Yutakayama Retires from Sumo

In somewhat of a surprise announcement, the Sumo Association announced today that Juryo rikishi Yutakayama of Tokitsukaze beya has decided to retire.

A veteran of six and a half years in the sport at professional level, Yutakayama will be well known to readers of Tachiai for his significant presence in the top division over the past several years.

Yutakayama burst onto the scene as a college recruit in 2016, arriving as a Sandanme tsukedashi on account of his collegiate achievements alongside future Ozeki Asanoyama. Then named Oyanagi (his last name), it looked at the outset of his career that the powerful pusher-thruster could provide a foil to Asanoyama’s (also then fighting under his real name Ishibashi) yotsu-zumo techniques.

Indeed, Yutakayama made swift work of the lower divisions and arrived in Makuuchi in just his 8th tournament. Upon arrival, he took a very notable shikona, reflective of the hopes pinned on him with respect to the huge achievements of other Yutakayamas of Tokitsukaze beya of generations past. As a prospect, his abilities were easy to dream on: a slew of oshi-zumo enthusiasts including Onosho and Takakeisho also arrived in the top division in 2017, but Yutakayama’s greater physicality marked him out as a special talent and someone who may rise quickly to challenge those in the joi and san’yaku ranks.

After a stop-start beginning to his top division tenure in which he yo-yo’d between the divisions, Yutakayama gained his footing in the upper tier of sumo. At 2018’s Nagoya basho he achieved his finest performance, coming runner-up to yusho winner Mitakeumi by a single loss at 12-3, and also notching the only special prize of his career. A tour de force performance in total, the basho was punctuated by Yutakayama’s Day 14 win against Ozeki Takayasu in their first ever meeting, and bettered the following day on senshuraku by a stunning rally against the champion Mitakeumi. Yutakayama came back twice from the bales, defeating the star of the tournament with a hooking inner thigh throw which he deployed at the third attempt in a battle and manner of victory that was not typical of his sumo style.

However, injuries were to prove too much for Yutakayama to manage, and twice sapped his runs to the joi. He never made it to san’yaku, topping out at Maegashira 1, and suffering heavy losing records on his trips to the uppermost heights of the rank and file. While it seemed his infusion into the top division would provide a challenge to Shodai’s position as top dog at Tokitsukaze beya, we never got to see Yutakayama in a position to display his abilities consistently at the upper end of the division due to the undoubted toll that his injuries took on his ability to commit power to his oshi-zumo skill set. His intai at the age of 29 is perhaps a reflection of knowing that the game was up, as he looked overmatched even in the lower reaches of Makuuchi in recent years, and most recently suffered a heavy double digit makekoshi in Juryo in Fukuoka.

While his departure feels premature, for many sumo fans it will feel difficult to take simply because it felt like it wasn’t that long ago that he could have been projected as a force in the sport. I remember tracking him as a prospect and while it’s one feeling to see a long-time top division star or personal favourite leave the sport for blue-jacketed security detail, it’s another thing to see a top talent who we can remember in a chon-mage – or even zanbara – departing before his time might otherwise have come. Indeed, the Sumo Association normally will reference as part of the intai announcement whether a retiring sekitori has taken up an elder name, and while Yutakayama qualified for a kabu on account of the duration of his service, we can infer that he will not be staying in the organisation and will be leaving sumo entirely.

In the immediate future, with interest to banzuke prognosticators, Yutakayama’s intai and the swift announcement following the basho and ahead of the banzuke meeting will open an additional place in Juryo for the 2023 Hatsu basho. My prediction is that Ms5 Hakuyozan will take his place, although I will defer to our own lksumo for how this impacts his already comprehensive analysis of the January banzuke.

An announcement as to Yutakayama’s future was not immediately given but we can expect more details in the coming days. Whatever it may entail, we wish the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Tokitsukaze-beya alum the best of luck in his “second life!”

COVID news: 8 new cases appear, Tokitsukaze punishment

Two news items from earlier today are related to the pandemic.

Eight new cases in heya

A few days ago, we have reported that 6 rikishi tested positive at an undisclosed heya. At the time, all the others were tested as well but were negative. However, several of those previously negative have developed symptoms such as a high fever. As a result, a new test has been conducted and 8 additional rikishi were found positive, bringing the number of infections in that heya to 14 in total.

None of those infected is a sekitori, and therefore the names and the heya are undisclosed.

Tokitsukaze oyakata’s punishment decided

We have previously posted that Tokitsukaze oyakata has been caught on camera breaking COVID regulation repeatedly during Hatsu basho, and handed in his resignation. The NSK did not accept it immediately, and waited for the Compliance Committee to investigate the matter. That committee has completed its investigation and handed in a report a few days ago, recommending that the oyakata retire. In an extraordinary meeting of the board today, they have decided to issue an official “recommendation to retire”, and additionally, reduced Tokitsukaze’s severance pay by 30%.

The Tokitsukaze name, together with the heya, will transfer to Magaki oyakata, the former Tosayutaka, freeing the Magaki kabu. This was not an arbitrary selection, but rather the consensus at which the ichimon arrived as soon as Tokitsukaze made up his mind to retire.

Tokitsukaze oyakata hands in resignation over flagrant COVID regulation violation

Shortly after Hatsu basho has been over, a Japanese tabloid published preliminary information, revealing that Tokitsukaze oyakata (former Tokitsuumi, 47) has been going out of the heya during the basho, to various destinations, including 5 consecutive days at a Mahjong parlor, and various excursions to less reputable establishments.

While in normal times such conduct may have raised at most some outraged voices from the more conservative section of society, doing so in the middle of a pandemic, against explicit guidelines, was not likely to pass quietly. Moreover, this is his second offense, after he went golfing in Miyagi prefecture before Aki basho – a violation which cost him a demotion by two ranks.

The crisis management committee has taken up the story, and the compliance committee has started an investigation following a hearing. Following the investigation, the procedure is to hand the recommendations to the board, which would hold a meeting and decide on a proper punishment. This punishment is expected to be severe, under the circumstances.

Yesterday, when interviewed by Nikkan Sports, the oyakata was still attempting to provide alternative explanations about his actions (saying, for example, that he did visit the Mahjong parlor, but not to play Mahjong but to give them tickets to the basho). However, at around the same time, the aforesaid tabloid started releasing more information, including photos. This may have been what drove the oyakata to hand in his resignation on January 27, stating his resolve to take responsibility.

Current expectation is that the NSK will hold on to the resignation papers until after it completes the investigation and punishment procedure. Of course, keeping precedents like Abi and the former Shikimori Inosuke in mind, it’s not a certainty that the resignation will be accepted immediately or at all.

Heya Power Rankings: Nagoya-Aki 18


Two thousand eighteen. The year that the underclassmen upset the balance of the hallowed Tachiai Heya Power Rankings. Well, almost. After Tochinoshin’s toe-bustin’ adventures in sansho and yusho, Ice Cold Kakuryu came back to restore the natural order of Yokozuna dominance.

But what’s this? A newcomer has etched his names in the annals of time with a heroic championship win, and you know what happens when that happens: he gets loaded up with special prizes. And in our rankings system, titles and prizes are a good way to load up your stable with points. Step forward Sekiwake Mitakeumi of Dewanoumi-beya, for you, king of tadpoles have arrived.

Ahem. Here’s the full chart for this period:

Heya Power Rankings - Aki 2018

Largely, you’ll note drop-offs in points across the board. This is what happens when everyone is injured. Here’s the top 20-formatted chart:

  1. (+16) Dewanoumi. 95 points (+75)
  2. (+1) Tagonoura. 65 points (+15)
  3. (+4) Sakaigawa. 58 points (+13)
  4. (+5) Tokitsukaze. 58 points (+33)
  5. (-3) Kasugano. 45 points (-45)
  6. (-1) Oitekaze. 44 points (-4)
  7. (-1) Kokonoe. 42 points (-5)
  8. (-4) Miyagino. 40 points (-10)
  9. (+7) Takanohana. 37 points (+16)
  10. (-9) Izutsu. 35 points (-60)
  11. (-3) Tomozuna. 28 points (-4)
  12. (-2) Minato. 25 points (even)
  13. (-2) Isenoumi. 23 points (-2)
  14. (+-) Takadagawa. 20 points (-2)
  15. (**) Kataonami. 20 points (+5)
  16. (**) Hakkaku. 20 points (+9)
  17. (**) Takasago. 20 points (+15)
  18. (+1) Isegahama. 18 points (even)
  19. (-4) Oguruma. 16 points (-6)
  20. (-8) Nishonoseki. 15 points (-10)

(legend: ** = new entry, +- = no movement, tiebreaker 1: higher position in the previous chart, tiebreaker 2: highest ranked rikishi on the banzuke. Nishonoseki and Sadogatake both had an even score after Natsu as well as Nagoya, so Nishonoseki grabs 20th position by virtue of Shohozan outranking Kotoshogiku.)


After a 38 year title drought, Mitakeumi’s sansho-laden yusho-winning tournament gives Dewanoumi-beya the top spot on our chart. Elsewhere, a 100% kachi-koshi rate for Sakaigawa-beya meant Goeido’s stable returned to the top 3. The impressive veteran Myogiryu (along with Sadanoumi) has succeeded so far in his bounceback to the top division to add to the returning Ozeki’s success in the Nagoya basho. As to whether this ageing crew behind the underachieving Ozeki can continue this improvement at the Aki basho, time will tell.

Yutakayama’s jun-yusho performance vaults Tokitsukaze-beya back into the upper echelons of our chart as well. The stable grabs fourth slot in spite of Shodai’s disappointing tournament. Both Shodai and Yutakayama should return to the joi for September’s forthcoming basho, and after a spirited but underwhelming tilt at the level in May, it will be intriguing to see if Yutakayama can ride the wave of his more recent success to greater achievement in the coming weeks.

Finally, a word for Takanohana-beya, whose beleaguered oyakata guided positive results from resurgent tadpole Takakeisho and Juryo-yusho winner Takanoiwa. When faced with a similar promotion push, Takanoiwa’s fellow Juryo man Takagenji stumbled to a 6 win make-koshi, otherwise the former dai-yokozuna turned stablemaster would be sporting 3 rikishi in the makuuchi ranks for Aki. That said, both Takakeisho and Takanoiwa may be well placed for continued improvement, and Takagenji’s twin Takayoshitoshi probably has a 2019 ETA on a hopefully more humble return to the professional ranks after a dominant 6-1 return to competitive sumo in July.


By far the most disappointing performance for me this time out has to be the stable that couldn’t even crack the chart, despite an astonishing seven sekitori: Kise-beya. The stable has an incredible number of rikishi in the upper tiers of the third, Makushita tier, as well as the Juryo ranks (and fan favorite Ura still to come back from injury), yet none of those rikishi have been able to make consistent progress. Remarkably, all seven members of the stable’s pro ranks fell to make-koshi losing records, so it’s possible that they were hindered rather than helped by not having to fight each other. Most notably, when faced with the possibility of promotion to the top division amidst a stunning late career comeback at Juryo 1, inelegant veteran Akiseyama fluffed his lines, unable to muster a single win until day 8 against a mostly steady stream of grizzled vets. Newcomer Churanoumi-nee-Kizaki meanwhile will return to the unsalaried ranks following a disappointing 5-10 debut at Juryo.

There’s no great shame in Kasugano-beya’s drop from the top 2 ranks after a series of strong chart positions this year, fuelled by the success of shin-Ozeki Tochinoshin. However, we probably wouldn’t have foreseen the man being docked points for going kyujo. Hopefully his return to competition as a kadoban Ozeki consolidates the stable’s position at the peak of our chart, and stablemates Tochiozan and Aoiyama will be fighting at advanced ranks as well next time out, following winning tournaments in Nagoya.

Izutsu-beya meanwhile takes a tumble following sole sekitori and back-to-back yusho winner Yokozuna Kakuryu returning to the place he occupied most of 2017: the kyujo list.

What’s Next

I’m looking for bouncebacks from Kasugano and Sadogatake beya. In the latter’s case, Kotoshogiku has been mostly competitive in the joi, but his kyujo status midway through Nagoya means he will be fighting at a much lower rank in September and if recovered, should be formidable. The stable will also have Kotoyuki also returning to the top flight.

Oitekaze-beya is another stable whose rikishi could be placed for success next time out. The heya features seven sekitori and despite setbacks for Daishomaru and Daieisho in Nagoya, both should be well placed for success. Oitekaze’s fan favorite Endo, meanwhile, should return to the joi and Juryo man Daishoho may well be positioned to compete for his makuuchi promotion.