Osaka Day 4 Highlights

The basho turned ugly today. And with the empty hall echoing the pained crys of a former champion, the brutal nature of sumo was on full display – video and audio. If you are a highly empathetic person, you may want to be careful watching today’s video on YouTube. I have no idea if NHK World will edit that down, or not. I am forced to remind myself that sumo is a Japanese sport made by Japanese people for Japanese people living in Japan. So my western perspective is not the mainstream. But I have to wonder if this kind of spectacle is ok in Japanese culture. I am aware from the time I lived in Japan that what constitutes cruel or gratuitous is profoundly different between Japan and the Anglosphere. But I have a hunch that today’s final match may have crossed a line.

Highlight Matches

Azumaryu defeats Meisei – Meisei had the better position at the tachiai, but looks to have rushed ahead at Azumaryu after the two broke contact. This set him up for an easy hatakikomi, and an Azumaryu win. Meisei really struggling now at 1-3 to start Haru.

Kotonowaka defeats Tsurugisho – Nice versatility from Kotonowaka today, but we should keep in mind that Tsurugisho’s left side is mostly held together with tape and courage. After a good tachiai, Tsurugisho let Kotonowaka change his grip, and really take over the match.

Shimanoumi defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru was totally dedicated to pulling Shimanoumi down, to the point of throwing this match out the window. Shimanoumi’s no slouch, and this kind of sumo, coming from Chiyomaru, is easy to predict. Chiyomaru picks up his first loss.

Kaisei defeats Daiamami – Kaisei picks up his first win, and breaks out of the quarantine club. Most times in sumo, being enormous is not a valid sumo strategy. But Kaisei makes amble use of his enormity today to leave Daiamami no option beside a hasty retreat.

Aoiyama defeats Nishikigi – Not sure what happened to Aoiyama, but he will get a couple of basho per year where he looks like an unstoppable sumo machine. He completely dominated Nishikigi today, and my sole worry was that both of them had set up arm-breaker holds on the other. Nishikigi remains winless as Aoiyama has yet to lose a match.

Ishiura defeats Chiyotairyu – I have to say, there are days (like today) where Ishiura’s slightly bulkier frame and higher strength allows him to do small man sumo better than Enho. We are only 4 days into this basho, but I am really impressed with Ishiura’s sumo right now. He threw blisteringly fast combo attacks at Chiyotairyu, who had no chance to even respond. Sadly it looks like Chiyotairyu may have been injured in the match. The giant wheelchair makes its first appearance.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoshogiku – Ah, poor Kotoshogiku cannot generate much forward pressure at all any more against those knees. Terutsuyoshi kept Kotoshogiku from really pushing forward in any meaningful way, although Kotoshogiku’s defensive foot placement was excellent. Terutsuyoshi’s make-kai was the key to this win, and it left the former Ozeki struggling to respond.

Ikioi defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan remains in the winless self-isolation group, and I can only assume that some injury has completely robbed him of his sumo. Today’s effort was an attempt to pull Ikioi, who was quite prepare for it. Ikioi starts March with a solid 3-1 score.

Takanosho defeats Tochinoshin – Also solidly in the “injured veteran” cohort is dear former Ozeki Tochinoshin, who is visibly struggling with that right knee. Takanosho improves to 4-0 with solid, straight ahead sumo.

Kiribayama defeats Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi had the early advantage, but Kiribayama hit a very well timed shitatenage at the bales to rescue the win. Sadly, Sadanoumi, who is fighting well, drops to 1-3 now, and really needs to peel off a few more wins in the first week.

Takarafuji defeats Tamawashi – Once again Takarafuji’s defend and extend sumo pays off. Tamawashi had a solid armpit attack running, but rather than try to fight to break Tamawashi’s grip, Takarafuji decided to work with it, and put all of his focus on keeping Tamawashi turning to his right, and moving forward in reaction to Takarafuji’s retreat. It was a struggle, but Takarafuji got his opening when Tamawashi missed a step, and down to the clay he went. This match is a great example of the form, worth study.

Kagayaki defeats Shohozan – Shohozan went for a deep right hand mawashi grip at the tachiai, but missed. He was able to convert it to an inside position, and began to put the pressure on Kagayaki. But look at Kagayaki’s foot placement. His feet are wide and at a 45° angle, his hips are low and he’s ready to repulse the attack. Kagayaki engages forward engines and just pushes ahead for a win. Mr Fundamentals strikes again.

Onosho defeats Ryuden – I know Ryuden was working to stay mobile, and to encourage Onosho to over-extend, and fall on his face. But Ryuden let himself get bracketed by Onosho’s oshi attack, and provided an effective balance point / counter weight for Onosho’s forward rush. Onosho improves to 3-1.

Abi defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu just cant seem to make it out of the quarantine group, as he succumbs to an enormous load of Abi-zumo applied to his face. Remember to wash your hands, gents, at least 20 seconds, after any match with Abi.

Mitakeumi defeats Yutakayama – This match just showcased how well Mitakeumi is fighting week 1 this March. I point out week 1 because sometimes the “Original Tadpole” fades into week 2, so lets savor his excellent, heavy sumo while it lasts. Freeze frame on that tachiai if you can. Both rikishi are in excellent form. But Mitakeumi was just a half step ahead, and Yutatakayma ended up with poor foot placement. Unable to generate enough forward pressure against Mitakeumi, he was forced out.

Endo defeats Tokushoryu – We still love Tokushoryu, but he is completely outclassed at this rank. We did see another of his rescue moves at the tawara, but like the prior 3 days, it was fruitless.

Asanoyama defeats Hokutofuji – As much as I like Asanoyama, he operates in a fairly narrow range of sumo outcomes. The reason why we are talking about his as an ozeki is he is very good at that narrow range, and he is an expert at guiding a match into that narrow range where he excels. Today’s match against Hokutofuji is a first class example. Hokutofuji will look to pin his opponent with a nodowa and call the cadence for the match. His right hand failed to find its mark, and suddenly its in Asanoyama’s power range. To his credit Hokutofuji realizes this within the first 3 seconds, but his go-to move, a pull on the back of the neck, only gives further advantage to Asanoyama. Now off balance and far too high, Hokutofuji is an easy mark for Asanoyama’s sukuinage.

Shodai defeats Enho – Shodai has an excellent recipe for shutting down Enho’s sumo, and turning him into a light weight practice target. That slow, high tachiai that Shodai seems to execute instinctively is actually an excellent first line of defense against Enho, as it leaves Shodai with an easy reach to grab a deep grip on Enho’s mawashi. From there its Shodai who drops his hips, widens his stance and shuts down any chance Enho might have had to convert to a throw.

Daieisho defeats Takakeisho – Daieisho escapes the quarantine group by capitalizing on Takakeisho’s blunder of trying to pull Daieisho down moments into the fight. This move by Takakeisho was so monumentally bad, that its worth watching in slow motion on replay. With any luck we won’t see that one again this basho.

Hakuho defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi is a high-skill yotsu-zumo practicioner. Hakuho took his time and worked his way to get that left hand outside grip. Once he had a handful of black silk, it was a fast route to a win. The Boss remains at 4-0, and looked more solid today than the prior two.

Kakuryu defeats Takayasu – It was clear that Takayasu was in trouble early in this match. He put himself in a bad position with Kakuryu controlling Takayasu’s body quite effectively. But the former Ozeki’s mass and strength left the match stalemated for a time. As sometimes happen when two high-strength rikishi grapple, they loaded simultaneous throws. When this happens, it is a battle over power and body control to see who throws whom. Today, sadly, it was resolved not when Takayasu’s mighty strength overwhelmed the Yokozuna, or when Kakuryu’s superior body mechanics overcame Takayasu’s power, but when Takayasu’s knee bent outward, and the 175kg Tagonoura lead rikishi hit the clay, moaning in pain.

Osaka Day 4 Preview

Welcome to day 4, we are fast approaching the end of act 1 of the Haru basho. Act 1 is where we see who is hot, and who is not. The rikishi get to try to break free of their ring rust, and get into their competition sumo. It’s clear that there are a cadre of rikishi who are going to be doing well through the first week (8 with a 3-0 record to start day 4), and 7 who have yet to find their first win. It’s very early in the basho, so you can’t really take much away from these figures, but for fans who watched through the past two basho, there are some notable performances to point out.

First off is Mitakeumi, he is looking very solid, and this is the kind of sumo his fans expect from him. If he could fight consistently at this level, he would have made Ozeki last year. More so than most, I think he has more than a couple of injuries that bother him at times, and keep him from showing his full potential.

Asanoyama – He is on an Ozeki run right now, and I think he is fighting well. Given that there are just 2 Yokozuna and 1 Ozeki, he is going to need to beat at least one of them in order to make the case that he should join Takakeisho at sumo’s second highest rank. Good luck to him, he has massive potential, and I think he has a solid chance of making the grade at some point this. year.

Takayasu – Watching the former Ozeki continue to struggle is a real heartbreak for his fans. I am sure that much of the problem is motivation and confidence at this point. That damaged left elbow seems to be working well enough now, but he has still to score his first win of the basho.

Tokushoryu – It should not be a surprise to anyone that dear Tokushoryu is really having trouble fighting at this rank. His posting to the top division in January was a bit of a gift, and his yusho was a marvel of being able to bring some of the best sumo of his career to the dohyo every day. No one can ever take that away from him or sumo fans. But it looks like he has reverted to average, and is struggling.

What We Are Watching Day 4

Azumaryu vs Meisei – In general, these two are evenly matched. But in reality Meisei is still struggling to recover from an injury, and his sumo is all over the place. That gives a clear advantage to Azumaryu to go along with a considerable advantage in height and weight.

Tsurugisho vs Kotonowaka – As with most of Kotonowaka’s bouts in Osaka, another first time match. Tsurugisho is fighting poorly and clearly still working to overcome the rather worrisome injuries sustained in the first week of Hatsu, so I expect him to limp through this basho.

Shimanoumi vs Chiyomaru – Speed vs size today, with a healthy dose of genki-gravy, as it seems Chiyomaru has a belly full of high-energy fighting spirit right now. They are tied 3-3 in their career record, so I am looking for a good struggle today.

Kaisei vs Daiamami – Kaisei is still looking for his first win in Osaka, and the only bright spot is that Daiamami seems to really be out of sorts with his sumo right now. I suspect he finds the empty stadium a distraction, and it’s impacting his matches.

Nishikigi vs Aoiyama – Given how wells Aoiyama is fighting right now, I think this could be a brutal match. We have winless Nishikigi going up against lossless Aoiyama. Will we get to see the V-Twin attack from the man-mountain again today? He holds a narrow 5-4 career record over Nishikigi.

Chiyotairyu vs Ishiura – Another Kokonoe rikishi oozing genki (at least I hope that’s genki…), Chiyotairyu is going to face 3-0 Ishiura in a big man / small man match. I know folks get worked up about henka, but seriously, he should deploy a flying henka against Chiyotairyu’s cannon ball tachiai today. I would applaud.

Kotoshogiku vs Terutsuyoshi – Kotoshogiku is struggling due to his deteriorating body, and I think Terutsuyoshi is struggling because the setting for the matches is an empty arena, and its distracting him. The guy clearly loves the roar of the crowd, and the lack of any noise in the hall may keep him from getting into “fight mode”. The two have split their 2 prior matches, so it will come down to if Kotoshogiku can get a grip on the highly maneuverable salt master.

Ikioi vs Tochiozan – Two long serving veterans facing off on day 4, and surprisingly we have seen zero good sumo from Tochiozan this march, and his record shows it (0-4). Ikioi is on the short side of their 7-11 career record, but I favor him to take day 4 and leave Tochiozan in quarantine mode with zero wins.

Takanosho vs Tochinoshin – We saw some quality sumo from Tochinoshin on day 3, and everyone is hoping that he’s gotten the start of a recipe to actually compete in spite of that damaged knee. He goes up against 3-0 Takanosho on day 4, and Takanosho won their only prior match.

Sadanoumi vs Kiribayama – Kiribayama won their only prior match, and in spite of bringing his normal rapid attack and lighting fast reflexes to each match, Sadanoumi comes into day 4 with a disappointing 1-2 record.

Takarafuji vs Tamawashi – These two are evenly matched over their careers (11-10), and they come in with matching 1-2 records. It will be a contest between Takarafuji’s “defend and extend” sumo, and Tamawashi’s flat out offense.

Shohozan vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki’s fundamentals based sumo tends to shut down Shohozan’s energetic mobiltiy attacks, and as a result Kagayaki has a 9-5 career advantage over “Big Guns” Shohozan. I did really like that lunge at the tachiai Shohozan mixed into his day 3 win. Maybe we will se more of that!

Ryuden vs Onosho – These two are evenly matched, and the outcome seems to be driving by Ryuden attempting a hatakikomi. Thus if Onosho is off balance and forward, we can count on Ryuden to read it instantly and put him on the clay. Both rikishi come into day 4 with matching 2-1 records.

Myogiryu vs Abi – Myogiryu is looking to break out of 0-3 quarantine club, and this may represent his best chance to turn things around. He has split the prior 6 matches with Abi, but Abi’s sumo is even more disorganized and frantic than normal.

Yutakayama vs Mitakeumi – Oh yes indeed! The “Big Unit” against the “Original Tadpole”, they have only met twice before, and the split the pair. Mitakeumi has a spotless 3-0 heading into day 4 vs Yutakayama at 2-1. I expect this to be a big oshi battle with a lot of movement, and a lot of bruises.

Tokushoryu vs Endo – Tokushoryu brutal circuit of the joi-jin continues, and today Endo is going to grab the front of his mawashi and send him tumbling. Tokushoryu has not won a single match from Endo in 7 attempts. Sorry, Hatsu yusho winner, it’s more quarantine for you.

Asanoyama vs Hokutofuji – You can think of Yutakayama vs Mitakeumi as the appetizer with Asanoyama vs Hokutofuji being the main course. Asanoyama holds a 4-2 career advantage, and comes in at 3-0. But this is a new day, and Hokutofuji is a man on a mission. That mission – to lay the doom on everyone. Should be an excellent match.

Enho vs Shodai – Any why not indulge in a little pudding after your mains? Enho vs Shodai should be just the ticket. I am curious to see if Shodai has become discouraged after his day 3 loss to Mitakeumi. In the past, he would take his first loss, and it would shake his confidence, and he would struggle to return to genki. Don’t let Enho smell indecision or worry, or he will sacrifice you to the elves and sell your bones to the gnomes who live under the chikara-mizu bucket.

Takakeisho vs Daieisho – Takakeisho had a moment of worry when he went to the clay day 2 in an ill-conceived yotsu match with Okinoumi. He faces off against Daieisho, who is a member in goods standing of the 0-3 quarantine club. Takakeisho holds a 5-3 career advantage.

Hakuho vs Okinoumi – Okinoumi has beaten Hakuho precisely once. It was Aki day 1 in 2015, and he surprised The Boss with a surprisingly strong yotsu match. Hakuho of today seems to be a bit more vulnerable, but I would be utterly surprised if he gave Okinoumi a kinboshi today.

Takayasu vs Kakuryu – Yokozuna Kakuryu holds a narrow 12-10 career record over Takayasu, and his fans would dearly love to see him rally and start winning matches. A win today would in fact be a kinboshi, as the former Ozeki is now ranked at Maegashira 1. But Takayasu’s sumo seems to lack power, and I am going to look for Kakuryu to give him just enough space to make a mistake.