Hatsu Day 4 Highlights

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

Highlight Matches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hatsu Day 1: The Joy of Six

kokugikan

As Bruce announced earlier in the evening on Twitter, the opening day torikumi for the 2019 Hatsu basho has been posted!

Because I’ve just landed in Tokyo, am rocketing towards the heart of the city on the Narita Express, and JR East provides free WiFi, I’ve got a few moments to share with you the six matches I’m most looking forward to on the opening day. All of these have the potential to set up further key storylines throughout the basho:

Yago vs. Meisei

Yago has made a steady progression towards the top division in his ten basho since debuting as makushita tsukedashi, while Meisei has been Mr. Tenacious – after a first basho setback, he has settled into makuuchi nicely and deployed a nice mix of skill and heart on the dohyo. Eyes are going to be on the much hyped Yago to see what kind of debut performance he can put on versus a higher level of opposition this basho, and this is as good of a test as he could hope to expect in the lower reaches of the division. Meisei leads the lifetime series 2-0.

Kaisei vs. Asanoyama

The recent NHK Grand Sumo Review of 2018 was notable because it featured the NHK pundits bemoaning the current state of up-and-comers being predominantly oshi-zumo wrestlers. The notable exception to this was Asanoyama, notable for his emergence in the top division as a primarily yotsu-zumo rikishi. Here, he faces off against another fan of mawashi work in Kaisei, who’s had a pretty decent past 12 months, all things considered. The enormous Kaisei can be a force to be reckoned with when he’s in good health, so this matchup of strengths will prove an interesting opening bout test for both rikishi. Kaisei leads this rivalry 3-1.

Chiyotairyu vs. Onosho

The NHK review also highlighted the work that Onosho has put in to vary his techniques at the tachiai in order to better defuse his opposition. Here, he comes up against a rikishi who – it’s perhaps uncharitable, but nevertheless not totally untrue – to say is almost 100% tachiai. We’re looking for Onosho to return to mix it with the big boys and matches like this against Kokonoe-beya’s current star man should prove to be good challenges. They’ve split the victories evenly in their six contests to date.

Shohozan vs. Tamawashi

No analysis needed here: if everyone’s genki then this has all the hallmarks of a classic street fight. It could get tasty. Shohozan has a dominant 13-3 advantage in their lifetime series.

Takayasu vs. Ichinojo

There is some question over the health of Takayasu as he attempts again to shed his “bridesmaid” tag in search of an inaugural yusho, and there are always questions as to the genki level of Ichinojo. This is a tricky opening match to navigate for both rikishi: Takayasu will be desperate to open with a win and lay to rest the agonising manner of his Day 15 defeat in Kyushu, but here he features against an object who will doubtlessly be unmoved by his signature shoulder blast. Takayasu leads this rivalry 6-4.

Kisenosato vs. Mitakeumi

This is my unquestionable match of the day. Mitakeumi will have been knocked back by the manner of his make-koshi in Fukuoka, but his dismantling of Takayasu on the final day showed he didn’t magically lose his skill. He’ll be gunning to restart his ozeki run and is going to be licking his lips at a potential Yokozuna scalp to open what could be a pivotal basho for the Dewanoumi man. Kisenosato’s trials and tribulations were excellently covered in great detail by Herouth earlier in the week – be sure to check out her piece if you haven’t – and a day 1 loss would be ominous. Despite what the banzuke and history says (Kisenosato has won 6 of 7 from King Tadpole, and amazingly, 2 of 3 since his career-altering chest injury), Mitakeumi should be the favorite here and it’s the Mountain that will have to move him if it is to have any chance of staving off the inevitable retirement calls early in the basho.

Fuyu Jungyo 2018 – Day 12 (Dec 13)

🌐 Location: Kitakyushu, Fukuoka
😝 Goofometer: ◾️◽️◽️◽️◽️

In this event we get back to Fukuoka, but this is in fact the last event in Kyushu for this Jungyo. The next stop is far-away Okinawa, and then the rikishi go back to Tokyo, rest a while and finish with three additional days near home in the Kanto area.

Although Kotoshogiku is one of the Fukuoka locals, sadly, he is off the torikumi for the day, and Yutakayama also continues without participating in the bouts.

So lets start our day with handshakes. Here is Aminishiki, alongside his poor, freezing tsukebito, Terumichi:

It’s not that Aminishiki is better dressed than him. I guess it’s having grown in cold Aomori.

Around the walls we have practicing rikishi. Enho is doing his stretches:

…and signing autographs while he’s at it. But he is not the only stretchy rikishi. Here we have Kyonosato, who shows us that despite having a bigger chin than Chiyomaru and beer-storage flaps, he can do the splits like a pro:

Not impressed? How about this?

By the way, he is still being subjected to “Wiggle the Wattle”:

And not just by his brother (Narutaki).

For a 22 years old, he has the patience of a saint!

Along another wall, some low-rankers are doing the rikishi version of the Locomotion:

Mitoryu and Ichinojo are having a chat. Ichinojo wants to demonstrate one of his colt-tossing moves. Mitoryu will have none of that:

Rikishi around the passages and walls are, of course, fansa magnets. Especially when asked to pose with a cute kid (sorry for censoring the cute):

Even kids want to lay their hands on the pixie!

But this kid is not just a pixie fan. Apparently, he gets along with Americans, too:

Love the kid’s shirt!

The NSK even has an official kiddie photo-op:

But I feel it’s a poor replacement to the old “kiddie sumo” that used to be the highlight of the Jungyo day. At least the kiddie photo-op allows girls equal access to the rikishi.

At the dohyo, Wakatakakage decides to do some push-ups. Apparently, Mitoryu decides the load is too light:

A serious-faced Enho grabs a ladle of water. What is he going to do with it?

Ah, of course. Greet the Yokozuna:

When the greetings are over, the Yokozuna can practice away from the dohyo:

On the dohyo, we have practice bouts between Hakuyozan Takekaze, then Hakuyozan and Jokoryu:

Kagayaki seems to have enjoyed his practice with Onosho.

Maybe because he got to experience how it feels to be flat-chested for a few seconds there. Onosho completely eliminated his boob there! Not an easy task!

Then there was some sanban between Tochinoshin and Shodai:

And some butsukari between Takayasu and Hokutofuji, and Nishikigi and Aoiyama:

In fact, that is not just butsukari between Takayasu and Hokutofuji. It’s full-fledged kawaigari. Lots of dirt:

And lots of suffering:

Takayasu is no gentler than Hakuho, but well, Hakuho seems to enjoy it more:

If you’re wondering, the victim (“This will make him even stronger!”) today is Tochinoshin.


One thing Tochinoshin doesn’t lack is stamina. In fact, the Yokozuna ends up looking more tired than he is. But in any case, I’m sure it will motivate the Georgian to try for a rope. After all, nobody gives Kawaigari to a Yokozuna. Not even a dai-Yokozuna.

Time for the Juryo dohyo-iri. And here, too, fans were asking for autographs. Wakatakakage wants to sign Terutsuyoshi while he’s at it:

Terutsuyoshi was known as a “Yanki” – a delinquent – when he was in school. So it’s no surprise he react with a prompt wedgie:

Keep your pen away from me, and I’ll keep away from your butt strap. Deal?

That same Terutsuyoshi, though, goes and buries his head in Hidenoumi’s chest.

Hidenoumi looks like he is considering a MeToo protest against the Isegahama homunculus.

The actual dohyo-iri ends up as a photo-op as well:

Imagine them doing that in honbasho…

In the Juryo bouts, Terutsuyoshi ends up frustrated after losing to Ishiura:

And Enho has no trouble showing Chiyonoumi the way off the dohyo:

I guess not enough weight-lifting, Chiyonoumi. Maybe instead of lifting Chiyomaru you should try Ichinojo!

I don’t really have any Makuuchi bout footage. But here is an awesome nodowa for you:

That’s Takanosho vs. Onosho. Twitter folks report that this was a stormy bout. Takanosho won it and was rather breathless as he stepped – with some kensho – off the dohyo.

Also, there was apparently something very funny about Shohozan’s bout:

Or maybe it’s the amount of kensho he finds amusing?

Between practice and dohyo-iri, Hakuho got himself photographed with his heya’s tokoyama.

The reason Tokohachi got this commemorative photo with the Yokozuna in his full regalia is that this is his last Fuyu Jungyo. He is supposed to retire next year.

I think when he shows this to his grandkids they won’t believe it’s the real Hakuho he was standing next to. “No, grandpa, that’s just one of those panels they put up everywhere there is a sumo event!”

Now, it’s time for our pin-up rikishi, but I had a hard time making a decision today! Lots of fans were in Kitakyushu and took pictures of gorgeous rikishi. Whom would you choose?

Asanoyama lovingly looking at the camera Takarafuji borrowed from a fan to take his picture? Or maybe…

Tough-looking Wakatakakage recovering from the wedgie incident? How about…

…the more mature-looking Tamawashi? He has been on his best behavior while in Fukuoka! But then, there is…

…Myogiryu going for a fashion statement and a manly pose. Meanwhile…

Tobizaru is outraged by the idea that he lost his exclusive hold on the pin-up position this Jungyo in general, and in this post in particular!

However, I think he’ll have a hard competition in Abi here:

Because apparently Abi is not just about shiko! He can also throw a nice handful of salt! (Though both Yobidashi seem a little critical of it. Maybe because they have to sweep the damn stuff all the time).

I leave it to the readers to decide which one is the most worthy of the pin-up section. Though I think we can fill up a whole calendar with these guys!


Note: there will not be a post tomorrow. I hope I’ll be able to catch up during the weekend.

Fuyu Jungyo 2018 – Day 11 (Dec 12)

Dirty Mawashi drying – The Jungyo is here!

🌐 Location: Kagoshima, Kagoshima
😝 Goofometer: ◽️◽️◽️◽️◽️

We are still in Kagoshima. Our local heros are Chiyomaru, Meisei and Daiamami. Today’s event is held in a bigger city and a bigger venue in front of 4000 spectators. So what do our heros do?

Daiamami is doing his shiko:

Are you serious, Daiamami? You call that Shiko? Last year in the Jungyo, Kakuryu gave him serious kawaigari, and Daiamami actually ended it unconscious, which infuriated the Yokozuna: “Not enough stamina! You should be diligent about your keiko”. I guess the lesson has not been learned.

Meisei is trying to teach Tennozan something:

Umm… apparently the Boogie-Woogie?

The Yokozuna is in the house, and everybody is coming to say their good-mornings:

Mitoryu is obsequious to the point of embarrassment.

Did Ikioi slip away? No, he didn’t. He went to get a ladle of water for a more serious greeting. And got poked in the belly in exchange.

But note Kotoshogiku greeting the Yokozuna’s back and going away. As long as he is seen greeting, that’s good enough, I guess.

Last one there is Takarafuji, also greeting the Yokozuna with a respectful ladle of power-water.

Sekitori around the venue practice with their tsukebito. And, well, they all have their different styles:

Ichinojo, Daiamami, spot the different styles

On the dohyo, Chiyonoumi practices with Jokoryu:

While Azumaryu takes on both Chiyomaru and Chiyonoumi:

Practice over, and Takayasu feels he has not had enough. He finds a public park outside the venue, and just keeps on practicing – much to the delight of the neighbors who get a free show:

Here Takayasu and Mitakeumi continue bout from Kyushu senshuraku. But Takayasu also took on Ryuden in this improvised keiko session.

Inside, Meisei was doing his “local boy” duties being the model of the oicho-mage demonstration:

The time comes for the Makuuchi dohyo-iri. Notice something strange?

The local boys, Meisei and Daiamami, get a lot less love from the audience than, say, Endo or Yoshikaze. My guess is that this is because, although they are from Kagoshima prefecture, they are actually from Amami-Oshima, an island much closer to Okinawa than it is to mainland Kagoshima.

So my guess is that there weren’t many people from their actual home town in this Jungyo event.

Here is Takayasu getting ready for his turn in the sanyaku-soroi-bumi. On the other side you can see Hakuho waiting for the same:

Finally, here is a video from NHK summing up the events of the day, including the bouts of the three local – or not so local – rikishi:

To wrap up, in our pin-up corner, today we feature an oyakata!

From the “I can’t believe this is a former rikishi” department: Tatsunami oyakata

Fuyu Jungyo 2018 – Day 9 (Dec 10)

Wear your sunglasses and prepare your insulin shots – we have a lot of kawaii today!

Shodai, Shodai, Shodai, Ryuko

🌐 Location: Uto, Kumamoto
😛 Goofometer: ◾️◾️◾️◽️◽️

We complete our journey through Kumamoto in Uto, home to two active rikishi. One is Ryuko, a Makushita wrestler who did well this basho and will be in the race for sekitori status in the next basho:

Narutaki, Asakura, Ryuko

Um, Narutaki. What are you doing? I thought we were done with this stuff last jungyo. Anyway, you’re drawing attention away from the local boy!

So, in yesterday’s post’s comments, I was asked whether these tsukebito actually get any practice. Well, yes they do:

Midorifuji tsupparis, Daieisho and Akiseyama look on

The practice session is more or less the same as that of the sekitori, only held earlier. It consists mostly of moshi-ai sessions, punctuated by quick butsukari for the participants. At the later stages, that butsukari is offered by sekitori:

Not that Enho is much of a pushing challenge. In Midorifuji’s case, it seems he got his butsukari from Tamawashi. At least, the mud on his back says he got rolled.

That’s a bit more of a challenge, and apparently Tamawashi makes sure that he didn’t hurt the micro-rikishi.

While the low-ranking wrestlers have their time on the dohyo, the sekitori are either outside in the corridors doing handshakes, or finding themselves quiet spots for some exercise. Meisei, who is out doing handshake, is so cold, he starts laughing uncontrollably:

Ishiura is all like “Who put me next to Crazy here”?

Which may be the reason why later Meisei had to settle for an isolated spot between a stroller and some derelict equipment:

Don’t worry, he didn’t stay alone for long:

A bit earlier, near the dohyo, just as yesterday, the Kokonoe guys do their morning workouts in front of their oyakata. This includes not just the sekitori but also Chiyosakae, who does this:

This seems to embarrass Kokonoe oyakata, whose voice you can hear in the background “take it seriously, will you?”. He also assures us in the tweet that Chiyosakae actually does take it seriously.

Around that same time, Akiseyama arrives at the dohyo and greets Kasugano, the Jungyo master.

I have a feeling Kasugano wishes he didn’t.

In some corner of the venue, Toyonoshima works out with a piece of rubber, assisted by his loyal Miyazaki:

The Juryo men start their own practice on the dohyo. Here is some butsukari between Chiyonoumi and Hakuyozan:

Jokoryu gets to have Ikioi’s chest:

And Enho… well, Enho is everywhere and practices with everybody. That is, anybody who can possibly find an excuse to lay his hands on the pixie:

Even the Yokozuna smiles when his little uchi-deshi greets him with a respectful ladle of water:

You’d think that Enho is the star of the show rather than Shodai. But actually, Shodai got a lot of attention. Some keiko with Asanoyama:

And some with Tochinoshin:

To which Tochinoshin also adds a hearty Kawaigari:

Whoa, I thought military-grade guns were forbidden in Japan!

Practice part over, everybody gets cleaned, have their oicho-mage started, and have lunch. There are food stalls outside, and… it’s the perfect oportunity to grab Enho and ask him for a pic:

Hey, is that a way to start a conversation with a sekitori? Is there a single rikishi in the whole sumo world who doesn’t think the Japanese National Sport is actually “grab the pixie”?

As practice mawashi dry in the sun…

Remember, these things are never washed…

Inside the venue it still seems pretty cold. Take a look at Terutsuyoshi, all bundled into his… is that a kimono or a Mongolian Deel?

Sure looks like a Deel to me, but Terutsuyoshi is not Mongolian.

Nishikigi, on the other hand, gets warm by pestering his tsukebito:

In the entrance, however, Shodai was being photographed with his grandmother:

The Japanese press love Shodai’s grandmother, because of her name. Shodai is one of the wrestlers, like Takayasu, Endo and Yago, who wrestle under their own name. His grandmother’s name is 正代正代 – yes, twice the same pair of kanji, two completely different readings: Masayo Shodai.

It’s time for the Juryo dohyo-iri, and Enho is turning up the kawaii level:

That can’t be a rikishi. It’s a china doll for sure!

Gokushindo is doing the same thing on the East side:

Those two are supposed to face each other this day. And they both exude kawaii like two idol group members on a save-the-cute-bunnies campaign. Enho signals to Gokushindo across the dohyo as they wait their turn:

When Gokushindo gets up on the dohyo, Chiyonoumi gives him the good old salted ladle routine:

Which you can’t blame him for doing, when that’s the reaction he gets. Then the two kings of cute battle in the cutest sumo bout you have ever seen:

I did warn you to prepare the insulin in advance, didn’t I? And those two kept it up even after the bout was over!

Hey! Isn’t sumo fun?

Well, Toyonoshima and Tomokaze were a little more serious about it:

But then came the Makuuchi dohyo-iri and of course, the usual suspects were goofing around. Abi had an arm-wrestling contest with Chiyotairyu:

And Nishikigi was still looking for somebody to bother, and found Shodai:

Shodai: “Come on, my grandma is here!”.

Looks like a little bit of cute rubbed off even on Takarafuji and Asanoyama:

But if you want to see a little actual sumo, here is this short video:

Shodai was paired, unsurprisingly, with Endo, who must be rather frustrated at having to constantly lose to local boys. Utchari, no less!

And how about that tsuridashi Hakuho did on Takayasu? It’s very encouraging to see him do that. Remember, Jungyo bouts are not something anybody is advised to put money on. There are lots of “gentlemen’s agreements” there, and at the very least, nobody is going to risk injury to win. But still, you can draw some conclusions about wrestlers’ health, and if Hakuho can do something like picking Takayasu up, it means his legs are up to the extra load.

By the way, Yoshikaze was back on the torikumi this day for the first time since the Jungyo began – while Yutakayama dropped off it.

With the sun setting, everybody’s Akeni was packed and wrapped and loaded onto the truck (the side-loading Japanese trucks are very clever):

The Akeni and their wraps carry the names of the sekitori. I always amuse myself by trying to identify as many names as possible. Try to learn the kanji for the wrestlers names!

During this visit to Uto, the Yokozuna paid a visit to the grave of Shiranui Nageimon, the 8th Yokozuna, performing his Shiranui dohyo-iri in front of the grave:

Shiranui Nageimon was actually the master of the 11th Yokozuna Shiranui Kotsuemon to whom that dohyo-iri style is (mistakenly) attributed.

And with this, we wrap up the day, tying it all up with Tobizaru:

That lovely Tobizaru really needs to be credited, so here is the Tweet from which he was taken: