressively after Akiseyama. Aggressively enough for some clear dame-oshi. That’s unlike you, Chiyonoumi. You are usually a gentleman. 🙁 Akiseyama is now make-koshi as well.
  • Ishiura gets a repeat of yesterday’s dive. He is 7-7 now and really needs that last bout tomorrow vs. Jokoryu. Tomokaze looks almost as if he didn’t notice there was another wrestler with him on the dohyo. That guy just got into Juryo?
  • Terutsuyoshi, as opposed to the other pixies in the division, bounces back from his losses and manages to secure his 10th win with an entertaining pull at Mitoryu’s arm followed by a press on his shoulder for a katasukashi. Terutsuyoshi is still in the yusho race, though it’s all up to Tomokaze at this point.
  • Shimanoumi gets Takagenji to the edge and applies a fearsome nodowa that seems about to break his neck, but the twin rallies and turns the tables on him. Amazingly, Takagenji succeeded in staying away from that 8th loss for three days in a row. We’ll see how he does against Mitoryu tomorrow.
  • Hidenoumi, who is in deep doo-doo, faces Chiyonoo, who is in even deeper doo-doo. Chiyonoo can’t seem to be able to produce any power this basho. Try as he may to stick at the tawara, Hidenoumi simply has a bit more muscle than he does. Chiyonoo is now 2-12, while Hidenoumi stays at a single-digit losing score.
  • Toyonoshima nearly falls prey to Kotoyuki’s powerful thrusts, when Kotoyuki finds himself slightly offside following a failed nodowa. As Toyonoshima spots this, he pounces and helps him along. Kotoyuki and Toyonoshima are both 10-4 and in the yusho race.
  • Tokushoryu tries tsuki-oshi, Azumaryu tries to land a grip. Neither is very successful, and the bout ends up with Azumaryu pulling back and Tokushoryu flat on his face. Azumaryu kachi-koshi, Tokushoryu make-koshi.
  • Aminishiki seems to be losing his dohyo sense. This bout was between Wakatakakage trying to push or get inside, and Aminishiki circling and trying to push him down. And he made it – but he was already out himself. Wakatakakage is kachi-koshi, Aminishiki make-koshi, and will be getting further away from Makuuchi.
  • This time it’s Yago who is using the Yu-Yu Hakusho attack. He seems to be thrusting with the tips of his fingers, and Kyokutaisei circles but can’t really keep himself inside. Kyokutaisei may still secure his kachi-koshi tomorrow, though he is up against the formidable Toyonoshima. Yago will be meeting Hakuyozan in the final bout of the day and trying to get double digits for a Makuuchi position further from the bottom.
  • The Hakuyozan-Kotoeko bout seems to follow in the footsteps of the previous bout between Yago and Kyokutaisei. Kotoeko finds himself outside, and Hakuyozan is kachi-koshi.

So, Tomokaze, the newcomer, leads the race with 11-3, and is chased by Kotoyuki, Terutsuyoshi and Toyonoshima with 10-4 apiece. The key bouts for senshuraku are:

  • Kotoyuki-Tomokaze
  • Terutsuyoshi-Chiyonoumi
  • Toyonoshima-Kyokutaisei

Kotoyuki is, of course, highly motivated to beat Tomokaze. If Tomokaze wins this bout (which is the latest of the three), the results in the others don’t mean anything. If he loses, however, he is tied with Kotoyuki, and possibly with Terutsuyoshi and/or Toyonoshima should they win theirs. So we may have a chance for a four-way playoff. I’m sure the NSK time keepers will be cheering for Tomokaze – but we will not, right?