Meet Japanese girls and search for jobs in Japan.  Teach English in Japan and study Japanese.  Find travel deals to Japan including flights and cruises.

Day 1

Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10
Day 11
Day 12
Day 13
Day 14

Senshuraku Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Well, its the final day and youre prolly thinking, uh oh, theres nothing of particular interest to talk about and Clancy has the pine tar cloth in hand. This means hes going to either focus on weird details, make up some elaborate lie thatll stretch three paragraphs, or rip David Shapiro a new one. Well, the truth is I did tear the bore a new one, maybe 500 words long, just before dinner: Scathing, bullseyed, and above all, amusing.

But then a funny thing happened on the way to the bath. My son is eight years old and, for lack of a better term, kind of a dork. Hes happy, earnest, sweet, as book smart as a kid that age can be, but in matters of social interaction and personal expression, not the most polished apple in the bushel. Hes only eight, so its not inconceivable he will grow up to be as cool as his pops (tho Id settle for as cool as, say, Arbo), but like any good father, I worry and fret that he could turn out to be one of those adults weve all dealt with at one time or another: Decent, hard working, competent, perhaps even smart--and yet without a scintilla of humor, wit, or panache.

As I listened to my boy tell me some story that was shot through with confusion and dead ends, a patchwork of cognitive stutter stops and cul de sacs, and wondered if hell always be this goofy, it struck me that Shapiro could very well be a similar duck. I volunteer with children in whom the normal progression of mental acuity has been retarded in one way or another, and I have great sympathy for their needs. Im not saying DS is clearly a special needs broadcaster, but the possibility exists to enough of an extent that I ought to take it easy on him. So I went and deleted the entire thing.

But he did say one thing that I can use to make a point. After Hakuho had finished getting all his monies and trophies (loved seeing Kublai Khan get that big ass trophy from the Prime Minister--I had my fingers crossed that the would say, "From one Kan to another Khan," but no such luck), he said, "November is going to be absolutely stunning...its gonna be an amazing time to be a sumo fan."

Though by the exaggerated excitement in his voice it would have been appropriate for NHK to run some icky computer generated graphics of semen dripping down the screen, his remarks do highlight a disturbing fact in current sumo: Lacking any real story other than Hakuho is a killer, the most exciting thing to focus on is an artifice, a number streak that satisfies our oh so human urge to quantify everything and gets stats geeks panties in a knot. Will he or wont he and who gives a shit? (For the record, I dont think Hakuho himself does.) Hes the other wrestlers worst nightmare every time he puts his hands to the clay. What else do we need?

In a bout that a year ago would have been reasonably suspenseful (and would have taken place on Day 14 at best), a thoroughly overmatched Harumafuji drove very hard into the Yokozuna, who let himself be pushed back a meter or so. When Howdos kinetic energy was spent, Hakuho calmly and with authority pushed him back across the ring and out. You call this a senshuraku clash? Im not even going to go on about Asashoryu being gone, and the Ozeki all sucking, cause you know it already.

So really, what other bouts were of interest? Do any of you apart from the M&M Brothers care about the Baruto/Kotooshu fight? Okay, for your sake, here it is. Baruto bent low and used both arms extended to keep the Bulgarian from grabbing the belt he kept reaching for, but Kotooshu slid to the side after several seconds and the Biomass came too far forward, where he was easy picking as Kotooshu got up and under his pits and drove him out. Do I need to say that trying to imagine either of these guys beating Hakuho EVER again is like trying to imagine a two year-old boy sitting still?

Dont misunderstand. I like sumo well enough just for the sake of the art of wrestling, but with all the yaocho and henkas and pulldowns and limp battles and girly tachi-ai, even without the prospect of a yusho race my attention is wearing thin. The confluence of a Japanese society that has moved well away from their ancient singular focus on one sport (and thus has lost many of its young potential sumo stars to soccer, baseball, jai alai, Nintendo, Chatroulette, break dancing), the influx of foreigners from a wrestling culture who are bigger, faster, stronger and more clever than the homegrown, and the advent of television slow motion replay (where anyone who is not self delusional can see the fix is in) has just about brought the sport to a level where I can no longer justify caring about it.

Still, Ill keep writing cause its fun and I like to make the six or seven of you who are not gaming every moment of your lives and who actually read the reports chuckle from time to time. Plus if I quit Mike promises to report me to Immigration for committing unnatural acts on a tanuki (he says hes got photographic evidence, and seeing as how drunk I get whenever he visits, I cannot risk calling his bluff).

The venerable Samuel Langhorne Clemens once wrote that he never let his schooling get in the way of his education. Weve all been schooled on the idea that sumo is straight up fair, never fixed. But we here at twenty-first century Sumotalk, freed from our bonds by hypertext transfer protocols, have tried to educate, using detailed written descriptions of the bouts, coupled with video evidence, reinforced by reasoned analysis, and capped with damning statistics, and still many think Kaio can win eight on his own power. Today Aran showed how easy it is to beat the Moldzeki by moving to the side and then clinching him in tight and muscling him out.

But dont be fooled into thinking that one NEEDS to henka to beat him, cause its not true. Anyone of the three rikishi Baruto, Harumafuji, or Kisenosato could have beaten Kaio in a chest-to-chest bout. They all let him win. They love him and want him to be an Ozeki in his hometown basho. They can do whatever they like, I dont care. Just dont expect me to pretend it aint happenin.

No one is going to deny that Tochiohzans recent success has been a sweet note in an otherwise tinny year, and today he got his 11th win by pushing at Asasekiryu for a few seconds until the Mongolian slipped to the clay. Riveting.

Kisenosato bullied out Aminishiki (who, already in possession of his KK, was simply punching the clock) to finish 7-8. He dutifully put his head on the chopping block for Kaio yesterday, even though he has the reputation of being one of the rikishi who does not participate in the “I wash yours, you wash mine” trade. His sacrifice will not be forgotten, so dont be surprised to find The Kid finish with a great record in November, and with a few wins over Ozeki. Who knows, he may even be given the role of streak stopper (tho it seems to me that Hakuho has been given the green light to go balls out vs. everyone he wrestles since Asa was put to pasture, hence the four straight 15-0).

Yoshikaze gave his best vs. Kakuryu, but the Mongolian was able to win this pushfest with a neat little slapdown to book a Sekiwake spot in the years final basho. Nice 11-4 for Starbuck (tho he fought no one of repute until the final two days and got pwned both times).

Younger and stronger and with more upside Tokusegawa got a deadly two handed grip on Tokitenku, but death does not faze this guy, who comes back like a zombie at the edge. Finally Tokusegawa put it a yori-kiri bullet into its brain to finish 6-9. 2-13 Tokidoki might as well have been rooming in Cell Block H this time out for all the shtooping he received from the fellas.

Bit of a down basho for Tochinoshin, who had to eke out his KK the last few days vs. scrubs. Apart from that win over HowDo he couldnt duplicate the form he had in May. Still, hes here to stay and there is no doubt in my mind he has Ozeki written all over him.

Takekaze finished 12-3 with an impressive win over Kotoshogiku. The Might Mite got into the double arms inside moro-zashi right from the tachi-ai, and never let it go, resisting the Geekus repeated attempts at squirming out of it. One thing that struck me watching this bout is that Geeku is not really all that much larger than Takekaze, especially in height.

So jun-yusho for Takekaze!!? Uh, do you think Hakuho will win 70 or maybe 77? Or what if he like, you know, wins until like, say, the last day he lost this year, or even beyond? Im so excited about it all!!

Are you like me and wonder why the hell we need a guy (in this case Hiro Morita) to describe what were actually WATCHING? Why do they have guys like this? The replay analysis I understand, but let us watch the bout as it unfolds without youre blabbering. I can see for myself whats happening. This isnt god damned radio!

Both men coming in at 7-7 won today, Sokokurai muscling out happy KK Korporal Kokkai, and the Gentle Giant Tochinonada buying himself some more top division time with a emphatic crush out win over the Korean Kimchi Kommando Kasugao. Sad to see Tosanoumi get crushed this time, and not a one of us will be surprised if we hear that the Blue Collar Man is joining the sweet, flat faced Iwakiyama in retirement. Speaking of whom, we always enjoyed the Moon in the Man here at ST. He was a stand up fighter, always gave an honest tachi-ai and never put his hands down to brace his fall like many of the current crop of pussies. A warrior who will be missed. Farewell.

Day 14 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
You never want the yusho to hinge on the likes of Yoshikaze and Takekaze needing to win against jo'i rikishi in order to keep the yusho race alive, but that's exactly the scenario we faced heading into day 14. It's not as if the yusho was ever up for grabs anyway, so it was no wonder that the biggest buzz of the day was generated when Sylvester Stallone entered the building with about 30 minutes left to go.

Let's start with the Oguruma-beya duo who had to win inorder to force Hakuho to beat Kotooshu in the day's final bout to clinch the yusho. Oh the drama!! M11 Yoshikaze needed to solve M3 Kotoshogiku, but his only answer was weak tsuppari that quickly turned into putting his hands up high as if to attempt a pull-down, but Kotoshogiku just laughed off the pretender striking hard at the tachi-ai and shoving him back and across the straw without argument. So much for phase 1 of this faux yusho race. The Geeku moves to 9-5 with the easy victory while Yoshikaze falls to 11-3 forcing Takekaze to extend the yusho race to the end of the day.

M12 Takekaze had to overcome the hurdle that was M2 Tochinoshin, who struck with a dual kachi-age at the tachi-ai, but the tenacious Takekaze wasn't fazed working his way inside to moro-zashi. Tochinoshin quickly countered with two outer grips, and it was apparent at this point that Takekaze couldn't budge the Georgian. Takekaze did shake off Shin's right outer grip, so the Private responded by grabbing Takekaze around the back of the neck with the right hand before bowling him over to the dirt with the left outer grip. And just like that...ballgame. Hakuho skates to his 16th career yusho before even facing Ozeki Kotooshu.

Regarding the day's finale, Yokozuna Hakuho just crushed Ozeki Kotooshu back at the tachi-ai using a right arm on the inside to force the Bulgarian back so fast, Kotooshu only survived by stepping one foot just within the toku-dawara behind him. Kotooshu did manage to force the action back to the center of the ring using a right inside grip, but Hakuho never stopped pressing with his left outer grip using it to throw Kotooshu over to the edge aided by a nudge inside the Ozeki's thigh to completely set up Kotooshu for the oshi-dashi win that sent Kotooshu flying off the dohyo.

If Kotooshu is the second best rikishi on the banzuke, this was clearly an indication of just how superior Hakuho is. Oh, and he's also 14-0 if you need him. Kotooshu falls to 9-5, and it's an utter shame that the best the Ozeki can do these days after 14 day is nine wins.  As for Hakuho, he met up with Sly Stallone afterwards for a photo-op, and after Sly put a fist next to Hakuho's jaw as the flashbulbs flew, the Yokozuna responded by grabbing Sly with both arms and lifting him clear off the ground as easy as you please.  Careful now.  You don't want to give Stallone-san any new ideas for another Rocky picture.

Speaking of tired, let's move to the Ozeki ranks where our Ozeki duel today saw Baruto greet Harumafuji with two hands to the throat (called moro-te-zuki) leaving Harumafuji no choice but to try and evade to the side. He chose back and to his right, but Baruto was onto him like Estonian/Romanian stalkers to their prey easily pushing Harumafuji back and out for the win. Baruto (9-5) one-ups his counterpart who stands at 8-6.

Prior to the basho, I thought that Kaio was in trouble reasoning that the Association just couldn't afford any yaocho right now due to the scrutiny surrounding the sport, but Kaio's bouts against Harumafuji and Aminishiki were so damn obvious that the Ozeki's kachi-koshi was a given. Today, against Komusubi Kisenosato, both rikishi moved to the right looking for the cheap outer grip, so with separation created from the tachi-ai, Kaio went for a quick pull down that didn't do the trick and left the two rikishi in the hidari-yotsu position. From there, Kisenosato made one half-assed attempt at a right outer grip, but the Kid knows his place among the hierarchy of team Japan and allowed the Ozeki to force him back and out for the win. Kisenosato falls to 6-8 suffering make-koshi with the loss, but he will be back. It was do or die for Kaio, so this one was a no-brainer for both rikishi. And yes, it's official. Kaio clinches kachi-koshi.

Sekiwake Tochiohzan greeted M5 Hakuba with a right paw to the throat that was so effective, Hakuba had no time to escape to his left. He tried anyway rendering him the easy push-out fodder from there for the Sekiwake whose already put a stamp on this basho at 10-4. Hakuho is 8-6 thanks to a weak banzuke.

Sekiwake Aran henka'd to his left at the tachi-ai against M4 Tokusegawa, and regardless of the outcome, that tells you all you need to know about the Russian's basho. A tachi-ai henka against a newbie to the jo'i? There's his mindset for you. As for the bout, Aran (6-8) capitalized on the off-balance Mongolian by eventually pushing him out, but the Russian still looked uncomfortable winning with forward-moving sumo after that henka. Tokusegawa fell to 5-9 with the loss.

Not to be outdone, M4 Aminishiki picked up his eighth win by henka'ing Komusubi Kakuryu to his left as well slapping the Mongolian to the clay in a split second. Just great. I'm sure the ST crew at the Kokugikan came out of their seats for this one as both rikishi end up 8-6.

M6 Mokonami and M1 Wakanosato fought the longest bout of the basho that saw the two hook up in the hidari-yotsu pose and then largely stand around from there. I got so feed up waiting for any action that I fast forwarded the bout to the end where Moe finally made a move going for a right outer dashi-nage only to be foiled by a Wakanosato counter scoop throw. With both rikishi exhausted, Wakanosato finally felled Mokonami to the dirt with a right outer grip of his own. Both dudes are 4-10.

At this point in the broadcast, there was a noticeable disturbance in the crowd as Sly Stallone made his entrance into the arena, and I can't imagine how that ever over overshadowed the M1 Tokitenku - M9 Bushuyama matchup, but damned if it didn't. Apparently, Tokitenku was also impressed by Sly's presence because he got his ass kicked by Bushuyama who used his beefy tsuppari to pummel Tenku around the ring and out in about five seconds. Tokitenku was thinking all pull in this one as he falls to 2-12 while Bushuyama improved to 5-9. Getting back to the real news of the bout, Sylvester Stallone was bathed in a bevy of flashbulbs as he took his special box seat flanked by Dolph Lundgren and the largest green blob that I've ever seen that some said was Konishiki in a green t-shirt.

M5 Takamisakari used his lanky arms to try and grab M2 Homasho, but Homie stayed low eventually forcing the bout to hidari-yotsu, and from there, the genki'er Homasho (6-8) bulldozed Takamisakari (3-11) back and out with little fanfare.

M3 Kyokutenho exhibited a rare hari-zashi tachi-ai slapping with the left hand, but it was a useless move as M13 Sokokurai simply lurched into moro-zashi. Kyokutenho wrenched his smaller foe over to the edge with a kime-dashi attempt, but it came from the center of the dohyo, so the Chauffeur wasn't quite able to polish Sokokurai off. The rookie took advantage of his compromised opponent from there, hoisting Tenho up in the air with a tsuri attempt, and then turning the tables and walking Kyokutenho across the straw that last step. This was great stuff from Sokokurai, who is actually still alive at 7-7. Kyokutenho, who should beat the smaller Sokokurai nine times out of 10, falls to 4-10.

M6 Asasekiryu entertained M14 Tochinonada by actually playing to the Gentle Giant's strength, hidari-yotsu, but it was no matter as Asasekiryu used his speed to grab a right outer grip and flip Nada onto his back with an outer belt throw. Sexy moves to 9-5 with the win while Tochinonada is still alive at 7-7.

M13 Kasugao offered little resistance in the migi-yotsu contest against M7 Tosayutaka of all rikishi. I like Tosayutaka, but the Kimchi Kid didn't even try here as Tosayutaka walked him back for the uneventful yori-kiri win that left both rikishi at 6-8.

M7 Kitataiki was gifted his win today by the very nature of being paired against M17 Toyozakura, who offered lame tsuppari at the tachi-ai but failed to keep Kitataiki from eventually forcing his way inside with the left hand setting up the quick force-out from there. Kitataiki is a quiet 9-5, but the rikishi who actually deserve to be in the division are cleaning up this basho. Toyozakura falls to 6-8, so it's good-bye to romance yet again for the M17.

M8 Kokkai gave a little hop at the tachi-ai perfectly aligning his feet allowing M15 Gagamaru to step in and smother his countryman with a left inside position and right outer grip. The Korporal could do nothing as he was marched back and out in a flash by his inferior, Gagamaru, who improves to 9-5. Kokkai still lives to fight another day at 8-6.

When M15 Kakizoe doesn't false start anymore, you know he's given up, and even though he threw a couple of bitch slaps against M9 Kimurayama that didn't really connect, Kim just laughed it all off pushing Zoe Jane out in the end to a 3-11 record. Don't look now, but Kimurayama at 8-6 has managed to kachi-koshi twice in a row, which tells you just how bad the banzuke was the last coupla basho.

As Andreas pointed out yesterday, when a rikishi has clinched kachi-koshi and faces a rikishi with seven wins, chances are pretty good that the guy who needs the win will get it. And it was no different today when M14 Tamawashi (9-5) lamely charged forward and watched as M10 Shimotori moved to the left at the tachi-ai and pushed Tamawashi to the dirt a half second in. Shimotori (8-6) picks up kachi-koshi in the process with a rare tsuki-otoshi win ifyaknowadduhmean.

A bout against M16 Tosanoumi has equaled a guaranteed win this basho, and despite M11 Kotokasuga attacking too high and giving up a ridiculously easy uwate, he was able to drag the hapless Tosanoumi (2-12) to the dohyo with as mediocre an inner grip as you'll ever see. Kotokasuga clinches kachi-koshi at 8-6 with the win, and he's been hot since his 0-3 start.

And finally, in a total meaningless bout between two guys who aren't Makuuchi material, M12 Koryu and M16 Kyokunankai traded Juryo caliber tsuppari for about five seconds before Koryu scored on a weak pulldown. At 5-9, Koryu may be able to keep himself in the division, but let's hope not. Kyoku-nun-kai is 4-10.

Clancy wraps up the festivities tomorrow.

Day 13 Comments (Andreas Kungl reporting)
It's Friday, Day 13 of Aki basho 2010 - Ladies and Gentlemen - and your are reading a daily report that has just been freed of a lengthy and somewhat pathos ridden explanation about why your contributor - me - hadn't been able to warm your sheets for such a long time. I don't know how you do such things, but I prefer the quadruple left-click followed by a wholehearted smack on the DEL key. Anyhow, here I go again, this time still in feathery brevity. I plan to be back in full combat mode come Kyushu.

But here is the moment, here is the NOW, the importance of which has been taught to us recently no less than sixty consecutive times by the good Grandmaster White Phoenix. In the closest past of now's now - let's call it "last week" - I was troubled by two things (well, three, if you count Martin dropping in on his way to Japan): Hakuho could very likely secure the yusho on my day and Kaio could less likely lose his rank for good, leaving me in charge of dreaming up another eulogy after having to dismiss his chum Pup already a couple of tournaments ago. Fortunately (is it?), no such things occurred, and you may forgive me for spoiling the, ahem, suspense right here in the intro.

A question that troubles me, now that I joined the ranks of humanity's most despicable scum - the file sharers - gulping down torrent after torrent, madly laughing about my own unspeakable misdeeds against the grand cultural achievement that is digital rights management: Why can Darth Vader dispose of the Emperor just by throwing him down this bloody shaft? I mean, all those Jedi and Sith do all this telekinesis and shit and the almightiest of the whole bunch cannot even levitate himself? I mean, come on!, you now? But now that I have obtained my first copy of the crime that is Return of the Jedi after losing the VHS, what, 20 years ago, I could also finally pursue a suspicion I had subconsciously kept alive all these years. Thus, I made a frame-by-frame analysis of the conclusive stages of Vader's lightsaber clash with that little faggot (No offense! Most if not all of my best friends are gay. Gay is - well - gay. I mean faggot as in Harley Davidson.), and you know what?! It's Y-A-O-C-H-O! At some point Vader - without being hit! - just steps to the side, then bends his knees, clutches this stupid handrail and calmly waits for Junior to tsukidashi his hand. "Wow!", I thought, "Just Wow!"

I will quickly translate an advertisement that literally flashes around here on the dictionary site that I have to use in order to make this report blossom: "How can we achieve a balance between social responsibility and economical interest? 'Achieving Balance' - the workshop on sustainability for students, postgraduates and [in English:] Young Professionals of all specializations. 25th to 28th of November. [in English:] Building Global Leaders. McKinsey&Company." Good question. 

Hey, Martin visited me, I already said so. Traveling is not made easy for our Romanian friends, so he was forced to some serious capital hopping. From Bucharest he flew to my dear Riga, where he hopped onto the bus to Tallinn, where he - joined by the good doctor plus spouse - took the chopper to Helsinki, to finally board the plane to Tokyo. And boy, is he there. Friend Mario published his photos of the ST posse schmoozing with big Bart, who didn't wear a kimono in public.

Martin's visit marked the first time I picked up one of the men I met on the internet.

He arrived at "Terminal" C of the great airport Riga "International". I hate to say it, but "Terminal" C usually sees only the arrival of planes from pretty rough places. No flowers in the guns there, I assure you. Anyhow, I arrived way too early. You check the monitor with all the announcements, wonder if there are other possible "Comments" than "Approaching", "Landed" or "Delayed" ("Crashed" maybe? "Hijacked"? "F**ked off"?), and use this information to make educated guesses about when the people from "your" plane start to emerge from the exit. So I was standing there, thinking "No, still Arabs. Wait, did I smell garlic? Romania, vampires, garlic? Ah, no, maybe still Uzbekistan. From which plane came these goats they are chasing out now?" Etcetera. When he finally arrived, I was well prepared for opening a potentially awkward first conversation:

"You must be Martin. How was your cavity search?"

"My what?"

"Your cavity search. Don't tell me they let you guys into their brave little country without proper security measures."

"Well, ahahaha, alright, let's go."

And so we did.

Martin knows how to hold his cue. He is larger than life. And he is not beyond showing his own father The Finger. He, I must admit, reminded me a lot of the young Skywalker.

Yeah, I know you wait for the bouts, but life is so interesting and sumo is so boring. I guess this is my own fault, though. I'm just not geeky enough. Half the population of current Makuuchi is, well, foreign... No wait! I mean, strange. Kyokunankai?! I mean, seriously?! There's a Chinese, who is really Mongolian. There's Koryu, who I will happily forget about once again as soon as he drops back to Juryo (again). Tosanoumi is still alive?! Toyozakura?! Is this a time rift, or what?!

And what makes me really angry is that I find myself forced to use all these "?!", which I despise when produced by others.

Let's compromise. I will write about only a few bouts, but I will try to be entertaining. Deal?!

Hell, no. Let's postpone the actual "action" by throwing around a few statistics. Today four of four rikishi who had achieved their kachi-koshi on the previous day lost their respective bouts. Listen all ya sumo gamers: This happens every single bloody basho. All of the time. It's a cosmic truth. Like Kaio getting his eight. Speaking of whom. What's this: 8-5-2, 1-5-9, 9-6, 8-7, 8-7, 8-7, 9-6, 9-6, 1-3-11, 8-7, 8-7, 8-7, 8-7, 8-7, 8-7, 9-6, 8-7, 9-6, 6-5-4? Yeah, I knew that you would know it. Wait! Not a single final day 7-8? Now tell me once more that you reject any notion about what we all know is true...

When Shimotori clashed with Mokonami today, it looked like a big cheese hugging a big steak. Cheese prevailed.

I am sad to announce that Hokutoriki will soon be gone for good. Already struggling in lower Makuuchi for a while, he obviously injured his knee and will certainly drop to Juryo either right after Aki, or pretty soon anyway. Sure he is archetypically one-dimensional, but this guy worked 52 basho below sekitorihood before earning the right to perform in an additional 53 tournaments in the upper two divisions. This commands respect. And I gladly give it to him.

Maegashira Kotokasuga, whoever he is, exemplified today how one could deal with a monstrosity like Gagamaru. While people figured out that a delayed tachi-ai plus lateral thrusting works well when facing behemoth YMY, the approach is less effective against the big Georgian, who is still a bit more mobile than Twin Peaks. So this Koto dude bravely took the charge instead, awarding him with double inside arm position. Here comes the tricky part. Had he chosen to settle for double inside grips, he may have found himself in an awkward position still, what with Gaga being not exactly lightweight furniture. Instead, Koto only placed the left hand on his aite's mawashi, using the right to prop up his counterpart and most importantly his feet to force a circular motion that finally felled the fatter one of the fat ones via sukui-nage. I really liked the execution of this.

If Homasho cannot defeat an aging Wakanosato who entered the day at 2-10, he will never become sanyaku. Period.

Tochinoshin is as tall as Hakuho and even weighs a little more. I constantly find myself in complete puzzlement about this fact. The Georgian youngster (still 22!) somehow looks slim even. He's got one set of thighs, though, baby. Steel wire columns that are strong and fast. As could be seen against friend Hakuba, who does once again surprisingly well all in all. The Private totally anticipated the usual left shift of his opponent, mirroring the movement and catching the runaway within a split second. Then the hydraulic pumps started working as the incredible Tochinoshin lifted his fellow Maegashira mid-dohyo to drop him down outside the ring two seconds later. In the audience Mario's fiancé fainted. Questions: Will Hakuba replace Aminishiki as the shneakiest of shneaksters? Are there dancing schools that use hydraulic pumps?

Do I need to comment on Aminishiki vs. Kaio? When Kaio settled for the tachi-ai, his almost equally veteran opponent, known for his cunning and alertness, came to him, defenses down, with the trust of a child. Quite some people say that Kaio wins all his bouts legitimately. Quite some people say that Kaio couldn't even compete in upper Juryo anymore without bribing. I think both views are wrong. Kaio is very well f**king senior to almost anyone and for a reason. He is 170 kilos of condensed experience. He would be able to stick around in Makuuchi for a while longer. But. Anyway, Kaio will be an Ozeki still in Kyushu, and I don't really care anymore. BTW, he won three out of three against fellows from Tatsunami ichimon. Maybe they will give him Takamisakari on senshuraku to make sure. Aminishiki received an onion from his tsukebito after the bout. The latter, in turn, had acquired it from Harumafuji's servant.

Thinking about Takekaze and Yoshikaze, the two happy dwarves from Oguruma beya, I was wondering: Was there ever a rikishi called "Kamikaze"? Check it out!

So both of our Kazes keep the yusho race open, hah? Who am I kidding? At least their struggle for a (possibly collective) sansho keeps their efforts interesting, with Take making an ironic statement today by hop-fly-henkaing Kimurayama of all people. Ugly for the eye, good for the soul. Brother Yoshi wouldn't let this stand and engaged in one of the ugliest, sloppiest bouts in recent history against the highly motivated 8-4 Kokkai. Copykaze stand at 11-2, jun-yusho secured....

...because Kotooshu surprisingly lost to fellow Ozeki Harumafuji, thus granting his rrrrrrival a premature kachi-koshi ohboythisisallunbearable. I honestly don't know if it was gifted or not. Both men clashed hard enough alright and engaged in a high-speed tsuppari exchange. At one point Oshu misfired while Ama dodged. Enough for a lethal rearward position (I laughed about this expression, what about you?), that led to a well executed okuri-nage by a highly aware Harumafuji. I honestly don't know.

The bout between our two shin-Sekiwake Aran and Tochiohzan curiously enough showed what is still wrong with both men's sumo. And that in a very simple fashion. Aran henkaed in best Roho tradition (Remember The Thug? Those were the times...), while The New Japanese HopeTM (courtesy of forumer Asashosakari) lunged out blindly. Nevertheless, Aran will soon be fit enough to become a sanyaku mainstay, IF he is prepared to work on his sumo basics. Tochiohzan, on the other hand, slowly but steadily improved over the last couple of years. He is today's hottest candidate for Ozekihood. Notwithstanding brainfarts like seen here, his quota of really stupid losses gradually drops, making him a factor to watch out for as soon as Kaio's gone (i.e. 2016).

That leaves us with the Invincible Hulkuho against the Baltic Bombatron. After a more then decent tachi-ai by both men, the Estonian principally chose the right approach by vehemently denying the right-hand inside grip the Yokozuna sought with purpose. But Hakuho's current strength also derives from the ability to give way if he needs to. Thus, he absorbed the Ozekis momentum and finally managed to force migi-yotsu, gaining the decisive advantage of a supplementary outside grip quickly after settling for the mid-dohyo stance. This was the moment when Baruto lost the bout. Not that it might be easy, but he strictly must deny that second grip. Anyway, from here Hakuho marched forward (not without struggle to be fair), turning a potential yori-kiri into the alternative pathway of uwate-nage. Hakuho's arsenal is now close to the collection of Asashoryu's finest days. Baruto's fault today was that he faced the wrong guy.

Tidbits and scraps: Hakuho will march on to another zensho. Wooohooo and yipeeayey, even. Will he conquer Futabayamas 69? I sense his internal struggle between warrior pride and the reluctance to best his idol. He will probably equal the score and then lie down in the next bout. Or maybe not. One of the next three basho should be handed to Baruto, so why not Kyushu after Hakuho's final score is defined? Who will stop Hakuho? Forumers Jejima and Asashosakari suggest Kaio for symmetry or Tochiohzan for HopeTM. I say it will only happen by the hands of this new recruit, whose name is simply "U".

BREAKING NEWS: Hanaregoma-rijicho announces that all results of day 13 have been canceled because three European visitors were caught sitting in the wrong seats. "In my current position, I cannot call constant matta anymore, so I just stick to other senseless measures to distract from stuff.", he is somehow quoted.

The Force is strong with Mike Wesemann, so do what he says without questions. Tomorrow. And take a shower before you sit down to read.

Day 12 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
Yes, it seems it's all about the streak now with the yusho a given and barely a side story. This is further evidenced by another Ozeki drop out from the yusho picture in day 11. Now we've got the big dog being chased by two low-ranking Maegashira from the stable of everyone's favorite analyst, Oguruma Oyakata (formerly Kotokaze).

Yoshikaze and Takekaze--a double dose of wind, if you will--are breezing their way through the rank-and-file. M11 Yoshikaze posted an impressive W against Chinese youngster Sokokurai by attacking from the side, then following up with a stiff nodowa to quickly take control of the bout. M12 Takekaze made even quicker work of Shimotori by employing a hit and pull at the tachi-ai. Both Oguruma charges improve to 10-2. Yoshikaze in particular is in good position to eclipse his best ever Makuuchi showing of 11-4 posted back in November of 2008.

Other notables in the rank-and-file include the two Georgians--Kokkai and the Gargantuan Gagamaru--both chalking up their 8th win against 4 losses, the first of hopefully many majority win Makuuchi bashos for Gaga.

Be glad the 2 Kaze's and the 2 Georgians are making some noise, because the Ozeki sure aren't. It should be these guys pulling their weight in the shadow of Hakuho's dominance, but we're not seeing it. Baruto laid an egg against M4 Aminishiki, looking uncoordinated when his narrow attack to Ami's chin (with both hands) missed its mark. Ami deftly maneuvered to the right and got behind Baruto for an easy okuri-dashi win. Baruto drops to 8-4 while Ami improves to 7-5. It was a nice win for Aminishiki, who had a contingent from his hometown middle school on hand via a long field trip from northern Japan.

And Kotooshu, the last Ozeki somewhat within striking range of Hakuho coming into today's action. Turns out he drops the ball as well, against the surging Tochiohzan. After Oshu's tachi-ai didn't phase Tochi, Oshu eventually pulled and thus dug his own grave--an oshi-dashi win for the Sekiwake. Oshu drops to 9-3 and out of the Yusho hunt while Tochiohzan improves to 9-3. Dare I say Tochiohzan has supplanted Kisenosato as the home country's next Ozeki hopeful?

The only Ozeki to manage a win today was Harumafuji, who overcame Sekiwake Aran. Aran made the same mistake as Kotooshu, resorting to an ill-advised pull which gave away any remaining momentum and thus completely did himself in. Harumafuji puts up a huge 7th win before his peer match-ups begin; Aran drops to 4-8 and must brace for demotion in Kyushu.

That leaves Hakuho-Kaio, an intriguing if not emotional match-up. Kaio is the last rikishi to beat Hakuho back on day 13 in January. Since then Haku has compiled 58 consecutive victories. Could the 6-5 Kadoban old timer hanging on for dear life and pull off a miracle book-end performance? Uh, no. In a mild surprise this one started as a tsuppari affair, and Kaio even showed some agility by maneuvering laterally to stay somewhat competitive. But eventually the two locked arms, although neither got a belt grip. Hakuho didn't need it. He just kept Kaio close so as to not let him use his patented arm tug and proceeded to guide him gracefully out of the ring. No problem. 59 in a row. 10 away now from the ultimate milestone of 69.

Can Hakuho make it through the rest of the Ozeki rank unblemished? You never know, but with the Yusho now virtually in hand and the Ozeki bumbling the way they have been, it certainly looks likely. See you in November folks. Enjoy the last 3 days.

Day 11 Comments (Óscar Gutiérrez reporting)
With the Sumotalk crew going today to the Kokugikan and a reservation with Baruto at the most expensive restaurant in Tokyo after the action on the dohyo ends up, they had to find some chump that wouldn't mind to just sit at the office, watching the ultra-expensive 12" monitor installed for reporters (the 60" plasma screen is for the big boys, they told me), answering the phones and receiving the daily tanker full of beer that comes here (mostly consumed by Clancy). So here I am again, holding the fort, instead of watching sumo live as everybody else is doing right now. Great. Just when they were leaving early this morning they told me: "Water the plants also if you have some time", sure...I'm going to put self-made fertilizer on them. I'd better eat some more of that bean stew...


- (Mike told me I had to answer:" Sumotalk, Óscar Gutiérrez is attending you, how may I be of assistance?", I decided to change the line a little bit) Yup?

- Are you happy with your long distance call provider?

- No, we don't have a phone here

- ...(silence)...but, sir...I'm...talking to you ...I just called're on the phone right now

- If I were, I'd know that, don't you think?

- ......But.........the pone, we're talking, you know.

-Yeah, suuuuuure....

- .......well, sir, have a nice day, thank you.

5th time they call in the last hour. Love to make THEM hang up...

Well, enough with my tribulations, let's start with the action.

Tosanoumi is washed up already. Today he went all up at the tachi-ai as he always has done, but couldn't move Hochiyama a single step back. Hochiyama, tired of waiting, decided to go for the pull and it simply worked. The blue collar man gets his 10th consecutive loss and will be back to Juryo and I think his intai is not that far away. Hochiyama lives to die another day, 4-7 for him and not likely to visit Makuuchi soon.

Toyozakura came out firing tsuppari against Kakizoe, but the beetle didn't want any of that and grabbed the right arm of his opponent. He tried to take it with him, but Zakura preferred it attached to his body. Without letting the arm go, beetle put a stiff nodowa at Toyozakura's neck but the veteran resisted and Zoe opted for reversing gears and throw him with the arm bar, but Zakura survived and threw the little one with the counter maneuver using his locked arm. I swear to Homer I heard a voice with eastern European accent (Rumanian or something like that) in the stands shouting "Sakatottari!!!". Toyozakura walks to his 5th win and has still a chance to get the kachi-koshi. Dung Beetle bites the dust and makes his make-koshi official. He'll need to win it all if he doesn't want to fall to Juryo for the first time in his career.

Sokokurai tried to go Hakuba on Gagamaru. Problem: it's easier to jump than to go round Radio Gaga. The Georgian simply steamrolled him in less than 2 seconds. 7-4 for Gagamaru, who has cooled off since his good start, but has the KK almost in the bag. 5-6 for the shin-nyu-maku, respectable enough.

Kotokasuga came out well low in his battle against Tochinonada. Nada tried to deny him the inside position, created some separation to work with and just pushed from the left side his compromised foe. 7th win for Nada, taking advantage of his competition. Kotokasuga falls under the .500 mark.

Moo and Koryu was a battle of styles, yotsu vs. tsuki-oshi. When the bout settled in yotsu, you knew who was going to get the W. Moo simply used his superior skills with a powerful left-uwate to dismantle the struggling Mongolian escorting him out of the dohyo. Moo gets over the line and will probably get his kachi-koshi. Koryu has won two more bouts than me this basho and should be a lock to his beloved Juryo if he keeps this pace.

Hokutoriki used his moro-te (two hands at the neck) tachi-ai to keep Kyokunankai at bay. He circled a little bit always controling the pace of the bout and the neck of his opponent and then switched gears to let him fall to the dirt. The Jokester can't push even the scrubs any more, and he gets only his 4th win in this Juryo-filled banzuke. Kyokunankai has the same score in his debut on the division, not that bad considering his 32 years and his level, but well, the banzuke down here just sucks...

Bushuyama, tired of everybody getting to second base with him (that's the problem of having that rack), tried to pull the same trick on Kasugao. The Korean got pushed to the edge, but if there's something he can do well is throwing. He locked Bushu's arm and crashed him to the ground via kote-nage stopping the dirty caressing. 5th win for the Korean, 7th loss for Dolly, who at least today was the sexual offender.

In a fight for kachi-koshi, Kimurayama received Tamawashi with the slightest of steps to the left. Come on, big boy, a little bit more and you can go straight (I'm starting to think he has more weight on that side of the body, like he's missing a testicle or something). Tamawashi slipped slightly at the tachi-ai, and they exchanged slaps when Kimu found the first opening by pushing the arms of the Mongolian gaining his side and leaving him in a difficult position. Still, the Mawashi fought back and steamrolled Kimu to the tawara, but Lefty resisted and escaped to his right, puzzling everyone. Here the Mawashi could have touched cloth, but decided to settle this with a slap contest. That was as sad as dancing with your sister. Finally, a stiff right nodowa from the Mongolian made Kimu step out practically by himself when trying to create some separation to work (surely planning to evade to his left, ha). So Tamawashi gets his kachi-koshi after starting with a dismal 0-3, and Kimurayama still has to wait, and knowing his history, where he uses to reach 7 wins early and failed at the end every time except the last one, is not a sure bet to get it.

Takekaze and Kokkai stepped both to their rights (it wasn't going to be pretty, what did you think?), but Kaze kept his opponent in front of him while Kokkai was still hoping for Kaze to stay where he was at the beginning. So Kaze, having won his opponent's side, had a nice position to work. He simply grabbed the right uwate, stepped further to the right and pushed Kokkai forward sending him to the ground for the easy uwate-dashi-nage win. 9th win for him (losing against Sokokurai and Tochinonada, my word, he could be zensho...). Kokkai will have to wait for his kachi-koshi, he'll eventually get it but certainly isn't deserving it.

The KFC (this has nothing to do with chicken, just like the other one, it's only the acronym for Kitataiki's Fan Club, whose president is Mike and his "voluntary" members, the rest of the Sumotalk crew) got the joy of watching his beloved one winning today. The bout with Tosayutaka settled in hidari-yotsu position, but only K featured an inside grip. Compact tried to get that himself but K rebuffed him, got the inside on that side as well and went vintage-self gorgeously pushing Tosayutaka out. Kitataiki gets now over the line of truth (.500), while Tosayutaka goes under it.

Asasekiryu started as usual, trying to lift his opponent with his right and to get a grip with his left, but what he found was that Yoshikaze had started low enough not to be bothered by that lifting attempt and getting easily on the inside with both arms. Starbucks didn't waste time and swung Sexy easily from the inside without needing any belt grip to get to 9 wins already, just like his fatter mate at the heya, Takekaze. Sexy's a quiet 6-5.

Well, the break is coming, let's find that gorgeous plant on the conference room, I need to get rid of the bean stew already...Awww, that's better, and just in time for the next bout...I wonder where they're going to set the meetings, that stink won't come out for at least a month.

Giku came out like a rocket aiming at Tokusegawa's belt. Look at this one if you can, if only to see the difference a side step makes. The Mongolian did it to get the cheap uwate and left Kotomitsuki's impersonator with empty hands. Tokusegawa didn't ramble too long and simply forced the issue with the left uwate to get a strong yori-taoshi win. But remember, that's the difference a step to the side makes, the difference between a boy and a man. Tokusegawa saves the make-koshi and leaves Giku still one win away from kachi-koshi.

Finally Homasho is fighting like himself amongst the big boys. To speak the truth, he only has "praiseworthy" (or sort of) wins over both Komusubi, but at least he's being himself. Today he postponed the make-koshi going for his usual balanced push attack and grabbing a left uwate when Mokonami slipped, which he used to escort the injured Mongolian out. Solid sumo for Homasho, who inflicts make-koshi on Mokonami.

The next bout, featuring two yotsu specialists, showed a lopsided head-to-head record with 11 consecutive wins for Wakanosato. Croco got the left inside and embraced Takamisakari strongly forcing him backwards. Robocop, a master of last minute recoveries, tried to fight back and turn the tables, but Wakanosato's been hanging around for ages and answered backpedaling a little bit to push Takamisakari to the ground from that inside position he gained at the tachi-ai. Both 'duds' have only 2 wins.

Tokitenku simply walked into moro-zashi. That's a helluva start, but today's rival, the Chauffeur, can work from the outside as well. Tenho got moro-uwate (both outside grips) and Tenku decided to go for the kill by lifting him. That's pretty much useless if you don't have an overwhelming strength advantage and more so if you pull that move in the middle of the dohyo. Though spectacular, Tokidoki gained nothing from it, and the Chauffeur simply waited in his car with two hands firmly on the wheel (metaphorically the mawashi). Next move by Toki...trying to kick one of Tenho's legs. The Chauffeur saw that was the precise moment to start the engines and drove miss Daisy out emphatically. Still, 4 wins between the two with Kyokutenho having triple than today's opponent.

Kisenosato and Tochinoshin started with a so-so tachi-ai, circling to the left with a sort of migi-yotsu stance. They didn't hang around though, and Tochinoshin forced the issue, but Kise resisted long enough to pull his go-to counter move, wiggling a little bit and evading to the left pushing his opponent by the ribcage. Dangerous as that move is, Kise today got away with it but by the slightest of margins because Shin managed to crush him to the ground while losing his balance. A mono-ii had to be called, but Kise got the call and escaped from MK today. Tochinoshin is a good 6-5, vying for a sanyaku spot (Kise's?).

Now, the awesome 12" TV Sumotalk gave me just blackened and showed no images...Great, I'm gonna have to invent the report of the important bouts...At least I know the outcome of the Kaio-Harumafuji already (as well as Hak's but that doesn't count). Still, I don't want to disappoint my fans (as if I had any), so I did what every man does, fix the problem as a crafty handyman...Two punches and a kick later, it started working again, just in time for the next bout.

Aminishiki attacked with everything against Tochiohzan. Helluva tachi-ai that got Oh to the tawara, but this is not the same Oh from two years ago. The Sekiwake stopped the rot and started marching firmly forward. Shneaky tried to get some separation to work his magic but Tochiohzan was determined to not let him escape and stuck to him like a fly to my self-made plant fertilizer. Don't look, but Oh has got his kachi-koshi already on day 11...This is a ozeki in the making, still I don't think he's gonna make it soon, but in 2-3 years I can see a double Kasugano Ozeki line-up. Aminishiki is peacefully over the line and on his way to a kachi-koshi.

Now the Association showed some love for Kotooshu. Instead of pairing him against the struggling Tokusegawa in a heavyweight bout, they made him face the lightweight Hakuba. This would be great news...if only Kotooshu had a clue of what to do against midgets and/or lightweights. Hakuba, of course, pulled the mother of all henkas and grabbed Yoghurt's right arm, pulled the tottari throw and got both hands on the inside to crash the Ozeki's ass to the ground. All this at the speed of light, of course, not letting the Ozeki settle down. The Mongolian certainly knows what he's gotta do. Yori-taoshi it is and 7th win for Henkuba, while Kotooshu stops everybody's dreams for a day 14 showdown against Hakuho, giving the Yok a two win advantage on the "yusho race" (yeah, right, and the tooth fairy as well; by the way, its name in spain is "the little mouse Pérez", I'm not kidding, a freaking mouse takes the kid's teeth over here...).

Now, I have a link to show you roughly how the Kaio-Harumafuji went. Here. Enough with the crap, I thought Baruto's loss against the Oldzeki was legit, but now I'll have to review the video. Today was a piece of sh*t bigger than the gift I left on the plant for the guys for not taking me to the Kokugikan. Harumafuji decided to go for the pushing attack, but instead of following with his feet, decided that leap-frogging was the right way to advance. Of course Kaio rebuffed him, and pushed him to the tawara, were Haruma grabbed Kaio's arm to again be rebuffed with a fierce shake of that arm that sent the Mongolian to the third row...Come on!!!. Even the Euro guy from earlier didn't yell "Sakatottari!" as the move was ruled, he yelled "yaocho!", but the Japanese crowd was so ecstatic with the win, he could hardly be heard. Both guys are now 6-5 and if something, I'd love to watch Kaio-Aran on senshuraku with the ozeki going 7-7. Remember Baruto's helicopter against Chiyotaikai? This would be waaaaaay worse, so I pray to the heavens, please, make it happen.

Now Kakuryu walked into moro-zashi against Baruto, who had a moro-uwate himself with both arms over the Komusubi's shoulders (the so called Baruto-uwate grip). Baruto took the crane out to lift Kak like a sack of potatoes, and just like last year's bout in this same basho, Kak simply pulled the outside leg trip to make use of Baruto's effort against him. Pretty soto-gake that gives the Komusubi his 7th win, while Baruto won't be too worried as he has his 8 already.

Musubi-no-ichiban or Hakuho's win counter advanced to number 58. Hak simply got the double migi-yotsu grip from the tachi-ai (right inside and left outside grips) and then even allowed Aran to get a uwate, although he could have denied him. The yok decided what he wanted to do and that was a uwate-nage as clean, strong and pretty as you please. 4 wins for the raw Russian Sekiwake, whose acting qualities I long to see.

My last day of the basho, so I'll add my predictions for the special prizes.

Yusho: that's a hard one.
Shukun-sho: piling up dust.
Gino-sho: Kakuryu
Kanto-sho: Tochiohzan and maybe Yoshikaze.

So, I just ended my share for the tourney today. Next turn is for...I don't really care, I'm off, who-hoooo. Hasta la vista.

Day 10 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Fresh off of a three-day weekend, the Ryogoku Kokugikan was back to its half-empty self now that the Japanese have gone back to work, and the high from Hakuho's historic weekend run surpassing Chiyonofuji has largely abated. The moment all rikishi whose shikona doesn't rhyme with knock-a-ho were eliminated from zensho status, the basho turned from a yusho race to kachi-koshi watch where Kaio's quest for eight will likely become the focal point.

It was interesting to read Kaio's comments in the media yesterday (posted on our news page) after his shocking win over Baruto. Two elements really stand out in his comments that illustrate perfectly the core issue in the hearts of the Japanese as to why they've migrated away from sumo. First was the issue where Kaio commented on getting the loudest ovations of the basho, cheers even louder than what Hakuho gets despite everything the Yokozuna is accomplishing these days. Second was the comment that someone needs to step up and take his place.

Regarding the first comment, the most important aspect of sumo is the yusho. Although Hakuho is on the verge of breaking Futabyama's record of 69 consecutive bouts, the grand poobah of records is still career yusho. We (used to) speculate prior to the basho about who will yusho; NHK can't wait to start posting the yusho race leaderboard mid-basho; and the greatest rikishi of all time are measured by number of yusho. So, with no yusho race to be had, it's turn-off number one.

Regarding Kaio's second comment, there have been plenty of rikishi lately who have stepped up to take his place. The problem is none of them have been Japanese. Kaio actually didn't say "a new Japanese rikishi needs to step up and take my place." The Japanese media inserted the word "Japanese" into his comments using brackets when they printed his statement even though, subconsciously, everyone knew what he meant. So, with no Japanese rikishi threatening greatness at the moment, it's just another excuse not to attend the sumos. At least I know of a few foreigners who should be making their appearance at the Kokugikan shortly...hopefully in matching t-shirts! Watch for them. They'll likely be sitting in the nosebleeds or pretending like they're part of Bart the Builder's posse. Can we stalk him? Yes we can!

It's obvious that I'm getting long-winded on these intros as I'm trying to avoid the inevitable: covering the daily bouts.

If we must, M16 Kyokunankai struck low against M17 Toyozakura grabbing a right outer grip that was at the front of the mawashi keeping Toyozakura away from anything. Kyokunankai wasted no time pivoting to the side before just slingshotting Toyozakura off the dohyo and up the hana-michi with a dashi-nage throw that left both rikishi at 4-6.

M15 Gagamaru fired a head-butt into J2 Wakatenro at the tachi-ai setting up some Baruto-esque tsuppari into Tenro's torso and neck that sent the Juryo scrub back once, twice, three times a lady. Anti-Lady Gaga improves to 6-4 with the ass-kicking.

M14 Tamawashi seems to be doing just fine in these Juryo ranks. Today against M15 Kakizoe, the two traded tsuppari before Zoe moved back and to the left in hopes of throwing The Mawashi off balance, but when that didn't work, Kakizoe resorted to Plan B, which was to become a human torpedo and ram straight into Tamawashi's gut. Like any idea the Monbusho has had to improve sumo, the move failed miserably allowing Tamawashi (7-3) to slap the hapless Zoe (3-7) down to the dirt.

M13 Sokokurai slithered left at the tachi-ai against M11 Kotokasuga enabling him to establish the cheap inside position. With the two striking a hidari-yotsu pose, Sokokkurai pulled his gal in tight and actually lifted Kotokasuga clear off his feet in tsuri-dashi fashion. He wasn't able to set Kotokasuga down outside the ring, but it gave Sokokurai the momentum he needed to finish him off at the edge via yori-kiri. Bad start, great finish for Sokokurai whose even with Kotokasuga at 5-5.

M11 Yoshikaze charged low against M14 Tochinonada getting his left arm on the inside up high into Nada's pit. Cafe wasted no time driving Tochinonada back, but at the edge, the Gentle Giant countered with a right kote-nage that sent Yoshikaze to the dohyo at the same time Tochinonada flew off the dohyo. A mono-ii was called, and replays showed that when Yoshikaze hit the dirt, Tochinonada's left leg was breaking the plane of the dohyo. The result was a justified do-over that saw Yoshikaze henka to his right at the tachi-ai, assume the hidari-yotsu pose with a right frontal grip to boot, and then spin his opponent round and round before eventually forcing him out. Yoshikaze secures kachi-koshi at 8-2 with the ill-gotten win while Tochinonada is 6-4.

Speaking of henka, M13 Kasugao moved to his left slightly at the tachi-ai against M10 Hokutoriki as the two settled into the hidari-yotsu position. Jokutoriki had the Kimchi Kid up high, but as he forced him towards the edge, Kasugao (4-6) sprung his usual kote-nage trap sending Hokutoriki 93-7) to the deck with the right-handed throw.

M10 Shimotori exhibited a poor tachi-ai against M16 Tosanoumi, but because his opponent was Tosanoumi, he recovered in short order forcing the bout to migi-yotsu. From here it was as easy as Paris Hilton for Shimotori who dumped the veteran to the clay with a nifty scoop throw evening his record to 5-5. Tosanoumi falls to 1-9 and should get a mercy date with Wakanosato or Tokitenku soon.

M12 Koryu and M9 Bushuyama traded tsuppari at the charge, but Koryu just couldn't resist going for a pull. The Dolly Yama capitalized on the mistake forcing the bout to yotsu-zumo near the edge of the dohyo before executing a quick slap-down of his opponent making it official. Koryu suffers make-koshi at 2-8 while his holiness moves to 4-6.

M12 Takekaze seized the left inside position from the tachi-ai against M7 Kitataiki and then just spun to the side, pivoted on his right stump, and then threw Kitataiki over as pretty as you please with a scoop throw. Incredible sumo from Takekaze who clinches kachi-koshi with the win. Kitataiki is stuck at 5-5.

M9 Kimurayama (7-3) henka'd M6 Mokonami (3-7) to the right, drove a stiff paw into the Mongolian's neck, and then finished him off in about three seconds.

M6 Asasuckiryu lived up to his name henka'ing severely to his left against M8 Kokkai slapping the Georgian down to oblivion in half a second. Sure, Asasekiryu moves to 6-4 with the victory, but it was still the worst sumo of the day, which says a lot. Kokkai is cooled off a bit at 7-3, but the Korporal hasn't exactly abstained from henka in his time, so he has no complaint.

They say bad things come in threes, so Hakuba made it official henka'ing to his right against M7 Tosayutaka before using tsuppari for the sole purpose of keeping Tosayutaka away from the belt, not to actually win the bout with sound offense, which is Henkaba's problem. Anyway, having taken away Tosayutaka's momentum at the tachi-ai, Hakuba forced his way into the left inside position leading to the quick'n dirty yori-kiri win. Henkaba is 6-4 while Tosayutaka falls to 5-5.

M5 Takamisakari is giving a new definition to the term "slide" after facing M3 Kotoshogiku today in a bout that saw the Geeku obtain an early right outer grip with a decent left inside position to boot. But before Kotoshogiku could make his move, Takamisakari scooped him over to the edge and nearly out, but alas, the Geeku recovered and went into gaburi-yori mode dry humping the hapless Takamisakari back and out to his eighth straight loss (against two wins). Kotoshogiku is 7-3 if ya need him.

M4 Aminishiki henka'd to his left against M2 Tochinoshin, but the Georgina recovered soon enough forcing the bout to migi-yotsu. Aminishiki stayed low trying to parlay his cheap start into moro-zashi, but the powerful Tochinoshin just sucked him in tight as if to say, "bitch, you ain't goin' nowhere." Well, nowhere but back and out as Tochinoshin scored the nifty yori-kiri win leaving both rikishi at 6-4.

Look at M1 Wakanosato picking up his first win by ramming his dome straight into counterpart M1 Tokitenku's chin setting up the left inside position with the right hand close enough to the front of Tenku's belt that it was moro-zashi for all intents and purposes. The kill was swift and decisive as Wakanosato sent Tokitenku clear off the deck via yori-taoshi. Both dudes are 1-9.

Not wanting to be outdone, Komusubi Kakuryu rammed his melon straight into counterpart Komusubi Kisenosato's jaw keeping the Kid far away from the Kak's belt and from taking advantage. The Kak followed up the tachi-ai with effective tsuppari, but lost some momentum when he went for a stupid pull attempt. That Kisenosato couldn't capitalize at this juncture spelled his doom because quick as a Kak, his opponent grabbed a left inside and right frontal belt driving Kisenosato back and out redefining the term defeated. This one smarts as Kisenosato falls to 3-7 while Kakuryu soars at 6-4.

Sekiwake Aran largely toyed with M2 Homasho using methodic tsuppari to keep Homie at bay before unleashing a right-arm shove into Homasho's left armpit sending him off balance. Aran went for the kill at this point pulling Homasho clear across the dohyo before pushing him out for good. Not too much else to see here as Aran limps to 4-6. I say Homasho has done well to stand at 3-7.

M4 Tokusegawa has assumed the role of punching bag these last few days, and today it was Ozeki Harumafuji's turn to fire a tsuppari right into Tokusegawa's neck lifting him up high enough to where the Ozeki bulldozed him back and out from there in a flash. Still, Harumafuji's 6-4 record is lacking. Tokusegawa falls to 3-7.

Ozeki Baruto used an effective moro-te tachi-ai against M3 Kyokutenho setting up the left inside position, which you knew would be followed by the death knell right outer grip. There was little the Chauffeur could do but watch as Baruto nudged him to the edge before lifting him clear off his wheels and setting him outside the dohyo for a patented tsuri-dashi win. Bart the Builder is 8-2 with the win, but it's too little too late. Kyokutenho joins the make-koshi crowd at 2-8.

In our Ozeki duel, Kotooshu seized the left inside grip at the tachi-ai against Kaio followed by a sure-handed right outer grip, which immediately spelled Kaio's doom. The Bulgarian wasted no time driving Kaio back before dumping him to the clay with some force via uwate-nage. For the second basho in a row, Kotooshu has roughed up his counterpart putting him in danger of serious injury. Yes, it's fine to beat Kaio, but there's an unwritten rule in place where you beat him with his dignity in tact. Figger it out. Kotooshu moves to 9-1 with the easy win while Kaio is back to the drawing board at 5-6 (figger it out).

As much as I've enjoyed Sekiwake Tochiohzan the last few basho, my hopes of him as an eventual contender received a nice punch in the gut today against Yokozuna Hakuho. The Sekiwake was as useless as tits on a boar against the mighty Hakuho, who used a hari-zashi tachi-ai today going for the quick face-slap to set up the inside position (he chose migi-yotsu). As he does so well, Hakuho leaned heavily into his opponent while clutching him in tight to nullify the chance of an escape and pull all the while fishing for that left outer grip on the other side. Once he got it, there was nothing Tochiohzan could do but take notes as Hakuho demonstrated the textbook yori-kiri win. It's not all bad for the Sekiwake, though. He still has a helluva 7-3 record at this point to speak for his efforts. Needless to say, Hakuho is 10-0.

I'm offering a reward for the first person to spot Martin, Mario, and Mark on the NHK broadcast. Óscar gets his chance tomororw.

Day 9 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
If I had more time, I would have gone back and counted how many matta (false starts) we had on day 9. Wow, I've been watching sumo for quite some time and don't recall seeing that many in one day.

Once the action began, it was somewhat of a ho-hum day. "Upset" might be a stretch, but there were a few surprises in the high ranks so let's summarize.

First, upstart M11 Yoshikaze has been at it again making noise from the rank-and-file. After dropping his first bout yesterday, he followed suit today and fell to 7-2 against Kitataiki (5-4). It was not content worthy of his body of work thus far, as Kitataiki took control with a good, strong tachi-ai that induced Yoshi to pull and therefore lose further momentum for an easy oshi-dashi decision.

In the Ozeki ranks, the first mild surprise was Kaio (5-4) overcoming big Baruto (7-2). Kaio got pushed to the brink but showed defensive flashes of his old self by pulling on Baruto's extended arm. This allowed Kaio to escape from the tawara and slip around the back of Baruto, setting up an okuri-dashi. What a huge win to go 5-4. Three more wins to ensure he keeps rank for his hometown folks in November.

Kotooshu got inside on the left but rushed the attack on M4 Aminishiki. The two were separated enough to where Ami's last ditch uwatenage sent Oshu flying out a split second before Ami broke the rope himself. Ami improves to 6-3 while Kotooshu suffers his first defeat to go 8-1. Too bad, I was looking forward to a clash of the undefeateds when Oshu met up with Hakuho a few days down the road.

Harumafuji suffered his third consecutive loss today against surprisingly steady shin-Sekiwake Tochiohzan. Tochi absorbed all Haruma (5-4) had to offer, maneuvered deftly to the left, and disposed of the Ozeki via oshi-taoshi. This kid is now 7-2 and looking rock solid. Guess who awaits tomorrow? That's right. Could he be the streak stopper?

I guess I just gave away the result of the final bout. Hakuho was matched against very vanilla M4 Tokusegawa. It crossed my mind that streaks sometimes get broken at the most unexpected times, like against a no-name opponent like this. But not today, as Hakuho slowly but surely took care of Toku with a powerful uwate-nage. It took a while to unfold although Hakuho was never in trouble. What troubled me, however, was that Tokusegawa (3-5) just stood there like a bump on a log the whole time. If I were a no-name guy with a slim to nill chance of winning, I'd be trying all kinds of stuff from standard attacks to trickeration. Did Toku think he'd win defensively against Hakuho? He's out of his mind. Anyway, 56 in a row and counting for the big H.

Hakuho-Tochiohzan tomorrow. I think this is going to be a good one.

Day 8 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
I like objective numbers, the kind that owe little if anything to the human mind, like the fact that there are more ways to arrange twenty innocuous playing cards than SECONDS have elapsed since the beginning of time over ten billion years ago, or the fact that when some guy boasts, for example, "My great-great-great grandfather invented chamois," that he was only one of SIXTEEN guys who held that title (so the attempt to seem cool simply through bloodline association is kinda lame).

Subjective numbers are less awe inspiring, but can still impress, either for their roundedness (3000 hits, 300 wins), or their relative perfection (12 strikes in 10 frames, 27 men retired in 9 innings), or for their symmetry (Fibonacci, 12:34:56 pm on 7/8/90). Or, of course, for their consecutiveness: Ripkens 2632, DiMaggios 56, Hakuhos 54.

While these records are hallowed, it is not difficult to find imperfections in their diamond like brilliance. Ripken surely played in games where his condition was detrimental to the teams chance of winning (and this despite the fact that he played in an era, unlike Gehrig, where body science helps a shitload in terms of recovery and preparation), DiMaggio benefited from a few generous non-error calls, and Hakuhos foes are not exactly going to find themselves on astronomical charts anytime soon.

Do these flaws diminish the value of their accomplishments? Depends on whom you talk to. As for me, I think less about each mans famous record than I do about how Ripken was incredibly intense, that DiMaggio had an unbelievably sweet swing, and that Hakuho just dominates each and every opponent he meets.

So dont expect me to spend valuable bandwidth going on and on and on and on and on about records and numbers and what they mean. Urp.

Despite being warned on Day 3 by the man himself, Im sure many of you were shocked when you opened the ST homepage on Day 7 and encountered not the bemused countenance of that redoubtable Romanian rapscallion, Mister Martin Matra, but the vulpine visage of one Oscar Gutierrez. (When Mike told me that he found a guy named "Oscar" who loved the martial arts and wanted to write for us, I assumed he was talking about De La Hoya. My mal.)

Two things you ought to know about this gentleman. One, like Andreas and Mario and Martin and Bernie before him, English is not his native tongue, and also like Martin and Andreas, its nearly impossible to tell. Two, like all good peoples of the Spanish speaking universe, his name is not simply "Oscar Gutierrez." Since this is his first basho, Mike has agreed to let me use his real name just this once. So here it is: Oscar Camacho Berlanga Ferrado Odriozola Santoyo Aristizabal Gamboa Maldonado Lorente Pinzon Toledano Sarmiento Chiamuhera Escamillo Preciado Guardiola Nascimento Villalobos Pinto Gutierrez De La Ulm.

At any rate, Im sure you found, as did I, his report to be highly informative and entertaining, so please join me in proffering a warm welcome to Oscar...Camacho Berlanga Ferrado Odriozola Santoyo Aristizabal Gamboa Maldonado Lorente Pinzon Toledano Sarmiento Chiamuhera Escamillo Preciado Guardiola Nascimento Villalobos Pinto Gutierrez De La Ulm.

Going by the previous two days, Mike and Oscar are obviously the kind who eat their steak before they touch their salad, but me, Ill start with my lower Makuuchi lima beans.

I dont want to sound like some kind of uber expert on sumo, but its the truth that I regularly scour the lower ranks looking for the Next Big Thing. Well, I think I have someone for yall. Today, due to the reverberations from some gambling scandal in sumo my inside sources have hinted at, a Juryo man was sent up to take on Kakizoe, long one of my beloved. This guy, goes by the name of Toyonoshima, burned Sweet Zoe Jane down like a pile of autumn leaves. I predict this kid will be in Makuuchi one day. Mark my words.

The (still) Gentle (once) Giant Tochinonada looked to be in a good position versus Kyokunankai, moving him back with a deep but beltless inside and was poised for a throwdown like the good old days, but the E16 parlayed a few fingers in the front of GGs mawashi into a fairly snappy backward pedaling sling down.

"No time, ever seems right, to talk about the reasons why you and I fight." Tamawashi the foreigner played some head games with Sokokurai (in some languages, "koku" means "country" and thus, "So Country, rai-ght?" Get it?) at the tachi-ai, nearly causing the Chinaman to go "Over the line!" but Woo checked his forward progress and as he was getting resettled, The Mawashi lunged like a hungry octopus, swarming his bewildered foe like a 30% off sale. (Drop me a note if you understood this entire paragraph, cause I sure as hell dont.)

Tosanoumi (11 Kinboshi, 7 Outstanding Performance Awards, 5 Fighting Spirits, 2 Juryo Yusho) gave it the old college try fifteen years out of college, showing the form that earned him the moniker Blue Collar Man. Unfortunately that same form also earned him his current rank of W16, aka plunging straight ahead and hard out of the gates. He had Koryu on the run, but the Mongolian was able to skip away and slap the overextended and oldest man in the division down.

Two nearly identical morphologies went at it next, with M sized butterball Takekaze delivering the shock and awe to LLL sized Gaga (its a good bet the Russian is, as you read this, tenderly feeling his cheek). But King and Queen Gaga didnt hook up just so their son would crumple after getting railed at tachi-ai by the shortest man (by far) in Makuuchi, and he moved forward, if somewhat groggily, sniffing for the belt. Tugboat kept backing up and out of harms way, and was finally able to slap away the Lords elbow and get inside deep, like prison deep, where he shoved up on all that flab, causing the E15 to use the ropes to resist. He then used that forward lean to step aside and yank the LZ127 down to the tarmac.

Around about this time I heard commotion at the ocean, so I ran outside and down to the sea (a 15 second jog) to discover emergency crews of firefighters and paramedics surrounded by half the men in my neighborhood, all over the age of 55 and most dressed in their long underwear (the nightly bath having been taken). Long story short, some numbnut, here from the big city to fish, got hisself invalidated by falling off the 4 meter high seawall and down onto the concrete tetrapods that line the coast like jettys of giant jackstones. One awesome old man, my 75 year-old neighbor Ken-chan, who pees on the side of the main road in full view of passing cars and lets my dogs lick him IN his open mouth (yeccch!!!) stood there talking about how the guys who come here to fish "show very poor manners." This as the dead guys body lay not more than two meters 3 meters away! I was laughing like a lunatic on the inside.

Were only five bouts into the day and youre probably nodding off, so lets encapsulate the next few contests, shall we? Toyozakura used an effective throat attack to get Kotokasuga off balance and shoved him out manlove style. Kasugao forgot that his body is attached to legs, and where IT goes so too must THEY, and Shimotori obliged his suicide mission by shoving him down to where he was already going on his own. Yoshikaze also seemed to blow a fuse vis a vis the lower extremities, allowing Kimurayama to throw him even tho Dude had barely any hold to work with. (No, I wont be making any cutesy "Well, I guess we can scratch him from the yusho race" remark here. Ill leave that to the cheese eaters.) Hokutoriki flashed some mildewy tsuppari form and got Mokonami to bite, setting him up for the slapdown loss. Finally, Asasekiryu showed patience with the larger Bushuyama, waiting for the Dolly Yama to shimmy shake his slapdash mammaries close enough for Secretariat to snag a second belt grip that spelled force out doom for the W9.

Tosayutaka, a feisty, honest wrestler who for me is becoming the new Kakizoe, hit Takamisakari like he was going out of style, getting a secure inside left belt grip and maybe some outside right as well. PTs Boy did what he typically does, lean in on his foe and wait for some forward pushing that he can capitalize on by swinging the guy around. Tosa U. had other plans, however, exploding into an overarm throw that seemed to take Bean by surprise (course someone lifting a paper napkin takes Takamisakari by surprise) and definitely got the W7 on the midterm Deans List at 4-4. Go-o-o-o-o gorillas!

Henkuba grabbed the cheap grip the only way he knows how, and parlayed it into a decent enough push across the dohyo to finish with a fireworksy crush out of Kitataiki. Half-assed sumo that will never lift Hakuba above upper Maegashira. Kitataiki on the other hand might oneday reach Komusubi.

A weak tachi-ai by both men left Kokkai and Aminishiki battling like kittens in the center of the squared circle. A poorly timed shove by Shneaky sent him low, where the Korporal grabbed at his hand and pulled him down.

Wakanosato jumped the gun and drove an illprepared (ought to be a word) Tochinoshin back and used a final dive to force him out...but, the judges went to the videotape and determined that both men went out and called it a do-over. On the re-firing No Shine henkad to his left and got the belt and shoved the poor guy out. At 0-8, the W1s dreams of a return to Sanyaku are ephemeral to put it mildly.

Kisenosato certainly brought the thunder, but Homasho stayed low and after a few tentative rhino headbutts, timed a perfect slapdown of the reeling Komusubi (who, for the millionth time, does indeed vex us all). Also, once again, the losers feet seemed to be made of the same substance he was standing on.

Nice little battle between Kakuryu and Tokitenku, two men heading in opposite directions on the banzuke. Tokidoki made an earnest effort to get inside on his countryman, but The Kak expertly choked off any invasion of his space, myan, by pinching in on the arms. When Tokitenku pulled his now blue pipes out of the vicegrip, Kakuryu moved forward and grabbed a whole shitload of belt. Taking his foe to the edge, they danced on the rim for a few agonizing seconds, but Kakuryu is too tall for Tokitenku to lift up on and swing around as he might a smaller opponent. The end came soon enough in the form of a yoritaoshi crushout. Three more wins and Le Coq prolly has Arans Sekiwake spot in Kyushu (unless Kaio takes it?)

Tochiohzan got an outside right, inside left right from the start, then tried to go maki-kae by changing that outside right to an inside, but Baruto put up some orange cones and closed off that avenue by bending down and tightening his pits. The Estonian then let Oh Snap in, which allowed Baruto to shove once on his face with a right hand and on his ribs with the left, blasting him back and out.

In his report yesterday, when Oscar excitedly spoke of Barutos arse

nal, it reminded me of just how workmanlike the Biomass can be when hes on. Cue the childrens tv show theme song.

♪ Bart the Builder
Can he yusho?
Bart the Builder
Yes, he can!

Hak, Kak and Kaio, and Geeku too
Harumafuji joins the crew,
Kotooshu, Oh Snap and Kid
Wrestling together, Ive got them on vid

Ahhhh, can he lift him?
Ahhhh, can he crush him?

Bart the Builder
Can he yusho?
Bart the Builder
Yes, he can! ♪

Aran and Kotooshu each got outside left, inside right belts, but despite the Bouncers vaunted weightlifting regimen, Kotooshu is still the stronger (or at least the taller) fella, and it showed as he lifted the Russian off the ground and deposited him kicking and screaming "I wanna an Easter egg, I wanna Easter egg!" outside the ring.

So our prodigal son stands at 8-0, but with his nemesis Aminishiki waiting if the Kyoukai so chooses. They could instead throw him chum in the form of Kokkai and Tokusegawa, then hed have only Kaio, HowDo, Oh Snap, and Baruto before getting his ass kicked by Hakuho. I see him going 14-0 if Baruto loses once more and has little incentive to fight overly hard when they meet. Kaio is a no brainer, Harumafuji is off this basho, and I think Tochiohzan is still several basho away from being even money vs. the Bulgarian. As Zhon Luke was wont to proclaim, "Make it so!" Darwin knows we could all use an exciting finish to this basho. Any basho.

When Asashoryu was utterly dominating high roller Kotomitsuki in the mid Noughties, it was easy to understand why. Asa was a god, Mitsuki a water sprite. But when trying to figure out why Kotoshogiku pwns Harumafuji, its not that clear. Today Geeku used a koto-nage of all things, a kimari-te that Id expect HowDo to use on HIM, to quickly defeat the Ozeki for like the 20th time out of 30 or something. Dont be fooled, people, Harumafuji took a dive in this bout. To SAVE HIS ARM!

Kaio managed to get his right arm wrapped around Tokusegawas left, and also had his left up under the armpit. As Tokusegawa leaned in to grab his own outside right belt, Kaio drove forward and lifted up with what now was a two-handed belt grip and took the Mongolian out for his record evening 4th win. There is no way the Ozeki can beat HowDo and Kise straight up, and he wont beat Kotooshu or Baruto or Hak, so if largesse remains out of play this basho, we may be seeing the end as early as tomorrow. Oscar fretted about the possibility on Day 7, but Id have a better chance of getting Maggie Siff to clean my navel with her tongue than we have of seeing Kaio fight again as Sekiwake in Kyushu. The future is now for this man. (Then again, who knows what carrot the NSK might dangle to get him to give it a shot--think of the draw that would be!)

Finally, Kyokutenho manned up and gave the Yokozuna a run for his money. Sorta. The Chauffer used a decent tachi-ai to gain an inside left belt, leaving Hakuho with an outside right belt. After a few seconds, Hak snagged the inside left belt. Just as he did this, however, Kyokutenho reached around the back and pawed at Haks belt. Knowing that if he gave up that back belt the Chauffer could present some problems, Hak let go and pushed forward, getting in tight to Kyokutenho and negating any over the shoulder boulder holder type of grip. Now he grabbed the inside left belt once more, and hunkered down for what Kyokutenho may have thought would be a rest on each others shoulders. Actually the Yokozuna was just catching his breath and making sure he looked good for the cameras, because the ensuing throw was picture perfect. He set it up by widening his stance, and then pivoting on his left leg while throwing the Chauffer down. The great thing about it was he did this pivot on a dime, and after he was done, he was standing upright and looked like all he had just done was open a car door for a rich lady and her lapdog to climb in. Yes. Hak looked like a Chauffer.

Well, like General "Mac Daddy D" MacArthur, I shall return on Day 15, the final day, senshuraku as we say in the beer halls. Kenji looks for signs that the universal mind has written you into the passion play on Day 9.

Day 7 Comments (Óscar Gutiérrez reporting)
Here I am, the new guy on the block is given the day 7 to start reporting for Sumotalk. It's not a big deal, day 7 has usually nothing special about it. We've seen already who's hot and not. The yusho race (yes, that thing existed not so long ago) is still shaping up and the big bouts are in store for the 2nd week. So, just another day, or is it? NO, IT IS NOT. Today is the day that Hakuho faces history. "The longest journey begins with a single step" says the Chinese proverb. Well, if Hakuho walks one step more he'll have walked further than anyone else has in the modern era of sumo. Chiyonofuji's record of 53 consecutive victories has already been tied and to surpass it, Hakuho hast to clear one last hurdle that goes by the fighting name of Kisenosato. When Mike told me I was doing this day, I started drooling all over the place, just like Homer Simpson at the sight of a box full of donuts.

Let me say that, in my opinion, it was a great decision by the tori-kumi makers to save Kisenosato for facing Hakuho in this utterly special bout (this is my "Kitataiki moment" of the report: praising a decision of the Sumo Association going against the usual ST editorial line. Let's just hope this is not my last daily report for the site...). The Kid has shown that he can go "mano a mano" with Kubla, although lately he always ends up on the receiving end, just as everybody else. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, there was a lot of action preceding the climax. Sure you don't want to skip all the foreplay...Yeah, me too, let's do the day in reverse order...

THE BOUT started with Kisenosato wide open on his left side (as always, can somebody tell him not to do it, please?).  Still, Hakuho didn't went for a grip but he started pushing the Komusubi by the armpit. On the other side Kisenosato was trying to establish an inside grip and Hakuho didn't want to concede it, so the Yokozuna backpedaled to keep him away and that was the moment of truth. Hakuho's feet slipped slightly on the dohyo, but this Mongolian fighter hasn't come this far just by falling after a simple slip. Still, there was a split second where the Kid could have capitalized but the moment passed faster than speed of light in front of the kid's eyes. Then, they recharged batteries, exchanged slaps and Hakuho went for his trademark grizzly paw at the back of the neck of Kise. The move didn't make the Komusubi kiss canvas, but it made him cannon fodder for the last charge of the Yokozuna who won by oshi-dashi. So with the brightest smile of accomplishment Hakuho received a mountain of kensho envelopes, but more importantly, entered the history books with his 54th consecutive win, one more than Chiyonofuji, who watched from the NHK booth and didn't seem amused at having his record beaten and by a gaijin on top of that. Oh, and by the way, Kise is only 2-5. The Kid didn't become a man today, and this was a great chance to officially get to the next level. He's been hanging with the big boys for too long and his bandwagon is getting emptier and emptier. Maybe I should leave it, but I still think he has Ozeki potential (I'm probably crazy). Next stop for Hakuho: Futabayama's record of 69, and Kublai will surpass it if he keeps winning until nakabi of Kyushu. Still, another 15 bouts where everybody has the chance of his life to make history and be the stopper of the almighty Hakuho.

One of those guys with a chance is Baruto. He gave us a scare with what seemed like a knee injury in his loss on day 2 against Kisenosato. Maybe this served him as a wake-up call, but the truth is that we're watching the Baruto that raised to the Ozeki ranks, charging with a fierce nodowa supported by his feet going right behind his powerful arms. Today he absolutely destroyed Tochinoshin, who is showing great form, by oshi-dashi with some powerful shoves to the chest and neck of the Georgian. Baruto is 6-1 with the win, and if he wins 5 more he can have a shot at Hakuho on day 13. Shin is 4-3 and has faced the toughest competition. Let's hope he keeps it up and finally gets to double digits from the jo'i, he has a great chance for sure.

In the sideline story of the basho we have soon-to-be former Ozeki Kaio. Today he faced Kotoshogiku, who adding insult to injury, henka'ed the banged-up Ozeki grabbing a migi-uwate and then humped him to his 4th loss. I think there's no way back for Kaio right now. He cannot get to 8 wins this basho, and he should save himself the embarrassment of going to his hometown as Sekiwake just to fail like Chiyotaikai did. Giku meanwhile is 4-3 on his usual bounce back basho.

The duel of crafty Mongolians between Harumafuji and Kakuryu went this time to the Komusubi. It started as usual with a slap fest, but Kakuryu was winning the affair, so the Ozeki launched into his arms to make it a gappuri-migi-yotsu bout, with both wrestlers featuring left outside and right inside grips. These two aren't going to just force the issue on strength but on technique, and the Kak hit first and decisively twisting the Ozeki to the clay in the direction of his outside hand with both his hands still firmly gripping his opponent's mawashi. Uwate-hineri it was since he didn't let go that outside grip. 4-3 for Kak having faced everybody up in the ranks is a helluva result, and he'll be looking to double digits. 5-2 for former Ama, whose basho can't finish fast enough as he has no real challenge to go for (he has to face Hakuho, but ehem-hem-hem-trrrhem).

Probably the guy with a better shot at defeating Hakuho is Ozeki Kotooshu. His problem is that having brain-farted on the first week he usually faces Hak being already out of the yusho race, and while giving a good effort he doesn't feel the urge and necessity to beat him. Well, first week is about to pass and Kotooshu is undefeated. Today he made hard work of Kyokutenho, who tried to sidestep the Ozeki at the tachi-ai to not concede him his lethal weapon, the left uwate. With Kotooshu fishing for it, the Chauffeur walked around and went maki-kae with his left hand thus almost featuring moro-zashi. The Ozeki went maki-kae on the other side and they settled on hidari-yotsu, which is not the favorite grip for the Ozeki. Still, he overpowered Tenho after a hard struggle and he was so happy he went to hump a cameraman on the first rows. The Chauffeur is 2-5 with the loss, while Kotooshu is still at the top of the ranks. And let me say this here now, if Kotooshu arrives undefeated to his bout against Hakuho I'm giving him a 50-50 chance because then he'll give himself a reason to try to sidestep a Yokozuna at the tachi-ai.

Breaking news: Aran is raw. He settled against Tokitenku in a gappuri-migi-yotsu fight. The Russian lifted the Mongolian off the dohyo but in the middle of it. Tokidoki could survive because of the enormous distance to the tawara landing still on safe ground. Aran went for it for a second time, but Tokitenku threatened him with an outside leg trip and the Russian had to stop his attack. Then, he tried for the 3rd time, nothing. At this point anybody with half a brain would have noticed that was not the way to win, so Aran...went for it for a 4th time. Tokitenku had had enough of it and tripped the Russian's left leg with his right one from the outside performing a pretty uchi-gake that sent the thug's ass to she dohyo. First win for Tokitenku, while Aran features only 2 after an easy schedule.

Wakanosato attacked Tochiohzan with a rare tsuppari that at least kept the shin-Sekiwake at bay. Still, not winning any ground, Wakanosato went for the hataki-komi and that was all Oh was expecting. He read the move like a dirty magazine and sent Wakanosato to his 7th loss in those same days. Tochiohzan is a pretty 6-1 and will face tomorrow machine-man Baruto (who features a steamroller and a crane in his arsenal, ain't that scary?).

In another set of breaking news, Hakuba sidestepped Homasho at the tachi-ai. Who woulda thought that? Still, Homasho got rolling and got the Mongolian to the tawara, but Hakuba digged in and didn't concede a grip to poor Homasho while featuring a right uwate himself. When Homasho went for the kill a second time, the counter maneuver by the Mongolian was swift swinging his opponent with a sukui-nage to his 6th loss. Hakuba is over the KK line and a puppy dies every time this happens.

Mokonami won the tachi-ai against Tokusegawa and got a firm left grip and the lower stance, giving his taller opponent nothing to work with. Tokusegawa, nullified, decided to take a shot at getting the left uwate and put all his body to the task. Mokonami was in total control and simply put him away with the counter. 2-5 for the Tan Man, who looks somewhat injured in his shoulder but will be able to survive in MU for next basho at least. 3-4 for Tokusegawa on the 16th place of the banzuke and he's getting the big boys now, he's gonna get murdered.

Aminishiki was all push and no pull today. He hit hard Tosayutaka at the tachi-ai and the compact one tried to circle away and then look for a grip, but with those short arms it was impossible. Aminishiki kept always the pressure on and a last shove to the side sent the M7 out of balance for the good okuri-dashi win.  4th loss for Yutaka and 5th win for not-so-Shneaky today who's looming over Kotooshu's schedule.

Asasekiryu paid homage to Kotomitsuki by starting a bit early and hitting hard at the tachi-ai. Moved by it, the MIB let him get away with it. Still, Robocop stood his ground and was able to even grab a solid right uwate to counter Sexy's left shita-te. Then, Bean charged with everything rising Sexy's right arm by putting his own left around his opponent's shoulder, although in the process he lost the uwate. Asasekiryu managed to survive at the tawara and then turned the tables and crushed the gripless clown to the ground. 3 wins for the secretary, only 2 for the clown, so the KK interview is a hard task to achieve.

Kimurayama went slightly to his left at the tachi-ai (no news there) and threw a fierce right nodowa at Kitataiki's neck. The Mongolian was able to get rid of it and went on for Kimu's belt, but he found himself with the right paw again at his neck. Then, the Mongolian rushed things too much and launched forward. This was what Kimurayama was hoping for, evading to his left and letting Kitataiki's momentum to do the work for him. Man, was Kitataiki pissed with himself! He had it won and he knows that, but he walked away with a 4-3 record that still looks OK. Meanwhile Kimurayama is an impressive 5-2, but don't get too excited, even with the weak low Maegashira it'll be hard for him just to kachi-koshi.

Time for the ugliest bout of the tournament. Kokkai pulled an awful henka to his right against Hokutoriki. Still, the Jokester is so bad these days that he couldn't even react to it and fell directly to the ground. Kokkai was embarrassed and this is a guy who's used to this kind of fishy sumo, so I bet he was embarrassed to have won with that crappy executed henka. 5 wins for the Georgian; the Jokester is 1-6 and can't go to Juryo fast enough.

Bushuyama charged way beyond the line hard into Shimotori, but those airbags Bushu features helped Moo resist the charge. They both got a left hand inside grip and Shimotori made quick work of his foe sending him down and out with a shitate-nage. Neither is brilliant this basho, Moo is 3-4 while Buu is 2-5.

In a rare case of dominance on the lower divisions, Kasugao featured an immaculate record against Kotokasuga having won every time of the 7 they had faced each other, always in Juryo and for a reason...none of this two belong to Makuuchi. Luckily, the affair ended quickly when Kasugao charged with his hands but not with his feet and Kotokasuga simply evaded and pushed him from the side to break the streak. Kotokasuga is 4-3 while Kasugao's record mirrors that.

Yoshikaze must have received a shipment from Colombia, cause his caffeinated self is showing every time this basho. Still, today he didn't need all that much movement. He charged fair and straight against Gagamaru and when the Rounder started to advance, Cafe needed only one swift move to his side to send the Georgian to the clay. Unbeaten record for Yoshikaze at the top of the standings with Hakuho and Kotooshu, and with this competition and enough supply of his favourite drink he may well keep there some more days. Radio Gaga is an unimpressive 4-3.

Tamawashi simply kicked Koryu's ass today. 3 quick shoves is all he needed to send his foe's ass to the clay in a convincing tuski-taoshi win. Tamawashi finally starts showing the form that took him to high Maegashira and recovers from his 0-3 start and is now with 4 consecutive wins, while Koryu is a deserved 1-6.

Toyozakura-Takekaze...this is going to be uglier than a monkey's armpit. Toyozakura didn't fall for Takekaze's first push and pull maneuver, but then the Fat Kaze went on the run while trying to push down his foe by the shoulder. He had to circle half of the dohyo, but the time came when Toyozakura's old feet got tired of pursuing his opponent and he fell to the ground. 5-2 for Takekaze who's being his usual self not showing some of the techniques he used last basho. 2-5 for Toyozakura who doesn't belong here.

In a lightweight bout, Sokokurai raised up Kakizoe from the tachi-ai with nice shoving, grabbed his belt with the 2 hands and lifted him up crushing him to the ground in impressive tsuri-otoshi fashion. So, the Chinese features a cool 4-3 record in his debut on the division though the rivals are more or less the same from juryo. Meanwhile the dung beetle got pawned for his 4th loss.

The next bout featured two jo'i mainstays...7 years ago. To see how much time that is, Hakuho was still in Sandanme back then. Tosanoumi charged low into Tochinonada's chest, who tried to absorb it and circled to his left as usual trying to sneak his way to a left shita-te in the process. He got it and Tosanoumi, knowing his foe, tried to pinch that left arm, but to no avail. Once Nada got a firm grip, he used his trademark shitate-nage to easily dispose of Tosanoumi. 5-2 is a good result for Nada even with the crappy competition he's facing; 1-6 for Tosanoumi means he's as good as gone.

Then, the day had started with Juryo Kyokunankai facing Maegashira Goeido. This is how it should read at least, but it's the other way around because the banzuke makers are the missing link between apes and humans. The bout was as ugly as it gets, with Goeido playing the push-pull game, simply putrid for a man with his abilities. Kyokunankai almost fell all by himself and is a expected 2-5. Goeido can't come back to the jo'i fast enough to be kicked in the butt and reminded that this is not the way he must fight.

The leaderboard goes like this: Hakuho, Kotooshu and Yoshikaze lead with 7-0, followed by Baruto and Tochiohzan with 6-1. Take Café out of the equation and you have Hakuho with an Ozeki taking care of business, a genki Ozeki with only one loss and a promising young Sekiwake with the same score, looks good. Still, good won't be enough against the 54-win-and-counting man. Let's see if the guys can keep it up and give a thrilling last week of the basho.

So well, that was it for my 1st daily report. Who could have thought I would debut on such a special day? They surely treat rookies good around here (the cured ham has been sent already, Mike). Thanks for all. Clancy dots the i's and cross the t's on nakabi, but don't expect him to apostrophe anything.

Day 6 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Today was a feelgood day for sumo, and the sport can't get enough of those lately. It's obvious that I follow the sumo world closely, but I also keep close tabs on Japan as a whole watching NHK news each day and then keeping up on other areas in Japanese society like the music industry (which is god awful right now) and pop culture in general. I never watch anything in English--unless Ross is in the booth of course--because I want to hear things directly from the mouths of the Japanese in order to pick up on all the little cultural nuances.

Anyway, as I've been observing the sports world in Japan the last few weeks, my Western mind was a bit surprised at the number one story on the minds of the Japanese: Ichiro Suzuki's quest to get 200 hits per season for the 10th season in a row in Major League Baseball. Ichiro plays for the Seattle Mariners, one of the perennial worst teams in baseball, and true to form the Mariners suck in 2010 as well, so with some fantastic races going on in baseball here in America and in Japan's professional league as well, it amuses me that so much focus is placed on Ichiro.

Ichiro's pending accomplishment is phenomenal on paper, but taken in context with the current sports environment around the world, it's an inconsequential story right now just as any story of longevity or consistency is until the athlete retires and we can look back on his career and marvel at his accomplishments.

The whole reason I even bring Ichiro up right now is to point out two things. First, it goes to show just how much the Japanese pride themselves when one of their own excels on an international level (think of how that applies right now to sumo, clearly an international sport). And second, it explains why no one really cares about sumo these days, a fact reflected by the horrible attendance numbers we're seeing.

So with that in mind, day 6 was definitely a feelgood moment for sumo as the media spotlight shined directly on the sport after Yokozuna Hakuho defeated Kotoshogiku to achieve his 53rd consecutive win, a mark that puts him in a tie with the greatest Yokozuna ever in the minds of the Japanese, Chiyonofuji. And NHK's nightly news did a superb job in their coverage of the event focusing simultaneously on Hakuho's current run and Chiyonofuji's legendary accomplishments. They even had footage of Chiyonofuji isolated in a room with a couch and a big screen television, so they could capture his reactions and comments live as Hakuho reached that magical number of 53.

All in all, it was one of those rare moments where one could forget all of the crap going on the past few years and focus squarely on the greatness of these two Yokozuna, one past and one present. It was a rare victory for sumo today and hopefully a moment that we will be able to relive again in Kyushu if Hakuho can reach 69.

Cool, I said 69.

Without further fanfare, let's examine the bouts today starting from the top in honor of Hakuho's achievement.

In the papers yesterday, M3 Kotoshogiku indicated that he was going to devise a strategy to hopefully stop Hakuho today, but it turns out he prolly spent a whole five seconds on his approach, which consisted of basically going into a ball at the tachi-ai with head low and arms tucked in close in an effort to refuse Hakuho any inside position. But Hakuho hasn't achieved grizzly bear status for nothing, so all it took was a single swipe at the back of the Geeku's dome to send him to the dohyo about two seconds in. Hakuho moves to 6-0 with the triumph, which puts him alongside Chiyonofuji with 53 consecutive wins while Kotoshogiku falls to 3-3.

The day's penultimate bout featured Ozeki Kotooshu and Komusubi Kisenosato, a duo that formed a nice rivalry up until 18 months ago when Kisenosato suddenly hit the wall. Today wasn't much better for the Kid who charged so high you'da thought he came from a Grateful Dead show, so the Ozeki secured the left arm on the inside of the hidari-yotsu contest and had Kisenosato driven back and out faster than you can say hippie lettuce. Kotooshu quietly moves to 6-0 with the win thanks to the focus on Hakuho so far, but lest we get too excited about the Bulgarian, one only needs to remember what happened at the Nagoya basho, where Kotooshu also found himself 6-0 on a Friday. Kisenosato falls to 2-4 and just can't capitalize on his win over Baruto early on.

And before I move on, I must point out the Kisenosato - Tochiohzan bout yesterday that signaled a true changing of the guard in terms of Japan's next hope. Tsall yours Oh.

One of the more anticipated bouts prior to the basho turned out to be a dud as Sekiwake Aran couldn't "pull" the trigger fast enough after a brief tsuppari exchange with Ozeki Baruto at the tachi-ai. Once Aran went up high for Baruto's head, the Estonian drove him back and out with ease using a nice oshi attack. Baruto moves to 5-1 and has recovered nicely from his early loss to Kisenosato. Aran falls to 2-4.

Ozeki Kaio is as doomed as doom can be. Today, he had no chance against M2 Tochinoshin. He wasn't going to beat Shin straight up in a yotsu fight, and his bad knee is rendering him unable to perform a legitimate tachi-ai henka. The two did hook up in the quick hidari-yotsu position with neither gaining a right outer grip thanks in most part to Tochinoshin taking his own sweet time and understanding the risks of giving Kaio the right outer grip. The two stood chest to chest for a bout 20 seconds before Tochinoshin said enough of this funny bidness and executed a successful maki-kae with the right arm giving him moro-zashi and the insurmountable position. He walked Kaio back and out carefully so as to not add insult to injury enjoying his 4-2 record along the way. Kaio falls to 3-3, and now it's just a matter of deciding what day to call it quits.

Kaio just can't move laterally, which takes away the henka or quick pull maneuver, and his knee is also no longer in shape to try and hold his own against these younger guys. It is my opinion that this injury and Kaio's retirement would have occurred years earlier if rikishi weren't taking it easy against him. As I previously stated, I believe that the Sumo Association can ill afford any sort of shenanigans right now including obvious yaocho, so now that Kaio has been forced to completely fend for himself, the inevitable has reared its ugly head.

Rounding out the Ozeki ranks, Harumafuji employed a classic left nodowa into M3 Kyokutenho's throat pushing the Chauffeur back to the brink. Kyokutenho looked to evade and fight off the choke hold near ring's edge, and while he briefly looked to have the Ozeki off balance, Harumafuji recovered quickly and used another throat shove to seal the deal. Harumafuji is a quiet 5-1 if you need him while Kyokutenho is an expected 2-4.

Sekiwake Tochiohzan welcomed an M1 Tokitenku who was so high at the tachi-ai that Anna Nicole Smith rolled in her grave. With Tokitenku monkeying around with pulls at the back of Tochiohzan's head, the Sekiwake seized the day and had the hapless Tenku pushed out to an 0-6 mark. Tochiohzan moves to a cool 5-1 and is singlehandedly keeping the suck out of Sekiwake this basho. Great stuff.

Komusubi Kakuryu and M1 Wakanosato settled into the migi-yotsu position after the Kak attempted a quick mae-mitsu (frontal belt grip) from the tachi-ai with the left hand. Undeterred, the Kak bellied into his gal and got Wakanosato up high setting up the subsequent force-out win. Kakuryu's a quiet 3-3, which is a stellar record for a Komusubi at this point. Wakanosato may be playing hard to get, but he's only got an 0-6 record to show for it.

M2 Homasho kept both hands in tight pushing M4 Tokusegawa away by the armpits in what looked like an old Asanowaka move where he kept his fingers firmly pressed together as he pushed.  Anyway, the tactic worked as Homie slipped into moro-zashi about four seconds in allowing him to score the upset with the force-out win. Homasho picks up win numero uno (that's for my man Oscar who is reporting tomorrow) while Tokusegawa is still a decent 3-3.

M4 Aminishiki lurched into the quick moro-zashi position from the tachi-ai which left M7 Kitataiki nothing to do but try and evade and pull (i.e. nary a pot to piss in). The yori-kiri damage was over quickly as Kitataiki was never able to squirm out of the bearhug. Both rikishi are 4-2.

The two M5's clashed today that saw Hakuba offer a rather weak tachi-ai, which is saying something for him. Takamisakari took full advantage--or so it seemed--charging forward, but Hakuba was just setting him up for a quick evasive maneuver as he dragged Takamisakari to the side by the belt. Still, Hakuba's execution wasn't crisp, and Takamisakari was able to shoulder the weakling out of the dohyo with a left shoulder into Hakuba's torso, but Takamisakari's left foot stepped out of the dohyo before Hakuba's arse apparently touched down outside the ring.

The gunbai was awarded to Takamisakari, but a mono-ii was called where it was ruled that Takamisakari's foot stepped out an instant before Hakuba hit the dirt. Problem was, Hakuba's body was completely beyond the tawara and "dead" as they say, but they still gave the win to the Mongolian causing Takamisakari to yell out in disbelief. I agree. Takamisakari was robbed in this one as he falls to 2-4 after that 4-0 start. Hakuba can't go away fast enough at 3-3.

M6 Mokonami hooked up with countryman and fellow M6 Asasekiryu in the hidari-yotsu position, but the more experienced belt fighter, Asasekiryu, grabbed a right outer grip and wasted little time and dumping Moe to the dirt in an uneventful bout. Asasekiryu moves to 2-4 while Mokonami is barely a blip on the radar these days at 1-5.

M10 Hokutoriki's tsuppari attack at the tachi-ai was so weak that M7 Tosayutaka patiently stood his ground before forcing his way inside causing Hokutoriki to look for a way out. He wouldn't get it as Tosayutaka pushed him out in short order from there moving to 3-3 in the process. Hokutoriki is a measly 1-5.

I should note here that the previous two bouts were pre-empted by NHK so the news division could report on the breaking news that Japan's new prime minister (a position that gets changed faster than my underwear these days) had announced his cabinet. For the first time in my life, I think, I was more fascinated by Japanese political news than the action in the ring.

And how couldn't I have been with names like M8 Kokkai and M11 Kotokasuga facing off in our next bout? If you must know the result, the two rikishi hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position that saw Kotokasuga of all rikishi execute a successful maki-kae with the right arm giving him moro-zashi and Kokkai no place to go. Kokkai did try and get the hell out of there, but Kotokasuga got him with a scoop throw in the process moving him to a shweet 3-3 after that 0-3 start. Kokkai falls to 4-2.

Alluding somewhat to my introduction, M11 Yoshikaze has been touted in the press in recent days as the final Japanese rikishi without a loss. And he'd keep it that way by striking M9 Bushuyama quickly before moving to his left. Before Bushuyama could adjust, Yoshikaze seized moro-zashi, but Dolly proved slippery as a fish wrangling out of the grip and forcing the two into a straight-up yotsu-zumo fight, but Yoshikaze wouldn't stand for the belt fight and quickly pulled Bushuyama to the dirt for a 6-0 record. Bushuyama falls to 2-4.

M12 Koryu looked to force the action against M9 Kimurayama with some weak shoves, but Kimurayama methodically backed away before baiting the hapless Koryu into a pull-down. Like Hilary Clinton's face these days, this one wasn't pretty, but Kim gets the job done as he moves to 4-2. Koryu is 1-5...with this banzuke! Shame, shame, everyone knows your name.

M10 Shimotori and M13 Sokokurai hooked up in the migi-yotsu position from the tachi-ai, but following a common theme today, Shimotori was so high in his approach that even Snoop Dog took note. Sokokurai took full advantage easily forcing the compromised Shimotori back and out improving his record to 3-3. Shimotori falls to 2-4 but apparently has an extra akeni (trunk) stocked full of Twinkies and Doritos.

M12 Takekaze managed a big push at the tachi-ai against M16 Kyokunankai, and then true to form he wasted that momentum by going for a quick pulldown. Still, Takekaze (4-2) dictated the pace of the bout from the get-go, so by the second attempt, he felled Kyokunankai (2-4) to the dohyo with little fanfare.

M13 Kasugao charged way too low for his own good against M15 Kakizoe, so without decent vision of his opponent, he allowed Kakizoe to duck under him and force him upright. From there, Kasugao instinctively went for a pull down, but he was completely compromised as Kakizoe thrust him down to the dirt for the tsuki-otoshi win. And you know what they say about the difference between oshi and tsuki: oshi means you just pushed your opponent down, tsuki means you just kicked his ass. Both rikishi are 3-3.

M15 Gagamaru's attack against M14 Tamawashi was too high allowing The Mawashi to slip into moro-zashi, whereupon Gagamaru went into immediate damage control pinching inwards against both of Tamawashi's arms from the outside in a position referred to as kime. To his credit, Gagamaru pressed the action looking for the kime-dashi win (where's Takanonami when we need him), but at the ring's edge, Tamawashi attempted an utchari that looked to have been enough to send Gagamaru crashing to the dohyo before Tamawashi hit down, but a mono-ii was called where it was ruled that Tamawashi's body was so far removed from the ring's edge when Gagamaru hit that a rematch was in order.

Fair enough. In the redo, Tamawashi moved to his left at the tachi-ai causing Gagamaru to go for a quick pulldown, but with the Georgina now exposed, he provided more than a large enough target for Tamawashi to shove out of the ring. Gagamaru's momentum is cooled a bit as he falls to 4-2 while Tamawashi is even steven now at 3-3.

M17 Toyozakura's tsuppari were so weak at the tachi-ai that M14 Tochinonada easily brushed them aside turning Toyozakura about 90 degrees in the process rendering him the easy push out fodder from behind. Wham, bam, thank you ma'am as Tochinonada moves to a gentle 4-2. Toyozakura is the converse.

And finally, in a bout I didn't see because I musta fast forwarded too much, J3 Toyohibiki, who was incredibly winless coming in, managed to pull down M16 Tosanoumi leaving both dudes at 1-5. And I'm sure I didn't miss anything.

As Uncle Rico reported prior to the basho, Mark Arbo is kyujo due to a broken coccyx (she was worth it, trust me). In Mark's place tomorrow, allow me to introduce Óscar Gutiérrez, a dude so cool that his name requires non-ascii characters.

Day 5 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
The first third is in the books with one storyline holding together the fragile state of Japan's national sport. Considering the amount of empty seats seen in Tokyo, can you imagine the crickets we'll get in a regional basho like Kyushu if Hakuho doesn't keep winning?

In probably the most interesting sub-story line, Kaio in his 13th kadoban basho dropped his 2nd bout today against Kakuryu (2-3). Fragile would also be a description of Kaio as he soldiers on with ailments in his shoulder, and now his knee after yesterday's bout. He passed Terao for second all time in Makuuchi appearances with 1380, second only to Takamiyama, but looked overmatched in an easy yori-kiri win for Kakuryu. It will be very interesting to see if Kaio can pull this one out. I could very well see a farewell appearance for Kaio in Kyushu as a Sekiwake. It would be a story that garners similar media attention to Hakuho's if so.

Baruto sent a message-sending harite at the tachi-ai against Homasho to set the tone. This allowed the big Ozeki to get inside on the left and secure the right outside grip, taking control of the bout. From there, it was a matter of ushering the backtracking Homasho (0-5) out for yori-kiri and bolstering his record to 4-1.

Kotooshu has had some close calls but has managed to stay unscathed thus far. Today was no different as he negotiated Wakanosato's swift maneuver left after an honest tachi-ai. Oshu kept his feet under him just long enough for Waka to break the rope before flying head first into the second row. 5-0 for Oshu, 0-5 for Waka.

In a battle of fiesty Mongolians, Harumafuji used his patented nodowa attack to ward off Tokitenku (0-5). Haruma's attack was well grounded, which allowed him to overcome Tenku's well-timed attempt at a hataki (pull). Tenku's classic risk/reward effort at the pulldown didn't pay dividends, and when it didn't, his lost momentum quickly resulted in an oshi-dashi loss. Harumafuji improves to 4-1.

The challenger to Hakuho today was Tochinoshin, who as a 3-1 up-and-coming M2 rikishi presented as formidable an opponent as any. In fact, Tochinoshin has practiced with Hakuho recently which you'd think could help his cause. But it wasn't to be. The two locked up in migi-yotsu (left outside) position, which is preferred by bothrikishi, but Tochi didn't take advantage of the split second where he got the uwate first before the Yokozuna got his. Once Hakuho got a grip on both sides, he shook free of Tochi on one side and just like that the tables were turned. Although cautiously, Hakuho eventually twisted Tochi down in what looked like a kiri-kaeshi even though the official score was announced as sukui-nage (scoop throw). That makes 52 wins in a row, one shy now of Chiyonofuji's 53. Tomorrow he'll attempt to match it against Kotoshogiku. Personally, I still marvel at the fact that this guy has not lost since January shortly before Asashoryu left the sport. Unbelievable.

Day 4 Comments (Dr. Mario Kadastik reporting)
I am really pissed. I have been planning a trip to Japan for over a year now and just as I finalized all the things and booked some extra days to get also some sumo action, the Association pulls such a load of crap that it kinda makes me question if I even really want to go to the bouts anymore. I mean the huge demotion and promotion due to betting scandals has left the banzuke in such a state that every single day will feature at most 3-4 decent bouts with the rest being more akin to random Juryo rambling than real Makuuchi action. So bear with me as I suffer through the first two thirds of the tori-kumi to get to the "goodies" (if you can even call them that).

I yawned so much and couldn't find the motivation fast enough, that I actually missed how lady gaga lost. Then again, I'm not sure I really missed anything.

Kakizoe just can't help himself, he so wants to go and battle that he always causes false starts. Finally on the third go he decided to go for a small henka, get around Wakatenro and go for a pushout. Tenro did manage to recover from this, but kept going backwards around the ring. Just as he was about to step out he managed to deflect Zoe and send him stumbling, but before Zoe managed to lose it, Waka stepped out. I did take the bother to comment this bout mostly due to my liking of warm shit, but it was as Juryo a bout as can be so I'll know better with the next ones.

Tosanoumi and Tamawashi pushed around until Tosa mis-stepped and fell on his ass. Tamawashi won.

In some languages kura means dick. In the same languages za usually means around or something like that. If you look closely then, today's opponent Sokokurai also has kura in his name, so against Toyo"za"kura there was plenty of dicking around till Sokokurai found himself spread out on the clay. Oh well, I guess I am milking the synonyms here for there was no action to comment on.

Oldster Nada took on the older Kaze and quickly manhandled him with a neck grip and throw. At least watching it didn't burn my eyes out and might have instead provided some relief after the previous bouts. Hope it also gives some relief in advance. Oh and even the MIB seem sleeping for they missed the kimari-te again. That was no tsuki-otoshi, more like a kubi-hineri.

For the next two guys that were called out, the normal outcome would be that they would lose. However as they faced each other this really can't happen. Kotokasuga finally made it to third base, but it did look like two drunken women brawling about who gets the last pint and guess Koryu had already had enough.

Now, the exact opposite to previous fellas is what you get when you look at the next bout. Kasugao and Espresso showed up both anticipating a win and that's actually a good starting position for a decent bout. Neither had dropped one yet, but they were due one eventually. The first start was utterly out of sync with Espresso just standing up so the gyoji decided to call it back. Once the two actually decided to fight, it showed why Yoshikaze is a regular in Makuuchi and Kasugao is a regular in Juryo. Espresso quickly manhandled the korean moving him back and then deflecting the counter-strike to send Gao rolling.

As Mike put it, Hokutoriki has been limp for a while now and his double nodowa doesn't excite anyone anymore, but neither does Kimurayama's henka to the left. So both guys decided to take it easy, Kimu didn't henka to left, but just stood up and Hokutoriki just raised his hands and forgot his legs. As both understood they look like two veterans after a week of drinking, they decided to stopped the embarrassment as Kimu moved slightly back and to his right allowing Hokutoriki to crash on his belly.

Do I really have to comment on those bouts? I mean Korporal has been his usual lousy self with no spark and Shimotori ain't really a blazing star, so you can't really expect any decent strong sumo or interesting techniques from here... Then again I might be wrong at times. The two locked to a yotsu battle and I prepared to go for a coffee as such standoffs usually take hours before anything interesting happens. However something happened that I didn't think possible. Kokkai used his left inner grip to pull Shimotori forward while using his right hand to assist in the throw. If you blinked you missed it for it was lightning fast. Maybe da cock does have some spark after-all. The last time I saw such moves it was in the form of Kotomitsuki upsetting his opponents. Maybe now that the Association threw Kotomitsuki out, some of his sumo spirit rubbed off on Kokkai though I don't want to think how this rubbing happened...

Bush and Yutaka locked into a beltless grappling with both featuring access to armpits with one arm over and one below the opponents arm. The height of Bush was the advantage in this case as he countered what Yutaka threw at him and forced the younger guy towards the straw. As it was apparent that it's close to curtains for Yutaka, the small guy decided to attempt a beltless utchari move that did upset Bush and made him kiss the clay, but not before Yutaka himself folded on all the weight. Props for trying, but I guess better luck next time with at least some form of belt to help ya on the way.

It's nice to see the Clown in the upper echelons and would be fun to see the oldy get one more sniff of a Yokozuna, but I guess that's not gonna happen unless something freaky happens as he's right outside the kill-zone. So instead, he sniffed Kitataiki today and I guess what he smelled wasn't so good for he quickly recoiled from the close grip he had initially and made himself easy pushout fodder from there.

After the MIB had had enough and a new gang took their place (I can now understand why they do it as one can really get bored after those bouts that we've seen so far) we had Tokusegawa and Asasuckiryu kick up the action. Suckiryu couldn't get his usual low stance, and that showed as he was unable to counter Tokusegawa's moves nor was he able to do his kind of sumo. Tokusegawa used what was given to him and never letting go worked Sexy back and out. I have to admit, the second half kicked off to a good yotsu battle as the bout was reminiscent of that what the average lower rank Makuuchi sumo looked like a while ago (yes, that's how bad it's gotten). Tokusegawa won the yotsu battle in the end, but that's not what matters here.

I don't know what has happened to Moe. He is high, yes, but still I would have anticipated him to be better than just 0-3 by now. He does have his right shoulder heavily taped up so I guess the arm isn't what it used to be. Aminishiki isn't his full self either with his bum knee, but that doesn't seem to hamper him too much in moving around. The two avoided yotsu and instead had a running around and pushing sumo with lunges from both that got deflected. In the end Moe managed to deflect one of Ami's in a good way getting around him like a matador allowing the bull to crash on the tawara. It wasn't pretty so I'll stop here.

Hakuba knew that he can't fight Kyokutenho in a yotsu battle so as soon as tenho wrapped him up in a tight grip, the Henkster quickly went for a merry-go-around strategy hoping to get Tenho dizzy, but the mongol didn't relinquish his grip and had Hakuba back and out soon.

It seems that Aran's doing the regular shin-sanyaku basho with a great 0-3 start. Today he wasn't served peanuts either as he had to stare into the mug of Kisenosato across the starting lines. Aran went into streetfighter mode sending straight punches that bordered on illegal to Kise's neck and shoulder area getting the Japanese fighter off balance, and when Kise was ripe for the kill, Mr. Alan delivered what was coming. That's the kind of sumo where Aran gets his juices going and can kick anyone's ass (as long as that anyone isn't Hak). Well at least it won't be a 0-15 now, and Kisenosato has been cooled down to a calm 2-2 meaning he'll be of no consequence down the line.

Tochiohzan is showing that he won't bow to the establishment by kicking Kaio's sorry ass, and today he showed that he won't bow to anyone easily keeping his balance and strategy as Kakuryu came with a quick attack. Once Kak's initial charge was spent, Tochi attacked himself and easily had fishface back and out. Props to the youngster for he is indeed showing some backbone. Maybe this is the next ozeki from JP that we've all been waiting?

So now that we've gotten to the Ozeki territory, we are welcomed first by Ozeki Baruto meeting one of the guys who broke his knee years back. Giku isn't quite what he was then, but as he's on his good basho interval one can't know for sure what'll happen. Bart has showed in the past three days that he does remember what got him the Ozprom as he's reverted back to the strong oshi attack driving with his lower body, but he also has to remember what cost him the win on day two. Today being cautious of a possible henka, he abandoned the oshi attack and instead went quickly for the belt. Once he had his right outer grip and neutralized Giku from gaining morozashi, you already knew that the bout was over. We didn't quite see a baruto-dashi, but close to it with a wiggling toe in the air by Giku. After he got down to hand Shin the powerdrink, he looked at his hand as if he'd gotten shit under his fingernails. That's a good Ozeki, carry on.

Tochinoshin has again showed why he belongs in the upper ranks by utterly dismantling his opponents and not just any lightweight ones, but even with an ozeki scalp already to his name. So today he came for the next one albeit a more difficult one for Kotooshu is at least as long and strong as he himself is. Kotooshu having seen what happened yesterday quickly worked himself to the inside and without allowing for much regrouping escorted Shin back and out to the third row. Essentially the ozeki did what the ozeki was supposed to do. Let's just hope shin won't let it spoil his mood too much and continue to take scalps as he continues on his quest to sanyaku again.

After that loss to Shin yesterday, the association decided to feel Harry's pressure by matching him to the Barometer. The Barometer showed high pressure, higher than normal for Harry, so Harry had to work his way to the win. He did get Wakanosato to the straw, but didn't have the force with him to get him across so he himself got moved back a step or two. As Waka tried a slap/pull move he lost his pressure and was quickly sent packing by Harry.

Kaio the broken bear took on a winless Tokitenku on his quest for eight. And surprisingly it seemed that the bout was legit, and Kaio had to really work to get the win. Of course he probably didn't have to pay off Tokitenku, especially if one considers Tenku's current score. We'll see how the quest looks in the second week, but I have a bad feeling that we may still see Kaio in Kyushu and not laying down the mawashi (not that I'd want to see him taking off the mawashi).

And the final bout of the day saw Hakuho move one step closer to breaking yet another record. I didn't even have to look who his opponent is in advance to knowing what the end result is for the only man to whom Hakuho can lose is Hakuho himself. If he manages to fall out of bed and break a leg or something will he become vulnerable, but not by any action of the current crop of guys surrounding him. And considering the banzuke is really top-heavy this basho, this is saying something. Homey showed up and did his duty by trying, and boy did he try--even looked good, but in the end no matter how much he tried he found himself on the clay. This is what happens if you face Hakuho these days, and I think everyone is already getting used to it and through that adding defeat after defeat already at the mental level...

Well that's about it. I won't be showing my face here on my usual slot in week two for I'll be in Tokyo with Matron and Arbo enjoying the scenery and the action live at least as much as one can enjoy it with the current crop. It also looks as if NSK is going to start enforcing seating arrangements from now on meaning they're prohibiting us for sneaking low, but we'll see. We may have some surprises for you in week two, but don't count on it if we actually find one of those drink all you can for XX Yen places. Well about tomorrow, at least considering that you'll be served by Kenji, you won't miss a thing with his standard reporting format.

Day 3 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
Can you spell "imbeciles"? Let me give it a try: N... S... K. With all the scandals plaguing sumo right now, you'd think the bigwigs are trying to salvage what little is left of the sport's popularity, but if I didn't know better, I'd be tempted to say they're out to get it for good. The latest "reform" the worthless fat-asses farted forward is strict control of the seating. So, if you're, say, a gaijin from Romania making less money than your garden variety Japanese salaryman and you want to visit Japan for the first time and you want to get up there in the front rows... you'll have to pay the full amount, even though the wind is whistling through the empty hall. I'm not saying it's illegal or anything, but it sure as hell ain't bringing them more fans.

Add bad bouts and a weak banzuke to that, and you get a Martin who's more stoked about Lady Gaga's (the real one) meat outfit than the current basho or anything remotely related to sumo, like the news about Wakanoho and his new career in college football in the USA. Let's slowly crawl to the action and get this over with.

Very late newcomer Kyokunankai got worked in typical fashion by (at least by Juryo standards) powerhouse Miyabiyama, who stood him up with his meaty tsuppari and then pulled him down rather violently. The Fatman's 2-1 after facing his most dangerous opponents and will be a serious threat for the Juryo Yusho. He can't return to Makuuchi soon enough. The exact opposite should be said about Tenho's stable mate.

Lord Gaga continued his march through the dregs with a comprehensive defeat of former Sanyaku mainstay Tosanoumi. The hulking Georgian kept his opponent in front of him and pushed him straight back and out. 3-0 is exactly what you'd have to expect with this kind of opposition. The Blue Collar Man is on his way back to the basement.

Tamawashi fell to a somewhat surprising 0-3, but what's really worrying is the way he lost to Toyozakura of all rikishi. The Ambassador's brother kind of hit his bigger foe and quickly moved out of his way, grabbing him by the back of the belt and escorting him out from behind for his first of the 3 wins he's getting this basho. The Mawashi should slap himself hard and return to the form that propelled him to M4 half a year ago.

Kakizoe seems to be in an even bigger hole, if that's possible, losing his third straight, this time to the bigger, more experienced and more skilled Tochinonada. Zoe seemed to have the upper hand after the tachi-ai, worming his way to the inside, but Nada resisted his advances and kind of locked his left arm, pushed him up and immediately yanked him forward with the free arm, getting behind him in the process. Tochinonada climbs to 2-1 with the win, but don't expect him to get too many more of those.

Mongol Sokokurai read Mike's day 2 and decided to put on a better show, charging hard into Takekaze and getting in tight. The fat Kaze knew he was in trouble, so he tried his old backpedaling game, but the younger foe was just too good this time, finishing it with a straight push. Sokokurai is a promising 2-1, but that's no big deal if you look around him. Takekaze shares the mark.

Kasugao took a lot of abuse from Koryu, who seemed determined to beat him into a pulp, but was really looking for the right time to pull him down. The opportunity came at some point, but the Korean miraculously survived at the tawara and turned the tables on Koryu, grabbing his mawashi and ending the affair with a yori-kiri which degenerated into a sukui-nage off the dohyo. Don't look now, but The Kimchi Kid is 3-0. Koryu is a business-as-usual 0-3 and he can't get out of the top division soon enough.

One guy who's pretty certain to benefit from the over-promotion of Juryo-ites is Shimotori, who didn't have to work too hard today against the aging Kotokasuga. Moo took his time and didn't try to finish it right away, instead waiting for the perfect moment to get the left outside, which he did after some slight hesitation from the Sadogatake sekitori. Yori-kiri and 2-1 for Shimotori, while Kasuga stays winless.

Yoshikaze wasn't intimidated by Jokutoriki's pre-tachi-ai shenanigans and brushed off his meek thrusts to get the left inside position. It was all he needed, really, to yori-kiri his yotsu challenged foe in a flash for a great, albeit somewhat expected 3-0. Hokutoriki is a paltry 1-2.

Korporal Kokkai found himself outgunned at the tachi-ai, so he went for the panic pull-down, but Bush read it like a dirty magazine in a Japanese train and steamrolled him out in a flash. Fascinating stuff. Kokkai's at 2-1, while Bush is still in the woods with 1-2.

If there's one thing I liked today, it was seeing Kimurayama pulling a henka and still losing. Tosayutaka saw it coming a mile away, stayed back a bit, and when Kim reloaded with his usual push from the side, Tosayutaka was ready and slapped him on the head a few times for the hard-worked hatakikomi. Records... same order... same magnitude... above... must not fall asleep.

Kitataiki got the lower stance coming into the tachi-ai vs. Mokonami and muscled his way into a kind of hidari yotsu of some sort - there was no clear mawashi grip on the visible side, and no visible grip on the other side, but there must've been something, because Moe was blown away in about a second or two. Mike's mancrush improves to 2-1, whereas the Tan Man has to rethink a thing or two.

Henkuba stayed true to his moniker and pulled a slick little sidestep to his left, getting the left uwate. Asasekiryu put up a lot of resistance, but he just couldn't manage to survive the compromising position with no uwate of his own. Henkuba "improves" to 2-1 with the dirty win, while Sexy's anything but at one win to two losses.

Aminishiki used a dodgy move of his own to take Tokusegawa off balance at the tachi-ai, then kept pushing and shifting around until he could grab a hold of the Mongol's armpit and fling him down to the dirt for win #2. Tokusegawa falls to 1-2, but he has nothing to be ashamed of... yet.

Kyokutenho used an even subtler sidestep, just enough to grab himself a slab of prime uwate on Takamisakari's mawashi, and then forced the overwhelmed Clown right back and out. A win's a win, and for Tenho today it was the ONLY win, while Takamisakari falls to 2-1. And it's weird to see him fight in the second half.

One surprising sumo stat is Kisenosato's rather poor record against Kotoshogiku (OK, not nearly as surprising as Ama's record vs. the same guy, but still) - I'm guessing it has to do with favored grips, body shape and size and throwing skills. Anyway, Kotoshogiku got the better of the tachi-ai, getting on the inside and denying Kise the uwate, and, at least for some time, driving him back. But Kisenosato took advantage of his long arm to get that outside grip and once in hidari-yotsu he methodically forced his lighter foe to the edge and out, not before some wranglin' and rasslin'. Both men are now 2-1 and promise to be brighter spots on an otherwise bleak banzuke.

Komusubi Kakuryu kind of exposed Aran again, winning the tachi-ai and getting a solid left shitate and a lower stance in the process. The Ossetian felt the pressure throughout the bout, as the Mongol constantly threatened him with moro-zashi, but Aran was able to hold out for a while by locking Kak's left arm. But the more skilled Fishy was not to be denied this time and finished it with a strong yori-kiri after finally finagling his way into moro-zashi. Kak is a VERY honorable 1-2 (tight losses to Kotooshu and Hakuho) and it's not ludicrous to think he could go 11-4 or 12-3 and start an Ozeki run, while Aran just sucks at 0-3, despite showing the same strength as last basho (he started that one 1-4 as well, but with deadly opposition).

Kotooshu went about his business by charging high at Homasho and trying to work his way into an uwate, but when Homes flustered him with his low stance the Bulgarian just said "enough is enough" and used a couple of echoing slaps to send his outgunned opponent to the dohyo in a heap. Homasho (0-3) can't get out of there soon enough, while Kotooshu stays on par for the course with 3-0 (and, might I add, two of his more difficult Mongol opponents behind him). With what I've seen so far, I'd say he's on his way to maybe a 13-2 and a jun-yusho.

Easily the best bout of the day, today's Tochinoshin vs. Ama heralds what could be a great future rivalry. The Mongol dominated the tachi-ai and looked set for a quick and easy force-out win after getting a vicious right grip on the Private's belt, but Shin recovered quickly and got a left uwate of his own. Before he realized it, Hrmph was in a very disadvantageous position, as the Georgian worked his way to his side. In fact, with nothing but a deep right inside and Tochinoshin's chin buried like an axe in his back, he could never really recover, despite some pretty looking counter throw attempts. After a long, hard minute of yotsu, Shin finally got the double grip he was after and lifted his smaller foe clean off his feet, setting him up for the powerful yori-kiri. With the 3-0 Tochinoshin couldn't have asked for more, while Ama falls to his first defeat. This is gonna be interesting.

Just when I thought I figured out Kaio's yaocho pattern, Tochiohzan (who was a suspicious 0-6 against him before today, with all of the old man's wins coming by particularly lame looking pull/slapdowns) used a dirty henka to his right, avoiding the uwate and pushing his compromised foe out faster than you can say intai. Kaio is still on par for the 8, but something tells me he'll have to show some of the worst sumo we've seen out of him to get it, because the jo'i sure as hell ain't saving his hide this time. Tomorrow's match against Tokitenku will be quite telling. Oh's 2-1 if'n ya need him.

Baruto rebounded from his painful loss to Kisenosato yesterday with a complete obliteration of Tokitenku (I know, that's not saying much), whom he stood up and drove across the ring with a vicious nodowa, almost lifting him clean off his feet. I hope he keeps this up, because I'll be at the Kokugikan to see him fight Hakuho on day 13, and there's quite a difference between 11-1 and 8-4 when taking on that particular Mongol. Tokitenku boasts a very expected 0-3.

Finally, Yokozuna Hakuho was rather careful but otherwise untroubled in his approach to the musubi-no-ichiban against Wakanosato, first getting a right inside, then reinforcing it with the left outside and banishing the former Sekiwake from the dohyo with no resistance whatsoever. Fifty wins and counting - Kokonoe can kiss his modern era winning streak record goodbye. Futabayama's probably squirming in his grave too, because 69 all of a sudden seems trivial for the level of Sumo (sic) Hak's showing. If anyone gives a damn, Croconosato is 0-3.

Since I'm not likely to report again this basho, let me do my usual speculation early. Yusho: you don't have to own a PhD to figure THAT one out. Kantosho: Gagamaru - the hombre seems to have gotten past his Nagoya troubles. Yoshikaze is also an interesting candidate. Ginosho: Kakuryu, with 10 wins at least. Shukunsho: see Yusho. Of course, Kisenosato might just decide to stop sucking and sweep all three of them, but don't hold your breath.

I haven't got the slightest idea who's doing tomorrow, but there's an 85.71% chance it'll be good. Sayonara!c

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
In my blog entry last week along with my pre-basho report, I covered all of the relevant topics heading into the basho, but now that the tournament has begun, the utter lack of attendance is glaring. I mean, I have no ties or allegiance to the Sumo Association, yet even I was embarrassed by the number of red velvet seats in attendance today. Having said that, I knew that all of this was coming and outlined it in a blog entry I posted just after Asashoryu's retirement.

In that piece, I talk about how sumo wouldn't necessarily see the impact of losing Asashoryu right away because there'd still be the novelty factor of what sumo would be like without him, but by the time Aki rolled around, it would be apparent that attendance was way down with no Asashoryu coupled with a dominant Hakuho. At the time, a member of the YDC who was connected to the financial world estimated a 30% drop in ticket sales and ratings, and I felt as if that was an accurate number, but what no one factored in was the emergence of these latest gambling/yakuza scandals, so take that original 30% number and then add another 20% for the recent scandals, and the result is a Kokugikan that isn't sold out on day 1 and less than half full by day 2.

That's probably more gloomy news to start yet another report, but just wait until we start hitting the early Makuuchi bouts.

Leading off the day, J1 Toyonoshima toyed with M16 Tosanoumi as a tom cat would with a handicapped mouse. Toyonoshima easily withstood Tosanoumi's aging tachi-ai before pulling the vet down in the center of the ring about two seconds in. Tosanoumi (1-1) god bless him has simply become a strike and pull guy, which has no place in the Makuuchi division. Toyonoshima is 2-0 and can't get back up here soon enough.

Something had to have been up with M15 Gagamaru last basho because he was so bad it was comical. I hinted in Nagoya that he was taking dives as his falls to the dohyo were so unnatural, but whatever it was is completely out of the Gentleman's system this basho so far (yes, I've upgraded him from Lady to Gentleman again). For the second day in a row, Gags just stormed through his opponent as if he wasn't even there. This cheap banzuke is also helping with that, but M17 Toyozakura was a complete non-factor other than his playing the role of Gagamaru's teppo pole for a few seconds. Gagamaru is a fantastic 2-0 while Toyozakura falls to 0-2. And do I even bother adding "Toyozakura" to my spell check dictionary?

M16 Kyokunankai was the first rikishi to hit from the ladies tees this basho by side-stepping an unsuspecting M15 Kakizoe to the left and escorting him out of the ring by the back of the jockstrap. Makuuchi rikishi be warned: Kyokunankai can't win any other way. I think his oyakata should change the "nan" kanji in his shikona from 'south' to 'soft'. Kakizoe falls to 0-2, and I should point out that in the picture at right, that is NOT a flashbulb going off.  Some hack at the Japanese papers was actually editing a portion of the shot out.  Click the picture itself to see a larger version that illustrates Kakizoe's exact feelings regarding this bout.

M13 Kasugao muscled M14 Tamawashi over and out in a classic yotsu contest where Tamawashi's failure to keep his stance low at the tachi-ai enabled the Kimchi Kid to burrow inside and easily body his opponent back and out. Kasugao is 2-0 while Tama has messed his mawashi at 0-2.

M13 Sokokurai beat M14 Tochinonada with his speed today always keeping the bout on the move and refusing to let Nada get settled in. Tochinonada did get his left inside grip eventually, but it was so shallow that Sokokurai was able to keep to the side of the Gentle Giant and eventually hoist him up with a right outer grip using his thigh on the inside Nada's stump to aid the throw. I haven't been too impressed with Sokokurai so far. He's too lightweight and will only be able to take advantage of rikishi who can't move at all. Both dudes finish at 1-1.

M12 Takekaze stood M11 Kotokasuga upright at the tachi-ai with some paws to the throat, but you could see right away that he wasn't interested at all in driving his opponent back. With Kotokasuga leaning forward trying to stave off the choke hold, Takekaze sprung the oldest trap in the book suddenly reversing gears and slapping the hapless Kotokasuga to the dohyo for the pull down win. I guess there was nothing cheap here, but this kind of sumo cannot keep the fans interested through the first half bouts. Takekaze (2-0) is like a kid in a candy store with this banzuke while Kotokasuga falls to 0-2.

M11 Yoshikaze outlasted a stubborn M12 Koryu who managed to grab a solid right outer grip early on, so while Yoshikaze burrowed in close, Koryu continued to counter with outer belt throws, but as the bout wore on, Cafe's belt became looser and looser rendering Koryu's initial outer grip a mere clasp on a few folds of mawashi. That was the difference Yoshikaze needed to finally use his lower body to set up a nifty scoop throw of Koryu with the left arm. Yoshikaze (2-0) is like a Kitazakura in a junior high gym class with this banzuke while Koryu falls to 0-2.

Look at M9 Kimurayama beating a yotsu guy in M10 Shimotori without using his usual side-step at the tachi-ai. The two hooked up quickly in a yotsu contest, but Kimurayama managed to keep Shimotori up high with hands to the throat setting him up for a nice counter scoop throw near the ring's edge. Kim is 2-0 if you need him while Shimotori is even steven at 1-1.

M10 Hokutoriki (2-0) was easily able to keep M9 Bushuyama away from the belt with his usual tsuppari up high that should be used to set up an oshi-dashi win, but which are used nowadays to set up the quick pull of an unsuspecting opponent. The two danced for five or six seconds before Hokutoriki sprung the trap and pulled the hapless Bushuyama (0-2) to the deck. Next.

In the day's worst bout by far, M7 Kitataiki came in way too high against M8 Kokkai who began thrusting into Kitataiki's mid-section, but Kitataiki was able to jump out of the way, and as Kokkai pivoted and went for round two, Kitataiki jumped back just as Kokkai lunged forward allowing Kitataiki to yank Kokkai forward to the brink. The Korporal managed to keep his balance, however, with one foot on the tawara, and as he regrouped going in for round three, there was no question what Kitataiki was going to do yet again when Kokkai charged forward. The third time's usually a charm, but not so today as Kitataiki lost his balance as he jumped to the side that final time, and although he was successful in baiting Kokkai into the move sending him to the dohyo, Kitataiki tripped himself up as well actually managing to touch down a split-second before his opponent. I was glad to see the offensive-minded Kokkai come away with the win here as he backs in to a 2-0 record. Kitataiki is 1-1.

As a side note, if you think a horrible banzuke is just going to plague us for this basho, think again. Guys like Kokkai and the two Kaze's are going to be able to rip through the ranks sending them sky high for Kyushu. So while we will have Toyonoshima, Miyabiyama, Goeido, etc. back in the division in November, they're going to be so low on the ladder that we'll have to suffer through another similar tournament.

Rounding out the first half was M7 Tosayutaka and M6 Asasekiryu who hooked up early in a yotsu-zumo contest with neither rikishi having the advantage. Tosayutaka needed moro-zashi in this one, but the feisty Asasekiryu kept him away with a solid inside grip. Deadlocked--literally--the two traded turns testing the force-out waters early on but then settled in for a bout that was so long, I decided to dust off my PC from 13 years ago, boot it up to this slick operating system called Windows 95, load AOL, and then establish a dial-up internet connection. Right about the time the static and pings stopped and the dude said "you've got mail!", Asasekiryu bulldozed Tosayutaka (0-2) out of the ring picking up his first win in the process.

M5 Takamisakari pleased the empty seats today with his second win by striking M6 Mokonami at the tachi-ai and then switching to counter mode backing up and slightly to the side while managing to pull Mokonami (0-2) forward and to the dirt.

M4 Aminishiki used a right paw deep into M5 Hakuba's throat forcing the Mongolian back near the edge, and even though Hakuba swiped Aminishiki's arm away, the former Sekiwake reloaded right back up into Hakuba's throat making good on his promise this time forcing Hakuba back and down with the some mustard. Both rikishi finish the day at 1-1.

M4 Tokusegawa and M2 Tochinoshin gave us the best chikara-zumo bout of the day hooking up into a gappuri-yotsu position from the tachi-ai and trading turns trying to body the other person back. The difference here was Tochinoshin's threatening the tsuri-dashi move, and while lifting Tokusegawa completely off his feet is a tall order, Tochinoshin was able to hoist him up high enough to eventually come away with the yori-kiri win. Shin's fought two-a the best yotsu bouts of the basho, so props to his fast 2-0 start. Tokusegawa's gonna be a player along the lines of Tochinoshin once he gets more experience at this level. He's 1-1.

I was disappointed yesterday that Sekiwake Aran didn't give a better effort against Tochinoshin. Sure, Aran hung in there and wanted to win, but gone was that kick-ass-at-all-costs mentality that we saw the final 10 days in Nagoya. The Russian came with the exact same nonchalance today against M3 Kotoshogiku, and once again, he found himself in a stiff yotsu contest that he would have won in Nagoya but lost today because he allowed his opponent to dictate the pace of the bout. Said pace was Kotoshogiku's signature gaburi-yori move where he slowly bellies his opponent back and out in a motion aptly described by Arbo as a "dry hump." The Geeku moves to 2-0 with the gutsy win while Aran hasn't exhibited an ounce of urgency up to this point. If the Russian can't handle Tochinoshin nor Kotoshogiku early on, howsie gonna fair against the Yokozuna and Ozeki? He's not.

Watching Sekiwake Tochiohzan mature the last year or so has been an absolute treat. Previously, Oh Snap is schooled by a tough yotsu guy like M3 Kyokutenho who he was just 2-7 against coming in, but today, the Sekiwake demanded moro-zashi from the tachi-ai and made short work of the Chauffeur yanking him over to the edge before shoving him out with some oomph picking up his first win in the process. Kyokutenho is an expected 0-2.

In the Ozeki ranks, Harumafuji showed just how unafraid any of these guys are of M2 Homasho in a bout that saw both rikishi strike and stay low before Harumafuji went for an ill-advised suso-tori move where a rikishi grabs his opponent's ankle and just lifts him off balance. It's ill-advised because the aggressor is totally set up to be pulled down, and even though the Ozeki whiffed on his first attempt, he went right back down for the ankle again, this time pulling Homasho off balance and sending him to the clay via suso-tori. Harumafuji is in territory he hasn't seen in awhile, namely a 2-0 start while Homasho is going to continue getting his ass handed to him by the upper-echelon rikishi.

Ozeki Kaio capitalized on another scheduling gift from the Association by grabbing the easy right outer grip against M1 Wakanosato, yanking him to the side, and then bodying him back for the signature yori-kiri win all the while oblivious to any counter sumo Wakanosato was attempting with the left inside position. Sure, Kaio has to fight these guys some time during the basho, but the Association is doing him a big favor by not forcing the Ozeki into a deep hole early. Wakanosato is 0-2.

Ozeki Baruto got off to a great start against Komusubi Kisenosato driving the Kid dangerously back to the edge, and while the Ozeki's de-ashi looked great to me, he overextended himself just a bit putting more pressure on his left leg than his knee wanted to accommodate. At this point, you really have to credit Kisenosato for sensing the negative shift in his opponent's momentum because the Komusubi pounced swiping Bart's arm away before knocking him completely upright and then pushing him back and out with some vigor. This was a huge win for Kisenosato, and the type of win that Kisenosato has lacked for more than a year now. Granted, Baruto controlled this one early and obviously tweaked something in his knee, but Kisenosato was ready when the opening came and capitalized. Both rikishi end the day at 1-1, and this bout will likely send the two in opposite directions...that will coincidentally end with both rikishi scoring an equal amount of wins. Baruto limped back down the hanamichi after the bout favoring his left knee, and this wasn't a classic Dejima sour grapes limp after a loss; rather, I really think that Baruto hurt something here. He should continue to fight, but he may do well just to reach eight wins. Kisenosato picks up a huge win that will likely make the kachi-koshi difference in the end.

The most entertaining bout of the day featured Komusubi Kakuryu looking to upset Ozeki Kotooshu for the second tournament in a row, and the Kak nearly pulled it off again using the same tactic he bested the Bulgarian with in July, namely the fearless moro-zashi charge and quick offensive maneuver. The difference today, however, was that Kotooshu remembered exactly how he lost last basho, so he countered nicely, not by trying to dig in and use his strength but by pivoting to the side and keeping Kak on the move all the while dragging him off balance with a solid outer grip. Kakuryu made it close due to his advantageous position, but Kotooshu's nifty footwork and lengthy arms proved the difference as the Ozeki was able to pull Kakuryu to the side just enough before bodying him back for the nervous win. Great stuff from both parties in what has been my favorite bout of the basho these first two days. Kotooshu moves to 2-0 while Kakuryu has my full respect at 0-2.

You may recall last basho that Yokozuna Hakuho's closest bout came against Tokitenku of all rikishi. The Yokozuna apparently has the memory of an elephant because against the M1 today, he took no chances coming out of his crouch using one of those grizzly bear slaps he employed early in his career to just pound Tokitenku to a pulp in the center of the ring with the right hand before the M1 had completely come out of his stance. Works for me as Tokitenku falls to 0-2 while Hakuho skates to his 49th in a row.

Martin splains the rest tomorrow.

Day 1 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Well, its September and the world is mudluscious and there are known knowns and known unknowns. The troubles in sumo have made me want to burn something, publicly, and lets not forget those who lost their lives, eh?

For me the highlight of the basho has already come, namely Mike daring to employ the term "nosegays" in his pre-basho report. For most others its whether or not Hakuho can reel off another fifteen wins. I suppose that focal point is as good as any in a sport that seems less and less relevant with each passing day. I live here and trust me, the buzz is there is no buzz. Sumo is in serious danger of taking its position among the wax figures of samurai and court courtesans at the Museum of Cultural History.

But since the double secret probation imposed by NHK has been lifted and its on the boobtube once again, I decided to tune in. The sight of the sanyaku and the Yokozuna standing behind that numbnut new sumo headman (remember, the guy who used to stop all the wrestlers several basho ago, when false starts were the diablo du juor?), their eyes downcast as he apologized for them and the sport and swore theyd all be on their best behavior from here on out, made it worthwhile. And its a good thing, too, cause todays sumo sure didnt.

I joined the festivities a bit late, after an exciting new Juryo rikishi called Goeido had pulled down M17(?) Toyozakura (younger bro of the recently retired Catholic priest Kitazakura), Lord Gaga had bested Kakizoe, and two veterans who have mothballed their walkers to give Makuuchi one more shot, Tosanoumi and Tochinonada, started out with wins (in the Blue Collar Mans case over a guy, Kyokunankai, who took---wait for it---SEVENTEEN years to reach Makuuchi from his sumo debut). Now thats just cool.

The first bout I witnessed pitted Korean Kasugao vs. Inner Mongolian Sokokurai (labeled as Chinese but thats like saying Maria Sharapova is Russian). The Kimchi Kommando killed the newcomer, who has impressively gone from his Juryo debut in Jan. to his Makuuchi debut here. Hes tall but a wee bit light at the moment. Eat up, Right Around There!

Next up occasional top division visitor Koryu worked his smaller foe around some, but Takekaze has been in that position on numerous occasions, and this one ended as many have before, with Scrappy Doo managing to slip away all over the place and get around his man for the pushout.

Scrappys stablemate Yoshikaze stepped up next and dismantled a man we havent seen for a couple of years at least, Kotokasuga, getting under "le pits" and giving him the bums rush.

The W10s went at it, two guys who are tough to get excited about in Hokutoriki and Shimotori. Props to the Jokerman as he hung tough once his tsuppari flew out the window, making Shimotori work harder than anyone in the place could have expected for the yorikiri decision. I can honestly say that I cannot recall EVER ONCE seeing Hokutoriki win on the belt.

A mountainous battle betwixt Kimurayama and Bushuyama ended in a HUH? but not overly WTF? kneeldown, or tsukihiza, where the loser inexplicably, and without being molested, wilts to his knees. Strange to see his Holiness the Dolly Yama being the one in the position of supplicant.

Tosayutaka had the win in his pocket (he wears one of them fancy new fangled mawashi with a pocket for the cell phone) but as he made his final push at the Korporal, Kokkai nimbly waxed off and sent the W7 to his first straight loss. Dude better right the ship and pronto!

Asasekiryu had no answer for the onslaught of human will that was Kitataiki, getting humiliatingly run out like a Democrat crashing a Republican fundraiser. Good thing Sexy isnt from Kentucky, doesnt live in a trailer, and has no twelve gauge.

If someone had told you that Hakuba would be involved in the manliest sumo of the day, why would you have said? Me, too! But lo and behold, Hakuba dancing cheek to cheek with Mokonami, each man with outside right, inside left belt grips, both men lifting up on the other trying to get his foe off balance. Eventually Hakuba was able to "rays" UVB up and back to the edge, and when the Mongolian resisted this insult to his dignity, Henkuba niftily shifted weight and pulled while twisting Mokonami into the clay.

A typically frenetic win for resurrected E5?!! Takamisakari (who was worryingly facing Juryo demotion in May) over Aminishiki, with PTs Boy hitting harder than he usually does at tachi-ai, sending Shneaky scurrying back and on the run to the edge. After a slightly deft tightrope walk maneuver, Aminishiki was finally pushed out.

Two big, tall, strong Mongolian-born rikishi went at it with Kyokutenho taking on Tokusegawa. They got in tight, a little face time, and after some good belt wrangling the younger man was able to show the Chauffer the door.

Before they started, I thought Tochiohzan had a great chance to beat the Geeku, but a halting tachi-ai by Oh Snap led to a quick dismissal by Kotoshogiku. It looked as if Tochiohzan thought perhaps a matta would be called, but the only matta was "wassa matta, you lost?"

Ill allow that its possible the Aran/Tochinoshin bout was a tad more manly than the Hakuba/Mokonami bout. The same cheek to cheek stance, both men with deep double belt grips, the big difference being that in this bout both men are powerhouses, stronger than gyoza breath, so the dénouement promised to be that much more satisfying. After one or two spectacular tawara saves by Aran, the inevitable occurred as the more massive No Shine lifted the shin-Sekiwake up and around and out. Paychecks were earned in this one, people.

Not much of a strategic challenge today for the Old Gray Mare Kaio, as Homasho can be counted on to lower his noggin and continue charging in low. Whether or not Kaio would take advantage of that was another matter. Turns out he was able to in precisely the manner youd imagine, by using alternating pushes and pulls to set up the relatively easy slapdown. Opening day victory for the kadoban (in danger of demotion) Ozeki, but whos kidding whom? The Oldzeki may have showed his inner Fred Astaire today, but the goat footed balloon man is whistling far and wee.

Now you might be forgiven for thinking that Wakanosato could give Baruto a good fight today, and you might also be forgiven for giving yourself a prostate examination in a public phone booth, but that doesnt make it any less nutty. Nothing to note here as it was ram, bam, thank you, now scram!

(As Mike mentioned in his pre-basho, the good Doc Mario is indeed actually and truly [as opposed to the pack of lies we usually feed you] physically present in the metropolis of Tokyo this basho, accompanied by his woman Martin and perhaps a few others. (Evidently there have been disturbing readings in anti-matter subfluctuations beneath the kokugikan, or at least thats what wily Mario told his jackass bosses back at CERN!!) So, a free plane ticket later, Barutos number one fan is here to give him advice, provide the occasional rubdown, and to leech any face time he can with the sumos.)

Kotooshu got a decent outside left belt from the word go, and then fished with his right for a front mawashi. Tokitenku may have felt violated at all the groping, but he definitely felt used after the Bulgarian Bruiser executed a swiftly nifty twisting belt throw. The Ozeki had to commit fully on this throw, so he actually ended up crashing out of the ring with great fanfare, but Tokidoki had already placed his hand down to protect his itty bitty face from slamming into the dirt.. You know what Im going to say, but Ill say it anyway: Girlyman!

Its become a cliché to say that Kisenosato has the skills to be an Ozeki, that he shows the ability to defeat anyone on any day, and most importantly, like the Dude tells Walter after a bungled money drop, he "f***s it up, man!" Fully able to absorb the Ozekis two-handed throat charge, The Kid then created separation by easily shoving the smaller guy away. But separation is not what Kisenosato is looking for. He wants to get in close and use his bulk to force submission (likely the same sort of plan Martin has for the gals of Tokyo). Harumafuji didnt allow this to transpire, though, staying crouched down and diving in to grab a double-handed front belt. This is by no means a guaranteed win for most wrestlers, as it puts the attacker in a tenuous position beneath his foe, but Harumafuji is not your average Yoshi and he certainly didnt just fall off the daikon truck. He deftly pivoted and yanked with great aplomb, and once again all of us who think Kisenosato shoulda, woulda, coulda were left holding our (insert something appropriately ribald).

The days last match featured Hakuho and Kakuryu, so you can imagine my glee that I get to write "Hak vs Kak!" On paper this is a no-brainer, despite the general consensus that of all the wrestlers with a chance of taking down the Yokozuna, Kakuryu is high on the list. He has progressed much in the last eighteen months, gotten larger and more aggressive. That, coupled with the well known truism that Day One nerves can affect even the best, suggested that we might have a bout on our hands.

After a tense, Bollywood like face-off that led to both men standing and resetting, they were off! Hakuho chose to start the lickin with a Kak slap (something Im rather fond of myself), but it didnt do much as the WK immediately recovered and closed to an improbable double hand inside, the dreaded morozashi (TOTALLY sounds like the name of a Bond villain). Kakuryu had his right hand on the back of Hakuhos belt and was even lifting him up a bit. Now, this being two Mongolians whom everyone wants to have a nice, exciting fight, it was no surprise to see Hak go makikae, then Kak, then Hak. When the dust had settled, they had inside/outside grips and Kakuryus goose was fully cooked. As the Yokozuna pressed in and forward, the Komusubi tried a desperation throw, but all this did was compromise his balance and allow Hakuho to easily shove him back and out. It was a good college try for the man who didnt attend college, but it just wasnt in the cards (or script?)

So, were off to see the wizard, and his march to take down The Wolf Chiyonofujis 53 bout winning streak record (which for me is the all-time record, Futabayamas 69 being like baseball records from the 19th century--quaint). Other than that, I guess the promise of some tawdry pics of our Europeans living it up in the capital is what weve got to look forward to.

Mike bastes your bird tomorrow.











hit counters