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. 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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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.


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.


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.

Day 4 – Juryo and Below

Not all divisions covered this time.

Terutsuyoshi picks on someone his own size

In the battle of the muscular pixies, the more muscular and experienced pixie, that is, Terutsuyoshi, had the day.

Enho has given Terutsuyoshi all kinds of trouble there, but eventually, the Isegahama man just grabbed his head and didn’t let go. Basically, trying for a hineri on a small opponent is not the greatest idea. Kotenage, and Enho will need to look for his second win someplace else.

In the match that followed that one, Akiseyama, the spud in the mawashi, gave Takanoiwa his second loss. Takanoiwa got a mawashi grip on him, but Akiseyama took advantage of an overcommitment and sent him to the floor in a tsukiotoshi.

Fans of the Flying Monkey, Tobizaru, will enjoy seeing him in his snowy Mawashi vs. Daiseido:

This was an energetic dance all over the dohyo, ending in a hikiotoshi by Tobizaru.

And of course I won’t leave Juryo without an update on the Ghost of Terunofuji, who suddenly looks a lot less ghostly:

Not quite kaiju as yet, but that was a convincing uwatenage, and the former Ozeki has three wins in a row and is probably safe from having to bid farewall to Shunba. On the Isegahama web site, he says he should avoid complacency, and first and foremost, go for a kachi-koshi. Well, now it seems like a realistic goal.

In Makushita, let’s take a look at Midorifuji in his bout vs. Ayanoumi. This developed into quite a lengthy battle, looking most of the time more like Mongolian Wrestling than plain sumo.

No monoii there at the end, and stamina king Midorifuji has the day.

Down at Jonidan, Torakio made another appearance:

That arm and shoulder clearly still bother him, but he uses them nonetheless. And his sumo style is improving.

At Jonokuchi, Hoshoryu made a second appearance as well. Again, I couldn’t find an individual video, so here is a time-stamped video of the complete Jonokuchi set of matches:

The rival is heavy Unzendake. Hoshoryu goes on the attack and manages to get that bulk to the tawara with a lot of gaburi yori. Unzendake does not rely on his weight alone to save him and tries to repel the Mongolian and even starts a throw, but Hoshoryu claims the throw for his own and makes sure he doesn’t touch ground first. That boy doesn’t look like it’s his first sumo tournament.

In an hour or so day 5 starts, and Jonokuchi has the interesting match between Naya and Hoshoryu. It will be Naya’s first real challenge, although he did beat Hoshoryu in the past.

And of course, the Hattorizakura loss-du-jour:

Day 3 – Juryo and below

As well as the exciting matches at the top of the Banzuke, we also had some interesting action below Makuuchi. Let’s start with Juryo, and this time I don’t need to embed a lot of videos, because Kintamayama has been extra generous and made a full Juryo summary of day 3. Head over there to watch it.

Enho, preparing to hand his first chikara-mizu in Juryo

Enho, Hakuho’s Mini-Me, finally got his first win today, against the other shin-Juryo, Takayoshitoshi. “I am relieved. I have been watching videos of my best past sumo yesterday”, he said afterwards. Tomorrow, alas, he faces my main man, Terutsuyoshi, in a bout I want neither to lose. Can’t we all just be friends?

Speaking of Terutsuyoshi, he brought Takanoiwa’s race back to Makuuchi to a stop today, defeating him by a spirited yori-kiri. Of course, this was a piquant bout, as far as the press was concerned, between a member of Isegahama beya (specifically, they all called him “Harumafuji’s ototo-deshi”) and Takanoiwa. Terutsuyoshi responded to that with “On the dohyo, it’s man against man. If you start bringing other people’s affairs on the dohyo, you wouldn’t be able to do sumo”.

Of course, if you are looking for schadenfreude, you can always follow Asashoryu’s twitter account. He was laughing in Japanese again today. But of course, it was because of a funny video. Not Takanoiwa at all.

Yago continues to struggle. Tomorrow he goes against Takayoshitoshi. Both are 0-3 at the moment, so at least one of them will get his first shiro-boshi tomorrow. I prefer Yago, of course.

And Terunofuji got a second win in a row, vs. the hapless Amakaze. There were reports in the morning that the former Ozeki was in an improved mood following his first win – he came to morning practice, practiced with Midorifuji, and was all smiles. His good mood continued after this win, as he wrote on the Isegahama site: “Winning after a long dry spell yesterday made me remember the trick to winning! LOL”. So the former kaiju is in a good mood, but if you look at the bout, it was still far from the real Terunofuji. He got a mawashi grip quickly enough, but couldn’t do anything decisive with it.


Eventually he lost his grip and Amakaze tried to make that into a sloppy tottari, and Terunofuji simply used his bulk for a couple of side bumps to make sure Amakaze fell first. At this point, he really can’t afford any futile attempts at good technique with muscles he doesn’t have. If he drops down to Makushita, he’s going to lose not just his salary and private apartment, but also Shunba.

Let’s go down a step and visit Makushita. The bout between Kizenryu and Ichiyamamoto became the talk of the day today.

Chiyonoumi wiping dirt off the injured Kizenryu

Here is the video:

The bout starts as usual, takes quite a while with nice Sumo on both sides, but it ends up with both rikishi diving head down and Kizenryu’s face meeting hard clay. Problem is, it’s really hard to tell who hit the ground first. A monoii is called, but Kizenryu is having a hard time getting up and off the dohyo. The first shimpan up (I believe it’s Shikihide oyakata) checks on him, and then the yobidashi.

With the help of the yobidashi he finally gets up, descends and awaits the referees decision. At this point all he has on his mind is probably going back to the shitakubeya and taking care of his bleeding face. But he is stunned (even further) when the shimpan call a torinaoshi.

By this time he has three yobidashi trying to wipe him off, and then Chiyonoumi, who is sitting down awaiting his own turn, gets up, fixes the stunned Kizenryu’s mawashi knot, proceeds to wipe the dirt off him, and then watches over him as he goes to the steps, in case he stumbles.

Ichiyamamoto adds matta to injury, but eventually Kizenryu manages to win by uwatenage. Dragging himself away from the dohyo, his face bleeding again, he doesn’t forget to turn around and bow. Wow.

(And yes, that’s a Maiko making her way to her seat right there at the end).

Kudos to Kizenryu for a heroic performance, and Chiyonoumi earned himself a new fan. What a mensch!

Chiyonoumi himself won his bout after that vs. Asabenkei:

Sotogake. And as one of the spectators mentioned, he looked like Chiyonokuni there for a moment.

Down at Sandanme, if anybody is interested to see what the new yumi-tori man’s sumo is like, here is Kasugaryu vs. Nakashima:

Kasugaryu is 0-2 so far. Perhaps it’s the bow ceremony that gets to him, because he certainly seems to have good technique.

And further down at Jonidan, while we are looking at bow twirlers’ sumo, Satonofuji went against Chura today:

Ah, yes. I think even an alien would recognize that this man is from Aminishiki’s stable.

Finally, at the very bottom, in Jonidan: remember I made a bit of fun of Urutora (Kanji aside, that seems to be the Japanese rendition of “Ultra”, and I think it’s intentional) and his huge gap from Naia? Well, he may be a poppy seed, but he is no Hattorizakura. Here he is against Azumayama:

I wonder what’s the story of this “Ultra” rikishi. He seems to spend a lot of his time kyujo and even banzuke-gai.

His rival from yesterday, the famous Naia, also competed today. This time his rival was Watatani.

Still no challenge whatsoever. Naya enjoys his new privilege (using nodowa – you’re not allowed to do that in amateur/youth sumo). We’re probably watching the Jonokuchi yusho winner here. Just sayin’.


Haru Day 2 – beyond Makuuchi

It was an interesting sumo day at the EDION arena. Bruce has already given you the highlights of Makuuchi. But there is much action to see in the other divisions.


Former Ozeki Terunofuji has broken a 6-month draught, winning his bout vs. Gagamaru by Uwatenage.

Yesterday Terunofuji said that while his knee problems are mostly gone, he has to contend with the diabetes at the moment. He was told that it will take him six months to get his body back in shape, and he is hoping, by working out as much as possible, to shorten that period. He was certainly happy about that long awaited white star, though you can’t see that in the video.

Our favorite Uncle Sumo is not doing as well, though. Yesterday Takekaze has given him a Hatakikomi from his own book. Today, despite much support from the Osaka crowd, he just couldn’t stand his ground vs. Kyokutaisei. He hinted on the Isegahama web site that his injury is not quite healed as yet.

Another crowd favorite who is not doing very well is our muscular pixie, Enho. I believe it’s mostly nerves rather than body size, though. The other shin-Juryo, Takayoshitoshi, has also lost both his bouts so far, and he is most certainly not vertically challenged.

I… wish he didn’t go for the henka. It’s unlike him. His tactic has always been to drive forward. Of course, variety would help. Instead of always going for a mae-mitsu he could try the same barrage of tsuppari Wakaichiro used yesterday. Anyway, don’t pull. Hakuho told him that he looked “lost”.

Not far away from him on the banzuke, is the returning victim of the Harumafuji affair, Takanoiwa. And he looks like he hasn’t been a day away from the dohyo:

Trying to get a mawashi grip, keeping his body low. Shimanoumi finds himself below the dohyo. Takanoiwa is now 2-0. Seriously, somebody should give Hakuho the address of the hospital where Takanoiwa was hospitalized all this time because it seems that their treatment program includes lower body exercise of top quality.

And here is a bout in which I wanted neither rikishi to lose, really, but I wish it was Terutsuyoshi who won at the end.

Note Terutsuyoshi’s coming back up the dohyo. The crowd appreciated that – as well as his usual generous salt throw.

Further down we go. Toyonoshima is still trying to overcome his injuries and return to Sekitori status. He promised the late Tokitenku that he’ll be back. But it is getting more and more difficult as time goes by:

His rival is Rendaiyama. You can see Toyonoshima’s experience – but like Aminishiki, he just can’t withstand strong attacks from younger rivals.

In Sandanme, I’m sorry to report that Shunba lost to Kaonishiki by oshi-dashi, as did Terunohana (kimedashi, to Daishokaku).

Down at Jonidan, after his stablemates appeared on day 1 with mixed results (Oshozan won, Sumidagawa and Honma lost), Torakio opened his Haru basho today. Something in his expression tells me that he finally knows where he has landed, and I’m not sure he likes it too much.

It’s no fun having a heavy supporter on your arm this early in your career. But nevertheless, he uses that very arm to throw Nakao and win by uwatenage.

One of the “ones to watch” – Yoshoyama – also made his first appearance today. His torikumi ended in a couple of seconds. There seems to be an improvement there, but I still see a Shodai-like tachiai there.

No individual video, so here is the time-marked video of the whole set of Jonidan torikumi:

(If the time mark doesn’t work for you, shift to 19m10s manually).

Finally, down at Jonokuchi, both the famous grandson and the famous nephew made their first public appearances (at least, the first on-banzuke). Let’s start with Naya, Taiho’s grandson. He was facing Urutora:

Quite a bit of difference in mass there… Shikihide oyakata certainly doesn’t believe in force-feeding his deshi. Not a real match for the huge Naya who swats him away as if he were a fly.

Hoshoryu – Asashoryu’s nephew – faced Nakanishi, the new Sakaigawa man. This was a totally different match altogether:

Ahhhh…. that’s real sumo. Before the basho, Takanosho decided to practice with Hoshoryu. Hoshoryu is a Jonokuchi newcomer. Takanosho a sekitori. And Takanosho found himself on his back. And seeing today’s bout, we know why. I don’t know if he’ll be a Yokozuna like his uncle, but that boy is certainly not going to be doing laundry and cleaning toilets for long.

Isn’t sumo great?

Video credits: One and Only, Miselet.


Juryo: Haru 2018 Storylines

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.”