With the glorious Haru basho in the record books, we can now examine how our up-an-coming, and well loved rikishi fared in the lower divisions. While we remarked at length at how brutal the competition was in the top division, the carnage carried down the banzuke to a surprising degree, with many of our “Ones to Watch” going down to make-koshi or squeaking out their final win with their last match.
Today we are looking at the Makushita rikishi, with lower divisions following soon.
Wakamotoharu – The second Onami brother to break into the salaried ranks, he had a disastrous record for Osaka, with only 5 wins against 10 losses. Ranked at Juryo 10, this is quite possibly enough certain to return him to the Makushita joi for May, where he will once again face some of the most difficult matches in sumo.
Hoshoryu – The rising star from Mongolia faced a 3 match cold streak in the first half of Haru, and closed with 3 straight wins to end 4-3. Prior to this tournament, Hoshoryu had been able to dominate the bulk of his matches, and may have found the competition a bit sedate. Ranked at Makusihta 7 in Osaka, he came up against some of the highly motivated rikishi, seeking to mangle each other in search of the final step into Sekitori status. While all of his fans are happy for his kachi-koshi, we expect him to have to repeat this kind of brutal slog at least a few more times before he can make his Juryo debut.
Akua – Electric green Akua went down to his second make-koshi in Osaka, putting his 3rd trip to Juryo further out of reach. Akua has been nursing nagging injuries after being forced to withdraw from the Aki basho on day 12. He has drive, speed and talent, but like so many hopefuls, his body suffers from the brutal pounding that is the top ¼ of Makushita.
Ichiyamamoto – Ichiyamamoto blazed a 6-1 record from Makushita 11, earning him a solid berth in the Makushita joi-jin for Natsu, and possibly a shot at Juryo if he can excel one more time. This will be no easy feat given how many strong rikishi had winning records in the top 10 Makushita ranks, who did not end up making the Juryo cut. He’s made one trip to these elevated ranks last summer, but suffered a brutal 1-6 at Aki 2018, and has been pushing to recover ever since.
Midorifuji – Midorifuji came to Osaka at his highest ever rank, and looking to do one thing – bring home 4 shiroboshi and a kachi-koshi. He closed the deal on this proposition on the final day, and assured himself a modest move higher. We will likely see him test his sumo against some of the joi-jin in May, and this might present him his biggest challenge yet. Midorifuji has shown an impressive range of sumo this year, and it’s only March…
Wakatakamoto – The lowest ranking of the three Onami brothers, Wakatakamoto excelled in Osaka, ending with a 5-2 record. Its likely this score will see him in the teens of the Makushita division, and he may find the level of competition a degree more intense than Osaka.
Ura – After a crippling re-injury to his right knee at Hatsu, Ura wasted no time returning to an orthopedic surgical theater, and undergoing a second surgery. He is not likely to return to the dohyo this year, and his Oyakata has indicated to the press that they are in “no rush” and want his recovery to be “perfect”. We could not agree more.
Musashikuni – The scion of the Mushashigawa clan went into the final day of the Haru basho already with 4 losses, but took his third win from Kotodairyu, to ease his fall down the banzuke for Natsu. We know the big Hawaiian has been nursing numerous mechanical injuries, and may have been at less than full health. He is also one of Takayasu’s tsukibeto.
Naya – One of the great stories of Haru was Naya’s bold run to within arm’s reach of the Makushita yusho from Ms51e. He was toe to toe with rikishi ranking well above him in many cases, but continued to dominated his matches. After a less than spectacular result from Hatsu, fans hopeful that Naya may be driving for higher ranks were delighted with his effort.
For a complementary take on the state of Makushita, see Chris Gould’s video below. -lksumo
Although the world of sumo usually keeps silent about injuries and the decisions behind them, leaving us fans to speculate, in Ura’s case, the fans are lucky, as there is an oyakata who keeps us relatively informed on the tragic ex-actrobat wrestler.
Inagawa oyakata is a member of Ura’s heya, and he tweets updates about him from time to time. The first tweet appeared on January 23rd:
Good morning. This will become known anyway, so I decided to just come out and tell.
The result of Ura’s medical examination this time is the same as his previous injury – a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Once he settles down, I will talk to him and try to inform you if there is anything to report
This was rather ominous. But today, during the various heya’s senshuraku parties, Inagawa oyakata came up with a new tweet:
Thank goodness… As it is something only the man himself can decide through his worries, all I can do is support him. But when we met, he immediately said “I’m having surgery, and work on my comeback once again”. I’m very happy. Everybody, we’ll be grateful for your continued support!
And I’m very grateful to Inagawa oyakata for these tweets. So the bottom line is: No intai at the moment, but also do not expect to see Ura in the upper divisions any time soon. Better luck this time!
Despite the many high-profile bouts today, there were fewer videos to present. Let’s look at what we have:
Here is a collection of bouts from Jonokuchi. The most notable one is the second bout, featuring Roga, the new Mongolian recruit of Futagoyama beya, vs. Yuriki. It’s worth looking from the beginning, just to compare him to the very, very green Hamasu (left side) who is also participating in his first ranked basho. Hamasu gets corrected when he tries to perform his shikiri outside the ring. And he is soon beaten by the more experienced Narumi.
Roga is a totally different story. Although it’s his debut bout, and his rival has the body mass and chon-mage to attest his experience, Roga is the more skilled rikishi on the dohyo. This one will be wearing a kesho-mawashi in 2020 (barring injury, of course).
Yesterday I gave you Satonofuji, and today, his heir to the bow, Kasugaryu, going vs. a bigger Koshinoryu:
I think there is something extra nimble about those yumi-tori rikishi. They need to keep themselves flexible and mobile. This has some effect on their sumo as well.
The only official American rikishi, Musashikuni, faced Kototsubasa in his first bout of the hatsu basho.
But oy, that koshi-daka. Unfortunately, despite being assigned to an Ozeki as tsukebito, Musashikuni’s stance is not improving. Maybe because Takayasu is currently the wrong Ozeki to emulate. Kototsubasa is smaller, and has an advantage from the get go attacking from below.
Here is Wakatakamoto, the eldest of the Onami brothers, and the lowest ranked, vs. Ryuseio:
The two elder brothers are dying to catch up with their younger brother. Wakatakamoto attacks Ryuseio with much genki, envelopes and leads him out in the blink of an eye.
I have been waiting for Hoshoryu’s performance this basho. In my mind’s eye, I saw him meeting Ura… maybe in the second week, preferably in the yusho playoff.
Alas, this was not to be. Kizakiumi made short work of the famous nephew, and Hoshoryu is out of the yusho race as early as day 2, and will only meet Ura if the latter drops a match – which we all, of course, hope he doesn’t.
Speaking of whom, here is Pretty-in-Pink, back in action. For the time being, only his sagari is pink. He faces the very populare Takakento (former Takanohana beya, currently Chiganoura), who is one of Takakeisho’s tsukebito together with Takataisho. Let’s watch:
Seriously, Musashikuni should have stayed to watch after his own bout, to see what a proper stance was. Ura is so low that it’s lucky his sagari is not stiffened or the rods would be bent.
Here is Tomisakae. Two basho ago, he had an excellent basho but last basho he hit the upper Makushita wall and dropped a bit. Here he is against the much bigger Tokushinho, trying to recapture that magic.
SumoSoul said it… Against Tokushinho’s big weight, came Tomisakae’s attack from down below. And like Musashikuni, Tokushinho yields with little resistance.
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!
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.
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).
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:
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
But one rikishi reliably keeps a perfect record! Of course, it’s a perfect losing record, but still perfect!
Once again Hattorizakura gives us a glimpse of hope, somewhere there, that he might… just might… nope.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Enho got his SHITATE grip but Kage got a firm UWATE grip of his own before standoff. When action restarted, E came as close as the pic below to pulling out a win but W recovered and held on for the force out. pic.twitter.com/bFZcRvRkGY
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:
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).
The fates of scheduling brought together today two well-known Jonidan denizen. Satonofuji, the yumitori master emeritus, and Hanakaze, the oldest active wrestler, 48 years old.
Somewhat geriatric tachiai there. The youngster (Satonofuji is merely 41) prevails, and is now 2-2.
Continuing the “Most X rikishi” theme, we have Kenho again! Facing Kotomanabe, both are 3-0.
And now Kenho is kachi-koshi as well. What do you think – can he get the yusho?
Of course, we absolutely can’t do without this match. I give you Ura vs. Aoi. Both 3-0 coming into this match.
As Ura gains confidence, he is starting to show us some Ura-zumo. Yesterday he went for a leg, today he went for an arm. Aoi can only feel consoled in that he got treated the same as a Yokozuna. Ura is kachi-koshi, though I’m sure he is not going to rest on his laurels just yet.
Yet another man who is on the shinkansen to Makuuchi Station is the man with the Uncle, Hoshoryu. Here matched with Tennozan.
No match, really. This bullet train is going-going-gone. Hoshoryu is kachi-koshi, and will also not be resting on any smelly leaves.
From the upper reaches of Makushita, the middle Onami brother, Wakamotoharu, vs. Kiribayama – yet another Mongolian who has a hard time gaining weight.
Could Kiribayama finally breach the sekitori barrier, after three years in the doldrums? He is 4-0. And the elder Onami brothers still can’t quite match their little brother.
Can you feel that I love this division? This was a fun day in Juryo. Let’s join in.
Quite a bout between Tomokaze and Toyonoshima. Toyonoshima has the better tachiai and has the beginnings of a sashi, when Tomokaze disengages and starts some tsuppari action. Toyonoshima is not easy to defeat, but defeated he is eventually.
Today’s Makushita representative is Tamaki from Takasago beya. He stands opposite Jokoryu, who is not doing too well this tournament. But he is doing well in this bout, picking and sweeping Tamaki easily.
Azumaryu seems to be getting over his initial struggles, with a third consecutive win. Shimanoumi needs to start worrying.
The next bout is between two of the three unlikely leaders of this division – Terutsuyoshi, Tobizaru and Enho. One is going to be relegated to the chaser group. Tobizaru (whose extra thick sagari make him look like he really is going to fly) knows exactly who he is facing, and works hard to fend Enho’s greedy arms from getting to his mawashi zone. Unfortunately for him, all Enho need is a sliver of an opening. As soon as his left hand is on the back of the monkey’s mawashi, the monkey flies indeed.
Chiyonoo knows he is getting to make-koshi land fast, and tries everything he can against Mitoryu. He nearly manages to throw him at the age – but not quite. He tries to pull him out of the leaning match – but doesn’t succeed. Eventually patient Mitoryu forces him out. Chiyonoo now 1-7, and it would surprise me if his score at the end will be a single-digit make-koshi.
Triple-breasted Gokushindo faces Tsurugisho. Both are not in a very good position at the moment, but Gokushindo is definitely heading back to Makushita for some remedial studying.
Chiyonoumi is in a similar straits as his heya-mate, Chiyonoo. Facing Hakuyozan, he throws everything and the kitchen sink at him, but Hakuyozan seems not to mind all the nodowa and tsuppari too much. I really hope my man from Kochi will not have to say goodbye to his collection of Bonito kesho-mawashi. Hakuyozan stays in the chaser group.
Takekaze finishes Akiseyama easily, first landing a nodowa, then pulling down for a katasukashi. The old man is not doing that badly at this stage.
Kyokushuho is not going to let yet another midget ruin his day. He batters Wakatakakage thoroughly and gets his third win.
Tokushoryu starts at Kyokutaisei quite energatically, and the man in orange is pushed back – but side steps and lets Tokushoryu’s bulk do the work for him.
Now here is our second highlight match today. Terutsuyoshi needs a win to keep himself abreast with Enho at the top of Mount Juryo. Let me tell you, he looked pretty tense today as he was about to make his final salt throw. So from out of nowhere he comes up with a nekodamashi (“I decided to do that yesterday, but didn’t rehearse it at all. I didn’t clap my hands all day!”), then dives for Daishoho’s leg. The surprised Daishoho finds himself sitting at the corner of the dohyo asking himself “what just happened”. For those of you who don’t know what a nekodamashi is – it’s clapping your hands right in front of your opponent’s face to briefly distract him. Previous to Hakuho’s famous double nekodamashi vs. Tochiozan, Mainoumi was known for using that trick. Terutsuyoshi very pleased, and keeps breathing the cold sweet air of the yusho race. He needs one win to kachi-koshi, and may not be far from serving as Hakuho’s next tsuyuharai. That is, if Enho doesn’t grab that yusho and gets there first (there are precedents for J10 yusho winners making it to Makuuchi).
Aminishiki goes for straightforward sumo today, but his opponent – Takagenji – is younger and stronger than he and quickly chases him out. Kudos to Takagenji for keeping Uncle from falling, though I am not sure Aminishiki appreciated being reminded of his age.
Hidenoumi has a three second illusion that he may dominate this match, when Yago takes over matters. Hidenoumi is desparately seeking wins.
Hey, what was that? Ishiura wins a bout with straight forward, no tricks sumo? Who knew he was capable of that? Kotoeko is 4-4.