Natsu Day 7 Highlights

Sold Out/Sellout Banners at Kokugikan - Natsu 2019
The Natsu basho is sold out, and many of Tachiai’s friends make up the audience

As Bruce related, we’re happy that many Tachiai readers and friends of the site have descended on Ryogoku, especially this weekend, to join together and watch sumo. On a personal note, it has been great to see old friends and meet new friends, and I will be again in attendance Day 9. If you’re attending the basho as well, let us know!

Let’s get into the day’s action:

Quick Juryo Week 1 Update

It’s looking increasingly likely that we will have yet another top division debutant when the Nagoya basho rolls around. Takagenji quickly dismantled the promising Wakatakakage with a furious nodowa and tsuppari attack to move to 7-0 and retain sole lead of the yusho race, and close in on the last couple of wins to all but guarantee his promotion from Juryo 2. His brother Takanofuji also won down in Makushita to grab kachi-koshi and perhaps seal a quick return to Juryo, with the brothers a combined 11-0. Toyonoshima, now 6-1 following his straightforward win over Takanosho, also looks likely to make an instant return to makuuchi.

All but guaranteed not to make an instant return to the top division he occupied for so long is sumo mummy Ikioi, who scored a painful first victory which saw him collapsing in a heap off the side of the dohyo having narrowly pushed out Azumaryu. The gyoji’s call survived a monoii, which is probably more than could have been said about Isenoumi’s long time sekitori were a torinaoshi to have been called. The good news for Ikioi is that his sole victory almost certainly spares him the indignity of a (possible, small sample size caveats apply) demotion straight through the trap door to Makushita had he continued to draw a blank.

And now, for the top division, on a day that saw the legendary Kitanofuji again join the NHK commentary team…

Day 7 Matches

Ishiura defeats Chiyoshoma – It’s a double henka! Just kidding. It’s just Ishiura that henkas, which he attempts to turn into an arm-bar throw that doesn’t quite come off. The match then develops into some submarine sumo with both men quite low on one side of the dohyo, with Ishiura landing the better left hand grip on Chiyoshoma’s somewhat loose mawashi. Eventually Chiyoshoma changes stance which prompts Ishiura to pull the winning shitatehineri. We’ve seen Ishiura do that a few times in the past and it’s one of his better winning moves.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Enho – Here are two men who can’t even make one Ichinojo between them. Terutsuyoshi lands a strong right hand grip early on in this one, which Enho spends a second trying to work out how to break. Terutsuyoshi takes him on a mini Harumafuji style death spin before sweeping the Hakuho recruit straight down on his back, and it’s ruled a rare susoharai. Enho walks off the dohyo looking like he’s been buried in the beach, he’s 5-2 and Terutsuyoshi gets a much needed 3rd win.

Daishoho defeats Tokushoryu – With Nishikigi fighting Shodai, Daishoho got called up to the Kakuryu dohyo-iri so he must have been all kinds of excited to show off his brand of sumo today. It’s tough to say he needed to do it, as Tokushoryu moved him straight back from the tachiai, at which point he stepped to the side, gave a tug on the big Kise man’s shoulder and let gravity do the rest – hatakikomi. Daishoho takes the battle of the 2-3 men to move back to .500 on the basho.

Kotoeko defeats Sadanoumi – Kotoeko might be looking soon at his first top division kachi-koshi as he grabs a 5th win in a fairly unremarkable match. Sadanoumi starts by moving forward, but just can’t get a grip here. Kotoeko’s able to use a blend of mawashi work and finally, thrusting to win by oshi-dashi and deposit Sadanoumi in the lap of the shimpan.

Shohozan defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru’s 90s Geocities website background green mawashi inspires perhaps a little trepidation. Shohozan pulls after a cagey tachiai before the two lock up in the centre of the dohyo, and yet again in this basho, Chiyomaru finds himself in a grappling match. Shohozan is a slapper but better in this position, and manages to get both hands all the way around the big man on the belt. That’s fairly incredible. The bigger issue is actually moving him, which Shohozan tries a couple times with no luck. Chiyomaru tries to shake off Shohozan, but can’t manage a throw, and Shohozan simply runs the roly poly Kokonoe rikishi out of real estate and corrals him across the dohyo to take the win. Weird sumo.

Onosho defeats Yago – After a matta, the two bounce off each other and exchange pulling attempts. Unfortunately for Yago, Onosho actually lands his and picks up a fairly quick win. He’s 4-3, and Yago is now 3-4.

Shimanoumi defeats Kagayaki – Shimanoumi moves forward well from the tachiai, survives a couple very weak throw attempts and and an even poorer pull attempt from Kagayaki, and wins easily by a light oshidashi. It’s a 3rd win for the new makuuchi man which helps get his kachi-koshi mission back on track, and for “Tactics” Kagayaki it’s a disastrous 6th loss in 7. Fans of obscure stats will find it curious that we could soon see an absence of single kanji shikona rikishi in the top division for the first time in many years, if he doesn’t turn his act around.

Tochiozan defeats Tomokaze – Even tachiai, but it’s another lesson in top division sumo for the promising Tomokaze as Tochiozan sees him leaning forward and puts a firm hand on the back of the Oguruma man’s head and hits the firm hatakikomi. Both men are still “in the black,” but it’s Tochiozan that grabs his 5th win today.

Nishikigi defeats Shodai – It’s a slow motion tachiai as Shodai predictably stands up and it feels like Nishikigi is running for ages – even if it’s only 2 steps – until he makes contact with the Tokitsukaze man. Shodai implausibly moves forward well from this position, but does not land a belt grip and this is his key mistake, choosing instead to get in under the arms of Nishikigi. Moving backwards, Nishikigi pulls what is ruled a kotenage arm-lock throw that at first glance didn’t look massively different than a sukuinage.

Asanoyama defeats Yoshikaze – The violet shimekomi derby ends with a win for the man from Takasago-beya. Asanoyama rebounds from a loss and continues his strong tournament by taking control of the match after a fairly even tachiai. He attempts a grip on the back of Yoshikaze’s belt but only succeeds in untying it, but spares the fans an X-rated view by dispatching the Oguruma veteran with an oshidashi before the censors have to get involved. Asanoyama is up to 6-1 and very much still on the fringe of the yusho race for now.

Ryuden defeats Kaisei – Habitual line-stepper Ryuden seems a little off rhythm as it takes Kaisei ages to complete his pre-basho routine, so it’s no surprise when the matta addict commits another neutral zone infraction. He deploys an odd strategy here and allows Kaisei to take full control of proceedings, and his strategy is clearly to use the large Brazilian’s mass-inertia combination against him. At the very edge of the edge, Ryuden goes for the pull and very, very narrowly wins by hatakikomi as the two men crash into the crowd. Kaisei seems to have suffered a right arm injury as a result by Ryuden’s pull down, which was executed primarily with a pull of said arm after an initial tug on Kaisei’s head. Ryuden is 5-2 with Kaisei now 3-4, and it will be interesting to see what effect the injury may have on his attempts to get kachi-koshi from here.

Meisei defeats Myogiryu – Meisei in some ways looks like a young Myogiryu. There’s an almighty blast at the tachiai in this battle of 2-4 rikishi, but it’s Meisei that keeps moving forward. Despite a last ditch pull attempt from Myogiryu, it’s a quick and straightforward oshidashi for Meisei as he grabs his 3rd win.

Okinoumi defeats Takarafuji – Most of this match is much of a muchness, with the largely defensive Takarafuji trying in vain to find the impetus against a stubborn Okinoumi. Neither man can really get a decent grip, but eventually the man from Shimane-ken manages to get the Aomori native Takarafuji high, and with Takarafuji’s center of gravity raised, Okinoumi simply pushes – almost tipping – him over for a much needed 2nd win.

Abi defeats Endo – This pretty-boy battle has a properly zen Kotoshogiku looking like he’s ready to fall asleep on the side of the dohyo before the match. Hopefully he opened his eyes because this was over in a flash. After a matta (courtesy of Abi), the yobidashi gets forced into quick action on the run with the chikara-mizu barrel as a listless Endo gets thrusted out at the back corner by a trademark Abi attack. 5 wins for Abi, 5 losses for Endo.

Mitakeumi defeats Aoiyama – This is all oshi all the way. My computer tried to autocorrect that to Oshiogawa. The funny thing is that maybe not unlike the former Takekaze, Aoiyama entered this match looking for a quick pull-down. However, he was unable to execute and subsequently a little late to the party when it came to finding the type of brutal tsuppari for which he is better known and which did for Tamawashi earlier in the basho. His mistake here was probably not sticking with his more established brand of sumo from the start. Mitakeumi took a couple hits but simply weathered the storm, kept his balance and positioning and footwork on point and shoved the bigger man out. Very composed stuff again from Mitakeumi, who moves to 5-2.

Tochinoshin defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku enters this match with a 24-9 lifetime edge over his fellow former ozeki but very much the severe underdog. But that’s sumo. Tochinoshin’s right knee appears to have even more intense bandaging on it than usual. In a world starting to become dominated by pusher-thrusters, it’s refreshing to get two classic old fashioned belt guys to go at it, and they take it in turns.

Both land their favoured grips immediately – and Kotoshogiku loses his almost as quickly. Kotoshogiku gets a good run at the Georgian as he tries to get both arms inside, but just doesn’t have enough power in his gaburi-yori to finish the job. Kotoshogiku’s relative lightness on his feet is always his undoing, and that’s a perfect match for the power of Tochinoshin who as we know, loves to lift his opponents. As Kotoshogiku vaults up into the air, Tochinoshin pulls back on the throttle and launches his way across the dohyo. It’s 7-0 for the yusho challenger, who needs 3 from 8 to retake his rank and restore the Ozeki count to four for the first time since Kotoshogiku’s demotion.

Hokutofuji defeats Ichinojo – One way traffic, and it’s all the impressive Hokutofuji. The Hakkaku man has performed better than his record would indicate owing to a typically brutal week 1 schedule, but he easily gets the better of the enormous Mongolian Ichinojo at the tachiai. He lands his hands under Ichinojo’s armpits in an attempt to drive him back and keep him high, and apart from one desperation shove to the head by Ichinojo, two more shoves are all that’s in this match as Hokotofuji finishes the job quick smart. He’s up to 3 wins now and in with a shout of moving back up to san’yaku if he can finish the turnaround, while Ichinojo has 5 losses with a tough second week still to come and his rank very much at risk.

Goeido defeats Tamawashi – Both of these guys need a win, with Goeido needing it a little bit more after a rough couple of days and wanting to stay out of kadoban trouble following a good run over the last year. This isn’t particularly good sumo from Goeido, who tries in vain to get a grip, while Tamawashi tries to get Goeido to play into his style of thrusting sumo. Goeido seems to win this by as much sheer willpower as he has lost matches by earlier in the week – he fends off a couple brutal thrusts to the head and just manages to keep his offensive mindset and tendency active and engaged. He’s better on the front foot, and after an ugly series of thrusts, manages to get the oshidashi to move up to 4-3, with Tamawashi holding a mirror record.

Takayasu defeats Daieisho – If there’s a better oicho-mage than Takayasu’s then I’ll drink a bottle of binzuke. Takayasu once again gets the worst of the tachiai. His tachiai is confused, disjointed and just plain weird, as he seems to be totally missing a plan of attack. I don’t know what he and Araiso have been plotting for the last month at keiko, but surely this couldn’t have been the battle plan. In today’s case, he can’t even deploy his shoulder blast before Daieisho has his hands all over the Ozeki. Both men trade nodowa attempts, but Takayasu’s experience tells as he simply side steps a thrust to find Daieisho off balance, and just needs a simple push to get the oshi-dashi win. With respect to Daieisho, against a stronger opponent with more experience of san’yaku opponents, Takayasu would have been in real trouble today.

Kakuryu defeats Chiyotairyu – I kind of love Chiyotairyu’s salt toss, as if he’s just absolutely disgusted with the pile of salt. We get a matta here, followed by an incredibly straightforward win for the Yokozuna, moving forward en route to a perfect 7-0 record. Chiyotairyu started a ways back from the shiriki-sen, as if to get a run up to launch his famous cannonball tachiai. But, it would be foolish to expect the Yokozuna wasn’t prepared for the Kokonoe man’s one trick, and landed a quick right hand outside grip on Chiyotairyu’s mawashi before he could even get into the match. With his left hand pushing on Chiyotairyu’s chest, he simply escorted the junior rikishi out in a motion akin to a lazy butsukari session. Easy.

Crime and Punishment – Board Meeting Summary

Yesterday, the NSK board convened. After a couple of meetings in which the newly elected board was set up and various toshiyori were assigned duties, it was finally time to deliberate the penalties of various trouble makers.

Takayoshitoshi and Takanohana

Takayoshitoshi and Takanohana

As you may recall, in the middle of the basho, shin-juryo Takayoshitoshi decided to beat up his tsukebito in front of many witnesses, and was pulled out of the basho as a result. His punishment for the deed is a suspension for one basho. He will not do the spring jungyo and will forfeit the Natsu basho. He is allowed to practice at his heya.

This of course implies a sharp drop in rank. Maybe even as far as sandanme.

The stablemaster of every trouble rikishi also has to bear punishment for his part in raising and guiding his deshi improperly. However, in Takanohana’s case, there was more – he has continued his games with the NSK and played hooky from the arena. He wasn’t around when the twin did the deed, and he should have.

There was a faction in the NSK – allegedly the Nishonoseki ichimon – which called for him to be suspended from all activities this time. This would have prevented him from actually guiding his deshi, and may have required fostering them temporarily to other heya in his ichimon. However, the Takanohana ichimon begged for a lighter sentence, and eventually the board decided on yet another demotion. He now has the lowest possible rank for a member of the NSK: toshiyori.

The Minezaki scandal

We haven’t mentioned this story in a post so I need to fill you in. A short time before the Takayoshitoshi story broke, it was announced that a rikishi from Minezaki beya has beaten up a junior on four separate occasions, some of them after the Harumafuji scandal. The junior rikishi retired as a result, but the story only came to the knowledge of the stablemaster from a letter sent by the former rikishi’s father. He promptly reported it to the NSK and they announced it publically after verifying it with the parties involved.

The names of the parties have not been revealed by the Japanese press, but only one rikishi retired from that heya recently: Kaigo. As for the assailant, a single rikishi from Minezaki beya pulled out of the tournament following the publication: Arawashi’s tsukebito, Hikarugenji. Connect the dots.

And his punishment was decided yesterday as well. He, too, will be suspended from one basho. Again, a drop in rank is implied. Hikarugenji was sandanme 25 in the Haru basho.

Minezaki oyakata was docked 10% of his salary for the next two months.

The Osunaarashi wrap-up

At the time of the announcement of the Osunaarashi scandal, his stablemaster served as a trustee. This means that he was not considered a member of the NSK and could not be punished (though through some regulation gymnastics, he could still keep his heya…)

However, in yesterday’s meeting he was docked 10% of his salary by his own request. At the same opportunity, he also declared that he will not be holding a danpatsu-shiki (ceremonial cutting of top-knot) for Osunaarashi. Indeed, the former rikishi is already shorn.

Commentary

The punishments seem extremely light. Yet another demotion for Takanohana, after he clearly didn’t repent following the previous one and indeed said he does not accept nor understand it? It remains to be seen if the former dai-yokozuna will quit his attention-seeking behavior and start on a more constructive path.

As for the two violent rikishi, what message does that send to parents who send their kids to professional sumo? “Nothing has changed. Your kid may well be beaten up if a senior doesn’t like the way he makes the chanko. There is no incentive for the seniors to keep their hands in their obi.” After Hakkaku declared that stopping violence in sumo is the top item on his agenda, I would have expected a more severe punishment.

An old Jewish saying goes: “He who is kind to the cruel ends up being cruel to the kind”.

Juryo: Haru Storylines Week 2

EDION Arena - Enho vs Wakatakakage - Haru 2018 Day 8 Juryo

As we’re midway through the competition and have already revisited our “Ones to Watch” from the bottom four divisions, let’s check in on the storylines facing the men of the Juryo division heading into the second week of action:

1. Can Kyokutaisei win promotion?

Needs for success: 8 wins

Second week prognosis: He’s on the right path, but has been tested. He sits 4-4 after 8 days. He’s at a rank where you’re going to be called up to makuuchi to get tested and make up the numbers, and he’s failed both tests so far (against Aoiyama and Ikioi). His day 8 loss was maybe a bit unlucky in that he nearly pulled out the win, but he’s going to have to find four wins from former top division men like Terunofuji, Gagamaru, and Chiyonoo in the coming days.

2. Golden Oldie Revival?

Needs for success: Old timers show results that state their case for a return to the big time in circumstances where more questions are being asked about how much longer they’ll remain in the sport.

Second week prognosis: Of the five rikishi we’re picking on, Takekaze, Sadanoumi, and Gagamaru look as though they are positioning themselves for quick and perhaps once thought improbable returns to the top flight. All men have six wins after 8 days. Aminishiki, meanwhile, looks set for a rather longer stay in the second tier, clearly hobbled by injuries and destined for a potentially brutal make-koshi. Tokushoryu looks like he might be treading water at his level with a 3-5 start.

3. Whither Kaiju?

Needs for success: passing expectations with a competent kachi-koshi, exceeding expectations with a thunderous yusho challenge and return to makuuchi.

Second week prognosis: Terunofuji is going to run into a handful of guys looking to state their promotion claim in the second week which he starts at a record of 4-4. It’s been a mixed slate so far: the technique is still there, but the strength has eluded him as he looks to rebuild his status following injury and diabetes related issues. Odds are he pulls out four more wins from seven, but he may need another tournament at this level in Tokyo this May before making his return to the big time. Curiously, when I attended Day 8, the applause for Terunofuji during both the Juryo dohyo-iri and his own match was muted compared to many other former makuuchi men in the Juryo division. I would have thought he’d get a least a little more love than he did, all things considered.

4. Takanoiwa

Needs for success: passing expectations with a competent kachi-koshi to knock off the cobwebs, exceeding expectations with a yusho challenge.

Second week prognosis: He won’t challenge for the yusho or even much of a move up the rankings list at Natsu on current form. He finds himself 4-4 and shouldn’t be in any danger of demotion, but he needs to find at least 3 wins to keep himself in the division and regroup for next time. At times the strength of the Takanoiwa we are used to seeing has shown up, but he’s found himself amidst a group of young, hungry rikishi who aren’t giving any quarter in their own efforts to establish themselves as sekitori. The rest of his matches should be against mid-Juryo veterans having middling tournaments, so there’s an opportunity at least to build momentum – after Mitoryu he’ll have faced all the fierce young talents in his way this tournament.

5. The Second Wave

Needs for success: These talented youngsters either need to: Cobble together enough wins to consolidate place in division (Yago, Takagenji, Daishoho, Terutsuyoshi), limit damage and try to avoid demotion if possible (Enho, Takayoshitoshi), continue progress with good kachi-koshi (Mitoryu)

Second week prognosis: Mixed bag, as expected.

Out of the first group (Yago, Terutsuyoshi, Daishoho and Takagenji), only Daishoho looks safe right now with a 5-3 record. Yago’s 2-6 tally leaves him in immediate danger of demotion, and the others are 3-5 and need to find 4 wins from somewhere.

Unfortunately for all of them, they won’t come at the expense of Takayoshitoshi as the kyujo man has faced all of them (except his brother), so none of them will pick up a helpful fusen-sho from his abdication in light of pummeling his tsukebito (instead it will be Ms1 Hakuyozan who picks up the win). Takayoshitoshi was 3-5 and likely heading for the demotion that has now been all but confirmed, and should he indeed remain withdrawn from the entire tournament then he will likely face a drop steep enough to leave him without a tsukebito for at least a couple more tournaments.

Enho, meanwhile, has delivered on his excitement, but hasn’t delivered in terms of wins. His overpromotion has left him a little exposed at the level as he’s even dropped 2 matches to visiting makushita men (and future sekitori) Hakuyozan and Wakatakakage. You can’t do that if you’re trying to stay in the division, and it’s likely that he may face an equally steep demotion as Takayoshitoshi: on current form both men will probably find themselves somewhere between Ms8 and Ms10.

Finally, if there’s a silver lining, it’s been Mitoryu. Much like his progress in Makushita, after taking one basho to settle, he’s really found his form and posted a 7 win tally over the first 8 days. Guys like Takanosho, Kotoeko and Gagamaru are in his future, and possibly if he continues to lead the yusho arasoi, potentially even Takekaze. So, it’s possible that this week we may already get to see what the talented young Mongolian can do against men with top level pedigree, and I’ll go out on a limb and say that on current form he will pass  his compatriot Terunofuji on the May banzuke.

Juryo: Haru 2018 Storylines

kyokutaisei-kachi-koshi
Kyokutaisei: can he finally win promotion to makuuchi?

While we tend to focus the lion’s share of our attention on what’s happening in the top division, or who the hot up-and-comers are in the sport, the banzuke announcement for Haru 2018 has prompted an unusual amount of intrigue at Juryo level. The division typically features a handful of grizzled vets trying to make it back to the big time, a couple interesting prospects, and/or some rikishi trying to recover form and rank following some recent injuries. But this time, we get all of those features and more in larger than usual numbers. Incredibly, 11 out of the 28 rikishi are also fighting at their highest ever rank. So, here’s a look at some storylines heading into next Sunday’s action:

1. Can Kyokutaisei win promotion?

He’s not a household name and was never a hot prospect, but Kyokutaisei has been an interesting follow for a while now, and plies his trade under the former fan-and-rikishi-favorite Kyokutenho at Tomozuna-beya. He’s an intriguing name, not least due to his rare status as a rikishi with a starring film credit in the film “A Normal Life,” which detailed the then-18 year old’s entry into the sumo world. It’s a fascinating, highly-recommended watch, and details a lot of the less-glamourous aspects of the life of a young rikishi.

Since debuting at this tournament 10 years ago, it’s been a slow and steady progression for the 28 year old. He reached the rank of Juryo 1 West and put up a 8-7 record at Hatsu, but it wasn’t enough to clinch one of the three promotion places and he’ll start Haru as the top ranked man in Juryo. He has clearly benefitted from the tutelage of Tomozuna-oyakata, and after a collapse that saw him fritter away a promotion opportunity having won 2 from his last 7 at Hatsu, hopefully he will be able to find the consistency to push him up to the top division after an incredible journey.

2: Golden Oldie Revival?

While 30 is not so old in the scheme of things, it is the age in many sports where serious fitness questions start to be asked. Of the eight rikishi directly behind Kyokutaisei in the banzuke, six are 30 or over, with the other two being 29 year old Azumaryu who will turn 30 by Natsu and the 22 year old up-and-comer Meisei.

This group includes the fan favorites and recently demoted makuuchi pair Aminishiki and Takakaze, as well as Gagamaru, Tokushoryu and Sadanoumi, who have recently spent more time in the Juryo wilderness than out of it. Haru should give us a good sense of whether any of these men can win the day and emphatically book their ticket back to the top division, or whether we will see an attritional battle indicative of the winding down of their careers.

3: Whither Kaiju?

Terunofuji’s health and the direction of the career have been the subjects of much debate, on these pages as well as within the comments section of the site. How long has it been since he last pushed someone out of the dohyo? The Juryo 5’s last win came as an Ozeki (interestingly, against current Emperor’s Cup holder Tochinoshin). He’s 0 for his last 15, and 2 for his last 21 excluding fusen losses, and has withdrawn at some stage of the last four tournaments.

The numbers, then, don’t look encouraging. But longtime followers will know what Terunofuji is capable of, and it’s possible that the jungyo-less time between Hatsu and Haru will have provided a platform for him to recapture some kind of form, and maybe even enough to find a promotion opportunity or at least get himself in a better position for Natsu. This tournament will be one year since the Haru 2017 Day 14 ‘henka heard round Osaka’ which halted Kotoshogiku from regaining his Ozeki rank – and at that time it would have taken a bold punter to bet that Kotoshogiku would be so far in front of his former Ozeki colleague a year later on the banzuke. Sumo is better for seeing the Isegahama man at his incredible best – but even some fraction of that will be a positive step forward for the Mongolian.

4. Takanoiwa

The Takanohana man hasn’t been seen since the Remote-Control-gate scandal that cost Yokozuna Harumafuji his sumo career. While the scandal rolled on through the end days of 2017, Takanoiwa abstained from duty while his head injuries healed. Now he finds himself near the bottom of the Juryo division at J12, surrounded by a plethora of talented youngsters. The Mongolian, in good health on his day is a match for anyone in the top division owing to his incredible strength. It stands to reason then that, if active, he should be an automatic title favorite in the Juryo yusho race. But will he even be active for Haru, and if so, will he be able to knock off the cobwebs and challenge for it?

5. The Second Wave

Much has been made of the new wave of talent that has rolled into makuuchi in the last year. While Takakeisho and Onosho and Hokutofuji have taken the division by storm and already established themselves in the top half, more up and comers like Asanoyama, Yutakayama and Abi have latterly pushed on and forced their way into the tournament story lines, grabbing special prizes and charming audiences along the way.

Now there’s another new crop of youngsters looking to depose the favorites who have dominated the sport over the past few years: as mentioned above, 11 of the 28 Juryo men are competing at a new or joint-highest ranking. But digging a little deeper, of the 11 men at the bottom of the Juryo ranks, seven are 23 years of age or younger, with the much watched Enho and Takayoshitoshi making their debuts in the division this time out as part of the incredible 7 promotees from the Makushita tier at Hatsu.

Different questions will be asked of each of these rikishi. For Yago, Takagenji, Daishoho and Terutsuyoshi, the challenge is simple: they need to put cobble together enough wins to consolidate their place in the division, and establish themselves at the level. For Enho and Takayoshitoshi, who were promoted with records at ranks that wouldn’t normally justify a promotion, it’s about damage limitation and seeing if they can put a surprise run together: no one, after being promoted with the records they had last time out for the very first time at this level, would begrudge them a return to Makushita, but you can be sure that isn’t what they are thinking about. They are here to prove they belong. Enho in particular is a comparatively very small rikishi who can provide entertaining all-action sumo, but he’s got to keep himself healthy.

Finally, that leaves Mitoryu. The enormous, much hyped Mongolian made a strong start at Hatsu before fading with just 2 wins over the last week, but that was enough to get him a kachi-koshi in his first tournament as a sekitori. Now, he’s got a great chance to push on, in a very competitive field.

While the five story lines above are interesting in their own right – incredibly, they may not even facilitate the top headlines when it’s all said and done. Youngsters Meisei and Takanosho are two rikishi not discussed here in detail, and they could well make waves this time out as well after their progress over the last year. While Juryo is sometimes a bit of a difficult division to get excited about, at Haru, it will certainly be “one to watch.”