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.

Hatsu Day 6 Highlights

Act Two opens in dramatic fashion. There are great bouts today but tears will be shed and hopes dashed before the day is out. Let’s just get started.

Yutakayama and Daishomaru get the makuuchi bouts rolling for us. Two oshi wrestlers start things off…by quickly getting a grip? It looked like Yutakayama wanted to grapple since Daishomaru is much worse on the belt, losing almost 4x more often to yorikiri than he wins while Yutakayama is about 50-50 in those belt battles. Daishomaru was having none of it, batted Yutakayama’s arms away and circled in full retreat. This gave Yutakayama a chance for a hatakikomi pull down attempt but Daishomaru plowed through. Yutakayama decided enough is enough, held his ground, and pushed forward, forcing Daishomaru out. Wouldn’t you guess it? Oshidashi. Yutakayama improves to 4-2, Daishomaru still winless.

Ishiura channels Enho for his bout against Chiyoshoma. Ishiura has been regrouping nicely in Juryo, sitting on a 4-1 record to start the day. Rather than having a double henka, both wrestlers get straight to business with Ishiura going low. Chiyoshoma first establishes a two-handed belt grip but then uses his left to grab under Ishiura’s arm, initiating a throw attempt. Ishiura counters by driving into Chiyoshoma as they spin around. It looked for a second like Ishiura reached out to grab his opponent’s left knee which causes Chiyoshoma to stumble. Thus off balance, Ishiura continues to circle into Chiyoshoma whose feet no longer have traction in the clay, falling to shitatehineri. Ishiura improves to 5-1 and takes home some spending money while Chiyoshoma is 3-3.

Yago was just too big for Kotoeko, who’s still trying to find his way in the top division. Nominally, both men are relatively balanced with the belt or in pusher/thruster mode but Yago established a strong belt grip early and forced the much smaller man out. Yago remains in the hunt group at 5-1, looking for a prize and even further advancement, while Kotoeko is even at 3-3.

Chiyonokuni had a plan for Kotoyuki. 1) Stand your ground at the tachiai, 2) Unleash tsuppari to counter The Penguin, 3) Side-step. The critical piece is when to deploy the side step, which he did perfectly as the over-committed Kotoyuki flew off the dohyo and landed in amongst the crowd. Kotoyuki’s lost to hatakikomi nearly 60 times now, so you’d think he’d try to work out a solution. Chiyonokuni’s in the hunt at 5-1, while Kotoyuki’s 3-3.

Daiamami came in to this bout with Meisei wanting to grapple. Meisei was having none of it, however, and fought to keep Daiamami’s mitts off his belt while trying to establish his own belt grip. The fatal mistake for Daiamami appears to be when he gave up the belt and tried to go for a hatakikomi attempt. Meisei used the momentum shift to blast Daiamami into the crowd. Meisei’s 4-2 and may be hitting his stride and establishing himself as a makuuchi regular, while Daiamami’s 2-4 with a precarious hold on his position.

Kagayaki started out with his usual head-down pushing attack but Takarafuji got an early left-handed grip of his gold mawashi. A belt battle seems to favor the trapezius muscles of Takarafuji, who circled and executed an over-arm throw before both men tumbled out in a heap. Uwatenage. Takarafuji is 3-3 while Kagayaki’s 1-5.

Ikioi showed Kagayaki how to make the Pamplona bull thing work. Use it against a belt guy and drive with the shoulder. Ikioi is a balanced wrestler while Endo is much more comfortable with a grapple than slap fest. Today, Ikioi followed Kagayaki’s lead – stitches be damned – and led with the ole noggin…though that shoulder was there not just for backup but as the real driving force. Endo had no time to regroup as he found himself on his butt, at the base of the dohyo. Both are 3-3.

Sadanoumi got the jump on Kaisei. The much quicker tachiai helped establish a firm, two-handed belt grip put Kaisei on the retreat. However, he appeared to be hopping, favoring that left leg as if he couldn’t really put much weight on the right. Sadanoumi let him pogo himself out. Kaisei falls off the lead and into the hunt group at 5-1. Sadanoumi is 3-3. Kaisei appeared to walk back as if he was unhindered so hopefully the pogo-ing was more of a balance thing than a “my knee hurts” thing.

The next bout gave us a real clash of styles as a solid belt man Asanoyama takes on the long arms of Abi. Abi seemed to be the driving force here, keeping Asanoyama off his belt from the tachiai. He went into full retreat looking for a hatakikomi slapdown win but Asanoyama kept his balance while moving forward. Oshidashi win goes to Asanoyama who picks up his first of the tournament while Abi falls to 3-3.

If Abi wants to be a hatakikomi master, he needs to watch Aoiyama. The Bulgarian took on solid oshi battler, Daieisho. That nodowa on the tachiai nearly snapped Daieisho in two but Daieisho weathered the storm and evaded to the left. The damage was done, though, as Aoiyama had the clear initiative. Effective tsuppari let him try one hatakikomi pull which failed but he cycled around with more slaps to Daieisho’s face. This time, as Daieisho’s resistance brought his momentum forward, Aoiyama pulled and Daieisho went down. Hatakikomi. Personally, I think the difference is Aoiyama’s tsuppari works his opponent back to the opposite edge, giving him adequate space for the pull. Abi, on the other hand, seems to fly off the dohyo a lot. Aoiyama stays in the hunt at 5-1 while Daieisho falls to 2-4

Yoshikaze picked up his first win today against Ryuden. Ryuden had tried to get a good early tachiai but was thrown off by the gyoji who called him for two false starts. Yoshikaze followed through on the third tachiai putting his head right into Ryuden’s chin, driving him back and out. This means Daishomaru is left as the last makuuchi wrestler still in the tournament with 0 wins. Ryuden is 2-4.

Kotoshogiku drove Chiyotairyu straight back like a blocking sled and used that hip action to push Elvis out. Kotoshogiku is 4-2 while Chiyotairyu is 2-4. Onosho made quick work of Okinoumi, who prefers a belt battle, by staying low and fighting this bout his way, as a pushing-thrusting match. Onosho stays in the lead, 6-0, while Okinoumi falls to 3-3.

Now, for the bad news. Mitakeumi injured his left knee or ankle against Myogiryu. He could not make it back up to the dohyo and was carted out and taken to the hospital. It’s an innocuous injury. I thought it may have come when he tried to brace his weight against the tawara but now I think he rolled his ankle when he stepped off the dohyo. Both men prefer an oshi bout, so they came out guns blazing. Mitakeumi pulled but ran out of real estate and Myogiryu kept his balance, forcing Mitakeumi out. If it’s a sprain, we may see Mitakeumi again before the end of the tournament. Mitakeumi falls to 5-1 and Myogiryu climbs to 2-4. A bitter, disappointing day for Mitakeumi fans.

Tochiozan neutralized the Takakeisho thrusting from the word, “Go,” quickly establishing a grip of Takakeisho’s grey mawashi. Takakeisho’s fingers struggled to find purchase on Tochiozan’s belt so he had to satisfy himself with a hold of the Kochi native’s arm. It would have been a rather spectacular ipponzeoi but Takakeisho lacked the strength and leverage to pull Tochiozan over his back. The position gave Tochiozan a decisive advantage with Takakeisho’s back to him, so he pushed through, driving Takakeisho forward over the edge. Takakeisho falls out of the hunt group to 4-2 while Tochiozan improves to 2-4.

Tamawashi’s not pulling in enough kensho for Ichinojo bother with beast mode, instead reverting to boulder mode on the tachiai. Tamawashi blasts the boulder off with a few strong shoulder thrusts. Both men are 4-2.

Goeido pissed of Shohozan with his slow-roll tachiai. Shohozan wasn’t having any of it, so he blasted off in his face like, “Let’s go already!” Goeido commits a bit quicker this time and bulls forward like a battleship under full steam. Shohozan slips to the side a beat early as Goeido had room to plot a course correction. Goeido adjusts, homes in on Shohozan, and picks up the yorikiri win. Both are 2-4.

With Kakuryu kyujo, and now Mitakeumi likely following him to the couch, Hokutofuji may now pick up a couple of fusen wins, today’s moves him to 4-2. Nishikigi hoped to regroup after yesterday’s dramatic but disappointing loss to The Boss. Takayasu’s a tough one to regroup against, though. And today, Takayasu did not want Nishikigi anywhere near his belt. With Nishikigi’s right arm containing the Ozeki’s left, Nishikigi’s fingers sought out a left-hand grip of the mawashi but Takayasu wasn’t having any of it. With Takayasu’s attention diverted, Nishikigi thought it would be a good time to try a pull but Takayasu read it and drove through the maegashira, ushering him out for the yorikiri win. Takayasu improves to 3-3 while Nishikigi slips out of the hunt to 4-2.

Hakuho closed things out today with Shodai at the musubi-no-ichiban. At the tachiai, both men seek out and quickly get one-handed belt grips. When things settle in the middle of the ring, Shodai tries to adjust his grip but Hakuho uses that time to strike, grabs the other side of Shodai’s mawashi and walks him back and out. Yorikiri. Hakuho remains tied for the lead with Onosho while Shodai slips to 2-4.

Hatsu Day 1 Highlights

Kisenosato Hatsu 2019
Photo from the Japan Sumo Association’s twitter feed

What a way to start a basho! Day 1 action was fierce and at times surprising. As a reminder to our readers, I tend to see a basho as a set of 3 acts, each 5 days long. Each act has its own feel and its own goals. Act 1 is all about knocking the ring rust off of the competitors, and finding out who is hot and who is not. It’s also usually the period where we will see if any Yokozuna are going to take an “out” by going kyujo.

The big news coming out of day 1 has to be that all 3 Ozeki went down to defeat. For Takayasu, it’s not a huge surprise, as he came into Hatsu with a case of the flu and a substantial fever that he should probably keep to himself. For Tochinoshin, it was clear he had hurt a thigh muscle, but was going to gamberize. Goeido, however, simply got beaten. By Nishikigi. Let that sink in. The guy who was doing everything he could last year to cling to the bottom edge of the Makuuchi banzuke took an Ozeki scalp in what looked to be a fair and straight-up fight. I have been pulling for the guy for a while now, but it’s amazing to see how far his sumo has come.

Highlight Matches

Terutsuyoshi defeats Daishomaru – Welcome to the top division! Terutsuyoshi is only visiting, but it was his first win in the big leagues, and it came with a few envelopes of kensho as well. We will be seeing quite a bit more of Terutsuyoshi soon, I would think.

Chiyonokuni defeats Daiamami – Tsuki? Oshi? Yotsu? Hitaki? These two threw everything including the kitchen sink into this match. It was rough, it was chaotic, but Chiyonokuni prevailed. He needs to get a kachi-koshi secured and escape the banzuke danger zone he finds himself in for Hatsu.

Yutakayama defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki starts strong, but in his normal pattern, as soon as Yutakayama mounts his response, Kotoyuki starts moving backward in a fairly reckless fashion. Not amazing sumo, but Yutakayama held on through Kotoyuki’s opening gambit and took the match.

Yago defeats Meisei – In Yago’s first top division ranked bout, he shows us why he’s going to be a mainstay of the future. Unlike most of the newer rikishi, he grabs Meisei’s mawashi and proceeds to go chest to chest. Meisei looks ready for the fight, and starts with a stronger, inside position. But give Yago that right hand outside and he gets to work. With his greater mass and exceptionally stable stance, Yago overpowers Meisei for a straightforward yoritaoshi.

Ikioi defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki leaves Ikioi bloody in this loss, with the die-hard warrior bleeding from his nose and face following the match. Ikioi looks to have gotten the jump on Kagayaki at the tachiai, and wasted no time in raising up Kagayaki. Both of these rikishi are better than their lower Maegashira rank, so I see this tournament as a “recovery” period for them.

Sadanoumi defeats Abi – It would seem that Sadanoumi has Abi-zumo cracked, and Abi could not produce much in the way of offensive pressure against Sadanoumi, who propelled Abi around the dohyo like a squeaky shopping cart headed back to the store. Come on Abi, unleash some new sumo. We know you can win!

Endo defeats Takarafuji – Firstly, congratulations to Takarafuji, who welcomed a new baby to his family in the past few weeks. Takarafuji gave Endo a good fight (and the crowd was happy), but Endo had superior position rom the start, and never let Takarafuji do much more than react to his sumo.

Kaisei defeats Asanoyama – Kaisei came to the dohyo in a mood to be strong and heavy today. When he uses his heavy sumo, there are few men in the world who can move him. A quick battle-hug to Asanoyama, and a drive forward for a win. The tachiai had a nice satisfying “whack!” to it as well.

Onosho defeats Chiyotairyu – Even Chiyotairyu’s somewhat legendary cannonball tachiai did not seem to impact Onosho much. Onosho stayed focused, and drove forward. With his opening blast expended against a prepared opponent, Chiyotairyu seemed to have little resistance to offer.

Aoiyama defeats Yoshikaze – Aoiyama looked on form today, and was able to focus his amazing strength against a fading Yoshikaze. Much as I love the old berserker, he is fading each passing tournament. Aoiyama kept the pressure coming, landing alternating thrusts against Yoshikaze’s upper body, keeping him high and off balance.

Tamawashi defeats Shohozan – We anticipated that this would be a brawl, and it began to look like a running battle until Shohozan lost his balance and went skidding to the clay. Good action from two rikishi who love to duke it out.

Takakeisho defeats Shodai – No cartoon sumo today. Takakeisho in what I think is a new steel-gray mawashi gets the inside advantage at the tachiai, and Shodai never recovers. Shodai is high from the start, and Takakeisho sets up the wave-action attack with great effect. Shodai attempted to return in kind, but his footing was poor and it threw him off balance. Takakeisho advances, and wins.

Hokutofuji defeats Tochinoshin – Handshake tachiai? – Check! Nodowa to keep Tochinoshin from starting any moves against the mawashi? – Check! Tochinoshin was packed, boxed and shipped in a manner of seconds. The Ozeki could not switch to offense at any point and was left trying to react to Hokutofuji’s sumo.

Nishikigi defeats Goeido – I have watched this maybe a dozen times, and it simply does not get old. I have no idea where this version of Nishikigi came from, but this sumo is unquestionably simple, sound and potent. This is not Goeido making some kind of mistake while trying to be slippery, he delivers his expected “speed” tachiai, but Nishikigi absorbs it, and breaks the Ozkei’s grip. Goeido continues to have superior body position as they go chest to chest, but Nishikigi seems to be intent on stalemating Goeido, which he somehow manages to do. Locked up in the center of the dohyo, Nishikigi has a deep right hand grip, but is a bit too high. The match ends as Nishikigi overpowers, then throws, Goeido! What a match!

Ichinojo defeats Takayasu – Two items of note – Takayasu is clearly ill, and Ichinojo’s sumo machine was switched to “attack” mode today, and it’s great to see him fight with vigor. Takayasu managed to back Ichinojo to the bales, but then the counterattack started, and there was no stopping that. Ichinojo was in great form, and I hope we can see more of that. [Ichinojo turned the tide with surprisingly nimble later movement. -lksumo]

Kakuryu defeats Tochiozan – When Big K is on his sumo, it’s amazing to watch. I tend to call his style “reactive”, and today is a perfect example. Tochiozan tries a hit-and-shift at the tachiai, but Kakuryu maintains contact with his right hand, and lets that right hand guide him to a now high and unweighted Tochiozan. The trap sprung, the Yokozuna powers into his response and drives Tochiozan back and out.

Hakuho defeats Myogiryu – Hakuho wanted to beat him twice, as Myogiryu hit the clay and bounced up, with Hakuho looking to continue the match. The boss seems to be hungry for sumo action after 4 months in dry-dock. Watch out.

Mitakeumi defeats Kisenosato – Kisenosato was high, his sumo was sloppy, and he really could do very little against Mitakeumi who seemed poised and in control the entire match. Might be time to sharpen the scissors. Josh, my toilet paper stash is ready.

Bruce’s Banzuke Commentary

Bruce-Kokugikan

Hello Tachiai readers, and I hope all of you are enjoying the festive holiday season. The Japan Sumo Association delivered the Hatsu banzuke for Christmas, and it was full of potential for a fantastic tournament in just over 2 weeks. While most of the world takes a year-ending breather, what could be a tumultuous January tournament lurks just around the corner.

Yokozuna Kisenosato’s posting to the 1 East slot is the first surprise. While he entered the Kyushu basho in November, he failed to win a single bout before he pulled out of the tournament citing an injury. We have written extensively about the tragedy that is Kisenosato’s tenure as Yokozuna, and in the past we have forecasted that it would become increasingly farcical if he chose to try and gamberize his way through things. But a “zero win” promotion has to be one of the more farcical things I have seen in sumo for a while.

None of the three current Yokozuna are presenting as blazing examples of genki power at the moment. Each sat out part or all of Kyuhshu, each have some lingering injury that is hampering their performance. None of them participated much in the Fuyu jungyo, either because of their injuries, or wisely conserving whatever health they had mustered for the January tournament. Could we end up with a second straight “nokazuna” tournament?

The Ozeki ranks also have their worries, with Goeido being the most banged up of the bunch. Only Takayasu seems to be in fighting form as we close out 2018, with Tochinoshin a potent but fragile rival.

But just past the Ozeki ranks, we find the upstart challenger. After blasting his way through Kyushu and scoring his first yusho, it’s Takakeisho who is at the Sekiwake 1 East slot. It’s tough to tell how much impact the promotional appearances and awards ceremonies will have on his sumo, but I expect him to show up strong and dominant from the start. His youthful vigor and stamina may give him an edge over the experience and boundless skill of some of his higher-ranked opponents for January. He comes into Hatsu with a string of kachi-koshi tournaments: 13-2, 9-6, 10-5, 10-5. For those keeping count, with 11 wins at Hatsu, he could be considered for promotion to Ozeki.

Mitakeumi finds himself still in the San’yaku, but in dire need to regroup, reorganize and reconnect with his sumo. He has been a “Future Ozeki” for a while, and should Takakeisho bypass him and reach sumo’s second highest rank, it would either be a source of frustration, or a stiff motivation to elevate his sumo to the next level. That’s an evolution his fans (myself included) have been looking forward to for a couple of years.

Further down the banzuke, it’s kind of interesting to see how many long-serving veterans are in the joi-jin for this tournament. The problem with that is that many of these rikishi are towards the end of their careers, and the cumulative injuries and problems mean that they struggle to perform consistently. I would include in this group: Tochiozan, Shohozan, Kotoshogiku, Okinoumi and Yoshikaze. This would mean that it is possible that the joi may give up a lot of white stars to the named ranks, giving someone an easy path.

Then there are a handful of rikishi that I think are worth some excitement. This would include Nishikigi, who against all expectations was able to earn his kachi-koshi at Maegashira 3, and finds himself at Maegashira 2. This guy really is a bit of a Cinderella story, and every time he wins, I cheer. Hokutofuji has struggled with injuries and stamina issues during tournaments, but he has sound fundamentals in his sumo, and few specializations that give him an exciting fighting edge in any match. Aoiyama has all of the pieces needed to be an upper ranked rikishi, but between injuries and what I can only guess might be “jitters” in some matches, he falls a bit short. He’s making another run towards the top now, and we wish him a solid tournament. Then there is Onosho, who seemed in November to still be recovering from his summer injury and reconstructive surgery. While his friend Takakeisho has become a driving force in sumo, I personally think Onosho is the stronger rikishi, and has greater upside potential. I am looking to see him continue to improve over November, and I think Maegashira 6 is a great rank for him this time. He is outside of the joi, and he will fight a lot of hit-or-miss vets who may struggle with his speed and energy.

With the table set, fans around the world are counting down the days to the start of Haru. The rikishi will begin to train in earnest starting in the next few days, and we will be following the workup to Sunday January 13th with eager anticipation!