Hatsu 2021: A Peek at Juryo

We find ourselves halfway through the first tournament of 2021, and I’m not sure anyone could have anticipated what we have seen so far. The top division alone has provided plenty of twists and turns, but be careful not to overlook Juryo over the next week. Some veterans will need a big turnaround over the next eight days to get back to Makuuchi, while a few notable rikishi look to be well on the way to a long-awaited Makuuchi return or debut. Come with me, dear reader, as I walk you through the magnificent landscape that is the Juryo division.

There are nine Juryo rikishi inactive this month, chiefly as a result of coronavirus protocols. This has opened the field up significantly as several maegashira mainstays have been eliminated from Juryo yusho contention from the jump in Enho, Ishiura, and Chiyomaru. Chiyonoo is also out, meaning he will have to wait for another chance to make his first makuuchi appearance since 2017.

As for the rikishi who are healthy, the remaining top third of juryo has had a basho to forget. Ex-komusubi Shohozan (currently perched at J4E) is showing his age at 36, managing only three wins from his first seven bouts this month. He is without a winning record since 2019, and such a result is not looking likely this January, either. It will be interesting to see if we’ve seen the last of Shohozan amongst the top flight’s rank-and-filers. Daiamami has been unable to build on the form he showed back in November when he accrued a respectable 9-6 record, so this month’s J1W will need a big second week to find himself in the first division for the eighth time come March’s basho. Churanoumi’s 4-3 record at J3W (a career high for the 27 year old from Okinawa Prefecture) might not seem incredibly impressive, but he  is riding three straight winning records, all of them 8-7. His consistency is noteworthy, and he has been slowly but steadily climbing the banzuke. He looked good on Day 7 against M17E Sadanoumi, so who knows? Perhaps another eight win effort is on the cards for Churanoumi.

The leader to this point in the basho in Juryo is J8E Tsurugisho, which is nice to see from a guy who had a cup of coffee in makuuchi from late 2019 to early 2020. Gunning for his second career Juryo yusho, Tsurugisho is undefeated so far. He hasn’t exactly been facing total scrubs either, with quality wins over the likes of Churanoumi, Nishikigi, Shohozan, and a rejuvenated Jokoryu. He has not faced the 5-2 fan-favorite Ura yet, whose return to makuuchi has been widely anticipated. Ura presents perhaps the biggest threat to Tsurugisho’s yusho hopes, as the widely publicized sekitori debut of J11W Oho has been disappointing (a mere 2-5 record so far). There is a significant portion of the division at 4-3 or 3-4, so it will be interesting to see who can separate from the pack and chase down Tsurugisho.

One last story to follow is the continuation of the Jokoryu Revenge Tour. Could he rip off a big second week and inch ever closer to his first makuuchi appearance in five years? It’s been a slow comeback for the 32 year old, but he is without a losing record since 2019. He’s got a good opportunity to build on his 4-3 start against J14E Ryuko on Day 8. Jokoryu is back, you heard it here first.

That’s all for now, catch me back here again next week with some fire post-basho Juryo analysis.

Kyushu 2019, Day 14, Bouts From The Lower Divisions

We have a short report today. Most matches in the lower divisions are Darwin matches, between rikishi hanging in the 3-3 zone, but we have a few others as well.

Continue reading

Short Jungyo News – Days 3,4

Day 3 took place at Kusatsu, Shiga prefecture. Day 4 took place at Echizen, Fukui prefecture. Here are some of the things that happened, on and off the Jungyo.

Injuries

Yeah, we couldn’t do without those, could we? Takanosho, a.k.a Onigiri-kun, injured his right knee during practice, and left for Tokyo, joining his two heya mates who are already kyujo, Takakeisho and Takagenji. The only Chiganoura sekitori to stay in the Jungyo is Takanofuji, the evil twin. I hope it’s not one of those career-shattering injuries.

And Ryuko, who was having a streak of bad luck ever since he had the privilege of being Aminishiki’s last opponent, also made his way to Tokyo with an injury. It’s not clear whether it’s a new injury or a lingering one from the basho.

Meanwhile, we are informed that neither Takakeisho nor Takayasu will be joining this Jungyo at all. Chiganoura oyakata says Takakeisho’s state is improving every day, but still, he is not practicing at the moment, taking treatments and rehab with a specialized trainer. He will apparently not be in until banzuke day, and then, says Chiganoura oyakata “We’ll see if he can wrestle sekitori”.

As for Takayasu… you can see for yourself. Torn ligament, arm in a cast. He is not supposed to be in the keiko-ba (practice ground) at all, but he is, though apparently, mostly moving a bit and bossing the youngsters around. I’m more worried about him, with his heya’s history of… Kisenosato… than I am about Takakeisho, though.

Chiyonofuji’s Death Anniversary

Three years ago today (July 31), former Great Yokozuna Chiyonofuji, AKA “The Wolf”, died age 61. Members of Kokonoe beya participating in the Jungyo, including tokoyama Tokotake (I hope I got that right) and Gyoji Konosuke, held a moment of silence in his memory:

Mitakeumi declares an Ozeki run

OK, enough sad news. Yesterday, Mitakeumi had his first on-dohyo practice.

On that occasion, he told the press he was very dissatisfied with his result in Nagoya – a mere 9 wins – and declared he was aiming for double figures and the possible start of an Ozeki run in Aki. “I keep telling myself I am the next Ozeki”. So far he is mostly getting reverse butsukari – yesterday he was pushing TV star Tochiozan, today Abi. His moshi-ai results are not exactly Ozeki-level. He had 5 bouts with Tamawashi, Ryuden et al., won 2 and lost 3. But the Jungyo is still young.

Kawaigari du jour

Yesterday Hakuho rested his inner khan, giving nobody kawaigari. But today, he was back. He told Kizakiumi he might go with him, getting a nervous laugh, but eventually decided to break the shin-Juryo pattern, and go with Tomokaze. That was a 7 minutes ordeal, as befits someone who is much more likely to actually meet Hakuho on the dohyo some time soon.

Yes, white-haired guy on the other side of the dohyo, Hakuho is actually tripping his victim as he is trying to push. Kawaigari is great fun!

As for Kizakiumi, Hakuho said “Well, the Jungyo has just begun!”

Merchandising, merchandising!

Kototsurugi (the official sumo illustrator, a former rikishi) created a design for a new line of Enho products, and had Enho promoting it for him:

Enho is depicted as Issun-Boshi in this design. Issun-Boshi, the tiny hero who leaves his parents’ house to sail the seas in a rice bowl with a chopstick for an oar, is the Japanese equivalent of Tom Thumb.

Of course, somebody else would need to empty that rice bowl for him, though, because Enho himself is famous for his dislike for cooked white rice.

I predict this line of merchandise (I have seen this shirt and a lunch bag so far) will be scooped off the shelves as soon as it hits them. Enho is the hottest thing in Sumodom at the moment.

Bouts From the Lower Divisions – Day 13

Naruto oyakata, on duty today, with his 7-0 deshi Sakurai

We’re back on track! Today, although there were few “big names” on the torikumi list, there were many important matches. All the yusho deciders in Makushita or below were played today, resulting either in yusho winners, or in playoffs to take place on Senshuraku. We’ll go through these bouts, as well as some of our usual ones of interest.

Continue reading