Bouts From the Lower Divisions – Day 9

Yokozuna-level mind games, Hoshoryu

We start our coverage at the most predictable point of the torikumi – our friend Hattorizakura. Today he faced one of the lesser Narutos, Yamane with his back to us, who was 1-3. Hattorizakura himself was 0-4.

The result was about as unpredictable as a fusensho. Yamane improves to 2-3.

Jonidan

Our friend Homarefuji had a meeting with Sumo’s main Elvis figure – Mutsukaze, the man with the great mutton chops, but also a great singing voice. The footage starts mid-bout, with Homarefuji on the left holding on to Mutsukaze on the right.

Homarefuji again engages in a yotsu battle, and it seems also a stamina battle, as we can hear the huffing and puffing. The Isegahama man improves to 5-0, and remains in contention for the Jonidan yusho.

Sandanme

Wakaichiro mounted the dohyo to face Azumasho from Tamanoi beya. Both 2-2. Wakaichiro attacks from the left, Azumasho from the right.

It didn’t go well for the young Texan, who got caught in a hold he doesn’t know how to solve. Note how he picks up and re-arranges the shimpan’s sandals, which he probably disarranged in his fall, on his way back up on the dohyo. Ever a polite boy.

The shimpan, by the way, have two pairs of sandals with them. One pair is used for getting in and out of the arena, and one is used for mounting the dohyo in case of a monoii discussion.

Another match of interest today took place between Dairaido from Takadagawa beya, and Amakaze, yet another one of the recoverers we follow. Dairaido is an interesting fella, he is 39 years old, and has an experience of six basho in Juryo, back in 2006. 13 years after tasting the taste of heaven, he is still toiling in the lower divisions.

Here Amakaze is on the left, and Dairaido on the right:

For a 39 years old who is lighter and smaller than Amakaze, Dairaido is full of genki. Amakaze makes a grave mistake in the middle, and is late to get his bearings before Dairaido leads him out. Amakaze now 3-2. He will probably get his kachi-koshi, but his way back up to glory is going to be slow.

Makushita

Makushita is where it’s at this basho. We start at the bottom with the former Ozeki, Terunofuji, who wants to get his kachi-koshi today. He is on the right, while Keitenkai – that’s the guy who beat Roga on day 1 – attacks from the left.

The former Ozeki has a problem getting any mawashi grip with his left hand, due to the dislocated finger. In addition, Keitenkai gets inside low – trying something of a submarine attack, I’d assume. But that’s about it from him. He is out of his league, and Terunofuji executes a kotenage. Keitenkai ends up with a bonus: a face full of gift-wrapped Ozeki junk.

Terunofuji is kachi-koshi, 4-1, and will hope to end 6-1.

Next, all Onami brothers were in action today, and the first we run into is Wakatakamoto, the eldest brother. He is on the left, facing Sagatsukasa from the little-known Irumagawa beya, on the right. Both are 3-1.

Sagatsukasa is 37 years old. Yet another odd case of someone who had a sekitori career – a real one, 22 basho in Juryo including yusho, 6 in Makuuchi. And yet he chooses not to retire but to continue in the lower division for years.

But all that experience tells. Sagatsukasa tries all sorts of wiles, and the first bout ends in a monoii and a torinaoushi.

In the Torinaoshi, it seems Wakatakamoto is trying a henka. This gets Sagatsukasa a bit pissed off, I believe, and he sets a beautiful trip, for the “chongake” kimarite.

Next, our buddies Akua and Midorifuji set out to try and maintain their perfect records. Aqua is on the left, and Midorifuji on the right, in this footage from SumoSoul’s Twitter:

The Deputy Pixie doesn’t manage to get anything going, really, and gets a hatakikomi, and a send off away from the Makushita yusho. Akua improves to 5-0.

Naya, who hurt his foot yesterday, mounts the dohyo today with some serious taping on his ankle. on the left, facing Churanoumi on the right, both are 1-3 and have “no tomorrow” – the loser is make-koshi.

Naya executes what seems like his best sumo this basho, but ends it limping heavily. He evades the make-koshi for now, but Churanoumi is not going back to Juryo this time around.

Our next Onami brother, Wakamotoharu, faces Seiro, the Shikoroyama wolf. Both are 3-1, looking for their kachi-koshi. Seiro on the left, Wakamotoharu on the right.

Haru nearly finds himself outside, when he realizes Seiro is out of balance, and quickly reverses his fortunes. Kachi koshi for the middle Onami. Wakatakakage also lost today, by the way, so Wakamotoharu was the only happy Onami on the way home.

Finally, the highlight of the day, the bout between Chiyootori, yet another hugely experienced former sekitori, and 20 year old Hoshoryu. Though I’m sure it’s easy to tell apart Chiyomaru’s brother from the slim Hoshoryu, I’ll still mention that Chiyootori is on the left and Hoshoryu on the right.

I recommend that you do not skip directly to the tachiai in this footage, but take a look at the pre-game. Chiyootori is slapping his belly emitting a “whoosh” from his lips as he does. Hoshoryu, on the other hand, concentrate on staring so hard you think either his eyes or his lips might fall off. He is giving Chiyootori the full “Asashoryu Face” treatment. This continues well after the gyoji reverses his gunbai – something which Hakuho got reprimanded for only a few days ago.

But then, Hoshoryu is not (yet) a Yokozuna.

Hustle, hustle, uwatedashinage. Hoshoryu improves to 3-2. I’m not sure whether a 4-3 will be enough for him to advance – it depends on the number of men dropping from Juryo. He will need that number to be at least three, or either of the Ms1 rikishi to have a make-koshi – and currently only Aminishiki is certain to drop, and Seiro and Irodori are 3-2.

Of course, first he needs that fourth win.

Bouts From the Lower Divisions – Day 8

Naya – a loss and an injury

We start our coverage with the indefatigable Hattorizakura, who is covered in 4k, on the left, facing Shiryu on the right.

The big pink lettering informs us that Hattorizakura was subjected to a dame-oshi. Shiryu, what’s up with that? That’s like beating up a freaking baby.

In other Jonokuchi news (which I cannot backup with footage), Mishima, the last of Naruto beya at 3-0, won his bout, got his kachi-koshi, and is joining his three heya-mates in the race for the yusho. In a few hours, some of them may or may not be eliminated, as three of them have matches today. How long are we going to stay with four yusho contenders from the same heya?

Jonidan

Those of you who find Terunofuji to be too high-maintenance may consider, instead, following the off-brand Fujinoteru, who is guaranteed to be cheaper on the upkeep. Fujinoteru, from Onoe beya, is starting this bout with a 0-3 standing, facing Sekizukayama. The footage starts with the smaller Fujinoteru on the right.

That looked a bit like the actual brand model. It’s a bargain!

In a more serious bout today, we have the titanic Toma on the left, facing Sorakaze from Oguruma beya on the right. Both 3-0 coming into this match. The footage includes the following bout as well.

Toma wins by yorikiri, achieves kachi-koshi, and keeps himself in the Jonidan yusho race.

Next, the recovering Homarefuji, on the left, vs. Daiyusho of Oitekaze beya. They, too, are 3-0 and want to try for the yusho.

Homarefuji looks genkier than whe have seen him in a long time. Got his kachi-koshi, and may have to face that Toma at some point. On Day 9 he is matched with Mutsukaze, the real sumo Elvis.

Sandanme

It’s been a while since we have seen Daitenma, the Mongolian kid who is the spitting image of Star Trek’s Data. He and his opponent, Hodaka from Onoe beya, are 3-0 at the start of the day. Daitenma is on the right:

Lack of experience, I guess. Hodoka pulls an easy hikiotoshi to get a kachi-koshi, and Daitenma has a very disappointed face as he waves the yusho prospects good bye.

We have another recovering sekitori here – Amakaze – who suffered a loss in our previous coverage, for a standing of 2-1. He is on the left, facing Kotokino from Sadogatake beya on the right. (Footage is timed to the Amakaze bout, but if you like, you can watch Terasawa’s bout before it)

Amakaze bounces back well from his loss. Forward, forward, and yorikiri.

Makushita

Fans of Terunofuji – the original brand – will go nostalgic at today’s footage. The former Ozeki attacks from the left, and Ichiki from Tamanoi beya is on the right.

Ichiki dangles like so much bait, but really, I would like one of the Isegahama elders to have a talk with Terunofuji about allowing morozashi so easily. These guys are not Yokozuna, who have their way with you willy-nilly. You should be able to stop a small fish like Ichiki from invading both your armpits.

So Terunofuji is now 3-1, and will face Keitenkai on Day 9. The guy who beat him, Onojo, had his Day 8 action facing the Futagoyama wolf, Roga. Both 2-1 into this match. Onojo on the left, Roga on the right.

Roga does not repeat the mistake of the former Ozeki. Now he, too is 3-1.

A bit further up the chart, Masutoo, Chiganoura’s Hungarian, faces Tsurubayashi from Kise beya. Both lossless before the bout. Masutoo on the left:

Alas, Masutoo suffers his first loss, going weirdly soft at the edge. Tsurubayashi is kachi-koshi and in the Makushita yusho race.

Further up, and we meet the middle brother of House Onami, Wakamotoharu. He and his rival, Tsukahara, are both 2-1. The footage starts in mid-bout, with Tsukahara having his back to us.

So Wakamotoharu is now 3-1 and having a rather good basho.

Finally, we come to the match at the top of the Makushita chart, Chiyootori, former sekitori and Chiyomaru’s “little” brother, faces Prince Naya, the grandson of Yokozuna Taiho. Neither of them is having a great basho, with 1-2 to show for it. Chiyootori is on the left, Naya on the right:

Um. Not only does Naya lose – again – he also seems to hurt his knee. He was still limping as he was going down the shitaku-beya. Let’s hope it clears quickly, as Naya has a bout against Churanoumi on Day 9.

The winner, Chiyootori, will be on the dohyo with Hoshoryu on Day 9. So you may expect him to appear on the next installment of this coverage.

Bouts From the Lower Divisions – Day 2

If eyes could kill…

Day two, and we had a lot of big names in the lower divisions. Let’s work our way from the bottom.

Jonokuchi

We would be remiss, of course, if we didn’t share Hattorizakura’s first bout with you. In 4k. Yes. Aliens researching Earth culture 1000 years from now will find footage of Hattorizakura matches in 4k.

Our lad is on the East, right, facing Kotoyamato from Sadogatake beya on the left.

The yobidashi is… fitting. But why would Kotoyamato be using such a fierce nodowa against Hattorizakura?

Jonidan

The following bout is interesting, not so much because of its sumo content, but because of Roman’s hairdo. Roman is a young rikishi, recruited in May 2018, who suffered injury in Haru 2019, and was kyujo for the entire Natsu. He was then rumored to have retired, because he was seen with a crew cut, also, not in the same city as his heya.

Then, all of a sudden, here he is, back on the dohyo, taped massively like any rikishi coming back from kyujo. I would have written this all down as some silly Internet rumor. Only… the haircut part seems to have been true. That’s not rikishi hairdo. There have been some strange goings-on at Tatsunami beya – Hitenryu, who was supposed to have started working as a Wakamonogashira (was listed as such in Wikipedia) but hasn’t, their latest recruit, who resigned with a broken arm, and this strange thing with Roman’s hair.

Roman on the left faces Mogaminishiki from Kise beya on the right.

For someone just back from injury and who knows what else, he is pretty genki.

Sandanme

Our journey into Sandanme starts with Tachiai’s favorite, Wakaichiro, who faced Kotootomo from Sadogatake beya for his first match. Wakaichiro is on the East, right, and Kotootomo attacks from the left.

Very good deashi on Wakaichiro’s part, for a straight up oshidashi. It was Wakaichiro’s birthday yesterday. It’s good to start another year in one’s life on the right foot!

Next up I have Narutaki, one of my Jungyo favorites, not least because of his huge big brother Kyonosato. Narutaki himself is not so huge, and looks especially small in this match, in which he faces Hokutoo, the 196cm wrestler from Hakkaku beya. Narutaki attacks from the right, but I’m sure you can see that for yourselves.

Very convincing sumo! Hit-and-shift, then push for an oshidashi.

Next up is Daitenma. I couldn’t find any bouts of his last basho, so I’m excited to find one now. He is Azumazeki’s beya recently recruited Mongolian. This is only his fourth ranked basho, and he had solid 5-2 in each of his previous ones. He is also as thin and gangly as you’d expect a young Mongolian with a bright future to be… Here he is on the East (right), facing Nakao from Onoe beya.

It’s nice to see this kind of yotsu battle in Sandanme. If he manages to put on some serious weight, the 187cm Mongolian will get far.

We reach the top of the Sandanme division with the representative of the USA, Musashikuni. He faces Asakishin from Takasago beya who is attacking from the left.

Ah… well. I’d like to see him start low and bend his knees.

Makushita

We’re up to the next division, and start straight off with the former Ozeki Terunofuj, facing Aoi from Shikoroyama beya. Although Aoi is about the same age as Terunofuji, he is just a Sandanme-Makushita regular. We are informed that in June, Terunofuji started practicing moshi-ai for the first time since his dropped. So we expect him to be less rusty than the previous two basho. Let’s take a look. Teru on the left, Aoi on the right.

The former Ozeki was aiming straight for that shoulder.

One thing to note is the yobidashi who calls Terunofuji’s name. That’s Yobidashi Teruya from his own heya. The two (together with Shunba) transferred from Magaki beya to Isegahama and are very close friends. Not sure Teruya ever expected to call his friend’s name on his shift.

Next up, we have Shiraishi, who won the Sandanme yusho after having landed straight in that division (Sandanme-tsukedashi). Shiraishi on the left faces Kotorikisen from Sadogatake on the right.

Shiraishi seems to continue just where he left off in Natsu. I wouldn’t be surprised if they match him with Terunofuji next.

Kyokusoten is one of my old favorites, though he is not one of the strongest rikishi around, especially not for a Mongolian. He’s just a nice guy, who is sought after as a tsukebito by other Mongolians. Currently he is serving under Kakuryu. Here he is facing Hokaho, from Miyagino beya. What was Miyagino oyakata thinking when he named him that? Anyway, Hokaho on the left, Kyokusoten on the right.

Hokaho seems to be the stronger of the two. Next time, Kyokusoten!

We continue on the theme of Mongolians in Makushita. Let’s take a look at Roga, Futagoyama’s star. He is facing Keitenkai from Onomatsu beya on the left.

Another Mongolian down. Roga is still lacking in experience.

Naya, the scion of Taiho, has been showing a lot of improvement lately and was expected to, maybe, surpass his rival, Hoshoryu, this time around. Here he faces a serious obstacle in the form of Akua from Tatsunami beya, who had a couple of stints in Juryo. But I think Naya wasn’t expecting the bout between them to develop as it eventually did. Akua on the left, Naya on the right:

Naya thought this was a matta. He looks at the shimpan, he looks at the gyoji, but to no avail. At least he is not standing at the base of the dohyo trying to monoii the decision. Hard life lesson: if the ref didn’t call it, it’s not a matta. No matter if your hand didn’t touch the ground.

But anyway, ouch.

The last bout in Makushita today was between Hoshoryu and Irodori. Again, there were many expectations of this bout. Irodori (right) has some sekitori experience. But Hoshoryu (left) is not letting that intimidate him. Quite the contrary. The bout starts with a long stare-down, and Irodori eventually gives in. Then there’s a matta, but Hoshoryu is unfazed.

When they get down to the bout itself, it’s all too easy. The psychological warfare was clearly favoring the young Mongolian.

Juryo

I’m not going to share the bout which may or may not have been Aminishiki’s last. Instead, let us concentrate on the newcomers to Juryo. Two of them who lost the previous day are facing each other today. Kotonowaka on the left vs. Kizakiumi on the right:

Kotonowaka The Second doesn’t seem to find his Juryo legs yet. It’s his second loss, to exactly those people he should beat to avoid the return to Makushita.

The third Juryo newcomer is Ichiyamamoto, and he actually seems to feel right at home in Juryo. Ichiyamamoto on the left faces Akiseyama on the right.

Wait a minute… why does this seem familiar? Hey, Ichiyamamoto, Abi called and asked for his Sumo back. Come to think of it, he really needs it back quickly.

Ones To Watch – Post Haru Round Up (Sandanme to Jonikuchi)

He’s Back! (Terunofuji)

I have to start by complimenting Herouth’s coverage of the jungyo, which is (if anything) even better than its already typical awesome. The gaps between the basho seem less vacant, and we fans to get to see a different aspect to the sumo world. So a big THANK-YOU to Herouth for bringing us these features.

In our last post, we looked at 9 rikishi in Makushita for Haru, and discussed just how tough the competition can be in the Makushita joi-jin. Today we discuss the rikishi in the divisions below Makushita, each of whom is working hard to improve their rank each and every match. Our coverage at Haru featured some returning favorites, who found themselves in the middle of Jonidan,

Torakio – Naruto heya’s scion took a terrible pounding in Osaka, finishing a dismal 1-6, with the win coming on his final match of the tournament. This was Torakio’s highest ever rank (Sandanme 15), and he had been on a steady path of improvement. We can hope that he did not sustain some mechanical injury, and will return to Tokyo to regroup and refocus on the upcoming Natsu basho in May.

Shoji – A young rikishi from Musashigawa heya, he finished 2-5, ending the tournament with a 3 bout losing streak. He had previously been ranked as high as Makushita 52, but has only scored one kachi-koshi tournament in the past year. The Musashigawa rikishi almost all had terrible tournaments in Osaka. Bad luck? Poor training? Poor quarters? We will never get to know, but we hope that returning to Tokyo will help the crew score better for May.

Wakaichiro – Our favorite Sandanme rikishi ended the tournament with a disappointing 3-4 record, which came down to his final match on day 14. Wakaichiro has shown that he is susceptible to placing his balance forward, and at times is open to hatakikomi or other moves that exploit his center of gravity. As with many of the Musashigawa clan, they fight better in Tokyo, and we expect he will be back in better form for May.

Kenho – The massive Kenho ended Osaka with a deep make-koshi at 1-6, and frankly had little offensive sumo to offer in any of his matches. Once a rikishi get to be his size, there body struggles to manage all of that flesh, and multiple problems with joints, muscles and metabolism come to the front. We hope he can re-group and recover his sumo, as he is great to watch when he is healthy.

Roga – The Mongolian sensation blasted through the pack in Jonidan to finish 7-0, with a day 15 playoff for the Jonidan yusho against none other than returning favorite Terunofuji, which he won to claim the division title. At 20 years of age, he is clearly on a solid upward path, and we will eagerly watch to see where he starts to find the competition challenging. But I would expect him give the Sandanme title favorites in May a series of tough matches.

Terunofuji – Everyone was happy to see Terunofuji return. After holding the title of Ozeki for a long time, he withdrew from sumo to attempt to clear up multiple problems with his body. It was announced that he would be competing in Osaka, sumo fans around the world hoped to see him return fit, trim and powerful. Instead, Terunofuji looked like death warmed over. Clearly his problems with his knees and his metabolism are not much better than a year ago. But at his size and level of skill, the Jonidan rikishi are mere playthings to amuse the Kaiju. As mentioned above, he finished 7-0 with the Yusho-doten, losing to Roga. Please Terunofuji, find a way to get healthy.

Amakaze – Former Juryo mainstay also returned to action after an extended kyujo. Unlike Terunofuji he actually did look like he had some energy and drive. Amakaze has a big round fellow, but has solid sumo skills. He ended Osaka with a 6-1 record, and I expect he will continue to improve for a while.

Hattorizakura – In spite of putting on some weight, and what looked like a bit of muscle mass, Hattorizakura could not find a way to a single win in Osaka, ending the tournament with a solid zenpai (0-7), and in doing so keeping the universe in balance. In the process he seems to have possibly done something unique, losing the same match twice.