I was going to write “Haru (spring) Basho” for the headline here, but I don’t have much reason to. Up here in the frozen north of Akita (especially in my neck of the woods), things are still as cold an snowy as ever. Spring is the time of new beginnings, and although the weather ain’t doing anything new, there are some interesting things going on in sumo. Hakuho, Harumafuji, Kakuryu, Kisenosato (maybe), and of course the golden boy of the Japanese media… Endo.
Harumafuji has been a yokozuna over a year. The Yokozuna Deliberation Council (YDC) has told him that his “grace period” is over, and that its time to put his big boy mawashi on and put up yokozuna numbers. They say he needs 13 wins, or they seem to be threatening forced retirement. I think they are just covering their bases. I’ve made this comparison time and time again, Hakuho=Taiho and Harumafuji=Kashiwado. If you look at Kashiwado in a vacuum he was a decent yokozuna, not a great one, certainly not a daiyokozuna, but a decent one. He was no stranger to the 9-6 record. I’m sure there were some words bandied about, but we now refer to that time as the “Hakuho-jidai” using one character from each of their shikona. Now I don’t think that this past year will be referred to as any-jidai, I also think the YDC is bluffing to light a fire under Harry’s pock-marked ass. The boy will be fine and he’ll put up a yusho a year or so. Let sleeping dogs lie.
Hakuho is 5 yusho away from toppling Taiho’s record of 32 yusho. If he does what he usually does, that will happen as early as the end of September. Next year at the latest. He’s top dog and if anyone else gets a yusho, it’s because he let them, and that’s all there is to say.
Kakuryu is technically up for yokozuna promotion. He needs 13 wins and the yusho to get the nod. Some might speculate that Harumafuji might be out after this basho and Kakuryu will step into the Yokozuna spot. I do not think this will be the case. The YDC neither really wants nor needs another Mongolian yokozuna. They are chomping at the bit for a Japanese cat to step in, and right now Endo is the boy crapping out the golden turds for ’em. That being said, Kakuryu is looking strong in keiko and he claims he’s not nervous, but we all know that he is prone to nerves.
Endo. I think he’s in over his head at the M1 slot, and that the joii meat grinder is salivating to grind on his meat. The boy is busting his ass in keiko though. He spent 3 days getting tooled by Kakuryu, and got molested by Hakuho, but that’s how the good get better. Endo’s time is coming, and if he keeps going the way he is, it’ll be sooner rather than later.
Kise is injured. So there’s his excuse for what we can expect to be a sub-par performance. I’m assuming that 10 will be his limit, maybe 11. Kotoshogiku has not given us any reason to believe that he will do any better, so I’ll give him maybe 10.
Now “permanently” at sekiwake Kotooshu will need to get 33 in 3 to get his ozeki rank back, and lets be frank… there is more of a chance of a young coed keeping her tube top on during mardi gras. Goeido turned in a pretty ify performance in January, so I can’t really see him doing well. Tochiozan put up good numbers and a decent showing last basho, which means (if tradition holds) that he will have a melt down this basho… however, something tells me he’ll be alright.
I like both komusubi this basho, which is rare. Toyonoshima is a great rikishi who should be right up in joii. Shohozan is one of my favorite guys to watch. He may not KK this high up, but he always locks up some key wins against the big boys, and always brings everything to a bout.
With the exception of Tamawashi (who is over ranked at M1) I am excited to watch all of upper maegashira. Okinoumi and Tochinowaka at M2 have the talent to do well, but probably won’t turn in big numbers. Takayasu should be right at home here at M3 and Kaisei is tickling the top of his abilities here, should be good guys to watch. Ikioi should do ok and get some facetime in with sanyaku at M4, and although Yoshikaze is probably out of his league here, it will at least be interesting (read: hilarious) to watch.
In this reporter’s humble (read: arrogant) opinion here are the other rikishi to keep an eye on this basho. Aoiyama has been steadily improving and adding consistency, Chiyotairyu and Myogiryu are both under ranked and should pick up good numbers, Terunofuji is all the way up at M10 in his debut in the big show…should be interesting to see what tossing him that deep in the pool will do. Osunaarashi isn’t much higher than last time and should do well here, if his technique has improved. I want to say Jokoryu is under ranked at M13, but he has been pretty lousy of late. Lastly, Satoyama because he’s got spunk, and who doesn’t like rooting for the underdog? Also this is the first time he’s managed to stay in Makuuchi for more than one basho, which should give him a confidence boost.
Well, thats all for the warmup. Join us for the shonichi report.