As reported today in the Japan Times, the Sumo Association has agreed that sumo rising star Asanoyama is to be promoted to Ozeki, sumo’s second highest rank. In comments following the completion of the Haru basho in Osaka, the shimpan committee had broadly signaled that they would vote in favor to promote Asanoyama. There will be a formal meeting held on Wednesday to compile the May banzuke, which will mark the official promotion. Following this meeting, representatives from the association will travel to the Takasago stable to announce the promotion. For fans who have seen this in the past, such as Tochinoshin and Takakeisho, the Asanoyama, Takasago oyakata and Takasago okamisan will all be in formal clothes, and will assume a saikeirei bow, and accept the promotion.
Although Asanoyama feel short of the customary 33 wins over 3 tournaments from San’yaku (he ended the run with 32), the NSK has decided that sumo needs to replenish the upper ranks, and have wisely bestowed Ozeki on this talented young man. With the only remaining Ozeki hurt, and now kadoban, and both Yokozuna nearing the point of retirement, a strong, healthy and talented younger rikishi is a perfect promotion candidate. We think that we will see at least one more top rank promotion this year, and likely at least one more next year as the old guard continues to fade, and the next generation of kanban rikishi take their places.
Asanoyama won his first yusho in may of 2019 from Maegashira 8, finishing 12-3, and picking up 2 special prizes. He also is the only rikishi to ever be awarded the Trump Cup. Since then he has picked up 2 more special prizes and a jun-yusho. He has scored double digits in 5 of the last 6 basho. Tachiai predicts that if he can stay healthy and keep his body working well, Asanoyama will make a fine Ozeki.
After two days of the unusual and the unexpected, it was time for the rikishi to nomralize their sumo, with the Shimpan and Gyoji got in on the act. Today was a parade of matta and monoii for the ages. If you like seeing guys in fancy robes telling guys to try again, or giant former rikishi in black mounting to dohyo to discuss where they are going for beer while some poor fellow in a tiny hot screening room checks the replay – well today is your day! But there was some fine and revealing sumo, as the Ozeki corps dug deep to try and rescue their tournaments, and Tomokaze took the Shinkansen back to Tokyo to get his knee worked on. On to the matches!
Wakatakakage defeats Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu looked quite wary in today’s match, initiating a couple of false starts in a vain attempt to get any advantage on Wakatakakage, who once again completely dominates Tokushoryu (now 8-1 career).
Terutsuyoshi defeats Daishoho – Terutsuyoshi begins to circle immediately into the tachiai, and gets Daishoho upright and moving back. Great tactics from Terutsuyoshi today, he used his agility for maximum benefit to pick up his second win.
Kagayaki defeats Daishomaru – Kagayaki breaks through his heavy ring rust and gets into basho form. Straight ahead, fundamentals based sumo from him today, and another Oitekaze sekitori goes to 0-3.
Nishikigi defeats Chiyomaru – Nishikigi goes in for a battle-hug against the bulbous Chiyomaru, and finds his target – Chiyomaru’s armpits. A fiendishly clever attack route that does not get enough use against Chiyomaru, who may in fact be a bit ticklish. The reaction from Chiyomaru is akin to “get me out of here”. That effort to escape leaves him defenseless, and Nishikigi invites him to leave the match.
Chiyotairyu defeats Ishiura – Ishiura is really flagging at the start of Kyushu, now 0-3 via a really weak bought with Chiyotairyu. We finally get to see Chiyotairyu execute well, focusing a rippling volley of thrusts to progressively move Ishiura back and out.
Shodai defeats Takanosho – It’s far too early for any leader board calls, but if there was Shodai is… well, 3-0. No surprise really as his rank vs his ability is a good sized mismatch. Shodai owned the early moments of this match, but Takanosho broke contact and rallied before Shodai slapped him to the clay.
Shimanoumi defeats Kotoshogiku – A part of me watches Kotoshogiku struggle daily, and wonders why he’s doing it. I am sure because sumo is his life, and he enjoys it. But he is a shadow of even himself in January. No ability to generate forward pressure, and his balance is starting to weaken. Kotoshogiku starts 0-3.
Shohozan defeats Sadanoumi – I though, “no way we are going to see another brawl on day 3”. No sir, I was wrong. Points to Sadanoumi for working hard to stay out of the slap zone, but Shohozan would not be denied. Oh, and a monoii to review the video for a hair pull after the gyoji pointed to Shohozan, but it was upheld.
Yutakayama defeats Kotoeko – Solid Yutakayama sumo again today, and he exits the dohyo 3-0 to start Kyushu. Forearm action to block any opening gambit from Kotoeko worked a charm, and Yutakayama controlled the match. Keep working, I am looking forward to your future matches against Asanoyama.
Enho defeats Onosho – Several matta here as Onosho was working from the idea that a quick blast into Enho might prevent Enho’s normal dive for the mawashi. I liked seeing the matta, as it gave some insights into Onosho’s tachiai form. Note the “crossed arm” tachiai on the second matta. Make contact, uncross the arms, and it gives you a thrust out for free. Nice. But nevermind all that, Enho goes shallow left hand grip at the tachiai and starts to unbalance Onosho, which seems to be easier than the par 3 at putt-putt mini golf.
Ryuden defeats Tsurugisho – Never let it be said that if there’s a matta streak going on, that Ryuden is not going to jump in with both feet. As expected, it completely disrupts Tsurugisho’s sumo, and when the match finally gets started his attack is vague and disorganized.
Kotoyuki defeats Tamawashi – This new, upgraded Kotoyuki is quite the package. He takes Tamawashi style sumo to the master and wins. I commend Kotoyuki’s relentless focus on thrusting against Tamawashi’s chest, keeping Tamawashi from setting his feet and starting a counter attack. Excellent oshi-sumo today from the Penguin.
Myogiryu defeats Abi – Sure, let’s have another matta. The moment of tachiai is telling, Abi is too far forward and completely off balance. Myogiryu is solid and has his hands lower, but Abi makes first contact. Abi begins his obligatory pushing attack, but with his body out of position he really has only 2 shoves in him before he loses balance and Myogiryu helps him over the bales.
Hokutofuji defeats Takarafuji – Another day of excellent sumo from Hokutofuji. He took away most of Takarafuji’s stalemate options in the first step. The Hokutofuji’s handshake tachiai did not go for Takarafuji’s non-existent neck, but rather swung in for an armpit hold that locked Takarafuji in place and lifted him up. At this point Takarafuji has very few options, but tries to respond. Hokutofuji counters by advancing strongly and delivers Takarafuji to the southwest corner of the dohyo. Hokutofuji keeps getting better.
Tochinoshin defeats Endo – Endo’s opening gambit was to dig for a right hand frontal mawashi grip, likely to evolve that into any number of pivoting attacks or a throw. But physics, thou art a capricious bitch, and that iron grip from Endo can be a fulcrum for Tochinoshin as well. Really nice sumo from Tochinoshin, sensing the risk and reversing it back on Endo. It looked messy, but was really quite an interesting match that showed just how good these two are. Tochinoshin, thankfully, picks up his first win.
Mitakeumi defeats Meisei – Back to Newtonian physics, Force = Mass x Acceleration. This match came down to the total bulk that Mitakeumi carries around every day acting as an aggressive, fleshy wall that constrained, contained and expelled Meisei, in spite of some really nice sumo from Meisei. Mitakeumi seems to have broken a blood vessel during the tachiai, and takes home the Yoshikaze ribbon for day 3.
Takayasu defeats Okinoumi – A lot of respect for Takayasu for beating Okinoumi using his right arm. It was clear that Okinoumi was focused on attacking the damaged left arm, and Takayasu used that assumption to gain advantage on the right. It was sloppy, it was disorganized, but he made it work. Oh, and another monoii to discuss if it was beer and Yakitori or whisky and Okonomiyaki after the basho for the Shimpan.
Takakeisho defeats Daieisho – Its clear that Takakeisho is really struggling, and Daieisho kept at an optimum distance where Takakeisho’s thrusting attacks had minimal effect. So the bout raged into maneuver warfare, which is not a Takakeisho strength. With Daieisho charging ahead for the win, Takakeisho tried a last-moment slap down, with the Gyoji bought, giving him the gumbai. But of course, a monoii was called because it seems that the Okonomiyaki place is only open for lunch, and there is a really nice izakaya just a block further away.
Hakuho defeats Asanoyama – Ok, now we know Hakuho’s toes are not a problem. Fast, brutal and effective today. He put Asanoyama on the deck and then added to the win with a celebratory belly-flop.
Gyoji’s Gumbai Mishap Leads To Embarrassing Monoii
Kisenosto has had a fairly boring slate of opponents to open the Hatsu basho. Each day he looks lost in thoughts up to the tachiai, where he quickly dispatches the lesser rikishi, and goes back to his deep ruminations.
It was hoped that the muscular and rowdy Shohozan would liven up his day, but for the most part it was more of the same. But then gyoji Kimura Tamajiro pointed his gumbai west at the end of the match, incorrectly indicating that Shohozan had won.
The Shimpan quickly mounted the dobro, much to the embarrassment of the referee, and the decision was corrected.
On day 5 its Kisenosato’s turn with Mitakeumi, which should be a more engaging match.
The big news of Day 8 is that Goeido’s push to win the basho, and through that achieve promotion to Yokozuna is effectively over. Moreover, it’s over because of a reversal of the gyoji’s call by the shimpan (judges) in what has to be one of the worst calls in sumo history. It’s one thing to lose a pivotal match based on poor sumo, it’s another to have a setback delivered by a questionable call. In cases like these, the shimpan should simply call for a torinaoshi – a rematch. It happened several times during Aki, and it’s not that uncommon.
In another “robbed by the shimapn” moment, Tochinoshin saw what looked like a clear victory, but Shodai won after a monoii declared a rematch. This one was (in my opinion) not even close enough to warrant a torinaoshi.
The rest of the results and commentary a little later today.