Nagoya Story 6 – Ura Joins The Upper Ranks


Survival of The Flexible.

Ura Kazuki easily divides sumo fans world wide. Almost everyone who follows sumo knows of him, and those that love sumo either love him or hate him. He is unorthodox, unconventional, unpredictable and undoubtably amazing to watch in action. Since his professional debut February 2015, he has been on a nearly unstoppable march to the higher ranks.

Ura (his actual name), came to sumo during his college studies, where he was a member of the sumo club at Kwansei Gakuin University. Rather than start at Makushita, as many college sumotori do, he was started at the bottom and had to fight his way up. He promptly won the Jonokuchi yusho with a blistering 7-0 record. He followed that up with another 7-0 Jonidan debut, losing the yusho in a playoff. His hot streak continued through Sandanme and Makushita, only slowing down once he reached Juryo.

Ura’s style is highly improvisational, and he will intentionally do things no other rikishi would ever consider. One of my favorite is his “reverse tachiai”, where he intentionally moves backwards at the initial charge. His unorthodox moves have at time infuriated sumo leadership, but its nearly impossible to fault Ura for much. He seems to truly love sumo, and he appears to be a genuinely nice guy. Though it is seldom shown on the highlight show, his manners on and around the dohyo are exemplary, and he conducts himself with great dignity and humility. I sometimes refer to him as a “rikishi from the future”, as I think that strong, fast, flexible and unpredictable is the way forward.

To be clear, in my opinion no one in sumo has tried to make life easy for Ura, in fact it could be said he is given a hard road whenever possible. But he continues to grind on, more or less always enthusiastic and optimist. Moreover he seems to be having a lot of fun.

Nagoya represents a new chapter in Ura’s career. Ranked at Maegashira 4 East, we will at long last get Ura face some of the top men in Sumo. While the results of an Ura vs Harumafuji match up might be painful to watch, it is a necessary stage in Ura’s continued evolution. As an Ura fan, I would be surprised if he can finish with a kachi-koshi, but I am eager to see how he can adapt to the challenges of sumo’s upper ranks.

Some highlights of Ura’s amazing performances from prior tournaments below:

Natsu Day 3 Preview


Keep Your Eye On Yoshikaze

Good morning Tachiai readers, almost time to stumble the 2 blocks to the Kokugikan, but first some thoughts on today’s matches. Firstly, looking forward to Wakaichiro’s second match. This will be against a rikishi with about the same experience level as his, and should be a more even fight. While I am sure I can capture video from the bout, it may need to be uploaded much later in the day, due to my wifi hotspot being dead.

On the Makuuchi side, it’s becoming clear that this may be the basho that flushes some of the injured and chronically wounded aside. From watching them fight, I would say

Kisenosato – in huge pain, impacted and should go kyujo. But The Great Pumpkin does not go kyujo, so look for him to hobble on.

Hakuho – all lights are green, he is healthy, fired up and looking to take back the spotlight.

Harumafuji – also seems to be at least 80% of himself or higher. Genki enough to trash all of his opponents thus far. Yes, fans, it’s even more awesome to watch first person when he blasts someone into the zabuton.

Kakuryu – He is all over the place, possibly not in the best of health, so this may be a tough basho for him.

Goeido – ankle rebuild is probably not enough to bring him back to fighting shape. It may be his only choice to retire.

Terunofuji – the Kaijū is having knee problems again, and it shows. This is a very sad state as I was looking forward to having him stomping around again.

Highlight Matches

Ishiura vs Ura – Ura is looking very good this tournament. Ishiura still seems to be looking for his groove. I hope we get a good match out of these two today.

Tamawashi vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi is really continuing his winning streak from the past two basho, and I would say that we are likely to avoid the “no-zeki” situation if Mitakeumi and Takayasu can keep their sumo going. Tamawashi is right behind them, but just a step down from what he needs.

Kotoshogiku vs Takayasu – Nothing will stop Takayasu. As was clear from his day 2 bout, Kotoshogiku is too banged up to even consistently make his one trick work anymore.

Yoshikaze vs Goeido – Yoshikaze is doing very well, even in his loss day 2 to Hakuho, he brought a full berserker style pounding to The Boss. Now a greatly reduced Goeido faces the same attack.

Endo vs Kakuryu – Can Endo hand Kakuryu his third straight loss? Endo is not looking that good this tournament, but the crowd loves him.

Kisenosato vs Chiyonokuni – Interesting because Chiyonokuni pulled a good win out on day 2, and Kisenosato is looking iffy.

Chiyoshoma vs Hakuho – Hakuho all the way, just question is what kind of kimarite.

Harumafuji vs Okinoumi – Probably Jason’s least favorite match up. Sadly Okinoumi is looking out of gas again, and Harumafuji seems to once again be enjoying himself.

Natsu Day 2 Highlights


Chiyonokuni Scores His First Kinboshi

Day 2 at the Kokugikan was full of drama, but most folks outside of Japan will not get to see what I think is the highlight bout of the day, Kitataiki vs Satoyama in Juryo. Both rikishi put forth a tremendous effort, and the match whipsawed back and forth. I encourage interested fans to try and find it on YouTube.

The other item that probably will not make the highlights was the Terunofuji post-bout tumble off the dohyo that landed on Kisenosato as he was sitting ring-side awaiting his bout. A huge gasp and cry rang out from the crowd as it was clear that he was not quite alright. Terunofuji even went back to see if he could help the Yokozuna up. Kisenosato went on to compete and won his bout against Okinoumi, but it was clear he was struggling.

Selected Highlights

Myogiryu defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama had a good sized cheering section today, but it did not help him overcome a very determined Myogiryu.

Tochinoshin defeats Arawashi – No really, it looks like Tochinoshin has his sumo together and is fighting well. Maybe he is far enough down the banzuke that he can manage to be effective. Either way it’s nice to see him getting wins.

Ura defeats Kagayaki – Firstly, Ura seems to have a lot of sponsors, the crowd was impressed by the number of banners that were out for him. Secondly, he really put on a great Ura style match. He was everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Kagayaki gave it his all, but with Ura bending space-time like that, he had already won next week before he won this week (thank you Schrödinger)

Ikioi defeats Shodai – Today seemed to be “nice old lady day” in the Kokugikan, there were thousands of them. And of course that means they are all Ikioi fans. Everyone knows Shodai is strong, but comes in high at the tachiai. Until he fixes that, it seems the rest of Makuuchi has his number.

Mitakeumi defeats Daieisho – Mitakeumi is looking very solid. He did not disappoint today.

Chiyoshoma defeats Kotoshogiku – I am starting to think that Kotoshogiku is facing his doom.

Takayasu defeats Goeido – 8 wins to go for the next Ozeki. Goeido’s ankle rebuild is not working out. The question is, can he mend or will he be force to retire?

Kisenosato defeats Okinoumi – Japan’s favorite Yokozuna seems to be in trouble with his body. His spirit is there, but it’s clear he is not recovered from his ruptured pectoral. He had trouble putting away Okinoumi.

Hakuho defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze made a good run of it, but I am going to guess that Hakuho’s health has returned. I would be happy to see him yusho once more.

Harumafuji defeats Endo – Not even close. The Horse bombed him off the dohyo as if he was a bag of moldy rice. Harumafuji looking good in the early going this time!

Chiyonokuni defeats Kakuryu – Chiyonokuni has really progressed in the last year, and today Kakuryu’s reactive sumo could not cope with Chiyonokuni’s well timed hikiotoshi. This is Chiyonokuni’s first gold star win.