Tokyo November Day 10 Highlights

Today could be “What the hell was that?” day. The odd happenings and strange sumo occurrences were on display. Zero velocity tachiai, matta-tachiai, thrusting battles that turned into endurance matches, this day was full of the unexpected.

The 2020 magic continues: at the end of day 10 you have both the first and last man on the banzuke tied for the yusho race at the end of act 2. Act 2 is where we narrow the field to find out who has what it takes to compete for the yusho, and to start sorting the survivors from the damned. If we see yet another yusho from the last slot on the banzuke, well I am going to suggest the Kokugikan be checked for mischievous gnomes or perhaps a toll living in the cavity under the dohyo. You want further evidience of some kind of yokai at work? How about the six way tie for the lead in Juryo.

Highlight Matches

Chiyoshoma defeats Midorifuji – Chiyoshoma drives ahead at the tachiai, standing Midorifuji up. Chiyoshoma then pulls him down with great effect. At 6-4, I think Chiyoshoma has a pretty good chance of making his 8, and staying in the top division for January.

Shimanoumi defeats Chiyonokuni – This match was a great idea on paper. With the chance being that Chiyonokuni might slow down the “last man” magic. Chiyonokuni had a strong open, but nothing is stopping Shimanoumi right now. He gets an armpit lift / hold on Chiyonokuni and drives him out of the ring. Shimanoumi 9-1.

Kotonowaka defeats Akua – Akua had a solid tachiai, but Kotonowaka was largely unmoved. He reached inside with both hands and took command of the match, marching Akua over the bales, improving to 6-4.

Hoshoryu defeats Sadanoumi – Excellent sumo mechanics today from Hoshoryu, and with Sadanoumi lack of usable knee joints, Hoshoryu made it a short match. That’s loss number 8 for Sadanoumi, and he is make-koshi for November. He’s not going to have much in terms of sumo without repair to those legs.

Enho defeats Chiyotairyu – We go from low velocity Chiyotairyu tachiai to ZERO velocity tachiai! Both men just stood up, expecting some kind of trickery at the start of the match. Even the gyoji was surprised. A couple of tentative probing attacks back and forth, and Enho grabs and pulls, swinging Chiyotairyu to the clay. Odd but wonderful too. Enho improves to 2-8.

Meisei defeats Tokushoryu – Meisei completely dominated this match. I am not sure if Meisei somehow tripped the “power off” button on Tokushoryu with that deep left hand, but Tokushoryu rapidly went from competitor to ballast in the space of about one step. Both end the day at 5-5.

Kaisei defeats Aoiyama – Around a quarter ton of sumo action today. A weird matta tachiai, and we once again wonder what the hell was that? Neither of them were really dialed into any kind of high energy attack plan, so they went through the motions and finished quickly. Kaisei improves to 5-5.

Yutakayama defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi gets a left frontal grip at the tachiai, but can’t do anything with it, and the two stalemate in the center of the dohyo, with Yutakayama leaning over Terutsuyoshi to get a hold of his mawashi knot. After a fair amount of leaning, Terutsuyoshi tries to rally, but finds himself overpowered by Yutakayama, and quickly on the clay. Terutsuyoshi gets his 8th loss and is make-koshi for November.

Ichinojo defeats Tochinoshin – Today the “good” Ichinojo showed up and won. He left Tochinoshin no route to use any kind of offensive sumo, and completely dominated this match. You have to wonder if this version of the Boulder only shows up when he’s about to get a make-koshi. He improves to 3-7.

Kotoeko defeats Endo – Endo had the better sumo mechanics, and should have won this match if it were just down to style. But Kotoeko did not fret too much when Endo got his preferred left hand grip at the tachiai. He worked that left arm into a arm-bar hold and used that to beat Endo. Solid sumo tactics from Kotoeko today, and he improves to 6-4.

Ryuden defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi falls to the power of Ryuden’s butt, which has added some kind of shimmy before he goes into the starting crouch. I would ridicule it more, but it seems to be working. Tamawashi opened strong, but the power of the shiri-zumo was strong again today, and it rallied to move Tamawashi back and out to deliver Ryuden’s 8th win, and a kachi-koshi for Butt-vember.

Hokutofuji defeats Takarafuji – A magical display of “defend and extend” sumo today from the master craftsman, Takarafuji. Hokutofuji was throwing in combos left and right against Takarafuji, and each of them landed. But only with partial effect. After expending his energy with his attacks, Hokutofuji is left a bit winded. At that moment Takarafuji attacks, with great effect. Hokutofuji can’t defend and moves back again and again. Spent, he goes to Takarafuji’s chest and leans in. Eventually Takarafuji has had enough, and works to end the match, but can’t quite manage to defeat Hokutofuji’s lower body. Takarafuji sets up a throw, but in spending his last watt of energy, Hokutofuji manages to resist just enough to land last. What a match! Monoii? Rematch? What the hell was that? Somehow these two found the stamina to do it all over again. The second match is a brilliant continuation of the first in style and execution. But Hokutofuji manages to overcome Takarafuji’s defensive sumo, and pushes Josh’s favored contestant over the tawara for the win. Hokutofuji improves to 6-4.

Daieisho defeats Okinoumi – Daieisho seems to be dialed into his sumo now, and today is a great example. He was strong and straight forward at the tachiai, with maxiumum force directly into Okinoumi’s chest. It was over in a moment, improving Daieisho’s score to 7-3.

Kagayaki defeats Kiribayama – Also finally showing good form is Kagayaki. He was low, strong and moving forward today, with a dash of gaburi-yori for garnish. Sadly it looks like Kiribayama may be headed for a double digit make-koshi. Kagayaki now 4-6.

Onosho defeats Wakatakakage – Wakatakakage did not have much in this match, but he was able to force it into a yotsu battle when he connected to Onosho’s mawashi in the tachiai, and refused to give up his left hand grip. Onosho struggled some with the format, but no longer in danger of being off balance and on the move at the same time, he settled into just working to get Wakatakakage under control. Wakatakakage made his move about 30 seconds into the match, but could not finish the bulkier Onosho, who rallied and drove forward for the win. Onosho improves to 4-6 after a cold 0-4 start.

Terunofuji defeats Tobizaru – Tobizaru could not quite make it 2 in a row. He went for a deep grip, and held on to Terunofuji’s mawashi with everything he could muster. The kaiju thanked him for his offer, lifted him high and took him to the curb like a basket of green glass on Tuesday morning in Sumida. Terunofuji kachi-koshi for November, and still very much in the yusho hunt. Could we have Terunofuji – Shimanoumi soon, please?

Kotoshoho defeats Mitakeumi – What the hell was that, Mitakeumi? Kotoshoho improves to 6-4.

Takanosho defeats Takayasu – Takayasu goes for “wild man strength” at the tachiai, and it completely fails. His body is too high, he is off balance and now he has Takanosho’s counter attack to absorb. Takanosho was low, compact and focused his energy center-mass. Takanosho’s efficiency was high today, few wasted movements, and all power devoted to moving forward and pushing Takayasu out of the way. A textbook example of why Takayasu’s current sumo style is prone to him losing matches that, on paper, he should dominate.

Takakeisho defeats Myogiryu – There was a moment of hesitation from Myogiryu at the start of the match, and I am confident that is what cost him a competitive chance at a win today. His moment left Takakeisho in control, and with the forward momentum. The lone surviving Ozeki improves to 9-1.

Osaka Day 4 Highlights

The basho turned ugly today. And with the empty hall echoing the pained crys of a former champion, the brutal nature of sumo was on full display – video and audio. If you are a highly empathetic person, you may want to be careful watching today’s video on YouTube. I have no idea if NHK World will edit that down, or not. I am forced to remind myself that sumo is a Japanese sport made by Japanese people for Japanese people living in Japan. So my western perspective is not the mainstream. But I have to wonder if this kind of spectacle is ok in Japanese culture. I am aware from the time I lived in Japan that what constitutes cruel or gratuitous is profoundly different between Japan and the Anglosphere. But I have a hunch that today’s final match may have crossed a line.

Highlight Matches

Azumaryu defeats Meisei – Meisei had the better position at the tachiai, but looks to have rushed ahead at Azumaryu after the two broke contact. This set him up for an easy hatakikomi, and an Azumaryu win. Meisei really struggling now at 1-3 to start Haru.

Kotonowaka defeats Tsurugisho – Nice versatility from Kotonowaka today, but we should keep in mind that Tsurugisho’s left side is mostly held together with tape and courage. After a good tachiai, Tsurugisho let Kotonowaka change his grip, and really take over the match.

Shimanoumi defeats Chiyomaru – Chiyomaru was totally dedicated to pulling Shimanoumi down, to the point of throwing this match out the window. Shimanoumi’s no slouch, and this kind of sumo, coming from Chiyomaru, is easy to predict. Chiyomaru picks up his first loss.

Kaisei defeats Daiamami – Kaisei picks up his first win, and breaks out of the quarantine club. Most times in sumo, being enormous is not a valid sumo strategy. But Kaisei makes amble use of his enormity today to leave Daiamami no option beside a hasty retreat.

Aoiyama defeats Nishikigi – Not sure what happened to Aoiyama, but he will get a couple of basho per year where he looks like an unstoppable sumo machine. He completely dominated Nishikigi today, and my sole worry was that both of them had set up arm-breaker holds on the other. Nishikigi remains winless as Aoiyama has yet to lose a match.

Ishiura defeats Chiyotairyu – I have to say, there are days (like today) where Ishiura’s slightly bulkier frame and higher strength allows him to do small man sumo better than Enho. We are only 4 days into this basho, but I am really impressed with Ishiura’s sumo right now. He threw blisteringly fast combo attacks at Chiyotairyu, who had no chance to even respond. Sadly it looks like Chiyotairyu may have been injured in the match. The giant wheelchair makes its first appearance.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoshogiku – Ah, poor Kotoshogiku cannot generate much forward pressure at all any more against those knees. Terutsuyoshi kept Kotoshogiku from really pushing forward in any meaningful way, although Kotoshogiku’s defensive foot placement was excellent. Terutsuyoshi’s make-kai was the key to this win, and it left the former Ozeki struggling to respond.

Ikioi defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan remains in the winless self-isolation group, and I can only assume that some injury has completely robbed him of his sumo. Today’s effort was an attempt to pull Ikioi, who was quite prepare for it. Ikioi starts March with a solid 3-1 score.

Takanosho defeats Tochinoshin – Also solidly in the “injured veteran” cohort is dear former Ozeki Tochinoshin, who is visibly struggling with that right knee. Takanosho improves to 4-0 with solid, straight ahead sumo.

Kiribayama defeats Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi had the early advantage, but Kiribayama hit a very well timed shitatenage at the bales to rescue the win. Sadly, Sadanoumi, who is fighting well, drops to 1-3 now, and really needs to peel off a few more wins in the first week.

Takarafuji defeats Tamawashi – Once again Takarafuji’s defend and extend sumo pays off. Tamawashi had a solid armpit attack running, but rather than try to fight to break Tamawashi’s grip, Takarafuji decided to work with it, and put all of his focus on keeping Tamawashi turning to his right, and moving forward in reaction to Takarafuji’s retreat. It was a struggle, but Takarafuji got his opening when Tamawashi missed a step, and down to the clay he went. This match is a great example of the form, worth study.

Kagayaki defeats Shohozan – Shohozan went for a deep right hand mawashi grip at the tachiai, but missed. He was able to convert it to an inside position, and began to put the pressure on Kagayaki. But look at Kagayaki’s foot placement. His feet are wide and at a 45° angle, his hips are low and he’s ready to repulse the attack. Kagayaki engages forward engines and just pushes ahead for a win. Mr Fundamentals strikes again.

Onosho defeats Ryuden – I know Ryuden was working to stay mobile, and to encourage Onosho to over-extend, and fall on his face. But Ryuden let himself get bracketed by Onosho’s oshi attack, and provided an effective balance point / counter weight for Onosho’s forward rush. Onosho improves to 3-1.

Abi defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu just cant seem to make it out of the quarantine group, as he succumbs to an enormous load of Abi-zumo applied to his face. Remember to wash your hands, gents, at least 20 seconds, after any match with Abi.

Mitakeumi defeats Yutakayama – This match just showcased how well Mitakeumi is fighting week 1 this March. I point out week 1 because sometimes the “Original Tadpole” fades into week 2, so lets savor his excellent, heavy sumo while it lasts. Freeze frame on that tachiai if you can. Both rikishi are in excellent form. But Mitakeumi was just a half step ahead, and Yutatakayma ended up with poor foot placement. Unable to generate enough forward pressure against Mitakeumi, he was forced out.

Endo defeats Tokushoryu – We still love Tokushoryu, but he is completely outclassed at this rank. We did see another of his rescue moves at the tawara, but like the prior 3 days, it was fruitless.

Asanoyama defeats Hokutofuji – As much as I like Asanoyama, he operates in a fairly narrow range of sumo outcomes. The reason why we are talking about his as an ozeki is he is very good at that narrow range, and he is an expert at guiding a match into that narrow range where he excels. Today’s match against Hokutofuji is a first class example. Hokutofuji will look to pin his opponent with a nodowa and call the cadence for the match. His right hand failed to find its mark, and suddenly its in Asanoyama’s power range. To his credit Hokutofuji realizes this within the first 3 seconds, but his go-to move, a pull on the back of the neck, only gives further advantage to Asanoyama. Now off balance and far too high, Hokutofuji is an easy mark for Asanoyama’s sukuinage.

Shodai defeats Enho – Shodai has an excellent recipe for shutting down Enho’s sumo, and turning him into a light weight practice target. That slow, high tachiai that Shodai seems to execute instinctively is actually an excellent first line of defense against Enho, as it leaves Shodai with an easy reach to grab a deep grip on Enho’s mawashi. From there its Shodai who drops his hips, widens his stance and shuts down any chance Enho might have had to convert to a throw.

Daieisho defeats Takakeisho – Daieisho escapes the quarantine group by capitalizing on Takakeisho’s blunder of trying to pull Daieisho down moments into the fight. This move by Takakeisho was so monumentally bad, that its worth watching in slow motion on replay. With any luck we won’t see that one again this basho.

Hakuho defeats Okinoumi – Okinoumi is a high-skill yotsu-zumo practicioner. Hakuho took his time and worked his way to get that left hand outside grip. Once he had a handful of black silk, it was a fast route to a win. The Boss remains at 4-0, and looked more solid today than the prior two.

Kakuryu defeats Takayasu – It was clear that Takayasu was in trouble early in this match. He put himself in a bad position with Kakuryu controlling Takayasu’s body quite effectively. But the former Ozeki’s mass and strength left the match stalemated for a time. As sometimes happen when two high-strength rikishi grapple, they loaded simultaneous throws. When this happens, it is a battle over power and body control to see who throws whom. Today, sadly, it was resolved not when Takayasu’s mighty strength overwhelmed the Yokozuna, or when Kakuryu’s superior body mechanics overcame Takayasu’s power, but when Takayasu’s knee bent outward, and the 175kg Tagonoura lead rikishi hit the clay, moaning in pain.

Aki Day 6 Highlights

It was a tumultuous day on the clay at the Kokugikan, which left us with a sole undefeated leader – journeyman veteran Okinoumi. The favored rikishi in multiple matches went out, went down, and handed the white star to the other guy. How bad was it? You will know once you watch the video feed. It was the kind of day that makes sumo fans frustrated. There were multiple “non-kimarite” finishes, and the crowning achievement was Yokozuna Kakuryu’s second kinboshi in 2 days. I am going to say the lone surviving Yokozuna may be hurt now, and we may be headed to a “nokazuna” tournament shortly.

Highlight Matches

Takanosho defeats Yutakayama – Juryo visitor and Juryo yusho co-leader puts the doom on Yutakayama with an overwhelming thrusting attack. This is Yutakayama’s forte, but Takanosho just attacks with no quarter.

Ishiura defeats Tochiozan – Ishiura seems to have found a nice “groove”, which looks similar to Enho’s, but is more maneuver / evade based. It’s working well, and today it pushed grizzled veteran Tochiozan back down to 3-3.

Takagenji defeats Toyonoshima – I am happy to see Takagenji get it together enough to win another one. Folks love Toyonoshima, but I am starting to worry he may have reached the end of his run in the top division. Takagenji went left hand inside, and was able to resist Toyonoshima’s considerable forward pressure.

Nishikigi defeats Azumaryu – Nishikigi once again employs that double-arm bar hold that takes his opponents upper body out of the fight. Most rikishi (like Azumaryu) immediately shrug hard to try and break their arms free. It also raises their center of gravity and gives Nishikigi the win.

Tsurugisho defeats Shohozan – Tsurugisho kept trying to pull, but eventually decided to just face Shohozan, who looked uncharacteristically disrupted today.

Onosho defeats Daishoho – Onosho continues to look rough, but he is piecing together enough wins to keep true on a kachi-koshi trajectory. Hapless Daishoho has yet to win a single match.

Enho defeats Kagayaki – I give a lot of credit to Kagayaki, who seems to have tuned his attack to Enho. He shifts his thrusting about 12 cm lower, and manages to put a lot of pressure on the fire-pixie. But Enho calibrates and adjusts rapidly, breaking contact and coming back lower still. He repeats this 2 more times, each time grabbing for a leg, and Kagayaki stops trying to attack and starts trying to get away. Now off balance, Enho picks him off with no trouble. Wow.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Sadanoumi – Terutsuyoshi has had a rough start, but he was on his sumo today. He found Sadanoumi’s unprotected belly at the tachiai, and kept thrusting.

Meisei defeats Kotoyuki – After a strong start, Kotoyuki has gone back to being a bit silly. Granted he was against Meisei, who is fighting well, but any time I see a post-bout jogging tour of the zabuton section, I have to wonder.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku sets up the hug-n-chug straight out of the tachiai, but Takarafuji know Kotoshogiku’s horizontal hold is poor, and twists at the tawara to send the Kyushu Bulldozer over the edge in a heap.

Okinoumi defeats Shimanoumi – Really straightforward match that gave Okinoumi his 6th consecutive win, and by the end of the day, sole position atop the leaderboard. Shimanoumi got a left hand inside position at the tachiai, but Okinoumi had control of this match from the start.

Myogiryu defeats Chiyotairyu – I have not seen the wall-buster, canon-ball tachiai from Chiyotairyu yet this basho, and as a result he is 1-5. His balance is always poor, and with a lack of forward energy, its easy for Myogiryu bring him down.

Kotoeko defeats Ryuden – It’s time for the first WTF match! We have Kotoeko fighting well, and a moment of Ryuden’s hand on Kotoeko’s mage, but hey, they keep fighting. Kotoeko gets morozashi, but Ryuden man-handles the smaller Kotoeko out. Everyone gathers to conclude with bow, but Kotoekgo gets the envelopes? Yeah, seems Ryuden put a toe out. Kimarite is listed as isamiashi, which is ancient Yayoi for “Stink Foot”.

Tomokaze defeats Shodai – By the end of this match, fans might conclude that the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan was really hitting the cat nip. Again we see Tomokaze bring the weak sumo with “all pulls all the time”, but he manages to get Shodai in flight before he can try any of his cartoon sumo. But you have Tomokaze taking a good solid wrench during the final pull on Shodai’s mage as well. So we get a monoii, but its gumbai-dori. I give up, these guys should have tried again as this bout was a slop fest.

Abi defeats Aoiyama – Big Dan Aoiyama continues to struggle, and today its against Abi. Aoiyama is soft at the tachiai, and Abi more or less toys with him for a second before stepping aside and letting the Aoiyama sail past. Excuse me, sir? A bit more sumo please.

Mitakeumi defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji’s handshake tachiai once again fails to find its mark, and leaves his center-mass wide open for Mitakeumi to attack. Attack he does, and Hokutofuji finds his narrow window for any offense quickly taken away, and a heartbeat later he is over the tawara.

Endo defeats Takakeisho – Endo had the upper hand on this one, as he closed in on Takakeisho and went to work while Takakeisho seemed to try a desperate pull down. But the important element of this match is in fact the kimarite: tsukihiza. As Endo was working to set up a throw, Takakeisho’s knee (the bad one) collapsed out from under him. Maybe he stepped on the gyoji’s sandal? Any way you slice it, more slop.

Asanoyama defeats Goeido – But the Great Sumo Cat was not done, oh no indeed. Asanoyama shows us his Yusho performance was a prelude to the future of sumo, as he grapples Goeido, shuts down his offense and extends his career record over the Ozeki to 3-1. As the match raged, the Gyoji took a dive over the East side, with the Tate Gyoji desperately rising to take over the match but slipping and falling down himself. Goeido looks to have Asanoyama pinned to the edge but in fact Asanoyama has Goeido locked for a throw. Ignore the gyoji antics and watch some first class yotsu-zumo from these two today.

Tamawashi defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin’s hurt, and is getting no chance to set up his lift-and-shift sumo any more. With Tamawashi you are in for an oshi-battle, and at first it looks like Tochinoshin had secured his much needed 3rd win. But once again the Great Sumo Cat, now bombed out of his mind on sumo and cat nip, summons the monoii, who identify that Tochinoshin likewise has a case of “stink foot” and awards the match to Tamawashi. Dead body? Stink foot? Corn clog in port 7? This match has it all.

Daieisho defeats Kakuryu – Anyone who has cats knows, they can be jerks. When mine gets in a mood, he will start knocking things off of shelves just to watch them break. I am going to assume this was the general disposition of that mystical kami I call “The Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan” today. Kakuryu had control over this match, until a poorly considered attempt to pull left his chest open, and Daieisho attacked with precision and vigor. This is 2 kinboshi dropped by Kakuryu in 2 days. He has in the past gotten mentally off of his sumo when he starts to lose, so lets see if he can get it back under control.

Nagoya Preview Podcast

Video version of the podcast is now live on YouTube, if you want to see a couple of sumo fans going on about the July tournament, just sit back and enjoy. We have all of the hits including a sumo news round up, our reaction to the banzuke, the Genki Report, the Ones to Watch, and our predictions. To go on record:

  • Andy – Takayasu 1st Yusho
  • Bruce – Hakuho Yusho, possibly perfect 15 wins.