Bouts from the lower divisions – Day 14

Hoshoryu means business

Although the yusho question has already been resolved below Juryo (save the Jonidan playoff), many wrestlers still fight for bigger promotions, smaller demotions, or for their kachi-koshi. The first example is from Sandanme. Prince Naya faces Takemasa. Both 4-2, so they are kachi-koshi, but they want to improve their banzuke position for Hatsu.

Naya gets a formidable-looking arm lock on Takemasa, but the smaller guy converts it to a shitatenage at the edge. Prince Debu keeps his minimal kachi-koshi. This should land him at the very bottom of Makushita in Hatsu.

Makushita

The other half of the princely duo, Hoshoryu, faces Takakento (Chiganoura, former Takanohana) who had an excellent basho, only losing to the jun-yusho wrestler. So both are 5-1 as they enter this day. And both mean business.

Hoshoryu faces some fierce thrusts there as he tries to get inside for his favorite grip. He defends well, and decides that instead of a throw he’ll go for a sotogake. Yes, the press actually interviewed him and asked him about that. How many non-yusho Makushita wrestlers get interviewed after a bout?

Hoshoryu is 6-1. This should land him around Makushita 20-23 for Hatsu (I’m not a banzuke genius – I just look for precedents at SumoDB), which means he’s probably not going to make it to Juryo even with a yusho next time, and will be wearing a kesho-mawashi no earlier than Natsu. Another man who is going to land around the same rank is Ura, so there is some likelihood of those two meeting each other in Hatsu. Yum.

The next bout involves Shiba and Akua. Akua is a popular rikishi from Tatsunami beya (the same as Asashoryu and Meisei) who has been in Juryo for five seconds. Shiba has yet to break through the purgatory. They are 3-3 into this bout, so this is for kachi-koshi for one, make-koshi for the other.

Akua reveals his henka card in the second matta. Has to think of a different tactic. Goes for a straight on, gets a grip, loses it, runs forward and kind of folds Shiba out. Not the prettiest sumo, but he is kachi-koshi. No chance of Juryo promotion, though.

Churanoumi and Seiro have years of sekitori experience between them. OK, averages are a lie, of course. Churanoumi only has one basho as a sekitori, while Seiro has spent a long time in his kesho-mawashi, even doing three rounds in Makuuchi in his day. But his day seems to be behind him.

And so, he uses that vast experience to henka. OK, so he is injured. Maybe that’s why he kind of botches that henka and has to resort to plan B, which is land a yotsu ond Churanoumi and gaburi him out. Chug-chug, and the Mongolian wins. Churanoumi make-koshi, Seiro kachi-koshi, but again, this will not be enough for him to unpack his white practice mawashi. In this case, it’s better for him to stay at 7 bouts per tournament with that injury, though.

Juryo

  • The schedulers bring in Tamaki from Makushita. Tamaki is 1-6 at this point, but he still manages to fiercely defeat the demoralized Gokushindo. I’m pretty sure Gokushindo just wants the nightmare to be over already. He just has tomorrow’s bout with Hidenoumi, and then it remains to be seen if he can rebound like Enho or remain in his black mawashi for a long while, like Akua.
  • Takekaze is trying to keep his make-koshi at a minimum, but all the tawara-dancingi is not working. It was a close call, though. Jokoryu staves off make-koshi for another day and may even be kachi-koshi, as he faces Ishiura – also 7-7 – tomorrow.
  • Tobizaru should never have allowed Kyokushuho to land that easy grip on him right off the tachiai. What was he thinking? The flying monkey flies again, and Kyokushuho keeps his losing score at a single digit for the time being.
  • Enho still not back to himself. Tsurugisho dispatches of him pretty quickly. Enho can be thankful that that devastating kimetaoshi he was given by Mitoryu only happened after he was kachi-koshi already. He’ll need to use the Jungyo to regroup and improve his tactics.
  • Chiyonoumi is still frustrated about his deepening make-koshi. He wanted to keep it at single-digits today, and went very aggressively after Akiseyama. Aggressively enough for some clear dame-oshi. That’s unlike you, Chiyonoumi. You are usually a gentleman. 🙁 Akiseyama is now make-koshi as well.
  • Ishiura gets a repeat of yesterday’s dive. He is 7-7 now and really needs that last bout tomorrow vs. Jokoryu. Tomokaze looks almost as if he didn’t notice there was another wrestler with him on the dohyo. That guy just got into Juryo?
  • Terutsuyoshi, as opposed to the other pixies in the division, bounces back from his losses and manages to secure his 10th win with an entertaining pull at Mitoryu’s arm followed by a press on his shoulder for a katasukashi. Terutsuyoshi is still in the yusho race, though it’s all up to Tomokaze at this point.
  • Shimanoumi gets Takagenji to the edge and applies a fearsome nodowa that seems about to break his neck, but the twin rallies and turns the tables on him. Amazingly, Takagenji succeeded in staying away from that 8th loss for three days in a row. We’ll see how he does against Mitoryu tomorrow.
  • Hidenoumi, who is in deep doo-doo, faces Chiyonoo, who is in even deeper doo-doo. Chiyonoo can’t seem to be able to produce any power this basho. Try as he may to stick at the tawara, Hidenoumi simply has a bit more muscle than he does. Chiyonoo is now 2-12, while Hidenoumi stays at a single-digit losing score.
  • Toyonoshima nearly falls prey to Kotoyuki’s powerful thrusts, when Kotoyuki finds himself slightly offside following a failed nodowa. As Toyonoshima spots this, he pounces and helps him along. Kotoyuki and Toyonoshima are both 10-4 and in the yusho race.
  • Tokushoryu tries tsuki-oshi, Azumaryu tries to land a grip. Neither is very successful, and the bout ends up with Azumaryu pulling back and Tokushoryu flat on his face. Azumaryu kachi-koshi, Tokushoryu make-koshi.
  • Aminishiki seems to be losing his dohyo sense. This bout was between Wakatakakage trying to push or get inside, and Aminishiki circling and trying to push him down. And he made it – but he was already out himself. Wakatakakage is kachi-koshi, Aminishiki make-koshi, and will be getting further away from Makuuchi.
  • This time it’s Yago who is using the Yu-Yu Hakusho attack. He seems to be thrusting with the tips of his fingers, and Kyokutaisei circles but can’t really keep himself inside. Kyokutaisei may still secure his kachi-koshi tomorrow, though he is up against the formidable Toyonoshima. Yago will be meeting Hakuyozan in the final bout of the day and trying to get double digits for a Makuuchi position further from the bottom.
  • The Hakuyozan-Kotoeko bout seems to follow in the footsteps of the previous bout between Yago and Kyokutaisei. Kotoeko finds himself outside, and Hakuyozan is kachi-koshi.

So, Tomokaze, the newcomer, leads the race with 11-3, and is chased by Kotoyuki, Terutsuyoshi and Toyonoshima with 10-4 apiece. The key bouts for senshuraku are:

  • Kotoyuki-Tomokaze
  • Terutsuyoshi-Chiyonoumi
  • Toyonoshima-Kyokutaisei

Kotoyuki is, of course, highly motivated to beat Tomokaze. If Tomokaze wins this bout (which is the latest of the three), the results in the others don’t mean anything. If he loses, however, he is tied with Kotoyuki, and possibly with Terutsuyoshi and/or Toyonoshima should they win theirs. So we may have a chance for a four-way playoff. I’m sure the NSK time keepers will be cheering for Tomokaze – but we will not, right?

Bouts from the lower divisions – Day 13

Look who is back in the interview room!

Today has been a day of decisions in the divisions below Juryo, and yet another fun day in Juryo. Let’s look at some sumo!

Jonokuchi

Before taking a look at the yusho race, we bid goodbye to the record holder in the anti-yusho ranking, our friend Hattorizakura. Today he said his farewells to Kyushu 2018 by way of Azumayama:

It seems we are safe for a while yet from having to memorize a new shikona for this icon of sumo (which his stablemaster promised him he will be given if he gets a kachi-koshi).

On to the Yusho race. As I explained yesterday, if Hatooka lost his bout today, we would have a complex playoff situation on our hands.

Hatooka vs. Kojikara

Fortunately, Hatooka resolved that issue decisively. A harizashi followed by pushing forward like a locomotive. Hatooka is the Jonokuchi yusho winner. In his interview today on NHK he talked about his injury and recovery. You can see his knee is in a massive brace. It’s the aftermath of an injury to the knee that saw him go kyujo and drop all the way to Jonokuchi from Makushita. In Aki, he did the same trick as Ryuden to avoid dropping off the banzuke completely, and participated in one bout, which he won. Now he came back with a vengeance. He said in his interview that he was inspired by the sekitori in his heya, such as Ura, Akiseyama and Shimanoumi (who was also kyujo for several consecutive basho).

Jonidan

Here is a video with several Jonidan bouts, the first of which is the yusho decider between Kotourasaki and Kenho. Other bouts in this video:

  • Kamada-Watatani
  • Umizaru-Osumifuji
  • Zendaisho-Satonofuji
  • Yukiumi-Abezakura
  • Sakurafuji-Imai

The size differences between Kenho and Kotourasaki are striking. Nevertheless, Kotourasaki knows how to defeat the big guy. He is 7-0 – sorry, Kenho fans. At this stage he waits for the result of the Mitsuuchi-Fukunofuji bout in the beginning of the Sandanme bouts.

Satonofuji’s bout (around 9:30 min.) is quite interesting, with the yomi-turi performer emeritus going for a half-henka, an attempt at tottari, then sticks his head into Zendaisho’s chest. It takes the shimpan quite a while to declare the kimarite (watashikomi).

The final torikumi (about 13:30) introduces you to Sakurafuji, one of the tallest in the low ranks at Isegahama beya at 183cm. He currently serves as Takarafuji’s tsukebito and is considered a nice guy all around, but for a man with his build, his career has been less than satisfactory, stalling way too long at Jonidan.

Sandanme

The first bout of the day at Sandanme is between Mitsuuchi, who has 6-0 at Jonidan, and Fukunofuji, with 6-0 at Sandanme. If Mitsuuchi wins, there will be a playoff in Jonidan. If Fukunofuji wins, a playoff in Sandanme.

Well, that was decided very quickly. Mitsuuchi railroads Fukunofuji off the dohyo, and the Jonidan playoff between him and Kotourasaki will take place on Senshuraku.

Before moving on to the other yusho decider, let’s take a look at Torakio vs. Rao. Both are 4-2, thus kachi-koshi.

Again, Torakio displays rather good sumo, but loses at the edge, and again expresses his frustration by shoving his opponent slightly. Doesn’t his oyakata watch his bouts?

Now on to the yusho decider, and now the participants know that whoever wins this is the Sandanme yusho winner then and there. The participants, by the way, are Ura (Sd33E) and Hikarifuji (Sd81W). It’s a no-brainer, really.

This reminds me of an old anime, Yu-Yu Hakusho, where the protagonist’s most formidable weapon was the tip of his finger, which was loaded with a huge amount of energy. The bout here starts with a mutual attempt at getting inside, until Ura decides he has had enough and seems to blow Hikarifuji away by the power of the tips of his fingers. He looks at him and nods apologetically, before he returns to his place on the dohyo with an expression of “Oops, did I do that?” on his face.

Ura is Sandanme yusho, and it will be rather entertaining to see him go through Makushita (and possibly meet Hoshoryu there. Yummy).

Makushita

Here is a match between the two Ms9 wrestlers, Kotokamatani and Satoyama. Both 3-3, so winner kachi-koshi, loser make-koshi.

No monoii there. The kimarite is shitatenage, and Satoyama is kachi-koshi.

About an hour after this bout is over, the NSK informs the public that this was, in fact, Satoyama’s last bout as an active wrestler. Satoyama was formerly a long-time sekitori, and seems to have given up the hope of returning to the top. He is retiring and joining the NSK as Sanoyama oyakata, apparently borrowing the Sanoyama kabu from Chiyootori. (I wonder if he purposely picked a kabu which sounds so similar to his own name!)

On to the yusho decider. In Makushita, it’s the simplest situation: Sokokurai and Takaryu are the only ones with 6-0. Winner takes the yusho.

And after a matta, Sokokurai works hard to prevent Takaryu from getting a grip with his left arm, then goes for the pull down. Sokokurai is the Makushita yusho winner, and ensures himself of promotion to Juryo in Hatsu. There has never been a case where a yusho winner at Ms5 was not promoted.

Interestingly, he may actually go over the heads of the two kachi-koshi wrestlers at Ms1. If the shimpan department decides not to relegate more than two wrestlers from Juryo, Daiseido, who currently has 4 wins at Ms1W, and may earn his fifth today, might find himself promoted merely from Ms1W to Ms1E.

Sokokurai was also interviewed on NHK and assured the interviewer that his leg is “fine” now. By the way, I haven’t been around long enough to hear Sokokurai before, so I was rather impressed with his Japanese. It sounds as good as Kakuryu’s.

Juryo

  • Enho seems to have rallied back a bit. Yesterday he looked totally lost and unsure what to do. Today he is back to seeking that grip of his. But Tomokaze denies him, despite the little one’s quick attacks. Enho finally lands his grip, but only at the edge of the dohyo where Tomokaze shows him out. Enho must be feeling grateful that he managed to secure his kachi-koshi before this slump. Tomokaze has a double-digit winning score, which is very impressive for a newcomer to Juryo.
  • Gokushindo tries to be careful and watches his own feet, but he is not protecting his mawashi and gets easily trapped by Azumaryu.
  • Chiyonoo once again tries everything he can and hangs on to his opponent’s mawashi, but Jokoryu gets him out nonetheless. Chiyonoo’s fall down to Makushita is going to be a long hard one.
  • Kyokushuho is quickly dispatched by Shimanoumi, who is now kachi-koshi.
  • Toyonoshima complained yesterday that he doesn’t know what to do with small opponents. Today Terutsuyoshi seems not to have posed any problems. The Isegahama homunculus seems to have run out of steam. He looks very disappointed at the end of this bout, as he is relegated to the chaser group. I hope he still has it in him to get that extra win and go double-digits.
  • Tobizaru pushes Ishiura down. Ishiura manages to survive two additional seconds by hanging on to the monkey’s legs, but that’s not a tenable position. Tobizaru kachi-koshi. Ishiura may get there yet. I think we haven’t seen him henka for two or three bouts, so there will probably be one tomorrow.
  • Chiyonoumi fights bravely, with several nodowa, lots of thrusts, and even a mawashi attempt. However, he repeats a mistake we have seen from his heya-mate, Chiyonokuni, several times in the previous basho – foot out on the Janome, and the bout is over. Chiyonoumi’s make-koshi deepens and the fires of purgatory are already reaching his feet.
  • Takagenji can’t afford another loss, and attacks aggressively to stave it off. Hakuyozan is overwhelmed by the young angry twin. Still no kachi-koshi.
  • The loser in the next battle is make-koshi. Two veterans face off. Tokushoryu has Takekaze trapped almost immediately, and the make-koshi goes to Takekaze. Again, he will assess his situation and let us know by Banzuke meeting day, as he has in the past two basho.
  • For some reason, the Kotoyuki-Mitoryu duel is completely one-sided. Has Mitoryu’s leg issue reasserted itself? Luckily, he is kachi-koshi already. Kotoyuki – double digits! Not much rolling this basho!
  • Aminishiki also can’t afford a loss. He slaps, he pushes, and Tsurugisho finds himself doing the Kotoyuki roll. Tsurugisho is make-koshi.
  • Akiseyama turns the bout with Daishoho into a leaning match. Daishoho is Mongolian, and resolves the long stalemate Mongolian-style, with a kick that gives him enough room to maneuver Akiseyama to the edge. Yori-kiri. Daishoho closer to a kachi-koshi, Akiseyama can’t afford another loss.
  • Kotoeko tries a henka. Kyokutaisei recovers, but can’t quite overcome Kotoeko’s barrage of tsuppari. Kotoeko kachi-koshi. Kyokutaisei has two more chances at his.
  • Wakatakakage very impressive today. I saw his brother’s bout earlier today (Wakamotoharu-Gagamaru) and despite having a very similar body, their skill level is completely different. Yago must be happy his kachi-koshi is secure already. Wakatakakage has two days to get the win he needs for his own.

Bouts from the lower divisions – Day 12

Terutsuyoshi’s has been called “salty” in the past, but…

Today I have few bouts for you from the black cotton mawashi divisions for you, as the interesting yusho-related bouts start tomorrow. Er… in about an hour or so. We’ll get to that shortly.

Let’s start with a Jonidan bout. I picked this one up for the big name. Well, not that big, but familiar: Kasugaryu, Hakuho’s tsukebito and the current official performer of the Yumitori-shiki. At this level, I wasn’t quite ready for the excellent sumo.

The rival is Chura, from Miyagino beya, which means he and Kasugaryu probably know each other quite well. But although Kasugaryu is Hakuho’s tsukebito, he is from Nakagawa beya rather than Miyagino, and so they are eligible for a match. (The video includes two additional matches – Tamanoryu/Okunisato, Dewanosora/Ezuka).

Wasn’t that lovely? Both sides have good control of their feet and balance, and so recover several times before the deciding move. I guess Kasugaryu’s age is one of the deciding factors. If Kasugaryu was Chura’s age, we might have ended up with a…

Niban-go torinaoshi

Here is a little gem for you. Sumo is not a sport of stamina. When the bout is long, the wrestlers lose much of their power. This, in turn, may prolong it further as they go into a leaning contest which is hard for either to break.

Therefore, there is a limit to the length of the bout. In the top two divisions, after four minutes of wrestling with the bout in a stalemate, a procedure called “Mizu-iri” (water break) takes place. This involves the gyoji (at a signal from the shimpan) tapping the wrestlers’ backs (much like when he needs to retie a mawashi). He then memorizes the positions of their feet and grips, and then they get a short break, after which they assume the same position, based on the gyoji’s memory and help from the video room if needed.

That’s a complex procedure, and in Makushita and below they have a simpler one. As the time limit is reached, again, the timekeeping shimpan signals to the head shimpan, who in turn raises a hand to attract the gyoji’s attention. But in this case, the bout is simply stopped, and a torinaoshi is called. The torinaoshi, unlike one that comes after a monoii resolution, doesn’t take place immediately, but rather, after the next two bouts. This allows the participants to rest a while.

Here is what it looks like, in today’s Jonidan bout between Kototaiko and Mori:

The video title says it’s a mizu-iri, but it isn’t one. The gyoji, it appears, is inexperienced, and the shimpan have to remind him what to do.

By the way, I should mention that although there are four sides to the dohyo, there are five shimpan sitting around it. The one sitting closest to the red tassel is the time-keeping shimpan (left hand ref in the video above).

For comparison, I’m adding a video of a mizu-iri, in the bout between Terunofuji and Ichinojo, Haru 2015. The video is timed just before the break.


Here is a Makushita bout between Ryuko and Ichiyamamoto. Ichiyamamoto has reached as far as Makushita 3 in the past year, but has struggled to survive in the Heaven/Hell interface area with his light frame. Ryuko is also a young up-and-comer, but also suffered a slump as he hit mid-Makushita – from which he seems to have recovered. They are both 4-1 coming into this bout.

Very nice ashitori there. Ryuko is the winner, and will continue his climb up the banzuke and into the purgatory area.

State of the Yusho races Makushita and below

In Jonokuchi, the only lossless rikishi, with 6-0, is Hatooka. Today he is facing Kojikara, who is 5-1. Besides Kojikara, four more wrestlers are 5-1. So if Hatooka wins, it’s his yusho, and if he loses, there will be an interesting playoff situation, where it’s still unclear how many will participate – between 3 and 5. This is because two of the wrestlers who are 5-1 (Yuma and Kokuryunami) have already faced each other, so they are scheduled for their last bout against wrestlers who are not in the yusho race, so both, either or neither may win. In short – ask me tomorrow!

The situation in Jonidan and Sandanme is slightly less confusing. Both of these divisions have three remaining 6-0 wrestlers. So the lowest ranked of the Sandanme 6-0 men, Fukunofuji, is scheduled against the highest ranked of the Jonidan 6-0 men, Mitsuuchi. Also scheduled tomorrow are Ura vs. Hikarifuji (the remaining Sandanme 6-0 men), and Kenho vs. Kotourasaki.

Thus, if Mitsuuchi wins, there will be a playoff in Jonidan on Senshuraku, whereas Sandanme will be decided today. If Fukunofuji wins, there will be a playoff in Sandame on Senshuraku, and Jonidan will be decided today. So anybody hoping to see Ura on Senshuraku should cheer for Fukunofuji.

The simplest situation is in Makushita – we have Sokokurai vs. Takaryu today. Winner is yusho, no playoff possible.

Juryo recap

  • Irodori is brought up from Makushita, perhaps as a test case to see if he should be promoted to Juryo from his Ms2 position. Jokoryu doesn’t waste much time taking him down. Irodori is make-koshi, and will not advance to Juryo this basho. Jokoryu still needs to win through to get his kachi-koshi.
  • Tobizaru is back to himself. A bit of a cautious start on the part of Azumaryu, and the monkey kicks his legs from under him. Yes, low kicks are a perfectly legitimate sumo technique. The monkey needs one more win for a kachi-koshi, Azumaryu will need to get two in the next three days.
  • Takekaze doesn’t seem to be able to do anything against Mitoryu, and is easily swept away. He cannot afford to lose any of the three remaining bouts or his drop down the banzuke will continue. Mitoryu in no danger, and seems to have finally overcome that injury he suffered in Haru.
  • Gokushindo faces Chiyonoo, and will probably face him again in Makushita next basho. Chiyonoo tries everything he can to avoid the double-digit make-koshi, but to no avail. Gokushindo finds an opening for a drop, and keeps his own make-koshi at a minimum for the time being.
  • Tsurugisho does not henka Shimanoumi, but still his sumo is a backward-moving one, and that doesn’t end well for him. He is nearing make-koshi land, and can’t afford a single loss, whereas Shimanoumi needs a single win in three days.
  • In an interview after this bout with Ishiura, Toyonoshima said that he is just no good at fighting with small rikishi. He is used to fighting taller rikishi and using his lower center of gravity to his advantage, but this is nullified when the opponent is short and low. Good sumo on Ishiura’s part today. He has a good chance at a kachi-koshi.
  • Highlight bout of the day – Terutsuyoshi, the leader, vs. Tomokaze, the newcomer. Terutsuyoshi does have a good mawashi hold, but that fatigue I mentioned yesterday shows. His feet remain on the tawara – Terutsuyoshi is nothing if not tenacious – but his body topples over, dipping his hair straight into the salt basket. The salt sticks to the suki-abura (the pomade used to keep the hairdo stiff) dying half of Terutsuyoshi’s hair white. Well, Terutsuyoshi is a sodium fan, so why not have some in his hair? Terutsuyoshi loses the lead.
  • Chiyonoumi is not a mawashi wrestler, but he hangs on to Takagenji for dear life. Eventually, the twin, who is more experienced in belt battles, gets a good hold on Chiyonoumi’s mawashi knot and rolls him. The knot is undone, and so is Chiyonoumi. He is make-koshi and should be very careful not to lose more because he is in the danger zone for demotion. Takagenji still needs to win out to avoid a make-koshi.
  • This bout between Enho and Kotoyuki was a really sad one. As a result of being locked yesterday by Mitoryu, Enho has lost his confidence in the technique that brought him all the way to the top of the leaderboard. Or perhaps it’s the remembered pain and being afraid Kotoyuki will do the same, as that arm lock seemed rather painful. Whichever, Enho tries to circle around Kotoyuki rather than getting inside, has no real plan, and his sumo is all the way back to what it was in his first Juryo visit. I hope he got some guidance from Hakuho about that (I’m assuming that Hakuho is still with his heya in Fukuoka), because although I don’t think he can contribute any of his own techniques to a deshi so different than him in body type, I’m sure he could teach him a river of knowledge about resilience and maintaining his self  confidence through difficulty. Enho drops to the chaser group.
  • Kyokushuho aggressive out of the Tachiai, but Tokushoryu twists himself and lets him drop down. Kyokushuho make-koshi, Tokushoryu staving off the make-koshi for the time being.
  • Not sure what to say about the Kyokutaisei-Daishoho bout. It just looked too easy. Daishoho suffers some unseen injury? Kyokutaisei needs one more win for a kachi-koshi.
  • Aminishiki getting dangerously close to make-koshi zone, again. He starts by pulling, rallies a bit and sticks his head into Hakuyozan’s chest. But he makes an untypical mistake by trying to drag Hakuyozan to the tawara and show him out. Hakuyozan keeps on his feet, but now Aminishiki is too close to the edge and easy to topple himself. Uncle Sumo usually has better dohyo sense than that.
  • Akiseyama starts the bout vs. Yago with a clear advantage and nearly manages to get him out. Yago can’t get a grip while Akiseyama has a good one. But then it seems that Yago simply doubles the output of power and Akiseyama suddenly moves backwards and out. Yago kachi-koshi, and we’ll see him in Kintamayama’s reel every day next basho.
  • Kotoeko makes good use of his weight advantage against Wakatakakage. It seems all the light-weight rikishi have started to flag towards the end of the basho – except Ishiura, who has been, er, preserving his strength. Ahem.

For the time being, Gokushindo and Chiyonoo seem certain to drop to Makushita in the next banzuke. They will be replaced by the top two wrestlers in Makushita, Daiseido and Gagamaru, who are both kachi-koshi. If a third rikishi drops – Gokushindo or Chiyonoumi – the most likely replacement is Sokokurai.

Bouts from the lower divisions – Day 11

Terutsuyoshi. Wants double digits.

Jonokuchi

We continue to report on the adventures of Hattorizakura in the land of futility. Today his lucky opponent was Toya, of Tomozuna beya.

Hattorizakura trying to lift his opponent! Then managing to stick to the bales for several whole seconds! This boy is going places!

By the way, Toya’s record so far is rather strange. He has participated in three honbasho before this one. In all three he had a 2-5 make-koshi. And yet, in each of them he advanced in rank! Jk35→Jk24→Jk23→Jk20. I guess this sort of thing can only happen in Jonokuchi.

Jonidan

We continue to follow Mitsuuchi, the Jonokuchi yusho winner who has more kyujo and banzuke-gai basho than active one on his record. He meets Sumanoumi, both with a clean record of 5-0.

Mitsuuchi really looks like he should be up a division or two at least. Our next Jonidan bout is also involved in the yusho race, with Tachiai favorite Kenho. He goes against Kotokume, both 5-0:

Kenho definitely not settling for “Be heavy” as a tactic. Poor Kotokume must have felt like he was being run over by a truck. The Jonidan yusho race is currently down to Mitsuuchi, Kenho, and Kotourasaki. Likely two of them will meet for the seventh match, which means either the winner of that match gets the yusho, or he has to face the third one for a playoff.

Sandanme

Torakio engages with Kotootori (It’s the same “otori” as in “Chiyootori” but not quite the same sumo). Both 3-2.

Torakio shows his best sumo so far in this tournament, and achieves his kachi-koshi.

Remember I introduced two Isegahama men, from the bottom of Sandanme, who are in the yusho race? I do not have Hikarifuji’s bout vs. Yokoe, but I do have Fukunofuji’s bout vs. Kotoozutsu. Again, they are 5-0 as they mount the dohyo:

Fukunofuji is Sandanme #98W. Kotoozutsu is #61E. I don’t see much of a level gap in this bout, though. Hikarifuji also won his bout against the higher-ranked Yokoe.

So four of the six who were 5-0 were in those bouts. This means the third yusho-race bout matched none other than Ura and Kototebakari. Also watch the second bout in this video, featuring Itadaki vs. Prince Naya.

We have followed Kototebakari through this tournament. He is no push-over. That is, unless his rival is Ura. Ura is starting to scare me. It seems all he needs to do is touch his opponent and the poor man is blown off the dohyo. Serious muscle power. And I love his low, low tachiai.

So the yusho race in Sandanme has three wrestlers left – Hikarifuji, Fukunofuji and Ura. Since the two Fujis are from Isegahama beya, they won’t face each other, so the slightly higher ranked Hikarifuji is probably going to be Ura’s next piñata. If Hikarifuji wins that bout it will be the sensation of this basho, as the only point on which he is on equal footing with Ura is height. Fukunofuji will be faced with someone else. If he wins, he’ll be in the playoff. Otherwise the yusho is decided in the aforesaid Ura match.

So on to that second match in the video. Itadaki is Nishikigi’s head tsukebito, and I get the impression that he is also the head Isenoumi chanko chef. If he looks foreign to you, it’s because he is half Canadian – but he was born and raised in Japan, and apparently, doesn’t speak English any better than the average Japanese. And I don’t need to introduce Naya to you.

Itadaki seems pretty aggressive, and nearly manages to steer Naya out for a second there. Naya recovers, but the bout ends with a slightly disappointing slippiotoshi. More than slightly, if you’re Itadaki. Naya is kachi-koshi.

Makushita

We start with an all-Mongolian pairing – Hoshoryu, nephew of Asashoryu, and Kyokusoten, the friendly, weight-challenged brother-in-law of Tamawashi. Both 4-1.

Well, the gap between these two is much the same as between Asashoryu and Tamawashi, only a few rungs of quality lower. Kyokusoten is quickly swept off the dohyo. However, Hoshoryu’s stance was just begging for a hatakikomi, and he is lucky he wasn’t faced with a somewhat more savvy opponent. Mada-mada, as they say in Japanese (“still a ways to go”).

Next we have Kirybayama – whose only loss was to Sokokurai – vs. Tsushimanada, who rallied back after his loss on day 3.

Although this bout is very short, it’s quite exciting. Kiribayama misses his harite on the tachiai by a mile, but still manages to grab Tsushimanada. Tsushimanada manages to break loose and tries to make this an oshi battle, but the oshidashi is on him.

Next we have a yusho-related bout. Sokokurai, who is very eager to return to Juryo, against Gochozan, who is not ranked high enough for that.

Ahem, Sokokurai, a henka? Lucky you are not in Tokyo, as you would have gotten a long hard stare from Muur oyakata for this when you returned to your heya, I’m sure.

Still doesn’t beat Tsurugisho’s henka vs. Chiyonoumi the other day, though.

We finish this round of Makushita bout with Wakamotoharu vs. Irodori. Irodori is within reach of sekitori heaven – but needs a kachi-koshi first. Both are 3-2.

By the way, Irodori is yet another one-kanji shikona with four syllables (like Akebono, Kagayaki, and Ikioi).

The bout? Dum-di-dum-di-dum. Another henka. Too bad the first start was a matta – it looked a lot more entertaining. Irodori still doesn’t have that kachi-koshi. In Juryo, Gokushindo and Chiyonoo will probably be relegated to Makushita. Jokoryu and/or Chiyonoumi may join. So assuming three open slots, Daiseido and Gagamaru have kachi-koshi and will likely advance. Sokokurai – if he wins the yusho – will join them. So even if Irodori has a 4-3 kachi-koshi, it may not be enough. All because of a henka.

Juryo

  • Gagamaru sure wants his silk shime-komi back! He attacks Gokushindo with all his might and mass. Gokushindo is make-koshi, and is heading for another trip through purgatory. This time, he won’t be participating in the Jungyo (unless assigned to someone other than Kakuryu), so plenty of time to practice, rest and regroup.
  • Chiyonoumi attacks Tomokaze with what looks like the enthusiasm of despair. But his feet don’t follow where his body goes – a common mistake in oshi zumo, where you do not lean on your opponent and need to have your feet balanced at all times. Tomokaze ensures his kachi-koshi and will be sticking around. Chiyonoumi, as they say in Japanese, “has no ‘later'”. If he doesn’t win out, he is make-koshi, though if he keeps it at a minimum he may survive, depending on his banzuke-luck.
  • Any wrestler who has to face Enho is probably running and re-running this bout’s video. Enho manages to get inside and lay his hands on Mitoryu’s mawashi. But Mitoryu succeeds in locking his arms, and Enho desparately tries to free his main weapon, thus seized, to no avail. Mitoryu secures his kachi-koshi, while Enho drops to the chaser group. Now, he can still win the Yusho, mathematically. But with only 12 wins or less, I doubt that it will be enough to bring him up to Makuuchi – which a 13-win yusho might have, with some luck.
  • Azumaryu and Jokoryu get a grip on one side, and fight for the hold on the other, when Azumaryu reverses his direction and drops Gokushindo with a nice kirikaeshi. Jokoryu is nearing the danger zone and needs to win out.
  • Toyonoshima wastes no time getting Chiyonoo into a morozashi, which he releases only at the bales. Toyonoshima kachi-koshi, will stick around in Juryo, and will probably continue to work hard in the remaining days to get himself as far up the banzuke as he can. This is Toyonoshima’s first kachi-koshi as a sekitori in 17 basho. Chiyonoo, on the other hand, is probably going to find himself in Makushita the next time around, with a make-koshi that threatens to go double-digits.
  • Both Takekaze and Shimanoumi are teetering at the moment and will probably not have a kachi-koshi or a make-koshi until the last possible moment. Takekaze tries to grab Shimanoumi by the nape of his neck, but Shimanoumi is too well balanced for this, and pulling just brings Takekaze to the edge and makes it easier for Shimanoumi to beat him.
  • Terutsuyoshi and Tobizaru engage in a no-nonsense belt battle. Tobizaru has had a bit of a slump since he dropped from the leader group. He starts energetically – as he does – but Terutsuyoshi has a strong hold and they settle into a short lean. Terutsuyoshi surprisingly relinquishes his left hand hold for a looser ichi-mai hold a little more forward, but manages to convert that into a forward motion and a yori-kiri. Simple sumo, works nicely, and Terutsuyoshi is now the sole leader of the Juryo yusho race – I’m not sure he believes it himself.
  • Tsurugisho opts to engage in a full-on mawashi battle today, probably figuring that the flagging Hidenoumi will be easy to move. It turns out to be a mistake, as Hidenoumi manages to turn the table away. Hidenoumi is still deeply make-koshi and will probably find himself a lot lower in the Juryo ranking next basho. Not a good day for the Iwasaki brothers.
  • Just as it seemed that Takagenji is recovering, he is once again into a series of losses. And we have ourselves another flagrant henka. Sheesh, Kyokushuho. I don’t like Takagenji, but still, I’d prefer to see him beaten with good sumo. I know, I know – at the verge of make-koshi one will resort to anything. Just… make it slightly less flagrant, will you? Both wrestlers are now 4-7.
  • As for Ishiura, at this point, I blame Tokushoryu for not expecting a henka. I just feel sorry for Ishiura’s kid, who’ll grow up and see these bouts on video. Not much to be proud about.
  • Hakuyozan had a good first week, but seems to have weakened as the days passed. Kotoyuki decisively goes for his kachi-koshi.
  • Yet another henka in the Aminishiki-Kyokutaisei bout, and surprisingly, the perpetrator is not old wily Uncle Sumo. What, did Tomozuna beya serve Henka Chanko today?
  • Wakatakakage tried some Enho-zumo today. Couldn’t quite get the correct grip, though. Daishoho starts sliding him back, realizes that there is no need to continue the stalemate, quickly switches to a nice bear hug, and forces the lightweight Wakatakakage out.
  • Kotoeko gets an early advantage over Akiseyama, with a morotezuki that lifts him up. But the big potato rallies and adjusts, and soon has a strong hold on Kotoeko – despite his grip being only ichimai on one side.

So, as the day ends, the Juryo yusho arasoi looks like this:

  • 9-2: Terutsuyoshi
  • 8-3: Kotoyuki, Enho, Mitoryu, Toyonoshima, Tomokaze

Terutsuyoshi will face Tomokaze today. This is going to be a difficult one, especially as Terutsuyoshi did not show up for keiko (in Japan it’s now morning) citing fatigue.

Bouts from the lower divisions – Day 9

In the lower divisions, tension is rising as the yusho shortlists are getting, well, shorter. Every day there are fewer and fewer perfect scored rikishi.

And Juryo is not a walk in the park, either

Jonokuchi

But one rikishi reliably keeps a perfect record! Of course, it’s a perfect losing record, but still perfect!

Hattorizakura-Wakakosuge

Once again Hattorizakura gives us a glimpse of hope, somewhere there, that he might… just might… nope.

Jonidan

I keep following little Chiyotaiyo, but he is not doing well this basho. Coming into this bout, he and his rival, Tanji, are 1-3. And Tanji doesn’t look like he has that much of a weight advantage.

However, the stick insect from Kokonoe is taken down without much ceremony. He is now make-koshi.

On the other side of the scoreboard, we have Mitsuuchi vs. Akitoba, both coming in at 4-0. Mitsuuchi has a very strange sumo record. Joining in 2015 he had a string of 6-1 tournament, then a couple of make-koshi, then full-on kyujo for four consecutive tournaments, causing him to drop off the banzuke. He then has to do maezumo again, enters back and once again, has two good 5-2 and 6-1 tournaments. This is mid 2017. Then – lo and behold – he goes kyujo – five straight tournaments. Has to do maezumo again! And then he comes back in Aki 2018 and grabs the Jonokuchi yusho.

So it’s Mitsuuchi’s fifth win, and he is in the list of yusho hopefuls, which also includes Sumanoumi, Kotokume, Kenho, Tatsunoumi and Kotourasaki.

To close off the Jonidan list, since Bruce is a bit under the weather, I’ll cover Wakaichiro here. His opponent is Tainaka, about the same age and a similar record as out hero from Texas.

This was a very frustrating bout for the young Texan. He has it in control from the start, going forward – and then Tainaka snatches it from under his nose.

Despite the frustration, Wakaichiro gives the deepest bow to his opponent before descending the dohyo. Wakaichiro is now make-koshi and should rally and continue that forward motion to keep himself on the upper side of Jonidan.

Sandanme

All the bouts I have for you today are ones deciding the yusho race. I’ll start at the bottom, with two relatively anonymous youngsters from Isegahama beya. The first is Fukunofuji, who usually has a hard time in Sandanme, and was kyujo the previous basho. His opponent is Nakashima from Musashigawa, with a similar record, who was also kyujo last basho.

It’s nice to see a yotsu match at this level. The next Isegahama man is Hikarifuji, up against Takatenshu (one of the former Takanohana wrestlers). Hikarifuji is one of the Isegahama pixies at 173cm.

Hikarifuji kind of tries a henka, then realizes that the other guy is just too big for that to be effective. Nevertheless, Hikarifuji wins this Aminishiki-style, and finds himself in the Yusho run himself.

These two guys being from the same heya, they are probably going to be facing some tough competition very soon now. Case in point – hello Ura! How are you today?

Kurahashi, Ura’s victim opponent for today is not a tall guy. So Ura keeps himself low and very stable with his feet neatly arranged, one front, one back. He could give lessons. I suggested on Twitter that this video should be sent to Takayasu and Kisenosato for a refresher. Ura maintains his perfect record for this basho and is, of course, in the yusho race.

Another one we have been following for a while is Kototebakari. Here he is facing Hokutoshu.

No sweat. Kototebakari is still perfect.

The Sandanme Yusho arasoi currently consists of Kototebakari, Ura, Yokoe, Kotoozutsu, Hikarifuji and Fukunofuji. With two from Isegahama and two from Sadogatake, we might either be seeing a mismatch of ranks, or have Ura face Kototebakari in the next round, which should be a bout to watch for.

Makushita

The famous nephew (“Who is your favorite Yokozuna?”, “My Uncle!” – From Hoshoryu’s live Instagram. Silly question) was matched today against Kainoryu. Kaynoryu is not exactly Yokozuna material, having spent most of his career between Sandanme and Makushita.

I don’t know if it’s lapse of concentration on Hoshoryu’s part or what. He seems to lose this bout by starting it with tsuppari rather than going for his strong yotsu from the start. Hoshoryu is out of the yusho race, though I’m sure he’ll do his best to end at 6-1 and advance as far as he possibly can without a yusho.

By the way, Hoshoryu is serving as Meisei’s tsukebito again this basho.

We finish Makushita with Sokokurai vs. Kiribayama. So it’s Inner Mongolia vs. Sovereign Mongolia here:

Sokokurai is not letting this go anywhere except Inner Mongolia.

Only four men remain in the Makushita yusho race: Sokokurai, Gochozan, Takaryu, Kainoryu. All with five wins, meaning they only have two bouts to go. This means the yusho will be decided without playoff – unless any of them gets a Juryo bout.

Juryo

  • Somebody in the Torikumi committee thought it would be a hoot to bring in a 36 years old, 165cm tall Makushita man with three losses for a bout at Juryo. Of course, technically Sagatsukasa is Ms3 so he is fair game, but come on… Mitoryu gets this win on a platter.
  • Tobizaru has been relegated to the chaser list yesterday. He tries with all his monkey energy to keep himself there. Shimanoumi thinks differently. The flying monkey flies again.
  • Tomokaze looks like he has been born in Juryo. Low stance, strong thrusts, Azumaryu finds himself unable to do his sumo. Tomokaze needs only two wins in 6 days to ensure his stay in Juryo.
  • Two elderly men climb the dohyo – Takekaze, 39, and Toyonoshima, 35. I didn’t expect that double pirouette, though. Guys, it’s not Hanukkah, yet. Leave the dreidels off the dohyo.
  • In every basho, Tsurugisho has one big, fat, ugly henka that makes me want to strangle him. This time it’s Chiyonoumi who is doing somersaults off the tachiai. 😡😡 Chiyonoumi needs to start collecting some wins fast – I think some 3 wins might cushion him from dropping back to Makushita.
  • Gokushindo doing some tentative sumo again. His stance is good, and Kyokushuho can’t find a way inside, and ends up losing his own balance.
  • Hakuyozan has also been in the chaser group before this match. A leaning match develops into a fine yotsu struggle, and Jokoryu prevails, bringing himself closer to breaking even.
  • Yesterday, Kokonoe oyakata gave Chiyonoumi and Chiyonoo a pep-talk dinner. It didn’t work for Chiyonoumi (thank you Tsurugisho 😡), but it seems to have worked for Chiyonoo, who takes the initiative and evades make-koshi for another day. Kyokutaisei is 4-5 – not quite himself as yet.

Now, the Enho-Wakatakakage was the match of the day. Wakatakakage matched Enho’s sumo, and although Enho did get that famous grip on his mawashi, he just couldn’t get the angles he wanted. Wakatakakage managed to stick his head below Enho’s – not an easy task, and we had a long stalemate. Enho nearly had Wakatakakage there at the edge. But the youngest Onami kept his foot safe. Here is a tweet by TheSumoSoul, showing Wakatakakage’s foot:

And here is short footage showing the undisturbed janome (ring of fine dust around the ring of bales).

The call was right, and Enho drops to two losses. Moving on:

  • Once again, Kotoyuki manages to avoid rolling. I’m impressed.
  • Aminishiki is not happy with himself going backwards, but backwards he went – and performed the first kubinage in his career, bringing himself to 45 different kimarite, only one behind Kyokushuzan, who holds the record. A monoii is called because his foot seems to have gone outside, but the Gyoji’s decision is upheld.
  • Takagenji seems to be on a recovery course with three consecutive wins after his weak first week. This bout with Daishoho was one sided.
  • Terutsuyoshi – remember, he’s in the leader group – once again tries to do straight sumo, no tricks. And it’s a really good bout, where he gets to lift Kotoeko for a second, and fends off Kotoeko’s following attack. But then Kotoeko pulls and the pixie loses his balance.
  • Final pixie of the day, though really, for Ishiura that word just doesn’t ring right. No tricks this time, and Ishiura has an enjoyable exchange of thrusts with Yago. Ishiura survives a couple of waves of attack, but eventually the bigger man prevails. Not a good day for the small rikishi.

Or is it? As it turns out, everybody at the top lost. So the leaderboard looks like this:

  • 7-2: Terutsuyoshi, Enho
  • 6-3: Yago, Kotoyuki, Hakuyozan, Tobizaru, Mitoryu, Toyonoshima, Tomokaze

Tomokaze in the yusho race? Oh lord. Tomorrow, while Enho faces Gokushindo and should be careful not to let a relatively easy one drop, Terutsuyoshi is facing a very difficult Yago. I wonder when they’ll match Enho with Aminishiki (Terutsuyoshi won’t be, they are from the same heya, as are Ishiura and Enho).