Day One Key Points

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.

Bouts From the Lower Divisions – Senshuraku

Do not irritate the kaiju

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.

Jonokuchi

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.

Jonidan

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.

Sandanme

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.

Makushita

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.

Juryo

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.

Hatsu Day 15 – Senshuraku Preview

Emperor's Cup
All of this can and a macaron can be yours…

Alas, the final day of a historic basho is upon us. We have seen the retirement of a yokozuna, the retirement of a long time fan favorite, some injuries, some more injuries, some further injuries, and also some more injuries. And some injuries as well.

However, we’ve also seen a potentially successful conclusion to an Ozeki run, the potential start of a new Ozeki run, and either another new champion or another yusho portrait on the way for one of sumo’s young stars. Will the Emperor’s Cup return to Chiganoura-beya, or will the Massive Macaron go to a man who probably could make one himself?

What We Are Watching on Day 15

We’ll cover all of the top division matches today – with no competitive sumo for six weeks, there’s no point leaving anyone out:

Takagenji (Juryo) vs Daishomaru – Takagenji had a glorious opportunity to snatch one of the four or five places that will be up for grabs in Makuuchi for the Haru basho in Osaka, yet has, not for the first time, been unable to get over the finish line. You have to be ruthless in these situations and he had a very favorable set of promotion circumstances, with a pair of intai and a pair of M16 make-koshi. Daishomaru (3-11) has looked better in the last few days, and will want to try and grab a final day win to pad his fall into the second division.

Kagayaki vs Yutakayama – a pair of make-koshi guys fighting for pride and against banzuke-gravity on the final day. Kagayaki has probably done about enough to keep himself safe, but both of these guys would want to sign off with a win in otherwise disappointing circumstances.

Yago vs Abi – it’s a party all around, as fan favorite Abi has grabbed 10 wins despite not looking spectacular for most of the tournament, and top division debutant from Hokkaido Yago has grabbed his kachi-koshi after sagging in the second week. Abi probably has more to gain from a win in this (a spot in the joi), whereas Yago needs time and experience to consolidate his top division place, so I’m tipping Abi.

Ikioi vs Asanoyama – Asanoyama is 7-7 and so faces a make or break matchup against a rikishi who, in spite of all of the injuries referenced above, has managed to stay on the dohyo for all 15 days while looking like a toddler’s stuffed toy that’s been mauled by a dog and then patched up haphazardly in a desperate attempt to stem a temper-tantrum. Ikioi is in the better form despite only a slightly better record at 9-5 but Asanoyama will be desperate to grab his 8th after a great second week, and it’s kind of tough to make Ikioi the favorite in his current shape. This will be their fourth match, with Ikioi having won 2.

Sadanoumi vs Daieisho – another party between two, perhaps unlikely, kachi-koshi rikishi. Sadanoumi has displayed some surprisingly good sumo in January in spite of – like Ikioi – a glaring head wound. These two have split their eight previous matches evenly and it’s probably a coin flip on current form.

Ryuden vs Kotoeko – One thing that Ryuden has reminded me of in this basho is that regardless of the outcome, his topknot is always an absolute shambles after a match. According to Wikipedia, Takadagawa-beya’s tokoyama has reached first class status, so this makes it all the more confounding. He does also have a notoriously wobbly head, so it’s possible that that factors into the equation. One day I will figure out whose fault it is, but I am committed to lead the inquisition. We’re talking about this basically because there has been not much good to say about his sumo this tournament. Kotoeko is looking for his first winning record in the top division and, while Ryuden does usually put up a very spirited fight, if Kotoeko can’t win here against an opponent who’s already down, he probably doesn’t deserve a promotion anyway.

Meisei vs Onosho – Meisei is 7-7 and facing a make or break match against an opponent who’s clearly still getting back to his best shape and has just about scraped across the line. Onosho is holding an 8-6 record and will be trying to keep Meisei off the mawashi, although Meisei is more than capable of a thrusting battle himself. Both of these guys finishing 8-7 in this tournament sounds about right given their form, and Meisei has won their previous two encounters, so I’m tipping Meisei.

Chiyotairyu vs Takarafuji – This will be the 14th matchup between these two, with Little Uncle Sumo Takarafuji having a slight edge 7-6. However, Chiyotairyu has won the last three, and despite both men being 8-6 in this basho, I think his sumo has been a little better than Takarafuji’s this tournament so I’m tipping Sumo Elvis to deploy the cannonball tachiai and get the better of the Isegahama man.

Daiamami vs Yoshikaze – If you were being told a Maegashira 16 was getting called up to face a Maegashira 5, you’d probably think, “wow, he must have having a great tournament.” In fact, this may be the last Maegashira 5 that Daiamami faces for a while as he already has posted double-digit losses and will stare into the Juryo abyss in March. And it may be the last time that Yoshikaze is at this rank for a while as well, having had a shockingly poor tournament that has only yielded two wins so far and has been tough to watch. They’ve only met once before, with Yoshikaze the winner, but with neither man displaying good sumo it’s a tough one to call. Against most logic, I’d probably say Daiamami has the slight edge here if he can arrive even a little bit genki.

Kotoshogiku vs Chiyoshoma – Kotoshogiku (5-9) has had a much tougher fixture list than Chiyoshoma (6-8) and his losses have mostly, as usual, come as a result of an inability to get his feet planted and put power to ground in order to drive forward. He will be susceptible to a flying henka which makes this a little tougher to predict than it should be. If it’s a straightforward battle, the former Ozeki should have the edge, but if Chiyoshoma reaches into his bag of black magic, then a ten loss Kotoshogiku could be on his way to a reunion with potentially Makuuchi-bound old pal Toyonoshima sooner than later.

Aoiyama vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji has a surprising 5-1 edge in this rivalry and is already kachi-koshi, while the buxom Bulgarian will be desperate to avoid defeat at 7-7. Aoiyama started this tournament strongly but his twin cylinder piston attack hasn’t been working at the top level. Hokutofuji finds himself between the calibre of opponents where Aoiyama’s attack has been effective and ineffective, and he’s a tricky customer to call: despite having 8 wins and 3 against Ozeki in the first three days, two of his wins have come via fusen-sho and he was otherwise on a miserable run until a really nice throw against Nishikigi on Day 14. I think Aoiyama might do this, but I also think it could be ugly.

Shodai vs Ichinojo – It’s a pair of 6-8 guys who never seem to live up to their billing. Ichinojo in particular has been dreadfully disappointing after a 4-1 start that saw him knock out two Yokozuna and two Ozeki. He simply should not be in this position, but has more or less been walking backwards and over the tawara for the past week, and was pushed out in 2 seconds by a one-legged Mitakeumi. He was even thrown by extreme slapper Shohozan. Shodai has looked a little bit better in week two, though this match has the danger of never ending in the event both guys just stand up and stare at each other from the tachiai. Ichinojo leads the series 7-2 but you wouldn’t back him against a brick wall at the moment so I’m going with Shodai to finish 7-8.

Tochiozan vs Shohozan – This battle of two mountain men couldn’t be more even: both are 5-9 heading into the final day, with their career series even at 11 apiece. Shohozan displayed incredible intensity in Fukuoka, but it’s been missing from a lot of his bouts in this tournament. Tochiozan, meanwhile, has been displaying a reliable brand of sumo that works really well at M12-M4 but not much higher. I don’t know if this will be a classic, but with Shohozan winning the last four of their matches I think it might be Tochiozan’s time, especially if he can get an early belt grip.

Nishikigi vs Mitakeumi – These guys more or less have mirror records with Nishikigi putting up 8 losses to Mitakeumi’s 8 wins. Mitakeumi clearly should not be on the dohyo right now as evidenced by the nature of his Day 14 loss to Takayasu. He’s proven his point by solidifying his rank but the only thing he potentially has to gain by fighting another day is that if his 9th win at Komusubi starts a run similar to the one Takekeisho is currently displaying, having also started his Ozeki run off 9 wins. However, Mitakeumi is causing serious harm to an already seriously injured knee with every day he mounts the dohyo at the moment. We keep talking about how Nishikigi has overachieved, given that we all thought he would end up with one of those humiliating 2-13 or 3-12 tournaments when he made his joi debut. But, after grabbing an 8-7 last time, and with the pressure off Mitakeumi this time, a 7-8 at M2 with a kinboshi would be extremely creditable and I’m backing him to pull it off.

Myogiryu vs Okinoumi – Both of these guys are make-koshi and Myogiryu is headed out of san’yaku after the longtime sekiwake had a lovely run of form in 2018 which propelled him all the way up from Juryo to Komusubi. The lifetime series here favors Okinoumi 9 to 8. They’ve had some very watchable matches in the past as well, with Okinoumi’s kotenage win from two years ago being a particularly highlight for me. With not much on the line, let’s hope we see more of the same this time.

Endo vs Tamawashi – The third final bout on Senshuraku is for all the arrows and it might be for all the marbles as well. M9 Endo gets drafted up into possibly one of the most consequential matches of his career to date, with the Yusho on the line – for Tamawashi. I do want to take this moment to remind everyone that on a previous Tachiai podcast (like and subscribe!), Andy predicted a Tamawashi Yusho. Unfortunately, he only predicted it a couple tournaments too early!!!

At the age of 34, Tamawashi is on the verge of completing his ultimate career goal, needing just a win to grab the Emperor’s Cup and start his own Ozeki run. Endo has 10 wins and has been in fairly good form, but can he play spoiler? Tamawashi leads the lifetime series 9-6.

Takayasu vs Kaisei – Takayasu fended off the kadoban threat on Day 14 with an easy win over disabled Mitakeumi, and with Hakuho now out of the picture, we’ll see the Ozeki taking on M8 Kaisei in the penultimate bout of Senshuraku. Their lifetime series is 11-6 favoring Takayasu, and I think this one is very slightly in his favor. The Ozeki deserves great credit for overcoming illness and poor form in Week 1 to have now posted 4 wins from 5. Kaisei has had a wonderful tournament of positive, forward moving sumo, and I don’t think anyone would begrudge him a win here, however unlikely.

Takakeisho vs Goeido – Takakeisho can likely make his Ozeki promotion certain with a 34th win in three tournaments. The rivalry favors Goeido 5-3, but while the Ozeki has got himself out of jail with 5 wins in a row (including a fusen-sho gift from Hakuho), Takekeisho may have a Yusho to fight for if Endo can upset Tamawashi in the earlier match. If that’s the case, a win here would then prompt a playoff. Goeido of course can play the role of spoiler, but he’s only beaten one opponent above M1 in this tournament, and that was against a clearly troubled Takayasu. Whether or not the Yusho is decided by the time these two men mount the dohyo, this match still may signal quite a bit about the future of top level sumo and the Ozeki ranks.

Bouts from the lower divisions – Day 13

Look who is back in the interview room!

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

Jonokuchi

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

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

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

Hatooka vs. Kojikara

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

Jonidan

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

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

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

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

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

Sandanme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Makushita

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Juryo

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