Day 5 – New Hopes, Dashed Hopes


So let’s start at the very bottom.

naya-hoshoryu
Naya and Hoshoryu – didn’t look like maezumo

There are mae-zumo bouts in every tournament. They usually pass almost unobserved, with only the sumo database to recall them from oblivion. But this tournament, we have two sublime scions who promise to make sumo interesting 10 years from now.

These are, of course, Taiho’s grandchild, Naya (who also happens to be Takatoriki’s son, but that fact is not paraded on TV and the press as much), and Hoshoryu, formerly known as Byambasuren, Asashoryu’s nephew.

And today, these two were matched against each other.

Hoshoryu is certainly channeling his uncle there when the gunbai points to his rival. Anyway, this looks a lot better than maezumo usually is.

Moving up a little bit, Torakio suffered his first loss today, after two wins.

The technique is not quite there yet.

And unfortunately, my main man Terutsuyoshi also suffered his first loss, in the battle of the former sekitori with Yago:

A valiant attempt at an ipponzeoi there at the end, but Yago had him from the get-go.

Let’s get up to Makuuchi, then. It was my day off today, so I was able to watch some live sumo for the first time. I caught the stream (Abema TV + VPN) right when Kakuryu was finishing his dohyo-iri. I must say I prefer the NHK broadcasts (which I got to watch recorded, never live). Too much stuff on the screen obscures the view, and the “female guests” that they promised only enhance the image of the “stupid broad who doesn’t understand sports and needs to be told basic things”. Bah.

But all this doesn’t make for bad sumo, right? So let’s go through the bouts:

Asanoyama got a Juryo rival today, Kyokutaisei, who was not really a match for the revamped Asanoyama. Yorikiri within the blink of an eye.

Ishiura was impressive in the first three days but now seems to be slumping back. We’ll have to see if he really improved when the sample size grows a bit. Ryuden did not let him do anything, really, and rebalanced his score a bit.

Daiamami, tells us Abema TV, has a pre-bout routine in which he pulls at his nose. Hmm… I prefer Arawashi’s salty mawashi. His bout with Yutakayama starts with some tsuppari, he follows with a nodowa. Yutakayama overcommits as he pushes him forward, but who got out first? Quite a long monoii ensues, and although Yutakayama was already flying out of control, Daiamami touched first, so Yutakayama gets the oshidashi win.

Nishikigi seemed to be in control of the bout, but Daieisho circled, causing Nishikigi to lose balance and winning by hatakikomi.

Abi and Kagayaki are of the same age. Abi just advanced from Juryo, and Kagayaki has more Makuuchi experience and looked strong in the beginning of the basho. He also has a slight height advantage over the Shikoroyama Peter Pan. But all of this list of advantages doesn’t do much for the buxom rikishi, as Abi moves quickly and pulls him down for a hikiotoshi.

Takekaze‘s game plan has been pulling down Daishomaru. Tried once, didn’t work, tried again. Tsukiotoshi and the old man’s first win this basho.

Sokokurai can’t seem to produce whatever magic he produced in Juryo. Kotoyuki pushes him out very easily for a tsukidashi.

Shohozan and Chiyomaru start with a tsuppari barrage, but Shohozan tries to get a mawashi grip. Chiyomaru evades and evades, but eventually Shohozan catches on and pushes him towards the edge. Chiyomaru only manages to stop himself when his toes are already outside. Hikiotoshi.

Now, the Aminishiki vs. Chiyonokuni battle did not look good. First, there’s Uncle Sumo’s sumo. I mean, it isn’t there. He can’t catch a grip on his rivals nape for one of the pull downs he likes, and he can’t get inside for a mawashi grip. But the worst part is that as Chiyonokuni rolls him to the exactly same corner when he ended up yesterday,  Uncle lands badly and hurts his right leg – the one with the snapped ligament and the brace. He had to go to the shitaku-beya leaning on someone’s shoulder. He will make a decision whether to go kyujo or not tomorrow morning.

aminishiki-hurt
Aminishiki. Couldn’t get back on the dohyo for the bow.

Next to Kaisei, Chiyoshoma looks like a teen. However, after he finishes his Harumafuji-like shikiri, they both struggle for a mawashi grip. Chiyoshoma gets a secure shitate grip, and uses it for a shitatenage. Once Kaisei is on the floor, Chiyoshoma gives him a helping hand up. Now that’s the Chiyoshoma I want to see.

Tochiozan doesn’t manage to get any grip on Ikioi, and starts to back away as Ikioi pushes, but then manages to catch at Ikioi’s neck and pull him down for a hatakikomi.

In the battle of the “Ikemen” (manly men), Okinoumi just can’t repeat his success from the previous basho. Endo fights him for the grip, and they end up in a hidari-yotsu, but apparently Endo’s hold is stronger and he pushes relentlessly for the yori-kiri.

Takarafuji, however, is back in the land of white stars. Arawashi doesn’t seem to even pose a problem for him. A harite, a nodowa, and an oshi-dashi. This despite the TV team (Kasugano oyakata commentating) speaking at length about the type of yotsu each of them prefers.

Shodai gets a good grip on Ichinojo, and proves to him that even mountains can be moved. Losing to Shodai, Ichinojo? Ichinojo gets his favorite grip first, but Shodai manages to switch grips without penalty, gets him all the way to the edge, and then dances a bit on the tawara and lets Ichinojo’s momentum do the rest. The Yokozuna must be thinking “Is it that easy?”.

BTW, In the “fun facts” box on Abema TV, they wrote that Ichinojo can sleep on the back of a horse. The TV team – especially Kasugano oyakata – start to crack jokes about the poor horses in Mongolia and Ichinojo’s weight…

What was supposed to be the highlight of the evening, the tadpole battle, ended up with Takakeisho doing the splits within seconds, and Onosho with another easy win.

Mitakeumi and Tamawashi get into a pushing battle. But Mitakeumi is the stronger one of these two, and Tamawashi can do nothing but retreat until he’s out.

Although he lost to Hokutofuji twice already, in addition to one fusen, Takayasu is fearless as he comes to the dohyo today. Takayasu combines a mawashi grip with oshi, and expertly gets Hokutofuji out in an oshidashi. Keeps himself within one loss of the leader group.

Now, Tochinoshin‘s bout with Goeido is one for the history books. Kasugano oyakata at the commentator seat looked like a cat who swallowed a bowl of cream. At first, the two battled for a grip, each denying the other his hold and looking for his own opening. Tochinoshin managed to secure a firm grip, and started pushing Goeido relentlessly towards the tawara. Goeido didn’t go out without a fight, though, and tried a leg trip. Tochinoshin maintained perfect balance, and kept applying his unbelievable force. Goeido joins Takayasu in the “1 behind” group. Great match.

tochinoshin-goeido

Kakuryu keeps sailing from one bout to the next with poise and hinkaku… Chiyotairyu is really no match, as Kakuryu gets a grip on him right off the tachiai and lifts and pushes, lifts and pushes until the Sumo Elvis passes the bales. I was relieved to see that Kakuryu’s attempt at gaburi-yori yesterday vs. Ichinojo (didn’t work, he had to change tactics and move the mountain sideways to win) did not cause him to wake up this morning with his back wrecked again. Keep up the good work, Yokozuna!

And now, to the musubi-no-ichiban. The last bout of the day. Yokozuna Kisenosato vs. Yokozuna bane, Yoshikaze. And the man in the green mawashi was not giving the crippled Yokozuna an inch of slack. Yoshikaze tried a pulldown at first, then got into a morozashi, and dropped him unceremoniously off the dohyo. He went down to offer him a hand up, which Kisenosato rejected. Things are not looking good for the one-year-old Yokozuna.

yokozunameter-hatsu-2018-day5

So Hakuho is out for repairs, Kisenosato has a serious kinboshi leak, and only Kakuryu is in a state of “Need a Yokozuna? I’m right here!”.

Yusho Arasoi

The leader list is now down to four:

  • Yokozuna Kakuryu
  • Sekiwake Mitakeumi
  • M3 Tochinoshin
  • M16 Asanoyama

(Asanoyama? “Been there, done that, got the sansho”)

Hatsu Day 4 Preview


kokugikan

Abbreviated preview for day 4 fans, but hey, let’s make it count!

What We Are Watching Day 4

Ishiura vs Nishikigi – Ishiura is really on a roll, and I am going to guess that struggling Nishikigi won’t be able to offer much resistance. Ishiura is back with renewed vigor, a lot of speed, and no shortage of strength. I am interested to see how high up the banzuke his challengers will be if he continues to win.

Asanoyama vs Yutakayama – Battle of the yamas! My guess is that Asanoyama is going to prevail on this one, even though he only holds a 2-1 advantage in the career series.

Sokokurai vs Kagayaki – Both are 2-1 at the start of day 4, and Kagayaki seems to best Sokokurai to the tune of 3-1. Kagayaki will need to pick up a win here to ensure that he finishes the first 5 days with a majority of wins.

Chiyoshoma vs Tochiozan – Chiyoshoma starts day 4 undefeated, and he’s going to be facing Tochiozan, who has been fighting well this tournament (again). Thus far Chiyoshoma has never beaten Tochiozan (0-4), so a win tomorrow would be a very important development. Word from Herouth is that some are remarking that Chiyoshoma is working to replicate dear departed Harumafuji’s tactics. This is a great test.

Endo vs Arawashi – Endo needs to recover from his day 3 loss to Chiyoshoma, who dismantled him in a fraction of a second. He holds a 5-1 career advantage over Arawashi, whose only win against Endo came from a pull-down in 2014.

Mitakeumi vs Takakeisho – Battle of the tadpoles comes day 4! This battle slightly favors Takakeisho, but with Mitakeumi pushing hard for double digit wins, he needs to put the doom on Takakeisho. Takakeisho’s day 3 match was an odd, bouncy affair, and I am quite sure Mitakeumi will keep him bottled up.

Goeido vs Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji’s only win of the basho is against the somewhat off-tempo Hakuho, and there is little chance that he will get much advantage over this version of Goeido. I expect Goeido will dispatch him quickly.

Tochinoshin vs Takayasu – Strong man battle deluxe! When these two battle, its usually a test of endurance, as each of them is strong enough to toss the other one about. Takayasu holds a 8-6 advantage in the series, but this is likely to be a big match for day 4.

Kakuryu vs Ichinojo – Ichinojo has shown some great sumo during the first 3 days, but his match against Kakuryu is probably going to be fairly short and end with him flat on the clay. Keep pushing Ichinojo, you are doing great!

Kotoshogiku vs Kisenosato – Bellwether bout. Kotoshogiku is fading hard and fast, and comes in winless. Should Kisenosato fail to dispatch the broken Kyushu-bulldozer, we know for a fact that he’s in serious trouble. They have had 66(!) prior matches, and Kotoshogiku leads 35-31

Hakuho vs Yoshikaze – I am going to guess Yoshikaze has some kind of horrific sumo-flu, and will be in poor shape for several days to come at least. Even though Hakuho seems unsettled by his mandated tachiai changes, he is incredibly adaptable, and should settle down soon.

Hatsu Day 2 Preview


kisenosato-down

Day 1 got off to a very solid start, better than either of the last two basho, and I am cautiously enthusiastic about what we are in store for. With so many excellent matches on day 1, I encourage everyone to at least try out Kintamayama’s review on YouTube. While I love the NHK highlights show, and days when there are a large amount of quality bouts in a rather lengthy torikumi, it’s worth it to pick up the matches you missed.

I finally got to see the NHK highlight show at 2:30 Pacific today. Yes, I am in San Diego for a bit instead of the mighty bastion of Texas. Counter programming to it was a show on PBS about black holes, and super-massive black holes. I thought nothing of it…

But then here’s Murray Johnson remarking that Kaisei has packed on over 20 kg since November. Dear readers, that’s the size of a small Panda Bear, whose form Kaisei seems determined to emulate. It appears something similar has taken place within orbit of the gas giant Chiyomaru, who may have swallowed a nearby moon. Both of these two balloons will find their added mass a terrible strain on their bodies, and I fear for their longevity.

Say, you know what has me really delighted so far? Great matches at the bottom of Makuuchi! These guys are on fire. The Tadpoles had best consolidate their position in a hurry, as it seems there is yet another cohort advancing on their positions.

What We Are Watching Day 2

Ryuden vs Daiamami – Ryuden looked very poised on day 1, I am going to be watching to see if he can repeat that with his match against Daiamami, who holds a 5-2 career advantage of him.

Asanoyama vs Nishikigi – I am calling for Asanoyama to try to set up a throw early on. If Nishikigi can block the outside grip, he will probably have a chance to get inside and dismantle Asanoyama.

Abi vs Ishiura – An early match with a lot of interest. Both guys are on the lighter side of the scales, and both of them like to move around and mix it up. If Ishiura gets stuck, will he resort to his submarine attack that gets him in such trouble?

Yutakayama vs Daieisho – See, this time I spelled it correctly. Yutakayama has won both their prior matches. I expect a flurry of thrusting and a lot of mobility. Yutakayama seems to choke when he gets into Makuuchi, and I think everyone is hoping that this time he can settle down and show us some great sumo.

Kagayaki vs Daishomaru – When I said keep an eye on Kagayaki, people laughed. I get it, he has ridiculous man-boobs. He seems to have come to terms with it, and possibly uses it to distract his opponents. They say life in the heya can be lonely, and perhaps these poor guys find the display captivating. But hell no! Kagayaki takes his sumo with all of the earnest concentration you might expect from a rikishi who wants to be somebody. Like Kiesnosato, this guy is willing to train himself to death to get there. Never count that out.

Terunofuji vs Kotoyuki – Did you read Herouth’s discussion of Terunofuji? It’s toward the bottom of her typically awesome post. If you have not read it, go read it. It seems that in addition to Kaisei and Chiyomaru, Terunofuji may have spent time at the Gagamaru body sculpting clinic. If he can’t toss Kotoyuki around like a rotten bag of miso on day 2, it’s very dim indeed for our once mighty Kaiju. (shout out to Joshua who is in Tokyo… Lucky bastard)

Aminishiki vs Chiyomaru – Uncle Sumo vs the Gas Giant. Not good as Chiyomaru’s intense gravity well may crush Aminishiki’s space age metal support structure. Seriously, Aminishiki is in lower mid-Maegashira territory now. I hope he’s able to keep himself from getting injured.

Kaisei vs Chiyonokuni – Panda-kun vs Grumpy Badger. Chiyonokuni came out blazing day 1, but in typical fashion could not close the deal. He’s got strength, speed and energy, but for whatever reason he can’t seem to put together a consistent approach to get a win.

Ikioi vs Endo – Looking forward to this fight, as I am keeping my eye on Endo, who I would not be surprised to see hit 10 wins this tournament. A genki Endo may come as a bit of a shock to the tadpoles, as he brings a surgical precision and some depth of experience to the dohyo. I am looking for him to contain Ikioi’s superior strength and reach, and work inside and backwards.

Shodai vs Okinoumi – Shodai looked better on day 1 than he has in a while, and I am going to guess that for now Okinoumi is in good health. So this is probably a fairly good match, if Shodai does not blow the tachiai. Both of them will go for a mawashi grip from the start, and it will come down to strength and tactics.

Mitakeumi vs Chiyotairyu – Mitakeumi needs a 10 win basho to be taken seriously as an Ozeki contender. So it’s time for him to produce before he faces the upper San’yaku next week. Chiyotairyu is bigger, strong and looks a lot more like Elvis. So Mitakeumi is going to have to gamberize.

Yoshikaze vs Tamawashi – I am sure Yoshikaze is disappointed in day 1’s outcome. His shot at recovery is with the tough as nails Tamawashi on day 2. Tamawashi is back at Sekiwake after a stumble at Aki and Nagoya, and he wants his back in line for an Ozeki run.

Goeido vs Onosho – Battle of the manic over-committing rikishi, where both of them tend to charge forward with everything they have. Although I tend to be against the use of henka, this is the correct case where it’s of most use. Free tacos if they do simultaneous henka and orbit each other for the first few seconds.

Kotoshogiku vs Takayasu – All the fans want Kotoshogiku to do the big back bend. We know its the source of his magic powers, and he needs every ounce of power against an especially genki looking Takayasu.

Hakuho vs Ichinojo – Hakuho looked a bit lost without his slap-n-grab power combo. Against Ichinojo he needs some clarity, as once that much Mongolian gets moving, he’s headed somewhere. I am expecting the Boss to try another tachiai variation, hopefully with improved effect.

Kakuryu vs Takakeisho – Takakeisho’s post match interview had me rolling. When asked about the sumo he used against Kisenosato, he more or less said, “I can’t really remember, I was just trying to win”. Damn straight! He was all over the map throwing everything including the kitchen sink at The Great Pumpkin, and he prevailed. Now of course comes Kakuryu, whose whole sumo approach is to let his opponent get rolling, then use their motion and attacks against them. I can’t wait to see how this one goes. This is the first time these two have fought.

Hokutofuji vs Kisenosato – The final match of the day, it it carries a lot of weight. Kisenosato needs wins on the board. But in their only prior match, Hokutofuji won convincingly. On day 1, Kisenosato let Takakeisho dictate the match. I am hoping to see him control the bout like his 2016 self would do with such calm and effortless power.

Hatsu Day 1 – New hairdos, old problems


Troubles at the top

Perhaps the highlight of the day was the rather embarrassing error made by the substitute gyoji, Shikimori Kandayu, who pointed his Gunbai to Kisenosato’s side in his bout vs. Takakeisho.

kandayu-monoii
That feeling when you just made a boo-boo in front of 127,000,000 people.

A gyoji-gunbai-sashi-chigae – 行司軍配差し違え – is when the gyoji points to one wrestler, a monoii is called, and the shimpan reverse the gyoji’s decision. These things happen. Only, they are not supposed to happen at the top levels. The suspended tate-gyoji, Shikimori Inosuke, was suspended once before, and his promotion to Shonosuke never materialized, exactly because of a series of sashi-chigae. A tate-gyoji is not supposed to have those. That’s what the short sword is for.

Now Kandayu, based on seniority, is supposed to be promoted to tate-gyoji once the Inosuke position is officially vacant. His judgement in this basho and the ones that follow is supposed to prove that he is worthy of that promotion. So then, the first bout he referees, what does he do?

Yes, a gyoji-gunbai-sashi-chigae.

To say nothing of the poor Kisenosato who for a moment thought he managed to somehow snatch this win. The Yokozuna was very unhappy at the end of that event.

By the way, I think what’s killed Kisenosato in this bout was not his missing left pec or any of his injuries. He is mobile, and Takakeisho didn’t really force him to use his left side. I think what kills him is his lack of confidence. If he can’t dominate from the beginning he loses his nerve.

Hakuho faired only slightly better. I agree with Kintamayama and Sankei Shinbun as well as our reader Coreyyanofski’s comment on Bruce’s post: Hakuho was one step away from starting Hatsu with a black star.

Hakuho committed himself to adhering to the criticism the YDC made at him in their last meeting. No harite, no kachiage to the face area. Only, he committed himself a little too late, with too little time to find and refine a winning tachiai. He himself said, after his final pre-basho keiko: “I’ll have to see what the results will be”. If he wants his kachiage to hit a man’s chest or shoulder, he needs to have a very low tachiai, especially with rivals who are 20cm shorter than he is. It’s not his style of tachiai.

Onosho had Hakuho at the tawara in the blink of an eye. Hakuho becomes very quick when he smells straw, and he managed to move and pull Onosho, and then to get himself out of the way before being taken down together with the loser. Happy – he wasn’t.

Miyagino oyakata also divulges that in his morning practice, Hakuho aggravated his old problematic toe. It got swollen and had to be iced. This may be a cause for concern as the basho continues.

Good Hair Day

But I said I’ll talk about hairdos! OK, so ladies and gentlemen, I give you the new version of Torakio, straight up with a new miniature chon-mage. I must say it looks much better on him than his original zanbara:

The rival is Terunohana from Isegahama beya. Torakio starts to look like a rikishi.

Here is Terutsuyoshi for you. In the previous tournament he wore an oicho-mage. Alas, he dropped to Makushita, and now wears a chon-mage. But he is still Terutsuyoshi:

(C/O SumoSoul)

The rival is Asabenkei, Makushita #2, who also looks to return to Juryo. Enjoyed Terutsuyoshi’s dogged tenacity? Well, here is someone we all know and love, who still wears a zanbara. I think his hair looks long enough but perhaps he doesn’t want to have to endure a dekopin from Hakuho just yet.

Edit: better video from One And Only:

I declare Enho to be the new Ura. Jokoryu is no pushover, and he beat Enho in their previous match.

What else in the hairdo department? Yes! Finally, the two mountain boys get to wear oicho-mage:

oicho-mage
Left: Asanoyama, Right: Yutakayama. Big boys!

Asanoyama got to celebrate his oicho with a win. Yutakayama, on the other hand, suffered under the surprisingly active hands of Ishiura today.

Edit: Can’t finish the hairdo section without honorable mention of Wakaichiro, who also got his first chon-mage (though he did not participate in day 1):

Isegahama woes continue

The NHK highlight editors were very merciful. They did not include Terunofuji nor Aminishiki. But we had to face the harsh truth in Kintamayama’s summary.

Hmmm… Look at Terunohana and Terutsuyoshi’s videos above. Could it be that Isegahama oyakata stands with a baseball bat and crashes the knees of every rikishi who dares to join his heya? Seriously, it seems like nobody in that heya has a whole pair of knees to his name.

But Terunofuji’s problems go deeper than just his knees. He is still on a rampage of self-destruction. He put on so much weight that he can hardly move. His upper body muscles sag and he finds it hard to even hug his opponent as he used to. Twitter gossip says he has a fiancee. If so, she may find herself the sole breadwinner of their common household, should a wedding occur. For a man who answered the question “What do you like best in the world?” with “Money!”, he sure seems to be wrecking his main means for earning it.

But Terunofuji is not the only trouble at Isegahama. In fact, of 17 rikishi who participated in today’s bout, from Jonokuchi to Makuuchi, 9 came back empty-handed, including every single sekitori from Takarafuji through Homarefuji (who lost to Amakaze). We can only hope that Aminishiki’s slippiotoshi was accidental and that he will show us some of his good old Uncle Sumo stuff starting tomorrow.

But to finish on a high note, let’s mention that Shunba won his bout today vs. Fujisato by Okuridashi. If I find a video I’ll share.

Another lighter piece of news is that Satonofuji is still doing the yumitori shiki! I suppose that the Kyokai is waiting to see how many Yokozuna heyas it has left before it can appoint a new bow twirler. So for the time being, we can still glimpse Satonofuji’s serious face beside the dohyo while the winner of the musubi-no-ichiban accepts his kensho-kin.

Satonofuji
Satonofuji. Oh, and Hakuho.

Other quick notes

Ryuden wins his first Makuuchi bout. If you watched the NHK preview, you may have seen Raja Pradhan explain Uwatenage. Ryuden looked like a demonstration of “how this is done in real life”.

Abi has an amazing body. His legs are longer than Betty Grable’s. I think he is wasting that body on mere oshi-zumo. And I don’t think he is going to be Ozeki just yet. Young Peter Pan, you should use those legs to stabilize yourself. Take a look at some Bokh videos!

Chiyoshoma very impressive. I just hope he can grow a personality.

Mitakeumi beating Kotoshogiku by gaburi-yori. That’s not something you see every day. Also, the shimpan halting the fight and the gyoji having to tap the shoulders of both rikishi to signal that the bout is over.

I enjoyed seeing Ichinojo being active rather than lethargic. But he still gives in too early at the tawara. Even Terunofuji held up longer.

Kakuryu beat Hokutofuji at his own game. It’s usually the man from Hakkaku beya who neutralizes his rival with tsuppari and nodowa. But that was a mighty clash of skulls there, ending with Kakuryu bleeding.

Can’t wait for day 2!

Hatsu Story 4 – The Tadpole Army


sumo-frogs

Harumafuji’s departure was likely the starting gun for the wave of change that will sweep through sumo’s upper division. Entering Hatsu 2018, we have two additional Yokozuna that could possibly face retirement if they are not able to perform at Grand Champion level. Likewise, we sadly lost an Ozeki when Terunofuji was unable to defend his rank as an Ozekiwake in Kyushu. This means that the promotion lanes, still impossibly narrow, are starting to open and could be active later this year.

As is always the case in these times, there is a vigorous crop of young rikishi who are battling their way to the top, eager to make their bid to attain sumo’s highest ranks. Most of them are in their mid to early 20’s and have a distinctive, bulbous body shape. I have nicknamed this cohort the “tadpoles”.

Days before Hatsu, we have a determined group of young men who we expect to keep the Ozeki and Yokozuna on their toes.

Mitakeumi – I would call him the king of the tadpoles, as he was the first to reach the upper ranks. He showed a great deal of promise early and then broadened his sumo from the traditional Tadpole Oshi sumo by becoming increasingly competent fighting on the mawashi. He has proven surprisingly resilient at Sekiwake, including at Kyushu where he seemed to struggle at times, but prevailed with a workable 9-6 record.

Takakeisho – At times he seems almost unstoppable, but his mostly tsuppari offense leaves him a bit one-dimensional. He has the body, the health, and the drive to go far, but right now he does not seem to be able to go chest to chest with the upper ranks, and that will keep him out of Ozeki contention.

Onosho – As long as he keeps the red mawashi on, I think he can keep winning. Although he ranks one slot below Takakeisho, my opinion is that he is a more versatile rikishi, and has a real shot at staging a bid for Ozeki this year. It may be a few more years before he can succeed, however.

Hokutofuji – Where Takakeisho and Onosho grab the attention, Hokutofuji continues to move ahead with commanding force. For Hatsu, he is ranked one step behind Onosho, but his sumo has a greater degree of variation than the two rikishi immediately ahead of him. At this point, all of Hokutofuji’s problems are in his head, and the moment he accepts his skill and fixes his mind, he is Ozeki material.

There is another group behind them, who are not quite ready to shine.

Yutakayama – He has moments of brilliance interspaced with matches he should have won. To a large degree, he has the skill and ring sense to at least be upper Maegashira if he can improve his focus and his reaction times. Many fans think there is no hope for this guy, but I am quite sure he’s got a lot of room to grow.

Kagayaki – He needs to replicate Kisenosato’s approach. He does not have the overwhelming talent of Onosho, but he has the workmanlike persistence to grind his way higher. Sadly at Takadagawa beya, he may not have a consistent partner (as Kisenosato has Takayasu) to help forge his strength. [See here and here for lists of Takadagawa’s members. –PinkMawashi]

Asanoyama – I think this guy has huge potential. He had a bad basho in November, and Hatsu will be the one that reveals if he is going to persist and advance or be washed back down to Juryo to re-focus.

Jungyo Newsreel – December 13th


🌐 Location: Miyakojima, Okinawa

After freezing in Kitakyushu, the jungyo entourage boarded planes and headed down south to Okinawa. In fact, so much down south, that they were almost within waving distance to Taiwan. This means warm weather, and rikishi going around in Yukata.

Right off the plane, landing in Miyakojima airport on Dec. 12, Hakuho was doing the fansa rounds, sought after by both the passengers who shared his plane, and awaiting fans.

hakuho-at-airport
Both handfan and Yukata adorned with “Hakuho”

The press was there as well, to ask Hakuho for his comment about the death threat letter he received at Kitakyushu (He didn’t actually receive it personally. It was delivered to his contacts there, and they handed it to the Fukuoka Prefectural Police). He deferred his comment to the next day (the next day he said “The Kyokai is handling all communication about it”).

Other rikishi were also making use of the hiatus. Yutakayama and Toyonoshima visited a local hospital’s day care center for the elderly, together with Yutakayama’s tsukebito, Rikito.

toyonoshima-with-elderly
Toyonoshima receiving flowers and a hug

The locals were thrilled, and shot questions at the rikishi: “How much do you weigh?”, one of them asked Yutakayama. “Well, officially, 175kg. But lately I’ve been eating too much, I am about 180kg by now”.

Rikito is a member of the Jinku team, so he entertained the locals with some Jinku, and everybody around joined in the “haa-dosukoi-dosukoi” calls.

The jungyo event itself includes two days at Miyakojima, both “nighters” as the Japanese call events being held in evening time. This is also why this newsreel is posted late. Usually a Jungyo day starts in the morning with asa-geiko, but these “nighters” start in the afternoon and only make it to the media sites the next day. The format is also a bit different, though of course it includes the popular kiddie sumo, tsuna-shime, jinku and shokkiri.

Hakuho was looking less genki than usual. He settled for some keiko with low-rankers:

hakuho-practice

This downturn in his health may also explain why it was Kakuryu who did the tsuna-shime (rope tying) demonstration (which has been performed regularly by Hakuho on all previous days).

On the dohyo, Kakuryu took Daieisho for a full workout, including both san-ban (no information on content) and butsukari, which you can see here:

kakuryu-daieisho-butsukari

It seems to be a peculiarity of the Izutsu Yokozuna, that he doesn’t take his butsukari partners for a monkey-walk (that’s what I call that type of suri-ashi Daieisho is performing in the above image) while holding on to the back of their head. He just tells them to walk it and stands aside. He also does away with the korogari (the roll that follows a failure to push) many times, ordering them to try again instead.

The main change in the format was that the top 16 rankers (excepting kyujo rikishi) fought in elimination format rather than the usual rank-for-rank torikumi. Both Yokozuna and Both Ozeki were eliminated in the first round. The winner was Yoshikaze.

yoshikaze-pushes-mitakeumi
That’s a bout, not Shokkiri.

Those below the top 16 fought as usual, as you can see in this video (together with some drumming, babies galore, and the usual apology for Harumafuji’s behavior)

Aminishiki tries the Hakuho trick of harite right off the tachiai, and discovers that you need to be really, really fast to pull it off…

Here is another TV video, blissfully free of the scandal and full of interesting stuff (and bouts):

  • Tochinoshin in moshi-age (winner picks next partner)
  • Kakuryu vs. Daieisho in one of their san-ban.
  • Memorial corner for Yuho (see below)
  • A local amateur (well, a dan 3 judoka…) defeats Shodai
  • Kaisei vs. Chiyomaru
  • Ichinojo vs. Kotoshogiku
  • Yoshikaze vs. Mitakeumi
  • Everybody dances around the dohyo!

Despite his fatigue, Hakuho continued to service the flocking fans:

hakuho-fansa
Among the many duties of tsukebito: taking pictures of fans with The Boss

And now for the treat of the day. In September, the former Yuho, who hailed from Miyakojima, passed away. He continued as a sewanin (a non-toshiyori NSK employee) since his retirement. The NSK put up a commemorative exhibition for him at the Jungyo venue. In addition to that, a special verse in his memory was added to the sumo Jinku, performed by no other than Ikioi:

Remember that sekitori do not usually take part of the Jinku. Ikioi is the only one there in his own Kesho-Mawashi, and of course an oicho-mage. Never mind the fact that he towers above the rest. He reads the verse off the paper fan in his hand. Dosukoi!

 

Day 6 – There Can Be Only One


hakuho-2017-11-day-06
Another day at the office

Day 6 leaves us with only one man having any mathematical possibility of a zensho-yusho. Of course, the basho is still in early days, and the king may lose his crown yet, but at the moment, Hakuho reigns supreme.

But he is not the only sekitori with a clean, white score sheet. Down in Juryo, there is another man who is 6-0. The name may sound familiar: he’s a former chicken farmer, the only Chinese national on the banzuke. I give you Sokokurai!

Today the Inner-Mongolian had a match with the other all-win Juryo man, young Abi. Abi was all over the veteran, with his signature quick moves, but Sokokurai secured first a left-hand belt grip, then a morozashi, and showed Abi the way out with an okuridashi.

While we are in Juryo, want to see a beautiful kakenage? Here is the bout between Yutakayama and Kyokutaisei:

And now, how about a wardrobe malfunction, featuring, unsurprisingly, Ishiura messing around with a mawashi knot?

The way it looks, one of the shimpan must have informed the gyoji that the knot was untied, as he wasn’t in an angle to see it. So Ryuden – whom I must have jinxed yesterday in my comments about his standing among obasan – was lucky to lose by shitatenage rather than by exposure of manhood.

BTW, is it only me, or did Ishiura take advantage of the situation to improve his hold on the knot?

My advice to sekitori who are assigned to Ishiura: get your tsukebito to sew your mawashi knot before the bout.

OK, moving on to the Makuuchi, what did we have today?

Nishikigi is showing surprising tenacity, and at this rate, will secure his stay in Makuuchi for yet another basho. His match with Myogiryu was a battle for grips, but as Myogiryu changed his grip that last time, Nishikigi drove him out of the ring. Those grip changes are always risky.

Kagayaki is back to his bad sumo, where he looks more like Kermit the Frog flailing wildly than like a sumo wrestler with effective tsuppari. Kotoyuki says thank you and goodbye.

Asanoyama decided he has to regain his sumo, which is a good thing, but the hapless rival is our favorite Aminishiki, who is now down with the rest of the chasers. I hope he hasn’t damaged good old Uncle Sumo. That throw was all like “You wanted to get back to Makuuchi? Well, let me remind you what Makuuchi is really like”. Very aggressive. But can’t blame him. Aminishiki knows he is playing with the big boys again. Anyway, Asanoyama was on the offensive from the start, and although Aminishiki was the first to securely grab some silk, Asanoyama grabbed some of his own on the same side and performed that decisive uwatenage. Let’s hope Aminishiki returns tomorrow with his sneaky sumo and funny interviews.

Okinoumi certainly looks genki, and Endo didn’t make his bout easy in any way, as he was on the offensive and secured a grip with his right hand. But it was Okinoumi who grabbed his arm for a kotenage at the end.

Day 6 is an even day! And on even days, Chiyomaru brings his sumo to the arena! His match with Ikioi starts with a tsuppari barrage, and then suddenly he goes for a hug. Of course, no way for him to get anywhere close to Ikioi’s mawashi, but he doesn’t need to. He simply pushes the man down for a tsukiotoshi.

Kaisei doesn’t give Daishomaru any room to do anything. This bout was over in a flash, with Kaisei driving the maru in a quick arch to the bales.

Shodai‘s bout with Daieisho is also a matter of seconds. Shodai was simply not there today.

Continuing with the flash bouts, Chiyoshoma and Arawashi was supposed to be a lovely bout, but here is one henka I could certainly do without. The Japanese announcer: “It was disappointing sumo today”.

Curiously, now that Aminishiki has lost, it seems like everybody else in Isegahama finally started to win. I checked, and Homarefuji and even poor Terutsuyoshi who was winless until today won. And they are joined by Takarafuji, who unbelievably wins a tsuppari battle with Chiyonokuni.

Ichinojo bounces back from yesterday’s loss. Well, not “bounces”. More like “rises ponderously”. It’s a battle between his weight and patience and Tochinoshin‘s strength. Tochinoshin is the first to secure two hands on Ichinojo’s mawashi, although one of them is at the front. Ichinojo manages to undo that grip, and eventually they settle into a standard migi-yotsu, and Tochinoshin tries to lift the boulder. Um, no. With all due respect, nobody can lift that thing. And after he wastes his energy on this attempt, Ichinojo starts pushing him all the way to a plain and simple yori-kiri. I’m glad Tochinoshin did not cause further harm to his knee in that attempt, but go, go Mongolian boulder!

Hokutofuji continues to impress. He keeps his pelvis miles from Kotoshogiku‘s, pushes forward, then retreats fast and pulls the Komusubi down. Kotoshogiku is going to drop back down to Maegashira at this rate.

Tamawashi goes on a slapping match with Yoshikaze. But the elderly sekiwake is not what he used to be. Tamawashi gets him overcommitted and pushes him down.

Even Mitakeumi got the memo: Onosho can be easily beaten if you get him to charge at you like a billy-goat. So they get forwards and backwards a few time, and then Mitakeumi make a fast retreat, and hands Onosho yet another hatakikomi. Sad. In the last basho Onosho said that he learned what his weak points were and he’ll work on them, but I guess he was thinking about different weak points. That man also seems to be heading back to maegashira, unless he learns the art of footwork fast. Mitakeumi, on the other hand, despite his injury, is sailing through quite nicely and is looking to maintain his sekiwake position easily.

Goeido booted up in the wrong mode today. He didn’t really engage Chiyotairyu. He was reactive. And eventually, he lost his balance. Chiyotairyu is probably surprised that he managed to scrape a white star off of the hitherto undefeated Ozeki, and without even breaking much sweat. The Ozeki also drops off the leader list, and joins the legion who will now have to wait for the Dai-Yokozuna to make a mistake.

Takayasu, however, drops even further, with his second loss of the bout. He was actually initiating a strong tsuppari, but he didn’t seem to realize that Takakeisho is a newer model from the same locomotive factory where he himself was manufactured. The Ozeki found himself further away from the center than he wanted, and got pushed out decisively.

And finally we get actual Yokozuna sumo from Kisenosato. This one was decisive and dominant, despite the fact that Tochiozan had him in a Morozashi for a couple of seconds. And did my eyes decieve me or did Kisenosato use his left side to twist Tochiozan back for the tsukiotoshi? More of this, please, Kisenosato. We are low on Yokozuna right now!

Finally, another wonderful textbook uwatenage from the Lord Of The Ring, Hakuho. Tachiai. Slap. Quick migi-yotsu. Drag to the tawara. Then perform the throw. And as both bodies were already on a trajectory, the Yokozuna deftly lifts his left leg and gives Shohozan a little more torque to ensure that he falls down first. Again, a work of art.

The leader list:

only one man. The almighty Hakuho.

The chaser list:

Goeido (O)
Mitakeumi (S)
Hokutofuji (M3)
Ichinojo (M4)
Arawashi (M5)
Okinoumi (M12)
Aminishiki (M13)


For your enjoyment, here are the Taka Twins – with a guest appearance by Enho!

Enho/Takayoshitoshi

Takagenji/Daiseido