Natsu Day 1 Preview

Welcome back dear readers! It’s honbasho time, and the team behind Tachiai are very excited about the potential of this tournament. As we have seen in the past two years, any basho that has Kakuryu as the lone Yokozuna tends to be a battle royale, with a much wider field of competitors for the Emperor’s Cup, even into act 3. The scenario favors two rikishi in my mind – Takayasu and Tochinoshin.

Takayasu because he has been “just short of” yusho level sumo a few times. The big question is his back, which he has been struggling to keep in working order. There was a lot of commentary following the joint keiko sessions this week, and the comment at the YDC soken that Takayasu was not doing “his brand of sumo”. Sadly I have yet to see it in any detail, but I suspect we are seeing continuing evolution of Takayasu into a form that can compete closer to Yokozuna level.

Tochinoshin will come as a surprise to some readers. The fellow is on the outs now, having at least temporarily lost his Ozeki rank due to back to back make-koshi, brought on by a foot injury. Thanks to a commentator, we think of Tochinoshin as a “glass cannon”, with tremendous power as long as he is structurally intact. If Tochinoshin shows up healthy and in good working order, that enormous strength (he has the strength of a bear, that has the strength of two bears) can overcome practically anyone.

A reminder about how these basho start: Act one (the first 5 days) is all about getting people up to basho intensity, knocking off the ring rust, and starting to tune up the named ranks for the big fights later in acts 2 and 3. We may see some iffy sumo today, so don’t take it too seriously, and enjoy the next 15 days – it’s bound to be intense.

What We Are Watching Day 1

Chiyoshoma vs Toyonoshima – With Hakuho kyujo, there is a torikumi imbalance that will see a daily visitor from Juryo, unless and until someone else in Makuuchi decides to go kyujo as well. At Juryo 1 East, Toyonoshima could be back in the top division for the sweat-box in Nagoya if he can rack up 8 wins. Chiyoshoma will possibly be working on his henka.

Terutsuyoshi vs Kotoeko – While both men were make-koshi in Osaka, both of them managed to remain in the top division because so many rikishi at the bottom of Makuuchi had such terrible records. Watch for the glorious Terutsuyoshi salt throw, and for Kotoeko to work to keep Terutsuyoshi to his own front quarter.

Tokushoryu vs Enho – Enho’s first ever match ranked as a Maegashira, and I hope everyone who has not had a chance to watch his sumo before gets a high energy, enjoyable match. That fellow is indomitable.

Chiyomaru vs Sadanoumi – The bulbous Chiyomaru returns to the top division, and his first match is against fellow veteran Sadanoumi. Chiyomaru leads the series 8-3.

Shimanoumi vs Yago – After back-to-back Juryo yusho, Shimanoumi makes his Maegashira debut. In spite of his 6-9 record for Osaka, Yago is not out of his element in Makuuchi, and I expect him to find his pace this tournament, and become a mainstay of the top division.

Shohozan vs Tochiozan – A battle of the “ozan”, where the typically agile Tochiozan will attempt to out maneuver the street brawler Shohozan.

Kagayaki vs Onosho – It’s clear that Onosho is not quite back to his old fighting form which saw him kachi-koshi at Komusubi during Kyushu 2017. His 5-10 record in Osaka was a big setback for a rikishi that many see as an upgraded version of Takakeisho.

Nishikigi vs Tomokaze – A first time match between sumo’s underdog in Nishikigi, and young rising star Tomokaze. Many fans (myself included) were surprised that Nishikigi was able to survive for three tournaments in the joi-jin before a solid make-koshi pushed him back down to Maegashira 9.

Kaisei vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama has manage to beat Kaisei only once in their 5 prior matches, but this may be a different day. Kaisei tends to exhibit a good amount of ring-rust at times, and if Asanoyama comes into the match sharp and ready, he may get the jump on the Brazilian.

Shodai vs Meisei – I give Shodai an over-sized portion of grief most tournaments. He seems to have all the pieces for top level sumo, but just cannot seem to bring them together consistently. He is up against a surging Meisei, who is fighting at his highest ever rank. Shodai won their only prior match.

Takarafuji vs Yoshikaze – Can Yoshikaze muster the energy to dominate his matches? For fans of the Berserker, it’s been tough to watch him fade a bit in the past year. Likewise Takarafuji seems to have lost a half step in his sumo. This match is sure to be encrusted with ring rust, so bring one of those green scratchy pads if you are showing up at the Kokugikan to watch.

Ryuden vs Myogiryu – In the midst of the blood bath at the bottom of the Makuuchi banzuke in Osaka, Ryuden managed to finish 10-5, and neatly identify himself as ready to return to higher rank. Today is a great test, as he has not beaten Myogiryu in either of their prior matches.

Okinoumi vs Abi – Are you ready for more Abi-zumo? I know I am! So what if he’s a bit one-dimensional, it’s always a good day when he is on the torikumi. He’s against Okinoumi, who is an excellent technical rikishi, and holds a 2-1 career lead over the man with the flailing arms…

Aoiyama vs Tamawashi – I was disappointed when Tamawashi finished Osaka 5-10, as he is a solid Sekiwake-class rikishi. But today he gets to put his brutal shove-piggy-shove attack against the bludgeoning meat mountain Aoiyama. Given the propensity for day 1 ring rust, this might not be the slug fest that one would want to see from these two.

Chiyotairyu vs Tochinoshin – I liken Chiyotairyu to taking a Brinks armored truck, and fitting a top-fuel dragster engine to it. There will be a lot of mass moving at extreme speed, but past that you may be in trouble. If Tochinoshin can survive the tachiai and following slap down move, he should be in good position to use the skycrane and rack his first win on the road to 10. (He has a convincing 6-2 record against Chiyotairyu, whose style of sumo plays right into Tochinoshin’s enormous hands –PinkMawashi)

Ichinojo vs Daieisho – Which Ichinojo is going show up? The cuddly Ichinojo, or the pony tosser? If we see even a hint of his Osaka style sumo, it’s going to be a tough basho for a lot of rikishi. Plus, it looks like Ichinojo put on some extra mass…

Takakeisho vs Endo – Welcome to the Ozeki ranks, Takakeisho! Its great to have some young blood up at this level, and I think you are going to do well. Up first is a distinct challenge in Endo, who brings a very intelligent, maneuver-centric sumo to the dohyo. If Takakeisho can get his offensive rhythm established, he should have this match.

Kotoshogiku vs Takayasu – With a 11-4 finish at Osaka, Kotoshogiku looked a bit like his old, Ozeki class self. We get to see if he has been able to keep up the intensity with this day 1 match with Takayasu, who seems to be struggling a bit if pre-basho scouting reports are accurate.

Goeido vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji’s sumo has many aspects in common with Goeido’s, they both tend to blast out of the tachiai and stake everything on a big opening gambit. Goeido clearly knows how to shut down Hokutofuji’s “handshake tachiai”, so maybe Hokutofuji won’t go for the nodowa, and we will see something new.

Mitakeumi vs Kakuryu – Kakuryu has not been able to dominate Mitakeumi, and their career record is tied at 5-5., with Mitakeumi taking the last 2. There are remaining questions about Mitakeumi’s knee, and general overall health, while Kakuryu appears to be in excellent form. I am keenly interested in this match.

Jungyo Newsreel – Day 14

Guess who’s back?

🌐 Location: Yasukuni Shrine, Tokyo

After the fairly modest event we had up north in Ibaraki, the Jungyo returns to Tokyo for one of its permanent events – the dedication sumo event at Yasukuni Shrine.

As John Gunning mentioned in his recent article about Jungyo, this event is free of charge, and allows about 6000 spectators to enjoy a day of sumo right at the heart of the big city.

The upshot of all this is that there were a lot of visuals on the ‘net, and you are in for one long post. Clear up a couple of hours of your time, folks. Prepare a bento box, visit the toilet, tuck in the kids.

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Jungyo Newsreel – Day 7

🌐 Location: Tsu, Mie prefecture

The Jungyo doubles back to Mie prefecture where it began. This time to the beautiful city named Tsu. And I was very excited to receive a treasure of photos and videos from this event courtesy of Simon Davies and Blanca Bolea, who got up at 4:55 in Hasunuma and took no less 4 trains and a local bus to get to Tsu. Simon says it was worth it.

There were also many Japanese Twitter users who posted about this particular event, so this may turn out to be quite a long post. Brace yourselves, here we go!

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Jungyo Newsreel – Day 5

🌐 Location: Toyooka, Hyogo prefecture

Today was the second day in Hyogo prefecture – but right on the opposite side of it than Day 4’s event. Early morning, the dohyo is already consecrated from the day before.

And… what’s this parking right in front of the entrance to the venue?

Why, it’s Ryota Hama’s Chanko Nabe bus!

While in Tokyo or Osaka honbasho you rely either on the food supply inside the venue or the regular restaurants around it, events in small towns rely on mobile stalls. So as yobidashi Hiromasa calls the townspeople with his drum, a little matsuri is being set up around the venue.

And early-bird Hama got the most lucrative location, right at the entrance! Mmmm… chanko!

But not yet, the stalls are just being set up. First, it’s time to shake hands with some favorite rikishi. For example, Hyogo local Terutsuyoshi.

Ah, the contrast between the beautiful kimono of those ladies gathering around him, and his own ratty yukata…

Yokozuna in the house!

Low-ranking rikishi practice on the dohyo, while around it some sekitori are starting to stretch and exercise:

Very entertaining squats on the left side there.

On the sidelines, Sadanoumi practices his oshi:

Ando is doing suri-ashi:

And so does Aoiyama, though in a totally different style:

It’s time for the Juryo rikishi’s practice on the dohyo. We have Kyokushuho with Wakamotoharu, then Kyokushuho with Azumaryu:

And in the session’s closure, Takakeisho gives butsukari to Wakamotoharu:

Then Makuuchi gets into the picture. Aoiyama faces Meisei, then Okinoumi, then Asanoyama, then the latter takes over and faces Ryuden.

This is not the end of the road for Ryuden, who later gets Mitakeumi (for some reason this bout appears twice in this video). Then we can see Mitakeumi vs. Tochinoshin:

Practice time is over, and we can relax and enjoy Shokkiri. Here is the full performance.

Apparently, in this Jungyo, the gyoji is getting creative. When the two performers fall down together, he leaves the dohyo, and consults with some spectator – preferably a child: “I should call that dotai, right?”.

“Dotai” is when both rikishi touch ground at the same time. In a normal bout, the gyoji doesn’t call it – the gyoji always has to point the gunbai one side or the other – and this is settled with a monoii and a torinaoshi. In shokkiri, of course, the gyoji makes all the decisions himself. Or with the help of a child, as it turns out.

Next up is the Jinku performance. And once again I have the full version:

But hey, aren’t you hungry? It’s nearly noon and we haven’t tasted that chanko, yet!

Apparently they also serve Udon. But who cares? Chanko!

There is also a mobile Takoyaki stall if you’re tired of Chanko, as some rikishi are

Both lunch and Jinku over, it’s time for the Juryo dohyo-iri. And Sokokurai is arguing some point with Gagamaru:

Skipping the Makuuchi and Yokozuna dohyo-iri, right before Makuuchi, Takakeisho, the local hero, receives a bale of rice as a gift – and apparently, a large amount of beef.

The area of Toyooka is known for its stork-friendly rice. Apparently, Japanese storks have been on the decline, and the city of Toyooka is making an effort to bring them back, by raising rice that coexists with the creatures that storks feed on to sustain themselves. So Takakeisho got a bale of stork-friendly rice. I don’t know how stork-friendly the beef is, though.

So let’s see some bouts! Here we have a series of bouts from Juryo:

  • Daiseido-Kiribayama
  • Kyokushuho-Azumaryu
  • Daishomaru-Tokushoryu
  • Daiamami-Chiyomaru
  • Shimanoumi-Kotoyuki

This is followed by bouts from Makuuchi:

  • Ishiura-Yutakayama
  • Kotoeko-Toyonoshima
  • Tomokaze-Kagayaki
  • Shohozan-Yago
  • Sadanoumi-Terutsuyoshi
  • Aoiyama-Asanoyama
  • Chiyotairyu-Okinoumi
  • Kaisei-Nishikigi

Tochiozan vs. Endo:

Sanyaku-soroi-bumi, and Mitakeumi vs. Tamawashi

Tamawashi’s killer nodowa does it again.

Takakeisho vs. Tochinoshin:

I think Tochinoshin forgot that he was supposed to let the local boy win.

Finally, Musubi-no-ichiban, Kakuryu vs. Goeido.

I think I have yet to see Kakuryu win a bout this basho.

Finishing with our pin-up… How about Nishikigi for a change?

The arms are strong with this one