Day 6 – It’s not easy being an Ozeki


First, I would have liked to bring you news of Hattorizakura’s first win, but alas, he lost his 70th consecutive bout today. However, this has been one of the best efforts we have seen from the “Inverted Hakuho” so far:

And if you want to see more of Hoshoryu, and how he looks when his rival isn’t Naya, here’s today’s maezumo:

(I have no idea why One And Only calls him Toyoshoryu. Both the yobidashi and the gyoji are pretty clear).

Sumidagawa from Naruto beya is currently the only one in his heya still in zanbara. He is also two losses to one win now:

And alas, Enho is having a worse time than we thought he would have at this level of Makushita:

…and with a rival who can’t seem to be able to bend his knees enough for the tachiai.

enho-has-the-sads
Enho today, doesn’t seem very happy

So, let’s ascend to Makuuchi and check what happened there today.

Just before Asanoyama starts his bout with Ishiura, the announcer wonders aloud “What is Asanoyama going to do about Ishiura’s quick movements?” The answer seems to be “Tsuppari, not let him get inside, and push him out within seconds”.

asanoyama-ishiura
“See there, that’s the tawara. Go to the other side. Thank you.”

If Asanoyama stays 7-0 tomorrow, don’t be surprised to find him matched with Tochinoshin the next day or so.

Nishikigi is not letting go of Makuuchi easily. Daiamami pulls at his nose and attacks, but Nishikigi takes a hold of his right arm and drags him to the edge for a quick kotenage. BTW, the gyoji who announced the torikumi just before the bouts began doesn’t know who Daiamami is, calling him “Oamami” instead (it’s an alternative reading of the same kanji).

Takekaze, on the other hand, seems to be past his swan song. Ryuden gets a grip on him very easily and pushes him out. Oshidashi, and Ryuden now even at 3-3. Takekaze worked very hard pumping iron before the basho – he was the only one in the gym during the New Year’s break – but those muscles are not bringing back his sumo.

Sokokurai is also in dire straits, and may find himself right back in Juryo, with Daieisho pushing him out faster than you can say “ah” (that’s an actual Japanese phrase). Daieisho is, in fact, in the chaser list for the Yusho, with only one loss so far.

Abi gets slapped down in another oshi match with Daishomaru. If Abi could learn yotsu zumo, which is a bit unlikely given his shisho, he may become known as the Yokozuna with the most beautiful dohyo-iri in history. Just sayin’.

Shohozan goes for a slap-fest with Kotoyuki. The latter finds himself rolling down the dohyo. What’s the bowling score for hitting 3 pins, er, spectators?

Kotoyuki may be pissed off because of Shohozan’s harite off the tachiai. In the first days of the basho, nobody was doing that. There was some speculation that this was due to the criticism Hakuho got for this move. Shohozan decided to break the “taboo”, and he is not the last one doing that today.

Chiyomaru vs. Tochiozan. “Ah”… And the Kokonoe man wins.

Chiyonokuni attacks Takarafuji with his trademark barrage of tsuppari. Takarafuji defends and defends, and tries to get an arm inside. He knows why: as soon as his left arm is inside, he pushes Chiyonokuni out like a rag doll. Currently Takarafuji is the only ray of light at Isegahama. 😲

Okinoumi finally looks more like himself against Chiyoshoma. The Kokonoe Mongolian still hasn’t mastered the channeling of Harumafuji as well as he would have liked. He finds himself hugged and with no room for one of his throws, and hurts his ankle in the process. I guess mimicking the Horse means his injuries as well…

Shodai uses an effective tachiai to… Wait, what did I just write? The words “Shodai”, “effective” and “tachiai” are shocked to find themselves together in the same sentence. But so it is. Shodai secures a quick morozashi on Endo and pushes him out. Perhaps his win against Ichinojo was not so much Ichinojo’s fault as I thought it was.

Ikioi seems to be in deep trouble, with only one win to his name so far, with Arawashi converting his attempt at a sukuinage into a beautiful sotogake. Kintamayama says Arawashi has bad knees, and that’s obvious from the mummy-like bandaging, but I suspect Ikioi also has some trouble in that department.

This sums up the low-to-middle maegashira. But the joi bouts is where the excitement is! Let’s move straight on to Tochinoshin vs. Takakeisho. Which style will win, Takakeisho’s in-and-out tsuki-oshi, or Tochinoshin’s “Red Incredible Hulk” mode?

Well, Takakeisho got as far as pushing Tochinoshin to one side and trying to send him out. This got Tochinoshin angry. And this Incredible Hulk (a) turns red rather than green when he’s mad, and (b) wraps the puny meatball of a rikishi in front of him with his long arm and shows him how sumo is supposed to be done. Tochinoshin still riding the zensho train!

Mitakeumi doesn’t even bother with any tsuppari, where Hokutofuji may have an advantage over him. He just applies force as if Hokutofuji was giving him a butsukari. Mitakeumi looks like he seriously wants that next rank, and with two Yokozuna missing again – who knows?

And here comes the second harizashi of the day (“slap and grab”). While the first one was just a slap, not a grab, Ichinojo goes for the full monty. What taboo? I want to win, dammit. Tamawashi barely knows which Mongolian mountain hit him before he hits the bottom of the dohyo with his head. I hope he’s alright.

Goeido meets the Yokozuna bane, Yoshikaze, and finds out that he also keeps a side job as an Ozeki bane. This was over so fast Goeido may still be wondering if the bout took place. The Ozeki finds himself, again, out of the yusho race – unless all four leaders drop two more bouts. My guess is that he’ll just concentrate on not going kadoban from now on.

yoshikaze-goeido
Yoshikaze. After a slow start, now a candidate for the Outsanding Performance Award

Takayasu prepared his usual kachiage for Onosho, but the red mawashi would have none of that. Blocking him with his outstretched arm, he started his own attack, and combined with an unfortunate slip, Takayasu joins Goeido in the “Maybe next time” club.

Maybe this is the time to pause and comment that both Takayasu and Kisenosato suffer from “koshi daka”… “high pelvis”, if you please. Meaning that their stance gets too high and unstable. This is a shame, because stability and balance used to be the Tagonoura brothers’ specialty. The combination of two injured rikishi losing their dohyo sense, followed by them mostly practicing with each other, may be the cause for both men’s troubles. This is why there are still some in the NSK who believe that Kisenosato can redeem himself – by curing that koshi-daka. The problem is less pronounced with Takayasu, of course, who is not permanently damaged, has been off the dohyo a shorter time, and has practiced with more people than did the damaged Yokozuna.

Ah, what, did I leave you hanging in the air? Let’s go to the musubi-no-ichiban. And what a bout that was! Kotoshogiku determined to show he is still Ozeki material, grabs Kakuryu right from the start and starts his gaburi attack. The Yokozuna hurriedly dances hither and tither, on the one hand evading the tawara, and on the other, looking for a grip. When he finally finds one, the two stop, assess the situation, and finally Kotoshogiku attacks again. And then, Kakuryu reverses that attack into his own attack and leads the former Ozeki out. He sure was winded when that ended.

tired-kakuryu
Man, this is tiring work

So the Yokozuna maintains his record. Let’s look at the Yokozuna situation at the moment:

yokozunameter-hatsu-2018-day6

So we have one Yokozuna carrying the basho on his shoulders (unpaid), and two Yokozuna undergoing repairs. And I think neither of them will be putting his main effort into the injury that he submitted on his medical certificate. Hakuho will have to figure out a winning tachiai technique or two. Kisenosato, who actually ran out of injuries and had to report his original one (“aggravated by a hit to the chest”) as the reason for his kyujo, will have to work on that koshidaka. And if that doesn’t work, he’ll have to work on a new hairstyle.

Yusho Arasoi

6-0

  • Yokozuna Kakuryu
  • Sekiwake Mitakeumi
  • M3 Tochinoshin
  • M16 Asanoyama

5-1

  • M9 Shohozan
  • M13 Daieisho

Tomorrow the leader list is going to be down one man, as Kakuryu is to face Tochinoshin. Will kakuryu lose a notch in my meter, or will he prevail against the Incredible Hulk? Don’t miss the next episode of Hatsu 2018!

 

Day 5 – New Hopes, Dashed Hopes


So let’s start at the very bottom.

naya-hoshoryu
Naya and Hoshoryu – didn’t look like maezumo

There are mae-zumo bouts in every tournament. They usually pass almost unobserved, with only the sumo database to recall them from oblivion. But this tournament, we have two sublime scions who promise to make sumo interesting 10 years from now.

These are, of course, Taiho’s grandchild, Naya (who also happens to be Takatoriki’s son, but that fact is not paraded on TV and the press as much), and Hoshoryu, formerly known as Byambasuren, Asashoryu’s nephew.

And today, these two were matched against each other.

Hoshoryu is certainly channeling his uncle there when the gunbai points to his rival. Anyway, this looks a lot better than maezumo usually is.

Moving up a little bit, Torakio suffered his first loss today, after two wins.

The technique is not quite there yet.

And unfortunately, my main man Terutsuyoshi also suffered his first loss, in the battle of the former sekitori with Yago:

A valiant attempt at an ipponzeoi there at the end, but Yago had him from the get-go.

Let’s get up to Makuuchi, then. It was my day off today, so I was able to watch some live sumo for the first time. I caught the stream (Abema TV + VPN) right when Kakuryu was finishing his dohyo-iri. I must say I prefer the NHK broadcasts (which I got to watch recorded, never live). Too much stuff on the screen obscures the view, and the “female guests” that they promised only enhance the image of the “stupid broad who doesn’t understand sports and needs to be told basic things”. Bah.

But all this doesn’t make for bad sumo, right? So let’s go through the bouts:

Asanoyama got a Juryo rival today, Kyokutaisei, who was not really a match for the revamped Asanoyama. Yorikiri within the blink of an eye.

Ishiura was impressive in the first three days but now seems to be slumping back. We’ll have to see if he really improved when the sample size grows a bit. Ryuden did not let him do anything, really, and rebalanced his score a bit.

Daiamami, tells us Abema TV, has a pre-bout routine in which he pulls at his nose. Hmm… I prefer Arawashi’s salty mawashi. His bout with Yutakayama starts with some tsuppari, he follows with a nodowa. Yutakayama overcommits as he pushes him forward, but who got out first? Quite a long monoii ensues, and although Yutakayama was already flying out of control, Daiamami touched first, so Yutakayama gets the oshidashi win.

Nishikigi seemed to be in control of the bout, but Daieisho circled, causing Nishikigi to lose balance and winning by hatakikomi.

Abi and Kagayaki are of the same age. Abi just advanced from Juryo, and Kagayaki has more Makuuchi experience and looked strong in the beginning of the basho. He also has a slight height advantage over the Shikoroyama Peter Pan. But all of this list of advantages doesn’t do much for the buxom rikishi, as Abi moves quickly and pulls him down for a hikiotoshi.

Takekaze‘s game plan has been pulling down Daishomaru. Tried once, didn’t work, tried again. Tsukiotoshi and the old man’s first win this basho.

Sokokurai can’t seem to produce whatever magic he produced in Juryo. Kotoyuki pushes him out very easily for a tsukidashi.

Shohozan and Chiyomaru start with a tsuppari barrage, but Shohozan tries to get a mawashi grip. Chiyomaru evades and evades, but eventually Shohozan catches on and pushes him towards the edge. Chiyomaru only manages to stop himself when his toes are already outside. Hikiotoshi.

Now, the Aminishiki vs. Chiyonokuni battle did not look good. First, there’s Uncle Sumo’s sumo. I mean, it isn’t there. He can’t catch a grip on his rivals nape for one of the pull downs he likes, and he can’t get inside for a mawashi grip. But the worst part is that as Chiyonokuni rolls him to the exactly same corner when he ended up yesterday,  Uncle lands badly and hurts his right leg – the one with the snapped ligament and the brace. He had to go to the shitaku-beya leaning on someone’s shoulder. He will make a decision whether to go kyujo or not tomorrow morning.

aminishiki-hurt
Aminishiki. Couldn’t get back on the dohyo for the bow.

Next to Kaisei, Chiyoshoma looks like a teen. However, after he finishes his Harumafuji-like shikiri, they both struggle for a mawashi grip. Chiyoshoma gets a secure shitate grip, and uses it for a shitatenage. Once Kaisei is on the floor, Chiyoshoma gives him a helping hand up. Now that’s the Chiyoshoma I want to see.

Tochiozan doesn’t manage to get any grip on Ikioi, and starts to back away as Ikioi pushes, but then manages to catch at Ikioi’s neck and pull him down for a hatakikomi.

In the battle of the “Ikemen” (manly men), Okinoumi just can’t repeat his success from the previous basho. Endo fights him for the grip, and they end up in a hidari-yotsu, but apparently Endo’s hold is stronger and he pushes relentlessly for the yori-kiri.

Takarafuji, however, is back in the land of white stars. Arawashi doesn’t seem to even pose a problem for him. A harite, a nodowa, and an oshi-dashi. This despite the TV team (Kasugano oyakata commentating) speaking at length about the type of yotsu each of them prefers.

Shodai gets a good grip on Ichinojo, and proves to him that even mountains can be moved. Losing to Shodai, Ichinojo? Ichinojo gets his favorite grip first, but Shodai manages to switch grips without penalty, gets him all the way to the edge, and then dances a bit on the tawara and lets Ichinojo’s momentum do the rest. The Yokozuna must be thinking “Is it that easy?”.

BTW, In the “fun facts” box on Abema TV, they wrote that Ichinojo can sleep on the back of a horse. The TV team – especially Kasugano oyakata – start to crack jokes about the poor horses in Mongolia and Ichinojo’s weight…

What was supposed to be the highlight of the evening, the tadpole battle, ended up with Takakeisho doing the splits within seconds, and Onosho with another easy win.

Mitakeumi and Tamawashi get into a pushing battle. But Mitakeumi is the stronger one of these two, and Tamawashi can do nothing but retreat until he’s out.

Although he lost to Hokutofuji twice already, in addition to one fusen, Takayasu is fearless as he comes to the dohyo today. Takayasu combines a mawashi grip with oshi, and expertly gets Hokutofuji out in an oshidashi. Keeps himself within one loss of the leader group.

Now, Tochinoshin‘s bout with Goeido is one for the history books. Kasugano oyakata at the commentator seat looked like a cat who swallowed a bowl of cream. At first, the two battled for a grip, each denying the other his hold and looking for his own opening. Tochinoshin managed to secure a firm grip, and started pushing Goeido relentlessly towards the tawara. Goeido didn’t go out without a fight, though, and tried a leg trip. Tochinoshin maintained perfect balance, and kept applying his unbelievable force. Goeido joins Takayasu in the “1 behind” group. Great match.

tochinoshin-goeido

Kakuryu keeps sailing from one bout to the next with poise and hinkaku… Chiyotairyu is really no match, as Kakuryu gets a grip on him right off the tachiai and lifts and pushes, lifts and pushes until the Sumo Elvis passes the bales. I was relieved to see that Kakuryu’s attempt at gaburi-yori yesterday vs. Ichinojo (didn’t work, he had to change tactics and move the mountain sideways to win) did not cause him to wake up this morning with his back wrecked again. Keep up the good work, Yokozuna!

And now, to the musubi-no-ichiban. The last bout of the day. Yokozuna Kisenosato vs. Yokozuna bane, Yoshikaze. And the man in the green mawashi was not giving the crippled Yokozuna an inch of slack. Yoshikaze tried a pulldown at first, then got into a morozashi, and dropped him unceremoniously off the dohyo. He went down to offer him a hand up, which Kisenosato rejected. Things are not looking good for the one-year-old Yokozuna.

yokozunameter-hatsu-2018-day5

So Hakuho is out for repairs, Kisenosato has a serious kinboshi leak, and only Kakuryu is in a state of “Need a Yokozuna? I’m right here!”.

Yusho Arasoi

The leader list is now down to four:

  • Yokozuna Kakuryu
  • Sekiwake Mitakeumi
  • M3 Tochinoshin
  • M16 Asanoyama

(Asanoyama? “Been there, done that, got the sansho”)

Hatsu Day 3 Highlights


Yoshikae-Down

With three days worth of data, its becoming clear that the mandated changes to Hakuho’s tachiai have really put him off tempo. In addition, I have to wonder if there may be an additional physical problem that is robbing him of his normal excellent performance. Not to detract from Hokutofuji’s excellent sumo on day 3, but he has been quite a bit less than himself for each of the first three days.

However, the real danger is Kisenosato. There was quite a bit of talk pre-basho on how he was nearly back to his old self. His fans and people who generally think he’s a good guy hoped that was the case. But then the science of medicine strongly suggested that was just not possible. Sadly it seems that medicine may hold the final say.

On top of that, poor old Terunofuji withdraws due to complications from diabetes. The original report in the Japanese press was that his knee was once again preventing him from good sumo, but later reports changed it to “ill health”, which the sumo grapevine clarified to diabetes. We all hope that Terunofuji can get his body well, and come back strong.

Highlight Matches

Asanoyama defeats Ryuden – Asanoyama seems to be back in his groove again after struggling in Kyushu. He has a respectable 3-0 start to Hatsu, and his win over Ryuden was convincing.

Ishiura defeats Daiamami – Fast and strong again today from Ishiura. At the tachiai he deployed a henka, but immediately latched a deep left hand grip on Daiamami, and from there he controlled the match. Being short in stature, he was close to Daiamami’s knees already, so he picked one up and danced Daiamami out for a shitatenage.

Abi defeats Takekaze – Abi picks up his first win of the basho with a straight ahead shoving match with Takekaze, who seems to be sharing whatever malady has plagued Yoshikaze.

Daieisho defeats Kagayaki – Daieisho unleashes a very strong and well coordinated oshi attack, which Kagayaki seems unable to counter. While I think Kagayaki has potential, he is far to easy to bring high and off balance.

Chiyoshoma defeats Endo – Chiyoshoma is lightning fast this bout, employing something similar to Harumafuji’s mini-henka. Following the hit-and-shift, Chiyoshoma gets behind Endo and pulls the uwatenage. Endo never had a moment to recover.

Tochinoshin defeats Okinoumi – Clearly Tochinoshin is feeling well and can apply his enormous strength. Okinoumi puts up a valiant effort to try to block Tochinoshin’s grip, but he eventually goes chest to chest, at which point Tochinoshin overpowers him for the win.

Takakeisho defeats Tamawashi – This was always going to be a mighty Oshi-battle, but like some of Takakeisho’s earlier fights, it took an odd turn, with Takakeisho engaging in a flurry of tsuppari, then breaking off and diving back in time and again. This seemed to throw Tamawashi completely off his sumo, and the end was fairly sedate.

Mitakeumi defeats Onosho – Onosho came out strong and had Mitakeumi moving backwards. But Mitakeumi used Onosho’s forward momentum at the edge of the dohyo to slap him down for the win. Onosho really having a crummy start to Hatsu.

Takayasu defeats Chiyotairyu – Takayasu continues to employ his shoulder-blast off the tachiai, and it successfully disrupts Chiyotairyu’s battle plans. From there it’s an Oshi-battle with Takayasu controlling the short match.

Goeido defeats Kotoshogiku – It’s very painful to watch Kotoshogiku fade away, but he is fading quickly. Goeido on the other had seems to have his sumo together this basho, and is fighting well. He may not face a real challenge until week two.

Ichinojo defeats Kisenosato – Much as I want Kisenosato to be healthy, it’s nice to see Ichinojo grab a kinboshi. But really, Kisenosato is not even fighting at Ozeki level right now. Again. Ichinojo completely overpowered him, and Kisenosato could do nothing to stop it. I am going to assume we will be losing another Yokozuna soon.

Hokutofuji defeats Hakuho – The second kinboshi of the day, Hokutofuji has now taken a gold star from four different Yokozuna, quite an achievement so early in his career. After a false start, Hokutofuji took the fight squarely to The Boss. Hakuho seemed to be searching for an offense, while Hokutofuji kept moving forward. One of the great things about Hokutofuji is that you can beat his upper body to a pulp, but his lower body keeps moving forward. Great sumo from a rising star today.

Kakuryu defeats Yoshikaze – Something is seriously amiss with Yoshikaze. Is it the flu? It’s almost as if he’s not got any strength at all. Kakuryu simply rolls him in the first few seconds. I hope whatever the Berserker has going on, he can overcome and return strong.

Hatsu Day 3 Preview


Kotoshogiku-Flying Lesson
Kotoshogiku Gets A Flying Lesson

The first two days of Hatsu have exceeded my expectations, producing some exciting and enjoyable sumo. One of the Tachiai team, Josh, is in Tokyo this time, and I am incredibly envious.

Meanwhile, we seem to have all three surviving Yokozuna in workable condition, and turning in solid performances. Add to that that both Ozeki also seem to be on top of their sumo, and we are anticipating final day scores to see a dramatic departure from recent history. Over the past year we saw multiple upper Maegashira and San’yaku rikishi turning in double digit scores. Over the history of sumo, this is an unusual occurrence. Normally the named ranks completely wreck everyone from Sekiwake down into the joi. So don’t be shocked or disappointed if your favorite tadpole gets sent packing down the banzuke this time.

What We Are Watching Day 3

Ryuden vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama comes into day 3 with 2 wins, and I am quite sure Ryuden will give him a good test. These two have only had one prior match, in Juryo, and Asanoyama was the winner. Both rikishi are looking sharp and aggressive early in this tournament.

Ishiura vs Daiamami – I am starting to hope that Ishiura has gotten back on top of his sumo. His tachiai looks greatly improved, and he’s not submarining into an inevitable hatakikomi so far. Can he make it 3-0 to start the new year? This is their first career match.

Daieisho vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki is also looking to establish his credibility as a solid Maegashira rikishi, and his next stop is long term opponent Daieisho. Kagayaki will work to try and land a grip and use his superior strength, and Daieisho will try to stay mobile and work towards a throw / thrust out. Their career record of 5-6 indicates they are evenly matched.

Tochiozan vs Kaisei – Greatly inflated Panda-kun Kaisei faces Tochiozan day 3, and Tochiozan may have his hands full trying to maneuver that much churrasqueiro. As I have stated many times, being enormous is not a long term sumo strategy. But in some cases, it can be decisive. Tochiozan is a skilled technician, and may show us how its done.

Chiyoshoma vs Endo – Excellent pairing from the schedulers, we take two experienced, skilled rikishi with no losses thus far facing off. Endo holds a 4-2 career advantage, and tends to win by throwing Chiyoshoma.

Okinoumi vs Tochinoshin – I am going to make a guess that Okinoumi is in reasonably good health for now. He faces off against Tochinoshin, and his incredible strength. These two will go chest to chest from the start, and it will come down to who gets the best grip. If this goes long, it favors Tochinoshin, so look for Okinoumi to end it in the first 30 seconds. Their 5-6 career record shows how evenly these two are matched.

Takakeisho vs Tamawashi – Another great match from scheduling. Two tsuppari / oshi masters going head to head is a formula for an explosive bout. Even thought Takakeisho holds a slight 2-1 career advantage, Tamawashi is pressing hard for double digits.

Mitakeumi vs Onosho – Mitakeumi is looking genki, and Onosho has yet to settle down and get his sumo running well. So this may be all Mitakeumi. But this could also be the day that Onosho clears the cobwebs and brings his blistering offense to the dohyo.

Chiyotairyu vs Takayasu – Match of the burly-men, I am quite sure this is all Takayasu, and it’s going to be over in short order, I expect.

Goeido vs Kotoshogiku – A long term rivalry that goes back years, this match strongly favors Goeido. The first two days have seen Kotoshogiku hit the clay twice. He seems to be cold and disorganized, which is a huge shame.

Ichinojo vs Kisenosato – Ichinojo presents a significant challenge to Kisenosato. Given his performance in the past two days, it seems that he is still not nearly as strong as he was prior to his injury last March. At 215 kg, Ichinojo represents a huge mass to overcome, and Ichinojo has been fighting well.

Hakuho vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji has never been able to present a reasonable challenge to Hakuho, and much as I love Hokutofuji, I don’t expect his day 3 match to be appreciably different.

Kakuryu vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze really seems to be lacking any kind of spark in his first two matches, and frankly fans have to wonder if he is injured. On the other hand, Kakuryu seems quite genki, and he has been calling the shots in his first two matches.

Hatsu Day 2 Preview


kisenosato-down

Day 1 got off to a very solid start, better than either of the last two basho, and I am cautiously enthusiastic about what we are in store for. With so many excellent matches on day 1, I encourage everyone to at least try out Kintamayama’s review on YouTube. While I love the NHK highlights show, and days when there are a large amount of quality bouts in a rather lengthy torikumi, it’s worth it to pick up the matches you missed.

I finally got to see the NHK highlight show at 2:30 Pacific today. Yes, I am in San Diego for a bit instead of the mighty bastion of Texas. Counter programming to it was a show on PBS about black holes, and super-massive black holes. I thought nothing of it…

But then here’s Murray Johnson remarking that Kaisei has packed on over 20 kg since November. Dear readers, that’s the size of a small Panda Bear, whose form Kaisei seems determined to emulate. It appears something similar has taken place within orbit of the gas giant Chiyomaru, who may have swallowed a nearby moon. Both of these two balloons will find their added mass a terrible strain on their bodies, and I fear for their longevity.

Say, you know what has me really delighted so far? Great matches at the bottom of Makuuchi! These guys are on fire. The Tadpoles had best consolidate their position in a hurry, as it seems there is yet another cohort advancing on their positions.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Ryuden vs Daiamami – Ryuden looked very poised on day 1, I am going to be watching to see if he can repeat that with his match against Daiamami, who holds a 5-2 career advantage of him.

Asanoyama vs Nishikigi – I am calling for Asanoyama to try to set up a throw early on. If Nishikigi can block the outside grip, he will probably have a chance to get inside and dismantle Asanoyama.

Abi vs Ishiura – An early match with a lot of interest. Both guys are on the lighter side of the scales, and both of them like to move around and mix it up. If Ishiura gets stuck, will he resort to his submarine attack that gets him in such trouble?

Yutakayama vs Daieisho – See, this time I spelled it correctly. Yutakayama has won both their prior matches. I expect a flurry of thrusting and a lot of mobility. Yutakayama seems to choke when he gets into Makuuchi, and I think everyone is hoping that this time he can settle down and show us some great sumo.

Kagayaki vs Daishomaru – When I said keep an eye on Kagayaki, people laughed. I get it, he has ridiculous man-boobs. He seems to have come to terms with it, and possibly uses it to distract his opponents. They say life in the heya can be lonely, and perhaps these poor guys find the display captivating. But hell no! Kagayaki takes his sumo with all of the earnest concentration you might expect from a rikishi who wants to be somebody. Like Kiesnosato, this guy is willing to train himself to death to get there. Never count that out.

Terunofuji vs Kotoyuki – Did you read Herouth’s discussion of Terunofuji? It’s toward the bottom of her typically awesome post. If you have not read it, go read it. It seems that in addition to Kaisei and Chiyomaru, Terunofuji may have spent time at the Gagamaru body sculpting clinic. If he can’t toss Kotoyuki around like a rotten bag of miso on day 2, it’s very dim indeed for our once mighty Kaiju. (shout out to Joshua who is in Tokyo… Lucky bastard)

Aminishiki vs Chiyomaru – Uncle Sumo vs the Gas Giant. Not good as Chiyomaru’s intense gravity well may crush Aminishiki’s space age metal support structure. Seriously, Aminishiki is in lower mid-Maegashira territory now. I hope he’s able to keep himself from getting injured.

Kaisei vs Chiyonokuni – Panda-kun vs Grumpy Badger. Chiyonokuni came out blazing day 1, but in typical fashion could not close the deal. He’s got strength, speed and energy, but for whatever reason he can’t seem to put together a consistent approach to get a win.

Ikioi vs Endo – Looking forward to this fight, as I am keeping my eye on Endo, who I would not be surprised to see hit 10 wins this tournament. A genki Endo may come as a bit of a shock to the tadpoles, as he brings a surgical precision and some depth of experience to the dohyo. I am looking for him to contain Ikioi’s superior strength and reach, and work inside and backwards.

Shodai vs Okinoumi – Shodai looked better on day 1 than he has in a while, and I am going to guess that for now Okinoumi is in good health. So this is probably a fairly good match, if Shodai does not blow the tachiai. Both of them will go for a mawashi grip from the start, and it will come down to strength and tactics.

Mitakeumi vs Chiyotairyu – Mitakeumi needs a 10 win basho to be taken seriously as an Ozeki contender. So it’s time for him to produce before he faces the upper San’yaku next week. Chiyotairyu is bigger, strong and looks a lot more like Elvis. So Mitakeumi is going to have to gamberize.

Yoshikaze vs Tamawashi – I am sure Yoshikaze is disappointed in day 1’s outcome. His shot at recovery is with the tough as nails Tamawashi on day 2. Tamawashi is back at Sekiwake after a stumble at Aki and Nagoya, and he wants his back in line for an Ozeki run.

Goeido vs Onosho – Battle of the manic over-committing rikishi, where both of them tend to charge forward with everything they have. Although I tend to be against the use of henka, this is the correct case where it’s of most use. Free tacos if they do simultaneous henka and orbit each other for the first few seconds.

Kotoshogiku vs Takayasu – All the fans want Kotoshogiku to do the big back bend. We know its the source of his magic powers, and he needs every ounce of power against an especially genki looking Takayasu.

Hakuho vs Ichinojo – Hakuho looked a bit lost without his slap-n-grab power combo. Against Ichinojo he needs some clarity, as once that much Mongolian gets moving, he’s headed somewhere. I am expecting the Boss to try another tachiai variation, hopefully with improved effect.

Kakuryu vs Takakeisho – Takakeisho’s post match interview had me rolling. When asked about the sumo he used against Kisenosato, he more or less said, “I can’t really remember, I was just trying to win”. Damn straight! He was all over the map throwing everything including the kitchen sink at The Great Pumpkin, and he prevailed. Now of course comes Kakuryu, whose whole sumo approach is to let his opponent get rolling, then use their motion and attacks against them. I can’t wait to see how this one goes. This is the first time these two have fought.

Hokutofuji vs Kisenosato – The final match of the day, it it carries a lot of weight. Kisenosato needs wins on the board. But in their only prior match, Hokutofuji won convincingly. On day 1, Kisenosato let Takakeisho dictate the match. I am hoping to see him control the bout like his 2016 self would do with such calm and effortless power.

Hatsu Day 1 Highlights


battle formation

Top headline of the day: Kisenosato drops his match against Takakeisho. There are two things to learn from this: First and foremost, Takakeisho is gunning hard for Sekiwake and above. I slight him for his oshi-only approach, but he is making it work for him. He looked strong, fast and relentless today against the struggling Kisenosato.  The second thing of note is that Kisenosato looked much better than I had feared. He moved well, he attacked with strength, and kept moving forward. Fans who fear the Great Pumpkin being on the ropes should keep in mind he has not really had matches in a while, and will be rusty for a few days. If he walks out with 10 wins, he’s good.

Highlight Matches

Asanoyama defeats Daiamami – Decent throw that took some time to set up. Moving much better than he was in Kyushu. The happy rikishi has a long path ahead of him, and to reach his potential, he must stay healthy.

Ryuden defeats Nishikigi – Ryuden looked strong in his first Makuuchi bout, easily dominating Nishikigi. Ryuden kept his eblows tight, and prevented Nishikigi from establishing a grip, while Ryuden set up for a well executed throw to end the match.

Ishiura defeats Yutakayama – A flurry of activity in which Ishiura was everywhere at once and overwhelmed Yutakayama. He was able to get his head against Yutakayama’s chest a couple of times, which helped him keep the larger rikishi’s center of gravity high.

Daieisho defeats Abi – Massive oshi fest as Abi took the initiative and was landing tsuppari with purpose. But he over committed, got too far forward and Daieisho brought him forward and down.

Kagayaki defeats Takekaze – Kagayaki was very high at the tachiai, but managed to get Takekaze off balance and moving backwards. His excellent sumo instincts took over and he kept moving strongly forward. Good, solid win.

Kotoyuki defeats Aminishiki – Not quite the battle I was looking for, it was over in a blink of an eye as Aminishiki slipped trying to find his footing. Kotoyuki recognized this quickly, and finished what gravity had started.

Chiyomaru defeats Terunofuji – In spite of Chiyomaru’s enormous belly, Terunofuji was able to land a mawashi grip. But without abilty to transmit power through his legs, he was unable to halt Chiyomaru’s counter attack.

Chiyoshoma defeats Ikioi – Massive tachiai, with Ikioi taking the early initiative, but Chiyoshoma pulled out a win at the edge thanks to excellent ring sense and a great deal of balance.

Endo defeats Takarafuji – Keep your eyes on Endo! He wants back in the upper ranks, and he seems to finally have his body in order. This fight saw both rikishi try to establish an offense only to be countered quite effectively, but Endo kept working forward. Fantastic effort from both.

Arawashi defeats Okinoumi – In spite of Okinoumi showing some solid sumo moves, he let Arawashi land a deep left hand grip right away, and from there Arawashi kept working Okinoumi towards being thrown. 800th bout for Arawashi.

Tochinoshin defeats Shodai – Shodai, for once, had a solid tachiai, but he immediately went chest to chest with Tochinoshin, which had to delight the big Georgian. In spite of Shodai’s right hand mawashi grip, Tochinoshin out-matched him in strength and power.

Mitakeumi defeats Kotoshogiku – Mitakeumi has a very sloppy start, he was high and immediately off balance. Kotoshogiku was able to set up a solid defense, and as Mitakeumi was struggling (more than he should) to finish him, Kotoshogiku apparently stepped out. The match was stopped by the shimpan.

Takayasu defeats Yoshikaze – Takayasu still working that forearm blast into the tachiai, but it seems to leave him high and forward. Yoshikaze could not exploit it, and was moving backwards in a hurry. Both men re-engaged, and kept the battle running, with Yoshikaze pushing to land a mawashi grip. Takayasu prevailed and Yoshikaze took a slow motion roll to the clay. Hopefully he was ok.

Goeido defeats Ichinojo – As predicted, Goeido came in fast and low, but Inchinojo’s mass and forward momentum was too much for Goeido to simply power out. Goeido 2.0 is all about keeping up the pressure, and he did eventually get Ichinojo to step out, but Goeido was on the verge of falling down as it happened.

Kakuryu defeats Hokutofuji – This was classic Kakuryu, letting his opponent open the offense, then making him pay. I am thankful that Kakuryu was able to open strong today.

Takakeisho defeats Kisenosato – Wow, what a battle! Twice, Kisenosato let Takakeisho set up his “wave action tsuppari”, with devastating effect. But twice the Yokozuna was able to escape. The match ended when Takakeisho grabbed a hold of Kisenosato’s right arm and twisted, bringing the Yokozuna down. Kisenosato looks worried, but it may take a few bouts for him to hit his stride.

Hakuho defeats Onosho – The boss made short work of Onosho, who once again over-committed and was too far forward.

Hatsu Day 1 Preview


Sumo-Manga

It’s finally here, sumo fans! Day one is upon us, and the Tachiai crew are eager for action. Everyone keep in mind, the first 3 days of any basho include quite a bit of rikishi in the top division trying to get themselves into tournament mode so we may see some rusty moves, some strange outcomes, and some favorites looking a little off-tempo. Interestingly enough, even though there is a good crop of new faces in Makuuchi, day one does not include any first-time match-ups. Maybe that will mean some careful strategy straight off the line.

With Makuuchi going down to Maegashira 17e, we are going to see a lot more action at the lower end of the torikumi, and as such it’s going to be tough for the NHK crew to decide how to fit it all into 20 minutes. Several of the shin-Makuuchi rikishi have a decent fan base already, and there may be a lot of good content to pare down to each day’s 20-minute​ show. For the hardcore​, find Kintamayama’s channel on Youtube and enjoy the whole thing!

What We Are Watching Day 1

Daiamami vs Asanoyama – Let’s start it off right! After having a disappointing basho in Kyushu, Asanoyama the happy rikishi faces off against Daiamami in the first Makuuchi match of 2018. These two tend to grab a hold of each other’s mawashi, so maybe we will get a yotsu-zumo contest right off the bat. Career record 3-2 in Daiamami’s favor.

Ryuden vs Nishikigi – Hopefully the NHK guys will include some of the crowd reaction to Ryuden stepping onto the Dohyo. The fans really like this guy, and they are not afraid to show it. Even better is that these two have a tendency to try to throw each other, and that is seldom dull. Career record 2-1 in Nishikigi’s favor.

Ishiura vs Yutakayama – From sumo’s scratch and dent bin comes this battle of rikishi we wish were doing better. Ishiura started Makuuchi strong last year, and then everyone figured out his “one weird trick”, and he faded. Yukatayama seems to have confidence or focus problems as soon as he’s listed on the Makuuchi side of the banzuke. Both of them have the potential for explosive sumo, so there is hope. These two have split their prior 2 matches.

Abi vs Daieisho – Can Abi give Asanoyama a run for his money as the “Happy Rikishi”? Sumo fans finally get to see. With any luck, we will get to see Abi bring some magic shiko to the hatsu dohyo. Their only prior meeting was back in 2015 when Abi was fighting under Horikiri, and was in Makushita.

Kotoyuki vs Aminishiki – Uncle Sumo vs The Penguin! Aminishiki (Uncle Sumo) started strong in Kyushu, but I think his knees suffered terribly over the course of 15 days of top division matches. Now ranked Maegashira 10, he has a difficult path to climb. Kotoyuki seems to be an all-or-nothing proposition, and typically ends the match in the second row of zabuton. Career record 4-2 in Aminishiki’s favor.

Terunofuji vs Chiyomaru – Former Ozeki Terunofuji will face down surprisingly-super-sized Chiyomaru, who is still operating in sumo-Elvis mode. Due to a lack of knees, the yobidashi will likely pre-position the over-sized wheelchair on the east side hanamichi.

Takarafuji vs Endo – Heads up sumo fans, Endo is possibly the big sleeper this basho. He has been nothing special for more than a year and then sought surgery to repair some of his most serious problems. After dropping down to the bottom of Makuuchi, he has turned in two excellent tournaments. Takarafuji is a steady rikishi, who can be expected to calmly employ a fairly defensive bout strategy. This could be an excellent match. Career record of 6-2 favors Takarafuji.

Okinoumi vs Arawashi – Okinoumi’s sumo is very much a function of his chronic injury. When he has it under control, he is a solid upper Maegashira. When it’s bothering him, he is in trouble. With Okinoumi, it’s always hit or miss, and day one against Arawashi should show us how Okinoumi is doing. Watch for Arawashi to leave a small amount of salt on top of his mawashi.

Shodai vs Tochinoshin – The Tachiai team give Shodai a hard time because he tends to lose matches on the first step. His tachiai is usually a half step slow, and fairly high. Everyone knows this now, and they use it to dismantle him. Today he may compound his mistake by giving Tochinoshin a mawashi hold. Simply put, Tochinoshin has the strength of a bear that has the strength of two bears. Career record of 4-2 favors Tochinoshin, unless he has just woken from his hibernation, in which case Tochinoshin eats Shodai and Shikimori Inosuke while the NHK cameras pan away.

Mitakeumi vs Kotoshogiku – The San’yaku battle fleet is especially charged up and ready for action this tournament. Though he managed to land a kachi-koshi for every 2017 tournament, Mitakeumi can rightfully be cited for loitering. Hey, double digits Mitakeumi! Kotoshogiku is no pushover, so I guess Mitakeumi stays mobile to avoid the hug-n-chug from the Kyushu Bulldozer.

Yoshikaze vs Takayasu – Yoshikaze wants back in San’yaku. And everyone should note this guy can really dish it out. Takayasu is finally back to practicing with Kisenosato, so I am expecting him to revert to his former excellent sumo that focuses on strength and endurance. I am hoping NOT to see a forearm blast at the tachiai (hat tip to Murray Johnson of NHK).

Goeido vs Ichinojo – Wow! What a match. Goeido 2.0 is a speed demon who will have you backward and out before you can blink. Ichinojo is a large object suspected to be laid down over centuries during the Carboniferous era. Look for Goeido to launch low and inside hoping to catch Ichinojo not quite out of his tachiai crouch, and slap the big boulder down. The 6-5 career record slightly favors the mighty Ichinojo.

Kakuryu vs Hokutofuji – Can we take this to 11? Yes, yes we can! Hokutofuji’s careful offense vs Kakuryu’s reactive sumo. Can Big K keep Hokutofuji off his belt long enough for Kaio Jr to make his first and only mistake? My money is on the Yokozuna to keep Hokutofuji from going chest to chest and throw in a lateral move or two. Probably one for slow-motion replays.

Takakeisho vs Kisenosato – Please Japan, remember to breathe during this showdown. The schedulers give Kisenosato no easy start. Takakeisho is going to go hard left and attack without quarter. I am looking for Kisenosato to try to land a right-hand grip, not his favorite, and use that to try and remove Takakeisho’s “wave action” tsuppari from the match. These two have split their only 2 matches.

Hakuho vs Onosho – By thunder, Onosho, wear that red mawashi or stay home. This one will be all Hakuho, but I really think Onosho will make him work for it if he does not over-commit out of the tachiai. Of course “the Boss” knows this and will possibly give ground on the first step to draw Onosho forward.