Natsu Day 9 Preview

As lksumo has pointed out, the day 8 results have thrown what had been a fairly orderly basho into chaos. I love it. In addition to defeats of both yusho race leaders, we seem to have a possible re-kyujo of shin-ozeki Takakeisho. I can almost guarantee that the YDC is going to complain about it should he re-kyujo. To some extent, they have a point. Stay off the dohyo unless you are fit to compete. I give Takakeisho a lot of latitude myself, as he is young and has a foreshortened sense of the long road that could be / should be ahead of him. Should he decide he is out for good, Tochinoshin would get the fusen-sho white star, and his kachi-koshi by default win.

There are 3 leaders now in the Makuuchi yusho arasoi, each one of them is far from invincible, and everyone knows that. This makes the week 2 matches against the Ozeki and Yokozuna that much more meaningful, as any of them, or all of them, could be taken down again. For Goeido and Takayasu, they are still walking a narrow path to their 8, but each needs just 3 more wins to avoid kadoban. For Takayasu, I forsee trouble on day 9.

Natsu Leaderboard

Are you ready for this? Because this is how nuts it became.

Leaders: Kakuryu, Tochinoshin, Asanoyama
Chaser: Abi, Ryuden, Enho, Kotoeko
Hunt Group: Goeido, Takayasu, Mitakeumi, Shodai, Shohozan, Tochiozan, Daishoho

7 Matches Remain

The first reader who dares to comment “Shodai Yusho!” Is going to be fined 1000 Genki points.

What We Are Watching Day 9

Toyonoshima vs Enho – Sumo fans can’t get enough Enho, myself included. Veteran Toyonoshima has yet to beat him, so we may see more pixie magic on Monday.

Chiyomaru vs Terutsuyoshi – Enho’s day 8 match makes a good template for a small guy to tie someone like Chiyomaru in knots, so let’s see if Terutsuyoshi can enact a similar battle plan. Just don’t slow down, don’t stand still and never be in any one spot for more than 1 second.

Ishiura vs Yago – Ishiura is trying to copy some of Enho’s fire, but he’s still a work in progress. Yago is a giant who packs a lot of power but is not capable of rapid lateral motion. He’s leagues better than Chiyomaru, but it should be possible to keep Yago from getting too stable on his feet, and use that to divert his own energy into Ishiura’s offensive moves.

Kotoeko vs Tochiozan – I am really looking forward to this match, as they are basically the same guy (much like Ikioi and Ryuden) about 5 years apart. That 5 year gap leaves Kotoeko employing a lot of frantic energy, and Tochiozan employing a lot of guile and cunning. Kotoeko won their only prior meeting.

Shodai vs Kagayaki – Whatever is plaguing Kagayaki is not easing up, and if Shodai can continue to put that much energy into his post-tachiai sumo, it’s going to be a fun match. I am sure Kagayaki will consult his mental catalog of great sumo, and then Shodai will unleash some sort of strong random stuff and leave Mr Fundamentals stumped. Shodai leads their career series 3-1.

Onosho vs Yoshikaze – I can only imagine that Onosho re-watched that match with Meisei in slow motion a few dozen times, each time wondering what he could have done differently to prevent that whole attack from blowing up in his face. Shake it off Jr Tadpole! You have to face a faltering Yoshikaze on day 9. This match makes me sad on many levels.

Takarafuji vs Nishikigi – Let me guess, Nishikigi lets Takarafuji get morozashi, then pins his arms and uses that to push Takarafuji around like a hand truck.

Asanoyama vs Ryuden – Yusho co-leader Asanoyama faces shin-Ikioi in the first match of the second half. Asanoyama has lost the last 5 consecutive matches to Ryuden. But I don’t think I have seen Asanoyama in better form, ever. These guys are going to be joi-jin mainstays next year, I would guess. So let’s hope this turns into a great sumo rivalry.

Tamawashi vs Daieisho – After putting dirt on the lone surviving Yokozuna, it’s time for Tamawashi to patrol the upper Maegashira ranks. He holds a 5-2 advantage over Daieisho, so I am starting to wonder if we might see Tamawashi kachi-koshi and possibly a candidate for san’yaku yet again.

Endo vs Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu is in a pretty deep hole, and I want him to rally starting day 9 and press hard. Endo can execute amazing technical sumo as we saw on day 8, but sometimes there is no remedy for 400 pounds of high-energy rikishi on a collision course.

Hokutofuji vs Mitakeumi – In spite of what you may assume, they are fairly evenly matched with a 5-4 career advantage for Mitakeumi. Hokutofuji is still a bit hit-or-miss with his sumo, so I am going to assume that if the gyoji can keep out of the way, we will see Mitakeumi inch closer to his 8th.

Aoiyama vs Kotoshogiku – Both of these men are in a deep hole in terms of win/loss, but frankly I would rather see Kotoshogiku make it to kachi-koshi right now. Give the old guy one more run at the top as a way to say thank you for being one of the best in a generation.

Goeido vs Abi – I am going to state that this match is going to be over quickly. If Goeido can get a proper launch off, it’s going to be unlikely for Abi to stop his forward pressure. This is why I think we will see at least one matta, to help dither Goeido’s timing.

Takakeisho vs Tochinoshin – I am going to assume this one won’t happen. The story is all over the Japanese press that Takakeisho will return to kyujo status, but no official word from the NHK as of right now. But if it does happen, I think we are going to see Tochinoshin struggle to land a grip, and Takakeisho possibly blow out his knee, joining Ura on the “could have been” list of sumo. Update: NHK has announced the withdrawal. -lksumo https://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20190520/k10011922041000.html

Myogiryu vs Takayasu – You might think “Maegashira 5 vs Ozeki, this is a gimme”. Well, Takayasu has a 7-11 Myogiryu deficit. Granted, all of their recent meetings have been all Takayasu, but we know for certain that Myogiryu knows how to beat him. Takayasu needs 3 more to pick up his kachi-koshi.

Okinoumi vs Kakuryu – Yokozuna Kakuryu’s day 8 loss has punctured the illusion of superior invincibility that tends to surround sumo’s Yokozuna. With that mental barrier broken (both in Kakuryu’s mind and the mind of the rest of his opponents), the chances of his tasting clay again have gone up. Okinoumi is only in fair condition this basho, so I am not looking for him to produce an upset on day 9.

Jungyo Newsreel – Day 4

🌐 Location: Kakogawa, Hyogo prefecture

The Jungyo takes us to the first of two locations in Hyogo prefecture. And Hyogo prefecture means Takakeisho is king.

Takakeisho interacting with the media

Of course, Takakeisho is not the only Hyogo man in the Jungyo. Myogiryu is also addressed by the media. Terutsuyoshi is also among the prefecture’s points of pride, but perhaps because of his make-koshi in the Haru basho, he seems to be less sought after. He gets a bit of attention in the opening part of the event – the handshake duty.

Terutsuyoshi and Enho, together again

As 4500 spectators slowly pour into the venue, sekitori start to practice here and there. Though it seems they are mostly busy chatting, like this pair of veterans:

“I remember, when I was your age, Ozeki-boy…”

or this Georgian conference:

By the way, Tochinoshin’s backside is still in ugly condition. For obvious reasons, I am not sharing the image that floated in my search results. It’s better than Ikioi’s legs, but still…

As Hakuho arrives at the Dohyo, the sekitori all form a line to greet him. Well, greet him through his chat with Yoshikaze. Enho wants to give his boss a respectful ladle of water, but has to wait:

…and wait…

Until he finally gets the Yokozuna’s attention.

All three people in this frame are still not doing any bouts (or any on-dohyo training, as far as I could gather). Hakuho concentrates on lower-body training and stretching. He is going to be the world’s most flexible Yokozuna come Natsu.

Some practice did take place, though. Here is Tochiozan instructing a low-ranker on how to keep his ass good and low:

Tochinoshin eventually stopped chewing the fat with Gagamaru and gave some butsukari to Wakamotoharu, Daiseido and Shimanoumi:

Wakamotoharu also got the butsukari from Kakuryu – quite an honor when one is not even a local boy.

Chiyomaru had some practice with Daiseido, then Gagamaru:

Time for lunch, and then Juryo dohyo-iri. But wait… who is going to do all the nipple tweaking, if Tamawashi is all the way up in Makuuchi, and not part of this dohyo-iri?

Arawashi looks way too happy about this

Why, it’s Sokokurai, who takes this serious duty upon himself. Somebody has to!

I don’t have any Juryo bouts to show. But here is a nice photo of little brother Tobizaru handing the chikara-mizu to big brother Hidenoumi.

Alas, this means Aminishiki lost his bout with Tobizaru this day.

Near the end of the Juryo bouts, the rope-tying demonstration takes place. On rope duty: Hakuho.

And you can see his man Kasugaryu tying up the knot wearing his own oicho-mage (for the yumi-tori shiki that will come later in the day).

So it’s time for the Makuuchi dohyo-iri soon. And of course, everybody in the venue wants a piece of Takakeisho. So Daieisho decides to do a remake of “The Bodyguard”.

And I….. will always love you… 🎵🎶

What, isn’t Takakeisho the spitting image of Whitney Houston? Japanese Twitter is calling these two “A couple”.

Here is Kakuryu’s dohyo-iri for you:

For some reason, what drew my attention in this dohyo-iri is the gyoji, Kimura Konosuke’s outfit. Specifically, the pattern on it, spelling out “Kitanofuji” – though the former Yokozuna has been out of the sumo world for many years now.

Time for the bouts, and as usual, Abi’s clock says “10 minutes to six”:

Even the diagonal column behind him gasps in awe.

I only have one bout for you: Tochinoshin vs., you guessed it, Takakeisho:

I love the fact that there are kids there who are shouting “Tochinoshin!”.

Interesting approach by Takakeisho, though. Trying for a Tottari, then finally winning by yori-kiri.

So it’s time for our pin-up corner, and today we have the fine-looking Wakatakakage.

Honorable mention goes to Abi:

Nice portrait!

Haru Day 15 Highlights

The Haru basho is a wrap! Day 15 closed out the tournament with some decent matches, and a couple of worrisome developments. While there will be plenty of talk about promotions and demotions in the days to come, the real story to me is just how much of the Makuuchi division was make-koshi this time (25). Sumo is in fact a zero-sum sport, but to see so many rikishi underwater at once is quite the throwback to an earlier time, when the giants of sumo were all healthy and active.

Now that the spoiler buffer is out of the way, we bring you the news. Yokozuna Hakuho took the cup for his 42nd yusho, his 15th zensho yusho. In the process he injured his right arm, enough that he was not able to move it following his match with Kakuryu. How bad is it? I would say bad enough. From a wild guess, it could be a pectoral injury or a bicep injury. Hopefully unlike Kisenosato he will seek immediate attention. We may not see “The Boss” for a while.

Takakeisho was able to win against struggling Ozeki Tochinoshin, to pick up his 10th win. Ounomatsu Oyakata and Hakkaku Rijicho have confirmed that Takakeisho will be promoted to Ozeki this week, and I think the sumo world is quite happy about that. The stone-faced Takakeisho, who it seems had kept his emotions in check for this whole time, finally realized that he had reached a significant goal, and succumbed to the moment.

Tochinoshin will be demoted for May to a Sekiwake rank, or in this special case, we call it Ozekiwake. With 10 wins he will regain his Ozeki rank. We know that a healthy Tochinoshin can clear 10 wins, especially if Hakuho and some of the others are in less than stellar condition. But the question comes down to Tochinoshin’s injuries, and how much they limit him. Sadly, Tachiai took a look at Tochinoshin’s history when he was on the cusp of promotion, and forecasted this scenario with fairly good accuracy.

Highlight Matches

Shohozan defeats Chiyoshoma – I think Shohozan was certain that Chiyoshoma was going for a henka, and so Shohozan launched early (a clear matta) but took a moment to slap Chiyoshoma and launch him into the east side zabuton. When the match started, Chiyoshoma tried a leg sweep, but Shohozan was unphased. He cased Chiyoshoma down and personally welcomed him to make-koshi, and Juryo.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Ikioi – Ikioi had no business being on the dohyo after day 5, yet here he is doing “dead man sumo”. The good news is that maybe, just maybe, Terutsuyoshi with 6 wins can stay in Makuuchi. This is in part due to the wholesale make-koshi outbreak in the bottom ranks. 6-9 from Maegashira 14 should normally punt you back to the 2nd division, but there are so many bad records at lower ranks ahead of him, it’s possible that he stays.

Ryuden defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku’s special prize was contingent on a day 15 win, and he could not overpower Ryuden, who picked up win #10 to finish Haru with double digits. Sometime around day 12, Kotoshogiku’s stamina just seemed to fade out. 11 wins is his best finish since his yusho in 2016, and it was a great basho for both of these rikishi.

Kotoeko defeats Asanoyama – Asanoyama loses the last 5 in a row to end with a make-koshi. Kind of an epic collapse on his part – injury? stamina? Bad batch of takoyaki?

Aoiyama defeats Tomokaze – The winner of this match took home the kanto-sho / fighting spirit prize. Tomokaze did well in his first top division basho, but Aoiyama was completely dialed into his sumo this March, Tomokaze attempted a pull down early, but Aoiyama rallied and showed Tomokaze what that salt basket looks like… up close.

Abi defeats Kagayaki – Abi gets win #8 on the final day, and we can assume that Abi-zumo will not evolve for a while longer.

Okinoumi defeats Yoshikaze – As expected, Okinoumi was able to pick up his kachi-koshi in his match against Yoshikaze today. Yoshikaze was very low at the tachiai, and Okinoumi did not give him a second chance.

Chiyotairyu defeats Myogiryu – Some different sumo from Chiyotairyu today, and his choice of mawashi sumo at the open nearly cost him the match, but with his feet sliding back toward the bales, he changed course and poured on the oshi-yaki, which Myogiryu could not answer. Chiyotairyu gets his kachi-koshi.

Ichinojo defeats Daieisho – 14 wins in frequently more than sufficient to take a yusho, but for Ichinojo it was only good to take him to runner-up against a Hakuho zensho campaign. His sumo this basho has been formulaic, but oh so effective. Can he continue to make it work for him? Next chapter is written in May. This is his second Jun-Yusho, with his first being his 2014 debut tournament where he turned in an impressive 13-2. We expect him to join Tochinoshin at Sekiwake for May.

Mitakeumi defeats Nishikigi – Mitakeumi finishes with a minimal, 7 loss, make-koshi. He has a number of issues to address including his knee injury and his difficulty in carrying the “big” matches. Interestingly enough, its possible both both Komusubi (Hokutofuji also finished 7-8) may have an odd demotion path, as there are not that many rikishi who are making the case for joining the san’yaku.

Shodai defeats Tamawashi – Both men end the tournament with 5-10 records, and the Shodai’s rally is just as big a story as Tamawashi’s collapse. I do tend to rip on Shodai, mostly because he has really enormous potential that he just can’t seem to capitalize. Perhaps his rally in Osaka will give him new confidence that will show itself in Tokyo this May.

Takakeisho defeats Tochinoshin – This match was won at the tachiai. Takakeisho delivered his first push, inside, at the moment of contact. You can see Tochinoshin impotently reach for that left hand mawashi purchase as his torso is propelled to the rear by the force of Takakeisho’s impact. Unable to deliver offense, he finds himself immediately under “wave action” attack. Tochinoshin allowed Takakeisho to dictate the form of the match, and lost. Takakeisho takes his Ozeki rank, and picks up the Gino-sho technique award. At just a pip over 22 years of age, we are looking at the future of sumo in this young man. His sumo is fairly one dimensional, and that is his biggest risk to maintaining the Ozeki rank. But we congratulate Takakeisho for persistence, hard work, and the courage to get it done.

Goeido defeats Takayasu – Some of the best Goeido sumo since Aki 2016, where he went undefeated and took the cup. When Goeido is healthy and focused, like he was in Osaka, he is a great example of a rikishi with absolute focus on offense. Again Takayasu went for the shoulder blast at the tachiai, so that is 2 attempts, 2 losses. I continue to think Takayasu is in a transitional state, and we are going to possibly see it result in a step change to his sumo that could see him bid for higher rank.

Hakuho defeats Kakuryu – Exceptional sumo from both men, this is the kind of match you would expect from two Yokozuna, one of them being the best that has stepped on clay in my lifetime. Three times Kakuryu forced an opening that gave him a shot to win, and three times Hakuho shut him down. The big worry is that the final shitatenage seems to have injured Hakuho’s arm. Both men fought well this March, and both of them are worthy to be considered the top men in sumo.

With that, we bring to a close our daily coverage of the Haru basho. What a great adventure it has been, and we have enjoyed sharing our love of sumo with you, our treasured readers. Join us in the coming weeks as we cover the promotion of Takakeisho to Ozeki, and events leading up to the Natsu basho in Tokyo. [but first, stay tuned for a post later today wrapping up the Haru storylines and making some predictions for Natsu -lksumo]