Bouts From the Lower Divisions – Senshuraku

Do not irritate the kaiju

Here we are, at the end of what turned out to be a very interesting basho – and not just in the top division. Princes were dethroned (Hoshoryu and Naya make-koshi), new ones are in the making (one fresh nephew, and one Hakuho replica in maezumo). Let’s see what the last day brought us.

Jonokuchi

The big story in Jonokuchi was, of course, the three-way playoff between members of the same heya, Naruto beya. Marusho, Sakurai and Motobayashi did not allow themselves to be eliminated till the very end.

A three-way playoff (“tomoe ketteisen”) works like this – no matter at what division: two rikishi mount the dohyo, say A and B, and the third, rikishi C, awaits. Suppose A wins. B then descends the dohyo and waits, and C mounts it and takes on A. Should A win again, they yusho is his. if not, C stays on the dohyo, B joins him, and this continues until one of them wins two in a row.

So theoretically, this can go on until the cows come home. In practice, there is seldom symmetry of power, and the strongest one emerges pretty quickly.

Here is today’s three-way playoff. The yobidashi here also happens to be from Naruto beya – yobidashi kenta, who is nicknamed “Maeken” by his heya-mates. We start with Marusho on the right, Sakurai on the left, and Motobayashi waiting.

Well, Sakurai’s and Motobayashi’s university sumo experience tells. Marusho is merely a graduate of a good high-school sumo program. Sakurai wins the first bout, Motobayashi replaces Marusho and beats Sakurai, and then beats Marusho for the yusho. Motobayashi is a graduate of Kinki University, which produced many top-division wrestlers. In his school days he was considered Takakeisho’s rival, but he opted to continue his education when the future Ozeki left school for Takanohana beya.

Jonidan

Though the yusho has already been decided in Jonidan (Tokisakae), there were still rikishi who did not complete the seven matches. First, let’s take a look at long-legged Kitanowaka, the Hakkaku beya charmer, facing Tenei from Takadagawa beya. Both are 4-2, Kitanowaka is on the left.

Ah, we have ourselves a crane operator here. Kitanowaka finishes 5-2, and will get a decent bump up the ranks come Aki.

Next, we keep our watch out for Roman, the crew-cut man from Tatsunami beya. He is coming up against Isamufuji from Isegahama beya, and they are both 5-1. Roman is on the right:

This develops into a kind of dance in which both wrestlers try to keep their opponents from reaching the mawashi or any other hand hold. Eventually Roman catches an arm and pulls. He is now 6-1, and will get an even nicer bump up the ranks.

Finally, one we haven’t covered in these posts, but we all know and love. Well, at least, those of us who have been around before Isegahama beya lost its Yokozuna, and with him, its hold on the yumitori position.

I’m speaking of Satonofuji, of course. He is deeply make-koshi as he comes into this day, with 1-5, facing Shiraseyama from Kise beya with the same miserable result. One wonders why the 42 years old doesn’t call it quits yet. I’m guessing he has a couple of goals, yet. One is probably doing the yumi-tori shiki in Aminishiki’s retirement ceremony. The other may be that he is waiting to braid the last rope for his oyakata – the red one for his 60th birthday, to be used in the “kanreki dohyo-iri” performed by former yokozuna on that occasion.

Be that as it may, he has to go up the dohyo until then and do sumo, and here he is, facing us, while Shiraseyama is with his back to us.

It’s a bit of a slippiotoshi, one has to admit, but at least Satonofuji finishes senshuraku with a sweet taste.

Sandanme

In Sandanme we have yet another playoff, and it, too, is a playoff within the same heya – Asatenmai, the 38 years old from Takasago beya, faces Terasawa, the 24 years old who is just making his first steps in the sumo world. This is just a plain, single-bout playoff. Asatenmai on the right.

Hmm. I get a different atmosphere here than the amicable competition that ruled the Naruto three-way-playoff. Terasawa sends his ani-deshi (big-brother-heya-mate, similar to a sempai) off the dohyo and doesn’t even look back as he makes his way to his own starting point. Bad blood? Low-ranked rikishi operate in a seniority system, where the older ani-deshi boss them around.

In any case, Terasawa wins the Sandanme yusho.

Makushita

We start Makushita with the former Ozeki, Terunofuji, having his last bout. His opponent is one we have also been following – Natsu basho’s Sandanme yusho winner, Shiraishi. I have not been happy about Shiraishi’s bouts, mostly because of his henka or half-henka in the first ones. And I’m even less happy about this one, although he makes it pretty clear he is not going for a henka today.

Seriously, what is this? I get that he has some injury in the shoulder and the arm. But what is this? He starts the bout two thirds of the way from the shikiri-sen to the tawara. He tries to keep himself so far away from Terunofuji that his own tsuppari almost doesn’t hit him. This looks more like that Laurel and Hardy Battle of the Century. Shiraishi should be thankful he belongs to Tamanoi beya rather than Futagoyama, or he would have his ass kicked all over Twitter.

Next we have ourselves an Onami – the eldest one, in fact, Wakatakamoto. He faces Tochimaru from Kasugano beya, and they are both comfortably kachi-koshi, 4-2, hoping to increase their fortunes and banzuke chances. Wakatakamoto is on the left:

Alas, the eldest Onami drops this one, and once again fails to catch up with his little brothers.

Going up the Makushita banzuke, we have Seiro facing Kototebakari. Both are kachi-koshi, 4-2, and Seiro get a salary next basho. Kototebakari, again, is trying to win an extra match to improve his own position next basho. Seiro is on the left, Kototebakari on the right.

Seiro makes short work of the Sadogatake man, who usually shows a bit more fighting spirit than that. I guess kachi-koshi will do that to you. Seiro is 5-2, Kototebakari 4-3.

Juryo

At the very bottom of Juryo, we have another Onami brother, Wakamotoharu, making a visit that may open the door for him to return to the salaried ranks. He is 5-1, and at Ms5w, 6-1 can certainly propel him into Juryo. However, he is facing Kotonowaka, who is 7-7, and needs this win to avoid dropping back into Makushita, disappointing his father, and bringing shame to the shikona he inherited from him.

Wakamotoharu on the right, Kotonowaka on the left:

We see glimpses here of the old Kotokamatani, in what looks like a typical top-Makushita brawl more than a Juryo match. Kotonowaka saves himself from demotion. He may not advance much, but he stays in the silk zone, and gets to keep his huuuuge oicho.

I shall finish this report, showing you that Ishiura can still do sumo that’s more easy on the eyes than his frequent henka. The foe is Mitoryu from Nishikido beya, and I think I don’t need to tell you which is which.

Round and round and round you go, Mitoryu. Ishiura will probably get back into Makuuchi, qualifying for Hakuho’s dohyo-iri again. The big question, of course, is whethe Hakuho himself will qualify for it come Aki.

Bouts From the Lower Divisions – Day 9

Yokozuna-level mind games, Hoshoryu

We start our coverage at the most predictable point of the torikumi – our friend Hattorizakura. Today he faced one of the lesser Narutos, Yamane with his back to us, who was 1-3. Hattorizakura himself was 0-4.

The result was about as unpredictable as a fusensho. Yamane improves to 2-3.

Jonidan

Our friend Homarefuji had a meeting with Sumo’s main Elvis figure – Mutsukaze, the man with the great mutton chops, but also a great singing voice. The footage starts mid-bout, with Homarefuji on the left holding on to Mutsukaze on the right.

Homarefuji again engages in a yotsu battle, and it seems also a stamina battle, as we can hear the huffing and puffing. The Isegahama man improves to 5-0, and remains in contention for the Jonidan yusho.

Sandanme

Wakaichiro mounted the dohyo to face Azumasho from Tamanoi beya. Both 2-2. Wakaichiro attacks from the left, Azumasho from the right.

It didn’t go well for the young Texan, who got caught in a hold he doesn’t know how to solve. Note how he picks up and re-arranges the shimpan’s sandals, which he probably disarranged in his fall, on his way back up on the dohyo. Ever a polite boy.

The shimpan, by the way, have two pairs of sandals with them. One pair is used for getting in and out of the arena, and one is used for mounting the dohyo in case of a monoii discussion.

Another match of interest today took place between Dairaido from Takadagawa beya, and Amakaze, yet another one of the recoverers we follow. Dairaido is an interesting fella, he is 39 years old, and has an experience of six basho in Juryo, back in 2006. 13 years after tasting the taste of heaven, he is still toiling in the lower divisions.

Here Amakaze is on the left, and Dairaido on the right:

For a 39 years old who is lighter and smaller than Amakaze, Dairaido is full of genki. Amakaze makes a grave mistake in the middle, and is late to get his bearings before Dairaido leads him out. Amakaze now 3-2. He will probably get his kachi-koshi, but his way back up to glory is going to be slow.

Makushita

Makushita is where it’s at this basho. We start at the bottom with the former Ozeki, Terunofuji, who wants to get his kachi-koshi today. He is on the right, while Keitenkai – that’s the guy who beat Roga on day 1 – attacks from the left.

The former Ozeki has a problem getting any mawashi grip with his left hand, due to the dislocated finger. In addition, Keitenkai gets inside low – trying something of a submarine attack, I’d assume. But that’s about it from him. He is out of his league, and Terunofuji executes a kotenage. Keitenkai ends up with a bonus: a face full of gift-wrapped Ozeki junk.

Terunofuji is kachi-koshi, 4-1, and will hope to end 6-1.

Next, all Onami brothers were in action today, and the first we run into is Wakatakamoto, the eldest brother. He is on the left, facing Sagatsukasa from the little-known Irumagawa beya, on the right. Both are 3-1.

Sagatsukasa is 37 years old. Yet another odd case of someone who had a sekitori career – a real one, 22 basho in Juryo including yusho, 6 in Makuuchi. And yet he chooses not to retire but to continue in the lower division for years.

But all that experience tells. Sagatsukasa tries all sorts of wiles, and the first bout ends in a monoii and a torinaoushi.

In the Torinaoshi, it seems Wakatakamoto is trying a henka. This gets Sagatsukasa a bit pissed off, I believe, and he sets a beautiful trip, for the “chongake” kimarite.

Next, our buddies Akua and Midorifuji set out to try and maintain their perfect records. Aqua is on the left, and Midorifuji on the right, in this footage from SumoSoul’s Twitter:

The Deputy Pixie doesn’t manage to get anything going, really, and gets a hatakikomi, and a send off away from the Makushita yusho. Akua improves to 5-0.

Naya, who hurt his foot yesterday, mounts the dohyo today with some serious taping on his ankle. on the left, facing Churanoumi on the right, both are 1-3 and have “no tomorrow” – the loser is make-koshi.

Naya executes what seems like his best sumo this basho, but ends it limping heavily. He evades the make-koshi for now, but Churanoumi is not going back to Juryo this time around.

Our next Onami brother, Wakamotoharu, faces Seiro, the Shikoroyama wolf. Both are 3-1, looking for their kachi-koshi. Seiro on the left, Wakamotoharu on the right.

Haru nearly finds himself outside, when he realizes Seiro is out of balance, and quickly reverses his fortunes. Kachi koshi for the middle Onami. Wakatakakage also lost today, by the way, so Wakamotoharu was the only happy Onami on the way home.

Finally, the highlight of the day, the bout between Chiyootori, yet another hugely experienced former sekitori, and 20 year old Hoshoryu. Though I’m sure it’s easy to tell apart Chiyomaru’s brother from the slim Hoshoryu, I’ll still mention that Chiyootori is on the left and Hoshoryu on the right.

I recommend that you do not skip directly to the tachiai in this footage, but take a look at the pre-game. Chiyootori is slapping his belly emitting a “whoosh” from his lips as he does. Hoshoryu, on the other hand, concentrate on staring so hard you think either his eyes or his lips might fall off. He is giving Chiyootori the full “Asashoryu Face” treatment. This continues well after the gyoji reverses his gunbai – something which Hakuho got reprimanded for only a few days ago.

But then, Hoshoryu is not (yet) a Yokozuna.

Hustle, hustle, uwatedashinage. Hoshoryu improves to 3-2. I’m not sure whether a 4-3 will be enough for him to advance – it depends on the number of men dropping from Juryo. He will need that number to be at least three, or either of the Ms1 rikishi to have a make-koshi – and currently only Aminishiki is certain to drop, and Seiro and Irodori are 3-2.

Of course, first he needs that fourth win.

Bouts from the lower divisions – Day 3

Meet Hokutenkai, Takanoiwa’s nephew

I’d like to start today with some maezumo. Nine wrestlers are participating in maezumo this basho. Of them, five are formerly ranked rikishi who are coming back from banzuke-gai status, which is where you get if you don’t show up to any match while ranked in Jonokuchi. The other four are new ones – three who passed the new recruit health checkup prior to this basho, and one who passed it in the previous basho, but had to wait for his visa to be approved.

This latter one is Takanoiwa’s nephew, Sukhbat, who graduated from the famous Saitama Sakae high school, and really should have belonged to the Hoshoryu/Naya generation. However, he was looking for a heya at the height of the Harumafuji scandal, in 2018, and the well-oiled Mongolian placement machine was not willing to work for him. That is, until Harumafuji and Takanoiwa reconciled. You can read all about him finding his way into the sumo world in our coverage of Takanoiwa’s danpatsu-shiki.

He now has a new shikona – Hokutenkai, “Heavenly Sea Of the North” – which is a variation on the name of a former Ozeki that he looked up to: Hokutenyu. It is a bit surprising that a young Mongolian rikishi would look up to an Ozeki who was active in the ’80s, but there you go.

After all this time, the man was starved for the dohyo. And you can see that very well in today’s maezumo bout.

Another interesting figure in maezumo is Hakuho’s latest recruit, Hasegawa. Half Japanese, half Mongolian, he grew up in Japan, but then moved to Ulaanbaatar, where he attended a Japanese school and played basketball.

Senho – the latest in Hakuho’s growing list of uchi-deshi

This 16 years old, unlike Hakuho’s other recruits, doesn’t have much of a sumo experience. He did not belong to any sumo dojo as a kid, but he did participate in a major competition during his primary school days, where he drew the attention of one of Hakuho’s contacts, who tipped the Yokozuna. Tall, lanky, 16 year-old with a background more in basketball than in sumo. Hmm… whom does that remind you of?

That lack of experience did show in his maezumo bout.

The other two new faces in maezumo are Hisasue, who joins Kokonoe beya, and the gigantic Konno, who joins the fast-growing Naruto beya.

Here is a video showing first the preparations of all the participants, and then the bouts themselves, starting with Senho (left) vs. Bariki (right), then Hisasue (left) vs Konno (right), then finally, poor Urutora from Shikihide beya (left) vs. Hokutenkai (right):

Senho (meaning “A thousand pengs”, or “A thousand Phoenixes”) seems to have spent a little bit too much time around Ishiura. Yeah, I know, no sumo experience, shouldn’t expect much at this stage. Hokutenkai, on the other hand, is starved for sumo, full of self-confidence, and I wouldn’t want to be standing on the dohyo opposite him right now.

Jonokuchi

Resuming our regular programming, the sky almost fell today. Take a look at what happened in the Hattorizakura (right) vs. Yamamoto (left) bout:

A monoii. An actual monoii. And Hattorizakura seemed to be able to carry a bout of sumo against somebody twice his size. Wait, what was that shadow passing my window? Oh, a flying pig.

Jonidan

Continuing the adventure of the closely-shorn Roman from Tatsunami beya, here we have him vs. Kotokogyoku (let’s see you pronounce that three times in a row). Sadogatake man on the left, crew-cut Roman on the right:

Whoa. “Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou”, I said, “art sure no craven”. At this rate Roman is a serious contender for the Jonidan yusho. I wonder how odd it will look to TV viewers if he does. BTW, Roman is not the only shorn rikishi in Tatsunami beya. There is another one, Yukiamami, who was also absent through Natsu, and is now back in Jonokuchi. Twitter is full of question marks about these two.

Sandanme

We continue to watch Amakaze on his trail back to fame and his beloved kesho-mawashi. Today he faces Baraki (left) who is one of Shikihide beya’s top ranking men, and famous for a stint in Shokkiri.

Amakaze nearly flattens the homunculus.

Next up is American-born Musashikuni (left) facing Kaizen from Asakayama beya (right).

Sorry it’s just a half-video. In any case, Kuni recovers from his initial loss, and is now 1:1.

A bit late, but I got Wakaichiro! So here he is. Kamitani from Michinoku beya attacks from the left, Wakaichiro from the right:

Frustrating misstep there for the young Texan. We hope he will bounce back. At least he is genki enough to lightly jump back up the dohyo. He is now 1:1.

Makushita

We continue to follow Genki, the Former Turtle, here on the left, facing Kaito from Asakayama beya (right). They start this match with 1-0 each.

This time Genki is not as overwhelming as he was on day 1. He is now 1-1.

Aoi, who almost had an arm torn off by former kaiju Terunofuji yesterday, faced a slightly less fearful rival today – the Tokitsukaze Mongolian, Yoshoyama. Aoi on the left, Yoshoyama on the right:

Yoshoyama recovers from his first defeat for a 1-1, while Aoi probably curses his luck for having faced him with two consecutive Mongolians.

Recovering Hakuyozan (left) faces Nogami from Oguruma (right) for what should have been a relatively easy match for the more experienced recovering former sekitori.

However, it is Nogami who prevails, and you can see the frustration on Hakuyozan’s face, as he is now 1-1, and at Ms10, this one loss may well have blocked him from a quick return to his sekitori status.

Eldest Onami brother Wakatakamoto faced Terao from Shikoroyama beya today. Waka on the left, Terao The Third on the right:

This is one of those uncontrolled spirals of death kind of pushes, where the pusher cannot stop himself and just hopes he will fall after his rival is out. Terao doesn’t have the presence of mind to sidestep, and so Wakatakamoto is now 2-0.

Next, what is going on with our favorite Russian/Mongolian wolf, Roga? Can he recover from that initial blow? Here on the right, he faces Fujita, of Shikoroyama beya, on the left.

Yes, much better, Roga. Yorikiri. And that length of hair should put him in a chon-mage already.

Finally, we have our highlight bout, in which Hoshoryu gets to meet Seiro, a Mongolian with real sekitori experience and even a couple of visits to Makuuchi. Hoshoryu on the far side, Seiro with his backside to us:

Seiro doesn’t allow Hoshoryu to fully engage with him, using a technique similar to Ryuden’s to keep him away. Eventually Hoshoryu loses his footing, and looks pretty sour. It’s 1-1 to the famous nephew, and he can only afford one additional loss if he wants to be a sekitori by Aki.

Ones To Watch – Nagoya Day 3

Welcome to an abbreviated “Ones to Watch”, has Herouth has done her marvelous job of providing sumo fans with a feast of video goodies from the lower divisions. Day 3 features bounts from Wakaichiro, Amakaze, Musashikuni and Hoshoryu.

Hoshoryu vs Seiro – Hoshoryu certainly punched his card for “Serious Contender” on day 2, and now he faces the highest ranked rikishi in Makshita: Former Makuuchi rikishi – Seiro. As both me have 1 wins, this will help form the field of promotion contenders for September. Time to shine little dragon!

Wakatakamoto vs Terao – Another 1-0 bracket match, this rematch of an Osaka 2017 bout will give Wakatakamoto a chance to even the score.

Roga vs Fujita – Roga got a close look at the Nagoya clay in his day 2 loss, and looked quite out-classed. This was always a possibility once he crossed into Makushita, but I expect he will bounce back and fight hard for 4 wins.

Musashikuni vs Kaizen – I don’t know what kind of physical problems Musashikuni is still nursing, but he continues to struggle, even at a greatly reduced rank. His fans can only hope he can pull it together.

Amakaze vs Baraki – I continue to think that Amakaze is probably under-ranked right now, so I expect him to dominate the majority of his matches. Baraki spent two tournaments in Makushita, and has been largely in Sandanme for his 40 basho career.

Wakaichiro vs Kamitani – This will be an interesting match for Wakaichiro. Kamitani is a 17 year old rikishi in his 9th tournament, and he has had a largely upward path leading to this, his first ever Sandanme posting.