It’s Day 6 of the Haru Basho, and we’re down to five undefeated rikishi atop the leaderboard. Yokozuna Kisenosato, ozeki Terunofuji lead and sekiwake Takayasu lead the way, with M3 Takarafuji and M10 Tochiozan hanging tough, too. Of course, Terunofuji and Takayasu go head-to-head today, as do Kisenosato and Takarafuji, so tomorrow we’ll have no more than three leaders (and only two if Tochiozan fails to beat M12 Sadanoumi).
Even stranger, there are just two rikishi with only one loss—yokozuna Kakuryu and M7 Chiyoshoma—so we’ve got a pretty firm leaderboard set even before we enter the middle weekend.
Sekiwake Kotoshogiku took a step backwards in his goal to reach double-digit wins and regain his ozeki ranking. After beating yokozuna Kakuryu on Day 4, yesterday he literally slipped and lost to fellow sekiwake Tamawashi, leaving him with a 3–2 record. That means that he must win at least seven of his remaining ten matches. Luckily for him two of the three remaining opponents ranked above him have withdrawn—yokozuna Hakuho and ozeki Goeido (see below)—and he’s already fought the other two sekiwaki. This means that with the exception of yokozuna Kisenosato and ozeki Terunofuji, all of Kotoshogiku’s remaining opponents will be below him on the banzuke [ranking sheet]. It’s still a major challenge, with almost no margin for error . . . but it actually seems like a challenge appropriate to the skills an ozeki OUGHT to have.
We have more shifting in the kyujo [absent due to injury] ranks. First of all, M8 Kaisei, who has been absent for the first five days of the tournament, returns to action today. He’s got a tough task ahead of him, needing to win eight out of ten matches in order to get his kachi-koshi [majority of wins], but he’s certainly got the skills to dominate at that level of the banzuke if he truly is back in fighting shape. So one rikishi returns, but unfortunately one is also leaving. As mentioned above, ozeki Goeido has officially withdrawn because of the same ankle injury that caused him to withdraw in January and has resulted in his having lost ALL of his matches after a Day 1 victory over Ikioi. Truthfully, he probably shouldn’t have entered the Haru Basho at all—he only managed four days of practice in the lead-up to the tournament because his ankle was still so sore.
As we go on to today’s matches, be forewarned that there were some audio problems with the source files, so Kintamayama’s video sounds like it’s underwater. However, unless you speak Japanese or really enjoy the sounds of the rikishi smashing into each other, you can just mute the video and never have to deal with the bubbling sounds.
M12 Ura (2–3) vs. M11 Ishiura (3–2)—The two mighty mites going head-to-head for the first time when both are members of the upper division. (2:56)
M12 Sadanoumi (1–4) vs. M10 Tochiozan (5–0)—Tochiozan is the first of our co-leaders to fight today. His opponent is having a pretty rough tournament, and today isn’t likely to make it any better. (4:02)
M8 Kaisei (0–0–5) vs. M6 Aoiyama (2–3)—Kaisei is back, after missing the first five days because of a knee injury. Aoiyama will surely test if that knee is really well enough to warrant joining so late in the basho. (6:30)
Sekiwake Kotoshogiku (3–2) vs. komusubi Mitakeumi (3–2)—Kotoshogiku is in a spot where pretty much every match is a must-win event if he wants to regain his ozeki ranking. Mitakeumi, however, is not going to roll over and play dead . . . he’s interested in making his own run for an ozeki promotion. Should be a hard-fought match. (10:30)
Sekiwake Takayasu (5–0) vs. ozeki Terunofuji (5–0)—Two unbeaten rikishi . . . one of them is about to lose that sobriquet. Both have been fighting strong and steady all tournament. Honestly, this is the match I’ve been looking forward to all day . . . and I have NO IDEA how it will end. I only hope that neither competitor injures himself in the contes. (11:15)
M3 Takarafuji (5–0) vs. yokozuna Kisenosato (5–0)—The other two remaining unbeaten rikishi . . . for now. Both of them have been doing their own type of sumo to the best of their ability. However, Kisenosato’s sumo is much stronger than Takarafuji’s. Still, on any given day, you never know what will happen . . . and both men have very strong reasons to do WHATEVER is necessary to get a win. (11:46)
M3 Shohozan (0–5) vs. yokozuna Kakuryu (4–1)—And from the Department of Never Judge a Bout by the Records Coming In, on paper this should be an absolute blow-out. Kakuryu has only lost one match is and hot on the heels of the tournament leaders, while Shohozan is winless and he has never beaten the yokozuna in any of their fifteen previous meetings. Yet this turns out to be one of the closest, most exciting matches of the day. (13:50)