Hatsu Day 4 Highlights

It looks like it was hair-pull Wednesday. None of it seemed like a deliberate tactic, but it took at least one clear win from a rikishi on a no-loss streak. There are an impressive number of rank-and-file rikishi who are still 4-0, and sadly two Ozeki who are in real trouble with injuries, and might want to consider kyujo and immediate medical attention.

Highlight Matches

Chiyonokuni defeats Aminishiki – A couple of false starts, Chiyonokuni was worried about an Aminishiki henka, and who would not be? Aminishiki took the tachiai, but Chiyonokuni was able to overwhelm uncle sumo’s offense.

Yutakayama defeats Daiamami – Yutakayama picks up his third win, in this evenly balanced oshi/tsuki match. Yutakayama was consistently in better position, and kept Daiamami moving to his tune. My favorite part comes when Daiamami has a solid nodowa, and Yutakayama applies a vigorous slap to his attacker’s face.

Kotoyuki defeats Chiyoshoma – Kotoyuki got into his favorite mode of sumo, and after trading a short series of thrusts, he had Chiyoshoma off balance, and spinning toward the East side.

Yago defeats Kagayaki – Excellent fundamentals as usual from Kagayaki, and he controlled the early part of the match, moving Yago backward, keeping Yago higher and reacting to his sumo. Yago worked to bring Kagayaki to his chest, and when he got Kagayaki wrapped up, he went to work. Although Kagayaki struggled, Yago kept his opponent centered and marched him out. More evidence that Yago is probably going to be a big deal in the next few years.

Abi defeats Endo – It was a cloud of flailing arms immediately from the tachiai, and Abi put himself at risk by attempting an early pull down. Respect to Endo for doing a better job than most at repelling the Abi-zumo attack, but Abi continued to apply pressure, and Endo landed in a heap.

Ryuden defeats Asanoyama – A solid, protracted mawashi battle. Asanoyama was in control for a good portion of the match, but failed to pick up his first win. It looked like Asanoyama got tired, and Ryuden exploited his opponents exhaustion. Good sumo from both.

Kaisei defeats Daieisho – Kaisei seems to have his sumo at full power for the first time in a while, and he remains undefeated. Daieisho gave it everything he had, but there is just too much Kaisei to toss around.

Onosho defeats Aoiyama – This match was all Aoiyama, and Onosho could not overcome the Man-Mountain’s superior reach, and was bodily thrown to the clay. But a Monoii was called, and it was determined that Aoiyama had contact with Onosho’s hair during the throw, and was disqualified.

Chiyotairyu defeats Yoshikaze – I hate to say it, but it’s painful to watch Yoshikaze right now. He seems completely out of energy and drive, and he presents little offense in any of his matches. Injury? We don’t get to know.

Shohozan defeats Kotoshogiku – Shohozan scores his first win by shutting down Kotoshogiku’s hug-n-chug attack, and getting to Kotoshogiku’s side.

Mitakeumi defeats Takakeisho – A critical tadpole battle, this match did much to shape the second act, and it’s a fair question to wonder if Takakeisho needs to work out a mechanism to defend against this kind of attack. Mitakeumi was able to shut down the “wave-action” by never letting Takakeisho get enough distance to effective push against him. At close range, Mitakeumi’s bulk and grip carried the match. Excellent strategy from Mitakeumi, and he moves to 4-0. I can point to Takakeisho’s early attempt at a pull-down as the fatal flaw that allowed Mitakeumi to close the gap and back Takakeisho to the bales as the moment he lost the match.

Tamawashi defeats Tochinoshin – Ozeki Tochinoshin needs to just go kyujo, and work to get his injury treated. He is going to be kadoban either way, and he may as well save himself from any potential damage that might arise.

Ichinojo defeats Goeido – A wide range of thoughts about this, firstly a lot of credit to Ichinojo for outstanding, aggressive sumo two days in a row. He looked like a real champion, and I can’t get enough of this when he is fighting well. Goeido gave it everything he had, and we saw some fantastic attempts to overcome Ichinojo’s size and mass advantage. But with Goeido pressed tightly to his chest, Ichinojo expertly wore him down, and then tossed him aside like a spent ice cream bucket. Fantastic sumo from both, but Goeido likewise needs to own up to his injury and seek treatment before it becomes permanent.

Takayasu defeats Tochiozan – Influenza patient Takayasu blasts through his fever to drop Tochiozan. As the scion of Tagonoura now, I expect Takayasu to further harden his already grim determination to win every time he mounts the dohyo. On a related note, it seems the flu is ripping through Japan right now, and there may be several more rikishi who end up sick before this tournament is complete.

Kakuryu defeats Myogiryu – It was not pretty, but it was a much needed win.

Hakuho defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji lost this match because Hakuho used anything he could think of to delay the moment he touched out. It was a masterful act of agility and poise, but it was really a toss up who was the dead body in this match. Although Hakuho won, this is a great barometer of just how far Hokutofuji’s sumo has come. The boss remains undefeated.

Aki 2018 Jungyo – Day 10 (Oct 12)

Yes, indeed, the Jungyo reports are lagging heavily behind schedule, but I did tell you that life may catch up to me. Mostly the fact that the European Basketball season began last week. It’s hard to keep up with two different favorite sports!

venue

🌐 Location: Yokkaichi, Mie
🚫 Scandal level: 0

Today’s is a short report – the small town in Mie prefecture did not produce many visuals. The famous representative of Mie prefecture is Chiyonokuni. But believe me or not, I could not find one fan photo of the man.

In the handshake line, the fans were treated to the two extremes of human aesthetics:

extremes-enho-akiseyama
Enho vs. Akiseyama

…OK. Now that I had my right eye surgically removed, let’s look at Asanoyama stretching:

asanoyama

Nope. That’s not 180º. They should at least have given us Chiyonokuni stretching – as he is really capable of those 180º (and probably has the second best shiko in Makuuchi).

Generally speaking, it seems that everybody was pretty tired this day. Take a look at Yoshikaze:

tired-yoshikaze
“I’m bored. When does the berserking start?”

Now let’s try Mitakeumi:

tired-mitakeumi
“Thanks goodness I have a fluffy tsukebito”

And Hokutofuji is just bummed:

hokutofuji-bummed
“When are we going back home?”

This photo was taken by Asanoyama, by the way, who started a new Twitter account.

Another green-room shot shows us Kisenosato, who also has a colorful towel:

kisenosato-as-budha

Note that the “Yokozuna zone” in the shitakubeya gets padded with foldable tatami (well, technically tatami should all be foldable, because that’s what the name means, but in reality they are pretty stiff boards rather than actual mats).

OK, let’s look at some practice on the dohyo. I’m sure most of you haven’t seen Takekaze for a while. Here he is vs. Meisei:

The old man still has it. Here is Mitakeumi vs. Aoiyama:

Mitakeumi gets that morozashi pretty quickly.

Here is our first glimpse of the man of the day, Chiyonokuni, taking on Sadanoumi:

With that brace on his knee, I think maybe Sadanoumi should have joined the growing number of absent rikishi. Sheesh.

Here’s Shodai, facing Tochiozan, who joined the Jungyo just the day before:

We tend to forget that Shodai is actually a good wrestler, because of his ridiculous Tachiai and his not being quite up to joi level. But he did not become sekitori just because of his beautiful eyes.

Onosho vs. Kagayaki.

Kagayaki doesn’t look too brilliant this jungyo, I have to say. I think he is in a period of transition between his former slap-happy sumo and something else, but not there yet.

Abi vs. Ichinojo:

Yeah, Abi is definitely adding some variation to his sumo. Smart of him not to engage in a belt battle with Ichinojo, though.

Finally, of course Kakuryu will be doing the honors of making the local hero suffer:

Speaking of Kakuryu, in the previous post I mentioned that Gokushindo is his tsukebito and about to “graduate” as he is becoming sekitori. His replacement is Shohoryu, who has already joined the Kakuryu team, so he is in this Jungyo:

shohoryu

As Kakuryu’s team seems to be a prep school for sekitori, we may be seeing this guy in Juryo soon. By the way, I checked, and to my disappointment, he does not wear his hula-skirt sagari during honbasho. 🙁

shohoryu-hula-skirt
(Photo from previous Jungyo)

So to compensate for the long wait, I’m giving you two helpings of Tobizaru today!

tobizaru-2
Tobizaru for dudes

tobizaru
Tobizaru for the ladies

(Did he get caught in that nipple game? 😱)

Natsu Jungyo 2018 – Final Report

Yes, we made it! Day 26 of this long-long-long Jungyo is here. Sit back and fasten your seatbelts, because today there is a lot of sumo action.

🌐 Location: KITTE, Tokyo

venue

This Jungyo event is different than the rest of the events we have been covering. KITTE is a chain of malls in Japan. This one in particular takes place in the KITTE mall at Tokyo Station. And it takes place on the last day of every Natsu Jungyo (for the past 5 years).

In addition to being a fixed location on the schedule, the order of the day is different than a Jungyo day. For one, there is no keiko, only bouts and “okonomi” performances. And a “talk show” (on-stage interview) with selected rikishi – in this case, Tochinoshin and Mitakeumi.

In fact, the Juryo wrestlers did not participate in this event at all – except for Akiseyama who had a Makuuchi bout.

But this doesn’t mean there was no goofing around. Here you see Chiyomaru, Daieisho and Takakeisho. They got a huge fan, and play rock-paper-scissors to see who is “it” – the one who has to cool off the other two.

Turns out, Takakeisho sucks at rock-paper-scissors:

The event started with sumo Jinku, followed by an oicho-mage tying demonstration, featuring both Endo and Yutakayama – so that spectators in all directions can enjoy the view.

As you can see, a large part of the oicho-mage preparation process is actually getting the pomade (“suki-abura” – apparently binzuke-abura is no longer used) evenly spread in the hair.

Next, Sandanme and Makushita had bouts in the form of an elimination tournament. The Makushita brackets were:

  • Enho-Tochiseiryu
  • Chiyootori-Nakazono
  • Chiyoarashi-Kyokusoten
  • Ikegawa-Ichiyamamoto

Here is the tournament itself.

I’m very disappointed in Enho there. He really shouldn’t be imitating Ishiura, for crying out loud. Tochiseiryu takes care of him very quickly.

Kyokusoten is an example of an underachieving foreigner. He is a nice guy, has many friends, has decent English and a very nice shiko. But his sumo is meh.

The deciding battle is between members of the same heya (which can happen in elimination format bouts) – Chiyootori and Chiyoarashi

The winner of the Sandanme tournament won ¥50,000. The winner of the Makushita tournament won ¥70,000.

This was followed by the aforesaid “Talk Show”, whose highlight seems to be that while Tochinoshin’s favorite animal is the wolf, Mitakeumi actually likes pigs.

By the way, take a look at what Tochinoshin was wearing:

Do you think that he’ll get the same kind of flack that Hakuho got for wearing that “Mongolian Team” jersey in the Fuyu Jungyo?

(I don’t think so. First, those deadbeats probably wouldn’t recognize the Georgian flag if it spat in their eye. If Hakuho had a flag on his back rather than a phrase in English, they would probably have never caught on. Second – there’s no semi-organized effort to get Tochinoshin out of the sport. He is perceived as harmless, I guess).

After the Shokkiri, Hakuho had his rope tied. Note the symmetrical Shiranui rope:

Then came the Makuuchi and Yokozuna dohyo-iri. And then…

Sumo! Sumo! Sumo!

  • Hoktofuji – Akiseyama
  • Kotoeko – Okinoumi
  • Sadanoumi – Tochiozan
  • Ryuden – Onosho
  • Aoiyama – Ishiura
  • Nishikigi – Yutakayama

Onosho is here to win. Aoiyama is not even slightly surprised by Ishiura, catches him in mid air, and gives him the potato-sack lift. Tsuri-dashi, and Ishiura is frustrated. Please don’t do that in honbasho, Ishiura – you’ll find yourself in Juryo before you can say “hassotobi”.

And that was an impressive Nodowa Yutakayama applied to Nishikigi.

  • Myogiryu – Chiyomaru
  • Kyokutaisei – Daieisho
  • Endo – Chiyotairyu
  • Daishomaru – Takakeisho

Chiyomaru uses his famous stomach push. Daieisho with a mighty tsuppari. Daishomaru not even putting up a fight.

Now, the next set starts with Kaisei vs. Ikioi. Here is this bout in another video first – watch what happens when Kaisei lands on Shodai:

Poor Shodai. After being abused by Kaisei he is being further abused by the shimpan (not sure – is that Onomatsu oyakata?)

So here is the set of bouts:

  • Ikioi – Kaisei
  • Kagayaki – Kotoshogiku
  • Shodai – Shohozan
  • Tamawashi – Mitakeumi

I think there should have been a monoii on that Ikioi-Kaisei bout, but the shimpan’s attention was drawn elsewhere…

Did you see Kagayaki beating Kotoshogiku by… gaburi yori?

Shohozan continues his bar brawl style, and Shodai finishes this day very very frustrated.

Tamawashi has a really scary nodowa.

Finally, we have:

  • San-yaku soroi-bumi
  • Ichinojo vs. Tochinoshin
  • Kisenosato vs. Goeido
  • Kakuryu vs. Hakuho
  • Yumi-tori shiki

Ichinojo must have heard that Tochinoshin likes wolves. He came ready for the kill. Please, please, Ichinojo – that’s the Ichinojo we want to see in Aki. Not the Leaning Tower of Pizza.

Hakuho is back on the torikumi – well, it’s just the one last day. I have a hunch he’ll need to be kyujo again in Aki. Those legs don’t carry him, despite having lost a couple of kilos since Natsu.

Kasugaryu’s technique with the bow has improved! His behind-the-back passes are getting smoother.

Here is your final Enho in a black mawashi. May he never wear one again in his long, healthy sumo career:

enho

By the way, this is what he looks like today – with his newly assigned tsukebito (Takemaru and Kenyu) and white mawashi:

enho-with-tsukebito

Did Miyagino oyakata manage to find Enho a tsukebito who’s shorter than he is? Apparently so… but Takemaru is actually only 17, so this may actually change.

Jungyo over – and out!

Hatsu Story 3 – Harumafuji’s Long Shadow

Harumafuji

With the new year’s basho about to begin, many sumo fans may feel the controversy around former Yokozuna Harumafuji is in the distant past. (In case there is one fan out there who does not know, Harumafuji was at the center of a controversy stemming from a night out with other rikishi in which he repeatedly struck Takanoiwa with his fists and a karaoke machine remote. The reaction to this regrettable incident included Harumafuji’s resignation from the sumo world.)

As the first five days of the basho unfold, we will see a new dynamic at play, as Harumafuji previously played a large role in shaping each tournament’s pace and outcome. True, he was usually good for a handful of kinboshi, but Harumafuji was a relentless competitor who delivered massive offense each time he mounted the dohyo. Without his participation in this tournament, we may see several differences even in the early days.

  • Increased Tadpole Dominance: So far, the league of up-and-coming rikishi has been storming the gates of the old guard. While four healthy Yokozuna would make life very hard for the younger Rikishi, many fans think that we may only get Hakuho for the full 15 days of Hatsu, and possibly not even that. This means that we may once again see the youngsters turn in solid, double-digit records from high Maegashira or San’yaku ranks. In the past, Harumafuji would tough it out and cull the next generation as much as he was able.
  • Increased Pressure on Hakuho: As noted in the earlier commentary, Kakuryu and Kisenosato are “on the bubble”. While both of them have put forth a mighty effort to be ready for Hatsu, there is a real threat that either or both of them are simply too hurt to continue. This could possibly leave Hakuho as the only Yokozuna for this tournament, or the only Yokozuna period. This would have the effect of motivating “The Boss” to continue to compete in spite of injuries that in the past would have put him to kyujo, knowing that Harumafuji would carry on. If that should happen, it might hasten the end of Hakuho.
  • The Battle For The Next Ozeki: The fight for the next Ozeki slot is already underway, with Tamawashi and Mitakeumi clear front-runners. But with the Yokozuna ranks thinned and possibly thinning more, Takakeisho and Onosho are primed to step up their sumo. Both Goeido and Takayasu have stabilized their performance somewhat, but neither of them are clear favorites to begin a campaign for the tsuna.

Five Interesting Matches on Day 13

Ichinojo.png

With the Kyushu basho wrapping up, many of the matches on day 13 are in some ways more about the New Year tournament than the current one. Several rikishi, such as Okinoumi, Endo, and Kagayaki, will be facing opponents five or six ranks above them tomorrow, as the schedulers try to get an idea of what the Hatsu banzuke will look like. Here are just five interesting matches to keep an eye on for day 13.

Aoiyama vs. Daiamami

Although it wouldn’t do much to improve his current situation, I do think Aoiyama deserved a win on day 12. From the replays, it was pretty clear that Kotoyuki’s arm touched the clay a split second before the big Bulgarian’s heel stepped out, and I was very surprised there wasn’t at least a monoii. Aoiyama will have to leave the past behind and focus on tomorrow when he meets Daiamami, who despite losing the majority of his bouts has been giving it his all in the last half of this basho. Day 13 will be the first time these two rikishi meet.

Aminishiki vs. Ikioi

Everyone’s favorite uncle will once again try to secure his spot in the top division tomorrow. Aminishiki’s tournament started off strong, but he has faded a bit in the later half of this basho as his opponents began to figure out his tactics. Yet there is a man who may just fall for the wily veteran’s tricks, and his name is Ikioi. On any given day, Ikioi can show incredible skill and determination on the dohyo. But then there are days where he wrestles like a man with banana peels taped to his feet. It’s impossible to predict which Ikioi will show each day and if he decides to lace up the peels tomorrow, Aminishiki shouldn’t have much trouble making a fool of him.

Endo vs. Tamawashi

Apparently, Okinoumi isn’t the only one putting his health issues behind him, as crowd favorite Endo has been having another great tournament. Coming into day 13 with a 9-3 record, Endo is fighting much like he did when he first emerged on the Makuuchi scene and captured the hearts of sumo fans. His impressive showing has resulted in a massive jump up the torikumi, and he will face Maegashira 1 Tamawashi tomorrow. These two have had a very interesting series, with Endo dominating their first six bouts and Tamawashi taking the last five.

Onosho vs. Shohozan

It would be quite the comeback story if Onosho could somehow get his kachi koshi after an abysmal start to the tournament. Since donning the red mawashi once more, he has only lost once and will need to win his last three matches to get an 8-7 record. His first and perhaps greatest challenge comes in the form of Shohozan, who has also underperformed this basho. Onosho has faced off against the Fukuoka native three times before and has never beat him. Can Onosho keep his kachi koshi dream alive, or will Shohozan hand him his first Makuuchi losing record?

Ichinojo vs. Mitakeumi

Ichinojo has definitely been one of the MVPs of this basho. He dominated Kisenosato, gave Hakuho his first taste of real competition, and had a highlight bout with Goeido on day 12. While I don’t know if Ichinojo will have a good enough record by the end of the basho to contend for the opening(s) in the Komusubi rank, he does have a pretty good shot at Maegashira 1. Ichinojo may also be in the running for a sansho special prize if he can bring his record up to ten or eleven wins. His day 13 opponent is Sekiwake Mitakeumi, who will want to get back in the win column after a concise loss to Hakuho. Mitakiumi will be  looking for his eighth victory to secure his kachi koshi and keep his Sekiwake rank for January. He has met Ichinojo on the clay twice, and the two are tied at one win apiece.