Crime and Punishment – Board Meeting Summary

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

Takayoshitoshi and Takanohana

Takayoshitoshi and Takanohana

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

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

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

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

The Minezaki scandal

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

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

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

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

The Osunaarashi wrap-up

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

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

Commentary

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

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

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

Juryo: Haru Storylines Week 2

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

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

1. Can Kyokutaisei win promotion?

Needs for success: 8 wins

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

2. Golden Oldie Revival?

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

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

3. Whither Kaiju?

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

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

4. Takanoiwa

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

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

5. The Second Wave

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

Second week prognosis: Mixed bag, as expected.

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

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

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

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

Takayoshitoshi Goes Kyujo Over Violent Incident

Yesterday, on day 8, Takayoshitoshi arrived late, trotting up the hanamichi, as the bout between Yago and Takanoiwa was about to start. He was told off by the head shimpan.

takayoshitoshi

The newly-minted sekitori arrived late because his newly-appointed tsukebito failed to cue him in time.

Sekitori are appointed a tsukebito upon promotion to Juryo. A tsukebito is the sekitori’s manservant. He carries his things and does all menial jobs for him. The duties include prompting the sekitori that it’s time to get to the arena – the sekitori should be there two bouts before his own in case the wrestler on his side loses, requiring him to offer the chikara-mizu to the next one on that side.

Following his late arrival, Takayoshitoshi lost his own bout. In a precarious position already, being at the bottom of the Juryo banzuke with only three wins to his name, he went back down to the shitakubeya (the preparation room), and there proceeded to cuss and beat up his tsukebito. This ended in a swollen face and a cut inside the mouth that caused the tsukebito to spit blood.

This was done in front of many witnesses, and the head of the crisis management department, Kagamiyama oyakata, as well as the head of the board, Hakkaku, were informed immediately. Takayoshitoshi and the tsukebito were called in for questioning, and Takayoshitoshi admitted to 2-3 punches.

It is morning time on Monday in Japan, and Takanohana oyakata has called in a press conference, apologized, and announced that Takayoshitoshi will be kyujo as of today. A special meeting of the board will be convened today to further question the parties involved, and deliberate an appropriate punishment.

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 6 – The Lower Divisions

Once again, Kintamayama has been in a generous mood and provided us with a Day 6 Juryo digest. Head over there and watch the whole thing.

Now, quickly repeat this sentence five times in a row: Takayoshitoshi beats Terutsuyoshi by okuritaoshi. The winner gets a free Acme Tongue Straightener.

Terutsuyoshi tried to reverse the charges and perform an ipponzeoi, but this time it didn’t work – his toe eventually touched the soft earth around the tawara and the gunbai pointed to Takayoshitoshi.

Why “this time”? Because he did something very similar with Takayoshitoshi’s twin brother back in November.

Takanoiwa got to do the splits, courtesy of Tochihiryu, a guy coming up from Makushita to fill in the gaps. Ouch.

Akiseyama is back to being a blob in a mawashi. He starts by launching a convincing tsuppari on Takagenji, but an attempt to switch to the mawashi gives Takagenji the initiative, and Akiseyama somehow manages to waddle his way out of the mess, and keep his place on the leaderboard.

Enho said in an interview on NHK yesterday that he wants to be a rikishi who gives the spectators an interesting match to watch. And he is certainly doing that. Only… he is already 1-5, has the worst balance in the three bottom ranks, and looks well on his way to lose the “zeki” suffix from his name and his newly assigned tsukebito.

mitoryu-helps-enho-up
Mitoryu lends Enho a hand up

Amakaze grabs his first win of the basho. I like Amakaze, I wish he may get a kachi-koshi, but winning his first white star on the sixth day means this is somewhat unlikely.

Homarefuji sends Gagamaru out under his own inertia, and is the only sekitori from Isegahama to win a bout today. By which I’m spoiling the next bout, which is Kotoeko vs. Terunofuji who is back to haunting the dohyo rather than dominating it. Kotoeko gets inside and lifts Terunofuji up, and the ex-Ozeki sums it in his own words: “My worst executed loss so far. If I don’t move forward I’m toast”.

(Well, my free translation of his own words, that is. He never mentioned any actual toasts in the Japanese version on the Isegahama website).

Tsurugisho can open a school to teach henka technique. That was the hennest henka in Kawashiland. Excuse the Japlish.

Aminishiki continues to suffer. He tries a heroic throw at the edge but can’t keep himself in balance long enough.

Sadanoumi loses for the first time in this tournament, and now nobody has a lossless record in Juryo.

Finally, Azumaryu meets Takekaze, who seems to be the genkiest we have seen him in months. Unless he gets very tired by the second half, the bullfrog is leaping back to Makuuchi.

Makushita

Midorifuji continues his winning streak, this time facing Ichiki:

Midorifuji is yet another rikishi in the “angry pixie” class – 169cm including his chon-mage. Ichiki here is slightly taller and heavier, but the more explosive Midorifuji wins the day.

Toyonoshima faces Asahiryu, the Mongolian from Asahiyama beya, and pretty much overwhelms him:

That boy is already two years in Sumo. He should put on some more weight.

Sandanme

Let’s take a look at Hikarugenji – that’s the man I introduced in the Pearl of the Day a couple of days ago. He is Arawashi’s tsukebito, and like most tsukebito, seems to be a fixture at Sandanme:

Here he is facing Chiyodaigo, the 20-year-old from Kokonoe. Can’t say this was exactly a matta, but Chiyodaigo seems to be caught off-guard.

Jonidan

Yoshoyama faced Kotoharamoto. I don’t have an individual bout so again, here is the complete Jonidan recording, time stamped for Yoshoyama’s bout (25:36):

I’m still not loving his tachiai, but the guy has technique alright. By the way, as the wrestlers start doing their shikiri, the announcer and the guest are discussing Kotoharamoto’s good sumo body, when the guy turns and shows the camera his front side. The guest promptly says “Oh, he reminds me of Kagayaki”. Jee, I wonder why.

The announcer calls that an okuridashi, but the official kimarite is actually tottari. He first has that hand in an ottsuke, and then converts that into a tottai.

Jonokuchi

And finally, we can’t do without Hattorizakura and his continued Sisyphean sumo life: