Nagoya 2023: Day 5 Highlights

Is Nishikigi for real? Takayasu is cleaning up against mid-maegashira. But Nishikigi is tearing up sanyaku. What is this? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Nishikigi is still only half-way to sweeping up sansho prizes, much less talk of yusho. There’s a lot of sumo remaining. But what an impressive start!


Roga (2-3) defeated Bushozan (1-4): Bushozan launched forward at the tachiai but Roga was quickly able to secure a grip on his belt and drive forward, forcing Bushozan over the bales. Yorikiri.

Endo (4-1) defeated Takarafuji (3-2): Endo drove Takarafuji to the edge and then shoved him, forcefully, to send Takarafuji over the edge. Oshidashi.

Ryuden (1-4) defeated Hakuoho (3-2): Hakuoho seemed uncomfortable with a left-hand inside grip and struggled to generate any offense. Ryuden took advantage and worked Hakuoho to the edge and over. Yorikiri.

Shonannoumi (4-1) defeated Aoiyama (2-3): Aoiyama’s tsuppari was not very effective at moving the makuuchi debutant. Shonannoumi shrugged off Aoiyama’s attack, moved inside and secured a belt grip. From there, he quickly walked Aoiyama back and out of the ring. Oshidashi.

Daishoho (1-4) defeated Chiyoshoma (2-3): Useless henka attempt from Daishoho. But Chiyoshoma’s early tsuppari was ineffective and even when Chiyoshoma acquired a belt grip, he was unable to budge Daishoho. Daishoho, on the other hand, was finally able to use his weight and gather up his strength to move forward and he drove Chiyoshoma over the edge. Yorikiri.

Kotoshoho (2-3) defeated Tsurugisho (1-4): Kotoshoho pressed forward and shoved Tsurugisho over the edge. Oshidashi. Tsurugisho immediately cradled his left arm. He had used his upper-body strength yesterday but if that’s sapped with a left arm injury, he may be toast with no offensive options.

Gonoyama (5-0) defeated Kotoeko (3-2): The strength of Gonoyama’s tachiai was enough to stagger Kotoeko, drawing appreciative gasps from the crowd. Kotoeko was not able to corral Gonoyama, who used his tsuppari effectively to chase Kotoeko around the ring before slapping him down. In truth, Kotoeko was over-extended and off-balance as he tried to re-engage, so he slipped to the dohyo easily. I’m not sure whether Gonoyama’s slap down even connected. Hatakikomi.

Myogiryu (2-3) defeated Takanosho (0-5): As Myogiryu pushed forward, Takanosho’s left leg buckled. They called it Tsukiotoshi. The way Takanosho went down, I would have been tempted to call tsukihiza but Myogiryu had been generating a good bit of forward pressure.

Kinbozan (3-2) defeated Nishikifuji (3-2): Simple shift of direction from Kinbozan and a quick slap-down. Textbook hatakikomi.

Hokutofuji (4-1) defeated Sadanoumi (1-4): Hokutofuji’s ottsuke, paired with his effective tsuppari left Sadanoumi struggling to find a way inside. When Hokutofuji got Sadanoumi spun around, it was an easy pushout from behind. Okuridashi.


Tamawashi (4-1) defeated Onosho (1-4): Onosho did a good job driving Tamawashi back to the edge but Tamawashi did a better job of pivoting, grabbing the belt (what?) and forcing Onosho over the edge. Yorikiri. Yes, Tamawashi with a yotsu-style win.

Takayasu (5-0) defeated Hiradoumi (1-4): Takayasu drove forward and when Hiradoumi resisted, pressing forward with all of his weight, Takayasu stepped aside and executed a beautiful, forceful slapdown. Hatakikomi.

Ura (3-2) defeated Oho (2-3): From a master class in how to execute a slapdown, to a master class in how to defeat a slapdown. Oho drove Ura to the tawara and then pulled, trying a slapdown. Ura just moved forward with Oho and accelerated, driving Oho into the third row of VIP seats. Tsukidashi.

Hokuseiho (3-2) defeated Asanoyama (3-2): Hokuseiho executed his sumo well against a very strong opponent. Hokuseiho attempted a throw, and while it didn’t force Asanoyama down, it was successful at forcing Asanoyama to the edge. Hokuseiho tried to shove Asanoyama over but Asanoyama resisted. However, Hokuseiho kept up the pressure and forced Asanoyama to step out. Yorikiri.

Midorifuji (1-4) defeated Mitakeumi (0-5): A lengthy grapple at the center of the ring. Mitakeumi couldn’t get the power needed to drive Midorifuji back. Midorifuji eventually relented, dropped his resistance and pulled and shoved Mitakeumi to the ground. Tsukiotoshi.


Kotonowaka (3-2) defeated Shodai (2-3): Once Kotonowaka got Shodai in a bear hug, Shodai was toast. You don’t need a belt grip to execute yotsu-zumo and this was an excellent example. Kotonowaka held Shodai right under the armpits in a bear hug. Yorikiri.

Hoshoryu (4-1) defeated Abi (3-2): Abi’s henka-slapdown attempt failed. So he followed up with his standard tsuppari driving Hoshoryu to the edge. But it was Hoshoryu who demonstrated the proper way to leverage misdirection. “Henka are so pedestrian, dude. You’re basic.” He shifted so effectively, Abi was shoving nothing but air and crumpled to the ground when Hoshoryu reappeared behind him. Okuritaoshi.

Nishikigi (5-0) defeated Wakamotoharu (3-2): Nishikigi is in the zone. Which one of these guys was on the Ozeki run? He had a significant weight advantage and used it to drive Wakamotoharu over the edge. Yorikiri.

Daieisho (4-1) defeated Meisei (2-3): That was Daiei-zumo. Well done. Oshidashi.

Tobizaru (2-3) defeated Kirishima (1-2-2): Kirishima came out strong but Tobizaru resisted and drove the shin-Ozeki back and into the front row. Yorikiri.

Nagoya 2023: Day 2 Preview

A lot of excellent action last night, with a dash of controversy. Hakuoho and several of the young guns impressed. But was Tobizaru dead? Why did no one bother to look? It may have just been a missed call or a conscious decision that the off-balance, tumbling monkey didn’t deserve to win. Frankly, that’s my view but why not throw in a torinaoshi; have them do it again. Well, we’ll put that aside as we gear up for Day 2 with the expectation that the debate will fire back up as Hoshoryu inches closer to 12 wins.


Kagayaki (J1-0) vs Hakuoho (1-0): Hakuoho took a battering from Aoiyama but emerged victorious. Kagayaki visits from Juryo tonight and will have much the same game plan, though a bit less forceful. Hakuoho’s left shoulder, though, is a bit of a concern and might present an opportunity to Kagayaki.

Aoiyama (0-1) vs Bushozan (0-1): We saw Aoiyama on the offense against Hakuoho but Bushozan didn’t get to illustrate much of his brand of sumo last night as he fell, quickly and easily, to Endo. Expect guns blazing from Aoiyama and possibly another quick bout.

Ryuden (0-1) vs Endo (1-0): Endo holds the numerical edge in this rivalry and certainly put his best face forward last night, while Ryuden just fell face forward. Ryuden has won their last few meetings but Endo’s a different challenge for Ryuden, compared to Takarafuji, and likely a healthier opponent. We’ll get a better sense tonight if Ryuden belongs kyujo and if Endo can put together a strong run.

Takarafuji (1-0) vs Shonannoumi (1-0): “Down. Go down.” Takarafuji had one plan against Ryden, and it worked. I don’t think that he will find the same success tonight against Shonannoumi, without changing things up. A long bout would seem to favor Shonannoumi.

Daishoho (0-1) vs Kotoshoho (0-1): After his loss yesterday, Kotoshoho seemed to stare at the heavens and wonder, “why am I here?” If he loses convincingly again today, I think we’ll all wonder the same thing.

Chiyoshoma (1-0) vs Gonoyama (1-0): Chiyoshoma will face a healthier opponent today, certainly one who can fight back with more than token resistance. It’s also their first ever meeting. I expect this bout to be a highlight bout from the bottom third of the division.

Kotoeko (1-0) vs Tsurugisho (0-1): Kotoeko was rather dominant in his win over Myogiryu while Tsurugisho appeared lame, unable to press forward with the left leg. This could be another quick one.

Kinbozan (0-1) vs Myogiryu (0-1): Young gun on his way up meets grizzled veteran on his way down in their first ever clash. Kinbozan needs this one.

Takanosho (0-1) vs Hokutofuji (1-0): Hokutofuji was on his game last night while Takanosho may have had a bit of that ring rust. Both are ranked a bit lower than their talents suggest so they should have good tournaments but Hokutofuji should have the edge in this bout.

Sadanoumi (0-1) vs Nishikifuji (1-0): Nishikifuji is no Tamawashi. Sadanoumi should be able to wrangle him and knotch a victory tonight.

Takayasu (1-0) vs Tamawashi (1-0): Expect fireworks. I have no idea who will win but I’m eager to see both of these geezers try.

Hokuseiho (1-0) vs Oho (0-1): This will be another exciting clash. They’ve split their first two meetings but after watching Hokuseiho dismantle Onosho, Oho may just be a bigger bump on the road to the joi-jin.

Hiradoumi (1-0) vs Onosho (0-1): Hiradoumi is ready while we didn’t get to see much of an attack from Onosho. Hopefully Hokuseiho knocked the ring-rust loose and Onosho comes back with the quality we’ve seen before.

Asanoyama (0-1) vs Ura (0-1): Asanoyama needs to bounce back from that loss to Meisei. He seemed to have the edge but the desperation lunge caught Asanoyama out. Ura’s whole thing seems to be desperation acrobatics at the edge. Asanoyama needs this, so he’ll need to keep his wits about him and not let Ura do anything crazy.


Kotonowaka (1-0) vs Meisei (1-0): These guys are evenly matched demonstrated by the 4-4 record in this rivalry. Meisei did what he needed to win against Asanoyama. Will the confidence boost from that upset carry over to tonight?

Midorifuji (1-0) vs Abi (0-1): Is it as surprising to you as it is to me that Abi has never beaten Midorifuji? After seeing how stablemate and Yokozuna, Terunofuji, completely dismantled Abi’s big guns, maybe it shouldn’t. I would normally expect Abi to blast Midorifuji, repeatedly, and pick up the win. I will pay closer attention tonight to see if Abi is actually able to use his main weapon.

Hoshoryu (1-0) vs Shodai (0-1): We saw dreadful sumo from both of these guys last night. Shodai is nowhere near as mobile or dynamic as Tobizaru, however, so should be easy prey for the dragon.

Tobizaru (0-1) vs Wakamotoharu (1-0): Tobizaru snatched defeat from the jaws of victory yesterday with that wild, off-balance display. Wakamotoharu will need to contain him.

Mitakeumi (0-1) vs Daieisho (1-0): I’m eagerly anticipating this fight. Mitakeumi came in a bit high last night and was shown the exit…but at least he looks healthy. Daieisho has fire in his belly and laser-guided tsuppari. Of the three Ozeki candidates, I thought he put on the most convincing performance.

Terunofuji (1-0) vs Nishikigi (1-0): We haven’t seen Nishikigi in action yet but that shouldn’t matter. Terunofuji should dismantle Nishikigi with the ease that he displayed against Abi.

Who, exactly, is the old guard ?

So, the 2020 Haru basho went through all coronavirus fears, and, fortunately, could go all the way and without incident.

It certainly has been a pretty unusual basho, with no spectators admitted. However, some recurring themes went on appearing; among them, the continuous rise – and, on several occasions, disappointment brought by the new generation of rikishi.

Thirteen’s day musubi no ichiban, which saw Hakuho facing Asanoyama, could have been subtitled as: “Who is going to take the lead of this basho? Young talent Asanoyama, or old guard leader, dai yokozuna Hakuho?”

If it’s not too hard remembering when our youngsters made their makuuchi debuts (guessing the correct year, at least), who, exactly, constitutes the “old guard”?

Let’s divide this topic into two questions:

1. Who made the oldest makuuchi appearance?

2. Who has the longest uninterrupted makuuchi appearance from today?

First of all, let’s spoil things a bit, as the podium can already be determined. Three names spring to mind: both yokozuna, obviously, and former ozeki Kotoshogiku, now 36, who has stayed in makuuchi after his demotion.

Both yokozuna have stayed in makuuchi right from their first appearance (May 2004 for Hakuho, November 2016), whereas Kotoshogiku made one last stint in juryo before establishing himself in makuuchi on the long run (first appearance in January 2005, continuously in makuuchi since May of the same year).

36 and kicking : Kotoshogiku Kazuhiro (left)

So, who are the best of the rest ?

1. Who made the oldest makuuchi appearance?

Several names come to mind but it’s no surprise one of the “seven samurai”, Tochiozan, holds the oldest appearance, back in March 2007! He stayed in makuuchi the whole time since his unfortunate demotion by the end of 2019, which makes an impressive 12 years stint.

An impressive twelve year stint in makuuchi: Tochiozan Yuichiro

His career highlight? The nervous playoff he lost to Kyokutenho, in May 2012.

Tochinoshin is known for his famous comeback from makushita to makuuchi in 2013-2014, after having sustained a serious knee injury. What is less known is that he already had five years in makuuchi behind him, his debut being back in May 2008.

His career highlight? His promotion to ozeki after, notably, clinching the January 2018 yusho.

The year 2008 also saw the first appearance of Tamawashi. He took the lift down to juryo five times – never for more than one basho – from 2008 to 2013, before establishing himself for good.

January 2019’s surprise winner: Tamawashi Ichiro (right)

His career highlight? A nice run at sekiwake, which saw him clinching the January 2019 tournament.

Okinoumi got promoted to makuuchi in March 2010, and after a short period back to juryo, has fought in makuuchi with no exception since the end of that year.

His career highlight? Three runner up performances, and no less than four gold stars (three wins against Harumafuji, one win against Kakuryu).

However, the main core of the old guard belongs to the “2011 promotion”. Let’s pay tribute to these brave fighters. Under brackets, their age and numbers of jun yusho: Kaisei (33 y.o./2 jun yusho), Takayasu (30/4), Takarafuji (33/1), Aoiyama (33/1), Shohozan (36/1) and Myogiryu (33/0).

All of them have reached san’yaku: Takayasu got promoted to ozeki, Shohozan had a career best as komosubi, all the others went as high as sekiwake.

Let’s finally point out Ikioi, who began a makuuchi career in March 2012.

To sum up:

RikishiOldest makuuchi appearance
Hakuho ShoMay 2004
Kotoshogiku KazuhiroJanuary 2005
Kakuryu RikisaburoNovember 2006
Tochiozan YuichiroMarch 2007
Tochinoshin TsuyoshiMay 2008
Tamawashi IchiroSeptember 2008
Okinoumi AyumiMarch 2010
Kaisei IchiroMay 2011
Takayasu AkiraJuly 2011
Takarafuji DaisukeJuly 2011
Aoiyama KosukeNovember 2011
Shohozan YuyaNovember 2011
Myorigyu YasunariNovember 2011
Ikioi ShotaMarch 2012

2. Who has the longest uninterrupted makuuchi appearance from today?

Continuously fighting in makuuchi on the long run is no easy task, as we shall see. We may (and we should) all applause Kotoshogiku for his incredible longevity, as well as we can praise Okinoumi for being around since November 2010, and Takayasu for having not being demoted a single time to juryo, since his first makuuchi appearance in July 2011!

Present since 2010: Okinoumi Ayumi

Several rikishi have unfortunately suffered demotion since their debut, but do hang to makuuchi for quite some time: Tamawashi (present since July 2013), Takarafuji (since July 2013), Tochinoshin (since November 2014), Shohozan (demoted during the year 2015, present since November 2015).

Some of the courageous warriors have unfortunately suffered demotion lately. Myogiryu and Aoiyama came back to makuuchi in March 2018, whereas Ikioi, Tochiozan and Kaisei all stormed back in January 2020.

So, who complete our table? Incredibly, the “new guard”! Shohozan brought Mitakeumi with him, in November 2015. We witnessed, shortly after, Shodai (January 2016), Endo (May 2016) and Kagayaki’s (July 2016) rise.

Finally setting his sights on ozeki promotion? Mitakeumi Hisashi
RikishiStayed in makuuchi since
Hakuho ShoMay 2004
Kotoshogiku KazuhiroMay 2005
Kakuryu RikisaburoNovember 2006
Okinoumi AyumiNovember 2010
Takayasu AkiraJuly 2011
Tamawashi IchiroJuly 2013
Takarafuji DaisukeJanuary 2013
Tochinoshin TsuyoshiNovember 2014
Shohozan YuyaNovember 2015
Mitakeumi HisashiNovember 2015
Shodai NaoyaJanuary 2016
Endo ShotaMay 2016
Kagayaki TaishiJuly 2016
Myogiryu YasunariMarch 2018
Aoiyama KosukeMarch 2018
Ikioi ShotaJanuary 2020
Tochiozan YuichiroJanuary 2020
Kaisei IchiroJanuary 2020

So what’s the conclusion? Some of the old guard is having a rough time, with Shohozan, Tochiozan or Myogiryu having suffering big make kochi in Osaka, not even mentioning Takayasu’s worrying state.

At the same time, the clock is ticking for the young hopes to shine…

Sumo debates for 2020 – 1/3

Right after having enjoyed the countdown to the new decade, we’re already about to begin another countdown, till the first honbasho of the year.

Amongst New Year’s traditions, rikishi reveal on television their wishes and expectations for the coming year.

This article may be the occasion for us to discuss specific issues, which may become critical in 2020 or which are already razor sharp.

I’ll give my personal opinion on the matters but everyone should feel free to fuel some awesome debates !

1. Will Takayasu be an ozeki by the end of 2020 ?

Probably the hottest topic currently. Takayasu’s been around for a while – he entered maku’uchi in 2011, and hasn’t had a very long ozeki career – about two years and a half.

Takayasu’s rise was no fluke however, as he produced some great performances, earning kinboshi twice in 2013 and twice in 2014. The Ibaraki-born has a first ozeki run in 2016, but a disappointing 7-8 record in Kyushu wasted fine 11-4 and 10-5 performances.

He returned stronger next year, though, and reached the second highest rank after 11-4, 12-3 and 11-4 performances early in 2017.

Takayasu’s quest for glory undoubtly reached its peak in 2018. Aged 28, he ended up runner up thrice. He narrowly missed a spot in a playoff in the last honbasho of that year.

Last year was much more difficult for him. Before sustaining a serious injury in Nagoya, he produced indifferent 9-6, 10-5 and 9-6 performances. He failed to recover properly from his arm injury, and will start 2020 as an “ozekiwake”.

His repeated training sessions with retired yokozuna Kisenosato – now Araiso oyakata – and new tachi-ai strategy have been criticized among Twitter followers.

In trouble : former ozeki Takayasu

Takayasu has to think his tale isn’t over at the top, as he never lifted the Emperor’s Cup. Turning 30 in February, with an irreversible injury to his arm, will he produce the necessary ten wins to regain his ozeki rank ? If he does, can he maintain his performances during 2020 ?

My prediction : no

2. Will Goeido be an ozeki by the end of 2020 ?

A tricky question. It seems Goeido has been hanging around forever – he produced a noticed 11-4 performance for his maku’uchi debut, back in 2007. He had short stints in san’yaku but spent several years in the maegashira ranks.

The Osaka-native famously began an impressive run at sekiwake in May of 2012, which lasted fourteen tournaments until ozeki promotion after a fine 12-3 performance in Nagoya 2014. His inability to consistently produce strong performances raised doubts about his promotion quest. He got promoted a bit below the common 33 wins standards, with an indifferent 8-7 performance between two 12-3 results.

Goeido has been kadoban nine times (this year’s first tournament included), finished seven tournaments with just eight wins, and followers expected Goeido to produce an anonymous ozeki career.

Being kadoban, Goeido upset the odds during the Aki basho of 2016, winning his only yusho so far with a perfect 15-0 record. Suddenly a yokozuna candidate, he notched just nine wins the following tournament.

Exactly one year after, Goeido wasted a golden opportunity to lift the Emperor’s Cup during the Aki basho again, letting Harumafuji fill a three win deficit before defeating him in the ensuing playoff.

Holding his rank since 2014 : ozeki Goeido

Years 2018 and 2019 were solid albeit unspectacular from Goeido. However, he had to pull out of two of the last three tournaments through injury. Entering 2020 kadoban, aged 33, will Goeido suffer from the weight of the years ? Or will he regain full fitness and enjoy a Kaio-like ozeki career, until the age of 39 ?

My prediction : no

3. Will Asanoyama become an ozeki in 2020 ?

All eyes are watching Asanoyama since he unexpectedly won the May 2019 tournament. After a honourable 7-8 record as then highest ranked maegashira 1, he ended up the year strongly, with 10-5 and 11-4 records. He’ll make his sekiwake debut in 2020.

Officially, Asanoyama is not on an ozeki run – his two last ranks were maegashira 2 and komosubi ; he might also regret not having collected one or two more feasable wins in Kyusho.

Sumo’s next big hope ? Asanoyama Hideki

Nevertheless, Asanoyama’s quest is likely to be eased by the need for new blood at the ozeki ranks – Tochinoshin has been demoted, Takayasu is an uncertain ozekiwake for January, while Takakeisho and Goeido’s recent injury records are no cause for optimism.

Can Asanoyama be promoted as early as March after a tremendous yusho in January ? Or will he simply consolidate his performances, and reach the second highest rank this year ? Or will he fail to meet expactations, as Mitakeumi did so far ?

My prediction : yes

4. Will someone else reach the ozeki rank in 2020 ?

Note : that question does not include Takayasu or Asanoyama.

Abi seems more of a candidate than Mitakeumi, who disappointed again, after clinching his second yusho. Well he get another shot ?

Abi is on the rise, with 8-7, 9-6 and 9-6 records in san’yaku. Can he move up even higher ? His utter aversion for yotsu zumo might prove a stumblingblock, however.

Other candidates would be more original, but also wake up fans from all over the world ! Endo, Daieisho, Ichinojo, Hokutofuji fans and others are welcomed !

 My prediction : no

5. How many yokozuna will remain after 2020 ?

This is a delicate question. Hakuho’s immediate target has long been identified: lasting at least until the Olympics. With his wish about to be granted, the obvious question is: what next ? Hakuho is on the top of almost every record – but is not the oldest rikishi having won a yusho: Kyokutenho achieved that feat, aged 37 years and 8 months.

He also said during the post-basho interview in November that he targeted 50 yushos – he currently has 43.

Many questions remain open: was he serious ? Is that goal actually realistic, given the general state of the field ? Will the ageing yokozuna (he’ll turn 35 in March) manage to hold his form ? Will he stay motivated ?

On a positive note, 2019 has been better for Hakuho than 2018, where he fully competed in just two tournaments. The past year, he competed in “three and a half” tournaments (he pulled out right at the end of the January basho), and won two of them.

Both yokozuna : Hakuho (left) and Kakuryu (right)

About the opposite can be said about Kakuryu’s recent form. After a bright start in 2018, with 11-4, 13-2 and 14-1 records, he had to pull out of part or all of five tournaments. His win in Nagoya of 2019 gave him some respite. Turning 35 in August of this year, will he be able to compete during the whole year ?

My prediction: it’s difficult to answer. Hakuho might decide to retire and Kakuryu to thrive during 2020. But the opposite might also be true, with Hakuho clinching a few more yushos and Kakuryu being unable to challenge properly for the Cup. There’s a chance of seeing one yokozuna retiring and one yokozuna remaining.