Sumo fans in Tokyo and Nagoya really have access to something special. Starting in May and running through September, Makuuchi wrestlers turn the city streets into a catwalk of sorts. When arriving at the arena, our top-division favorites will stray from the formal kimono we often see and wear customized yukata, called somenuki (so-meh-new-key). The picture here comes from Tachiai reader, Rob Donner. It’s Sadanoumi in a brilliant purple yukata with this amazing, turbulent coastal design.
Sumo wrestler attire is subject to strict guidelines, especially when they’re at official events, like honbasho. We’re more familiar with them wearing hakama and haori, especially in the colder winter months. I was particularly struck by Chiyoshoma’s somenuki in this tweet, so I thought I would share with Tachiai readers. In contrast, Kinbozan is still wearing the hakama and haori that many are probably more familiar with. But at this time of year makuuchi wrestlers have the privilege of cutting loose on their way to work by ditching the standard stuff provided by the heya and wearing these yukata which are often provided by supporters and usually customized with their shikona.
My guess is that Kinbozan is so new to Makuuchi that he might not yet have much in the way of these custom threads. While some are quite simple, with just the shikona, many of them will feature very intricate designs with fantastic animals, landscapes, and other patterns. Endo’s for example, usually features the familiar shibaraku image of his Nagatanien sponsors. Sometimes, the front is simple, as might be the case with Asanoyama’s yukata here…but the back can be a whole different story. Think of the mullet: “business up front, party in the back.” That sentiment applies here sometimes, too. So we really need to get these guys to do their little turn so we can see who the partiers are.
I would love to retweet any of your examples of fantastic somenuki patterns, so @ me on Twitter @tachiai_blog and I will share. Maybe we can get a poll going for the most fashion-forward rikishi. Chiyoshoma is my early entry. Frankly, I love that mint green with the various colors in the mix of numbers. Do you have any others?
Today is Wakamotoharu’s 27th birthday. Happy birthday, Wakamotoharu!
He was born in Fukushima, and belongs to Arashio stable.
For the record, the juryo rikishi is one of the Onami brothers – his real name is Onami Minato.
Last basho left me quite disappointed, as I wished him to break through makuuchi. After several years spent in makushita, Wakamotoharu finally reached the sekitori ranks, got relegated twice, and eventually looked to establish himself for good in sumo’s second highest division. He actually got his highest rank in Aki 2020, namely juryo 3. Unfortunately, he could not make it – for now – to the highest division, failing to reach makuuchi with a 6-9 make koshi.
Hopefully, he’ll do it in 2021!
I spoke about the Onami brothers – Wakamotoharu actually has one older brother, and one younger bro.
The oldest Onami brother is argubly the least known of the three, namely Wakatakamoto – Onami Wataru is his real name, and will turn 29 in December the 29th. The family’s oldest bro couldn’t reach the sekitori ranks, even if he came quite close in 2018: then ranked at his best, makushita 7, Wakatakamoto couldn’t follow with a kachi koshi, and ended up 2-5 instead. He is currently ranked makushita 22, from where he will slightly slide down the banzuke, following a 3-4 make koshi.
The youngest Onami brother is also the most successful one, and the most famous: Wakatakakage Atsushi!
Wakatakakage is notably known for his paradoxical makuuchi debut, back in November 2019. The youngest Onami brother was actually the only rikishi to compete in makuuchi and not to lose one single bout on the dohyo! Sadly, an injury prevented him from competing from day 5, and he ended 4-1-10 – after having won his four first bouts.
He showed glimpses of his talent during the first days, and it was clear it was not the only time we would see him causing headhaches in sumo’s first division. Indeed, he came back in makuuchi after two basho, and got back to back double digit wins: 10-5 in July, 11-4 in September! He’ll turn 26 also in December, the 6th.
But today’s attention is focused on the family’s second born child: once again, happy birthday, Onami Minato!
I could talk about Terunofuji the whole year, with no interruption. When I discovered the awesome sumo world, back in 2017, I decided to give myself a (short) background knowledge, and viewed each basho starting from 2015, on our Jason’s great channel. Not long came before I was in awe of Terunofuji’s skills.
The former ozeki is finally back in makuuchi after a long downfall, so this is a great opportunity to look back at his sometimes brillant career.
I would never thank enough Jason Harris’ great videos, from his YouTube channel. Recommending it to all sumo newbies or sumo fans in general is a no brainer.
He did not enter maezumo following the makushita-tsukedashi, like Ichinojo did (Ichinojo started his career ranked Makushita 15, and, incredibly, was ranked sekiwake five tournaments later!). He went through the ranks, struggled a bit to pass the upper makushita hills (like youngsters Naya, Roga, Hoshoryu, did or have done recently), but once crossed, Terunofuji did not waste much time in juryo, spending just three basho before reaching makuuchi in early 2014.
That year was very respectable for him, not only adjusting to makuuchi’s demands, but slowly rising through the ranks, too. Actually, he produced a single make kochi, in September 2014, before reaching ozeki status.
The beginning of 2015 coincided with the start of a fine ozeki run, even if Terunofuji’s first basho of the year wasn’t that overwhelming – a respectable 8-7 was produced as maegashira 1.
With fellow Mongolian Ichonojo, Terunofuji produced, however, a very rare occurrence in sumo: a water break on the fourth minute of their endless bout! Incredibly, they repeated that very same feat in March.
Soon after, Terunofuji proved to be a very resilient rikishi, and pushing him out of the tawara was no easy tasks for his opponents. I recommend you to watch his bouts against Tochiozan and Kotoshogiku, from the Osaka basho. Both opponents’ face at the end of the bout are telling much about how stubborn the Mongolian’s defence was.
If Terunofuji’s yusho quest fell short in Osaka, he repeated that effort in May, and a final Harumafuji against Hakuho on senshuraku allowed the young Mongolian to leapfrog the dai yokozuna, and clinch his first – and last – yusho (12-3).
Ozeki promotion made no doubt, thanks, notably, to a great win against Hakuho in Osaka:
John Gunning predicted Terunofuji to be promoted to yokozuna by 2016, and it was hard to see how this could not happen…
2. A painful ozeki career
Sadly, it appeared the young hope’s yotsu sumo style was too demanding for his body, and his knees soon began to falter.
Well on his way to a second yusho in Aki 2015, he received a first blow at the outcome of a bout against Kisenosato. I do not dare imagine the extend of the damage suffered here:
Terunofuji managed to drag yokozuna Kakuryu to a playoff, but the grand champion avoided the embarassment of losing twice on senshuraku, and outclassed the ozeki to clinh the yusho. The year ended for Terunofuji with a somewhat indifferent 9-6 record. Indifferent was not typical for him, but the worst was to come.
2016 was a nightmarish year for the ozeki – not the only one, unfortunately. Basically, Terunofuji was fit every two basho; he ended up kadoban three times, and saved his rank on senshuraku in Nagoya, thanks to an original komatasukui win against Kaisei.
The Mongolian ended up the year with a miserable record of just 30 wins, including horrific 2-13 (in May) and 4-11 (in September) records.
Isegahama oyakata’s advice of not pulling out of tournaments at all, in order to keep good ring sense, was questionable – at best.
Again kadoban come March 2017, Terunofuji’s sudden revival came out of the blue, much to the pleasure of his fans.
Many Japanese fans would mostly remember his infamous henka on Kotoshogiku on day 14 in Osaka. Then 8-5, the native of Fukuoka region, then demoted to ozekiwake, was still in contention to regain his ozeki status, with an affordable last bout against Yoshikaze looming.
It is true that henka’s timing was not ideal, to say the least. “Outrageous” would be a better word. Without trying to excuse anyone, I’d point out the fact that Terunofuji was on course for his second yusho, and, unfortunately, reopened his knee injury while confronting yokozuna Kakuryu at the tachi-ai, on day 13:
The outcome of the basho is known to everyone, gravely injured Kisenosato still managing to defeat Terunofuji twice on senshuraku, and crown up his yokozuna debut. But both men were hurt to the good, and both never recovered.
In fact, Terunofuji’s fine 12-3 record the ensuing tournament was the last tournament he fully completed until… March 2019 – with the exception of a mediocre 6-9 tournament in juryo, in Osaka 2018.
Natsu basho 2017 was the last one where Terunofuji ended up runner up – three wins away from Hakuho’s 15-0 perfect record. Had he managed to seal both yusho in Osaka and Tokyo, the nightmare would have turned into a dream…
3. The fall
Terunofuji’s top career ended up here. His body couldn’t stand the efforts any more – apart from his knees, the Mongolian was reportedly suffering from diabetis and kidney stones.
Terunofuji fell from ozeki heaven, and was promptly demoted to makuuchi altogether. Finally, his oyakata took the decision to give him proper treatment. The Mongolian underwent surgery on both knees, and was allowed to fully recover before competing again.
As a consequence, he resumed his sumo career ranked jonidan 48 (!), in March 2019. Remarkably, it took him just five tournaments to regain the salaried ranks, in juryo – not without losing bouts in the process (three, to be precise), notably against Onojo, where he was fatally caught in a morozashi.
Each step forward inevitably raised questions if it would be the last. But his body hung on.
The real tests came in juryo at the beginning of 2020, though. A perfect start opened the perspectives of an incredible makuuchi return in just one basho, but losses to Nishikigi and Daiamami on days 14 and 15 showed an eventual top division return would be no park walk.
Darker clouds came the next tournament, in Osaka. His knees seemed hurt again mid basho, but Terunofuji showed up afterwards, and managed to secure a sufficient 10-5 record ranked juryo 3, sealing the long dreamed promotion to makuuchi.
Herouth believed his body shape would not guarantee him life in makuuchi. To be fair, Terunofuji is confronted to an unpleasant headhache:
He struggles against ochi wrestlers – I have no idea how he would survive to dynamic rikishi like Ishiura
He is way more comfortable when yotsu battles occur, but plays with his health doing so.
Which answers will the former ozeki find, on the way to his remarkable comeback? Will he survive in the top division, and perhaps even get close to sanyaku?
Next months will provide us decisive answers. But, for once, the horizon is looking a bit brighter.
The first basho has been pretty eventful, with a yusho deciding bout on senshuraku, a surprise winner, and, unfortunately, injuries and a big name retirement – Goeido.
The dust has vanished by now, so this should be a good opportunity to try to guess next basho’s banzuke !
First of all, let’s have a look back at last basho’s banzuke:
Who will drop out ?
How to demote an injured rikishi hasn’t always a clear-cut answer. However, having seen Tomokaze demoted to juryo in January hints at subsequent demotions for Kotoyuki (M3, 0-0-15) and Meisei (M5, 1-7-7). Apart from these inevitable downfalls, everybody looks to have hold up his own, except Kotoeko, whose 2-13 record asks for an obivous demotion – let’s hope he can bounce back.
Who will join maku’uchi ? Lower maegashira issues
Firstly, it’s important to note that, due to Goeido’s retirement, another slot will be opened at maku’uchi’s bottom. I wonder when’s the last time we had a maegashira 18 in the top division…
It means that the three demotions and Goeido’s retirement will provide four spots. I think the solution is quite easy this time – Nishikigi and Daimami’s impressive 11-4 records will bring them back to maku’uchi, whereas Kotonowaka and Hidenoumi’s 8-7 at juryo 2 has brought uncertainty, but they seem the ideal candidates to complete our banzuke. Kotonowaka would then be shin-maku’uchi.
Chiyoshoma (J1, 7-8), Wakatakakage (J5, 9-6), Daishoho (J5, 9-6) and Terunofuji (J13, 13-2) all seem to have narrowly missed their chance. But they will all be in good position to storm back to maku’uchi in May.
The middle of the pack – mid maegashira issued
Having determined who will (most likely) be demoted and promoted, let’s not see how our banzuke should shape up:
Our answers about promotions have settled a few spots at the bottom of the banzuke.
The middle of the banzuke has been pretty hard to draw. If you acknowledge Ryuden, Yutakayama and Kagayaki are due to fill some upper spots, and seeing a bunch of make-kochi starting from M9, the result looks a bit artificial.
I surprised myself, in particular, moving Aoiyama down to quite a few slots, despite an afwul 4-11 record at M8 – he finds himself no lower than M12.
Some rikishi (Takanosho, Sadanoumi, both 7-8) haven’t lost a single rank – they’ve just been moved from East to West.
Anyway, I think the banzuke has a pretty decent configuration.
The san’yaku battle – upper banzuke issues
Let’s finish our topic in original fashion – with the top ranks !
Both yokozuna, having won just one bout, should just retain their ranks. As a consequence, Kakuryu, the west yokozuna, will be marked as both yokozuna and ozeki – Takakeisho is the only remaining ozeki after Goeido’s retirement.
Asanoyama failed to get ozeki promotion but has secured his east sekiwake slot with a 10-5 performance.
The debate on who will fill the remaining places is wide open, and guessing right is no simple task. Three candidates are needed after Takayasu, Abi and Daieisho’s make kochi. All three are easy guesses, would I say – Endo (M1, 9-6), Hokutofuji (M2, 11-4) and Shodai (M4, 13-2).
Some believe Tokoshoryu will reach san’yaku. However, I’m quite certain he won’t be promoted that far. Remember Kyokutenho, back in 2012 ? He won the yusho at M7, with a 12-3 record – and ended up at maegashira 1.
I might have promoted him a bit too shily, though…
Anyway, the order of Endo, Hokutofuji and Shodai’s promotion is anyone’s guess. I believe the key here is to have in mind that the board is looking for ozeki candidates – the sooner, the better. And I tend to believe Hokutofuji, of the three, will be first on their minds – hence, he’ll grab the second sekiwake slot. And finally, Shodai’s impressive 13-2 record should outclass Endo’s 9-6 result at M1.