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Iwagakki

thoughts on the year

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It's been an odd year in sumo. Maybe it's just me, but the last year has been relatively lacking in the high drama I've come to expect over the years. Maybe I'm just imagining the "good old days," but to be honest, I haven't found this year to be particularly compelling.

I was a fan back in the days of Konishiki. That was compelling sumo. I watched Takanohana and Akebono duel it out. That was edge of the seat stuff. I remember Chiyonofuji, the glaring, snarling, intensely rabid Wolf. He scared me, even on tv. I remember watching Wakanohana come up, and being sort of breathless when I watched him do his thing.

This year has seen it's share of small dramas. Even the last couple of years. I watched Musoyama come up. I watched him retire. Takanonami is gone. They showed us a few moments in the sun. Takanohana is gone? Akebono is gone? Musashimaru is gone? Are they really?

the last year has been filled with anti-climaxes. Watching Asashoryu is a pleasure, sort of...

Kaio has been nothing like the old Kaio. There doesn't seem to be any of that smiling, gap-toothed, country boy fire left anymore. Remember when Kaio smiled? Remember how you jumped out of your seat when he tried that Ipponzeoi on Musashimaru? I don't see it in him anymore. I get the feeling that he knows that he's in a weak field, and he can drag it out for as long as he cares to right now. He doesn't seem to have it in him to go for the kill anymore, but he can get paid to be a token Ozeki for as long as he cares to just be beating a bunch of tomato cans, and getting 9-6's and 10-5's. Even without fire, and worn down to a shell of his former self, he's still in another league than the competition. Except of course, Asashoryu.

Chiyotaikai is the same. His sumo just isn't his sumo anymore. He used to be the bad boy. Now he's just the mildly disgruntled boy. I don't call it injuries. Even though he has his share. He just doesn't have that bad-ass Bozosoku thing going anymore. No attitude, no fire. But he can keep on collecting for as long as he want to, because it's for damn sure that even if he isn't Kaio, he's still in a different league than the competition. Even as the pathetic excuse for the Wolf Cub we loved in 1999. Remember the smash and bash sumo? Chiyotaikai's harite is on par with Toki's nowadays. Sad.

The sad part is not so much that they are just shells of themselves. It's that there hasn't been anyone to really replace them.

Tochiazuma? Who's he? He has been on the back burner for so long, half the audience doesn't recognize his face. And nobody, for sure, can remember how in the heck he got to be an Ozeki in the first place.

Kotooshu isn't going to be a super successful Ozeki. I just don't see it in him. He will get there, for sure. But I think his style has a few holes in it. Sooner or later. In fact sooner. I've seen it already this Basho, some of his opponents are starting to get a hold of his style. He's young, and he's pretty flashy right now. But against the bruisers that are going to come up behind him, he's going to spend a lot of time on the bench. It's just inevitable. Right now he's like lightning in a bottle. But as time goes on, he's going to start getting corralled and pushed around. so then he's going to gain some weight. Then his speed is going to be diminished, ever so slightly. But he is still going to be tall and skinny, and the stresses of 160 kg guys is going to take a toll on him. He's going to entertain us for a while, but I see another Wakanohana story coming.

Hakuho hasn't shown a whole lot beyond the initial flash in the pan. I desperately hope I am wrong, but I'm starting to get a bad feeling about him. Think Asasekiryu. Still young guys, both. There is plenty of time for development. But I think I said this one time before....

One reason that Asashoryu came up so fast was that he never had time to think about it much. He just charged in, grabbed the golden fleece, and never looked back. It's a lot easier to be on top than it is to get to the top.

Kisenosato has been slightly better. Rather solid. But he seems to have a lot of Wakanosato syndrome going on. Much on about being strong and solid, not so much about destroying the competition.

All of our young guns have stalled this year. I find it hard to imagine that our next great Yokozuna is coming from these guys.

It is anticlimactic that Asashoryu dominates. That has been the real turn off this year. Is he really going to win all 6? Amazing yes. Disappointing? Slightly.

I am a huge fan. But you know what? A great champion is not necessarily the one who wins all the time. A great champion is forged in the fires of his great rivals.

Asashoryu has no rival, much less a great rival. Nobody actually believed that Kotooshu was going to win it all last time. We all knew that unless Asashoryu slipped and knocked himself out on the way into the dohyo, he would handle Kotooshu without much trouble at all.

Small dramas.

Even if Kaio, Chiyotaikai and Tochiazuma all retired, what will it do? Sadly, these three are the only ones who pose the slightest threat to Asashoryu. When they are gone, he will only dominate more. Sure he will still lose the occasional freak match to Ama, or Futeno. But those are only him losing his train of thought for a moment. Nobody can really threaten him now. That's anti-climactic.

So, Kotooshu will make it to Ozeki. then he will get ground up by the likes of hakuho, and Kisenosato, and Wakanosato, and all the rest of the regulars. By the time Asashoryu ever gets a hold of him, he will be an also ran.

small dramas.

I seriously hope that some inner fire gets burning in the next year. otherwise we are in for another year where Asashoryu wins all 6.

He deserves that rival, too. We are always going to look at him as the king of the molehill if his great rival doesn't appear soon. Two years from now, he's going to be sitting on 27 yusho, and we'll all be grumbling. And sumo will suffer for it.

Part of sumo's decline these past few years has been the lack of compelling sumo. None of that whole "clash of the titans" thing going on. Just Asashoryu routinely beating down the weak competition. Sumo needs another Waka-Taka-Ake era. Where everyone was in the mix. It could be anyone, Kaio, Chiyotaikai, Waka, Taka, Ake, Musashimaru, Takanonami. Even Kotomitsuki...sort of.

grumble, grumble.....

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I've been with You as long as You stated the status quo and told of the glory days. But how are You supposed to know the future of Kotooshu and Hakuho? That's unnecessary speculation and spoils Your otherwise fine essay.

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I do not think anything spoiled your fine essay as often do I yearn for some of the old battles remembered so fondly. Just to think that once in the near past there were bashos when one could make a strong case for anyone of 5 or 6 competitors having a good chance of ultimate victory. Today to me the only question is will Asashoryu win in zensho fashion. I do have more hope than you in Kotooshu as I think his frame can handle a goodly amount more weight without a dimunition in his performance. Of course catastrophic injuries can happen anytime to anyone and there go future possibilities as has been demonstrated so many times. I will welcome any of your essays at anytime and will not be picky.

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I do agree that it is now very boring to watch Shoryu take yusho after yusho in dominating fashion. Basically, I am praying that he loses at least once in the first 10 days and make things somewhat interesting until day 11 onwards when he will inevitably roll over the ozekis.

All the supposed competition, such as Kotooshu, Hakuho and Kisenosato, that were suppose to materialize this year failed to step up this year. In the meantime, there is no one that came up the juryo ranks that can conceivably start to challenge him next year. So it is the same old crowd for '06, but most likely without the current ozekis. But I still hold out a bit of hope that this year's crop will somehow develop next year.

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In the meantime, there is no one that came up the juryo ranks that can conceivably start to challenge him next year.

Of course not. If you're looking for somebody who was in Juryo one year to be a challenge to the yokozuna (any yokozuna) the next year, you're invariably going to be disappointed.

I can understand the general frustration with Asashoryu's dominance, but expecting that the rise of challengers will happen with the flick of a switch or a wave of the Kyokai's magic wand is silly. This isn't pro-wrestling.

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Very good post, Iwagakki. Thanks for giving us something nice to read.

Never have been a fan of Asashoryu, as you all know. Have tremendous respect for him, because he seems to be getting better by the basho, and not only on the dohyo, but also outside of it.

Right now it doesn't matter, because Asashoryu is sumo and sumo is Asashoryu.

Yes, it is frustratingly boring, but after Nalbandian dispatched Federer in the Master's cup finals, maybe there's hope for sumo too.

Edited by QttP

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I do not think anything spoiled your fine essay as often do I yearn for some of the old battles remembered so fondly.

Hey Mikiro, nice to see you post. (In a state of confusion...) Good post, Iwagakki. You summed up my feelings quite nicely.

2005 will of course be remembered for Asashoryu's six wins in a year. Apart from that, it has been a year with nothing but failed expectations. I hope I am wrong, but I can just see how Kotooshu finishes his ozeki run in a few days with 9-6, making a very fitting end to 2005.

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I am with you on this being a bit boring. In this century we have only had a few really great basho. Back in the good old days Musashimaru was a good Ozeki and Kaio, Tochiazuma & Musoyama were lower sanyaku. With the decline of Takanohana and Akebono, the four I mentioned all advanced one place. Maru and Kaio stepped it up for a while but where is the new blood? Nobody with the exception of Asashoryu has actually stepped in to fill the void.

We now have one Dai-Yokazuna, three struggling Ozeki and our lower sanyaku regulars are not challenging for the yusho or Ozeki promotion.

At some point things will get better.

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I would never voice any thoughts until it's over. You never know if something surprising will happen. I concede it's not too likely here though.

I'm always thinking of the words of my friend in the mid of 1989. "It's been a boring year news-wise." After that - Iraq entered Qatar, not to mention the rapid collapse of the Eastern German regime. So I prefer to wait before I'd try to say anything retrospective.

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I share the sentiment.

Asashoryu has never been a disappointment, it's just all the other guys are.

You feel such excitiment that you want the shikiri to continue forever when you have two yokozunas vying for the yushon on Senshuraku.

Of course it didn't happen every basho but unlike now it did happen more often than not.

How can the fans get excited when you see the half of arena empty and there is no suspense whatsoever who will win the yusho?

Edited by Jonosuke

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Asa does what he has to do. It has been a difficult year for Sumo, and for me as my first year of live tournaments... It started with promise when Kaio was aiming to be the next Yokozuna, but injury put paid to that. Then Hakuho was going to be the next big thing, but again injury has sorted him out. I am not so gloomy about Kotooshuu, I think he will make Ozeki and if he remains free from injury, then I expect big things from him. This of course will not help Sumo in Japan as they need a Japanese hero. Maybe Kisenosato, maybe even Kotoshoogiku, who knows? It is always exciting to watch the next tournament to find out....

I enjoyed the Autumn basho, for what it's worth. Asa actually looked beatable.

I still hold out hope for Kasugaoo to fight through his injury and make Ozeki by November next year!!! B-)

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Reading all the above comments I'm just wondering how was it when Taiho, Chyonofuji or Kitanoumi were so dominating?

The fans were also so bored and fed up with those guys?

(Probably, yes.....considering it's a human nature)

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Reading all the above comments I'm just wondering how was it when Taiho, Chyonofuji or Kitanoumi were so dominating?

The fans were also so bored and fed up with those guys?

(Probably, yes.....considering it's a human nature)

I can't speak for Taiho or Chiyonofuji, but Kitanoumi was surrounded by a gang of very competitive rikishi who made almost every one of his yusho a nail-biter. During the time between his first yusho and his last yusho, there were 65 basho. He won 24 of those, and 12 rikishi won the other 41. He overlapped with Wajima and Chiyonofuji. It was far from boring.

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Guest benkei

I too am not to optimistic about the next few years. I am the BIGGEST Asashoryu fan but it is all too easy for him these days. This will turn into a vicious cycle if something doesn't change soon. If the Japanese youth fails to become interested in Sumo there will be less Japanese youth getting involved in the sport. Baruto Kotooshu, Hakuho and Ama have big futures ahead of them ( they are so young yet), but this will do nothing as they will not draw in the Japanese.

The problems of internationalizing (competitors) in a one nation sport are immense.

I'm scared for the future of Sumo.

Maybe Takanohana Oyakata could change things in several years?

I see a loss in popularity in most martial arts in japan these days. The old way is giving way to the western way (superficially anyways)

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how are You supposed to know the future of Kotooshu and Hakuho? That's unnecessary speculation

I wasn't really inclined to argue about it, but now I am. It seems rather harsh to come down on someone like that if they post an opinion that doesn't exactly jive with yours.

I had an opinion, and I felt like writing a little bit. That's all. Sumoforum might be slightly less interesting if nobody was allowed to post anything that you didn't specifically agree with.

That said. I have not been impressed with Kotooshu. Sure, he's second behind Asashoryu, at the moment. But it's a distant second. If we were talking race cars, Kotooshu would be 3 laps down. But, hey, he'd still be in second, right?

Hakuho is one of my personal favorites. But you know what? At the moment, and for most of this year, he's been pretty "blah."

I've been watching sumo for almost exactly 20 years. That's longer than some, and certainly shorter than a lot. The point is, in the 20 years I've been watching sumo, I saw some great rikishi come up. In my own, simple, meaningless, personal opinion, Hakuho doesn't strike that chord with me that, say, Takanohana, Kaio, Chiyonofuji, or even Wakanohana did. There is a certain something that is barely there in future greats. You can't see it exactly, but you just know it's there. In Hakuho, I just don't get that "vibe." He might be fast up the ladder, but I just don't get that sense of impending greatness from him, like I did when I first saw Takanohana, even when he was in Juryo. I could certainly be wrong. I sense more of another Kotomitsuki, than a great rival to Asashoryu.

Kotooshu is the same. I think he is a great athlete. But he has even less of that "certain something" going. On top of that, his sumo is shaky, at best. High center of gravity, Kinda lanky. Likes to sidestep and slap a little. That's going to irritate the hell out of the fans that feel an Ozeki should "man up." What's worse, it will only work for so long, before the meatgrinder rikishi tire of it, and figure out how to neutralize him. This basho is showing that it has already begun. He's talented to be sure, but he is more in league of Shuzan than Asashoryu. He might hang around and be an ozeki for a while. But it is my personal opinion, ( which is just my opinion,) that he will never be a better Ozeki than what we have right now. Him and kadoban are going to be aquainted with each other. We will start calling him "Ko-doban" pretty soon. If this weeks matches haven't already got his number.

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Reading all the above comments I'm just wondering how was it when Taiho, Chyonofuji or Kitanoumi were so dominating?

The fans were also so bored and fed up with those guys?

(Probably, yes.....considering it's a human nature)

I wasn't around for Taiho. But the impression I get is that it was pretty epic. There were times when he really dominated, and there were times when he was beaten. During his run of yusho, there were like a dozen others who also won a yusho, several more than one.

Chiyonofuji won his yusho's in a time when like 15 or 16 other individuals also won a yusho. So there was always a lot of drama to it.

Asashoryu, on the other hand. In his 15 yusho, only Kaio, Chiyotaikai and Tochiazuma have managed to steal away a yusho here and there. In the last two years, only Kaio has gotten a yusho away from Asashoryu, in Aki '04.

so, no, probably people didn't bitch about it much when Taiho was setting his records.

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how are You supposed to know the future of Kotooshu and Hakuho? That's unnecessary speculation

I wasn't really inclined to argue about it, but now I am. It seems rather harsh to come down on someone like that if they post an opinion that doesn't exactly jive with yours.

I had an opinion, and I felt like writing a little bit. That's all. Sumoforum might be slightly less interesting if nobody was allowed to post anything that you didn't specifically agree with.

Hey, I didn't say I don't agree or You're not allowed to write Your opinion! Your well educated speculations just irked me to be slightly out of context in an essay which I thought was aimed at recollecting facts. Just a formality issue, that's all! I wouldn't have bothered if I hadn't found it well put otherwise.

Sorry if I sounded harsh. B-) No offense intended. :-)

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Trouble is that when I started watching sumo, the various greats were already well established in Sanyaku, so I haven't really seen anyone great, or close to great, come up the ranks.

Except Asashoryu of course who in my honest opinion was not in the early going as impressive as neither Kotooshu or Hakuho. He did show great speed, technique and not least will to win but unlike both Kotooshu and Hakuho he didn't get future great stamped on him from the early going.

Patience I think is vital here. It really isn't that long ago that both of these were in Juryo. Their rise have been nothing short of meteoric and in my opinion very impressive. Hakuho hasn't even had a real losing record yet! Something that neither Asashoryu or Takanohana could say at the same point in their careers. That they're not seriously (and again that's a matter of definition) contesting, or winning even, yusho has in my opinion more to do with a truly great and relative injury free Yokozuna than it has THEIR actual abilities.

Abilities, mental and physical, that only will get better along the way too. Patience people. Patience!

I CAN understand the impatience though, I feel it too. It is frustrating when every tournament from very early on, seem already decided. I'm optimistic though and feel that both Kotooshu and Hakuho, and maybe others too, can raise their already high level, in the very near future.

Edited by Taka

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I'm always thinking of the words of my friend in the mid of 1989. "It's been a boring year news-wise." After that - Iraq entered Qatar, not to mention the rapid collapse of the Eastern German regime. So I prefer to wait before I'd try to say anything retrospective.

In 1989 Iraqi armed forces under orders from Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and slaughtered them by the bushel, not Qatar. It was NFL though, Not For Long.

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Well, I'm not dissapointed. Maybe because I really like small dramas, so even the lack of proper rivals for Asashoryu doesn't spoil my enjoyment. There is something to keep me interested in every part of banzuke, mostly thanks to efforts of Doitsuyama, Jonosuke, Kaikitsune, Kintamayama, Madorosumaru, Naganoyama (and may others)... And now my interest in ama-zumo is also growing: it started mostly because of Nishinoshima's (get well soon!) reports, but now I really look forward to news in ama-sumo part of the Forum. I enjoy watching sumo in way other people enjoy theatre, I guess. I follow the stories, and don't care if they are small or insignificant. I'm also amazed by the realisation I'm witnessing one of the greatest in his prime - it's a rare priviledge, in any sport.

Sumo is what you make of it. Maybe it's not sumo that is getting less interesting, maybe it's just natural saturation with it after following it for so long. But we all look for different things in our hobbies. I look for stories, and sumo is a neverending saga... (Punk rocker...)

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I bet that in ten years from now there will be newcomers to sumo fandom who will be extremely envious about those who had the privilege of witnessing one of the greatest of this sport at his peak.

Isn't it ironic that on the eve of the day where he might as well shatter three decade-old records people on this forum are complaining what dreadful times sumo is going through?

Does the Japanese press sound similarly depressed, or is this a forum phenomenon?

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i would say it is not even a total forum phenomenon ...

some of us really like what we are witnessing.

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Yeah, Asa is going to break the record, that's cool!

I am also praying that Koto no Waka gets a KK, I am going to miss him. Kasugaoo has still to get KK as well, so it has still got my interest. Not to mention Kotooshuu going for Ozeki, that's cool aint it? :-P

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In 1989 Iraqi armed forces under orders from Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and slaughtered them by the bushel, not Qatar. It was NFL though, Not For Long.

As no one hasn't corrected this yet, the little besserwisser inside me must step forward. :-P Iraq's invasion in Kuwait began on August 2nd, 1990.

Edited by Kotoseiya Yuichi

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In 1989 Iraqi armed forces under orders from Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and slaughtered them by the bushel, not Qatar. It was NFL though, Not For Long.

As no one hasn't corrected this yet, the little besserwisser inside me must step forward. (Blushing...) Iraq's invasion in Kuwait began on August 2nd, 1990.

To tell you the truth, when I first saw the date, I had a feeling that it's wrong, because I remember the Gulf War events as being related to the year 1990, even though I myself weren't in Israel back then. The thing is I didn't care enough to actually post anything about it. I'm surprised that you did. :-P

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