The Nagoya Sumo Tournament, Pt. 2

What a long, strange tournament it’s been! There is of course one day left in the Nagoya Basho, but with his win over Tochiozan, young sekiwake Mitakeumi has clinched his first ever top division tournament win and with it, the Emperor’s Cup.

Sekiwake Mitakeumi in Nagoya
Sekiwake Mitakeumi moments after defeating Tochiozan to secure his win in the Nagoya Basho

His win today, on Day 14, gave him a record of 13-1. His only defeat was mildly controversial: in his bout with Takayasu, both wrestlers seemed to exit the ring almost simultaneously. The gyoji, or referee, struggled to decide who won but initially gave it to Mitakeumi. This triggered a “mono ii“, where the five shinpan, or senior referees, who normally sit around the ring step in to determine the actual winner, liaising with other referees watching the recorded replays. With a decision so close, it might have been expected that the match would have been re-run to more clearly determine the winner, but instead the shinpan gave the victory to Takayasu. Still, one loss didn’t slow Mitakeumi down, and today’s match was absolutely clearcut. Though there’s still a day to go, the closest runner-ups are sitting on three losses, so even if Mitakeumi were to lose again on his final day there aren’t enough remaining bouts for them to catch up and trigger a play off, let alone overtake him.

I don’t think anyone expected Mitakeumi to be a serious competitor this tournament. He’s ranked sekiwake, which is the third highest rank in sumo, under yokozuna and then ozeki. That puts him behind the three current yokozuna – Hakuho, Kakuryu, and Kisenosato – and the three ozeki – Goeido, Takayasu, and the newly-promoted Tochinoshin. It’s generally expected that the overall tournament winner will be among the yokozuna or ozeki, with underdog victories like Tochinoshin’s win in January – which triggered his rapid series of promotions – being exceedingly rare.

Yet this has been a brutal tournament. Even before it began, Kisenosato had pulled out with his long-term injuries still keeping him from competing at the top level. That still left two powerful yokozuna as well as Tochinoshin, who as a new ozeki, would be looking to start winning tournaments that could eventually trigger his promotion to yokozuna himself. In the first week, though, all three top draft wrestlers withdrew due to injuries. There was some speculation early on that Tochinoshin might return after resting up for a few days, which might have allowed him to score a kachi-koshi or wining record even if his days on the sidelines precluded him from the championship. That never materialised. Instead, a crowded field of competitors emerged with only Mitakeumi clear ahead in the lead. It’s not clear why this was such an injury-prone event. Maybe it was the incredible heat, with Nagoya racking temperatures in the mid to high 30s; the crowd could be seen constantly fanning themselves, and the wrestlers were all soaked with sweat.

Elsewhere, it was good to see Takayasu get a winning record and overcome his kadoban status despite some lingering injuries. That means he’s no longer in danger of demotion. In the lower divisions, Aminishiki got his winning record in juryo, one level down from the top makuuchi. The promotions and demotions between the top two levels are frankly still opaque to me, but I hope this means we might see him back in makuuchi come the September tournament.

That’s all for me on Nagoya. I’m sure I’ll have more to write about when the next basho is held in Tokyo, starting September 9th. In the meantime, I’ve got plenty more film reviews queued up. This week I posted my thoughts on Seijun Suzuki’s Youth of the Beast, and I just watched the follow up to Netflix’s Godzilla animeGodzilla: City on the Edge of Battle, so expect that next Friday.

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