Rising star Takakeisho pressed hard during the Hatsu basho to make the case that he should be promoted to Ozeki. Among sumo fandom, a general guideline is thought to be 33 wins for consideration by the NSK for promotion. To be clear, it’s not a standard of “win 33 over 3 basho and you get promoted”; reality shows that is the minimum for consideration. [It’s not even a minimum: Kisenosato and Goeido were both famously promoted with only 32 wins, and further back in time there were promotions with even lower totals. -lksumo] On the road to his 33rd win, Takakeisho has won a yusho, a jun-yusho, and shown that he can beat Yokozuna and Ozeki. For most fans, it was almost a foregone conclusion that his bid would be approved.
But following the Hatsu basho, the NSK committee of sumo elders concluded that in spite of winning a tournament, and nearly winning a second consecutive tournament, his performance was insufficient to qualify for promotion to Ozeki at this time. They encouraged him to try harder (?) at Osaka. Part of their citation was his loss to Ozeki Goeido on day 15, where the struggling Goeido overpowered Takakeisho and quickly ejected him from the dohyo. Later we learned that in the course of this match, Takakeisho suffered a foot injury.
Takakeisho, at 22 years of age, represents the next generation of rikishi who have been pressing hard to dislodge the old guard, and take their place in sumo’s top ranks. Young, strong, lacking chronic injuries that never quite healed, the rise of both the Tadpole and Freshman cohorts is part of the natural evolution of sumo that Tachiai has been forecasting for the past two years.
But it’s quite likely that western fans felt the young fellow was robbed by the curmudgeons in the NSK, who as of late have been working in increasingly mysterious ways. I was not, however, surprised that the NSK had decided to make young Takakeisho work a bit longer before he became Ozeki. It’s clear he is on an ascendant path, and with his youth, strength and quality of sumo, he will be Ozeki no matter what if he can keep from getting hurt. It is undeniable that the drama around both Sekiwake coming from recent yusho, and both working to make a valid Ozeki bid, will bring a lot of attention to the Osaka tournament, and with the Japanese Yokozuna now retired, the NSK needs compelling stories to keep the public engaged.
Personally, I was worried that once again the special prize committee would rule that “no one deserves a special prize” as they did at Aki. That decision was not popular in my circle of sumo fans, but as an outsider (which I assure you I am), you just shrug and go about your business. For Kyushu, the special prizes were a tadpole sweep:
I do wonder about consideration for Aoiyama and Okinoumi, who performed very well indeed. Then there is Nishikigi, who defied expectations and actually was able to put together 8 wins at a rank far above anything he has ever held before. Some additional information if you want to pick through he kanji here.
The final result is quite the signal for the road ahead. With Takakeisho winning the Kyushu yusho, we have 2 tadpole yusho this year (Mitakeumi and Takakeisho). Interestingly enough, it was Mitakeumi who sealed the deal with his win over Takayasu in the final match of the tournament. For Takayasu, he is forming a record surprisingly like his senpai, consistent good scores, but no Yusho to show for it. This is his 4th Jun-Yusho, all with a 12-3 finish.
At 22 years old, yusho winner Takakeisho continues on his meteoric rise. Over the past 3 basho he has racked 32 wins, over the past 4 that number goes to 42. In the past year he has honed his trademark attack, that we have taken to calling “Wave Action Tsuppari”. Where most rikishi land blows and thrusts in an alternating left / right arm cycle, Takakeisho works to set up a period group of double arm thrusts that arrive in waves. The net result is visually obvious, his opponent has just enough time to react just a bit before the next wave arrives. In many cases that reaction is to either escape or counter attack, and almost always leaves the opponent on less than excellent footing. If he can stay healthy, young Takakeisho has a lot to offer the sumo world.
Onosho defeats Yutakayama – Onosho picks up the Kanto-sho, and blasts Yutakayama out directly. Yutakayama finishes 5-10, and is in dire need of repair to his body. At one time a promising member of the Freshmen cohort, he has suffered greatly since posting to Maegashira 2 at Aki.
Kotoshogiku defeats Meisei – No special prize here, but it’s great to see Kotoshogiku shine again. Meisei’s hopes of double digits bit the clay with his first trip on the hug-n-chug Kyushu Bulldozer. Kotoshogiku is probably looking at a big lift in rank for January, and I am curious to see what he can do with it.
Chiyoshoma defeats Abi – Is it reasonable to consider the dominance of Abi-zumo is past its peak? Chiyoshoma dismantles the obligatory double arm attack and makes fairly easy work of Abi. Fans know Abi has a lot of potential, and are wondering when the next evolutionary stage will hit. Not that I think he will (or should) abandon the double arm attack, just as Tochinoshin will never abandon the lift and shift when he can get there. But we know Abi has more in his sumo book.
Aoiyama defeats Yoshikaze – Aoiyama has really gotten his sumo together this basho. He typically does quite well in the Maegashira 12-9 rank, but seems to falter more the closer he gets to the top. With a 11-4 finish, he’s headed for the joi-jin, and he will have another chance to demonstrate if his sumo is effective against the top rikishi. Yoshikaze make-koshi on the final day, he could not get close enough to the man-mountain to produce an effective offense.
Ryuden defeats Daieisho – Deeply make-koshi, Ryuden never the less continues to work on his sumo, and battles for every win. The guy’s work ethic seems solid, and at Maegashira 3, he was out-matched, even in a nokazuna tournament like Kyushu. All of the freshmen were make-koshi this time out, so it’s time for them to heal up and get ready for 2019. They are about 18-24 months behind the tadpoles in their evolution, so we should see them start to contend in a serious way late next year, early into 2020.
Okinoumi defeats Tamawashi – Matching his 11-4 from Kyushu last year (at about the same rank), Okinoumi seems to really improve in the western basho, and then pays for it in January. While I am sure Tamawashi would have rather closed with 10 wins, he is still in solid shape to return to the San’yaku for the New Years basho.
Shodai defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan ends Kyushu with a kachi-koshi, but he certainly faded after a blistering start. Tochiozan opened the match in good position, but Shodai was able to break contact and recover, gaining the inside pushing position and focusing his force center-mass. Solid defense-offense change up combo from Shodai to pull a kachi-koshi out at the last minute.
Hokutofuji defeats Takanosho – I kind of feel for Takanosho, he got his head handed to him this basho, but kept his positive outlook. He’s going back to Juryo for January, but first he had the honor of being Takakeisho’s standard bearer for the yusho parade. I am going to guess that Takakesiho will have a happy, willing new Kouhai for his future career at Chiganoura. Hokutofuji finishes 7-8, and may get a chance to face more named ranked rikishi in January.
Myogiryu defeats Chiyotairyu – The Darwin match, where only one survives. After Chiyotairyu launches early and a matta is called, his primary offensive gambit, the cannon ball Tachiai, is defused and Myogiryu makes quick work of him.
Takakeisho defeats Nishikigi – For a brief moment, Takakeisho found himself perilously off balance as he yet again lost his footing near the edge. Nishikigi was not fast enough to put him away, and Takakeisho showed why he’s a force in sumo by rallying and taking the fight back to Nishikigi.
Kagayaki defeats Ichinojo – What should have been a gimme match for Ichinojo turns into a one-sided battle, with Kagayaki taking control and making surprisingly easy work of the ex-Sekiwake. A healthy Ichinojo is to be feared, sadly this Ichinojo needs recuperation.
Shohozan defeats Tochinoshin – One of the poorest run matches in memory, I have to wonder if the NSK is really going to promote Kandayu in 2019 after that mess. Tochinoshin spent his stamina in the first match, and maybe a bit more in the second. Shohozan had something left in reserve, and battled through a cut lip to win the 3rd and final attempt. Tough to describe the level of nonsense here, so please watch it via NHK, Jason or Kintamayama.
Mitakeumi defeats Takayasu – After some lackluster matches out of the future Ozeki, he rallies and brings his “A” sumo to Takayasu for the final match of the basho. When the match went to a leading contest, I thought it was Takayasu’s for sure, as he seems to have an almost inhuman endurance and can carry out a contest like this for a good long time. But Mitakeumi wore him down, and was able to find his time and make his move. My heart goes out to Takayasu, as a win at Kyushu would have been an important step towards supplanting Kisenosato, who may not be in sumo much longer. But that is for another day.
Thank to all our readers who spent part of their time enjoying the Kyushu basho with us. These nokazuna tournaments make for interesting contests, and November delivered an excellent fortnight of sumo. We count down the 49 days to Hatsu, and hope you will join us again when you think of sumo.
Final Weekend of the second “No-kozuna” tournament of this year. Some fans are quite upset as they must endure “sumo light” yet again, and perhaps they feel that without the Yokozuna active and battling lower ranks that it’s just not quite sumo. Sadly for them, this format is likely to be more frequent over the next 2 years. As the current Yokozuna continue to fade out, and with the Ozeki corps nursing an increasing inventory of injuries, the future belongs to the young, healthy and eager. Thankfully for sumo there are waves of these guys eagerly advancing into the top division and the top ranks. One has to look no further than how dominant the “tadpole” cohort has become, and they show no sign of slowing down. If you think about the “freshmen” cohort (Abi, Yutakayama, Asanoyama, Ryuden), they are just starting to come into their own – maybe 18 to 24 months behind the tadpoles. Looking across Juryo and Makushita, we can see potential for at least 2 more waves over the next couple of years.
Action today features the kanban match of the basho, the “Taka Bowl” featuring Takayasu and Takakeisho to possibly determine the yusho. If Takakeisho wins, we will see him hoist the magnificent red fish of victory. If he loses, we may see a playoff on day 15 between these two to decide it all. If their history is any indicator, the Ozeki will repeatedly go for a slap down or some other pulling maneuver. When you are as big, fast and strong as Takayasu, this can be quite effective. But in recent matches the Ozeki has been unbalanced and “light” when he unloaded these pulls, and perhaps Takakiesho will be able to exploit that tendency. Takayasu is also a very competent yotzu-zumo practitioner, and can wear just about anyone down to a gasping, exhausted puddle by the time he is done with them. While that approach has fewer “all or nothing” moves, it requires that the Ozeki survive and overcome the “Wave Action” attacks to lock Takakeisho up chest to chest. Should he do this, I predict that there will be little that Takakeisho can do to win.
Sumo fandom waits as the next eight hours or so count down to this pivotal match. In the mean time there are quite a few “koshis” to be decided, including the fate of Nishikigi, who at the start of this basho looked like he was the chump in the November poker tournament. Like the survivor he is, he might actually pick up his 8th win today against Takarafuji. I can’t compliment the guy enough on entering the stadium each day ready to do what it takes to win. Then there is the case of Shodai, who is one loss away from his 8th. On day 14 he faces Kaisei, whom he has never beaten (0-7). But Kaisei’s apparent injury on day 13 might change that math, and possibly give Shodai enough of an advantage that he could take his first white star from the Brazilian powerhouse.
Good morning all – rather than do full highlights, if you want the read on the matches and how action unfolded on day 14, let me direct you to the fantastic live blog Herouth conducted during the day 14 broadcast. Please note that there is another live stream from the good folks at NHK World overnight (Sunday afternoon in Japan). So if you are keen to see the final day’s action live, plus a lot of trophies, do tune in. The big question on everyone’s mind – what color will the macaron be this time?
Whatever demon had a hold of Yoshikaze’s sumo loosened his grip just enough for him to finally score his first win of the basho. It’s great that he did not finish Nagoya 0-15. On twitter there are nearly as many posts about Yoshikaze as there were for Mitakeumi, such is his support among sumo followers. His lone win (thus far) does not negate that there is something sadly wrong with Yoshikaze, and all of his fans dearly hope he can get well or at least get comfortable.
A group of rikishi that I call “The Freshmen” have really out-performed this tournament. This includes the last two men who had any credible chance of competing for the yusho: Yutakayama and Asanoyama. In addition, Ryuden, at the rallied to win 5 of his last 7 matches and secure his kachi-koshi. Hell, on day 14 Yutakayama convincingly beat Takayasu. Granted Takayasu is only at about 75% of his normal burly self, but Yutakayama was not intimidated, and executed some really solid sumo.
Then we have the “Tadpoles”. The Grand Tadpole / King Tadpole scored his first ever yusho. In the tags I have been carrying on for over a year, referring to Mitakeumi as “Future Ozeki Mitakeumi”. For the longest time, it was partially a bit of a taunt, as clearly he wanted it, but had not reached the threshold where his sumo could accomplish that goal. I think we now know that he’s made that step, and will campaign hard to score his 33 before the end of the year. Should Aki turn out to be a fully staffed roster in the Yokozuna and Ozeki ranks, sumo fans will be in for a real treat, as the confidence he gained in Nagoya works to power him against sumo’s best. I would also note the rest of the tadpoles (Onosho, Takakeisho) are already kachi-koshi, and it’s been a big success for that cohort.
Day 14 was a solid day of sumo, and many of the Nagoya themes have played out as best they could within the brutal parameters of this basho. One last day to go, then it’s on to Aki!
And so we come to the close of a most enjoyable tournament. It ends with a satisfying result, and with the Sekitori corps advancing well along the path. The Tadpole league took a body blow, with Onosho not starting, Takakeisho going kyujo, and Mitakeumi ending up make-koshi. The veterans had much to celebrate, with Ikioi and Kaisei racking up double digit wins, Endo clearly on the mend, and Tochinoshin still potent. The Freshmen are finding their footing now, and I expect some great challenges by the time we get to kyushu, with the first of that cohort looking to enter san’yaku for their introductory make-koshi.
The match preview is brief on this final day, as most questions have already been settled, but I am sure there will be some good sumo for all the fans.
Yokozuna Kakuryu Wins the Haru Yusho!
What We Are Watching Day 15
Aminishiki vs Myogiryu – The mind boggles! Uncle Sumo, who if he wins is kachi-koshi, and possibly headed back to Makuuchi for Natsu, faces off against Myogiryu, who is already make-koshi and probably headed to Juryo. Go Uncle Sumo!
Daiamami vs Yutakayama – I think it would be fun if Daiamami ended up with 10 wins, but he’s going up against a very genki Yutakayama. It’s a tough climb, but I think Daiamami has a good chance.
Asanoyama vs Ryuden – You would think that the Maegashira 9 Ryuden would be favored to pick up his final win, and his kachi-koshi, over a Maegashira 13 opponent. But Ryuden has never won against Asanoyama.
Kagayaki vs Ishiura – Can Ishiura henka another win? He just needs one. Kagayaki, can you spare a white star for a brother rikishi?
Abi vs Daishomaru – This battle of the 9-5 Freshmen has a lot of potential for good sumo. Its a challenge for Daishomaru to get inside Abi’s enormous reach, but it will be easiest at the tachiai.
Kaisei vs Ikioi – Both men 11-3, both of them must be genuinely proud of their performance this tournament. This match will probably decide a special prize, and a slice of the jun-yusho. Well deserved, both!
Daieisho vs Shodai – Tough to think that with all of the energetic beatings Shodai has suffered this basho that he still has a chance at kachi-koshi. I have a soft spot in my heart for the guy, and I do hope he picks up his win here.
Kotoyuki vs Takarafuji – Both men in the 10+ loss club. Maybe they should just spread out a checkered square of cloth between the shikiri-sen, and enjoy rice-balls and sake instead.
Endo vs Shohozan – Shohozan wants that 8th win, and he’s going to really have to work for it. Endo is kachi-koshi, but he’s keen for 10 wins at his highest ever rank, giving him a firm launch into San’yaku. Endo leads the series 5-2.
Ichinojo vs Tochinoshin – This has a lot of potential. As we say from Hatsu, Tochinoshin can actually lift Ichinojo, so what will the Boulder do? Who would not love to see an Ichinojo henka? It would be like seeing Mt. St.Helens sing opera.
Mitakeumi vs Goeido – History favors Goeido, but Mitakeumi showed some real painful sumo to Takayasu on Saturday. Hopefully Mitakeumi knows that Goeido is going to come out hard, fast and low.
Kakuryu vs Takayasu – Both of these guys are very chaotic in their sumo. I would expect Kakuryu to allow Takayasu to take the lead until he over-comits, and then it’s time for an Osaka clay norimaki.