Day 5 – Bouts from the lower divisions

toyonoshima
Toyonoshima – one win away from reclaiming his silk mawashi

Jonokuchi

Hattorizakura had yet another bout today, against Shishimaru. How did he do?

I recall that in the past, one of the members of the Tachiai team wondered if people were given instructions to be gentle with poor Hattorizakura before their bouts. Well, if so, Shishimaru didn’t get the memo. Applying a nodowa to Hattorizakura? Oh, the humanity!

Chiyotaiyo also had his third bout today, vs. Onagaya:

(Bonus bout: Shachinofuji vs. Tanaka)

This time, our string bean wasn’t as successful as in his first two matches. Nevertheless, it was a good effort, with a good belt grip and two attempts to throw his bigger rival. I think his Tachiai wasn’t as good as yesterday’s, though.

Jonidan

Here we have the oldest rikishi in the sumo world, 48 years old Hanakaze, facing the 33 years younger toddler, Wakamatsunaga. Hanakaze entered the sumo world at about the same time I entered university. That was when Chiyonofuji was at the height of his career, and Kitanoumi was not yet a Yokozuna. This was a long, long time ago.

Well, he can still do sumo, even if he can’t lift his leg for a decent shiko.

Sandanme

I have to bow before the penetrating analysis Bakanofuji delivered of Torakio’s sumo in the previous installment. Here he is, hurting himself again:

Out of curiousity, I decided to watch the bout of his stablemate, Sumidagawa, who has advanced to Sandanme in this basho. Take a look at his bout with Kotomyozan:

It seems that – although he wins this bout – he suffers from some of the same weak points that Bakanofuji mentioned w.r.t. Torakio: bending at the waist instead of the knees. Having an ineffective Tachiai. Which now raises the question: could it be Kotooshu’s fault?

Makushita

Wakamotoharu, of the Onami brother, faced Ryuko today:

Tomisakae, the bouncy Isegahama man, continues to do well:

Tomisakae seems to have some bunny genes. His interpretation of gaburi-yori is a hop-hop-hop forward. He is now 3-0.

Sokokurai continues his careful sumo in an attempt to extend his number of wins as much as possible and get his sekitori status back quickly. Here he is matched with Kagamio.

Kagamio is the Sandanme Yusho winner from the previous basho. This come-from-behind win for Sokokurai seems to piss him off tremendously. He goes off the dohyo without a bow. When called back, he makes the most cursory of nods. The previous time those two met was in Makuuchi, by the way, in hatsu 2015.

Here is Nakazono vs. Gokushindo:

Gokushindo has a really nice, balanced stance.

Finally, the bout that made it to Kintamayama’s video today: Toyonoshima vs. Tomokaze (here from the opposite angle):

Toyonoshima is now just one win away from regaining his akeni, kesho mawashi and shimekomi. And the ability to provide for his family. Although only sekitori are allowed to get married, nobody forces them to divorce when they fall to the lower divisions. However, it’s quite a difficult situation, when you do not receive a salary, and are techically not allowed to live outside the heya.

Juryo

Here is today’s Juryo digest:

  • Enho can’t seem to win in the day after a henka. Akua is really fighting for his life there. It’s not clear from this angle, but at some point in the bout – which started off pretty much the way Enho wants it to – Akua has his head in a vice, and he struggles and frees it. But this of course disrupts the entire attack, and he gets thrown unceremoniously  to one side.
  • Azumaryu is the bee’s knees this basho. Gagamaru seems on his way either to Makushita or retirement. He is past his due date.
  • Tokushoryu’s victory over Mitoryu eliminates the last Juryo man with a clean winning record. No zensho-yusho this basho.
  • Tobizaru continues his bounce back. Alas, at the expense of my Chiyonoumi, who will have to work hard to secure a kachi-koshi this basho.
  • Terutsuyoshi back to winning after two losses. Straight sumo, no fancy stuff.
  • That seemed to have been quite a mistake on Takekaze’s part. I’m a bit surprised they didn’t call it an Isamiashi or something.
  • Wakatakakage with a second loss in a row.
  • Kotoeko, just back from Makuuchi, is having a miserable basho. He will drop further down, I predict.
  • Yago goes for a belt fight with a Mongolian. And wins.
  • What a bout by Aminishiki! First he starts with a hearty tsuki-oshi. Then switches to the belt. Attempts a trip, perseveres against Akiseyama’s defenses, and eventually Yori-kiris him.

 

Bouts from the lower divisions – Days 3 and 4

Yesterday all my YouTube sources dried up all of a sudden, so I decided to collect the little material that I had from two days. This doesn’t matter much in the divisions below Juryo, as mostly the wrestlers have bouts on alternating days. But it does mean that I’ll have to concentrate on today’s Juryo rather than yesterday’s.

enho-hassotobi
Behold, a flying pixie

Day 3

What I have from day 3 are mostly Makushita bouts from the top of the division.

Here is the hottest thing in Isegahama, the back-flipping Tomisakae, vs. Wakamotoharu – that’s Wakatakakage’s slightly older brother (the oldest is Wakatakamoto).

After a matta, Tomisakae drives straight forward and quickly dispatches of the Arashio man. Note that he is then called over by the one of the shimpan and scolded for something. I’m not sure what that would be. Maybe that little jump of glee at the end?

Then we have Sokokurai, who means business. And in this case, it’s a very long business transaction:

Sokokurai has Tokushinho in a morozashi, but Tokushinho is bigger than Sokokurai and gets a soto-yotsu (both hands outside) grip. First he only gets the outer layer of Sokokurai’s mawashi, but then manages to get a hold of the lower layer with his right hand. Sokokurai releases one hand and tries a throw, but it doesn’t work. Tokushino starts forward, but Sokokurai rallies and reasserts his morozashi. Tokushinho, however, starts marching forward again, and Sokokurai is running out of stamina. But he is not the only one. Eventually a little shift and Tokushinho drops to the floor. It’s called a shitatenage, but it was more like an underarm release than an underarm throw.

Here is Tomokaze, facing another rather hot name, Irodori:

Irodori starts the attack, but then Tomokaze changes the direction and puts Iridori between himself and the closest line of bales, where he goes ahead and pushes him. Tomokaze is 2-0 at the moment.

Finally, we have Toyonoshima vs. Toyohibiki:

Those two go back a long way. Most of their past 14 meetings were in Makuuchi.

Toyohibiki goes for the attack, but Toyonoshima does a little dance around and reverses the fates. The ancient one is now 2-0.

Here is the Juryo digest for day three, for those who do not want to miss a single bout, but I am leaving it uncommented:

Day 4

We start the action in Day 4 with two Jonokuchi bouts. First, we cannot do without Hattorizakura.

Here he meets Takanoryu again. Takanoryu has only ever beaten two other rikishi. One of them twice before. Can you guess who that is?

Hattorizakura tries to stick it on the bales, but his heel goes lower and lower and eventually the shimpan signals to the gyoji that the bout is actually over.

Next up is a bout with a little more talent. It’s my favorite stick insect, the underfed Chiyotaiyo, vs. Hayasaka:

(Extra bout – Akatsuki vs. Kyonosato)

Chiyotaiyo seems to be very popular – gets a lot of calls from the spectators. He launches himself at Hayasaka, grabs an arm, and wins by tottari. My guess is that this time he is not staying in Jonokuchi. 2-0 for the Kokonoe string bean. Feed him, Chiyotaikai!

Up we go to Jonidan, where we have a bout between Tsushida – the Jonokuchi yusho winner from Nagoya, and an expected contender for the Jonidan yusho in Aki – facing the now famous Kasugaryu, Hakuho’s tsukebito, and current yumi-tori performer.

34 years old Kasugaryu is certainly giving Tsushida a run for his money. Nice legwork, and it’s amazing how he manages to survive most of this bout on one foot. But eventually this causes him be turned around and Tsushida shows him the lovely view at the bottom of the dohyo.

Moving up to Sandanme, we have Torakio meeting Matsuda.

Now, this looks completely different than Torakio’s first bout. So I suppose that one should be attributed to ring rust? We’ll see over the coming 10 days. He patiently works his way to Matsuda’s mawashi, and then picks him and leads him to the edge. That really looked like mature sumo.

Now, we move up to Makushita. And we concentrate on its lower part this time. First, what is Naya up to? Here is his bout with Hitachigo:

He suffers a similar kind of setback to that suffered by Ura in his second bout. Now he has virtually lost his chance of a Yusho (well, there have been yusho which were won with 6-1 in Makushita, but it’s relatively rare). No yusho means no shortcuts up the banzuke. If Hoshoryu manages a 7-0, let alone a yusho, he will leave Taiho’s grandson way behind him.

Speaking of Hoshoryu, here is his bout vs. Sadanosato:

Hoshoryu’s style is usually going for the mawashi and attempting a throw – a typical style for Mongolians (Tamawashi a well-known exception). But in this particular bout he chooses to switch to tsuki-oshi. It’s not really forced on him by his opponent. This is a surprising flexibility from someone not yet 20.

OK, we now move up to Juryo, and here is your digest for the day:

Due to Seiro’s kyujo, a rikishi from Makushita is called up to do a Juryo torikumi. It’s the yo-yo, Kizenryu, facing Akua in his retina-damaging shimekomi. This turns out to be a protracted battle, in which both sides are doing their best to deny access to their mawashi. But Akua is again left winless, with nothing to show for his great effort. He is probably going back to Makushita yet again.

Now, if you have watched Kintamayama today, you will have seen that Enho’s bout with Gagamaru came after two very strange mattas. Enho explains:

“I was seriously scared. When we had the matta, my opponent’s face went boiling red. Well, his head was very low, so it was clear that I should go to the right. That was so strong on my mind that before I knew it I found myself flying. It’s the first time in my life I have flown”.

Personally, I was not too enthusiastic about that Hassotobi, having seen its sister being performed over and over again in the Jungyo by Enho’s stablemate, Ishiura. It’s not good sumo and I’m sure Hakuho is not going to proudly tweet about it. But the spectators at the Kokugikan loved it, and Enho made it to the kanto-seishin (the crowd fighting-spirit favorites list). What is he going to do when he gets to Makuuchi and has to face the likes of Chiyomaru, Chiyotairyu and Kaisei?

  • Azumaryu suffers his first loss with some serious pressure from Tokushoryu.
  • Chiyonoumi started his comeback after his first loss yesterday. Today he faced Jokoryu (who is the first one I see daring to wear a brown mawashi), and aims some massive thrusts at him. Go, go, Kochi-man.
  • Tobizaru is also on the mend from his disastrous first two days. He changed his shimekomi, by the way, to something that looks like banana-milk or Badam-milk color.
  • Mitoryu faces Shimanoumi. Some fierce nodowa and Shimanoumi is pushed away. Mitoryu continues to dominate with 4-0.
  • Terutsuyoshi, however, had excellent first two days, but has now followed them with two consecutive losses. This time he doesn’t manage to keep his grip as he did in the first day.
  • Wakatakakage suffers his first loss at the hands of the rebounding Tsurugisho.
  • Takekaze is doing the push-me-pull-you, and ends up luckily inside the ring.
  • The Hidenoumi-Takagenji bout seemed pretty simultaneous to me. I expected a torinaoshi, but it went to Hidenoumi. I’m not complaining, mind you.
  • The Kyokushuho-Meisei bout was fine, but I don’t really get how Meisei made it into the kanto-seishin list.
  • Yago made the same mistake twice in the same bout. In both cases he tried to pull and failed. He is much better moving forward. He loses too much ground when pulling.
  • Akiseyama secures a grip and tries to trip the tripper, Arawashi. He also tries to lift him and take him aside. Arawashi shows what he is made of – and keeps his balance perfectly. The way he uses his feet to change his center of gravity is superb.
  • Aminishiki’s bout was a very short version of “Crime and Punishment”. Daishoho saw his henka and raised him a hatakikomi.

That’s it for day 4. By now, day 5 action has already started in the lower divisions. Hope you enjoyed this collection!

Natsu 2018 Jungyo Newsreel – Day 9

This post was originally intended to be bundled together with the main Nagano event of day 8, as I wasn’t expecting a small town event in the same prefecture to produce much material. Turns out I was wrong. Lots of unique footage and amazing scenery. Enjoy!

🌐 Location: Shimosuwa, Nagano

picture-perfect-exercise

Shimosugawa lies right on the edge of Lake Suwa. This means that today’s event involved the most gorgeous picturesque scenes you can even imagine.

The view towards the mountains was not bad, either:

hidenoumi-shimanoumi-tsurugisho
Hidenoumi, Shimanoumi, Tsurugisho

Hokutofuji made Tobizaru look like a flabby couch potato:

hokutofuji-makes-tobizaru-look-flabby

And… I mean… Sunflower field? This place is like a pamphlet!

sunflowers

Wait a second, why is everybody outside? It’s a work day. Where is the venue?

Ah, this is the venue:

venue-at-shimosuwa

The sky could make René Magritte cry… But it’s a freaking tent. You know – a place without air conditioning. And the electric fans you see – they just help move hot hair from side to side.

Yes, electric fans and ice, again:

ice-again

Yes, indeed, that’s Tamawashi with Sokokurai. Sokokurai is apparently out of kyujo and back in the Jungyo, together with Gagamaru and Takekaze who joined at Niigata.

Sokokurai brought with him a full entourage of Makushita rikishi:

fukugoriki-kotokuzan-onami
Fukugoriki, Kotokuzan, Wakatakakage, Wakatakamoto, Wakamotoharu

Suddenly, four additional Arashio beya wrestlers materialized. About half of Arashio beya is at the Jungyo. I’m not really sure what this is all about. Well, I can understand why the Onami brothers (in addition to sekitori little brother Wakatakakage, big brother Wakatakamoto and middle brother Wakamotoharu) would be there – the Jungyo is going to pass through Fukushima soon, and they are the hot thing in their home prefecture. Fukugoriki also hails from Fukushima. But I’m not really sure what Kotokuzan is doing here.

The Onami brothers seem to be popular not just in Fukushima, though. For some reason, both of the elder ones were assigned Juryo bouts today – hence their oicho-mage, which their little brother, who is the one who should be wearing one by rights, still doesn’t have enough hair to have.

Shimosuwa is in Nagano prefecture. This means the Mitakeumi worship has still been going strong:

more-mitakeumi-worship

If you notice, he has been getting cupped again. Or again had a date with the M-113 creature. He had moshi-ai with aoiyama:

mitakeumi-cupped-again

And this time, Goeido decided to give him his full attention. Here is a a complete butsukari session for you – seven minutes of TLC.

I’m not really sure why the spectators are so enthusiastic about seeing their local hero wallowing in dirt, gasping for air, but that’s sumo for you. At least there were no kicks.

Note Nishikigi-Mama cleaning dirt from Mitakeumi’s hair. 🙂

Earlier in the day, Mitakeumi and Sokokurai went on a shrine visit at the Suwa Taisha shrine. Here is a bit of Japanese culture for you. They went to get a purification and offered a sakaki branch to the gods. And apparently, the gods also like autographs.

Aside from Mitakeumi, there was also sumo jinku:

I must say the heat is affecting the poor jinku performers’ voices. Or maybe it’s the acoustics.

A summary of the day’s events, including the Mitakeumi-Goeido and Kakuryu-Kisenosato bouts:

Speaking of Kisenosato, he switched gears in his dohyo practice today, and started having real bouts. He had bouts with Daieisho, Shodai and Sadanoumi, totalling 14, of which he won 12. The newspapers clearly say that Aki is going to be his “make or break” basho.

And an update to the Ikioi fans who have been following his fiancee the past few days: he was asked about her by the press. He said she has always been a very hard working athlete, and that she never thinks “Great, Done!”, but rather focuses on her next goal. He said that both being busy athletes, they have very little time to meet, but that whenever she is able, she flies over to see him, wherever she is. “I’m a lucky man” he summarized with a big smile.

To wrap up, there was no Enho photo today, so instead I give you Kyokusoten meditating under a tree like a little buddha:

kyokusoten
OK, the laughing tokoyama doesn’t fit in with the Buddha thing

Who is Kyokusoten, you ask? Well, he is Tamawashi’s brother-in-law. And I think he serves as his tsukebito as well in this Jungyo, as Kataonami beya is a little short on wrestlers who are over 20 years old and can serve as tsukebito (in fact, it has only three wrestlers all told – including Tamawashi).

The First Eleven Men of Makushita

Enho-Takayasu
… When you can see over the top of the mountain

Instead of a traditional “Ones to Watch” section this basho, we’ll mix things up with a few lower division storylines. We’ll start by taking a look at what’s going on at the top of Makushita.

This division is an absolute slog. There are 120 men in this division fighting for usually 2 to 4 of the 28 slots in Juryo. As described on a recent NHK World sumo preview, the division between Makushita and Juryo is like “heaven and hell,” given the resources and opportunities provided to rikishi once they reach the professional, sekitori level.

If you’re a college rikishi of good pedigree, usually you will cruise through the bottom 2-3 tiers before meeting your tougher matches here. Rikishi who have left school before college often take several years to reach the level as they get acclimated to the sport and the lifestyle. One of the reasons it’s tough to escape the level is because there’s a crush at the top – but Nagoya 2018 is unique. With respect to Natsu whipping boy Amakaze, usually there are a couple rikishi around the top of the division who have departed Juryo due to injury or performance, not soon to return back, and these guys get beat up by the hot young up-and-comers on the upswing of their career.

This time, however, there’s no filler at the top of the division and it’s going to be an all out melee to reach the professional ranks when sumo returns to Tokyo for the Aki tournament in September. Let’s look at who’s jockeying for position:

The Battle Scarred Veterans

I’m going to put 29 year olds Jokoryu (Ms5E) and Asabenkei (Ms4E) in this category, though their careers have taken different routes to the same location. The former Komusubi Jokoryu spent 4 years as sekitori before dropping down the divisions due to serious injury. He’s been stuck in the wilderness for 2 years, but has fought his way back up to striking distance of promotion. Asabenkei, who has been in sumo since 2007, recently made it back to Juryo after an 18 month hiatus. He then suffered a humiliating 3-win tournament in May, which started 0-7, en route to an immediate demotion back to the third tier.

While these guys have a wildly different pedigree and career accomplishments, it’s probably fair to say they have been operating on a similar talent level and with an ambition to scrape back up and re-establish themselves as professionals.

The Hot Shots

Enho (Ms2W) – the first man to open his career 21-0 since Jokoryu – arrived on the scene earlier than predicted in Osaka, but it was clear he was over-promoted before his time and was swiftly demoted back to Makushita. It’s good news for him that he has such an esteemed some-time sparring partner in Hakuho, however, and the hard work he’s put in has seen him rebound after a solid Natsu to the fourth position on the banzuke. We’ve been hot on Enho so long it’s hard to believe it’s still only his 8th tournament. 5 wins should see him back up.

Meanwhile, fellow “Ones to Watch” honorees and college men Murata (Ms1W) and Ichiyamamoto (Ms3E) reach the division’s summit in just their 9th tournaments (though Ichiyamamoto gets bonus points for having got here just as quickly from Jonokuchi). Murata is a big bopper who loves a good ol’ fashioned oshi-fuelled brawl. Ichiyamamoto mixes it up a little more but is still mostly a pusher-thruster.

The Brother

The youngest of Arashio-beya’s three Onami brothers, Wakatakakage not only made it first to Juryo but then stuck at the level, managing a kachi-koshi in his first trip to the pros. Middle brother Wakamotoharu (Ms4W) now finds himself on the brink – with the third and oldest brother Wakatakamoto not so far behind at Ms10. Having only eked out 3 wins from similar positions on the banzuke in the past, he’ll be looking to improve his record in this part of the sumo world this time, to set up a promotion challenge either this time or next. It’s a sprint between the two remaining brothers to catch Wakatakakage now, but Wakamotoharu is in the pole position.

The Cups of Coffee

27 year old Akua (Ms5W) and 23 year old Hakuyozan (Ms1E) both spent years making the long and winding trek through the lower reaches of the banzuke before managing just a “cup of coffee” in the pros, each returning back to Makushita after one tournament where they both clearly looked overmatched. They’ll be wanting to make sure the chance to establish themselves at a higher level does not go begging again.

The Wild Cards

22 year olds Gokushindo (Ms2E) and Kiribayama (Ms3W) have different origin stories and routes to this point, but what they have in common is a certain inconsistency. Kiribayama at times has looked utterly dominant in this division, and is the current yusho holder. Gokushindo has tended to take 2 steps forward followed by one step back as he adjust to the differences in quality in what is a Makushita tier which effectively has divisions within the division, such is the gulf in class between various areas of the ranks. Having posted a 6-1 record last time out, it would seemingly stand to reason he would need an adjustment period again this time, but he will face familiar foes having beaten Ichiyamamoto, Murata and Wakamotoharu in May (the latter two using a style best described as “Ichinojo” – a ponderously lengthy wait-out of a grapple in the centre of the dohyo followed by an escort over the bales and a throw respectively), losing only to Kiribayama.

The Terunofuji

At the time of writing, it appears to be unclear whether we’re going to see Terunofuji (Ms6E) in Nagoya. The man has undergone plenty of work on both knees, and suffered a less than fruitful spell in Juryo, which was also apparently hindered at times by diabetes related treatment. What his tournament ability is, at this point in the game, is still unclear. While it’s possible and even likely he may drop further (either due to performance or kyujo-status), the very presence of a former Ozeki in this part of the banzuke should give pause to each of the other names listed here – if he does show up, it’s obviously to compete and to win.