News out this morning (Japan time) that Yoshikaze has decided to retire. Due to an injury to his right knee, which has not recovered to the point where he can compete, he will miss his second consecutive tournament. The outcome would have been a demotion outside of the salaried ranks into the hell-storm that is Makushita.
I wish you the best of luck, sir. Thank you for all of the fantastic sumo over the years. It has been a distinct pleasure to watch the one man I knew could put anyone on the clay on a given day do his stuff.
He closes out his competitive career after: 79 basho, 1 Jun-Yusho, 4 Gino-Sho, 2 Shukun-Sho, 4 Kanto-Sho, 8 Kinboshi. Wow.
We are now deep into a transitional period in sumo. The cohort that had been dominant for 10 years or more are finding time catching up to them. Their sumo is not as sharp, their bodies can no longer endure the punishment of the fight, and they are staring down a significant change in their careers. It’s heartbreaking to watch great rikishi close out their careers, and I suspect Aki is going to be the finishing stroke for more than one storied rikishi.
Yoshikaze – Fans who have been reading the blog know Yoshikaze is my absolute favorite, and has been for years. The guy has been an absolute giant-killer, and has been able to sumo a nearly demonic fighting spirit at times. Because of this, and his willingness to sacrifice his body to the fight, I nicknamed him “the Berserker”, which at least a couple of fans though of as an insult. For those who have studied Nordic history, we know that being called a Berserker is a high compliment. But Yoshikaze has been suffering a variety of physical problems for most of the last year. He had a mystery rash for a time, and in May he damaged a knee, which saw him seek surgery. He did not compete in Nagoya, and dropped to Juryo 7. Yoshikaze last competed in Juryo in 2007. There is also word from the Japanese sumo press that he has not recovered, and is unlikely for Aki. Failure to start in September would surely mean a demotion to Makushita. At 37 years old, he probably would rather not break back into Sekitori status. The good news for Yoshikaze fans – he has an oyakata slot waiting for him upon retirement. Already heavily involved with youth sumo, I think the future Nakamura oyakata is going to be responsible for bringing sumo to new generations of people in Japan.
Ikioi – Ranked at Juryo 12w for Aki, fan favorite Ikioi’s heart is still in the fight, but his body is too broken to really continue. His last kachi-koshi was at Hatsu of 2019, and there has been no sign that his injuries are actually improving. He continues to rack up double digit losses, in spite of being reduced to a lower division. While the full extent of Ikioi’s injuries are probably not published, we know that he has taken many blows to the head, suffered with cellulitis, and has ankle and knee problems. Each time the man steps on the dohyo, you want to call an ambulance. But the warrior spirit in him refuses to relent, and each bought he leaves just a bit more damaged. Like Yoshikaze, he has a oyakata slot waiting for him (Kasugayama). I think that if he gets his 8th loss in September, we may see him take a hair cut and put on a nice suit sooner rather than later.
Kaisei – The picture around Kaisei is less clear. As a foreigner (Brazil) he has no access to an oyakata slot. He is also quite banged up, ranked Juryo 8, and I think he is in serious peril of being demoted to Makushita with a losing record. He has managed only 7 wins over the last 3 tournaments. Ouch! He’s a fan favorite, and a real sweet heart in real life, so we can only hope that he can either rally in September, or he can find something to pay the bills if he is demoted further down the banzuke. At 32, he may only have 1 big campaign up the banzuke left, if any.
Arawashi – This guy is a mess. His sumo skill is fantastic, but he has been walking wounded since last year, and has struggled to hold onto a Juryo rank. Now 33 years old, and at Makushita 1, he has more or less one shot to get 4 wins against the brutal Makushita joi-jin to regain a salaried rank, or face a long, unfunded road to the exit. Like Kaisei, he is a foreigner and has no access to buying his way into a kabu.
A reminder to fans – sumo is a combat sport, and a literal zero-sum game. It is by its nature brutal and elminationist. It’s Darwin in action, and only the fittest of the pack can survive each new tournament. While we love our aging heroes, their slow fade makes room for new rikishi to leave their mark on the sumo world.
Day 12 was a solid day of sumo, but it did bring a couple of questions to the front. The first for me is that with a number of lower ranked rikishi approaching double digits, and fighting very well this basho, will the NSK once again decide that “nobody deserved a special prize”? Many fans were shocked by that declaration at Aki, as several rikishi put together successful campaigns in the face of a resurgent Yokozuna and Ozeki corps.
The yusho race narrowed considerably, and that was clearly intended given the day 12 schedule. The matches involving the chasers were all solid sumo that saw each candidate produce a fierce effort.
For those readers who are keeping up with Juryo (and who wouldn’t with Herouth doing a masterful job covering it), Oguruma rising star and certified sumo battle-cruiser Yago secured his kachi-koshi at Juryo 1 East, meaning short of some kind of bizarre incident, we will see this sumo phenomenon in the top division in January. He has been in Juryo for the past 5 tournaments – 7 total over his short 10 basho career. His sumo looks strong, low and heavy.
Chiyonokuni defeats Daiamami – A notable match because Chiyonokuni goes for the mawashi and engages in a solid yotzu match against Daiamami. Is it just me, or is Daiamami looking surprised there? Even though he is make-koshi, it’s great to see Chiyonokuni rack up a much-needed win.
Okinoumi defeats Meisei – Okinoumi continues to rack up wins, and it’s wonderful. Meisei denied a kachi-koshi today, and he seems a bit frustrated. Okinoumi could hit double-digits this tournament, and might end up with a substantial re-ranking upward for January. While his fans might cheer this, Okinoumi suffers from a chronic medical condition that sometimes impacts his sumo, and I would hate to see it worsen.
Yutakayama defeats Endo – Yutakayama very effectively kept Endo from going for his mawashi, and instead set the tone and format for the match, which took the form of a windmill thrusting contest. Endo’s last minute attempt at a pull down failed, and Yutakayama got a much needed win.
Kotoshogiku defeats Aoiyama – As much as I admire and respect Kotoshogiku, I was really pulling for Aoiyama to prevail. Aoiyama opened strong, and began with his expected thrusting attack, but could not stop Kotoshogiku going chest to chest with him. At that point, I think Aoiyama began to worry, and that may have been the start of trouble. The Kyushu Bulldozer’s knees are not what they once were, but he contained and pushed with enough force to move Aoiyama out. With this loss, Aoiyama falls out of the group 1 loss behind Takakeisho.
Onosho defeats Daieisho – Yusho leader Takakeisho’s friend Onosho does him a solid favor and quenches the higher ranked Daieisho’s aspirations for a day 15 parade. From the match you can see just how much Daieisho was putting into this match, he met Onosho thrust for thrust, but left himself open for the hatakikomi at just the wrong moment.
Daishomaru defeats Ikioi – I bring this match up because it’s clear just how hurt Ikioi is, watching him gather his strength just to stand following his defeat. The man is a true competitor, and its amazing to see true determination and courage on display.
Takanoiwa defeats Chiyoshoma – Bit by bit we see Takanoiwa get his sumo back. I would assume by the middle of 2019 he is back to being a serious full time contender for the upper Maegashira / lower San’yaku. Chiyshoma is now one step closer to make-koshi, and he is perilously far down the banzuke for end November with a losing record.
Kagayaki defeats Takanosho – Both men are make-koshi, but this is a match to watch. Firstly, Kagayaki’s school of sumo fundamentals carries the day. Second, is I have started to take note of Takanosho, this guy, much like Asanoyama, seems to have a very positive attitude about competition, even on days when he loses.
Shohozan defeats Chiyotairyu – If any wonder why I call Shohozan “Big Guns” or refer to him as a “Street Fighter”. Behold exhibit A. His match with Chiyotairyu featured a few loud and forceful blows the the face that probably left a mark, and certainly got the crowd’s attention. Chiyotairyu goes chest to chest, removing the immediate threat for more blows to the face. Sadly for Chiyotairyu, he’s somewhat stuck at this point, as his yotzu card is not strong, and his stamina tends to be expended in the first few seconds. Shohozan correctly waits him out, injecting a few harassing moves moment to moment, and bides his time. Shohozan wins his kachi-koshi, and the home town fans are delighted.
Asanoyama defeats Takarafuji – The happy rikishi staves off make-koshi for another day, but its sadly at the expense of long suffering Takarafuji.
Yoshikaze defeats Abi – As expected, Yoshikaze learned well from Ikioi, Endo and Okinoumi. You can see him apply upward pressure at Abi’s elbows, disrupting his preferred double arm thrust attack. Time and again Yoshikaze drives inside, just to be awarded a hand to the face. His persistence is rewarded by control of the inside, and he pushes Abi back, back and out. Although it’s at a bit slower speed and lower energy than a few years ago, Yoshikaze still has the goods when he can rouse his fighting spirit.
Tochiozan defeats Myogiryu – I have to wonder if Myogiryu has run low on stamina, his brilliant opening week seems to have turned into a bit of a rout. Tochiozan succeeds in getting him turned sideways, and off balance for the win.
Shodai defeats Hokutofuji – Wow, Shodai was on his sumo today. Hokutofuji put a fair amount of genki into the tachiai, but Shodai absorbed it masterfully, and kept Hokutofuji from executing any successful offense. Shodai instead stalemated Hokutofuji, and waited for his opening, which he found and exploited with exquisite timing.
Takakeisho defeats Tamawashi – Takakeisho seems close to unstoppable at this point. Tamawashi always has strength and balance, but in reaction to the “Wave Action” attack, it seems that few can maintain their footing for long. After the second wave, Tamawashi is too far forward, working to bring maximum force to bear on Takakeisho, who senses the imbalance and deftly steps aside.
Nishikigi defeats Kaisei – As stated in the preview, Nishikigi surprises every couple of days, and today he was somehow able to use an off balance position to load up enough energy to push Kaisei out. Dare I say it? Nishikigi could still end this basho with a winning record at Maegashira 3. A new day in sumo indeed.
Ichinojo defeats Ryuden – In hitting his make-koshi, Ryuden gave Ichinojo a solid fight. But it seems the Mongolian giant is working through whatever pain or injuries are blunting his sumo. Twice Ryuden had Ichinojo’s heels on the tawara, twice he rallied. Ichinojo closes the match with a hearty lift and drop. Well fought both.
Takayasu defeats Tochinoshin – I am worried about Tochinoshin, and I think Goeido’s kyujo may rescue him from a make-koshi and a kadoban status for New Years. Takayasu seems to be focused and driven to bring himself to his eventual showdown with Takakeisho as a fierce contender who is ready to claim the Emperor’s cup by eliminating the upstart contender.
We kicked off Kyushu Act 2 in fine style, and with just the Ozeki holding down the big end of the torkiumi, it’s makes for a really quick final division. While whoever wins this basho will always have an asterisk next to it (due to Nokozuna), its still an official tournament, and everything that happens does indeed count.
Somewhere in the stands today, our own “man in exotic lands” Josh was enjoying the matches. If I could guess, we may see some of his thoughts on this blog before the end of the day.
In other news, an off-hand remark I made in the day 6 preview seems to have severely impacted my weekend chanko recipe. This shall be painful, smelly and foul tasting. But it must be done.
Aminishiki defeats Daiamami – It’s one thing to have Uncle Sumo visit the top division for a day, and it’s another thing (a special, wonderful thing) to have him unleash sumo magic. I am certain Daiamami was looking for a henka, instead Aminishiki drove inside and set up a rare kimarite: Amiuchi (aka The Fisherman’s Throw).
Arawashi defeats Daishomaru – Notable because for the injured Arawashi, this is his first win of the basho. As you can see post-match, he can put very little pressure on that injured leg. Ranked at Maegashira 16, a make-koshi is a return trip to Juryo.
Onosho defeats Chiyomaru – There seems to be almost no hope for “Love Chunks” Chiyomaru, as Onosho puts him up for adoption with the nearest Oyakata.
Aoiyama defeats Takanosho – Aoiyama appears to have reconnected with his sumo, and improves to 4-2, meanwhile Takanosho looks to be in trouble.
Chiyonokuni defeats Endo – After Endo’s day 5 match, people began to think he had his body and his sumo re-connected. However, Endo ceded control of the match to Chiyonokuni at the tachiai, and Chiyonokuni never let him do anything more that try to react to his sumo.
Ikioi defeats Yutakayama – This is Ikioi’s first win over Yutakayama, and it underscores the impact of Yutakayama’s injuries. Ikioi made fast work of him, and we saw no defensive pressure from Yutakayama.
Shohozan defeats Kotoshogiku – THE match of the basho thus far! These two went at it with gusto, and neither one let an offensive move go unanswered. As the battle raged across the dohyo, the two swapped roles, techniques and advantages. In the end I think it was all down to Shohozan outlasting the former Ozeki. The crowd went wild for these two hometown favorites. I loved the bow that Kotoshogiku gave at the end of that match, pure respect for a worthy opponent, and a match that might be the highlight of his year.
Chiyotairyu defeats Takanoiwa – Takanoiwa did not survive Chiyotairyu’s cannon-ball tachiai with his balance intact, and the burly Kokenoe rikishi advanced and pushed the still-recovering Takanoiwa clear of the tawara.
Abi defeats Asanoyama – Two happy rikishi enter, one rikishi leaves happy. Again the double arm tsuppari of Abi-zumo left his opponent unable to do anything other than get pounded into defeat.
Yoshikaze defeats Kagayaki – As thought, the overwhelming intensity of Yoshikaze’s berserker attacks proved more than Kagayaki’s strong low stance and solid fundamentals could absorb. Kagayaki opened strong, but Yoshikaze rallied at the tawara. I will say that Kagayaki is getting better at enduring that style of attack, which is good news for his future sumo.
Nishikigi defeats Tochiozan – No really, undefeated Tochiozan went down to the tragically over-promoted Nishikigi for his second win in a row. I am not sure what they did to him, but Nishikigi has decided to win. Wow…
Takakeisho defeats Kaisei – Stand him up, slap him down. Takakeisho is now the only unbeaten Makuuchi rikishi at Kyushu. Without any Yokozuna or credible Ozeki to contain him, Takakeisho is really racking up the wins.
Mitakeumi defeats Hokutofuji – Mitakeumi decided to bring his sumo today, and while Hokutofuji started strong, it was clearly a grade below Mitakeumi’s “A Sumo”.
Myogiryu defeats Ichinojo – I am starting to feel quite sad for Ichinojo, as he continues to fade. Myogiryu, however, is bringing fire and energy to each match, something that is sorely missing in many other rikishi at the top end of the banzuke right now.
Takayasu defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi allowed the match to go chest to chest at the tachiai, and gave up his primary advantage: mobility. At that point it was Takayasu’s fight, and it ended as could be expected with the big man applying a straightforward but powerful yorikiri.
Goeido defeats Ryuden – The Goeido techs were able to wipe the “Bouncy Castle” zero day exploit from his battle control systems, and the Goeido 2.1 stack functioned normally today.
Shodai defeats Tochinoshin – Once again Tochinoshin allows his opponent to dictate the terms of the match. Unable to land any sort of grip, Tochinoshin was helpless to stop Shodai’s cartoon physics from completely disrupting his sumo. He drops to 3-3.