Ones to Watch: Natsu 18 Midpoint

kokugikan

As we wrap up the first week of the May 2018 basho, let’s check in with some of our up-and-comers to see whether or not they’ve got good chances of moving up the banzuke after the tournament.

Before we start, a few items that might be of note to lower-division watchers:

Toyonoshima and Toyohibiki have both got off the mark to perfect records in upper-Makushita. Many sumo fans will be rooting for Toyonoshima to make it back to sekitori status, but that’s not the extent of his ambitions: despite turning 35 in a few weeks, he’s trying to come all the way back up to Makuuchi. Hiro Morita noted on today’s NHK broadcast that Toyonoshima made Kotoshogiku promise he wouldn’t retire until he made it back to makuuchi, so that the two could resume their long-standing rivalry!

Next, Chiyootori has come back into the dohyo down in Sandanme-land. The big man was heavily bandaged and looked awful on Day 3 when I saw him, but somehow won his other two matches and sits with a decent chance of a promotion back to the third tier. He gets called up to face Shikihide’s Baraki next, a smaller man making his debut at the Makushita level this time, a man whose chances of making the top divisions John Gunning poured cold water on in our Tachiai interview earlier this year. So, that might be a match to look out for on Day 8.

Now, onto the young guns:

Makushita

Ms1 Chiyonoumi (Kokonoe) – The 25 year old is a win away from clinching a debut in Juryo, as he sits 3-1 so far. His sole loss has come to a desperate Tsurugisho when called up to Juryo for a day to make up the numbers following Terunofuji’s kyujo. He’s not in action day 8 but it’s likely his next match will be against Ichiyamamoto thereafter. He’s knocked off a couple ex-Juryo guys already in Amakaze and Tochihiryu. I saw him unleash an unstoppable oshi-attack on day 3 against the latter to win by tsukidashi.

Ms5 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – The pusher-thruster is the only other rikishi in the top 5 Makushita slots to post 3 wins thus far, so if he does in fact get drawn against Chiyonoumi, he’s got a bit more riding on it. 4 wins should be enough to get Chiyonoumi up whatever the outcome, but at this rank Ichiyamamoto may need as many as 6 wins depending what happens up in Juryo and above him throughout the second week. He too has knocked off two ex-sekitori in Jokoryu of Kise-beya and Kizenryu. When I saw him Day 3 against the latter, he was absolutely flawless against the more experienced rikishi, winning by oshitaoshi.

Ms6 Enho (Miyagino) – Mixed results so far for the “Next Generation” star, who finds himself 2-2. While he beat Akua, his losses came against Kizaki of Kise-beya and Murata – two guys who may well make it to Juryo before he gets back and the exactly the kinds of rikishi he needs to be beat to show he’s ready for the next level after his overpromotion last time. He too won’t be in action until at least Day 9.

Ms7 Murata (Takasago) – His second go in the Makushita joi is going a bit better than the first, as he’s adjusted to the higher level of opposition en route to a 3-1 start. His next match is likely to be against Wakamotoharu (the middle of the Arashio-beya brothers), so hopefully the big bopper brought his Onami code to the basho (… I’ll get my coat).

Ms13 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – As I said at the outset this is the first time Tomokaze’s been put up against strong opposition and it shows in his 1-2 record. He gets Makushita lifer Tsurubayashi of Kise-beya on Day 8 in what will likely be a bellwether this tournament for his current ability to compete at this part of the banzuke.

Ms13 Wakatakamoto (Arashio) – The elder Onami brother came into this tournament on fire (not literally), which was quickly doused by first match loss to Toyonoshima. There’s no shame in that, but he now finds himself at 2-2 and so will need a strong second week to keep up the progress.

Ms20 Midorifuji (Isegahama) – The small man from Kinki U has come out 1-2 to start the tournament, and Tokushinho of Kise-beya now stands in his way on Day 8. It used to be that your route to a yusho in makuuchi ran through Isegahama-beya, and while that’s no longer the case, you will have noticed by this point in the post it’s impossible to make progress in the Makushita division without a good record against Kise-beya.

Ms26 Ryuko (Onoe) – I said it was “all about the rebound” this time up, but the man has been pushed, shoved and crushed out en route to 1-3 start. Big second week on the cards.

Ms30 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – One of the men doing the business to Ryuko is this man, who beat him on Day 7 by yoritaoshi. He’s 2-2 in his proper debut in this part of the banzuke after flu-enforced absence last time, so I’ll be looking for that 4th win so that he can resume his good progress. He’s another guy I caught in Day 3 action and despite his heavily strapped knees, he delivered a professional performance, moving forward against Asakoki and depositing him out via yorikiri with minimum fuss.

Ms36 Tanabe (Kise) – He’s looking to get it right in his second go at the division and looks to be off to a good start at 2-1. On day 3 I saw him take on Ichiki and my word, he absolutely tossed him out of the dohyo. He has immense strength. Also he’s still in zanbara in tournament number 7. His only loss came to the as yet perfect Kiribayama who blows hot and cold (currently very hot), and he’ll take on Aomihama on Day 8.

Ms50 Inoue (Kise) – He looked good on Day 3 against Wakanofuji but I must have been his lucky charm as he’s dropped his other two matches in his makushita debut. Lucky for him, I’ll be in attendance on Day 8 when he gets Kokonoe’s fabulously named Chiyonokatsu.

Ms52 Shoji (Musashigawa) & Musashikuni (Musashigawa) – I had the American Musashikuni just shading it among the two promoted stablemates, as he has more experience of the level. So far, both men sit with two losses, though Shoji also has two wins having competed a day more. Both will need a winning record to secure their place in the division, and Musashikuni gets his chance to keep the party going with a Day 8 match against 34 year old Katsunofuji. While I witnessed his loss on Day 3, I did feel that his commitment to always keep going forward was notable and a very good sign.

Sandanme

Sd40 Kizakiumi (Kise) – He steamrolled Jonidan opposition last time out in his debut as Sandanme tsukedashi and he has picked up where he left off, posting 4 from 4 as he looks to get out of the division as quickly as he got into it. It doesn’t look like he’ll get pulled too far up the banzuke by the schedulers in his next match, so we’d look for that to happen by his 6th or 7th match assuming he’s still in the yusho race.

Sd42 Tsukahara (Kasugano) – It won’t be a 3rd yusho from his 3 first tournaments for the Kasugano man, but there are other guys in his stable challenging for honors this time so we’ll give him a pass. He’s 2-1 thus far though and will partake in a battle of the extremes against 39 year old Gorikiyama on Day 8, who is taking in his 145th basho in an example of what makes sumo great.

Sd73 Torakio (Naruto) – The Bulgarian’s first attempt at the division was disrupted by injury and his second attempt has at least started rather better, as he’s at 2-1. He gets lightweight Hamadayama on Day 8, who could be a good candidate for the strong youngster to attempt to dominate.

Sd77 Kototebakari (Sadogatake) – He started with 3 wins but was dropped from the yusho race by Satoyama on Day 7, so the big man will have to be content with another big move up the banzuke if he can regain his form in week 2.

Sd89 Hayashi (Futagoyama – moves from Fujishima) – Mike Hayashi appears to be faring better against callow opponents in his first appearance at Sandanme as he’s beaten a 20 year old while dropping two to much more experienced counterparts. Somewhat more luckily for him, he gets 22 year old (but experienced) Ariake on Day 8.

Jonidan

Jd6 Yoshoyama (Tokitsukaze) – Not the best week for the much vaunted Mongolian as he sits 1-2 and on the verge of having his promotion campaign derailed. 3 wins from his last 4 should still do it, and the challenge begins anew against 23 year old Jonidan sumo addict Masutenryu on Day 8.

Jd11 Naya (Otake) – No problems here. The future superstar and postcard art subject has continued his bulldozing act through the fifth tier and looks to be on course for another yusho. His next opponent is oft-injured 21 year old Wakasenryu, and I can’t imagine Naya – an incredibly developed 18 year old war machine with a young history of winning and a perfect pedigree – is the kind of person that a young rikishi with fitness problems is going to want to be facing.

Jd14 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – We’ve been covering him all week on the site as usual, and he’s back on the winning track, taking a 2-1 record into the midpoint. He’ll get Naya’s 20 year old stablemate Shinyashiki on Sunday, so we’ll be looking to catch that match.

Jd42 Hoshoryu (Tatsunami) – Asashoryu’s Nephew™ is working hard for a rematch date with Naya as he’s also off to a perfect start, at 3-0. He gets youngster Izumigaya on Day 8 and if he can come through that and probably one more match, we’d expect to see the rivalry resume in the sixth match of the basho.

Jonokuchi

Jk16 Terasawa (Takasago) & Jk16 Kawamoto (Kasugano) – Out of all of the new debutants this tournament, it was always going to be tough to come up with the goods, but it looks like I’ve drawn a blank with the obvious choice of taking two college guys to take the division by storm. Terasawa’s already dropped two matches, and Kawamoto sits 2-1 and definitely out of the yusho running. That said, as many as 3 wins may still be enough to move up to Jonidan for the pair.

Jk25 Iwamori (Hakkaku) – The rikishi with zero sumo experience but more of a sumo frame than most, is off to a 1-2 start. We’ll be interested to see where this ends up, as it will still be fun to follow the career of a person who joined sumo after being teased at school for their big frame.

Finally, for fans of Hattorizakura, Herouth posted a great video on Twitter earlier of his latest defeat. Video comes from the “Sumo Samurai Hattorizakura” channel. He gave it an almighty go:

Hanging out at Kokugikan: Day 3

kokugikan

With many live sports, the better viewing these days will come on TV, or online, or however you consume your video content. You get the benefit of close-ups, camera angles, replays, and analysis. However, the best and most irreplaceable pure experience will still usually come in person. I was fortunate to attend Day 3 of the Natsu basho yesterday, and so will share some of my experiences. I will caveat that almost all of you who saw yesterday’s highlights saw those matches better than I did, and I will do a more complete post on the Kokugikan experience after one of the later days I attend in the tournament, but hopefully this will add some color to yesterday’s proceedings.

Tickets/Seats

Due to the incredible popularity of sumo, the full tournament sold out in under an hour, and this caused an incredible amount of strain on ticket agents like BuySumoTickets who provide services to those of us based outside of Japan. Unfortunately, my seat was downgraded to “Arena C,” which is the furthest back section at the top of the upper deck of Kokugikan. While the Arena A and B seats feature comfortable, plush upholstery and armrests, the Arena C seats are more of the hard plastic variety you might find in a normal sports stadium. It’s worth paying whatever you can afford to get into one of the closer sections, as it makes a difference when you’re sitting for several hours. Kokugikan, which does offer very good sight lines from almost any seat, is fairly steep, so even getting into the Arena B section does make a meaningful difference. Still, I’m not complaining – at least I was lucky enough to be able to attend.

As far as the surrounding fan contingent up in Arena C, it was made up largely of folks who had queued for “day-of” tickets in the AM as well as tourists. Obviously, I’m all for more fans experiencing sumo and welcoming them to our site to follow English language coverage, but with the incredible demand for tickets, it would be good of tourists to read Tachiai and other sites, and brush up on the rituals of the ring before making their maiden trip to Kokugikan! It would make their sumo experience more rich, and if they are going to take the seats of people who are legitimately fans of sumo (either locals or other tourists), it would sit a bit easier with me if these folks made more of an effort [edit: I appreciate while the spirit of this comment is positive, the tone did not sit well with everyone, so please see further elaboration on the subject in the comments]. The likes of Tachiai are here to help, and we will welcome them!

Despite this, there were pockets of empty seats all around the upper bowl in particular – the three seats next to me were all empty. Later in the day, a few massive groups of school kids filled in the Arena B section and were fantastic for the atmosphere.

Snacks & Shopping

Oguruma-beya is serving their brand of chanko throughout the basho, but I took it a bit easy yesterday, skipping that and the yakitori and just enjoying a custard bun in the shape of the NSK mascot, a snack-box of roast beef sushi with wasabi, and a package of Lotte Koala March cookies.

What was surprising was the amount of Harumafuji stuff you can still find. The postcard vendor inside Kokugikan still carried Harumafuji goods, and they were still selling $100 Harumafuji statues in the gift shops. I always buy postcards at Kokugikan – it’s very rare you can find one of someone below Juryo division, but they were already selling postcards of a certain hotly-tipped Jonidan rikishi:

Additionally, I picked up a pack of cards from the trading card vendors. Opening the package of 5 cards (¥300) to find an Enho card filled me with immense joy. One of the coolest features of this vendor is that he will offer to trade you from a pile of other cards for one of the cards in your pack that you don’t want. I pretty much snapped his arm off to give him my Daiamami card in exchange for Onosho, I don’t know how I got away with that one!

Matches

I did get to see a handful of the folks I’m tracking in this basho’s Ones to Watch series in the Makushita division, but I’ll save the analysis for the mid-basho check in post. Instead, let’s talk about some higher division action:

Wakatakakage has tons of fans. You will always hear people shouting for him, and if you thought that Raja Pradhan’s rapid fire pronunciation of his name was impressive on Grand Sumo Preview, wait until you hear someone’s drunken grandpa shouting it for all of Kokugikan to hear [as I’ve just written this, Hiro Morita has shared during the Day 4 broadcast that Mitakeumi says he is worried Wakatakakage is too light to compete as a sekitori. Make of that what you will!].

Abi vs Mitakeumi: If you think back a year, Mitakeumi always had one of the loudest cheering sections at any tournament. Not anymore. A new generation of exciting upstarts has taken root, and none more so than Abi. If you’re looking for a signal as to how much things have changed and how Mitakeumi’s star has dimmed, it was impossible to hear anyone cheering for him over Abi fans. They created an incredible cacophony and it was the loudest I had ever heard Kokugikan for a single rikishi. But unfortunately for them, in the match, Mitakeumi put him on the run. He’s come up in the first few days against guys who are working hard to be Ozeki (two in with a good chance, and one trying to recover his past momentum in Mitakeumi). I think he’ll be able to turn it around and I agree with Bruce that if he can develop some yotsu-zumo techniques, he would be a total force.

Ikioi: I’ve mentioned before on the site that he is my favorite, so I am biased. I’m also a life long fan of Liverpool Football Club. Their manager Jürgen Klopp became known earlier in his career for his approach to “heavy metal” football: intense, unrelenting, in your face action. Maybe this is what also draws me so much to Ikioi. Ikioi’s brand of sumo is heavy metal sumo, high-octane, full-throttle sumo. In football parlance, his extreme gegenpressing might leave him open to the kind of counterattacks which might make a charge for silverware a bit of a vain exercise for him (even if he wins the odd special prize here and there). This is perhaps evidenced by a second monoii in three days leading to a gyoji-decision reversal in his favor. I often say Hakuho is “box office,” and he is the consummate entertainer, but Ikioi is can’t-miss sumo. And in an era of declining numbers in the upper san’yaku (two years ago there were 7 yokozuna and ozeki, and they usually all turned up…. now we have 3 who are active), the sport needs can’t-miss performers.

Lost: Hokutofuji and Yoshikaze.

Found: Kotoshogiku and Ishiura. Ishiura did sumo, and won. Imagine that! Usually baseball pitchers establish their fastball and then mix in an off-speed pitch like a curveball to confuse batters. Ishiura is doing the opposite now: he leads with most people’s curveball, the henka, and then when he throws good sumo out there, he can blow people away. Kotoshogiku is always trying to get his feet sorted, and yesterday he kept composure through a couple waves of attacks from Yutakayama to deal with a rikishi who didn’t have much experience of his signature move. The old dog’s still got it, you know.

Daieisho threw a henka on Ichinojo and the big man reacted like someone untied his favorite pony and set it free while he wasn’t looking. The crowd reacted and he throw Daieisho to the floor, the gyoji’s decision confirmed after a monoii.

The crowd reacted very disapprovingly to the Tochinoshin/Tamawashi matta. Long time watchers of Tamawashi will know that he will sometimes play mind games at the tachiai with higher rankers and eke out a longer than usual stare down. However, whenever he deploys this tactic, even when he provokes two or even three matta in an apparent attempt to unsettle his opponent, he always seems to lose. It seems it might motivate his opponents more than anything, not that Tochinoshin needs extra motivation at the moment.

I have never experienced an atmosphere like I did for Endo vs Goeido, the first massive upset of the basho. There were huge groups of fans for both rikishi chanting and screaming and clapping in the run up to the match. When Endo finally threw Goeido to the clay, the explosion of noise was one of those moments that makes Kokugikan one of the most special sporting venues in the world.

Ones to Watch: Natsu 18

EDION Arena - Enho vs Wakatakakage - Haru 2018 Day 8 Juryo
Your Tachiai column for half full arenas

We are less than 12 hours out from the start of the Natsu basho! So it’s time to check in with our up and coming friends from the lower divisions. This time we say goodbye to Hakuyozan and Wakatakakage, promoted to Juryo. This post will also be a very abbreviated version of this feature (analysis wise – the list is actually longer than usual) as I am under the weather, however I intend to gambarize and will be back with you with some coverage from the tournament and the usual analysis on all of these guys at the midpoint and at the end. Perhaps you will see me at Kokugikan!

Makushita

Ms1 Chiyonoumi (Kokonoe) – The 25 year old has run his way through the Makushita meat-grinder with a series of impressive performances to leave himself poised for promotion with a kachi-koshi here.

Ms5 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – This will be the oshi-tending rikishi’s 8th tournament. He has stern competition at this part of the banzuke but has only put together less than 5 wins on one occasion in the bottom tiers and no losing records. A good tournament here should see him move into the pole position or better at Aki Nagoya.

Ms6 Enho (Miyagino) – He’s back! We love Enho, but there’s no doubting that he was over-promoted to Juryo due to wild circumstances with a record that usually would not merit it. Now, unless he grabs an unlikely yusho, he’ll hopefully get a couple more tournaments to season himself, develop his physicality and bounce back before the end of the year.

Ms7 Murata (Takasago) – This is also the 8th tournament for this big man, however while Ichiyamamoto got here “the hard way,” Murata was a Sandanme tsukedashi starter. Either way, it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.

Ms13 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – Tournament number 6 for the big osha-fighter from Oguruma-beya, and probably the first one in which he will face strong opposition. He should run into Toyonoshima and that will be a good one to watch, and a good test for the veteran against a newcomer here with a developed physique.

Ms13 Wakatakamoto (Arashio) – I’m going for -takamoto over-motoharu of the remaining brothers to watch this time out. While both his brothers are ranked higher, he’s on a solid 16-5 run since coming back from injury and in Vegas you always just play that hot hand.

Ms20 Midorifuji (Isegahama) – First time on the list for the slight man from Isegahama. We’ve talked at length in the Heya Power Rankings about the stable’s decline relative to others for various reasons, but there is some light and some hope and it could be that this man is starting to put it together at this level after a 6-1 tournament in Osaka in what was his 9th tournament. Curiously, he loves a katasukashi, having won 13 bouts with the slightly less common technique in his young career.

Ms26 Ryuko (Onoe) – The 19 year old is still young for the level, and is yet another man making his 8th tournament appearance, but suffered his first make-koshi last time out, so it’s all about the rebound as he tries to keep up with some of his more esteemed mates.

Ms30 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – The other hot talent of Isegahama got a bit of a mulligan last time as he fell down the banzuke having succumbed to the heya flu in January. Now he gets a second bite at the division from mid table, and hopefully this time we can see what the youngster, who has two lower division yusho, can do.

Ms36 Tanabe (Kise) – Another guy who had a gnarly Hatsu, Tanabe put it right in his return to Sandanme, reclaiming his impressive form with the 4th 6-1 record in his 6 career tournaments. The 23 year old university man should be placed well to continue making progress. Kise have a lot of good talents right now, and I skipped over Kizaki who has been included in this feature before, but has had middling results of late.

Ms50 Inoue (Kise) – Another first time member of the list, and it’s the man ranked opposite Ura. The 18 year old has more tournament experience than many members of this list combined, but started to put it together in 2018 with a pair of back to back records that saw him finally out of Sandanme purgatory after a couple years. 4 losses will probably send him back, so he hasn’t got a lot of margin for error.

Ms52 Shoji (Musashigawa) – The first of a few Musashigawa men passes Mushashikuni by the narrowest of margins in the race to give the heya a sekitori. It’s just the 5th tournament for a man who struggled in his first go at sandanme after grabbing two yusho to start his career, so we’ll be a little conservative with our optimism this time out.

Ms52 Musashikuni (Musashigawa) – Let us not forget that this stable has two Americans (Wakaichiro is technically not the foreign rikishi) and Musashimaru’s nephew has escalated himself back up to the third division for what will be his ninth tournament at the level after just a one-basho stay in Sandanme. We’ll look for him to get the consistency to stick around and start to consolidate his place at the level this time out, so I’d have him doing better than Shoji if forced to pick.

Sandanme

Sd40 Kizakiumi (Kise) – The Sandanme tsukedashi entrant from Haru – and brother of Kizaki – put “six of the best” on the board, but did it largely against Jonidan opposition. He gets a decent bump up the rankings this time and a similar return will see him join the umpteen rikishi higher up this post in Aki. If he can keep moving fast, it will be good to see another sibling rivalry in the sekitori promotion fight.

Sd42 Tsukahara (Kasugano) – It’s basho number 3 for the Kasugano newcomer, the first two having ended in championship glory. I limited the list to 20 rikishi until now, but I’m not making the mistake of leaving him out again, so we’re going to start to follow his performances more carefully. Like Kizakiumi he’s in with a decent shout of a step up if he can put together another title challenge.

Sd73 Torakio (Naruto) – Ever seen a photo of someone and think, “wow, that person just looks like a thoroughly nice and decent person?” That’s what Naruto-oyakata looks like to me. I haven’t met him or his fellow Bulgarian disciple but both men will be wishing for better as Torakio takes a second stab at the division following an injury-inspired nightmare in January.

Sd77 Kototebakari (Sadogatake) – The big bopper takes two promotions from two with 12 wins from 14. Here’s where the opposition should start to become a little more challenging for a man of his larger build… or perhaps he’ll just continue bulldozing his way through the banzuke.

Sd89 Hayashi (Futagoyama – moves from Fujishima) – Mike Hayashi follows the former Miyabiyama to Futagoyama beya and so in his debut for the new stable, his 4th tournament in total, the half-Filipino man will look to establish himself at his new level. He had to recover from an 0-3 hole last time out, so expectations will be somewhat tempered as the 19 year old finds his footing.

Jonidan

Jd6 Yoshoyama (Tokitsukaze) – The Mongolian started to put it all together in his second tournament in March after surprisingly struggling a bit in his Jonokuchi debut. At this rank the erratic young talent should be as nailed on for a promotion as anyone on this list…

Jd11 Naya (Otake) – … apart from maybe this guy. The Grandson of Taiho™ blasted his way through his debut tournament, inking a mammoth promotion and will probably do the same again here. It would be shocking if he’s not got to Makushita by year’s end.

Jd14 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – Bruce covered his prospects in a little more detail earlier today on the site. We’ll be looking for a third promotion to Sandanme for the Texan rikishi this time out. A matchup with Naya would also certainly be interesting.

Jd42 Hoshoryu (Tatsunami) – Asashoryu’s Nephew™ is a more slight fellow than Naya and his loss to said starlet perhaps overshadowed his wholly expected impressive result last time as well. There are a handful of other competitors (like Nakanishi who dropped his only Jonokuchi bout to Hoshoryu) but it’s possible the two men may again meet in a final bout or playoff.

Jonokuchi

There are an enormous – not unprecedented, but still a lot – amount of new names added to the banzuke for this tournament after the usual annual influx of new names into mae-zumo in Haru. Massive props are due to everyone at SumoForum (including frequent Tachiai commenter Asashosakari) who put together a pretty amazing resource thread of all of the new recruits this time out, cobbled together from various news posts/tweets/etc. We’re just going to have to see what happens, but here are three names worth watching:

Jk16 Terasawa (Takasago) & Jk16 Kawamoto (Kasugano) – These guys are the two college entrants this time, and Terasawa in particular has a good pedigree having narrowly missed Sandanme tsukedashi qualification. There’s plenty more in the SumoForum thread which frequent readers of this column are recommended to check out.

Jk25 Iwamori (Hakkaku) – The stable that brought you the hotly talented Hokutofuji now brings in a rikishi with… absolutely zero sumo experience. Seriously. Apparently he was picked on at school for his big-bodied physique, and now he has an opportunity to feel good about himself. So, that’s a cool feel-good story. And, by the way, he won 2 from 4 in the maezumo tournament, so he’s already put dirt on more foes than our man Hattorizakura has managed. He could be a fun one to follow.

Ones to Watch: Haru 18 Wrap-up

EDION Arena Osaka Lower Division Match

Tachiai readers please forgive me, as I was so pre-occupied trying to get folks to Osaka so that I forgot to wrap-up a few loose-ends of our Ones to Watch coverage! So let’s dig into it.

As usual let’s start with some high level stats on how our picks performed. At Kyushu we managed 17 kachi-koshi against 3 make-koshi, but slipped to a 12-8 record at Hatsu. How did we do at Haru?

Continue reading

Ones to Watch: Haru 18 Midpoint

EDION Arena Osaka Lower Division Match

If you’ve been reading Tachiai this week, you’ll no doubt be aware of the fantastic coverage that Herouth has been giving the lower divisions each day. That makes my job in rounding up the progress and goals for our “Ones to Watch” much much easier. As mentioned, I was at the EDION Arena on Day 8 and so was able to grab a couple more of my own videos to throw in with the footage that Herouth has collected over the week. Let’s get into it:

Makushita

Ms1 Hakuyozan (Takadagawa) – As we mentioned at the outset of the tournament, the well traveled 22 year old is in the ultimate position of needing only a kachi-koshi to make his professional bow. And he has achieved that with his 4-0 start, so we will be seeing him in a kesho-mawashi when the basho returns to Tokyo in a couple months. ay 9 he visits Juryo for the second time – having already seen off the overmatched Enho, he’ll try and take his oshi-attack to the similarly fortuitously promoted Takayoshitoshi.

Ms1 Wakatakakage (Arashio) – The Hatsu yusho winner has been on great form, having already featured five times and sporting a 4-1 record, with two successful trips to Juryo, also at the expense of Enho and Takayoshitoshi. His lone black star came to Hakuyozan, as he attempts to also emphatically book his ticket from a position where the minimum would actually do. Let’s check out Day 8’s bout against Enho courtesy of me:

 

 

Ms5 Chiyonoumi (Kokonoe) – The callow 25 year old will be rewarded for his 3-1 start to this basho with a date with Jokoryu on Day 9. The way things are shaping up both at the top of Makushita and bottom of Juryo, he’d be very much an edge case in the promotion picture at the moment, so not only will he need to beat his veteran counterpart, he will need at least another win beyond that to make his case.

Ms11 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – The 24 year old man who has made a blazing start to his career is on the verge of yet another kachi-koshi, having raced out to a 3-1 start care of a pair of slap down wins in his last two matches. If he can finish strongly then he has a chance of finding himself in a good position for promotion next time out.

Ms13 Murata (Takasago) – Murata has bounced back from the setback of Hatsu’s make-koshi in strong terms, having already secured his kachi-koshi with a 4-0 start. He’s faced decent opposition so far, and gets to participate in the narrowing of the yusho race with a match against fellow undefeated rikishi and former Maegashira Fujiazuma on Day 9. He misses out on a matchup with top man Hakuyozan due to the latter’s being called up to Juryo, but should both men prevail then they will almost certainly be each other’s 6th opponent.

Ms17 Ryuko (Onoe) – I predicted Ryuko would lose to Tomokaze, and he did. I did not, however, predict that he would lose his next two matches as well. He has not been able to establish his pushing attack and has been out-thrusted in a couple matches. At 1-3, he still has time to grab the kachi-koshi that I felt would signify good progress after a storming start to his career, but he’s got to win out.

Ms18 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – If Tomokaze is involved you can pretty much guarantee the final result will be an oshidashi for someone, usually him. He knocked off Ryuko and has gone on to post a 3-1 record leaving him in a good position to make a nice jump up the banzuke. He bested Hokaho today in a good match – though it was also notable for the fact that Hokaho might have a shiko to rival that of Abi.

Ms46 Tochikodai (Kasugano) – I was really excited to see Tochikodai make his debut in the division following an incredible tournament last time out, but alas he’s been kyujo for all of the first week, debuting on day 8 with a loss to a struggling rikishi in Sasayama. This has been disappointing for everyone concerned, but since I make the rules on this feature we’re going to sub in another exciting rikishi to make up for the fact that he’s been AWOL.

Ms47 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – After Nishikifuji’s illness-riddled Hatsu, I was expecting to see a bounce back and he has so far delivered to the tune of a 3-1 record. If he can keep up the pace then at Natsu we’ll get to see whether he can recover his early career form to challenge for a spot nearer the top of the division.

Ms56 Fukuyama (Fujishima) – My comments on Fukuyama were that he might struggle given Tanabe’s struggles around the same area of the banzuke last time out, given that the two of them had tracked results quite closely to open their careers in the bottom three divisions. That has indeed borne out as Fukuyama needs to win out to avoid following Tanabe’s path back to Sandanme next time out.

Sandanme

Sd2 Musashikuni (Musashigawa) – My “draft and follow” choice and first of three Musashigawa selections in the division had a narrow make-koshi last time out and has featured mixed results this time en route to a 2-2 line thus far.

Sd12 Tanabe (Kise) – What a time to be a Kise-beya rikishi, what with all of the action in the stable around the sekitori promotion line. Tanabe made fast moves but stumbled last time out and I expected him to rebound, regain his promotion and join all his mates up at the top of that division. He’s very close to fulfilling my expectations and likely that of his oyakata with a 3-1 start and a variety of kimarite mixed into the bargain.

Sd37 Shoji (Musashigawa) – The grappler stumbled to a narrow make-koshi last time after a pair of zensho and I was hoping his development would see him back on track. He won the first three matches this time out to set him up for a strong promotion challenge, and then I showed up and filmed him which is basically the curse at this point for talented young rikishi. Let’s check out some VT of the zanbara-clad man’s “oshidashi” (looked to me like he was forced out rather than pushed) loss today to Wakanofuji:

 

 

Sd89 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – As we covered earlier, the Texan sumotori dropped his Day 8 bout to Ginseizan, leaving his effort to consolidate his Sandanme position somewhat in the balance as he’s now followed 2 opening wins with 2 losses. That being said, he’s clearly showing a much higher level of skill, ability and ring sense in his second crack at the division, and there’s no question he belongs at the level, so we will hope he can grab those 2 additional wins to secure his spot for Natsu.

Bonus! Sd100TD Kizakiumi (Kise) – Tochikodai’s kyujo week led me to insert Kizakiumi, younger brother to Kise’s Kizaki (previously featured on this rundown, who’s been floating around the top of Makushita for a minute). Kizakiumi’s advanced debut as Sandanme tsukedashi and his performance in that debut give rise to the thought that the 22 year old could scale similar heights before long: he finds himself fresh amongst a yusho challenge, albeit one where he has faced almost exclusively Jonidan challengers so far and he will get another one on Day 9. Should he win, it would be good to see him get pulled up to take on one of the multitude of unbeaten rikishi higher in the division.

Jonidan

Jd5 Hayashi (Fujishima) vs Jd5 Torakio (Naruto) – The pair have mirror records heading into the final week. Hayashi is having some trouble fulfilling his earlier promise at 1-3, while Torakio has recovered well from his injury riddled Little Hatsu of Horrors to put himself a win away from a re-promotion to Sandanme.

Jd42 Kototebakari (Sadogatake) – He’s bounced back nicely from an opening day loss to Tsukuhara (who also won the Jonokuchi yusho at his expense and is doubtlessly wondering what he needs to do to get featured here) to post a 3-1 record. They’re starting to build a decent rivalry for two youngsters and this big bopper of an 18 year old will want to finish strongly. Most of the rest of his stable are either hanging around the lower tiers with middling results or are sekitori who are falling apart, so it’s a good time to make some waves.

Jd78 Yoshoyama (Tokitsukaze) – One minute you’re the most exciting debutant in the game and then next month the bloodlines of two of the greatest of all time take over all the headlines. Anyway, while all the spotlight has been on the next two characters, Yoshoyama has somewhat quietly put a 4 spot on the board to open Haru. He takes on the 14 slots higher ranked Terumichi on Day 9 as the schedulers start to thin out the yusho herd.

Jonokuchi

Jk18 Naya (Otake) – Taiho’s grandson has been mowing down the opposition, including the next man on our list, en route to a 4-0 start. He draws Isegahama’s Osumifuji on Day 9, who is probably reconsidering his career choices. It’s too early to draw too many conclusions apart from the fact that it would take a seismic shift to stop him winning the yusho: he is both massive and has technique, either of which would be good enough to coast at this level but taken together makes him unstoppable for the time being. He has the body of a rikishi ranked divisions higher. We’ll see him there before long.

Jk19 Hoshoryu (Tatsunami) – Asashoryu’s nephew is also making a strong debut, simply having been outmuscled by Naya as Herouth posted earlier in the week, en route to his current 3-1 record. I was partially hoping that the schedulers would be cruel enough to throw Hattorizakura to the wolves and see what would happen when worlds collide, but they have not done that because they are nice. Instead we’ll watch as Hoshoryu continues to develop his rivalry with Naya, wait until the next time they face each other, and watch him push for as big of a promotion as he can get for Natsu, likely by way of 3 more wins.

Finally, our man Hattorizakura gets the newly renamed Houn on Day 9, a man with two career wins, both of whom came against Hattorizakura. Perhaps he can do the unthinkable?

Day 7 – What’s Down?

 

Today has also been an exciting day in the divisions below Makuuchi. In particular, many rikishi at Makushita and below have achieved kachi-koshi today, with strong 4-0 records. But let’s start at Juryo.

terunofuji-tsurugisho
Terunofuji-Tsurugisho. The ex-Ozeki was happy with his sumo today

In the bottom battles, Hefty Smurf Terutsuyoshi got a rival from Makushita – Asabenkei – and should have been able to improve to 4-3, but fell victim to a slippiotoshi he was very unhappy about.

Takayoshitoshi was subjected to a nodowa treatment that seems to have limited his oxygen supply and stopped his win streak.

Enho got to face Yago. And as usual, this was an entertaining battle:

Enho goes for his usual maemitsu hold, and you can see how he keeps improving his underarm grip (technically, this is a hidari-yotsu but with his head buried in Yago’s armpit, it doesn’t look like it), inching towards Yago’s back. Then he performs a shitatenage. Here is the front side (from SumoSoul’s Twitter):

So Enho secures another win, and he’ll keep on providing us with entertaining sumo, but his chances of staying at Juryo are still very slim.

Mitoryu removes the blob-in-a-mawashi, Akiseyama, from the Juryo yusho run – at least for the time being:

It’s always fun to see one of the pixies beating someone 15cm taller, so here is Tobizaru vs. Takagenji for you:

Yes, also a shitatenage. Come to think of it, this was not a good day for the Takanohana beya gang. Takakeisho, Takanoiwa and both twins got a black star today.

Terunofuji got Tsurugisho today. Why was he happy with his sumo (on the Isegahama web site: “I’ll strive to keep fighting like I did today and get a kachi-koshi”)?

I swear, for a moment there I thought I saw Terunofuji! Oh wait.

I can’t find any video of Aminishiki’s bout at the moment, but he won by his typical hatakikomi. If a video surfaces, I’ll embed it.

Finally, Takekaze continues his journey back to Makuuchi, and Sadanoumi loses for the second time:

Quite powerful sumo from the veteran.

Let’s head down to Makushita.

The torikumi guys are starting to separate wheat from chaff, and matched Chiyonoumi against Hakuyozan, both lossless before today.

A fierce tsuki-oshi battle, that ended up, sadly, with Chiyonoumi landing on a lady in the third row. Hakuyozan secures his kachi-koshi.

They did the same thing with Murata and Wakamotoharu (one of the Onami (“waka”)  brothers, if you recall):

Murata very dominant, and kachi-koshi.

Wakatakakage and Akua were both 2-1 coming into the following bout.

Ah. Wakatakakage, do you really need that henka?

Down at Jonidan, once again zensho rikishi were pitted against each other. And finally I get an individual video of Yoshoyama. Thank you, One And Only.

Finally, we get to see some of the strength Yoshoyama was purported to have. Watanabe tries to make this an oshi battle, but most Mongolian rikishi don’t really go for that (Tamawashi is a notable exception) and Yoshoyama quickly secures a hidari yotsu and dances Watanabe to the edge. Yoshoyama is kachi-koshi.

Torakio has also been matched against another lossless wrestler, Nishiyama, but received his first kuroboshi and has yet to secure his kachi-koshi.

This was a lovely bout for such a low division, and Torakio looks just about to win it when Nishiyama converts it to a perfect utchari.

And finally, Jonokuchi, and the famous grandchild Naya goes against Kotomiyakura, once again, in a bout of lossless rikishi. Guess who won.

I think Naya is starting to be frustrated at the lack of challenge. Wait, grandkid. Once you get to Makushita you’ll get to enjoy some real challenges.

Another similar bout between two lossless rikishi was the one between Shinfuji and Kayatoiwa, the Jonokuchi #1.

Of course I was rooting for the Isegahama man, but… what was that? Clear lack of experience, I’d say. Too bad. Kayatoiwa is a Sandanme regular who was kyujo for two consecutive basho and found himself back in Jonokuchi, and he has no intention of staying there. Kachi-koshi and a certain return to Jonidan.

 

Day 5 – Below the Curtain

Makuuchi, you may know, means “Inside the curtain”. This is a reference to days gone by, when the top level rikishi were curtained off from the mere mortals, named “makushita” (“below the curtain”). In those days, there was no separate “Juryo” division.

And so, let’s go below the curtain.

Juryo

Everybody’s favorite Uncle Sumo finally managed to pull his first win in this basho.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ah, yes, he-e-e-enka. But it’s really not clear what Aminishiki tried to do there other than confuse Azumaryu. Then followed a short oshi battle which Aminishiki, much to his relief, won.

Another Isegahama beya man who finally got a win after three consecutive losses was Homarefuji.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both rikishi were patient and did a bit of leaning and thinking, but I think Takagenji should have reacted to Homarefuji’s grip change. He didn’t, and the circling continued, and eventually he found himself thrown.

On the other hand, Terunofuji and Terutsuyoshi, who were the leaders for Isegahama the previous day, had a bit of a reversal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Terunofuji opened well, but Takanosho managed to turn and put him between himself and the Tawara. Unfortunately, the ex-kaiju still has no staying power on the bales.

Terutsuyoshi had to face the mawashi-wearing-spud, Akiseyama. Actually, today Akiseyama looked a bit more like a sumo wrestler and less like a lucky blob:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He doesn’t allow Hefty Smurf to get anywhere near the front of his mawashi, and eventually catches the little devil and throws him out unceremoniously.

Enho, the Less-Hefty Smurf, had to face Takanoiwa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

That was quite a match! Enho stuck to the front of Takanoiwa’s mawashi like bad reputation, and wouldn’t let go. Kudos to Takanoiwa for pulling Enho back from the edge of the dohyo after the yori-kiri.

The Juryo yusho arasoi looks like this at the moment:

5-0: Sadanoumi.

4-1: Takekaze, Gagamaru, Takanosho, Mitoryu, Akiseyama

If Takekaze keeps that up, we’ll see him back in Makuuchi by Natsu.

Makushita

Wakatakakage and Hakuyozan were both 2-0 before their bout today.

 

 

 

 

Hakuyozan denies Wakatakakage any access to his mawashi with a barrage of tsuppari. I think Wakatakakage was just a bit too slow today.

For those who were wondering how Chiyootori looks following his injury:

 

 

Well, there is a slight limp there at the end, but generally, despite losing this particular match, he seems to be in a reasonable state to do sumo. Whether he’ll be able to get his sekitori status back is another question. Rumor has it that he has been set as Chiyotairyu’s tsukebito, by the way. Former komusubi, I must remind you.

I’m skipping Sandanme, as I don’t have any quality video to share, noting only that finally Terunohana got his first win.

Down at Jonidan, Torakio continues his decisive race back to the next level. Yusho potential here.

By the way, Torakio may be the star of his heya, but the little smurf, Oshozan, is doing nicely this basho at Jonidan, despite being a rather self-effacing guy (based on his Twitter account, that is).

Finally, the great rivalry developing down at Jonokuchi: Naya, the grandson, vs. Hoshoryu, the nephew.

This is a bad angle for it, so you may want to watch the same bout at Miselet‘s channel, where the entire Jonokuchi broadcast is available. Naya has Hoshoryu in a firm grip and there is really no way for the lighter Mongolian to get away from that grip. I can well imagine these two in three years, throwing a spanner into each other’s Ozeki runs.

Day 3 – Juryo and below

As well as the exciting matches at the top of the Banzuke, we also had some interesting action below Makuuchi. Let’s start with Juryo, and this time I don’t need to embed a lot of videos, because Kintamayama has been extra generous and made a full Juryo summary of day 3. Head over there to watch it.

enho-after-takayoshitoshi
Enho, preparing to hand his first chikara-mizu in Juryo

Enho, Hakuho’s Mini-Me, finally got his first win today, against the other shin-Juryo, Takayoshitoshi. “I am relieved. I have been watching videos of my best past sumo yesterday”, he said afterwards. Tomorrow, alas, he faces my main man, Terutsuyoshi, in a bout I want neither to lose. Can’t we all just be friends?

Speaking of Terutsuyoshi, he brought Takanoiwa’s race back to Makuuchi to a stop today, defeating him by a spirited yori-kiri. Of course, this was a piquant bout, as far as the press was concerned, between a member of Isegahama beya (specifically, they all called him “Harumafuji’s ototo-deshi”) and Takanoiwa. Terutsuyoshi responded to that with “On the dohyo, it’s man against man. If you start bringing other people’s affairs on the dohyo, you wouldn’t be able to do sumo”.

Of course, if you are looking for schadenfreude, you can always follow Asashoryu’s twitter account. He was laughing in Japanese again today. But of course, it was because of a funny video. Not Takanoiwa at all.

Yago continues to struggle. Tomorrow he goes against Takayoshitoshi. Both are 0-3 at the moment, so at least one of them will get his first shiro-boshi tomorrow. I prefer Yago, of course.

And Terunofuji got a second win in a row, vs. the hapless Amakaze. There were reports in the morning that the former Ozeki was in an improved mood following his first win – he came to morning practice, practiced with Midorifuji, and was all smiles. His good mood continued after this win, as he wrote on the Isegahama site: “Winning after a long dry spell yesterday made me remember the trick to winning! LOL”. So the former kaiju is in a good mood, but if you look at the bout, it was still far from the real Terunofuji. He got a mawashi grip quickly enough, but couldn’t do anything decisive with it.

teru-amakaze

Eventually he lost his grip and Amakaze tried to make that into a sloppy tottari, and Terunofuji simply used his bulk for a couple of side bumps to make sure Amakaze fell first. At this point, he really can’t afford any futile attempts at good technique with muscles he doesn’t have. If he drops down to Makushita, he’s going to lose not just his salary and private apartment, but also Shunba.

Let’s go down a step and visit Makushita. The bout between Kizenryu and Ichiyamamoto became the talk of the day today.

chiyonoumi-kizenryu
Chiyonoumi wiping dirt off the injured Kizenryu

Here is the video:

The bout starts as usual, takes quite a while with nice Sumo on both sides, but it ends up with both rikishi diving head down and Kizenryu’s face meeting hard clay. Problem is, it’s really hard to tell who hit the ground first. A monoii is called, but Kizenryu is having a hard time getting up and off the dohyo. The first shimpan up (I believe it’s Shikihide oyakata) checks on him, and then the yobidashi.

With the help of the yobidashi he finally gets up, descends and awaits the referees decision. At this point all he has on his mind is probably going back to the shitakubeya and taking care of his bleeding face. But he is stunned (even further) when the shimpan call a torinaoshi.

By this time he has three yobidashi trying to wipe him off, and then Chiyonoumi, who is sitting down awaiting his own turn, gets up, fixes the stunned Kizenryu’s mawashi knot, proceeds to wipe the dirt off him, and then watches over him as he goes to the steps, in case he stumbles.

Ichiyamamoto adds matta to injury, but eventually Kizenryu manages to win by uwatenage. Dragging himself away from the dohyo, his face bleeding again, he doesn’t forget to turn around and bow. Wow.

(And yes, that’s a Maiko making her way to her seat right there at the end).

Kudos to Kizenryu for a heroic performance, and Chiyonoumi earned himself a new fan. What a mensch!

Chiyonoumi himself won his bout after that vs. Asabenkei:

Sotogake. And as one of the spectators mentioned, he looked like Chiyonokuni there for a moment.

Down at Sandanme, if anybody is interested to see what the new yumi-tori man’s sumo is like, here is Kasugaryu vs. Nakashima:

Kasugaryu is 0-2 so far. Perhaps it’s the bow ceremony that gets to him, because he certainly seems to have good technique.

And further down at Jonidan, while we are looking at bow twirlers’ sumo, Satonofuji went against Chura today:

Ah, yes. I think even an alien would recognize that this man is from Aminishiki’s stable.

Finally, at the very bottom, in Jonidan: remember I made a bit of fun of Urutora (Kanji aside, that seems to be the Japanese rendition of “Ultra”, and I think it’s intentional) and his huge gap from Naia? Well, he may be a poppy seed, but he is no Hattorizakura. Here he is against Azumayama:

I wonder what’s the story of this “Ultra” rikishi. He seems to spend a lot of his time kyujo and even banzuke-gai.

His rival from yesterday, the famous Naia, also competed today. This time his rival was Watatani.

Still no challenge whatsoever. Naya enjoys his new privilege (using nodowa – you’re not allowed to do that in amateur/youth sumo). We’re probably watching the Jonokuchi yusho winner here. Just sayin’.

 

Haru Day 2 – beyond Makuuchi

It was an interesting sumo day at the EDION arena. Bruce has already given you the highlights of Makuuchi. But there is much action to see in the other divisions.

terunofuji-gagamaru

Former Ozeki Terunofuji has broken a 6-month draught, winning his bout vs. Gagamaru by Uwatenage.

Yesterday Terunofuji said that while his knee problems are mostly gone, he has to contend with the diabetes at the moment. He was told that it will take him six months to get his body back in shape, and he is hoping, by working out as much as possible, to shorten that period. He was certainly happy about that long awaited white star, though you can’t see that in the video.

Our favorite Uncle Sumo is not doing as well, though. Yesterday Takekaze has given him a Hatakikomi from his own book. Today, despite much support from the Osaka crowd, he just couldn’t stand his ground vs. Kyokutaisei. He hinted on the Isegahama web site that his injury is not quite healed as yet.

Another crowd favorite who is not doing very well is our muscular pixie, Enho. I believe it’s mostly nerves rather than body size, though. The other shin-Juryo, Takayoshitoshi, has also lost both his bouts so far, and he is most certainly not vertically challenged.

I… wish he didn’t go for the henka. It’s unlike him. His tactic has always been to drive forward. Of course, variety would help. Instead of always going for a mae-mitsu he could try the same barrage of tsuppari Wakaichiro used yesterday. Anyway, don’t pull. Hakuho told him that he looked “lost”.

Not far away from him on the banzuke, is the returning victim of the Harumafuji affair, Takanoiwa. And he looks like he hasn’t been a day away from the dohyo:

Trying to get a mawashi grip, keeping his body low. Shimanoumi finds himself below the dohyo. Takanoiwa is now 2-0. Seriously, somebody should give Hakuho the address of the hospital where Takanoiwa was hospitalized all this time because it seems that their treatment program includes lower body exercise of top quality.

And here is a bout in which I wanted neither rikishi to lose, really, but I wish it was Terutsuyoshi who won at the end.

Note Terutsuyoshi’s coming back up the dohyo. The crowd appreciated that – as well as his usual generous salt throw.

Further down we go. Toyonoshima is still trying to overcome his injuries and return to Sekitori status. He promised the late Tokitenku that he’ll be back. But it is getting more and more difficult as time goes by:

His rival is Rendaiyama. You can see Toyonoshima’s experience – but like Aminishiki, he just can’t withstand strong attacks from younger rivals.

In Sandanme, I’m sorry to report that Shunba lost to Kaonishiki by oshi-dashi, as did Terunohana (kimedashi, to Daishokaku).

Down at Jonidan, after his stablemates appeared on day 1 with mixed results (Oshozan won, Sumidagawa and Honma lost), Torakio opened his Haru basho today. Something in his expression tells me that he finally knows where he has landed, and I’m not sure he likes it too much.

It’s no fun having a heavy supporter on your arm this early in your career. But nevertheless, he uses that very arm to throw Nakao and win by uwatenage.

One of the “ones to watch” – Yoshoyama – also made his first appearance today. His torikumi ended in a couple of seconds. There seems to be an improvement there, but I still see a Shodai-like tachiai there.

No individual video, so here is the time-marked video of the whole set of Jonidan torikumi:

(If the time mark doesn’t work for you, shift to 19m10s manually).

Finally, down at Jonokuchi, both the famous grandson and the famous nephew made their first public appearances (at least, the first on-banzuke). Let’s start with Naya, Taiho’s grandson. He was facing Urutora:

Quite a bit of difference in mass there… Shikihide oyakata certainly doesn’t believe in force-feeding his deshi. Not a real match for the huge Naya who swats him away as if he were a fly.

Hoshoryu – Asashoryu’s nephew – faced Nakanishi, the new Sakaigawa man. This was a totally different match altogether:

Ahhhh…. that’s real sumo. Before the basho, Takanosho decided to practice with Hoshoryu. Hoshoryu is a Jonokuchi newcomer. Takanosho a sekitori. And Takanosho found himself on his back. And seeing today’s bout, we know why. I don’t know if he’ll be a Yokozuna like his uncle, but that boy is certainly not going to be doing laundry and cleaning toilets for long.

Isn’t sumo great?

Video credits: One and Only, Miselet.

 

Ones to Watch: Haru 18

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Pictured: A Tachiai “Ones to Watch” graduate

If you’re a person who feels like the lack of functioning Yokozuna has left a void of intrigue, or that the Juryo storylines for Haru weren’t enough to sate your lower division sumo appetite, then we’re happy to give you the gift of the Ones to Watch for this basho. Haru sees this series’ second and third graduates exit the listing, as Enho and Takayoshitoshi join Mitoryu as Ones to Watch alumni. We wish them the best of luck in the second division, hopefully onward and upward!

Makushita

Ms1 Hakuyozan (Takadagawa) – We won’t get Hakuho at the top of Makuuchi in Osaka, but we will get Hakuyozan at the top of Makushita. The Takadagawa man has been around so long (seven years!) that it’s tough to believe he’s still only 22. After a long run at the level and a number of tries in promotion position, he has made it to the summit of the amateur divisions and four wins from a debut in a kesho-mawashi. He reached the same rank two years ago and failed at the first time of asking, and will hopefully be looking at better results this time, having skilfully navigated the brutal bottleneck at the top of the division to the extent that only his results matter now. He’s not a top prospect and struggles against more hyped opponents, but he’s worth a mention as someone who could be about to make the next step and potentially play a part in the turnover of the upper divisions.

Ms1 Wakatakakage (Arashio) – We’ve been featuring him here since his impressive debut, and now with a yusho in the bag in both the third and fourth divisions, the reigning Makushita championship holder will look to grab the kachi-koshi that will surely seal his promotion to Juryo. Last time out we featured him alongside his brothers, who may not be far behind, but the alliterative rikishi from Fukushima has established a rather impressive record to go with an equally impressive collection of early kimarite. This tournament will present different challenges than he faced in week one at Ms17, but it’s hard to look past the yusho holder when making a list of must-follow competitors at this level in Osaka.

Ms5 Chiyonoumi (Kokonoe) – It dawned on me while writing this that for all of their mainstays in the top divisions, we’ve never featured a Kokonoe-beya rikishi in one of these listings. Chiyonoumi won three early yusho to vault him up the banzuke only to fall to an extended kyujo period and have to rebuild his status again. Therefore it is a bit of an anomaly that at the age of 25, this is only his 14th tournament. Of his previous tournaments, he has suffered only one make-koshi and has rebounded nicely to put himself into promotion position, a lane made slightly clearer now that he will no longer have to face a seasoned sekitori in Osunaarashi.

Ms11 Ichiyamamoto (Nishonoseki) – Hatsu made it a sixth consecutive convincing kachi-koshi to open Ichiyamamoto’s career, and he will look for similar results in Osaka to set himself up for a promotion window at Natsu. ‘Big Guns’ Shohozan is the only sekitori in the stable, but the oshi-specialist Ichiyamamoto is making a case to join him later this year by relying on relentless forward motion to put together a string of impressive, clinical performances. As with Wakatakakage, the top quarter of the Makushita division will present some altogether different challenges than he faced the last few times out, and adjusting to veteran opposition will be the challenge here. There are a slew of Juryo/Makuuchi vets right in front of him on the banzuke and he will surely get matched with some of them over the next two weeks.

Ms13 Murata (Takasago) – Murata had a setback last time as he ran into highly competitive opposition, but there’s not going to be any let-up this time despite the drop from Ms8 to Ms13. He will likely face many of the same names that pushed him to a 3-4 make-koshi, but he suffered the same result at Aki and responded at Kyushu by correcting errors en route to a convincing 6-1 record which vaulted him up the banzuke and into the promotion mixer. The good side of his challenging list of likely opponents is that he did face many of them four months ago in that strong Kyushu, and that should position him confidently to reclaim his spot in the top ten at Natsu.

Ms17 Ryuko (Onoe) – Ryuko is just one loss worse off than Ichiyamamoto in his career, and it’s fairly incredible that the difference between them at this point is their first ever professional match in Jonokuchi, a head-to-head bout won by Ichiyamamoto on his way to the yusho. Another oshi-heavy fighter, Ryuko now comes into a part of the banzuke where he’s going to be pitted against tougher opponents. A 4 or 5 win tournament here would be a good show of progress.

Ms18 Tomokaze (Oguruma) – He knocked off Ryuko at Hatsu and I would expect him to face him again and win again. I expect a little more from the Oguruma man who has pocketed two lower division yusho already. He shows promise, and may be able to stem the bleeding the stable is starting to experience in the top two divisions. It would be an enormous surprise if he’s not able to get to Juryo by Kyushu, especially as the promotion lanes appear to be more open than ever, in spite of the enormous bottleneck at the top of the division. Tomokaze is a good sized rikishi with good physicality, but maintaining mobility and balance in his matches against tougher rikishi is going to be key.

Ms46 Tochikodai (Kasugano) – It’s an exciting time at Kasugano-beya, and after a steady start to his career, Tochikodai pressed the accelerator with an impressive 7 win run at Sandanme to launch himself far up the banzuke. Many who dominate the lower levels tend to struggle in their first matches in mid-Makushita, so how he copes with a significantly increased quality of opposition may be fascinating. What’s also interesting is where we see many prospects relying on oshi-zumo manoeuvres, Tochikodai is, like his stablemate Tochinoshin, a rikishi who wants to get on the mawashi. He has no issue waiting out his opponent in the middle of the dohyo before attempting a more varied mix of kimarite than the common oshidashi-or-nothing.

Ms47 Nishikifuji (Isegahama) – We’ll allow a mulligan here as Nishikifuji suffered along with many other Isegahama rikishi from illness during the Hatsu basho, which deposited him back down around the ranking we saw him at Kyushu. He turned in a strong performance there, however, and the goal now is to reclaim the ranking in the upper half of the division that he ceded with his poor performance at Hatsu. Hopefully he’s genki and ready to go.

Ms56 Fukuyama (Fujishima) – It’s five straight kachi-koshi to open the Fujishima man’s career, but the last two have been of the last day variety. Fukuyama has somewhat tracked careers with Tanabe thus far, and as the rikishi that I’ve always felt was more talented – Tanabe – struggled to hold his own at this level last time out, that may forebode similar results. An early 4th win would do wonders here.

Sandanme

Sd2 Musashikuni (Musashigawa) – As I said at the time, this is going to be more of the draft-and-follow type of pick for me. We’ll hang in there because we believe in the man’s pedigree, and there’s just a lot of interesting stuff happening at Musashigawa-beya right now. We regularly have 2-3 rikishi on the list and while it has taken him a while to progress, it’s getting tough to look past this man – the top in the stable – as potentially the one who will represent the stable at some point (maybe late 2019 or 2020) in the professional ranks.

Sd12 Tanabe (Kise) – Tanabe was still in zanbara at Hatsu and in addition to not looking the part, he didn’t act the part. He’s another oshi-zumo guy who suffered some truly humiliating losses in his debut at Makushita level following a confident progression to the division over 4 tournaments in which he made it look, frankly, easy. The minimum requirement here is a competent, strong kachi-koshi, so that he can get back where he belongs and continue his progression. Confidence is really the key word in terms of what I’m looking for out of Tanabe this time out.

Sd37 Shoji (Musashigawa) – Shoji probably wasn’t the best rikishi in the two tournaments he won over Torakio, but he won them and that’s what counts. But in so doing, he was promoted beyond his means and fell to a narrow make-kochi last time out. I think he’s well placed here to regain his momentum. His tachiai isn’t brilliant but that’s to be expected at the level. This guy does more grappling than Edmund Hillary. The interesting thing in that is that while he cruised to those first two yusho mostly with push/thrust victories, he clearly seems to want to go to work on the mawashi, as Murray Johnson might say. Watching the development of a young rikishi in that moment is pretty fascinating stuff.

Sd89 Wakaichiro (Musashigawa) – Obviously, we breathlessly covered the Texan’s re-promotion to the fourth tier at Hatsu, and we’ll be looking for better results this time out following a tough Kyushu at the level where he posted just one win. However if we’re looking for positive omens, he seems to struggle a bit against the seemingly omnipresent Sadogatake rikishi in this part of the banzuke with a 1-4 record against the stable, and it’s unlikely he’ll face more than one of them this time out. His markedly more confident dohyo presence (including a face slapping routine which feels like it could even develop into something Takamisakari inspired) is continuing to make him an even more enjoyable watch. As ever, Team Tachiai will be cheering him on.

Jonidan

Jd5 Hayashi (Fujishima) vs Jd5 Torakio (Naruto) – It’s kind of cool when you get to see two really interesting rikishi at the same rank this far down. Mike Hayashi has had two quietly good tournaments to start his career. His positioning at the top of the division is arguably a lot more interesting from a competitive perspective than had he been promoted a level after his 5 win Hatsu, as a good tournament could see him set for a huge promotion next time out. Torakio, meanwhile, has been demoted following a shocking time of it at Hatsu where he went 2-4-1, suffering a henka loss and then two nasty throws which left him clutching his arm in pain both times. The strong Bulgarian has already shown he can be a force to be reckoned with – and it’ll be interesting to see his health tested, especially should he be drawn as expected against his counterpart here from the off.

Jd42 Kototebakari (Sadogatake) – Kototebakari just had too much for his opponents last time out, and at 188 cm had a big height advantage on competitors. He is an imposing rikishi and only lost the yusho via a playoff after dropping his only match on a visit up a level to Jonidan, so it will be interesting to see how he handles the improved level of competition. Sadogatake have an enormous amount of rikishi in the stable – he’s going to be an interesting follow as the stable has a couple interesting prospects but many rikishi who are lost in Sandanme.

Jd78 Yoshoyama (Tokitsukaze) – Bigger things were expected in the debut from the Mongolian who limped to a 4-3 kachi-koshi. He didn’t appear as strong as his billing, but if you’re looking for positives at least you can say he has a lower and more aggressive tachiai than his much maligned stablemate Shodai. This is still a part of the banzuke where a good prospect can do some serious damage, and if he’s added strength/weight he should still be a good bet for a strong tournament.

Jonokuchi

Haru is the tournament that sees the most amount of entrants to the sport, and we will see a bumper crop of new, talented rikishi taking their turns in mae-zumo. However, two of the most anticipated debutants will make their full bow in Osaka, and both come with connections to two of the all time greats – along with considerable media coverage:

Jk18 Naya (Otake) – he is the grandson of Taiho, and so naturally has moved into the predecessor heya to the one owned/operated by his grandfather, the great. He is also the son of former Sekiwake/oyakata and 9-time kinboshi specialist Takatoriki. So, he has some fairly large footsteps to fill. However, at just the age of 18, he is already a fairly massive 166kg. His progression will be fascinating to watch, along with that of…

Jk19 Hoshoryu (Tatsunami) – The nephew of Yokozuna Asashoryu has been covered/anticipated in sumo circles for a while. You may have seen him referenced under his real name Byambasuren before he took a shikona referencing his famous relative. While comparisons will doubtlessly be made, it would be unfair to expect the meteoric rise of his uncle. Naya got the better of him in maezumo, and they will inevitably match up again here, and it may be the first of many interesting battles to come, should they both meet their potential and hype.

Day 8 – What an exciting “nakabi”!

The 8th day of a basho is called “nakabi” – 中日 – “middle day”. This exciting basho produced a no-less exciting nakabi, from bottom to top!

One nakabi tradition is the presentation of shin-deshi – new wrestlers who passed their maezumo this basho. So, leading the group is the young Naya, wearing his grandfather, Taiho’s, kesho-mawashi. Third, in the yellow kesho-mawashi, is Hoshoryu. No, he’s not wearing his uncle’s kesho-mawashi. That’s actually Akua’s spiffy new kesho-mawashi.

I believe this is the last we’ll see of these two for a while. Now they have to work hard to make promise reality.

Once again, I give you Hattorizakura. No, he still hasn’t managed to win, but the boy is showing real tenacity of late, and I’m sure that win is going to come:

This bout was nearly 2 minutes long!

Now, how long do you think Enho can hold on without breathing? His bout today was certainly an attempt to answer that question:

Talk about David and Goliath… By the way, that yobidashi who calls their names in the beginning sure has an impressive voice.

And what is happening with Torakio? Does he have the flu or what? His bout today was… somewhat disappointing:

Ouch.

Up we go to Makuuchi.

Abi decided to start the Makuuchi bouts with a flying henka. Attempts to pull Daiamami down, but it doesn’t work, so he works in some of his usual tsuki-oshi. Daiamami ends out flying outside for a tsuki-dashi. If you’re so strong, Abi, why do you have to henka?

Takekaze continues to slip slidin’ away. Yutakayama is lucky that the veteran is in such dire straits. He can’t seem to find his footing anymore. Too bad.

Sokokurai, on the other hand, finally shows some of the effects of experience. Keeps Ishiura‘s head away from his body. Ishiura tries to grab him by the arm. Doesn’t work. Holds Ishiura at arm’s length by his shoulders, but Ishiura manages to land his head in for his specialty torpedo… only Sokokurai grabs his mawashi from above, squats, and Ishiura finds himself on his knees.

Asanoyama manages to get a quick grip at Kagayaki. With Asanoyama being the yotsu man and Kagayaki the tsuki-oshi man, you’d think this favors Asanoyama. But Kagayaki is the one who lands a convincing uwatenage and Asanoyama finds himself on all fours and says bye-bye to the yusho race.

Now that we know that Daiamami pulls at his nose in his prebout, let’s introduce you to Ryuden‘s pre-bout routine: ragdoll on springs. He shakes and bounces. Kotoyuki starts this bout with an oshi attack, but bouncy-ball Ryuden bounces back from the tawara, gets a grip on Kotoyuki and yori-kiris him.

Daishomaru  makes short work of Nishikigi in the battle of the bottle-green mawashis, simply overpowering the Isenoumi man.

And in the bout of the wine-red mawashis, Daieisho puts an end to Chiyomaru‘s little series of wins. Comes at the eternally-round Kokonoe man from below and pushes him right out despite his tsuppari.

Takarafuji fights Shohozan for a grip – it’s really fascinating to see the battle of arms down there below their chests. The Isegahama heya-gashira (highest ranking deshi in a heya… yes… he is…) lands first a right-hand-outside, then his favorite left-hand-inside. From this point it’s all Takarafuji, in a battle of two very muscular men. We keep laughing at Takarafuji for having no neck, but the man certainly has shoulders and arms. Takarafuji: “I’m glad I broke out of my consecutive loss habit”.

Kaisei gets a firm grip on Ikioi‘s mawashi. Ikioi tries for a morozashi, but fails to get one before being pushed out. Apparently he has an ankle injury, which may serve as an explanation for his really bad form this basho.

Chiyonokuni tries every trick in the book against Okinoumi. First tsuppari, nodowa, then grabs on to Okinoumi’s arm. Tries a trip. Then finally he pulls at Okinoumi’s neck for a hatakikomi. The shimpan call a monoii, questioning whether Chiyonokuni may have pulled on Okinoumi’s mage. It looked like it from one angle – but no, the replay is very clear. Konosuke is right as usual, and Chiyonokuni got his white star fair and square.

Tochiozan doesn’t wait much time before landing Endo on the floor. Endo’s sumo is not stable.

Now, the next match was between Chiyoshoma and Arawashi. I have to say, though some pictures make them look very similar, I don’t really see why people will be confused between them. Anyway, Chiyoshoma on his fast attack, going for a hari-zashi (slap-and-grab) again,  then helps Arawashi out with his knee. Yori-kiri.

Tochinoshin got Yoshikaze today. Yoshikaze wisely not letting the Incredible Hulk anywhere near his Mawashi. So Tochinoshin just runs a tsuppari attack, which turns out to be effective and Yoshikaze finds himself out. Tochinoshin keeps himself in the chaser group.

tochinoshin-yoshikaze

Tochinoshin: “I just couldn’t grab the mawashi. So with my heart thumping I went for the tsuppari.”

Next we had two tadpoles meeting – Hokutofuji and Onosho. This was a push-me-pull-you bout which ended with Hokutofuji on his knees. Personally, I don’t like that sumo. Red mawashi comes on top. Hokutofuji not having the best basho of his life.

Mitakeumi, with 7-0, got intimate with the Mongolian boulder, Ichinojo, who quite quickly got a left hand outside. Mitakeumi works hard to deny Ichinojo the right hand inside on his mawashi, and tries to be patient. But patience doesn’t necessarily pay when you have 215kg leaning on you. Ichinojo can sleep riding a horse. He can also sleep leaning. Eventually Ichinojo wakes up, decides Mitakeumi is not so warm and fluffy that he should stay there much longer, and pushes the sekiwake to the edge. Mitakeumi drops to the chaser group.

mitakeumi-ichinojo

Tamawashi finally looks a little more like a sekiwake, pushing Kotoshogiku quickly away. I suspect the coconut clash there at the beginning might have had something to do with it. Tamawashi has had his skull rattled rather a lot this basho, I hope this doesn’t have long lasting effects.

Goeido goes into a nirami-ai (staredown) with Chiyotairyu right when they are supposed to be matching their breaths. This backfires, and Chiyotairyu gets his first on-dohyo win in this basho, giving the Ozeki the same de-ashi (forward-moving sumo) he usually gives his opponents when he boots up in the proper mode.

Takayasu is matched with another tadpole – Takakeisho – and decides to do some tadpole sumo. Push, pull, and now it’s Takakeisho on all fours. Did I mention that I don’t like this sumo? Anyway, the big bear wins. Oh, and if you haven’t noticed, he opened up with a hari-zashi (slap-and-grab). Do you want to be a yokozuna, Takayasu?

Finally, the musubi-no-ichiban. Could the new Shodai dent the invincible Kakuryu’s dragon scales? The tachiai looks pretty convincing, and Shodai begins to advance, but by his second step Kakuryu has a secure overarm grip on his mawashi, and just pulls. Pulls so hard, in fact, that Shodai finds himself flat on his face, and Kakuryu is checking to see if his elbow is still connected.

kakuryu-shodai

Michinoku oyakata, who served as Abema TV’s commentator for today, is asked about Kakuryu’s performance following his kyujo issues and all. He says “His sumo is much better than it was before he went kyujo”. Kakuryu hasn’t had a 8-0 opening since he won his last yusho in Kyushu 2016.

kakuryu-meter-hatsu-2018-day7

Our kakuryumeter remains the same, full to the top. The papers make much of the fact that Kakuryu secured his kachi-koshi, but we all know that this is not a Yokozuna kachi-koshi just yet, and Kakuryu himself says “I don’t care about that, there are 7 days to go”.

Yusho arasoi

8-0: Yokozuna Kakuryu.

7-1:

  • Sekiwake Mitakeumi
  • M3 Tochinoshin
  • M13 Daieisho

But tomorrow this chaser list will be down to no more than two, with Mitakeumi facing Tochinoshin.