The Jungyo is nearly over. In a few hours, the last event – after a few days of hiatus – is going to take place at Tokyo’s KITTE mall, to be shortly followed by the banzuke announcement and all that come with them.
I’ll keep on writing a few Jungyo reports as my time allows, though, because the basho is still a long way away, and because some of you like reading them, it seems. But I can’t in honesty call them “Newsreels” anymore, because, well, the news are a bit old.
Today I’ll cover the two events that took place on August 14 and 15 at Aomori prefecture. These are days 16 and 17 of the Jungyo. The events at Aomori marked a departure of the Juryo rikishi – with the exception of Kyokutaisei and Ichiyamamoto, who are Hokkaido men and expected in the Hokkaido events. Also, Takagenji, the upper-ranking Taka Twin, has joined the Jungyo after being kyujo for its first part, just as his twin brother in Juryo has left it.
For fans of the lower divisions, day 8 was obliteration, with many of our cohort in the “Ones to Watch” going down to defeat, and others finding their fortunes dashed on the dohyo. With all of our rikishi now having 4 matches complete, only Naya and Amazake are still undefeated, with everyone else taking at least one loss.
Action from day 8
Some highlights and lowlights: Amakaze tossed Shinyashiki like a sack of rice being loaded onto a truck; it’s really the only way to describe it. He picks up his kachi-koshi, remains undefeated and enters the yusho playoff bracket that holds 12 rikishi. Unless something odd happens, there WILL be a playoff for the Sandanme yusho.
Terunofuji’s match was a stumbling mess, and the former Ozeki looked completely off tempo and was ripe for a loss. This gives him his first black star, and takes him out of the yusho race. It also considerably slows his rise back toward the salaried ranks, and he may not find himself out of Sandanme for a bit longer.
Naya remains unbeaten, and he will enter the bracket for the Makushita yusho for the second consecutive tournament. Does this mean that Naya is suddenly better than his rival Hoshoryu? No, it underscores how brutal and effective the meat grinder is at the top of Makushita.
Hoshoryu found himself on a fast track to the south side zabuton when he squared off against another young fast-riser in Ryuko, who made quick work of Hoshoryu. Focus on 4 wins, Hoshoryu – you are in fine shape to get there.
Now on to day 9. You will note that most of the 4-0 lower division rikishi are in action on day 9, as they start to winnow the undefeated pool and try to get to a yusho winner within the remaining 3 matches. In Sandanme and Jonidan, it’s almost certain there will be playoff matches on day 15, but it’s going to be a great adventure to get there. Day 9 is heavy with the Makushita side of our roster, so it’s another late night for Team Tachiai!
Wakamotoharu vs Jokoryu – In this 1-3 bracket match, the loser goes away make-koshi, and facing demotion for Nagoya. Both of these men are trying to return to Juryo, one of them will face disappointment today.
Ichiyamamoto vs Hoshoryu – Two of our “Ones to Watch” up in the same match, it’s a 2-2 bracket that brings two scrappers face to face and underscores that fierce nature of the top ranks of Makushita. Ichiyamamoto won their only prior match.
Midorifuji vs Takakento – Another rematch will see Midorifuji try to even up the career record in this 2-2 bracket fight. Former Takanohana rikishi (now Chiganoura) Takakento is fighting at his highest ever rank, and needs 2 more to advance higher on the banzuke.
Naya vs Tsukahara – A 4-0 bracket match, the winner advances into the ever decreasing pool of rikishi who will compete for the Makushita yusho. Naya will face off against another fast risking young star in Kasugano’s Tsukahara, who has a Jonokuchi and Jonidan yusho to his name.
Roga vs Kototora – Young Roga finds himself in an upper Sandanme 2-2 bracket match, looking for 2 more wins to reach the safety of kachi-koshi. Kototora is fighting at his highest ever rank, but his 55 basho experience may provide a decisive edge.
Amakaze vs Tsugaruumi – Sandanme yusho bracket match sees former Juryo mainstay Amakaze go to work against Sandanme mainstay Tsugaruumi. Tsugaruumi has struggled with injury, and is one of the lighter rikishi in Sandanme. This might set up a second consecutive “grab and toss” from Amakaze.
Kitanowaka vs Oba – Former high school Yokozuna finds himself in a 3-1 bracket, but surprisingly he still has a path to a Jonokuchi yusho. With 3 matches left, there are only 3 rikishi with a 4-0 record, meaning there is a fair chance that the eventual yusho winner will not be undefeated. To remain in the hunt, he needs to get past Oba.
Hattorizakura vs Higohikari – Congrats to Higohikari who will pick up his first win today against perpetual soft-sumo expert Hattorizakura.
Day 7 is loaded down with action for our “Ones to Watch”; it’s the middle weekend, and some of our favorites will be 4-0 by Sunday. Day 6 saw Musashikuni finally get his first win of the Basho to improve to 1-2, and hopefully put himself on the road to kachi-koshi. Elsewhere in Makushita, Wakatakamoto picked up his first win as well against Ayanoumi, while Akua lost his first to drop to 2-1. In Sandanme, Roga won to improve to 2-1, as did Shoji. Amakaze won against Hikarifuji to improve to 3-0.
Day 7 matches
Wakamotoharu vs Tamaki – Wakamotoharu finds himself in the 1-2 bracket going into the middle weekend, needing 3 more wins out of 4 matches to make kachi-koshi and likely punch his ticket back to Juryo. The problem with that plan is that out of the 3 prior matches with Tamaki, Wakamotoharu has won only one.
Kotokamatani vs Takanofuji – This 3-0 bracket match will determine who goes into the yusho playoff ladder, and it features both Makushita 2 rikishi, both of which have yet to lose. Kotokamatani has really been impressive thus far, and looks to be a good candidate for promotion, which the winner of this bout likely clinches-lksumo.
Ichiyamamoto vs Kizakiumi – What a difference a win makes, as Ichiyamamoto has 2 wins and only needs 2 more out of 4 to get to kachi-koshi. His Juryo promotion is not as certain, due to him being ranked Makushita 3, but his first goal has to be that 4th win. Okinawan Kizakiumi has rocketed up the banzuke after joining Kise heya from Nihon University’s sumo program. Ichiyamamoto is going to have his hands full.
Wakatakamoto vs Takakento – It’s an Onami brothers day of sumo, with all 3 on the dohyo during the afternoon. Wakatakamoto won the previous match against Takakento, which took place a year ago.
Akua vs Kototebakari – Kototebakari has been on a rocket ride up the banzuke since he joined Sadogatake in 2017. He is fighting at his personal highest rank ever, and could present a lot of fight to Akua, who I am convinced is still not completely recovered from his September 2018 injuries that caused him to withdraw from the Aki Basho on day 12.
Roga vs Wagurayama – After taking the first loss of his professional sumo career, Roga is back to dominating every match. Perhaps some of the pressure was relieved, and he can focus more on each match as it comes? This 2-1 bracket match means that Roga is most likely not going to contest for the Sandanme yusho, which may have also relieved some worries.
Wakaichiro vs Harimanada – After a cold 0-2 start, Wakaichiro looked like a completely different rikishi for his 3rd match, confidently launching Amamidake across the tawara and into the zabuton. With any luck we will see that kind of sumo again on day 7 as Wakaichiro goes up against Onoe heya’s Harimanada. Harimanada has never been ranked higher than Jonidan, and in fact was banzuke gai for about a year.
Kitanowaka vs Ito – Mr Fabulous takes on Ito in this Jonokuchi 3-0 match, where we will watch a former high school Yokozuna battle Saitama native Ito, a graduate of the Tokyo University of Agriculture. Will this one be less lopsided than the prior 3?
Hattorizakura vs Garyu – Good news for Garyu! He finally gets to pick up his first win. Perpetual soft sumo pro Hattorizakura shows no sign of getting fierce any time soon. It’s ok, the fans adore him.
Day 2 seems to be when all of the big names get their first match in the divisions below Juryo, and it’s going to be a great night / day of sumo for the fans. Where day 1 only had a handful, day 2 features many eagerly anticipated matches, including fan favorite Ura. Let’s see who is up!
Akua vs Chiyonoo – Oh yeah! Akua wants back in Juryo to light up our screens with that day-glow mawashi, and he’s got to get through Chiyonoo to have any chance. When I talk about the Makushita “wall”, you can think of Chiyonoo as a big, sturdy brick. Himself a de-throned Juryo man, he wants back in the paid ranks. Battles like this are why the top 10 ranks of Makushita may be the most brutal in all of sumo.
Hoshoryu vs Kizakiumi – Taking to the dohyo just after Ura’s match the crowd won’t quiet down in the least. Hoshoryu is climbing steadily up to the Makushita “wall” to test his mettle. His opponent, Kizakiumi, has had a meteoric rise after entering professional sumo from the college ranks, and has already bounced off the wall during Aki.
Ura vs Takakento – Are you ready to hear the Kokugikan go nuts for a Makushita match? Ura is just a bit short of “the wall” group, but the competition is going to be brutal. A former Takanohan deshi, Takakento made the move with Takakeisho and Takagengi to Chiganoura. He has been in Makushita for the past 10 tournaments.
Musashikuni vs Kototsubasa – The Musashigawa scion takes his first match of the new year against Sadogatake’s Kototsubasa. Both men are near their top ever rank, both are on an upward trend. Both need wins to advance into the elite group just a bit father up the banzuke.
Wakatakamoto vs Ryuseio – Another of the Waka* brothers, his posting at Makushita 40 keeps him in thick competition of rikishi battling to challenge for the top 10 ranks. He faces 32 year old veteran and Sandanme veteran Ryuseio for his first bout.
Shoji vs Hikarugenji – Only in his 9th tournament, Musashigawa’s Shoji is battling his way through Sandanme in a bid to return to Makushita, and faces division mainstay Hikarugenji. Shoji is looking to reverse a series of make-koshi tournaments, including a disastrous 1-6 in Kyushu.
Kenho vs Sumanoumi – Big, friendly Kenho went 6-1 at Kyushu, one of his best tournaments in a while. Now he finds himself in lower Sandanme, and frankly we hope this gentle giant knocks a few competitors into next Sunday. His opponent, Sumanoumi, is a long serving Sandanme veteran.
With this many rising stars out on the same day in Makushita, it’s going to be one of the better days of lower division sumo in a while!