Who said that winning anything would be easy in this tournament? Well, it sure looked like it for about two weeks in the bottom division. A win for Takahashi here would have clinched the Jonokuchi division yusho. Kazuto would not go quietly into that good night. After the tachiai, Kazuto buried the crown of his head into Takahashi’s chin. This disrupts Takahashi’s game plan, lifting his upper body.
Kazuto tried to get some forward momentum going but when Plan A failed, he moved to Plan B and tried a quick slap-down… but missed. Plan C? RUN! Kazuto backed away, cycling around the dohyo with Takahashi in hot pursuit. Seeing no options, Kazuto planted at the tawara and made a last ditch effort, collecting it all to launch forward into Takahashi. What do you know, it worked! He corralled Takahashi squarely and drove through the dohyo, sending Takahashi to his first loss. This win sealed a ticket for a rematch in a prime time yusho playoff on senshuraku.
The Jonidan yusho was claimed by Hitoshi. That’s his second yusho in Jonidan. He won last year but after several tournaments kyujo, re-entered Jonokuchi last tournament. He featured in the opening days of the yusho race in May before losing to Yamato and Kazekeno, both of whom eventually fought in that play-off, Kazekeno claiming the title.
Speaking of Kazekeno, he finished with a strong sixth win. His only loss was to Miyagino prospect Ishii. This is another strong group of competitors who will find themselves in Sandanme in September. Unfortunately, Yamato won’t be able to join them yet because he got caught up in Musashigawa’s covid kyujo earlier in the tournament, and will finish with a 2-2-3 make-koshi including a loss to veteran Tochihayate. It will be very interesting to see where he ends up on that banzuke.
Leonid did a great job of explaining what’s at stake today. One thing that I can’t get over, though, it is August 2nd. The July basho yusho was, oddly enough, decided in August after being fought in Tokyo. One Ozeki on the torikumi for senshuraku and zero Yokozuna confirm we are in a time of flux on the dohyo. But off the dohyo, the whole damn world is in flux. However, the drama of this past fortnight has served as a wonderful distraction.
Terunofuji’s Championship serves to demonstrate that our substantial challenges can be overcome. The next time we get together, we will be confident for the health and safety of all involved and that we can all breathe a deep sigh of relief. The coronavirus reminders have been everywhere and lapse in protocols may end up costing Abi very dearly. The virus robbed Terunofuji’s triumphant return of much of the pomp and celebration he’s due. No parade. No senshuraku parties. Supporters are beyond arms reach, though we are with him in spirit. I hope he gets to party properly after his next title.
Sadanoumi (8-7) defeated Nishikigi (6-9): Sadanoumi hot off the line, wrapped up Nishikigi and walked him back and out to pick up his kachi-koshi. Yorikiri.
Tochinoshin (10-5) defeated Kotoshoho (8-7): Tochinoshin got the better of the initial charge, forcing Kotoshoho back a step. Kotoshoho pivoted but Tochinoshin followed and got his big left paw up around the back of Kotoshoho’s neck and pulled down violently. Kotoshoho had no choice but to touch down. Hatakikomi.
Kaisei (6-9) defeated Shimanoumi (5-10): Shimanoumi tried to drive forward into Kaisei but Kaisei’s trunk was well set at the center of the ring. Kaisei shoved Shimanoumi backwards twice, hurling the matching orange mawashi out of the ring. Tsukidashi.
Wakatakakage (10-5) defeated Ishiura (4-11): Ishiura seemed to pull something in his right leg. He was unable to put much weight on his right foot. Wakatakakage blasted the hopping Ishiura off the dohyo. Ishiura limped back up onto the dohyo. Oshidashi.
Kotoeko (10-5) defeated Terutsuyoshi (8-7): Terutsuyoshi’s ashitori worked once but Kotoeko was ready for it. He dodged out of the way and regrouped grabbing for Terutsuyoshi’s belt. Taking a page from Tochinoshin, Kotoeko landed his left on the back of Terutsuyoshi and pulled him down to the floor. Hatakikomi.
Ryuden (7-8) defeated Kotonowaka (4-6-4): Kotonowaka still could not put much weight on his left leg. Ryuden was able to get Kotonowaka sliding backwards to the bales and over. Yorikiri.
Hokutofuji (9-6) defeated Kotoshogiku (8-7): Hokutofuji met Kotoshogiku head on but stepped to the side with his right arm up on Kotoshogiku’s shoulder, forcing Kotoshogiku to the ground. Hatakikomi.
Chiyotairyu (6-9) defeated Aoiyama (5-10): Aoiyama was a bit over-eager, charging forward off balance. Chiyotairyu pulled with his left hand up on Aoiyama’s shoulder applying sufficient pressure to force Aoiyama down. Hikiotoshi.
Ikioi (3-12) defeated Kagayaki (5-10): Ikioi showed some strength and wile for the first time this week. Driven to the bales by Kagayaki he drove forward, forcing Kagayaki back. However, Kagayaki wasn’t going to go over the bales easily, either. Kagayaki grabbed Ikioi by the mawashi, forcing him back but Ikioi deftly slipped to the side and pulled Kagayaki down. Shitatenage.
Kiribayama (6-9) defeated Takarafuji (5-10): Takarafuji wiggled and retreated, trying to keep Kiribayama off his belt. But Kiribayama was relentless and able to slip both hands on there. Once he was secure in the morozashi, queue deathspin throw. Uwatenage.
Onosho (2-13) defeated Chiyomaru (4-11): Follow the bouncing Chiyomaru. Onosho got the better of the tachiai but Chiyomaru used his mass to arrest Onosho’s progress and started moving forward. Onosho pivoted several times in retreat to stay away from the edge of the ring but as Chiymaru forced him along it, Onosho executed a throw. Shitatenage.
Takayasu (10-5) defeated Takanosho (8-7): Takayasu’s aggressive tsuppari pushed Takanosho up and back. A well-timed pull sent Takanosho to the clay. Hikiotoshi.
Yutakayama (5-10) defeated Enho (5-10): Enho eager to get things started but Yutakayama. Yutakayama advanced forward, keeping his weight low. His effective tsuppari targeted Enho’s face and shoulders. He attempted two hatakikomi pulls, the second of which was more effective in getting Enho off balance but Enho sprang backwards. Yutakayama pursued and forced Enho out. Oshitaoshi.
Endo (8-7) defeated Tokushoryu (7-8): Our sole Darwin bout? Tokushoryu allowed Endo in to the belt far too easily. Endo bounced Tokushoryu to the edge where Tokushoryu’s foot slipped from the bales. They give Endo the yorikiri.
Tamawashi (10-5) defeated Okinoumi (9-6): Tamawashi is a bruiser and Okinoumi was ready for a brawl. Okinoumi chased Tamawashi around the ring with effective slaps and thrusts. Tamawashi won on the belt, though, throwing Okinoumi at the edge. Uwatenage.
Daieisho (11-4) defeated Myogiryu (10-5): Daieisho ducked to the side, as Myogiryu was pitched too far forward. A disappointing end to Myogiryu’s fantastic basho. Hikiotoshi.
Terunofuji (13-2) defeated Mitakeumi (11-4): Showtime. Wow. Morozashi from Terunofuji and Mitakeumi was done. Terunofuji advanced, marching Mitakeumi out. Yusho Terunofuji! Yorikiri.
Asanoyama (12-3) defeated Shodai (11-4): Asanoyama bulldozed into Shodai who’s back to a less-than-impressive tachiai. After yesterday’s bout with Terunofuji, I was expecting more fire from the Daikon. However, Asanoyama corralled Shodai effectively, working Shodai back to the edge. Shodai nearly pulled the Ozeki down but Asanoyama recovered. Oshidashi.
Terunofuji has been here before. But I NEVER would have thought he’d storm back in his first makuuchi tournament. The pink macaron! Congratulations, Terunofuji!!!
Aside from the yusho, Terunofuji picked up the Outstanding Performance and Technique Prizes. Daieisho and Mitakeumi also collected Outstanding Performance Prizes. Not to be left out, Shodai was given the Fighting Spirit Prize for actually having a solid tachiai against Kaiju. See what you can do?
Thank you for enjoying this tournament with us. Time to clean up and get ready for September.
Now that the training bouts and special events are over, it’s showtime. Blood has been shed, kensho has been claimed, salt has been brushed away, and power water has been purged, we have learned a bit.
Race for the Yusho
Even with one kinboshi yielded on the first day, the Yokozunae are still the favorites to win. But who are we kidding, Endo’s still in it! He’s just got off to a rough start, knocking off a bit of ring rust. Or more precisely, having the ring rust knocked out of him by the sport’s new top dog. With Hakuho still in recovery, Kakuryu is rightly anchoring the East.
Clearly, Hokutofuji’s off to a great start, and he was absolutely chuffed after today’s fantastic win. The way he drove forward reminded me of…Goeido from the bout before. Juggernaut’s strength is bulldozing his opponents, advancing. Always advancing.
Takakeisho is hunting for 10, certainly not 15. I doubt anyone out there, even among his most ardent supporters, was expecting him to bounce back competing for a title in his come-back tournament. He had his hands full against Daieisho and that is not a good sign. It was a surprise he kept his feet and won this bout.
Race for the Exits
Tochinoshin’s knee is looking terrible. Gunning called it after the quick Ichinojo throw when he noted that GETTING UP was difficult. He had to keep the leg straight. I was reminded of when my Grandmother was in her eighties. OK, that was harsh. I was reminded of the aftermath of last month’s 5K when I couldn’t bend my knee after pushing myself to a fourth personal best in a row. Dr. Google calls it an IT Band and says no one really knows how to cure it. Ice and heating pads are good, maybe some pre-race stretching will help. I really hope his doctor is better than Dr. Google.
Hakuho’s loss was troubling for me. A slap to start the bout and full retreat from there, ending in a light shower of purple rain. As Bruce reported a few days ago, the Dai-Yokozuna has been granted Japanese citizenship. That was followed soon after by an announcement from Sokokurai along the same lines, as Herouth noted below. He looked positively spry crab-walking Kotonowaka out of the ring for his first win of the tournament, though. While Tochinoshin’s exit, due to injury, may be upon us sooner than any of us expected, these two are making moves off the dohyo to start their next chapter.
Race for Sanyaku
Enho’s win against Onosho today was an absolute gem. On the ropes at several points during the bout, it was definitely his bout to lose…until he twisted around and plucked a win from thin air. Terutsuyoshi dispatched a resurgent Kotoyuki. That pixie dust is potent. Of the four, who do you think will reach sanyaku first? One of those who has been there before? Or one the pixies?
Tomokaze’s even more rapid rise continues. His opponent today, Abi, is by this point a seasoned Makuuchi wrestler. Tomokaze studied that hatakikomi vulnerability and wasted no time dispatching the tadpole. Should Tomokaze be granted tadpole status? Or is his rise something else?
Race for Sekitori
In makushita and below, we’re only half-way through the first set of bouts. Several key ones are tonight, with Hoshoryu against Akiseyama and Chiyootori facing Tsurubayashi. With Naya losing his first bout against the veteran Toyohibiki, sekitori hopes for 2019 are likely for naught but 2020 is around the corner. The makushita joi is rough but the churn in the top ranks has yet to settle.
Chiyonokuni’s return was marked with a slapfest. I would put money on all seven of his bouts being fought this way, far from the belt. I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes kyujo if he manages four wins early in the tournament but I also wouldn’t be surprised if he’s hoping for yusho. Chiyonokuni’s injury forced him to fall much lower than his abilities and a return to the salaried ranks in early 2020.
Here we are, at the end of what turned out to be a very interesting basho – and not just in the top division. Princes were dethroned (Hoshoryu and Naya make-koshi), new ones are in the making (one fresh nephew, and one Hakuho replica in maezumo). Let’s see what the last day brought us.
The big story in Jonokuchi was, of course, the three-way playoff between members of the same heya, Naruto beya. Marusho, Sakurai and Motobayashi did not allow themselves to be eliminated till the very end.
A three-way playoff (“tomoe ketteisen”) works like this – no matter at what division: two rikishi mount the dohyo, say A and B, and the third, rikishi C, awaits. Suppose A wins. B then descends the dohyo and waits, and C mounts it and takes on A. Should A win again, they yusho is his. if not, C stays on the dohyo, B joins him, and this continues until one of them wins two in a row.
So theoretically, this can go on until the cows come home. In practice, there is seldom symmetry of power, and the strongest one emerges pretty quickly.
Here is today’s three-way playoff. The yobidashi here also happens to be from Naruto beya – yobidashi kenta, who is nicknamed “Maeken” by his heya-mates. We start with Marusho on the right, Sakurai on the left, and Motobayashi waiting.
Well, Sakurai’s and Motobayashi’s university sumo experience tells. Marusho is merely a graduate of a good high-school sumo program. Sakurai wins the first bout, Motobayashi replaces Marusho and beats Sakurai, and then beats Marusho for the yusho. Motobayashi is a graduate of Kinki University, which produced many top-division wrestlers. In his school days he was considered Takakeisho’s rival, but he opted to continue his education when the future Ozeki left school for Takanohana beya.
Though the yusho has already been decided in Jonidan (Tokisakae), there were still rikishi who did not complete the seven matches. First, let’s take a look at long-legged Kitanowaka, the Hakkaku beya charmer, facing Tenei from Takadagawa beya. Both are 4-2, Kitanowaka is on the left.
Ah, we have ourselves a crane operator here. Kitanowaka finishes 5-2, and will get a decent bump up the ranks come Aki.
Next, we keep our watch out for Roman, the crew-cut man from Tatsunami beya. He is coming up against Isamufuji from Isegahama beya, and they are both 5-1. Roman is on the right:
This develops into a kind of dance in which both wrestlers try to keep their opponents from reaching the mawashi or any other hand hold. Eventually Roman catches an arm and pulls. He is now 6-1, and will get an even nicer bump up the ranks.
Finally, one we haven’t covered in these posts, but we all know and love. Well, at least, those of us who have been around before Isegahama beya lost its Yokozuna, and with him, its hold on the yumitori position.
I’m speaking of Satonofuji, of course. He is deeply make-koshi as he comes into this day, with 1-5, facing Shiraseyama from Kise beya with the same miserable result. One wonders why the 42 years old doesn’t call it quits yet. I’m guessing he has a couple of goals, yet. One is probably doing the yumi-tori shiki in Aminishiki’s retirement ceremony. The other may be that he is waiting to braid the last rope for his oyakata – the red one for his 60th birthday, to be used in the “kanreki dohyo-iri” performed by former yokozuna on that occasion.
Be that as it may, he has to go up the dohyo until then and do sumo, and here he is, facing us, while Shiraseyama is with his back to us.
It’s a bit of a slippiotoshi, one has to admit, but at least Satonofuji finishes senshuraku with a sweet taste.
In Sandanme we have yet another playoff, and it, too, is a playoff within the same heya – Asatenmai, the 38 years old from Takasago beya, faces Terasawa, the 24 years old who is just making his first steps in the sumo world. This is just a plain, single-bout playoff. Asatenmai on the right.
Hmm. I get a different atmosphere here than the amicable competition that ruled the Naruto three-way-playoff. Terasawa sends his ani-deshi (big-brother-heya-mate, similar to a sempai) off the dohyo and doesn’t even look back as he makes his way to his own starting point. Bad blood? Low-ranked rikishi operate in a seniority system, where the older ani-deshi boss them around.
In any case, Terasawa wins the Sandanme yusho.
We start Makushita with the former Ozeki, Terunofuji, having his last bout. His opponent is one we have also been following – Natsu basho’s Sandanme yusho winner, Shiraishi. I have not been happy about Shiraishi’s bouts, mostly because of his henka or half-henka in the first ones. And I’m even less happy about this one, although he makes it pretty clear he is not going for a henka today.
Seriously, what is this? I get that he has some injury in the shoulder and the arm. But what is this? He starts the bout two thirds of the way from the shikiri-sen to the tawara. He tries to keep himself so far away from Terunofuji that his own tsuppari almost doesn’t hit him. This looks more like that Laurel and Hardy Battle of the Century. Shiraishi should be thankful he belongs to Tamanoi beya rather than Futagoyama, or he would have his ass kicked all over Twitter.
Next we have ourselves an Onami – the eldest one, in fact, Wakatakamoto. He faces Tochimaru from Kasugano beya, and they are both comfortably kachi-koshi, 4-2, hoping to increase their fortunes and banzuke chances. Wakatakamoto is on the left:
Alas, the eldest Onami drops this one, and once again fails to catch up with his little brothers.
Going up the Makushita banzuke, we have Seiro facing Kototebakari. Both are kachi-koshi, 4-2, and Seiro get a salary next basho. Kototebakari, again, is trying to win an extra match to improve his own position next basho. Seiro is on the left, Kototebakari on the right.
Seiro makes short work of the Sadogatake man, who usually shows a bit more fighting spirit than that. I guess kachi-koshi will do that to you. Seiro is 5-2, Kototebakari 4-3.
At the very bottom of Juryo, we have another Onami brother, Wakamotoharu, making a visit that may open the door for him to return to the salaried ranks. He is 5-1, and at Ms5w, 6-1 can certainly propel him into Juryo. However, he is facing Kotonowaka, who is 7-7, and needs this win to avoid dropping back into Makushita, disappointing his father, and bringing shame to the shikona he inherited from him.
Wakamotoharu on the right, Kotonowaka on the left:
We see glimpses here of the old Kotokamatani, in what looks like a typical top-Makushita brawl more than a Juryo match. Kotonowaka saves himself from demotion. He may not advance much, but he stays in the silk zone, and gets to keep his huuuuge oicho.
I shall finish this report, showing you that Ishiura can still do sumo that’s more easy on the eyes than his frequent henka. The foe is Mitoryu from Nishikido beya, and I think I don’t need to tell you which is which.
Round and round and round you go, Mitoryu. Ishiura will probably get back into Makuuchi, qualifying for Hakuho’s dohyo-iri again. The big question, of course, is whethe Hakuho himself will qualify for it come Aki.