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.
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.
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:
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:
(+16) Dewanoumi. 95 points (+75)
(+1) Tagonoura. 65 points (+15)
(+4) Sakaigawa. 58 points (+13)
(+5) Tokitsukaze. 58 points (+33)
(-3) Kasugano. 45 points (-45)
(-1) Oitekaze. 44 points (-4)
(-1) Kokonoe. 42 points (-5)
(-4) Miyagino. 40 points (-10)
(+7) Takanohana. 37 points (+16)
(-9) Izutsu. 35 points (-60)
(-3) Tomozuna. 28 points (-4)
(-2) Minato. 25 points (even)
(-2) Isenoumi. 23 points (-2)
(+-) Takadagawa. 20 points (-2)
(**) Kataonami. 20 points (+5)
(**) Hakkaku. 20 points (+9)
(**) Takasago. 20 points (+15)
(+1) Isegahama. 18 points (even)
(-4) Oguruma. 16 points (-6)
(-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.
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.
*Thanks to Herouth for scouting much of this content via twitter.
Across Tokyo, inter-stable training sessions are increasing as the rikishi continue to hone their preparations for Sunday’s start of the Natsu basho. While everyone is training hard and engaging in multiple test matches, it’s the top men who are getting the headlines.
Yokozuna Hakuho participated in the Isegahama Ichimon joint training session, going up against Kaisei, Takarafuji and Kyokutaisei, finishing with a 13-0 record. He is looking strong and confident going into Sunday’s tournament start, and will be a strong contender for the yusho. Observers noted that his tachiai no longer featured his usual face-slap, as requested by the Yokozuna Deliberation Committee.
Injured Yokozuna Kisenosato trained at the Nishonoseki joint training, held today at kaze-land (Oguruma). Kisenosato went against Yoshikaze for 9 bouts and won all of them. It should be noted that something has robbed Yoshikaze of most of his overflowing genki fighting form as of late, and today his right shoulder was heavily taped. One notable from the Nishonoseki rengo keiko was the early departure of Ozeki Takayasu, who complained of pain in his left arm. Previous training sessions featured the big Ozeki suffering pain in his right shoulder in between bouts.
Meanwhile, Yokozuna Kakuryu looked strong and dominant in joint training Monday at Tokitsukaze beya. He faced Endo, Abi, and Yutakayama, finishing 18 and 1. Yokozuna Kakuryu has stated his absolute goal is to score a back-to-back yusho, overcoming everyone including Hakuho to maintain his lock on the top spot in sumo, Yokozuna 1 East. Going into Sunday’s start, he is the man to beat, with his health seeming to be good, and his body in excellent condition, he is possibly in his best form ever.