Nagoya Day 4 Highlights

ikioi tegata

Overnight, the big news was that Yokozuna Hakuho withdrew from competition. The notification came quite late in the day, and took many by surprise. According to sources, he strained his right knee warming up prior to his day 2 bout, and the problems have been increasing ever sense. Thanks to Herouth for posting about it while the US part of the Tachiai team were snug in our beds.

Hakuho fans will note that he has yet to win a yusho in 2018, and for the most dominant man in the history of sumo, this is a big deal. With just 2 tournaments remaining, the chances that “The Boss” will pick up yusho #41 are fading for this year. The biggest benefactor from this unfortunate turn of evens is clearly Goeido. With his loss today, he drops to 2-2 and is looking rather shaky. His week 2 fight card just went from 2 Yokozuna and 2 Ozeki, all of which were likely to beat him, to 1 Yokozuna and 2 Ozeki. Frankly, for Goeido this could be the difference between clearing kadoban or not.

Highlight Matches

Meisei defeats Hokutofuji – Meisei wins his first match of the basho going yotzu against Hokutofuji. At this level of the banzuke, Hokutofuji should normally be cleaning up, but that massive bandage on his right leg probably tells the story. Hopefully he can get his body repaired, as he has a huge amount of potential.

Takagenji defeats Ishiura – Visiting Juryoist Takagenji dismantles Ishiura’s chicanery for a fairly convincing win, which is also his first to the tournament as well as his first win in Makuuchi!

Ryuden defeats Asanoyama – Asanoyama had a good tachiai, but Ryuden quickly reached for, and obtained a solid left hand deep grip which he converted to a mae-mitsu after turning Asanoyama around. Ryuden was completely dominant in this match, and seems to have cleared his earlier ring rust successfully.

Tochiozan defeats Onosho – Tochiozan very effectively contained Onosho’s offense, and kept him from really setting up any attack. Onosho drove for, and got, inside Tochiozan. But Tochiozan used his close position to keep Onosho from really getting a solid stance, or any effective thrusting room. I am going to guess Onosho’s knee is still not quite good enough for full power sumo. Plus – no red mawashi.

Nishikigi defeats Chiyomaru – Another strong showing from Nishikigi today. I do like the fact that he’s just driving forward every day, and it seems to be working for him. Chiyomaru continues the the slide that started in Osaka, and we have to wonder if maybe his body is too big for his sumo. (fixed)

Chiyoshoma defeats Kyokutaisei – Battle of the no-win rikishi, with Chiyoshoma coming out on top. The bout was a oshi-match, and it was Kyokutaisei who lost his balance first, and Chiyoshoma pulled him to the clay.

Chiyotairyu defeats Endo – Chiyotairyu attacks with a massive cannon ball tachiai, which Endo absorbs well, and as Endo advances he reaches deep with his right hand for Chiyotairyu’s mawashi. Chiyotairyu reads this perfectly, and routes Endo’s energy forward and away. Clean, solid technique win from Chiyotairyu.

Takarafuji defeats Yoshikaze – a protracted battle of the purple mawashi set, it was a struggle for grip that saw Yoshikaze too far forward most of the time, and finished by Takarafuji’s pull down from his grip on the back of Yoshikaze’s mawashi.

Kaisei defeats Kagayaki – Outstanding yotsu battle. When Kaisei landed morozashi, it was clear how this was going to end, but Kagayaki kept battling on. I still think Kagayaki has a lot of potential, and he continues to make steady if gradual progress.

Takakeisho defeats Daishomaru – Takakeisho looked a bit early into the tachiai, and Daishomaru was a half step behind from the start. Daishomaru could not set up an effective defense or counter to Takakeisho’s forceful forward pressure.

Shohozan defeats Ichinojo – “Big Guns” Shohozan picks up his first win of the basho, and it’s clear that Ichinojo is not at all genki right now. Ichinojo traded face blows with Shohozan, but seemed to offer little resistance once Shohozan started to advance.

Mitakeumi defeats Tamawashi – Mitakeumi launched strong and low into Tamawashi, who went for the immediate nodowa to try to raise him up. Tamawashi continued to focus on Mitakeumi’s face and shoulders, while Mitakeumi focused on center mass and moving forward. Tamawashi was unable to hold back Mitakeumi’s forward pressure, and it was over in a hurry. Mitakeumi is finally looking very solid, and we may see him finally reach double digits.

Tochinoshin defeats Abi – Abi looked like a spider on a hot plate as he frantically danced about to keep Tochinoshin away from his mawashi. After his traditional double arm thrust at the tachiai, the match devolved into chaos. At this level of the banzuke, Abi is not making much headway with his antics.

Takayasu defeats Shodai – Takayasu delivers his no obligatory enormous shoulder blast from the tachiai, which almost tossed Shodai out of the ring on its own. Is it sumo? Maybe in Japan. To me this looks like bumper-cars.

Kotoshogiku defeats Goeido – A dreaded kuroboshi for the kadoban Goeido. Kotoshogiku took early control and pushed Goeido backward to the tawara, where the Ozeki managed to rally and advance. Goeido tried a trip, failed, rotated into a throw, failed, then slipped and broke his grip. Kotoshogiku responded in the blink of an eye and thrust Goeido to the clay.

Ikioi defeats Kakuryu – Ikioi hits strong at the tachiai, and goes hazuoshi (armpit attack) at once. This seems to destabilize the Yokozuna, and Ikioi moves forward strongly, keeping his hips low. Kakuryu breaks contact, but before he can dodge, Ikioi charges center-mass and launches the Yokozuna off the dohyo. Great sumo from Ikioi today, well earned Kinboshi, and the purple rain falls in Nagoya.

Nagoya Day 4 Preview

Endo - Chiyoshoma

So far most of the rikishi have been true to form, and the basho is proceeding along expected lines. I would caution readers and sumo fans not to read too much into this. With Act 1 focusing on getting everyone to an actual honbasho competition level, the first week frequently offers few surprises until we hit Saturday.

The rikishi that really sticks out to me right now is Endo once more. I am not going to say he is (as he was once proclaimed) the savior of sumo. But the man is fighting well, and has overcome an amazing array of injuries and set-backs to be in the top half of Makuuchi. He is just outside the joi-jin this tournament, and that’s probably where he should be until his arm is 100%.

With Kisenosato likely to take his final bow this year, Japanese fans need another star to pin their hopes on. Many might think Takayasu is the likely candidate, as I once did, but frankly his sumo is chaotic enough that its causing him injuries. More and more I am coming to think that Aki 2018 will be the pivotal basho that may be later seen as changing point for the current era of sumo.

What We Are Watching Day 4

Ishiura vs Takagenji – The rikishi with very poor manners (Takagenji) comes to Makuuchi to face off against Ishiura. As they have never matched before, this should be worth a good look. Like Ishiura, he’s a relative light weight at 126.2 kg.

Ryuden vs Asanoyama – Ryuden seems to have regained his sumo, and his day 4 match against Asanoyama could be a bellwether. The two are fairly even with they are both healthy an in their sumo. My guess is that Asanoyama may hold a slight edge, as I am convinced Ryuden is still injured from Natsu.

Tochiozan vs Onosho – Surprisingly genki Tochiozan will put Onosho to the test on day 4, and I think Onosho really needs to face vigorous challenges. His match against Nishikigi was a complete surprise to him and to me, and my have put a nick in his typical overwhelming confidence.

Chiyomaru vs Nishikigi – Battle of the Maegashira 10s! Chiyomaru has been surprisingly soft thus far, so we may yet again see Nishikigi exceed habitually low expectations. The biggest worry being the sheer size of Chiyomaru.

Aoiyama vs Yutakayama – The battle of the yamas! Which mountain will reign supreme? Given Aoiyama’s injuries, he’s not quite the threat he normally is. Yutakayama has added some visible bulk (though his mass is still listed as 171 kg), so he is hefty enough to take Aoiyama haymakers.

Chiyoshoma vs Kyokutaisei – Both of these poor rikishi come in with zero wins. So the good news is one of them gets to be 1-3 at the end of Tuesday. Will we see another Chiyoshoma flying henka? Or will the Hokkaido man keep the match down to earth? Kyokutaisei leads the series 3-1.

Endo vs Chiyotairyu – Endo is looking surprisingly good so far, and for day 4 he gets to take on the burly Chiyotairyu. If Endo can survive the tachiai, he’s got plenty to work with. They are mostly even at 6-5 in their career records.

Takarafuji vs Yoshikaze – These matches are just painful for me to watch. I continue to be a Yoshikaze fan, but it seems to be a shadow of his original self.

Kaisei vs Kagayaki – Even though the 2-3 career record would seem to indicate this is an even match, I am going to guess that Kagayaki may find Kaisei’s enormity to be a real challenge. Kaisei looked completely lost and befuddled on day 3, and I expect him to bounce back with purpose.

Daishomaru vs Takakeisho – I am guessing the schedulers are giving Takakeisho a bit of a breather before he is fed into the wood chipper that is the Ozeki and Yokozuna corps. Its another fairly close to even match, with Daishomaru holding a 3-2 career lead.

Ichinojo vs Shohozan – Our beloved boulder is not looking strong or aggressive, and today he’s going to face Shohozan, who has faced some pretty rough competition, plus one match where he fell down much to his embarrassment. Will Shohozan’s preference for a running, high-intensity brawl (dare I say broom battle?) intimidate the Mongolian giant, or will it be the motivation he needs to summon his overwhelming strength?

Tamawashi vs Mitakeumi – These two were Sekiwake twins for many tournaments, and while both of them fell from that rank, Tamawashi fell at a poor time when his bounce back basho was not good enough to return him even to the san’yaku. With only one win in Nagoya, he may have something to motivate him day 4 as he faces the unbeaten Mitakeumi. Mitakeumi holds a career 11-2 advantage, so Tamawashi should be looking to gamberize!

Abi vs Tochinoshin – Will Abi try for another henka? The day 3 one was fairly comical, and well timed. Or will we get another Tochinoshin sky-crane-tsuridashi? Abi strik es me as they kind of guy who would do things like drink a whole bottle of hot sauce on a dare. Maybe someone will dare him to grab Tochinoshin’s mawashi.

Shodai vs Takayasu – Don’t worry Takayasu, it’s only Shodai. But in the name of the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, keep up the offense until you see the shimpan raise a hand.

Goeido vs Kotoshogiku – a 48 match history between these two, and it somewhat favors Goeido. Kotoshogiku comes in without a win, but looking fairly well put together this basho. Once his tour through Ozeki and Yokozuna is complete, I am expected Kotoshogiku to rack quite a few wins.

Kakuryu vs Ikioi – Kakuryu is dialed into his sumo, and even a brave soul like Ikioi is not going to be able to offer much to slow him down right now.

Chiyonokuni vs Hakuho – After Chiyonokuni overwhelming display of fighting spirit on day 3, I would advise the Boss to take no chances. A quick, efficient win here. I know you like to try to beat people with their own brand of sumo to prove you are better at it than they are, but Chiyonokuni may be in possession of some kind of hot streak right now.

Nagoya Day 1 across the divisions

tamawashi-bowling
Hakuho bowling with Tamawashi as the ball

Jonokuchi

The hardcore fans have been eagerly awaiting Hattorizakura’s best chance at securing a white star. The opponent was Wakaoyama. A 16 years old boy who weighs just 67kg, and whose record at Maezumo was a miserable 0-5. Hattorizakura weighs 88kg, and has a lot of experience.

Well.

Hattorizakura now has the interesting scoreline of 1 win – 111 losses in his career.

Tomorrow (or should I say, today) I’m going to watch Chiyotaiyo’s bout with interest. He is 175cm tall, weighs just 70kg, and looked like a stick insect in his shin-deshi presentation. But unlike the above Wakaoyama, he was 3-1 in Maezumo, and I think Kokonoe oyakata didn’t just pick him for the chanko and clean-up duties. He is up against Tanakayama, who is 183cm, 120kg, and was 3-0 in maezumo. Should be interesting.

Jonidan

Here is Shunba’s first match, up against Shikihide’s foreigner, Francis:

Sandanme

Sandanme is hot this basho. Well, everything in Nagoya is hot this basho, but Sandanme in particular. Here we have one we have been following for a while – Hoshoryu, Asashoryu’s nephew, who won the Jonidan yusho last basho. He faces Tagonofuji.

Well, there goes the Sandanme yusho.

Also in Sandanme, a bout between the two foreigners – Mongolian Yoshoyama from Tokitsukaze, and Bulgarian Torakio from Naruto. Both of them could be said to be somewhat underachieving. Torakio is the star of his heya, but has suffered injuries and setbacks and is only in Sandanme a year into his career. Yoshoyama was touted as very strong when he entered sumo. He is Tokitsukaze’s replacement for Tokitenku. So far he has been kachi-koshi, but not impressively so.

Torakio dispatches of him with a heave-ho. I guess young Mongolians suffer badly in extra hot Nagoya.

Makushita

Here are some bouts from the hot end of Makushita. First, Tomokaze-Wakatakamoto. Wakatakamoto aims to catch up to his little brother Wakatakakage up in Juryo. It’s going to be hard to do it like this:

Kiribayama-Ichiyamamoto:

Quick reversals in a slap fest.

Murata vs. Hakuyozan. Bouts at the top of Makushita are energetic, not no say frantic:

Juryo

Here is a digest of all Day 1 Juryo bouts (BTW, most of the videos in this post are from One and Only, now called “Sumo Channel”)

Homarefuji manages to reverse the charges at the edge. He is fighting for his life this basho, at the edge of a Makushita drop.

Tobizaru is trying everything he has, including an attempt at kicking, But Kizenryu just keeps him at bay and eventually grabs him and sends him flying like a… well… flying monkey.

Chiyonoumi in his first bout as a Sekitori. Land some heavy tsuppari at Wakatakakage, who joins his big brother on the black star list.

Mitoryu seems to be still a little bit on the injured side, and eventually resorts to the Ichinojo tactic – lean, then squeeze out.

Terutsuyoshi attempts a henka against Gagamaru, but executes it really sloppily and loses promptly.

Yago gets himself a birthday gift vs. Tokushoryu.

Azumaryu solid against Shimanoumi. Takes his time, wins in the end.

Adding to the list of Mongolians who can stand the heat – Kyokushuho who dispatches of Tsurugisho quickly. Seiro, on the other hand, has some trouble with Hidenoumi. The battle rages across the dohyo, but the man in the magenta mawashi gives way first.

Now, Aminishiki’s bout is worth watching from more than just that angle.

He goes straight for Daishoho’s mawashi. No henkas, no hatakikomis. Daishoho defends solidly, trying to prevent Aminishiki from making use of the handhold he has with his right hand. Aminishiki plants his head. Sets up his feet first one way and then the other, then applies all the strength he has with his right hand for a shitatedashinage. It is Aminishiki’s first Day 1 win this year.

Not sure about the Takanoiwa-Takanosho bout. Is Takanosho that good, or is Takanoiwa that rusty?

A battle of tsuppari ensues between Takagenji and Kotoyuki. Just as Kotoyuki is about to do his famous rolling stone impression, Takagenji’s heel touches outside of the tawara. No monoii needed.

Akiseyama doesn’t look like he is ready to face the challenge of Makunouchi just yet. Daiamami disposes of him rather quickly.

Makunouchi

Just a few comments here as Bruce covered this excellently.

Arawashi looks like he is heading down to Juryo. Of course, ring rust and everything. But he seems to be simply too weak.

Nishikigi continues his forward motion from last basho.

Takarafuji also seems to be nearing his expiration date. He lost this bout on lack of stamina.

Ichinojo must have been watching the Russia-Croatia game yesterday. Including overtime and penalty kicks. He came into the ring as if he hasn’t had much sleep and… that’s not the Ichinojo I want to see. It was painful to watch (unless you’re a Chiyonokuni fan, that is).

Now, I wonder how it is that whenever I watch Hakuho fight I see a totally different match than the other Tachiai members… Bruce described this match as “the dai-Yokozuna dismantling Tamawashi”. What I saw was the dai-yokozuna winning on plan C. First, he went for the harizashi. Yes, that forbidden harizashi – slap and grab. Only, he couldn’t really grab. Tamawashi blocked him quite effectively. OK, plan B. He starts a flying tsuppari attack, and manages to turn Tamawashi around. But unexpectedly, Tamawashi wheels back in an instant, and gets the surprised Yokozuna in a firm morozashi. OK, plan C, because nobody becomes a dai-yokozuna by being a one-trick pony, and certainly not Hakuho, who creates a diversion behind Tamawashi’s neck, and, quick as lightning, performs a makikae (change of grips from overarm to underarm). This usually results in losing ground, but Hakuho times this very well and by the time Tamawashi pushes him to the tawara he is already in his favorite migi-yotsu and in the middle of a sukuinage.

So a brilliant show of the walking sumo encyclopaedia that is Hakuho, but it was a close call and certainly not a good sign for the Yokozuna.

Tanabata Wishes

This post originates in quote-retweets I made of the relevant NSK tweets. Josh suggested I collate them into a post. So for the benefit of those who don’t follow my Twitter account, here is the collation:

tanabata

Tanabata is an ancient Japanese festival, celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month. Nowadays, it’s mostly celebrated on July 7th.

The main Tanabata custom is to write one’s wishes on a small piece of paper called “tanzaku”, hang the wishes from a bamboo – sometimes with other decorations – and then float the bamboo, wishes and all down a river or burn it around midnight or the next day.

This year Tanabata falls on Saturday, July 7th – the day before the Nagoya basho.

A couple of days ago, a rikishi-kai took place. “Rikishi-kai” is both the name of the meeting of sekitori taking place before each basho, and the body of sekitori itself. As a worker’s association, it’s pretty useless. But they have a fun meeting before each basho, sometimes raising money for charity, and sometimes just giving fans an opportunity to meet their idols and get photos.

Given the date Tanabata falls on, it’s no wonder that sekitori attending the rikishi-kai were handed tanzaku, and asked to write their wishes on them. Their wishes will be hung at the Dolphins Arena (the location of the basho) during Tanabata. Here is what they came up with:

Sokokurai: “I wish my injury to heal”. Ouch.

Yago (in an Oguruma yukata): “Promotion to Makuuchi”.

Seiro: “To aim for the top!!”. So, you wish to aim for the top or you wish to get to the top?

Hidenoumi: “Establish myself at Makuuchi”. No moro yo-yo for Mr. Magenta Mawashi, please.

Daishoho (in a Kakuryu yukata): “Promotion to Makuuchi”. Well, if a cute duck-face can get you there…

Takanosho: “Promotion to Makuuchi”. I hate to tell you this, but the gods can only arrange for a small number of promotions each basho. 😁

Takagenji and Shohozan kept their wishes a secret (they are showing the side with their names):

Daiamami (in a Fuji TV yukata? wow): “I want brand new kneecaps”. Ouch.

Up to Makuuchi, Hokutofuji wishes to advance to san-yaku:

Ishiura: “I want to make another child”. Heh, give your wife a little rest, will you? She just had a baby. Or is this just code for “I want to get some”?

Asanoyama (in the ever-popular Chiyoshoma yukata): “Double digit wins”

Nishikigi-mama: “Health above all”. Nishikigi for chairman of the board! Who’s with me?

Kyokutaisei (in a Hakuho yukata): “Have savings!!”. Let me guess, the guy is recently married. 😆

Chiyotairyu: “I need money”. Somebody please give the Kokonoe koen-kai a call. Help a poor rikishi, will ya?

Endo: “Get through the group stage”. Bruce claims this is about the Tachiai Sumo World Cup. I have a hunch he was talking about Team Japan in the FIFA World Cup. And he got his wish, though I wish those last 10 minutes would be erased from history.

(Yeah, yeah, derailed here).

Abi worrying what he should wish for. Yes, that’s his worried face.

Chiyonokuni (in the new designer Kokonoe yukata) wants to advance to sanyaku:

Shodai: “I want a watch”. I’m sure he’s not addressing the gods… You want Japanese make or Swiss make? I’ll bet many of his sashi-ire (gifts to rikishi… or prisoners…) in the coming weeks are going to be ticking.

Mitakeumi: “I want to become handsome”. Well, he is using the word “ikemen” which is a manly man kind of handsome. There has been an argument about this on Twitter, in which some of the ladies claim that he already has his wish, whereas I claim that despite his obvious sumo prowess and good nature, he looks like a carp in a mawashi.

Tochinoshin: “I want the yusho”. Well, duh!

Hakuho: “Win #1000”. He is referring to number of wins in Makuuchi – he wants to pass 1000. He won’t make it this basho, though, as he is still 17 or so short, and I’m sure he doesn’t want the gods to extend the basho to 17 days.

Finally, we end with the leader of the banzuke, the surprisingly genki yokozuna Kakuryu: “I wish not to be injured”. I’ll add my voice to that, Amen. Chuckle for coming up with a wish that requires no kanji (“kega” is written in hiragana or katakana more frequently than in kanji).

Jungyo Newsreel – Day 1, Ise Shrine

Preface and apology

Some of the readers may know that I’m currently on vacation in Tokyo. I thought that from Japan, I would be able to post better, high quality matter. As it turns out, it’s very difficult to post anything larger than a tweet when all you have is a tablet and a smartphone. Well, today I finally got myself to Akihabara and got an external keyboard for my tablet, so I’m ready to brave posting again, but I still can’t promise these jungyo posts will be up to par – or even that I’ll be able to post them daily. I’ll do what I can.

The Jungyo actually started on April 1st. So I’m sorry about the delay. Let’s start!

🌐 Location: Ise Shrine, Mie Prefecture

The Ise Shrine is Japan’s holiest and most ancient shrine – the main shrine of the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu. The visit to Ise Shrine was not just your regular jungyo visit, intended to entertain the residents of small towns and let them share in the national sport. It’s a “Honozumo” event – sumo bouts that take place inside the precincts of a shrine. Sumo originated as an entertainment for the gods, and Honozumo events bring it back to its origins.

12 sekitori are absent from the Jungyo. This includes Kisenosato who – unsurprisingly – still has that problem in his left chest. It also includes every sekitori from the Takanohana stable, except for Takagenji. Takanoiwa’s medical certificate indicates mental stress.

That same Takagenji stood a long time at the edge of the dohyo. The sekitori were doing moshi-ai, where the winner of a bout stays on the dohyo and chooses his next opponent. Nobody chose Takagenji and he looked pretty frustrated.

Takagenji is used to having his twin around during jungyo.

While the rest of the rikishi were practicing, the Yokozuna performed a ceremonial dohyo-iri. This is much like the one performed in the beginning of every year at the Meiji shrine, with a few differences. First, at Meiji it is performed right in front of the main Shrine building. At Ise, the grand shrine is actually off-limits to anybody but high priests.

Second point, the Meiji shrine yard is hard cement. Here, the Yokozuna had to do their dance in the sand. Hakuho had a really hard time doing the seriagari (the part where he gradually rises):

Kakuryu managed it slightly better:

As I said on Twitter, I’m pretty sure there were a couple of tsukebito that night who were muttering curses under their breath as they were trying to clean all the sand out of the fringes of the two Yokozuna’s kesho-mawashi.

Ah, you did notice that Hakuho is back and beaming, didn’t you? He was in a very good mood the whole day, and said that he was really eager to get back on the dohyo. When asked about the condition of his big toes, he said “so-so”, but was still wearing that big smile when he did.

The torikumi that day was in the form of an elimination tournament. Here is a demonstration of the kimarite known as “kekaeshi”. It’s a minor trip, usually accompanied by a pull that causes the rival to lose his balance.

Hakuho in a magnanimous mood, helping Chiyotairyu up. The final and deciding bout of the day was this:

That boy in the front row? He is not going to forget this visit to the shrine. And a very genki Hakuho takes the yusho for the day.

Note that dohyo, by the way. It’s not your regular beer-crate jungyo dohyo. It’s an old permanent dohyo. Many of those are scattered around Japan, in school yards and shrines. Not as pretty or straight as the one in the honbasho venues, but one where you really feel the Earth under your feet.

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.

Day 7 – What’s Down?

 

Today has also been an exciting day in the divisions below Makuuchi. In particular, many rikishi at Makushita and below have achieved kachi-koshi today, with strong 4-0 records. But let’s start at Juryo.

terunofuji-tsurugisho
Terunofuji-Tsurugisho. The ex-Ozeki was happy with his sumo today

In the bottom battles, Hefty Smurf Terutsuyoshi got a rival from Makushita – Asabenkei – and should have been able to improve to 4-3, but fell victim to a slippiotoshi he was very unhappy about.

Takayoshitoshi was subjected to a nodowa treatment that seems to have limited his oxygen supply and stopped his win streak.

Enho got to face Yago. And as usual, this was an entertaining battle:

Enho goes for his usual maemitsu hold, and you can see how he keeps improving his underarm grip (technically, this is a hidari-yotsu but with his head buried in Yago’s armpit, it doesn’t look like it), inching towards Yago’s back. Then he performs a shitatenage. Here is the front side (from SumoSoul’s Twitter):

So Enho secures another win, and he’ll keep on providing us with entertaining sumo, but his chances of staying at Juryo are still very slim.

Mitoryu removes the blob-in-a-mawashi, Akiseyama, from the Juryo yusho run – at least for the time being:

It’s always fun to see one of the pixies beating someone 15cm taller, so here is Tobizaru vs. Takagenji for you:

Yes, also a shitatenage. Come to think of it, this was not a good day for the Takanohana beya gang. Takakeisho, Takanoiwa and both twins got a black star today.

Terunofuji got Tsurugisho today. Why was he happy with his sumo (on the Isegahama web site: “I’ll strive to keep fighting like I did today and get a kachi-koshi”)?

I swear, for a moment there I thought I saw Terunofuji! Oh wait.

I can’t find any video of Aminishiki’s bout at the moment, but he won by his typical hatakikomi. If a video surfaces, I’ll embed it.

Finally, Takekaze continues his journey back to Makuuchi, and Sadanoumi loses for the second time:

Quite powerful sumo from the veteran.

Let’s head down to Makushita.

The torikumi guys are starting to separate wheat from chaff, and matched Chiyonoumi against Hakuyozan, both lossless before today.

A fierce tsuki-oshi battle, that ended up, sadly, with Chiyonoumi landing on a lady in the third row. Hakuyozan secures his kachi-koshi.

They did the same thing with Murata and Wakamotoharu (one of the Onami (“waka”)  brothers, if you recall):

Murata very dominant, and kachi-koshi.

Wakatakakage and Akua were both 2-1 coming into the following bout.

Ah. Wakatakakage, do you really need that henka?

Down at Jonidan, once again zensho rikishi were pitted against each other. And finally I get an individual video of Yoshoyama. Thank you, One And Only.

Finally, we get to see some of the strength Yoshoyama was purported to have. Watanabe tries to make this an oshi battle, but most Mongolian rikishi don’t really go for that (Tamawashi is a notable exception) and Yoshoyama quickly secures a hidari yotsu and dances Watanabe to the edge. Yoshoyama is kachi-koshi.

Torakio has also been matched against another lossless wrestler, Nishiyama, but received his first kuroboshi and has yet to secure his kachi-koshi.

This was a lovely bout for such a low division, and Torakio looks just about to win it when Nishiyama converts it to a perfect utchari.

And finally, Jonokuchi, and the famous grandchild Naya goes against Kotomiyakura, once again, in a bout of lossless rikishi. Guess who won.

I think Naya is starting to be frustrated at the lack of challenge. Wait, grandkid. Once you get to Makushita you’ll get to enjoy some real challenges.

Another similar bout between two lossless rikishi was the one between Shinfuji and Kayatoiwa, the Jonokuchi #1.

Of course I was rooting for the Isegahama man, but… what was that? Clear lack of experience, I’d say. Too bad. Kayatoiwa is a Sandanme regular who was kyujo for two consecutive basho and found himself back in Jonokuchi, and he has no intention of staying there. Kachi-koshi and a certain return to Jonidan.

 

Day 5 – Below the Curtain

Makuuchi, you may know, means “Inside the curtain”. This is a reference to days gone by, when the top level rikishi were curtained off from the mere mortals, named “makushita” (“below the curtain”). In those days, there was no separate “Juryo” division.

And so, let’s go below the curtain.

Juryo

Everybody’s favorite Uncle Sumo finally managed to pull his first win in this basho.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ah, yes, he-e-e-enka. But it’s really not clear what Aminishiki tried to do there other than confuse Azumaryu. Then followed a short oshi battle which Aminishiki, much to his relief, won.

Another Isegahama beya man who finally got a win after three consecutive losses was Homarefuji.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both rikishi were patient and did a bit of leaning and thinking, but I think Takagenji should have reacted to Homarefuji’s grip change. He didn’t, and the circling continued, and eventually he found himself thrown.

On the other hand, Terunofuji and Terutsuyoshi, who were the leaders for Isegahama the previous day, had a bit of a reversal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Terunofuji opened well, but Takanosho managed to turn and put him between himself and the Tawara. Unfortunately, the ex-kaiju still has no staying power on the bales.

Terutsuyoshi had to face the mawashi-wearing-spud, Akiseyama. Actually, today Akiseyama looked a bit more like a sumo wrestler and less like a lucky blob:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He doesn’t allow Hefty Smurf to get anywhere near the front of his mawashi, and eventually catches the little devil and throws him out unceremoniously.

Enho, the Less-Hefty Smurf, had to face Takanoiwa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

That was quite a match! Enho stuck to the front of Takanoiwa’s mawashi like bad reputation, and wouldn’t let go. Kudos to Takanoiwa for pulling Enho back from the edge of the dohyo after the yori-kiri.

The Juryo yusho arasoi looks like this at the moment:

5-0: Sadanoumi.

4-1: Takekaze, Gagamaru, Takanosho, Mitoryu, Akiseyama

If Takekaze keeps that up, we’ll see him back in Makuuchi by Natsu.

Makushita

Wakatakakage and Hakuyozan were both 2-0 before their bout today.

 

 

 

 

Hakuyozan denies Wakatakakage any access to his mawashi with a barrage of tsuppari. I think Wakatakakage was just a bit too slow today.

For those who were wondering how Chiyootori looks following his injury:

 

 

Well, there is a slight limp there at the end, but generally, despite losing this particular match, he seems to be in a reasonable state to do sumo. Whether he’ll be able to get his sekitori status back is another question. Rumor has it that he has been set as Chiyotairyu’s tsukebito, by the way. Former komusubi, I must remind you.

I’m skipping Sandanme, as I don’t have any quality video to share, noting only that finally Terunohana got his first win.

Down at Jonidan, Torakio continues his decisive race back to the next level. Yusho potential here.

By the way, Torakio may be the star of his heya, but the little smurf, Oshozan, is doing nicely this basho at Jonidan, despite being a rather self-effacing guy (based on his Twitter account, that is).

Finally, the great rivalry developing down at Jonokuchi: Naya, the grandson, vs. Hoshoryu, the nephew.

This is a bad angle for it, so you may want to watch the same bout at Miselet‘s channel, where the entire Jonokuchi broadcast is available. Naya has Hoshoryu in a firm grip and there is really no way for the lighter Mongolian to get away from that grip. I can well imagine these two in three years, throwing a spanner into each other’s Ozeki runs.

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.”

Day 14 – Yusho, packed and delivered

We have ourselves a yusho winner. The first from Georgia. The first Maegashira to win the title since Kyokutenho in in Natsu 2012. The first Kasugano yusho winner in 46 years (Tochiazuma Tomoyori, Hatsu 1972 – also Maegashira at the time). No wonder the Kasugano support club wanted to see a fish and to see it now:

tochinoshin-with-fish
I lifted Mitakeumi, I almost lifted Ichinojo. What’s this puny fish to me?

Down at Jonokuchi, I’m glad to inform you that Yoshoyama managed to scrape his kachi-koshi today, facing the hapless Osumifuji.

Now I hope someone at Tokitsukaze – preferably not Shodai – will use the time until Haru to teach the kid how to do a tachiai properly. Osumifuji joins the droves of make-koshi rikishi from Isegahama.

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Yoshoyama. Now you’ll be able to pick him up in a lineup.

37 year old Hokutogo from Hakkaku beya says goodbye to the sumo world after 22 years. Never made it higher than Makushita 54.

His heya mates brought him flowers to the hana-michi.

In Makushita, Wakamotoharu lost his final bout and is make-koshi. No video at this time.

Up in Juryo, Meisei goes against Takagenji:

Takagenji still doesn’t have kachi-koshi. Both he and Meisei will need a win tomorrow. Takagenji will face the strong Hidenoumi who wants the Yusho.

On to the top division we go:

Sokokurai and Daiamami engage in a lengthy hidari-yotsu, with Sokokurai burying his head in Daiamami’s chest. Eventually Sokokurai tries a throw, but it doesn’t quite work and Daiamami uses it to yori-kiri him.

Kotoyuki and Daieisho go on a tsuppari battle, that ends up with Kotoyuki spread across the dohyo. Hikiotoshi. Kotoyuki’s last chance of a kachi-koshi is tomorrow.

Yutakayama pushes Daishomaru mightily to the edge. Daishomaru tries a side step. Yutakayama slams to the ground – but Daishomaru is also out. Gunbai says Yutakayama, a monoii is called – but Daishomaru’s foot was out first, and it is indeed Yutakayama’s win – and kachi-koshi.

Aminishiki tries to be as genki as he can and bumps into Nishikigi. Gives a harite and tries to get a mawashi grip. This doesn’t quite work, and Nishikigi drives him to the edge. Then hovers around with a worried face to see that he didn’t damage the old man. On the Isegahama web site, Aminishiki writes “Tomorrow is the last match, so I want to win”. Somehow it sounds to me that he means that it’s the ultimate last match. He may not want to go down to Juryo again.

And… Ishiura does a henka against Chiyomaru. Ishiura kachi-koshi. So we’ll see more of his henka in Haru. Sigh.

Ryuden takes on Kaisei and gets in a quick morozashi. Kaisei has the weight advantage and good mobility on his side, and he shifts and turns and gets one of Ryuden’s hands out. Then tries to pull an uwatenage, but he ends up on the floor first, and it’s declared Ryuden’s shitatenage. Ryuden hits the double digits on his debut – which is impressive because he was never a double digits man.

Chiyoshoma gets a fast hold on Asanoyama and they go on a raging battle, but Chiyoshoma loses his hold, and once Asanoyama has his grip, he pushes the Mongolian out with a defiant head nod. Chiyoshoma make-koshi, Asanoyama kachi-koshi again. It’s funny to hear people in the crowd cheering for him using his real name (Ishibashi).

The Ghost of Terunofuji vs. Ikioi. Move along. Nothing to see here. It’s a yoritaoshi despite Ikioi both hurting and trying to be gentle. Terunofuji says that he wants to win at least tomorrow’s bout. Fat chance.

Takekaze comes in strong at the tachiai and gets his left hand inside… but that’s about all he can manage. Okinoumi brushes him out as if he was a fly.

Kagayaki starts an oshi battle vs. Endo, but after a couple of clashes, falls pray to slippiotoshi, Endo swiftly moving aside to let him “split the dohyo” as the Japanese expression goes.

The camera has been following Tochinoshin through the previous two bouts. A few obligatory shots of Shohozan as well, but he is not the story here. When those two finally get at it, you can cut the tension with a knife. Shohozan starts a tsuppari barrage which Tochinoshin can only fend off. This goes on for some time, then Shohozan tries to sidestep. This nearly gets Tochinoshin, and the spectators let out a big “whoa”. But he quickly turns around, and when he does, he also gets a good grip on Shohozan, and from there it’s a couple of yori followed by a yori-kiri. The man from Georgia gets his first yusho. The crowd bursts into applause. It’s party time… but there are still bouts to go.

Yoshikaze and Chiyotairyu are apparently graduates of the same university. So they are sempai and kohai. But Chiyotairyu doesn’t give Yoshikaze any precedence, and quickly pulls at him for a hatakikomi. Yoshikaze looked for a moment like he was going for an outstanding performance prize, but that moment passed several bouts ago.

In yet another battle of opposite ends, Abi draws former Ozeki Kotoshogiku in a battle of the up-and-coming vs. the down-and-going. However, Kotoshogiku is not going anywhere without a fight. Abi tries to pull Kotoshogiku down quickly, but Kotoshogiku not falling for that. Abi then sticks his head in Kotoshogiku’s chest and grabs at his armpits. But a yori battle will favor the Chrisanthemum. Abi’s pelvis is about the height of Kotoshogiku’s chest, so Kotoshogiku refrains from pumping his hips, but he does know how to push, and yori-kiris Abi right out. In Yiddish we call this “rebe-gelt” – “tuition”, what you pay when you learn a lesson.

Chiyonokuni doesn’t give Hokutofuji even two seconds before slapping him down. Hatakikomi, and the Kokonoe man slowly reduces the damage of his make-koshi, while Hokutofuji is 4-10 and will drop way down the banzuke at Haru.

Now, I hate it when the torikumi guys pit two guys I like against each other, but oh well, I can always be happy for the winner. This time Takarafuji was trying to get his kachi-koshi from Ichinojo. And Ichinojo is not in the business of letting his rivals win this basho. If they want to, they have to work for it. Ichinojo unbelievably tries for a nodowa on his left and momentarily allows Takarafuji to get his hand in on his right. Nodowa? The boulder quickly realizes his mistake, abandons the nonexistent throat, and changes his grip on the right. Now it’s migi-yotsu, which favors Ichinojo. But there is no extended leaning battle this time, as Ichinojo grabs Takarafuji’s mawashi tightly and throws him outside for a shitatedashinage, no ifs, ands and buts.

Today it was the old Shodai vs. the old Takakeisho. Shodai stands up at the tachiai. Doesn’t get anything done. Takakeisho bumps him a couple of time. No kachi-koshi for Shodai as yet.

In the match of the Eagles, Arawashi with his bad knees gets a better tachiai. I would even call this one a matta. But Tamawashi regroups and goes into a tsuppari attack. Arawashi sidesteps, and Tamawashi flies over the edge. Arawashi still has a chance for a kachi-koshi tomorrow.

Goeido avoids kadoban and gets Mitakeumi all the way to the tawara in a blink of an eye. Correct bootup today, apparently.

Musubi no ichiban. Takayasu  drives hard and gets Kakuryu to the edge. But Kakuryu is looking better today, circles and regroups. Tries to get a grip on Takayasu, but Takayasu turns him around. The Yokozuna quickly turns right back and lunges at Takayasu. And then…. he… pulls… again…. Oshidashi, yet another loss for the Yokozuna. And Takayasu has the jun-yusho (though theoretically he can lose tomorrow and Ryuden or Kakuryu win).

kakuryu-meter-hatsu-2018-day14

So the yusho goes to Tochinoshin. Both the Georgian prime minister and president tweet their congratulations.

Tochinoshin's family in Georgia
Tochinoshin’s family watching his bout back in Georgia

The jun-yusho, with high probability, goes to Takayasu. My assumption is that he will do his best to win tomorrow, to make it a decent 12-3 jun-yusho, which may allow him to lay claim to a rope should he win the yusho in Haru. One of my twitter followers says that not having been in the yusho picture, this wouldn’t count for Takayasu, but I think that if he does happen to win Haru, given that he has the all-important Japanese birth certificate, the NSK and the YDC may avoid nitpicking.

What’s left tomorrow is to see if the Yokozuna can pull at least the win from Goeido. To see who gets the various sansho (Abi still has a shot, Ryuden certainly has, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Ichinojo gets one). And then we will get to see Tochinoshin lifting cup after cup, and being driven around in the NSK’s spiffy new Mercedes-Benz.

 

Jungyo Newsreel – December 11th

 

🌐 Location: Kitakyushu, Fukuoka

I hope you will forgive this newsreel for having less content than usual. Today the Tottori police finally handed Harumafuji’s case to the prosecution, and after a few days of having some actual Jungyo news, the press and the media once again focused on the scandal rather than on Sumo.

hakuho-communicating-with-god
O Lord, just let this end and let me do what I do best – Sumo

So, everything today has been picked from Twitter.

First, our sources inform us that there was a clay malfunction today! The dohyo in the Jungyo is made, it turns out, from beer crates, fixed in place, and covered with planks and clay. Somehow something moved, and the clay broke, and morning keiko had to be suspended for quite a while – with fans watching – to do the repairs:

dohyo-repairs

Don’t worry, the rikishi got plenty of workouts. Take this aerobics lesson:

Somebody there is visibly skipping leg day.

Also, weight lifting:

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Homarefuji and Mutsukaze

Apparently, Homarefuji wants to join the Isegahama elite no-knees club, currently including Aminishiki, Terunofuji and Terutsuyoshi. So he opted for lifting Mutsukaze, who weighs above 140kg.

Mutsukaze is a member of the Jinku team, by the way. That, and those face hugging sideburns, make him much more worthy of the title “Sumo Elvis” than Chiyotairyu has ever been!

Once keiko resumed, our sources caught a glimpse of Onosho and Takakeisho in a moshi-age (winner invites next opponent) bout:

In the shitaku-beya, rikishi were taking naps. Take a look at these two:

ryuden-nishikigi-amakaze
Ryuden ❤️ Nishikigi

This photo was actually taken by Amakaze. Apparently, these two lovebirds stole his zabuton, his pillow and his favorite elephant  blanket, which Ryuden held hostage:

Sorry for the neck ache. That’s what happens when you let a rikishi use a camera (yeah, that’s actually Amakaze filming, and desperately shouting at Ryuden “Don’t spill it!”, “Wait, don’t, don’t!”).

To end the entertainment part of this slightly wacky newsreel, here is what Satonofuji looks like when he is not holding a bow:
satonofuji-without-bow

Now here are a few bouts.

Enho vs. Terao, who still tries tsuppari…

Takagenji vs. Osunaarashi:

Edit: The Musubi-no-ichiban finally materialized!

Hakuho 5 – Kakuryu 3. The tie is finally broken.

Tomorrow the Jungyo is on hiatus, and then everybody is going to Okinawa!

The Grudge Match And The Beautiful Kimarite

Terutsuyoshi, 22 years old, 168cm, 115kg, is Isegahama’s lowest-ranked sekitori at Juryo #9. With his small stature and his bad knees, he has a hard time securing kachi-koshi ever since he reached Juryo, with three 7-8 records and two 9-6.

terutsuyoshi

He started this basho with five straight losses, but already provided us with great entertainment on day 7, which nearly ended with him fainting with the chikara mizu ladle in his hands.

Today he faced Takagenji, who regained sekitori status this basho. Takagenji is Juryo #14, 20 years old, 191cm and 160kg. He is very ambitious. And he is from Takanohana beya.

So the sekitori from Harumafuji’s heya was facing a sekitori from Takanoiwa’s heya. And it seems that emotions were running high.

So let’s watch a little sumo:

Tachiai. Takagenji attempts a face slap. Terutsuyoshi evades it, and being of small stature, plants his head in Takagenji’s stomach and looks for a grip. Takagenji literally has the upper hand – gets a grip from above on the little man’s mawashi, catches him under his armpit with his other hand, and turns him around.

Then, suddenly, the spirit of the absent Ura mounts the dohyo and possesses Terutsuyoshi. He grabs onto the same arm that was used to twist him around, bends down, and the surprised Takanohana wrestler finds himself in a heap below the dohyo.

But look at the face of Terutsuyoshi. The man is clearly very angry. And Takagenji is no less. He gets back up to the dohyo, but does not bow, not even a nod, and leaves it immediately. The gyoji calls him back to properly bow – not something you see every day.

And while the young Isegahama man cools down, ladle in hand, we hear the call of the kimarite: Koshinage. This is only the 23rd time this kimarite has been performed since the beginning of the 20th century.

This leaves the announcer and the commentator arguing: was it a koshinage, or was it an ipponzeoi, as the commentator called it at first?

The main difference between these two kimarite is that in koshinage, the throw’s axis is the thrower’s hip, while in ipponzeoi, the less rare one, the axis is the thrower’s shoulder. I leave it to the reader’s judgement. (Well, mostly because I’m really bad at kimarite). Whichever it was, it an awesome come-from-behind throw.

Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that Terutsuyoshi suffers from tonsilitis and that his throat was killing him today. I’d get a sick day for that, but rikishi can’t.

Terutsuyoshi doesn’t say why he was so angry, other than “Takagenji was staring at me, so I stared back”. Takagenji just says something like “emotions ran high”. I call it a grudge match.

Day 3 – Katasukashi Galore

Elephant Crosses Dohyo
What Yokozuna Incident?

So… let’s start with a couple of Juryo bouts. First, if there are any Ishiura fans out there, take a look:

Finally, Ishiura gets a win, against the hapless Homarefuji. He plants his head and keeps his feet in order, and manages to take the Isegahama man out. Of course, this black star is probably the last worry on Isegahama Oyakata’s mind this day. But they keep piling on.

Now take a look at Yutakayama vs. Tokushoryu:

A couple of days ago I said that there’s a level of difference between Yutakayama and Asanoyama. But as it turns out, the larger man is already in possession of three wins, while Asanoyama is not doing as well.

Up into Makuuchi we go, and Daiamami gets his first win today! Admittedly, Kyokushuho is just a Juryo rival, but any white star is a gold star at this point for the newcomer. It starts with a matta, but in the second round, Daiamami just cannons into Kyokushuho and gaburi’s him out. The fans enjoy his interview face:

Kotoyuki also grabbed his first win today, in a bit of a confused battle. Myogiryu throws Kotoyuki down, but falls a split second before the huge meatball. Air resistance?

Up we go to take a look at everybody’s favorite uncle. Whatever is happening around him in his heya, and the fact that he is going to do his dohyo-iri in his own kesho-mawashi from now on, do not seem to affect him. Nishikigi tried to do the smart thing – to press the kneeless man against the tawara. But Aminishiki just tiptoed aside like a ballerina, and handed Nishikigi the first Katasukashi of the day.

Aminishiki’s comment on the Isegahama website: “The heya has met with a serious situation, but the remaining rikishi must do their best. As the eldest I will strive to lead everybody forward”.

Takekaze seems to be headed to Juryo (if he doesn’t decide to retire). Okinoumi exchanges some thrusts with him until he gets a nice hold of his neck and ends it with a hatakikomi (if anybody can explain to me why this is not a tokkurinage… sigh).

The Asanoyama vs. Kagayaki bout was different than I expected. I’m used to seeing Kagayaki flailing wildly with his arms and his… additional appendages… This time he basically got his hands on Asanoyama’s body and managed to beat the Yotsu man at his own game.

Daiesho gets a first win today as well, when, after some attempts to slap and defend on Ikioi‘s side, he finally sidesteps and lets the big man hit the clay.

Endo decides to use thrusts vs. Shodai, and doesn’t make any use of his tachiai advantage. Shodai withstands the tsuppari attack, and manages to get a grip on Endo’s upper body. That’s the end for the recovering man in the golden mawashi, as Shodai has more than enough power to get him out even without a mawashi grip.

Not much can be said about the battle of the Marus. Again, Chiyomaru seems to have come to the dohyo without his usual genki. Daishomaru easily pushes him out.

Arawashi takes Tochinoshin to the bales and executes a beautiful sukui-nage. As Tochinoshin tries to resist the fall, Arawashi uses his right leg against Tochinoshin’s left and “helps” him complete the roll. Very nice!

Takarafuji earns his first win today vs. Chiyoshoma. It was Chiyoshoma’s initial initiative, but Takarafuji rallied, didn’t let Chiyoshoma get any grip on him for a throw (come on, Chiyoshoma, don’t try neck grips with Takarafuji, those are futile!) – and then throws the thrower in a nice uwatenage.

The second Katasukashi of the day came from Ichinojo. But this one was rather weird. Hokutofuji came at him low at the tachiai, and Ichinojo grabbed him under his arms, and then just let him drop. Not sure if slippiotoshi or sloppy tachiai on Hokutofuji’s part.

Chiyonokuni‘s match with Shohozan was less of a slapfest than I thought it would be, and ended pretty quickly with the Kokonoe man slapping his opponent down. All-important first win for Chiyonokuni.

Kotoshogiku nearly succeeds in his game plan today, and starts pumping his hips. However, Mitakeumi makes sure to be loose on one side, and concentrates his power on his grip on the pump-man’s arm for a well-executed sukuinage. Still bothered by his toe, but as long as he can execute throws like that, I’m sure the sekiwake is happy. Kotoshogiku is not getting the comeback he was hoping for, now 0-3.

Terunofuji‘s ghost continues to float over the dohyo without ever being able to latch its feet to it. Yet another loss for the former kaiju, this time against Yoshikaze who picks up his first win.

I wonder when Onosho is going to switch back to his fiery red mawashi. Rikishi are usually quick to blame their mawashi for their troubles, and the tadpole clearly suffers some bad lack, with his second slippiotoshi in a row against Takayasu. Unlike yesterday, when the Yokozuna really could take no credit for anything in the bout, Takayasu can be commended for managing to keep his footing first against a sidestep and then when pushed to the tawara. Excellent footwork from someone who tore a major leg muscle less than two months ago.

Goeido diversifies. In the two previous matches he hugged his opponent and swept him all the way to the other edge. Today he heard it was Katasukashi day, so he showed Tochiozan that he has waza as well as brute force.

If anybody hoped for another pedagogic bout between Hakuho and Takakeisho, this was not to be. Takakeisho exhibited welcome fearlessness in this bout, and even attempted to throw the dai-yokozuna. And if he had managed to do that I would really be worried that we’re seeing the decline of the One True King. But of course, Hakuho maintained his footing, got his other arm on Takakeisho and quickly swept him off the dohyo.

Finally, in the musubi of the day, Kisenosato manages to overwhelm Chiyotairyu in a way that he can feel happier about than yesterday’s silly bout vs. Onosho. He almost dances back to his position on the east to take his prize money.


Some more lower-ranks action:

Osunaarashi – Takagenji:

For followers of Shunba:

 

November Banzuke Is Live!

banzuke2a

Now appearing on the NSK web site, the official banzuke for the Kyushu basho, starting two weeks from today.  Some notable elements include Terunofuji as Sekiwake 2E (“Ozekiwake”), Mitakeumi holds fast at Sekiwake 1E, Kotoshogiku returns to San’yaku in the Komusubi 1E slot, Onosho has his first try at San’yaku, and Takakeisho is at Maegashira 1.

Further down the banzuke, we have Aminishiki (aka Uncle Sumo) back in Makuuchi, Asanoyama levitating to Maegashira 11, and Ura still listed at Maegashira 16, even though I would be surprised if he shows up.

The story in Juryo is pretty interesting, Egyptian Osunaarashi somehow manages to hang onto a Juryo slot and is posted to Juryo 13, followed by Takagenji and Yao. Meanwhile Ishiura is ejected from Makuuchi, and appears as Juryo 1.

Meanwhile, as predicted, the Texas sumotori Wakaichiro is confirmed as promoted to Sandanme 85, and will fight at his highest rank ever.

Again, our forecast expert scored many direct hits in his banzuke forecast, and fans should feel free to compare them side by side. Hats off to lksumo!

The crew will likely have our banzuke podcast up before long, be ready!

Yokozuna Kisenosato Resumes Training

Kise-Jungyo-Aug-15

Word from the summer jugyo that Yokozuna Kisenosato resumed some sumo keiko (training) during the tour’s stop in Aomori Prefecture. The Yokozuna was seen engaging in butsukari with former sekitori Takagenji, which would indicate that Kisenosato now feels strong and healthy enough to resume practice.

Of course this sparked a great deal of discussion in the sumo fan world, with many fans taking exception with a declaration that “Kisenosato’s Recovery Is Complete” drawing great skepticism. An article from Yahoo Japan points out, the chances that all of his various injuries are repaired enough for him to compete are a long shot. The article even quotes someone from a Tokyo hospital that frequently treats sumotori, who cautions that Kisenosato has been urged by the YDC to not participate in Aki, and to ensure that his health is excellent and his damage to his chest and foot are completely healed before he resumes competition.

「3月場所で左上腕と左胸の筋肉を損傷したが、とっくに治っているそうですよ。左足も表向きは『左足関節靱帯損傷』となっているが、いくら負け越しが許されない横綱といっても『負け越しそうなんで休みます』とは言えない。ケガを大袈裟に発表して途中休場するのは、昔から多くの横綱がよくやってきたことです。稀勢の里はこれまでケガについては具体的なことは明言していないが、これは周囲に口止めされているからのようです。ケガが完治しているなら、成績が振るわないのは実力ということになってしまいますからね」

As for myself, I suspect Kisenosato joined the jungyo to re-assure the fans, and to test out his recovery and readiness for Aki prior to making some manner of go/no-go call within 2 weeks. While the entire sumo world wants to see Kisenosato back on the dohyo, we are all looking for him to return strong, powerful and ready to challenge Hakuho for dominance in the ring.