Osaka Day 10 Preview

Image of Itadaki’s Amazing Hand-Made Bento Shamelessly Stolen From The NSK’s Twitter Feed, To Whom We Sincerely Apologize.

Hey! We made it to day 10! The closing day of act 2, and the act 2 mojo has been quite strong. Act 2 is where we narrow the field to find out who has what it takes to compete for the yusho, and to start sorting the survivors from the damned. It’s clear that Hakuho, whatever his aches and pains may be, is still the greatest living rikishi, and perhaps the greatest ever. He is undefeated at 9-0, and the only rikishi 1 loss behind are ranked far down the banzuke. Suffice it to day, I think we are looking at a Hakuho yusho.

We are awaiting with eager anticipation the results of Chiyomaru’s COVID-19 test results, which we expect at some point on Tuesday. Should he test positive, that will be the end of a foreshortened Haru basho. What does that mean for the yusho, the May banzuke, and everything else? Nobody knows for sure, and I would guess that if we ever get that far, the sumo kyokai will decide what to do. There is no real precident for this sort of thing, and that is enough to make any Japanese organization quite uncomfortable.

Haru Leaderboard

Leader: Hakuho
Chasers: Takanosho, Aoiyama
Hunt Group: Kakuryu, Asanoyama, Mitakeumi, Ishiura, Kotonowaka

6 matches remain

What We Are Watching Day 10

Kotoyuki vs Daiamami – Hey sumo fans, guess who is back? None other than “The Penguin” Kotoyuki! He was on a rather impressive run of sumo until he got injured just before Hatsu, and dropped from Maegashira 3 all the way down to Juryo 1. He is back to visit for a match against 4-5 Daiamami, but Kotoyuki’s sumo is looking poorly again.

Kotoshogiku vs Azumaryu – The 5-4 Kyushu Bulldozer mounts the dohyo again today to push toward his 8. Frankly, I am really impressed that Kotoshogiku can continue to lay down winning sumo in spite of his injuries. The only prior match went to Azumaryu, but given the fact that Azumaryu is not fighting so well, it is probably an even fight.

Shimanoumi vs Aoiyama – Aoiyama hit his 8th win on Monday, and now it’s all down to him running up the score. As we have seen throughout his history in sumo, Big Dan is not one to back off the throttle just because he is kachi-koshi.

Ishiura vs Kaisei – Henka complaints aside, Ishiura has been doing very well this basho, and in fact there is a good chance he can reach kachi-koshi today, if I can prevent the massive Kaisei from invoking the icon of all massive objects in motion—Isaac Newton. Should Ishiura fail to get out of Kaisei’s way, there are few forces short of Ichinojo that can slow him down. Stay nimble!

Meisei vs Ikioi – Yeah, sure, Meisei holds a 2-0 record, but does anyone think that Meisei has any mojo right now? I think he has laid in a course for make-koshi, as is proceeding at full impulse.

Kotonowaka vs Terutsuyoshi – A win today gives Kotonowaka his 8th, and the glory of the kachi-koshi interview. Say, ever wondered what would happen if there were a make-koshi interview? Get Raja Pradhan to do it, they give him all of the terrible jobs.

Nishikigi vs Tochiozan – I can’t belive it, but there is a solid chance that Nishikigi will be able to dodge make-koshi for another day. The exquisitely skilled Tochiozan is a walking bandage right now, and I would not expect him to do much if anything with vigor.

Shohozan vs Tochinoshin – Say, lets take two really strong rikishi, make sure they are really hurt, and watch them fight. No, that’s not theoretical, that happens day 10 (again) as we see the battle-damaged former Ozeki Tochinoshin take on the relic of “Big Guns” Shohozan. A Shohozan loss today means make-koshi, which we all know is coming, but we just don’t know when.

Chiyotairyu vs Kiribayama – A first time meeting between Chiyotairyu and Natsu basho kanto-sho winner, Kiribayama. Is he, at his relatively feather weight (94 kg vs 166.8 kg), ready for the overwhelming, thunderous tachiai? Word to Kiribayama, the occasional henka is not only useful, it can be amusing to the fans.

Takarafuji vs Takanosho – Another first-time match. We get to see the kachi-koshi Takanosho encounter the “defend and extend” sumo of Takarafuji. Takanosho is a straight-ahead yorikiri kind of guy, so I am really keen to see what happens when Takarafuji invites him to go chest to chest, but makes sure there is nothing he can do with it.

Sadanoumi vs Tamawashi – Both of these rikishi seem to be setting course for the same make-koshi system that Meisei is headed to at full impulse. Both are high-skill, capable rikishi who just seem to be having a stinker of a tournament. A Tamawashi loss today would be his 8th, which, given Sadanoumi’s 9-3 career advantage, may be the outcome.

Yutakayama vs Kagayaki – Oh, now this one looks tasty! Yutakayama really gave Takakeisho the business on day 9. For his longterm followers, it was not really out of character, but I am going to watch what he does with Kagayaki. They have split their prior 8 matches, so this is a great bell-weather bout on whether Yutakayama is doing better than his normal level.

Okinoumi vs Tokushoryu – Can Tokushoryu come back from 2-7 to rescue a kachi-koshi at Maegashira 2? Most unlikely, but given that his sumo fundamentals are strong (if narrow), and he has a toolkit of winning moves, it’s just possible. The more likely outcome is that veteran Okinoumi rides him like a hoppy toy around the edge of the dohyo before sending him on a jog around where the spectators should be for his 8th loss.

Daieisho vs Abi – I think Abi is still injured from Hatsu, and his double arm attack is still front and center in his sumo, but that sore knee means he lacks the stable platform to give his double arm thrust sufficient power to overwhelm his opponents. On top of that, Daieisho is on a hot streak, winning his last 6 in a row.

Hokutofuji vs Myogiryu – Loser gets make-koshi, that’s really all you need to know here.

Mitakeumi vs Endo – Mitakeumi unleashed an uwatedashinage on Endo in their January match, handing him his 3rd consecutive loss in the middle of the basho. If Mitakeumi can repeat that performance, it will be his 8th win, and a well deserved kachi-koshi for March. Endo seems to have hit a dead spot, losing 2 of his last 3.

Asanoyama vs Enho – Asanoyama is on a narrow path to an Ozeki promotion bid, and he needs quality wins to even get serious consideration. A loss to Enho on day 10 would most likely shut down the hype train for March, and cause him to try again next basho, whenever that happens.

Takakeisho vs Shodai – Fans should consign themselves to the very real possibility that Takakeisho will be kadoban following March. It’s pretty obvious he has an injury, and he’s just gamberizing as hard as he can. He holds a 7-3 career lead over Shodai, but right now Shodai is fighting better than Takakeisho is. The Ozeki needs 3 of his last 6 to make his 8, a tough climb for a man in pain.

Hakuho vs Onosho – This is some sort of twisted nod to Onosho’s fightback to the top ranks of sumo. He has finally completed his quest to return to the highest levels of competition, as he faces the dai-Yokozuna on day 10. True, Hakuho has and likely will mop the dohyo with him, but… what an honor!

Ryuden vs Kakuryu – In the “time to take your lumps” bucket with Onosho, it’s Ryuden’s turn to face Kakuryu. Ryuden is more aggressive, and I would love to see him unleash something unexpected and dangerous before Kakuryu shuts him down and sends him flying.

Osaka Day 9 Preview

Time for day 9, the day I originally predicted might be the final day of this basho. Given the slow forward grind of COVID-19 in the world, there was a brave attempt made to conduct this Osaka tournament, in spite of the risk to the over 600 men competing. A number of new rules were put in place to keep everyone as safe as they could, and allow the competition to go forward. There have been a few withdraw with fevers, the most high profile of which is none other than Chiyomaru. Is it influenza? a cold? the dreaded doom virus? Well, we won’t know any time soon. So let’s just wish him well and press ahead. I am sure there will be plenty of time later to worry about it once the tests are back.

It’s time to start week 2, and our march toward next Sunday’s awarding of the Emperor’s Cup. In spite of the concern and lack of crowd, the sumo will go on. During the second week, some of the veterans may run low on stamina, and some of the rikishi with a lot on the line may lose their mental edge. It’s a fascinating time to be a sumo fan – who has the steel to accelerate into the final weekend?

With Chiyomaru out, we get a Juryo rikishi visiting to fill the torikumi. No, not Terunofuji, none other than Kise heya’s Hidenoumi, who was last seen in the top division at Osaka 2018, where he finished with a pride obliterating 3-12. Still, it nice to see him, even if just for a day, and we hope he has a good match.

High interest matches today? Asanoyama has to beat Shodai in the Sekiwake battle, Takakeisho needs to gamberize and win against “Big Unit” Yutakayama, and Hokutofuji takes on Mitakeumi in a match that may feature a lot of action.

Haru Leaderboard

Leader: Hakuho
Chasers: Takanosho, Aoiyama
Hunter Group: Kakuryu, Asanoyama, Mitakeumi, Chiyotairyu, Ishiura, Kotonowaka

8 matches remain

What We Are Watching Day 9

Kotonowaka vs Hidenoumi – Welcome back for the day, Hidenoumi. We know it’s been a while, so with any luck you will rally and make a return to the top division this year. Kotonowaka as split the series 1-1 with you, so it’s anyone’s guess what will happen today.

Azumaryu vs Daiamami – Daiamami has lost 2 of the last 3, and Azumaryu has lost 3 of the last 4. It’s a battle to try and save a kachi-koshi for these two today.

Kaisei vs Meisei – After a terrible start, Kaisei has won 4 of the last 5, and I think his Newtonian sumo is going to continue strong today in his first ever match against struggling Meisei, who clocks in with an astonishing disadvantage of 70 kg. Advice to Meisei – go find a music store and spend a couple hours bench pressing whatever pianos they have in the showroom.

Ishiura vs Ikioi – In spite of his age, and apparent bodily damage, Ikioi has been doing well. He has split the prior 6 matches with Ishiura 6-6, but I hope his normal high-energy tachiai is tempered today, as Ishiura may be feeling henka-envy from his stable mate Enho.

Shimanoumi vs Terutsuyoshi – Both rikishi come in with 4-4 records, and are looking to get closer to the magic 8. Both can work in high-mobility matches, so I expect this one will be a running fight that will come down to who loses balance first.

Chiyotairyu vs Aoiyama – Oh my this is a good one. Both of them big, strong and quite genki this March. Both have solid winning records, and if Aoiyama wins today, its his kachi-koshi.

Kotoshogiku vs Tochiozan – These two have met 41 times over the years, and Kotoshogiku holds a 1 match edge after all of that. But today is not a good day to put that rivalry to the test. Its clear that Tochiozan is a shade of his normal self, and will offer only token resistance to Kotoshogiku, provided the Kyushu Bulldozer has any mojo left in those knees.

Shohozan vs Nishikigi – A loss today, and Nishikigi is make-koshi. Sad though it is, its pretty obvious he too is hurt.

Takanosho vs Tamawashi – Also prominently featured in the “likely damaged” list is Tamawashi, who comes into day 9 with just 2 wins. A Takanosho victory would be kachi-koshi for him. This is their first ever match.

Takarafuji vs Kiribayama – Another glorious first time meeting, veteran and patience sumo master Takarafuji will take on Kakuryu’s stable mate Kiribayama. Both are in good shape to make their 8 wins this March, and I am interested to see if Takarafuji’s defensive style is less effective against Kiribayama, given his training sessions with Yokozuna Kakuryu.

Sadanoumi vs Kagayaki – One day, maybe today, Sadanoumi’s speed sumo is going to be the deciding factor in a match. He has to win 5 of the next 7 matches for a kachi-koshi, where Kagayaki only needs 3.

Myogiryu vs Tochinoshin – 24 career matches between these two, and where did it get them? Even at 12-12. Both of them are having terrible tournaments, with Tochinoshin one bad fall from a extended outage with that gamey leg, and lord knows what is hampering Myogiryu. Should Myogiryu lose today, that would be his 8th and a make-koshi.

Onosho vs Tokushoryu – Much as we have loved the Tokushoryu Cinderella story, a loss today and the Hatsu yusho winner will be make-koshi. He seems to have reverted to mostly Juryo class sumo, rather than his winning style in Tokyo. Onosho is still on a solid path for a kachi-koshi, which might put him closer to the named ranks. I am eagerly hoping for Onosho – Takakeisho battle in week 2.

Daieisho vs Okinoumi – Both of these rikishi have managed to keep a respectable record through the first half of the basho, and both have a kachi-koshi in reach. If Okinoumi can make it to 8, it would be his highest ranked kachi-koshi since 2016. He leads their career series 10-4.

Enho vs Endo – Its the Ishikawa home town battle of the cutest, and which one will end up the most kawaii? Their only other match up (Hatsu), Enho was declared fairest of the land.

Hokutofuji vs Mitakeumi – I expect Hokutofuji to continue to work on “The most powerful make-koshi in sumo” today, although I have to ask what the hell happened to Mitakeumi on day 8. They are evenly matched, but right now Hokutofuji needs to win 6 out of the next 7 to save his position at a named rank.

Asanoyama vs Shodai – The Sekiwake fight we have anticipated. Shodai shrugged off his his losses on day 5,6 and 7 to bounce back against Ryuden. He could well and truly destroy Asanoyama’s Ozeki bid for March with a win today. I am sure Asanoyama knows this, so this is a great test of how he performs in the clutch.

Takakeisho vs Yutakayama – These two oshi-zumo hard hitters are going head to head, and they have only met once before (Takakeisho win). Given some of the visuals from day 8, Takakeisho might not be quite alright. I am going to guess Yutakayama will go low and inside at the tachiai and try to shut down the tsuppari machine before the first wave.

Abi vs Kakuryu – Is Abi even healthy enough for this match? He looked a bit shattered at the end of his match with Hakuho on day 8, and I have to wonder if that knee is going to make it the final 7 days. Fingers crossed.

Hakuho vs Ryuden – Calling it now, Ryuden gets a flying lesson. Hakuho continues his march towards 15.