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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)
The end is well nigh as I sit here this evening, having witnessed history in Ichinojos rise and possible history if Hakuho can somehow defeat Kakuryu, and Id like to digress for a moment from my usual sacrilegious ways and talk about Sumotalk for a second. I have been absent since January, and not just from ST but from sumo itself. I was too busy to check in even once every two months, and ergo missed a lot of the goings on, including the reports of my fellow contributors.

This basho has been singularly fun for me. Im on vacation and have been able to write five reports. But more exciting was to the opportunity to read the other fellas reports. Mike is, as always, writing like theres a gun to the head of his Mitt Romney doll, mixing in-deft analysis (yes, I made it up and yes, you can use it) with tantalizing supposition based on his extensive immersion into JPese culture. Kane makes the page come alive with analogies and references that are not so much from out of left field as they are from out of somewhere near the Crab Nebula. And his way with graphics is professional level. As for Martin, even after all these years I still find to difficult to keep in mind that he is writing in a second language. Fuck me! Then we had Harvye bring in some fresh fish and flop them down to carve into sweet and tender tidbits of sumo sashimi love. Sadly, we didnt get to see The Mattrix this time out, but Im hopeful it was just a scheduling blip.

Now I visit my fair share of websites, even a few that do not involve nudity, and Ill be damned if ST isnt one of the most entertaining, even if it is only for fifteen days every two months. With Martin from Transylvania, Mike from The Rocky Mountains, me from Nueva Jork, Kane from The Planet of Hot Women We’ll Never Sniff, Matt from Canada(?), and Harvye from where I am not sure but definitively a long time resident of the archipelago here, it just feels like a collaboration the UN might hope to one day emulate. I suspect many of you feel the same and we appreciate your patronage (you patronizing bastards!) Um. . .thats all I wanted to say.

First bout had Kagamio (do I HAVE TO put an "h" at the end??) vs. some guy from Juryo, didnt catch his name but the way Kagamio threw him out by armbar, he seemed to saying, "Dude, so tired o’ you."

Tokitenku got a glimpse of what could be his future as he took on the Gangstah Wakanosato, who has refused to retire and has kept fighting from Juryo. It was a chesty, leaning, belty affair, long and not hard to follow, and eventually Tokitenku wore down the aged Sekiwake to win by force out. Wakanosato has gotten a bit heavier since that time I saw him snoozing on the train on his way home from his part-time job at Lawson Station.

Takanoiwa, already in the red, was eager to bring his record up to 7-8 while dropping Kyokushuho to the same. He got low from the start and stayed low, pushing in on Kyokushuhos ribcage, backing up the E15 and then rising up and instituting a slapping barrage that the Mongolian could do naught about. Despite being so lowly ranked, Im sure Kyokushuho will remain in Makuuchi in Kyushu.

The second 7-7 rikishi of the day was also de-e-e-NIED as Kitataiki had just enough of a left handed inside belt to run out the W13 to his 7-8 make-koshi. Sokokurai will stay in the top flight for November, but the Chinaman had better take a good look at his inner Mongolian if he wants to stay past then.

Kyokutenho was doing what he does best, using long arms to get in and drive his foe back, when all of a sudden Tamawashi pulled a nifty little grab and throw on The Chauffeurs left arm that turned the tide and sent him to his 7th win. Kyokutenho fizzled there at the end of the basho, but still not a bad showing and looking forward to seeing what he can bring two months hence.

I think Sadanofuji could be forgiven for thinking he was in a rap music video as he waited with both fists down at the shikirisen for 7-7 Chiyootori to stop twisting and jerking his ass up and down. Twisting and jerking and twisting and jerking—man, I wish someone would come up with a neologism so I wouldnt have to type out BOTH of those words. At any rate, the jwisting(?) seemed to work as Chiyootori was able to get inside and after a difficult struggle push his 4-11 foe back and out for his 8th win.

8-6 Sadanoumi came in with not a lot of power and got simply run over at tachi-ai by the much larger Kaisei, who pursued him back and around to the edge and out to clinch the all-important kachi-koshi majority win.

Ichinojo, after a four day dance with champions both nominal and grand, came into his last tussle as a Makuuchi "wookie" needing a win to keep alive the chance of battling Hakuho later in a playoff, and with E6 Aminishiki a shadow of the slippery eel he once was, the chances were good the young Mongolian could pull it off. True to form, 10-4 Shneaky shnuck to his left, but weighed down by 35 kilos of bedroll and taping, he made it only partly out of the way, where Han Solos hired gun was able to get hold of him and run him out. Shneaky picks up the Ginosho prize, while its all too beautiful for Ichi Koo as he picks up the other two prizes and heads into the next tournament as the prohibitive favorite to either hurt someone or himself. I wonder if it has ever occurred before, that the two guys collecting all three prizes fought each other on Day 15?

(Speaking of Ichinojo battling Hakuho, did yall see that lady behind Ichinojo on Day 14 as the camera showed him sitting ringside sweating bullets? Well, I did and that leads me to tonights New Rule: If youre going to show on national telly the one woman in Japan who is not afraid to display her cleavage, then you have to make sure her age is somewhere south of ninety-seven!! I mean, sure, she looked like a classy lady, and Id be willing to bet she was a handful back when cars were started with cranks, but come on! There are children watching, for crying out loud.)

A smashingly sound tachi-ai led to Okinoumi and Ikioi both getting arms inside on each others pits, but as Okinoumi leaned forward in order to filch the inside left belt, Ikioi timed it perfectly and swung him down by his arm kote-nage. Both men finish with outstanding 10-5 records, Ikiois even more so as his came from W5. With both Sekiwake and Komusubi slots being vacated, Im of the opinion that Aoiyama will be Sekiwake and Ikioi will slip in beside Takekaze for the West Komusubi rank.

Well, Ill be damned. Contrary to my faithless Day 12 guess, Tochiohzan came through bigtime in the final three days (actually wining his last six bouts) to finish 11-4 from E8. Today was rigged Election Day as he got on Takarafuji early and often and just swiped him out, with little to no protest from the 8-6 E4.

Yoshikaze pulled out of his second week tailspin by getting his 7th win over Shohozan in a fast and short bout. It was little too little, little too late for Yoshikaze, who likely would have been taking home the Shukunsho prize for his legitimately impressive win over Kakuryu if only he had been able to get that KK eighth win. From the glorious heights of 6-3 with a kinboshi and two Ozeki scalps to 7-8 and squat. Oh sumo, you fickle bitch!

Takayasu kicked the living crap out of Aoiyama, with too many bitch slaps to count, but when the chips were down, the Bulgarian bruiser executed a 180 degree spin on top of the straw bales and Takayasu could nothing but watch in horror as he himself stepped out while his foe stood in the ring, hands on hips and laughing like Atlas astride the Earth. Muhahahahaha.

Endo stepped into an outside left belt courtesy of Osunaarashi, and the W4 wasted no time in driving the W1 out to his twelfth loss. Adding insult to injury, Endo fell ungainly back and out, with his gams jammed straight up into the air, and for a second Osunaarashi (who to me is not an Arab) was trying to grab the youngin by both ankles to prevent him from falling. Oh, what a sight THAT would have made, like some kid getting a swirly in high school.

Toyohibiki was looking for his 8th win, and he seemed about to get it as he slammed Jokoryu back from the tachi-ai, but the Komusubi swiped The Nikibi and squeezed away at the very last moment. Now it was Jokoryus turn to charge his foe backward and out, but as he closed in, he slipped (probably in some pus) and his knee buckled and he went down and lost. Toyohibiki lucks out for this KK.

As Martin predicted, Takekaze had no intention of trying today vs. Goeido, and was run back and out before you could say "Ch-ching!" Of course, Goeido CAN defeat Takekaze straight up 9 times out of 10, so even if he HAD tried itd probably not have changed the outcome.

(Id like to clear something up here while I have the time. When I assured you all in my Day 12 report that Hakuho would crush Goeido on Day 13, I was focusing solely on what common sense dictated. I didnt even consider that Goeido record and was going to need help to reach KK, or even that he was a shin-Ozeki. I didnt even know that he had beaten Hakuho the previous two basho. Like I said, I have been totally out of sumo. In my excitement (and my rush to turn in the report to Mike in the States before he went down for the night) I didnt stop to consider what was at stake. After Hakuho so clearly gifted that Day 13 to a guy who got killed the day BEFORE by Ichinojo (whom Hakuho then whooped on Day 14), and the day AFTER by Takarafuji, I realized what a glaring error I had made. Not to whine about being wrong in predicting, cause Ive been wrong many times, but just wanted to explain how I could have been so off base.)

There is no more telling stat on the demise of Kotoshogikus power and the rise of Kisenosatos than their head to head. From 2009 to 2012, The Geeku pretty much owned The Kid. But since mid-2012, theyve fought twelve times and Geeku has lost nine, and six of those came by yori-kiri. Today was number six as Kisenosato stepped into an inside left belt chest battle where he seemed supremely confident that the Sadogatake man would not be able to move him. And he couldnt. After some time Kisenosato worked him out for his 9th win. Though the crowd clapped during the time the two men rested against each other there was absolutely nothing to see here, folks, nothing to see here. Just move along back to your homes now and let us do or jobs.

In the final matchup, two of the three Mongolian Yokozuna did what they normally do, namely hook up in a tense yotsu battle and see who is stronger. Hakuho set his fingers in well under Kakauryus mawashi and waited. While he was testing out a few minor position changes for his feet, Kakuryu drove forward, but Hakuho still has enough upper body strength to spin anyone in sumo around, and he did just that, finally crushing down on his fellow grand champion as they both tumbled out to a crowd pleasing finish. Hakuho goes to 31 yusho, none on steroids as far as I can gather. Kakuryu wins 11 in the absence of HowDo and thats just about what we would expect.

Sorry I wasnt all that funny today. A little shagged after a busy weekend. Fare thee well until November, when I hope Ill be able to write, but not sure what the future holds in store for me.

One last thing. We have gotten some complaints about Kanes so-called sexist pics of women at the end of each of his reports, like this is some mechanics garage and we are being told to take the girly calendar down. Its kind of silly, but I CAN sympathize with the viewpoint that these hot babes are not representative of sumo. So in the interest of being fair and all-inclusive, here is a photo that I hope, if not puts to rest this controversy, at least balances the scales. Cheers!

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Day 14 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
The biggest thing on everyone's mind right now is Ichinojo. Alright, if you're done groaning, let me expound a bit. The dude is really big, and when I say really big you should read "making Gargantua look like a dwarf". Even though the Sumo Database still lists him at 183 kg, his mae-zumo debut weight, some sources mention even greater numbers, to the tune of 200 kg, which, albeit counterintuitive, is perfectly understandable, since he made his debut at Makushita 15 in an obscure heya, immediately assuming the position of heya-gashira, or the highest rank rikishi in that heya – under normal circumstances, a new guy will lose some weight after making his debut, because he starts low on the pecking order. Still, weight alone, though an important part of it, won't make a guy too scary – just ask Yamamotoyama. This guy is also tall and has the strength of 10 bulls – plus, he's a Mongol, a real, live one, a direct descendant of the nomads of the steppes (You think Asashoryu, Ama and Hakuho were tough? Those sumbitches were raised in the CITY!). He also has significant amateur sumo experience and though his skills could use a fair amount of polishing, they were enough to take him this far up in record time (if the results align right, he'll be Sekiwake in Kyushu). Mike already said "he's your next Yokozuna", and when he does that, you'd better prepare for it to happen. His only downside is... he's big. At 200kg, he'd better have hardened steel reinforced joints and carbon nanotube ligaments, because one small step in the wrong direction is all it takes.

As fate would have it, again, on my reporting day he lost. The bout unfolded just as one would expect it – Hakuho was cautious at the tachi-ai and put his right arm right on the inside, deep under the pit, and at the same time grabbed the insurmountable uwate on the left side. He didn't want to rush it, so he wrangled a bit for better position, which he got when he also grabbed the right inside, and then Ichinojo found himself pushed towards the bales. The Mongolith (great nickname, I'm jealous for not coming up with it myself) wasn't going to go down that way, but at the first sign of resistance near the tawara, Hakuho executed him by uwate-dashi-nage. The Yokozuna is now 13-1 after the bimestrial "Save Goeido" charity event while Ichinojo (12-2) is still on his merry way to Sanyaku (he's facing Aminishiki tomorrow, and *should* win – but don't count the Sneaky one out just yet, he's got this uncanny way to outsmart bigger opponents).

Before getting on with the bouts in chronological order, let's take one good look at the records and leaderboard. The top 3 spots are occupied by Mongols with consecutive records – not really news here. 3 wins away from the lead, at 10, sits a bunch of three Japanese guys, all of them from way outside the jo'i, comprising Aminishiki, Tochiohzan and Okinoumi. The first Ozeki appears at 9 (Kotoshogiku), then Kisenosato at 8 and then Goeido, who still needs charity, at 7 wins. If I were a Japanese fan, I'd probably start following Occitan pétanque.

For reasons of force majeure (some volcano erupted and NHK was covering that instead of sumo, who can blame them?) Tokitenku-Shotenro is missing, but both of those guys are 5-9 after the day and will commiserate in Juryo next basho.

Okinoumi (10-4) welcomed Tochinoshin (14-0) from Juryo, but the Georgian would have none of the hospitality, grabbed himself a strong left uwate and proceeded to win by his 11th yori-kiri of the basho – that stat and his record show he's back in business and beating Ichinojo last basho TWICE in the same day was no bloody accident. I, for one, can't see him in the jo'i soon enough. Okidoki should pat himself on the back for a fine overall performance, despite the loss today.

The third visitor from Juryo, Amuru, didn't fare as well against his Makuuchi opponent, despite being more offensive from the tachi-ai. The Russian rushed ahead and fished for the mawashi, but the round Chiyomaru would have none of it, keeping his foe's long and greedy arms at bay with thrusts to the upper body. The flustered and lightweight Amuru eventually overcommitted and was yanked off balance with a well-timed hiki (or pull), becoming easy meat for the oshi-dashi. The loss, however, won't prevent the injury-plagued J1 Russian from finally making his Makuuchi debut (he's 31 if you're wondering). The win might also not prevent M11 Chiyomaru (4-10) from falling to Juryo (he needs to win on senshuraku as well).

Mongol Takanoiwa was more aggressive than Kitataiki at the tachi-ai and forced his foe back near the tawara, but with no belt grip, Kitataiki's shallow left inside was enough to turn the tables and take proceedings to the other side of the ring as the attacker. He was careless, though, and let Takanoiwa maki-kae and get a solid uwate on the other side, which was enough for the yori-kiri. This leaves both men at 6-8, stranded in the basement of the Makuuchi banzuke for yet another basho (but hey, at least they're safe from demotion to Juryo, so they got that going for them, which is nice).

Tochiohzan improved to double digit wins after absorbing his lightweight tachi-ai and swatting him down like the fly he is. The Mongol (he might be Chinese on paper, but he's from Inner Mongolia and has a Mongolian name –surprised?) is now 7-7 and needs to beat Kitataiki tomorrow to get kachi-koshi.

Kyokushuho withstood Shohozan's furious tsuppari just enough to stay inside the dohyo and long enough to be able to move around and finally slap his overeager opponent down to make-koshi. The Mongol, ranked M15, is a perilous 7-7, but don't be surprised if Takanoiwa (covered earlier) doesn't give him too hard a time tomorrow.

Sadanoumi (the lighter and more technical of the two Sada's gracing the current Makuuchi banzuke) used a push to the side to deflect Chiyootori's strong but linear pushing attack, and was able to get a relatively rare type of grip on his rounder foe, a double uwate – this grip, if you're comfortable with doing yotsu-zumo, is actually pretty advantageous to have, despite technically giving up moro-zashi, especially if you're tall and you have long arms, like, say, Takanonami. With the moro-uwate, Sadanoumi was able to take the lead and quickly win it by yori-taoshi, getting his kachi-koshi. Chiyootori (7-7) needs to beat the other Sada tomorrow.

Kagamioh went against Kaisei with a little too many centimeters and kilograms of disadvantage, but kudos to him for using superior technique to make it last as long as it did. The Mongol won the tachi-ai, getting the left uwate and the right shitate, while denying the Brazilian an outside grip. Kaisei, however, did get his hands on an inside, though, and that ultimately proved enough, as he capitalized on his size advantage to win by yori-kiri. Kaisei (7-7) isn't out of the woods yet, and Kagamioh (5-9 at M16) was already on his way down.

Toyohibiki watched Kyokutenho well while executing his typical pushing attack and survived the inevitable slapdown attempt, which meant Tenho had nowhere to go but back and out. Still, Tenho's already kachi-koshi, while Hibiki only improves to 7-7 with the win.

The next one featured very quick and violent volleys of tsuppari from Aoiyama and Yoshikaze and it came down to who was sharper at the cat and mouse game. Yoshikaze was the one advancing on the Bulgarian's territory, despite seemingly taking a lot more damage from the bigger man's thrusts, but in the end it was Aoiyama who grabbed the little Kaze by the back of the head and introduced him to the clay outside the tawara. Aoiyama (9-5) virtually guarantees himself a Sekiwake debut with the win, while Yoshikaze (6-8) dreadfully falls to make-koshi after a stellar debut (he was, at some point, 6-3, with a combined record of 3-2 against the Yokozuna and Ozeki (which should really tell you something about the state of the banzuke)) (hey, I just love parentheses in general (and nested parentheses in particular (heh, heh))).

If there's one thing rarer than a Japanese rikishi taking the yusho, it has to be a Mongol who can't fight competently at the mawashi. Introducing Tamawashi – also known as The Mawashi (oh, the irony). Takayasu came out firing his usual stiff thrusts, but Tamawashi wasn't too bothered by any of it, expertly dodging to the left and grabbing what would normally be a deadly grip on the back of Takayasu's mawashi with the opponent facing sideways. However, Takayasu used the precarious inside grip and simply flipped the 160kg Mongol down like the giant pancake he is, handing him make-koshi in the process. Takayasu (7-7) lives to fight another day, but will have his hands full on said day with Aoiyama, against whom he doesn't have the best of records.

Toyonoshima valiantly stood his ground against the much larger Sadanofuji right from the tachi-ai, and kept looking to worm his way into the moro-zashi he likes (and needs) so much. It didn't come, but this time it wasn't needed, as Toyonoshima eventually managed to push out the now tired Sadanoumi, who slumps into double digit loss territory. Toyonoshima salvaged what he could from what seemed to be a compromised basho, recording 5 wins in the last 6 days and guaranteeing his stay near the jo'i.

Terunofuji had as easy a time as one can, getting a very deep uwate on Tochinowaka's mawashi, turning him to the side and felling him down with a textbook soto-gake. Terunofuji (5-9), the "other" Mongol this basho, got his first taste of the jo'i wall, but he'll be back soon. Lee is an unflattering 4-10 from M9.

Endo (3-11) earned the dubious honor of being the last guy on the leaderboard (of the ones competing on all days so far) with a bad loss to Arawashi. Japan's paper Yokozuna came in low at the tachi-ai, but forgot to bring his legs with him, and that enabled the agile, lightweight Mongol to go with the flow of his opponent's charge and slap him down at the edge. The win won't do much good honbasho-wise, as Arawashi was already at 9 losses before the bout, but he can probably buy a new car with the kensho – too bad rikishi aren't allowed to drive, huh? As for Endo, the less said, the better; I just hope he doesn't turn into another Takamisakari, because the current state of Japanese sumo is already more comical than it should be.

Osunaarashi came looking for the left uwate at the tachi-ai, but he couldn't get anywhere near it, and a stalemate followed, until Jokoryu unsuccessfully tried to capitalize on a half-assed pull from the Arab. In the confusion that followed (I can't really find a more accurate word to describe it, I guess) Jokoryu made a critical mistake by going for a kote-nage from an unstable position, which only left him on the tawara with his back turned to the Ejyptian, who needed no invitation to bowl the compromised Jokoryu right out of the dohyo and into ringside Kotoshogiku's lap. It's still too little, too late for Stormy Sandy (6-8), but he'll probably regroup in Kyushu. Joke-oryu (4-10) will be returning to calmer waters.

And don't look now, but Takekaze (7-7) actually has a chance to, ugh, keep his Sekiwake spot with a victory against Goeido tomorrow. But since Goeido is the ozeki [small caps on purpose], I am ready to bet the farm on Takekaze taking one for team Japan, even as a desperate damage control measure (just how do you think the Association looks if the Ozeki they promoted with only 32 wins over the three basho fails to reach kachi-koshi in his debut?). As for how Takekaze actually got in this position, I don't even need to tell you it has to do more with the poor quality of his opposition than his actual sumo skill (a brief glance at the winning kimari-te will reveal 2 oshi-dashi, one tsuki-otoshi, 2 hikiotoshi, 2 hataki-komi, in short, a whole lotta evasion). In the actual bout, Ikioi hesitated a bit before the initial charge, and that gave the fat Kaze the green light to ram the living daylights out of him, and then retreat to the side, yank on his arm and slap him down. Ikioi falls to 9-5 with the loss, but still has a chance for Sanyaku promotion.

The next one was either really, really poor sumo on the part of Aminishiki, or just plain, old "unmotivated" sumo. The two hit hard at the tachi-ai, and it was Aminishiki who got a deep left arm on the inside, and, after being taken back a small distance, moro-zashi. Kotoshogiku was undeterred in his advance, however, and only at the edge did Aminishiki stop him. For a short while, anyway, because the Geek somehow (I honestly couldn't tell, even from the replay) got on the inside and twisted Aminishiki down by kotenage. It makes it that much more puzzling that Aminishiki (10-4) had everything to fight for, while for Giku (9-5) it didn't really matter. Who knows, maybe he choked or something.

Goeido vs. Takarafuji was almost painful to watch. Goeido tried for moro-zashi right after the tachi-ai, but when that failed, he was content to keep trying to simply push Takarafuji out. Takarafuji retreated for a while, easily dodging the pushes, and when he was taken to the edge, he evaded and turned the tables. On the offense now, Takarafuji grabbed a solid left shitate (inside mawashi grip), which he used to mount a force-out attempt. Goeido's knee-jerk response was to wrap his outside arm around Takarafuji's neck (he has one?!) and duly fail miserably at the ensuing kubi-nage, as Takarafuji's mawashi grip was as strong as they get. As I've said several times before in my reports, Goeido isn't bad at all at the neck throw, he can even pull off the occasional beauty – but the problem is that he's getting into the position to be forced to attempt one in the first place. You see, with kubi-nage it's do or die, if you fail, you most likely end up face first on the floor, and, best case scenario, you don't fall, but the opponent is behind you and you're 99% likely to lose by okuri-prefixed kimari-te. In conclusion, the shitate-nage win earn Takarafuji kachi-koshi from the M4 rank, while Goeido will need and get Takekaze's help tomorrow [ugh].

After three false starts, all of them Kisenosato's fault, I was fully expecting a henka from Kakuryu, but it didn't come. Instead, the two clashed straight on and settled into hidari-yotsu (left arm inside), which normally favors Kisenosato. Indeed, the Ozeki pressed the action first, forcing Kakuryu to dig in hard at the tawara, but the Mongol wasn't going to go away easily. The Kak regrouped and took the action back to the center of the ring, where Kisenosato mounted a second force-out charge. This time, though, Kakuryu was ready, and he did just enough thrusting with the right hand to destabilize Kisenosato, whose feet slipped from under him, leaving him lying outside the tawara with a 6th loss and a bruised ego. Kakuryu is 11-3, equaling his best record as a Yokozuna.

With the main attraction already covered in the beginning, the only thing left for me to do is a bit of speculating and predicting. The yusho will go Hakuho's way, and he'll take it without any playoff (enough drama is enough). Ichinojo will haul in two prizes, the Shukun and the Kanto, and the Ginosho, the prize for technique, will likely not be awarded, though I'd give it to Ikioi for his massive win on day 7.

That said, I'm looking forward to Kyushu and Clancy tomorrow.

Day 13 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
If we look back on sumo since the start of twenty fourteen, the Sumo Association agenda has focused on two projects: 1) Milk the Endoh story for all it's worth, and 2) Get Goeido promoted to Ozeki. The Endoh phenomenon was a huge success early on, but with the M1 unable to actually match the hype in the ring, the story has plateaued at best and is actually probably starting to wane a bit. With project #1 running on fumes and project #2 having been completed at the end of the Nagoya basho, where does the Association turn next? The easy answer is they have no place to turn, and they know it.

I'm glad that Kane mentioned the theme of the NHK broadcast on day 10 that focused on the first foreign rikishi in sumo, Takamiyama. In Kane's words, it was a touching piece that NHK put together, and they focused on nothing but positives regarding the Takamiyama story. They even put Takamiyama's most beloved recruit, Takamisakari, in the mukou joumen chair for the broadcast to add extra emphasis. The experience that Kane also mentioned of his trying to impress a girlfriend's father is so applicable because the father's stance was, "If there isn't a Japanese Yokozuna, I don't care about sumo." That's the way that a lot of Japanese people feel about the sport, especially the older generation, and so the challenge for the Sumo Association is how do we increase sumo's popularity knowing that we won't have a Japanese Yokozuna for a very long time? The way to do that is to generate as many headlines as possible that will grab the attention of the Japanese fans and encourage them to rediscover sumo all the while carefully massaging the stark reality of the issue that actually envelops the sport...the foreign invasion.

Day 10 happened to fall on a holiday in Japan, and there's no doubt that NHK and the NSK planned the heart-warming Takamiyama piece on a day when they knew they'd have a large audience because I believe that the message they were trying to send to the fans subliminally is: the foreigners are here to stay; the foreigners are going to dominate; and there are positives that come from having foreign rikishi in sumo. That message couldn't have come soon enough because a twenty-one year old rikishi has grabbed this basho by the horns and sent the clear message that the foreign rikishi rule and the Japanese rikishi are as dross cast out at their feet (an Isaiah reference...sweet!!).

Ichinojo--more accurately known as the Mongolith--has single-handedly generated a whirlwind of headlines in the media with this run of his, and regardless of the content of his sumo the last few days, his mere presence has turned this disaster-in-the-making of a tournament into a basho filled with drama. Of course, as Isaiah once quipped long ago, "A basho never really begins until Hakuho loses," we needed the Yokozuna's cooperation today to carry the drama into senshuraku, and let's face it, when has the Yokozuna ever failed to deliver?

As I'm wont to do, especially this late in the basho, let's start the day by focusing on the leaders, which happened to shape up as follows at the start of the day:

12-0: Hakuho
11-1: Ichinojo
10-2: Kakuryu, Okinoumi

Let's go in chronological order of the bouts involving the leaders starting with Okinoumi. A 10-2 start from the M15 rank is one thing, but peddling your wares against M6 Aminishiki is quite another, and that's exactly what Okinoumi faced as he hoped to remain the lone Japanese rikishi on the leaderboard. The two rikishi bounced off of each other at the tachi-ai as they instinctively tsuppari'ed for position before Aminishiki ducked in low forcing the bout to the grapplin' position where Shneaky had his left arm hooked up and under Okinoumi's right pit. Okinoumi dug in with the shallow left hand to the inside, but Aminishiki moved out left quick as a cat and pulled Okinoumi down with a shoulder slap easy peasy Japanesey leaving both rikishi at 10-3 as the dust settled. Nobody took Okinoumi's run seriously, not even the Japanese media, and so I was about to forget him altogether until Yoshida announcer said that Okinoumi would officially be eliminated from the yusho race with a Hakuho win later on. For some reason, that comment rang out to me because there was no question in my mind that Hakuho would destroy Goeido and so why bother to mention it.

But first things first. The most compelling match of the day in my mind featured Yokozuna Kakuryu vs. M10 Ichinojo. The Mongolith is already creating a legacy by becoming the first Makuuchi rookie to defeat two Ozeki in a basho, and he could really add to that resume with a win over a Yokozuna in his first attempt. I fully expected Kakuryu to show us a blueprint of how to defeat Ichinojo, but the rookie had other thoughts henka'ing to his left and pulling Kakuryu down in an instant.

Nothing that occurs in sumo surprise me these days, but this move by Ichinojo did catch me off guard. When he henka'd Kisenosato, he could have done so out of frustration at the Ozeki's stall tactics. Furthermore, Ichinojo was favored to win that bout anyway in my mind, and part of me actually thought it was better that he won by henka so as to help Kisenosato save face (just ask Goeido what it's like to take the Mongolith on straight up). I did not expect another henka, however, against such a prominent rikishi, and Ichinojo needs to be a bit careful that he doesn't start creating a reputation as a henkaphile. There's very little at this point to praise about Ichinojo's sumo, but it doesn't matter. The dude is your next Yokozuna. With the grease job today he moves to 12-1 nipping at Hakuho's heels while Kakuryu is all but eliminated from the festivities at 10-3.

Our sole leader heading into the day, Yokozuna Hakuho, had two choices: win or lose. His opponent, Ozeki Goeido, had one choice: show up. The Ozeki was wide open at the tachi-ai as Hakuho charged with his usual right hand getting it to the inside. Problem was he also had the inside on the left as well giving him moro-zashi, and so the Yokozuna quickly pulled his right arm back and placed it to the outside turning the bout to gappuri-yotsu. With Hakuho intent on standing there in the center of the ring, Goeido made his force-out move after a few seconds driving the Yokozuna back and to the side scoring the easy yori-kiri win with zero resistance from the Yokozuna, not even a half attempt to move to the side and counter. As soon as Hakuho relinquished moro-zashi, I knew the outcome of the bout, but at least Goeido made it look plausible to the sheep.

Some may say that Goeido's left grip was so good it forced Hakuho to remove his right arm to the outside, but if Goeido's grip was worth shat, he wouldn't have retooled it as soon as the Yokozuna got his arm outta the way. When you grab a lethal belt grip on one side that's so good to render your opponent's arm there useless, and you have the inside position on the other side, you lift and go. Goeido had to shore up his grip with the left hand first, and even then his force-out charge wasn't straightway. I posted the replay on our Facebook page if you want to have a look and decide for yourself, but this was mukiryoku sumo start to finish from the Yokozuna, and that point isn't even debatable. Just the previous day, Goeido found himself largely in the same position against Ichinojo, and he got his ass kicked. To think that he could outmuscle the greatest Yokozuna of all time is simply implausible. Furthermore, show me a rikishi who is capable of beating Hakuho three basho in a row, and I guarandamntee you he doesn't exist on this banzuke.

As to why Hakuho chose to lose today, we can only speculate, but the same reasons that I've raised before all apply: it extends the yusho race into senshuraku, it keeps Japanese rikishi on the leaderboard (at least it did until Ichinojo's henka afterwards), it aids in validating Goeido's promotion to Ozeki, and it gives a semblance of parity on the banzuke. Regardless of the reason, Hakuho falls to 12-1 putting himself in a tie with Ichinojo. Big Al's henka of Kakuryu also knocked the two 10-3 Japanese rikishi offa the board, so it comes down to Hakuho and Ichinojo, who both happen to meet on day 14. At this point, Ichinojo is incapable of beating Hakuho, but in another year or so, he will become the first rikishi physcially capable of defeating the Yokozuna in a straight up yotsu-zumo bout. What Hakuho decides to do tomorrow is beyond me, but I would be shocked if he let's Ichinojo yusho.

In other bouts of interest on the day, Ozeki Kotoshogiku welcomed M5 Ikioi in a bout that tried to get to migi-yotsu, but Ikioi pinched inwards with the left arm and then decided to evade a bit to his right. Kotoshogiku lurched forward assuming the migi-yotsu for real, but before he could get his feet established, Ikioi next slipped back to the left side and felled the Ozeki with a nice tsuki-otoshi. An Ozeki's gotta do better than this on day 13 against an M5 rikishi, but this isn't the quality of banzuke we were used to say a decade ago. The result is Ikioi's moving to 9-4 while Kotoshogiku is stuck at 8-5.

M4 Osunaarashi came with a tame right kachi-age and even tamer tsuppari after that allowing Ozeki Kisenosato to easily get to the inside with the right hand and mount his charge. At the edge, Osunaarashi went for that potent counter move where you go for the right counter kote-nage, but instead of slipping to the side of your opponent, you just stay completely in front of him so he can drive you down with ease. This was either really really bad sumo on the part of the Ejyptian or a nice way of sayin', 'there's your kachi-koshi bud.' Osunaarashi did the same thing in this one as Hakuho against Goeido in that they both stayed square in front of their opponents when the situation would have called for them to move to either side and attempt to counter. Kisenosato picks up kachi-koshi at 8-5 while Osunaarashi can live with his 5-8 record.

Sekiwake Takekaze displayed his usual tsuppari offering and then quick slap down at M5 Toyohibiki's extended right arm, and this one was over in a flash. This was indeed Sekiwake sumo at its finest as both rikishi end the day at 6-7.

One of the rikishi I've enjoyed watching most this basho is M4 Takarafuji who opened with a strong left kachi-age from the tachi-ai moving Komusubi Jokoryu back so forcefully he got him turned a bit to his right. From there he grabbed his opponent in a bear hug from behind, stole a little man love in in the process, and then forced Jokoryu out from behind. Takarafuji is 7-6 if ya need him while Jokoryu is status quo for him at this level finishing 4-9.

M1 Terunofuji allowed the easy moro-zashi to M1 Endoh at the tachi-ai and just lamely stood in front of his gal allowing Endoh the easy moro-zashi. No kote-nage counter, no pinching in hard, and lazy feet. This was yet another ending in the same vein as Osunaarashi and Hakuho. See the pattern? Three strong gaijin deferring to three lukewarm nihonjin? It's not a coincidence as Fuji the Terrible falls to 4-9 while Endoh ekes forward to 3-10.

M2 Takayasu used an effective tsuppari attack focused down and straight into M3 Yoshikaze's craw, and as Monster Drink looked to evade left, Takayasu kept pace and just pounded him down to the dirt. Takayasu was clearly fired up in this one beginning with his false start where he slammed his fists down and slammed into Yoshikaze before the gun. Great effort here from Takayasu as both rikishi end the day at 6-7.

M6 Kaisei and M2 Toyonoshima looked to hook up in migi-yotsu, but Toyonoshima cut off Kaisei's right and parlayed that into what looked to be moro-zashi, but he hurried his charge allowing Kaio to get his right arm in so deep he caused Tugboat's left arm to point straight up, and so Kaisei slipped out right and dumped Toyonoshima to the clay for the come-back win. Kaisei stays alive at 6-7 while Toyonoshima's win streak is halted as he ends the day at 4-9.

M3 Aoiyama was lazy at the tachi-ai allowing M7 Chiyootori moro-zashi, but before he could really capitalize on it, Aoiyama backed up and countered with the right kote-nage first and then the left kote-nage next dodging out of the way as Chiyootori bodied his way into nothing and slumped over at the edge with his butt facing the ring providing the easy okuri-dashi target. Aoiyama picks up kachi-koshi at 8-5 while Chiyootori sits at 7-6.

M7 Shohozan tsuppari'ed his way into moro-zashi beautifully, but he rushed the force-out charge allowing M11 Takanoiwa to counter with a left kote-nage just enough to where he was able to push Shohozan (6-7) away with the right and pull him down as he ducked back into the fray. At M11 Takanoiwa is safe now at 5-8.

M8 Tochiohzan used a right kachi-age before backing up against M10 Kitataiki, who attacked way too low for his own good because Tochiohzan was able to quickly slap him down near the shoulder despite the fact that he was backpedaling. Another win on paper for Tochiohzan who moves to 9-4, but his sumo holds the same amount of substance as a J-Pop song these days. Kitataiki has fallen on hard times at 6-7.

Skipping down the ranks a few notches, M14 Kyokutenho employed a left hari-te against M9 Tochinowaka while getting the right inside. As he lowered his left hand from the hari-te, T-Wok's belt was there for the taking, so he grabbed the left outer gaining the advantage, but Tochinowaka dug in deep with his right inside position and wouldn't go down without a fight. Kyokutenho showed great patience as he maintained his upper hand and gathered his wits for about 8 seconds before going for the uwate-nage kill that worked to perfection. Tenho clinches kachi-koshi past the age of 40 while Tochinowaka falls to 4-9.

It was textbook yotsu-zumo from M15 Kyokushuho in his migi-yotsu affair with sputtering M11 Chiyomaru. Kyokushuho wasted no time grabbing the solid left outer grip and force-out came before the fat lady had finished clearing her throat. Shuho is alive at 6-7 while Chiyomaru is headed to Juryo lessen he can win his final two bouts.

In the hardest fought bout of the day, M16 Kagamioh slipped right in a slight henka and assumed moro-zashi going for the quick and dirty force out, but at the edge, M12 Sadanoumi countered with an effective left kote-nage that sent Kagamioh down fast, but as he fell he tripped up Sadanoumi with the left hand at his outer thigh (fresh!) watashi-komi style causing both rikishi to crash down to the dohyo at the same time. It looked to me that Sadanoumi's right arm touched down first, and the ref saw it that way too, but after a mono-ii and review of the tape, they ruled that Kagamioh's "kou," or the top of his left foot dragged across the dirt first. Talk about a close call as Sadanoumi marches to 7-6 while Kagamioh not only loses the bout but suffers make-koshi in the process. I took a pic with my cell phone of the ending of this bout 1) to show Kagamioh's losing the bout because the tops of his left toes are dragging across the dirt, and 2) I wanted to highlight what a real bout looks like at the edge since we seemed to lack such contests the final 20 minutes of the broadcast.

Overall, this was a terrible day of sumo. Sure, the yusho race was extended into senshuraku with the chance of a rookie actually taking the yusho, but the henka, the yaocho, and overall poor sumo content seen the last 30 minutes left me wanting.

Looks like Martin gets the match'a the basho tomorrow, so stay tuned.

Day 12 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Day 12 here in Nippon and things are heating up. Today we had the strange return of a Yokozuna from a mid-basho absence. We had another Yokozuna lose a bout he looked like he forgot was going on AS it was going on, and we had a third Yokozuna employ some stragedy, as Bugs Bunny liked to say, to set up a likely Day 14 date with a wookie rookie.

I dont know about you—literally, I have no idea what you do or dont do or with whom you do or dont do it. But as for me, I cannot stop laughing at Kanes pic on Day 10 showing Ichinojo holding toddler Yoshikaze. I dont know where he got that pic of Starbuck (maybe contacted his family or his hoikuen enchosensei), but from now on I will be looking for small faces in Kanes reports.

As I said above, it was very strange to see Harumafuji not only return from injury, but return as Juryo East 2. And he looked a LOT heavier. I guess five or six days off can do that to a fella. No matter, he showed he is still a man to reckon with by shoving out Kagamioh in no time flat. Kagami? Oh, he needs to look in the mirror and ask himself he really wants to be a top flight guy, cause with three days to roll he is one loss away from perdition.

Okinoumi was looking to hang with the leaders, coming in at 9-2 against Kitataiki. Both men got inside left belt grips and then rested their heads on each others right shoulder, placed their hips far back and proceeded to dance me to the end of love. They danced me on and on, danced me very tenderly and danced me very long, but in the end the needle slipped off the record and Okinoumi backed Kitataiki out, assuring that at least one Japanese name remain on that ever lovin leaderboard graphic for Day 13.

Kyokushuho tried an all advised tachi-ai sidestepping slapdown on Tochiohzan, but the Kasugano man must have watched the recent World Cup cause he guessed which way his foe might go and was able to keep his feet and ram the Mongolian out to attain his kachi-koshi majority win. I wish I could say hes a keeper and will get three more wins to set himself up for one of the Komusubi slots being vacated for Kyushu, but ya just know hes gonna blow it, and probably tomorrow vs. Kitataiki.

Sadanoumi suffered the sumo equivalent of a game winning in-n-out three pointer as time expires. Thinking he had won as the gyoji indicated, after he ran out an Arawashi pulling at the back of his head from jump street, he mounted the dohyo only to find those dreaded MIB (not, the SCOTUS 5!) getting off their keisters. Damn! The eye in the sky slomo showed what we all knowed yo, namely that Sada had fallen just a leetle too soon. Reversal of fortune as the win was taken from him and handed to his enemy.

(I have just been informed by an alert reader that the first bout of the day was in fact Kagamioh vs. Homarefuji, NOT Harumafuji as was erroneously reported on various news websites. As you were.)

Chiyootori was looking for his 8th win, but Sokokurai had other plans. After giving ground initially the Chinese champ snatched an outside right belt that he used to lift up and swing around his much heavier (40 kilos heavier!) foe. (Its funny how easy it is for me to type that, and yet how insanely difficult it must have been for Sokokurai to DO it.) Chiyootori was somehow able to remain in the ring, his toes splayed wide open as he balanced on the bales. Sokokurai kept wrenching and wrenching, and Chiyootori kept resisting, but finally when a Chiyootori attempt at jamming his right hand in under Sokokurais arm failed, he desperately tried to pull the Arashio mans neck, and was quickly shoved back and out. THIS bout was pure, unabashed sumo power on display. Check it out on the WWW.

Sloppy footing by Kyokutenho postponed his kachi-koshi one more day (hes going to mangle dispirited 4-8 Tochinowaka on Day 13) as he let Mr. A. Minishiki gain his ninth win via (pro: "vie uh") by stepping out as the E6 was getting ready to bed down for the night. Bedroll takes on Okinoumi in the first half gangbuster tomorrow.

Takarafuji won the battle of short arms by overcoming a determined Takanoiwa, who was trying to avoid his eighth setback. Takanoiwa wanted the belt, but Takarafuji was not letting him in, doing his t-rex best with those truncated pipes to knock his opponent around and off kilter. Takanoiwa finally collapsed in a heap at the edge as he just could not stand the beating any longer.

Ikioi tried to grab the cheap outer belt grip at a sidestepping tachi-ai, but Takayasu read it and turned it into a close in battle. Ikioi was able to lock down on Takayasus arm and use it as a lever to yank him around until finally shoving him out, with a hand in his mug for good measure. I think Iki-iki-iki-fatang-zoom (does anyone get that reference, I wonder?) knew if he won this match hed be in position at a shot at one of the big boys, and for Ikioi, his Day 13 draw Kotoshogiku qualifies as big. With that on the line, cant blame him too much for wanting it badly enough to play cheap at the start.

Toyonoshima demonstrated for all (as if we needed it) the relative meaning, in sumo, of the word "injured." His fourth straight win after returning came at the expense of Endo, who could do nothing with his tenuous inside left belt as Tugboat clamped down on it by leaning right and then working the hapless 2-10 W1 out. Props to Toyonoshima for his dramatic comeback, which has easily assured him a Makuuchi spot in Kyushu.

He-Who-Disposes-Of-Yokozuna got his ass kicked by Jokoryu, making you wonder how in the world he beat Kakuryu so easily. After that kin-boshi and his earlier phi slamma eye jamma he pulled on Harumafuji, this is going to be one basho the Caffeinated One will never forget, despite todays humiliation.

Osunaarashi forearmed Takekaze in the face and then followed it up with some arms fully extended thrusts to that same mug, but Takekaze, look at him go, shook it off and worked his way inside and I was totally rooting for Takekaze (how often does THAT happen??) to kick this guys ass for being so...so...big and strong, but alas, Osunaarashi was able to drag the smaller man in and slap him down. Not sure what all the love people are showing for this Egyptian. I find his sumo reminiscent of another furrie, name of Kokkai, and predict that using those crappy pull tactics he will not ever rise above Komusubi, unless the Sekiwake slots just go to shit in the very same basho as he KKs at Komusubi.

Taken to task, as it were, by the enigmatic Harv for my part in STs not coming up with a better nickname for Tamawashi than "The Mawashi," and deeply dissatisfied with the nicks that have been employed so far for Ichinojo, including "Blob" and "Iron Blob of Gravity Grease" (da fuck?), I hereby give you the nickname for Ichinojo that will be used henceforth by any and all who have taste and style: The Mongolith!

An-n-n-n-nyway, today Goeido was fooling himself, thinking he could get into a belt battle and win. He snagged an outside left belt but gave up the inside right, and stupidly sat still for a couple of seconds after the tachi-ai, which allowed Ichinojo to cement his grip and snag an outside left. Once the table had been set, it was not too difficult for The Mongolith to pull him off balance, rush forward, and counter the inevitable twisting that the Ozeki would attempt. The crowd went nuts, and rightly so on the basis of seeing a rookie beat an Ozeki, but I didnt, and thats because I know Goeido is undeserving of this rank and Ichinojo, barring injury, is a future Yokozuna.

(Ichinojo was cute in his interview, answering the pesky interviewer with short, rote responses, but when asked if he was contacted by his family after beating Kisenosato on Day 11, he smiled and said they called to congratulate him, and he speculated that they would call again today.)

I think Yokozuna Kakuryu wanted to show the world that he is strong enough to go chest to chest with Kotoshogiku, who is a famously unskilled belt grappler, and drive him out bi yori-kiri. So it seemed as the Yokozuna did not employ any twisting to the side or shaking to see what apples might fall off the tree. He just stood there right in front of the Ozeki, seeming to dare him to try and win by pushing him back and out. And Geeku did just that.

At one point, the Yokozuna responded to a drive by Kotoshogiku by pushing him back and had him off his feet and slightly unbalanced, but instead of capitalizing on this by twisting to the left or right (because we all know Kotoshogiku does not have the greatest balance and can be thrown down to the side if one is sufficiently strong enough, like say a Yokozuna might be) he simply set him down and went back to a stalemate. Real perplexing sumo there by Kakuryu. Lets hope he employs a little more movement vs. The Mongolith tomorrow.

Finally we had what is normally the best battle of the basho in Hakuho vs. Kisenosato. Hakuho will be 30 years old on the anniversary of the Tohoku Tsunamj next year, and as good as he is, he has lost a step or two and its no shame to admit it by employing some strategy. Today he admitted it by sliding a tiny bit to his right, preventing Kisenosato from getting some lucky forearm to the Yokozunas face or something that might throw a wrench in his plans to tie Chiyonofuji with a zensho yusho. He was immediately able to get the moro-zashi as Kisenosato had no plan on how to block Kublais intrusion. The Ozeki was easy pickings from there and ends his day still needing one win to kachi-koshi. Hakuho moves on with a date with Goeido, and it aint gonna be pretty. Goeido will go down and go down hard. Trust me on this one.

Ill be back on Day 15 to review the carnage. And I dont mean to be a spoil sport, but if there is a single one of you who thinks Ichinojo can defeat Hakuho, please disabuse yourself of that notion immediately cause it wont happen. Like Martin hilariously stated, "Hes coming, and hell is coming with him" but this is Hakuho we speak of, and while everyone else may be quaking in their bare feet, the GOAT will NOT be pointing and shouting, "Hannibal ante portas!"

Mike will splain it all to you tomorrow, Lucy.

Day 11 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
It's my pleasure to guest-write today's column, and an honor. For three recent years, I lived in a country where the internet was too slow to stream video (yes, such places still exist). I spent--I shouldn't admit this--around $2000 dollars having a satellite dish that looked like a prop from Apollo 13 built on the top of my generator shack, and for two glorious weeks during a July basho we actually had jittery but watchable NHK. Then the signal disappeared, and the country's lone satellite-TV expert couldn't fix it, then he died, a day or two after telling me he couldn't come to try again because he was feeling a little sick. The point of this story is that during those three years the only thing I knew about sumo I got from Sumotalk. So, props to the writers for writing intelligently and entertainingly about the bouts. Now is my chance to give back; I hope there is some yurt dweller in the wilds of Tuva cursing under his breath right now that the western cirrus ice is obscuring his Sat feed, but thanking his lucky clear-skied eastern stars that Sumotalk, and its low low bandwidth bite is available as usual. Cheers.

Day 11: in general things felt rushed today. Guys who wanted to win did so swiftly and decisively, and guys who lost looked like they weren't into it. Early on in this tournament I was happy to see there was a lot of long, intense, hard-fought bouts; that sagged away as the middle of the tournament came on, but today the vibe was different: the rush towards the end has begun. The dog-days of September? There are only two real questions: will Hakuho go ahead and win or give a surprise yusho to Kakuryu? And what will Ichinojo do? Ichinojo has star power in that bland, spreading bulk--there is something compelling about him right now, and it ain't just the chilling power-sumo. Tonight, sitting at Ryuzan eating my Sanratanmen just off the Shinjuku line at Higashi-Oshima, the only customer, while the 75 year old proprietress and I were treated to the news, guess what they showed from sumo: one bout only. Ichinojo. And they showed it twice. Well, let me tell you about it--and everything besides.

First, the else. Okinoumi vs. Sadanoumi demonstrated today's trend of quick, dominating wins: Sea of Oki beat Sea of Sada quickly and decisively, almost too easily. Sadanoumi, who has impressed this tourney with forceful forward sumo, had some fo' here too, and drove Okinoumi back ever so slightly--but Oki's Sea (9-2) then just twisted Sada's Sea (6-5) by the left arm for a kote-nage win; Sad Sea went down easily. I dunno; when I was a kid other kids on the playground used to twist my arm behind my back and make me say uncle too--I just never felt in the mood for a broken arm.

Kagamioh ain't got much. How do I know this? Today he faced Tochinowaka, a rikishi with known weaknesses (passive, struggles when bashed in the face). Kagamioh did not try to take advantage of the face thing (mentally weak) and despite having lower position he was slid out (physically weak) like a toboggan in February by Tochinowaka (4-7). There is a group of colorless rikishi who have yet to show me anything that will get them to post-five-o'clock, and Kagamioh (5-6), losing here by oshi-taoshi, is one of them.

Tamawashi is another colorless fellow, as evidenced by the fact that even this illustrious site has never found a better nickname for him than "The Mawashi." However, I can't do better; I nevertheless hereby will call him "Snack Break, because he is the kind of guy who sends me to the kitchen to root out some malt beer and a bag of peanuts for the following bouts. But not today. I stayed and watched Snack Break show his experience and professionalism, maintaining well by responding to flabby pushes and a few tsuppari by Sadanofuji by pushing back up high and in Sada's face. As colorless as Snack Break is, at least he has the power to win a bout like this: Sadanofuji (3-8) just doesn't have much more than bulk, which led to his oshi-dashi loss to Tamawashi (4-7).

Tokitenku showed why everybody hates him by combining (1) a henka to his left with (2) a kick to Arawashi's leg to trip him while (3) nearly pulling Arawashi's hair in pushing down on his head, all after (4) not actually touching the dirt with either fist in his eagerness to get to this bit of nasty trickery. Keta-guri loss for make-koshi Arawashi (3-8). When the other kids didn't feel like twisting my arm behind my back they might push me down in the dirt at the marble pit by surprise and say, "hey, you got snot coming out of your nose." But I still like Tokitenku (3-8) because instead of sniggering with the other boys over by the tree, he walked away with a look on his face that said "okay... if you don't like it MAKE IT ILLEGAL." Smart man.

Tochiohzan got both arms inside (moro-zashi) and forced Kyokutenho out quickly oshi-dashi. Fine and well, but there is no question that despite the 7-4 record, this tournament has raised questions about Tochiohzan: he should be, oh, 10-1 or 9-2 from this position, and unless lingering injury is causing it, his mostly backwards-moving sumo this tournament is spelling "has been" for him. As for 7-4 Kyokutenho, it has been a fun basho with all the "Lordy Lordy look who's forty" stuff, but this bout shows why you're hearing from those who know that the grandfather clock has already struck about 11:30 for this guy--he had nothing. And these guys fought a yusho playoff just two years ago. My goodness.

Chiyootori, who by all rights should be a rising star about now--and maybe he is; don't look now but he's one away from kachi-koshi at 7-4--looked low, fast, and strong in driving out Kyokushuho (5-6) efficiently with moro-zashi. Again, today was all about dominance for winners and pasty weak nothings from the losers.

Shohozan's dominant tsuki-dashi defeat of Sokokurai (6-5) was similar in flavor if not content: Sokokurai, who I was looking to show me here that he more than just a pretty-good bottom-dweller, could not do so. He panickedly tried to fend off Shohozan's aggressive attack, and was out in seconds. He did very much of nothing here. Shohozan (5-6) may never stick in the Sekiwake-Komusubi slot because he is too small, but he showed today why a lot of people like him: he has winning spirt from here to there. This stuff matters. Look at the size of these two and pick a winner? Bad idea. Look at the demeanor and now pick again: better idea.

Ikioi is another guy whose fighting spirit I like; his opponent today, Takanoiwa, is a "jury's out" guy, but I thought Takanoiwa did well to make this one against Ikioi into a contest; Ikioi has more tools and experience but Takanoiwa didn't just crumple. This may have been today's best bout. Iki got the right outer while High Cliff (Takanoiwa) had the left inner, while with their other two hands they concluded a deal, shaky shaky thanky thanky Have a Cigar. But the key here is that Ikioi kept himself facing and moving forward and his feet active and kept Takanoiwa facing to the side, leaving High Cliff (4-7) to hop about on one foot while Ikioi (7-4) dictated the pace and looked like a savvy, strong guy who is going to do a lot of winning and look good doing it.

A couple days ago I wrote that Toyohibiki is a better, fatter version of Kitataiki. Lo! Here they are facing each other: two honest power guys. Guess what, fatter, better = winner. This was a simple test of physics, of which Toyohibiki (oshi-dashi, 5-6) has more than Kitataiki (6-5). Yay, Kerosene Burp (my Japanese is bad and I always confuse the word for kerosene, which isn't toyo but should be; "hibiki" means echo, but like I said my Japanese is bad, so I really did, years ago, do a double take: Kerosene Burp??? (No, dummy, Rich Echo... kerosene fumes?) so Kerosene Burp it will always be. And does he not look like he could produce such a thing?)

People like to pick on umpires and referees, who are trying to make decisions based on tiny visual distinctions that happen in a split second at angles that may have been blocked for them. So, I say: you try it. Today, probably Aminishiki should have beat Yoshikaze on the first go round, as it looked like his heel was still in as Yoshikaze went flying past him, missile like, after driving Ami back to the tawara without sufficient control or de-ashi. However, when I'm seeing it in the comfort of my home on ultra slow replay multiple times, and I'm still not entirely sure, well, then a do over is the right decision. Period. In which do-over Aminishiki spun Yoshikaze around by neck and shoulder, and despite being higher up and going backwards, swung Yoshikaze down like a missile now going all curly-cue, hataki-komi. It is always odd to me how a guy who looks to have such better position (Yoshikaze 6-5) can be beat so decisively by the one with worse position (Aminishiki 8-3). Chalk it up to Aminishiki's "inner chi," while Yoshikaze looked like he was dancing a jig after 17 shots of whiskey-and-coffee. Another theme of this basho for me has been that guys who stay calm in the ring win. Zen-amen.

In the myth of Sisyphus, Sisyphus is cursed to roll a boulder up a mountain and have it come down again every time just when he gets to the top, and then have to roll it up again. Good thing Zeus didn't decide to do this to Toyonoshima instead of Sisyphus, because Toyonoshima today pushed the boulder, now featuring the friendly nickname "Chiyomaru" all the way up and over the mountain top. Chiyomaru is a huge fat round heavy thing, and Toyonoshima is visibly smaller, and even as it was happening I thought, "this is not going to work," as old, injured Toyonoshima worked at Chiyomaru's belly and bulk and kept pushing him back, back, back, and then up, up, up and over the tawara, oshi-dashi. Chiyomaru (3-8) should have evaded, but he didn't. So be it. This is why people enjoy Toyonoshima (3-5-3): he often looks overmatched, but he is one of sumo's best gamers. He eats on Sisyphus's dime tonight, while Zeus says, "yabut, time waits for no man. I'm getting' him right soon, you'll see."

Nice, powerful slap of bodies at the tachi-ai by Takayasu and Takarafuji, after which Takayasu (5-6) got the left inside and used it to work Takarafuji (5-6) out yori-kiri. Simple, powerful, lovely.

Don't look now, but Terunofuji, who has won three of four, may end up with an okay record this tournament (4-7). Problem was, I'm not buying it. Who knows why, but Kaisei (4-7), who had a left, gave it up, then did the old "hold the armpit" strategy. I dunno, maybe his arms are short. Then Terunofuji did a nice uwate-nage, but Kaisei's hop-hop and gentle roll reminded me of how the Aikido teacher in Seattle whose session I watched once before deciding I'd stick to Star Wars and Lord of the Rings instead would do nice falls when doing confidence building work with his students.

Endo (2-9) wins an automatic one over withdrawee Chiyotairyu (1-10; right knee injury). In effect, tournament was already over for both them. These are both potential-guys, so I'll look forward to seeing if they can do something with said potential next time. Underwhelma-a-rama please go away.

Aoiyama drove the action from the tachi-ai against Jokoryu with powerful right-left-right-left thrusts, extending his arms to full length and overwhelming Jokoryu tsuki-taoshi. Jokoryu (3-8) is the ostensible Komusubi here, but Aoiyama (6-5) is the better rikishi, and probably consistently belongs at Komusubi or Sekiwake. He seems to suffer from the looks-like-lethargy that has seemed common to the Europeans in the division, but not today. (Scary in the slow-mo tho; never seen such flappity flabbities, even on Miyabiyama. Here's hoping the ceaseless march of Sensitivity will take pity on Aoiyama and authorize his wearing a sports bra in the ring. And heck, give him a big helmet, too.)

Kotoshogiku (7-4) rapidly drove Osunaarashi (4-7) out oshi-dashi. Nice, smacking tachi-ai here, followed by two face slaps by Big Sandy, but what was Biggy's next move? A head pull while standing up straight. Why? My take on Giant Sand is that he gets one chance to get a knock-out punch in. If it doesn't work, he's in "do'ope!" mode, and has nothing. Kotoshogiku, respect his rank or not, has always been straight forward and professional, and today through calm or luck he survived SandStromThurmond's first brute offerings. It won't always work that way--Shohozan basically got knocked out by StormThorgerson the other day, and Cheetos is no pansy--but Stormy is going to need to find more than two punches to work with in order to advance.

Finally, the big moment: Ichinojo vs. Kisenosato. This doesn't happen very often: an upper division rookie facing an Ozeki. But the result was sad, sad. After two false starts by the Iron Blob of Gravity Grease (Ichinojo), Iron Blob henka'ed and pushed down Kisenosato by the head hataki-komi. I mean, why? Well, if I was selling my soul, I'd probably say, "okay, but if I'm going to lose, you have to make yourself look bad. Henka me." Then again, Kisenosato did look annoyed with himself afterwards (he said "ah" to himself in the tunnel--credit to where credit is due, thank you Kintamayama). Who knows? Either way, Ichinojo gets an historic victory in an anti-climactic, embarrassing, shameful way. (We need Tokitenku to drop in right now and say, "if you don't like it, MAKE IT ILLEGAL.") This, in a word, sucked. My sanratanmen was delicious, though.

Hakuho used his trademark "prop him with the right forearm, scoop him with the left arm extended down low" tachiai, and it was starting to work--this bulldozer/backhoe combination had Takekaze moving towards the tawara. Oddly, though, Hakuho then decided-- what, that it wasn't worth the effort? Because he changed gears and pulled Takekaze down by the back of the head hataki-komi (and was lucky he didn't get a hair pull, as it looked to me like the fingers were inside the back of the 'do). Is it just too easy for him? At any rate, I like him to win this tournament; if he is going to tie Chiyonofuji, doing it with a zensho would be his style: he knows how to Come Out and Make a Statement. He doesn't always do it; let's hope he finishes his Speech.

Finally, Kakuryu was ho-hum; as he often does, he chose to dominate his opponent with something that looks like weakness ("the Aikido Yokozuna"). He whapped Goeido on the top of the head with both hands like a person pushing down a plunger, then stepped neatly and swiftly all the way back to the tawara while further pushing Goeido down tsuki-otoshi. This is dreadful for Goeido, because at his rank he shouldn't look so vulnerable to a guy who looks like he isn't trying very hard. Goeido's sumo looks befuddled.

Last four days is Ichinojo-a-go-go-happy-happy-Hakuho-ho-ho.

Day 10 Comments (Kane Roberts reporting)
Here's a good plan…find out what you're good at and believe in THAT. Oh and it's better that you don't watch the news 'cause theres a gawd awful stream of garbage that flows unfettered through so many news drainage systems that you're just asking to be bent over (and I don't mean backwards) and taken way off topic which is and should always be…winning.

Now, the reason I bring this up is recently I flicked on the telly to watch me some pigskin action and saw Ray Rice doing a Ralph Kramden on his (at the time) fiancée and found myself subjected to a truckload of opinions on how to think about the dirty deed…having no thoughts that matched up with the nimrods' that waxed pathetic on that topic, I changed the channel and saw a politician (no name here is necessary since they're ALL the same waste of time) so I got the f… offa THAT channel and shut down my boob tube.

It was then that I realized one of the main reasons I feel all excited when a basho is starting up and why I get a bit forlorn when the event ends 2 weeks later.

You see, however much you believe that some kinda agenda plays a role in our treasured fat guy sport, it's a true vacation from the glut of news and corrective thought management we get shoved up our butts every frikkin day. And speaking of butts…looking at a girl's butt is also waaay over anal eyesed. Not sure how to spell that. (Please use your imagination and insert an image here)

But when I'm immersed in a real live basho…wellllll…I'm watching something steeped in tradition…a honto ni omoshiroi koto (insanely interesting event) born of a culture whose essence is notably beyond my ability to fully comprehend (thank you Mr. Wesemann for trying to get us up to speed by offering up all the sweet Nihon extras in your reports!).

When I got my sumo on, I'm suddenly in a new dimension…a fresh and insanely cool zone. And in a broader (and nad) sense, I'm aware that I be watching it with alla you maniacs who've also jumped the train to see mawashi wedgies galore!

And hey, when we stand up and do the "guts pose" 'cos something fantastic has happened atop the dohyo, it's also kinda like digging on a band that no one else likes! As original thinkers (and I use that term lightly), we're somehow a breed apart. We believe in ourselves enough to step away from our peers and get way inside something on our own…and this my friends is truly most excellent (oh I used that last time around…oh well).

Let's just hope randomly imposed agendas don't overwhelm this bastion of…whatever the heck sumo REALLY is…

Now, having committed the very thing I was complaining about, let's all suit up, roll our heads around our shoulders (now back the other way) and crack our knuckles, 'cause dayum if it ain't Day 10 Aki Basho 2014!

The broadcast started off with a touching report on Hawaiian sumo wrestler Takamiyama the first gaijin rikishi that became one of Japan’s most beloved sumo dudes ever. Now there are those that still believe that allowing foreigners into the sport was a mistake.

Just look at the profiles in the banzuke and you get a sense of how the home team fans might be feeling. When I visited a Japanese girlfriend in Shizuoka a few years back, I met her Dad and I thot he’d be all impressed that I was into sumo…he said "without a Japanese Yokozuna he no longer has an interest in the sport".

But although Takamiyama only made it to Sekiwake status (in those days it wasn’t an “only”) he also won a championship, became the first foreign born rikishi to start a stable (Hawaiian Yokozuna, Akebono was part of his Azumazeki stable!) and held the record for most Makuuchi consecutive appearances. He started in sumo in 1964 and ended his long career in 1984.

After showing some insanely cool bouts with Takamiyama and Takanohana, NHK color commentator, Mainoumi, praised Takamiyama for coming to Japan and learning Japanese and eventually embracing Japan's culture and people.

Mike sent me an email noting that this featured special may have been a way of easing the viewers into the Mongolian dominance becoming a total rampage!

At the outset, the ever stylishly dressed Tamawashi received a sound hari-te from his fellow Mongolian Tokitenku. As the two men danced in a circle Toki did what he'd learned from the sumo manual that came with his chon-mage kit and went for his opponent's belt, Mr. Washi locked his mitts in Tokitenku's armpits and drove him backwards. As the two men struggled Tamawashi got an insane nodowa grip bending Toki's torso almost 90 degrees backwards and eventually corkscrewed his man out of bounds oshi-dashi style. Tamawashi keeps the dogs offa his rump at 3-7 while Juryo bound Toki get's all bit up at 2-8.

Now the other guy famous for getting his head bent back is Tochinowaka but Sokokurai felt coming in low was a better tactic against the tall slow man. At the tachi-ai Tochinodowa strode in upright while Soko got in a strongly executed crouch and drove his head into the bigger man's chest. Each man achieved opposing yotsu grips, but it was Sokokurai (6-4) who toughed it out and got the leverage and threw down Tochi (3-7) for the impressive shitate-nage win.

Okinoumi (M15) needs a good basho real bad, and I don't think there's anyone among us who doesn't believe he possesses the skills to do just that. At 7-2 he could smell kachi-koshi and the only fragrance in the way was Shohozan's rapidly fading deodorant.

El Grumpo Maximo can't seem to get his tsuppari mojo woikin' this time out, and as he and Okinoumi engaged in a full on slapfest it was evident that Sho would eventually step across the rope first. Oki gets his kachi-koshi (8-2) and Shohozan (4-6) considers switching to a silver mawashi.

Next, the magical Mr. A. Minishki faced off with the mysterious Mr. Toyo H. Ibiki, two rikishi that consistently keep their heads above the murky waters of Lake Mukiryoku. These are two tough sumbitchs, and I gotta say the Shneekster just kicks my butt the way he consistently works through his chronic knee pain. Not bagging' on Baruto but there you have it….

The two men (as they are oft prone to do) struck with honest hard tachi-ai. Aminishiki wisely kept Toyo away from his belt and repeatedly shoved his man upright forcing the Beekster to respond with tsuppari (not his technique of choice). Regardless, he still backed up the staggering Aminishiki who suddenly responded with a stunning right handed shove that sent his big opponent stumbling to his left. The Shiek of Shneak pounced on Toyo and rammed his big butt clear off the dohyo. Aminishiki mans up for a cool 7-3 and Toyohibiki reluctantly falls to 4-6.

Ichinojo has earned kachi-koshi. Yoshikaze has an Ozeki AND a Yokozuna scalp. Will the big Mongolian kid be able to handle Monster Drink's frenetic brand of su….oh its over? Ahh I see. Well credit Yoshikaze for coming hard and fast at Ichinojo who simply backed up and slapped down Monster Drink in quick hataki-komi order. Ichi Koo Park is 9-1 (he faces Ozeki Kisenosato tomorrow) while Yoshikaze falls to a respectful 6-4.

Terunofuji and Takayasu had fire in their eyes as they approached the gate, and when push came to shove Tak blew Teru back towards the bad place. Terunofuji impressed everyone that was paying attention by his ability to lower his head and lift Takayasu up and back showing his opponent what it feels like to get worked. Both men grappled while trying to prevent the other from grabbing belt when suddenly Tak went full headlock mode and tried an atama-nage (head unscrew). He managed to yank Fuji the Terrible by his neck, but it appeared he also pissed the kid off as Teru suddenly upped the intensity and began muscling Taka towards the rope.

Let me say that right at this point I was enthralled by the intensity of what these two rikishi were laying down. Takayasu slid his arms free and attempted another headlock toss, but Terunofuji muscled him back to the edge of the dohyo, grabbed Taka's right leg, and dumped the dude into the expensive seats. Great bout I say unto thee placing young and hungry Terunofuji at 3-7 and just plain hungry Takayasu at 4-6.

So Endoh (1-9) lost to Jokoryu (3-7). I believe my initial reactions to this talented kid were well founded. Whatever is currently going on, he ain't the same athlete I saw roar through Juryo and put up some sweet numbers in Makuuchi for a couple of basho (an erudite fellow I know named Mike W. concurs). Along with the NSK hype and a truckload of Makuuchi dynamics, he's had a LOT on his plate. So here's hoping he can assimilate it all of this properly and start to enjoy some better numbers.

Kisenosato has been a solid Sekiwa… I mean Ozeki this basho. He's shown maturity through patience, technique by displaying sound footwork, and a drive to win with a bevy of kimari-te yori-kiri and oshi-dashi. Takarafuji has been holding his own and has shown some of his own mensch-like characteristics on the dirt.

The Kid let loose his signature semi-passive tachi-ai but achieved (as did Tadaraboomdeeyay) a solid mawashi grip. Kise tested the waters and tried to twist and jostle Takara back, but his man was not giving it up, and they settled into using each others trapezius' as a chin rest.

Taka shoved back hard, but both men had their feet planted properly, and so the center of the ring stalemate continued. Takarafuji showed the audience he possesses stronger guns than the Kid and proceeded to lift, drive and slam the Ozeki off the clay. Nice bout I say…Kise got worked mightily in the end…much to the disappointment of the crowd…but give him credit for…well trying. Yori-taoshi is the call as Taka feels mighty at 5-5 and Kisenosato feels like 7-3 and out of yusho race.

Now that the whole "Japanese anything" taking place this basho had been cleared out, I was soundly amused how easy a time Kotoshogiku had rocking Goeido (a Japanese Ozeki) backwards and off the planet. Lower ranked rikishi kicked Geeku's butt quite handily earlier in the week. Mandude Koto (6-4) beats Lostdude Goeido (6-4).

It seemed like Kakuryu tried a number of techniques before finally ridding the world of Takekaze. Tsuppari then belt grip then hataki-komi then tsuppari and finally uwate-dashi-nage to end the brief one-sided affair. Takekaze, who looked like he just wanted to know what he was supposed to do, feels symmetrical at 5-5 while Mr. Excitement displays no emotion regarding his current status at a respectable 9-1.

Finally, Hakuho got his ass strong-armed around to the right and dangerously close to hell's trip wire by Da Thug, Osunaarashi, causing all of my friends at my sumo party to gasp.

But Osu’s tippy toe footwork greatly reduced the effectiveness of his initial attack (he actually lost his footing) and Hak was able to recover his balance, dig in and counter with a powerful left arm toss and the tsuki-otoshi vic. Yoko Haku 10-0, Osu, who is trying to forget his sordid past, falters at 4-6.

Well that does it for me this time around and let me confess, it's been a gas!

Some sweet action taking place at this Aki affair and so far I'm juiced about all the sweet sumo goodness we've been treated to…so as always, thanks for the opportunity to smack down with y'all. Looking forward to the rest of the ST reviews (good to have the C Man back) and of course your hardcore comments. I'd take a selfie and send it to you but…she looks a whole lot better know what I mean Verne?

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I always look forward to the weekend broadcasts because NHK brings out their guns as they know the audience will be large, and it gives them a chance to set the stage for week two. The guests are always high profile celebrities, and the oyakata providing color analysis are top notch as well, usually with Mainoumi in the mukou-joumen chair. As you've probably figured out by now, I don't watch sumo and then go to the media to see what just happened. I pay close attention to the media beforehand as it offers clues as to what we can expect during a hon-basho. I firmly believe that the PR department of the Sumo Association is not there to just advertise the sport. Rather, they're there to coordinate with the media regarding the highlights and talking points of the basho.

Endoh is a perfect example of what I'm talking about. They gave statistics on Sunday afternoon talking about the rise in sell-outs this basho, and it was pointed out on day 4 how the venue sold out on that particular day for the first time in 17 years. I can't exactly say there is a resurgence in sumo's popularity among the Japanese fans, but interest in the sport is definitely on the rise again, and so the question becomes 'what's bringing the fans back?' For example, a Japanese rikishi hasn't taken the yusho in 8 years plus, nor is a Japanese rikishi even close to accomplishing that feat; yet, fan interest is definitely on the rise again, and so the talk, especially on Sunday, focused on the reasons for swelling fan interest.

Sunday's guest was none other than Yaku Mitsuru, a creepy looking anime creator who uses sumo as the backdrop for many of his creations. Yaku was extremely critical of Asashoryu back in the day, and it was he and that other dude named Makiko Uchidate whom the media would always go to when they needed quotes bashing the former Yokozuna. Anyway, NHK had Yaku create a one-frame anime scene that depicted sumo in its current state, and he drew a rikishi walking towards the venue and then a crowd of fans around him including a foreigner that is represented at the far left of the frame. As for the captions to the story, Yaku included the wording "sumo-ba" where ba means place and is the same ba found in the compound basho. And then he added the term "kenbutsu," or discover. His belief was that the rise in fan attendance was due to people getting curious in sumo, and so they were discovering the sport again.

Sitting next to Yaku was the former Takanonami or current Otowa-oyakata, and he was more to the point and less poetic when he said, "I think the rise has to do with female fans coming out to see Endoh." Both Yaku and Takanonami are correct in their assessments, and the way they are getting Japanese fans interested in sumo again is to manufacture and hype storylines that aren't based off of actual sumo content exhibited on the dohyo. Using the case of Endoh, he's achieved near rock star status without producing a single hit.

I kind of liken him to Justin Bieber. Musically, that queer boy has no talent, but he's got an image that gullible fans (i.e. young females) just eat up. In the case of Endoh, he's done nothing atop the dohyo; yet, the media has created this image surrounding him that gullible fans (i.e. Japanese people) just eat up, particularly the single female crowd. It's the strangest phenomenon; yet, it's produced concrete results, so there's no reason why the Sumo Association won't continue to ride this wave for as long as they can. I'm fine with whatever the Sumo Association wants to do, but don't expect me to pretend that all of the sumo in the ring is real just as I would never pretend that Justin Bieber actually has any talent, especially when bands like Linkin Park occupy the Yokozuna slot in the East with Coldplay in the West.

On that...er...note, let's start off week two by examining the leaderboard as we head into day 9. What a difference three days make as the leaderboard is whittled down from 19 rikishi to just four as follows:

8-0: Hakuho, Kakuryu
7-1: Kisenosato, Ichinojo

Let's start with the leaders going in chronological order and then work our way back down the ranks in descending order.

M10 Ichinojo and M12 Sadanoumi hooked up in the migi-yotsu position from the tachi-ai where Sadanoumi proactively grabbed the left outer grip and went for the force-out kill. On his first try he backed the Blob back near the straw, but on the second volley, his outer grip slipped off of the belt allowing Ichinojo to get his right arm so deep that Sadanoumi's left was rendered useless pointing in the air. With both dudes now near the edge, it was a half-step adjustment for Ichinojo to turn the tables and send Sadanoumi across for good. Sadanoumi needed patience in this one, and it seems as if I'm always pointing that out with this kid. The strategy today should have been to keep Ichinojo moving laterally and pounce with a soto-gake or dashi-nage when the opening presented itself since trying to force Ichinojo back straightway it fruitless. That's easy for me to say, I know, as Ichinojo clinches kachi-koshi moving to 8-1 while Sadanoumi is still looking good at 6-3. There are a handful of rikishi among the elite ranks who will simply school this kid when he gets up there...this basho, but he won't be pushed around by anyone for long.

With Ichinojo safely through, let's now move to our Ozeki matchup for the day featuring Kisenosato and Goeido. The two hooked up in hidari-yotsu with Goeido enjoying the easy right outside grip. The rookie Ozeki attempted a quick force out charge using the right leg at back of Kisenosato's left to try and pin him in, but the Kid was able to slip out of it moving the action back to the center of the ring. Now with the bout in hidari-yotsu, Goeido retreated a step and unleashed a neck throw that sent Kisenosato into an exaggerated summersault as he was flipped down to the clay.

From start to finish this bout just didn't look right to me, and when you watch the replays, you can clearly see that Kisenosato does nothing with his inside positions throughout the bout. He had the left at first that he kept in no-man's land, and then when the two swapped places, he did nothing wit the right inside. Furthermore, if you don't have the outside position, you're only hope is with the inside, so it makes no sense that the Kid kept his inside hands in no man's land never trying to lift Goeido upright or grab the inside belt. I don't know how else to call this bout other than to say Kisenosato let up big time. I know a lot of people will say 'Why would Kisenosato purposefully lose and knock himself off of the leaderboard?" and my answer to that is...when has Kisenosato's taking the yusho ever been part of the equation? I don't know why Kisenosato didn't put forth any effort in this one; I just know that he didn't. The end result is Kisenosato's falling to 7-2 while Goeido climbs to 6-3.

Oh, and at the end of the day, NHK expanded the leaderboard down to the two-loss rikishi so they could still include Kisenosato. Would they have done the same if Ichinojo had lost and Kisenosato had won?

With Kisenosato knocked down a step, let's move to the Yokozuna ranks where Hakuho greeted M1 Takarafuji. There is absolutely nothing to be broken down here as Hakuho executed the straight forward charge getting the left inside from the first step and the right inside from the second. Hakuho with moro-zashi is insurmountable, so the only question left was would he rough up Takarafuji at the edge? He wouldn't as he peacefully forced him back moving to 9-0 in the process. Takarafuji is having a great basho if you haven't noticed at 4-5.

The day ended with Yokozuna Kakuryu failing to move forward at the tachi-ai against M3 Yoshikaze and settling for outward slaps slowly backing up on his own because Yoshikaze certainly wasn't connecting on tsuppari that drove the Yokozuna back. As the bout slowly drifted in Yoshikaze's favor, Kakuryu offered a right pull attempt that was so half-assed he used it to step back right against the straw where Yoshikaze went for the kill and got Kakuryu pushed out with ease using a left jab. No de-ashi, no moving to the side, no commitment to a pull, and no question that Kakuryu dropped this one on purpose. Just look at Kakuryu's demeanor at the edge with one foot in and one foot out.  He was upright like this throughout, and I don't thin it's even debatable that this one was mukiryoku.  Decide among yourselves the "why" as Kakuryu falls to 8-1 while Yoshikaze moves to 6-3.

Yoshikaze admitted to the Yokozuna's slothfulness afterwards saying, "Well, he didn't even move around the ring." Then, when Kariya Announcer asked, "you watched him well didn't you?", Yoshikaze answered, "Well no, I just didn't want to leave my head too low." When you watch someone in the ring well, it implies that person was moving laterally and mawari-komu'ing around the ring. Kakuryu was just linear the whole way...moving back step by step until Yoshikaze went for the kill.

Since NHK moved the leaderboard down one notch, let's conclude talk of the leaders with M15 Okinoumi who fought with M8 Tochiohzan in perhaps the sloppiest bout of the basho. Neither rikishi maintained a real grip or position from the tachi-ai as Tochiohzan drifted back and to his left slipping into moro-zashi near the edge as Okinoumi pursued. In moro-zashi, Tochiohzan drove Okinoumi back across the entire diameter of the ring but lazily let Okinoumi slip right causing Oh to step out for what should have been ruled isami-ashi (they said hataki-komi even though Tochiohzan never hit the dirt). Tochiohzan's being unaware of where he was at in the ring is a sign of laziness while Okinoumi didn't really do anything himself to throw the former Sekiwake off of his game. Okinoumi gave up the ridiculously easy moro-zashi, and neither rikishi gave a shat at the tachi-ai. Sloppy sloppy sumo as Okinoumi backs his way onto the leaderboard at 7-2 while Tochiohzan is losing his luster fast at 5-4.

If you're keeping score at home, the leaderboard at the end of the day reads:

9-0: Hakuho
8-1: Kakuryu, Ichinojo
7-2: Kisenosato, Okinoumi

That's hardly a yusho race, but I'm sure someone will rise up and surprise Hakuho in week 2.

In other bouts of interest, Ozeki Kotoshogiku and Komusubi Chiyotairyu hooked up in the quick hidari-yotsu position with Chiyotairyu not even attempting a single tsuppari or doing anything with his right inside position. He just let Kotoshogiku gaburu him back once, twice, three times a lady as the Ozeki places his head above water again at 5-4 while Chiyotairyu officially gave up the kachi-koshi ghost at 1-8.  I think Kakuryu was taking copious notes on Chiyotairyu's demeanor in the ring today as the Yokozuna sat ringside.

Sekiwake Takekaze used his usual moro-te from the tachi-ai pushing hard and high into M1 Endoh before immediately swiping back down along his dickey do felling him in the center of the ring about one second in. Seriously, is that all Endoh's got? The chicks are coming out in droves to see this guy end up on all fours in the center of the ring?  During the lead up to this bout, I had these words going through my head, "Baby, baby, baby, Oh-oh! Baby, baby, baby No-oh!" Endoh suffers make-koshi with the loss falling to 1-8, and I didn't see Takayasu give much effort in their day 8 bout yesterday. As for Takekaze, dude could actually kachi-koshi in his Sekiwake debut to illustrate just how effed up this banzuke is.

Whatever effort M2 Takayasu failed to show on Sunday suddenly reappeared on day 9 as he set the pace against Komusubi Jokoryu using effective tsuppari to set up the migi-yotsu bout, but he wasn't able to dispatch of the Komusubi straightway, so after about 20 seconds of jockeying in the ring, Jokoryu grabbed the left outer grip and went for a dashi-nage throw that got Takayasu over to the edge. The Komusubi was was lazy, however, in driving in that last nail, so Takayasu was able to counter just enough with his right inside position in a light nage-no-uchi-ai at the edge where Takayasu went Harry Houdini slipping out of Jokoryu's grip magically and shoving him out for good. Okay sumo here as Takayasu improves to 4-5 while Jokoryu is 2-7.

M2 Toyonoshima slipped into moro-zashi from the tachi-ai, and while M1 Terunofuji assumed the kime position, it was totally half-assed. Staying square with Toyonoshima (just as he did against Goeido), he just stood there as Toyonoshima backed up and dragged Terunofuji down for the kata-sukashi win. As Terunofuji hit the dohyo, he put his right hand down early as if to brace his fall telling me that he knew he was going down. Who remembers Terunofuji's first ever bout in the division against Myogiryu? Myogiryu got the early moro-zashi from the tachi-ai, but Terunofuji persisted like a madman and eventually wrested the former Sekiwake out of the ring. That same determination and grit was missing today as Terunofuji just allowed himself to get slapped down to a 2-7 record while Toyonoshima prolly needs one more at 1-8.

M5 Toyohibiki looked to grab the early left frontal belt grip against M3 Aoiyama, but he wasn't committed to a forward-moving charge, and so Aoiyama easily slipped back and to the left slapping Ibiki down hiki-otoshi style for the uneventful win. Aoiyama improves to 5-4 with the win while Toyohibiki falls to 4-5.

M4 Osunaarashi used his usual right kachi-age at the tachi-ai against M7 Shohozan, but this one was controlled today. Instead of a wild punch-like elbow, Osunaarashi actually rose Shohozan up perfectly and then connected on another right jab square to the jaw making the shoulder slapdown academic as Shohozan was already on his way down. KNOCKOUT!! Both fighters end the day at 4-5.

M5 Ikioi gained the shallow moro-zashi from the tachi-ai, but M10 Kitataiki ducked so low it foiled Ikioi's ikioi. He finally went for a right scoop throw prematurely slipping right out of it with his body slightly turned, and so Kitataiki pounced for the easy push out win of his compromised opponent knocking him down to 5-4. Kitataiki one-ups his foe at 6-3 with the win.

M6 Aminishiki slipped left at the tachi-ai grabbing the quick and dirty left outer grip against M6 Kaisei, but as Ami moved left the natural flow of the bout drifted to the edge of the ring where Kaisei grabbed an outer left grip of his own. Problem was he did nothing with it and just stood there as Aminishiki pulled him over and down with right inside belt throw. Easy yaocho call here (for whatever reason) as Aminishiki improves to 6-3 while Kaisei obviously doesn't care about his 4-5 mark.

M9 Tamawashi used tsuppari up high against M7 Chiyootori, and after a few seconds he went for the stupid pull move that Chiyootori read like a dirty Yaku Mitsuru manga pushing Tamawashi out to a 2-7 record. Somehow, Chiyootori has righted his ship improving to 5-4 with the nice win.

M9 Tochinowaka (3-6) got the right arm and shoulder inside so deep against M16 Tokitenku that Lee was able to ram his right leg up into Tokitenku's waist and force him out in seconds with no resistance. At 2-7, Tokitenku is on the brink, and he clearly doesn't have the energy to keep pace in the division any more.

M11 Chiyomaru tsuppari'ed M11 Takanoiwa over to the edge quickly but needed to focus his thrusts just a bit lower because Takanoiwa was able to slip into moro-zashi and counter sufficiently forcing the action back to the center of the ring. Chiyomaru tried to pry Takanoiwa away, but the Mongolian secured a left inner and right outer close to the front, and the battle was on. Takanoiwa (4-5) used his superior position to force Chiyomaru (M11) back and across, but Maru fought like a brook trout hooked in the upper lip until the very end. I bring this bout up to show what it's like when both rikishi want to win because there were too many bouts today where one party just gave up for whatever reason.

And finally, M14 Kyokutenho and M13 Sokokurai hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position that saw Sokokurai gain the right outer grip while Kyokutenho settled for the right kote-nage hold on the other side. From there your your options are a kote-nage throw or a counter tsuki-otoshi, but at Kyokutenho's age, he can't afford to just settle for an inferior grip, and Sokokurai illustrated why showing Tenho the door straightway in a matter of seconds leading with his outer grip. Good stuff today from Sokokurai who improves to 5-4 and has actually been entertaining to watch this basho. Kyokutenho falls to 6-3 but can still make history by winning just two more.

Kane strums your geetar tomorrow.

Day 8 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
I must admit my first basho in nine months has been rather exciting. Ive had to keep a low profile, though, due to a bit of a dustup I had late last year with some unnamed yet prominent members of the NSK. Long story short, Im in and around the venue but being forced to don more disguises than Roger on American Dad. Things had been going swimmingly until Mikes Day 6 report surfaced, and someone ratted me out to the MIB. While I am now being even more creative in my costuming, I am also missing a few matches here and there so please, bear with me if I skip over one or two of your faves.

5-2 Sadanoumi was having none of Chiyomarus protestations, answering the M11s weak thrusting to the face with emphatic chest pushing to finish the day sitting rather prettily. The Kokonoe grappler falls two below .500 and will have to scramble for that KK.

The big early bout was 6-1 Okinoumi vs. 6-1 Ichinojo. Everyones favorite candidate to one day abduct Fay Wray got a quick outside left belt and coupled that with a right arm wrapped around Okinoumis head (typically a poor grip to have) to swing him down via an uwate-nage that leaves no doubt about the rookies strength and sumo acumen. Okinoumi may have heard Ichinojo prefers the right hand belt, but it looks like he is ambidextrous when it comes to chewing bubble gum.

Tochiohzan pushed out a lackluster Sadanofuji, who looked as if he was thinking about man in the moon marigolds rather than how NOT to get embarrassed on national telly. At 5-3 the only thing OhSnap is going to impact is his futon tonight, but its still much better than Sadanofujis 2-6.

Kyokutenho squatted stone still waiting for Shohozan to get it awn, but when he did, The Chauffer (who now qualifies for the Silver Citizen discount at his local Eneos) struck like a mongoose, feigning the inside left belt while setting ShoHo up for the delicioso kata-sukashi (tho both I and the JPese announcer felt it was nothing more than an ordinary hataki-komi) bitchslapdown. How do you do at 6-2, you forty something you? Shohozan crawls back to his Greenwich Village loft to work on his sumo and that Google Play Store app idea he has.

Toyohibiki had Arawashi fleeing for his life, or so it would seem, because when the Hutt caught up to the much smaller Mongolian belt man, he got his cookies tossed? His ashes hauled? His clock cleaned? Take your pic of wildly inappropriate and offbase metaphors, but do yourself a favor and go find this match on the WWW because it was as classic a shitate-nage as youll see, with both men cartwheeling like Oompa Loompas.

When in hell is someone going to break out a hari-te this basho?? I mean a good, loud, NFL running back, bitch git OUTS my elevator hari-te?

The words "Yoshikaze" and "yori-kiri win" dont often go together, but they did today as he got down at the crouch with a fierce determination to stay above .500, and Ill be damned if he didn't, by wiggling his way inside on Ikioi and then keeping his head low and under Iikiois chin to work him out. 20 cm shorter and 20 kg lighter, and yet our Hyper Space Cowboy (who it appears has been upgraded in intensity during my absence from a Double Latte to a Monster Drink—lol) pretty much owned the likewise 5-3 Ikioi.

Endo broke his seven match losing streak to start this basho by using some nice thrusting to get a frontal belt grip, which he then employed to run Takayasu back and out. Fast thinking entrepreneurs immediately rushed to fill their vending machines outside the Ryogoku Kokugikan with women's panties in anticipation of a post Day 8 surge in business.

Now a man who DOES know his yori-kiri wins is Ozeki Kotoshogiku. Today, looking to even his record, he drove Takarafuji back and was about to get the win by yori-kiri when Takarafuji leaned in and fell (with a bit of help from the Geeku) to the clay. One would truly have to be not only sweeter than ninety-five year old Aunt Mabel but also as blind as her to deny that Takarafuji simply refused to even try to grab the right hand belt that was sitting there calling out to him like a bottle of fine sake on Senshuraku. But there are a LOT of Aunt Mabel sumo fans out there. Thankfully none here at ST. One way or another that loss will benefit "Takarakuji."

Mikes point about the past being embarrassingly more competitive than the present was illustrated painfully today as new Ozeki Goeido got run all over the ring by the larger and stronger Aoiyama, so when the Ozeki finally squared up and shoved forward, I was fine with the big Bulgarian winning with a desperation hataki-komi. The main difference between then and now is that the current Japanese Ozeki are propped into place, and it shows when they have to fight all the big foreigners. Chiyotaikai and Musoyama and Tochiazuma normally had good records in their prime because the only furries they had to face were Akebono and Musashimaru, and later Asashoryu (oh, and Kyokushuzan!) While they were a cut above Kotoshogiku and Goeido, Im of the opinion that if they were around now, they might not do much better than this ragtag duo.

I dont lump Kisenosato in with these two because he has been able to represent the rank well for most of his tenure, having garnered at least ten wins in 75% of his sixteen basho at Ozeki, and five jun-yusho runner-ups. This tourney he is looking passable and today was no different as he stood up little Takekaze, resisted the smaller mans attempts to shove, and then drove him out. One might be forgiven for wondering WTF Takekaze was thinking in just standing there and not trying to move laterally whatsoever, but as they say in the USA these days, "It's what it's." For now, Kisenosato remains a bright spot for the JPese at 7-1, one behind the two Grand Champions.

Oh, Im sorry. Did I spoil your anticipation of the breakdown in the two Yokozuna bouts by writing that?

Toyonoshima rushed in fast and low to try and get Yokozuna Kakuryus belt, but ended up flailing for a leg that wasn't there as the Kak slipped away without working up a sweat and let the beleaguered and harried M2 fall down. Kakuryu had what almost appeared to be a sad face on as he walked back to his corner, a face that seemed to say, "Tsk, what a pity that you JPese wrestlers have so little to offer."

Hakuho had about as much trouble with Jokoryu as Mike has with X-Code, as he got the inside belt and walked all over the Komusubi in route to his 8-0, which is something he seems to do every basho. When I see Hakuho murder others like this I just cant help sigh and wonder what sumo would have been like had they not blackballed Asashoryu, cause he was the only wrestler who had what it takes to battle this man.

So we head into our final seven days its Kisenosatos basho to lose. All he has to do is defeat both Yokozuna, and then one of them once more in a playoff. He can do it, cant he? Mike paddles our knuckles tomorrow for horsing around while banging the erasers.

Day 7 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
In spite of all the effort by the Japanese Sumo Association to hype up their own wrestlers, this basho was always going to be about Mongols. Three of them on top of everyone else, fighting it out for the yusho, two of them up and coming and looking to prove themselves in various parts of the division, one of them turning 40 and still competing well enough, and a slew of others holding their own and keeping everyone, especially the Japanese, honest. One of the Yokozuna withdrew with eye socket damage in a dubious loss, but the other two are up to this point without loss, and one of them is looking as unbeatable as ever. Of the up-and-comers, one is already having a taste of the jo’i wall (which is the expected result in your first basho up there), but the other one is using his Baruto-esque size and weight to throw lesser opposition around. The Japanese? A couple of them are doing alright, but the vast majority are just mediocre or sucking big time, and the worst of them all is the very guy they’re hyping the most, Endoh. Let’s see, then, how team Mongoru is doing against team Japan, shall we?

Kagamioh, one of the many Mongols who’ve populated the banzuke lately, won his bout vs. Sadanofuji from the tachi-ai, getting an unbreakable grip on the latter’s mawashi and holding on to it until the very (yori-kiri) end. Didn’t matter that the Mongol’s several inches shorter and some 60kg lighter (notice the ad hoc mix of imperial and international here), what matters more than raw size is skill. In any case, both men begrudgingly share 2-5 records. 蒙1-0日

The next one wasn’t less awkward, but that’s always to be expected when it features the Master of Mistiming himself, Tokitenku (ironic, isn’t it, that the guy has the kanji for time in his shikona, huh?). He and Chiyomaru pranced around the dohyo for a little while, trading bitchslaps, until Tokitenku decided to put some core into it, but failed so miserably that he whiffed, fell off balance and crashed with his face into the round guy’s chest. He was promptly put out of his misery, naturally, and is now staring down the barrel from the bottom rung of the banzuke with a 2-5 record. Chiyomaru ain’t faring much better at 3-4. 蒙1-2日

Kitataiki won a straight up hidari-yotsu duel despite the size disadvantage, forcing out Kyokushuho for his 5th win. 蒙1-3日

In yet another exciting hidari-yotsu affair, Sokokurai put those long arms to good use and his back into it, lifting Arawashi clean off his feet and depositing safely outside the tawara. 4-3 for the Inner Mongol, 1-6 for the Wild Vulture.

Kyokutenho chalked up his second loss in as many bouts against the Chiyo bros., giving up early moro-zashi against the younger one, Chiyootori, who recovers to 3-4 with the routine win. Tenho cools off to 5-2 and... 蒙1-4日

Sadanoumi (if you’re permanently mistaking him for the other Sadano, i.e. fuji, this one, umi, is the shorter, lighter, more agile one, and he wears a green mawashi) took all the tsuppari Shohozan had to offer like a man, then used timed evasion perfectly, getting behind his overeager foe and grabbing the back of his bling mawashi to finish things by okuri-dashi. Sadanoumi improves to 5-2 with the win, while Shohozan slows down to 4-3.

Kaisei opened a can of whoopass on Tamawashi, stopping the Mongol in his tracks at the tachi-ai and pushing him right back and out in a couple of steps. The Charging Brazilian Saint (!) wakes up a bit with the second win in a row after a 1-4 start, while The Mawashi sinks further to 2-5.

Aminishiki took some time to make short work of Tochinowaka (talk about metaphors!), going toe to toe and chest to chest, and in the end out-pushing and outwitting the bigger Lee into okuri-dashi and out of the ring. If there’s anything I noticed, it’s how damn vulnerable this big Korean guy is to pushing in his upper body. I’m guessing it’s a combination of a high center of gravity and overall softness, but color me clueless. Sneaky improves to 4-3 and is already eyeing sanyaku while poor Bruised Lee is 2-5.

And now for the big one. Ichinojo came into today at a flawless 6-0, mostly moving around banzuke basement furniture, but word around was he was bound to lose as soon as he started facing better opposition. And face he did, on my watch to boot. Between Ichinojo and Ikioi the size difference isn’t that great (only some 25kg in favor of the Mongol, and Ikioi is actually an inch taller), so technique was always going to be the deciding factor. Ikioi won the tachi-ai, getting a fairly good right inside which Ichinojo could only counter with a uwate on the same side. On the right side, the Mongol kept Ikioi well away from the mawashi with a big paw under the pit, however, Ikioi’s stance was solid enough to mount a force-out attempt, but that was thwarted mostly by Ichinojo’s size. A long-ish stand-off in the center of the ring followed, which was interrupted in order to stop Ikioi’s nosebleed. After they resumed, it didn’t take Ichinojo long to try and capitalize on his tactical advantage (Ikioi still couldn’t get the uwate), and mounted a force-out charge of his own, but Ikioi dug in valiantly at the tawara and wouldn’t relent. Ichinojo went for broke by letting go of Ikioi’s torso with the right and deploying the uwate-nage with pressure on his opponent’s head, but the attempt was meek enough to hardly make Ikioi flinch. To make things worse, the failure meant that now Ikioi was free to take the left uwate, and once he secured that, Ichinojo had nowhere left to go but down, face first, at a sharp angle, with nothing but his own gravity to rely on. It was as epic as they get and Ikioi struts off the dohyo with 5-2 and victory over a guy he might never get the chance to defeat again. As for Ichinojo, he got his first taste of the big time (and I dare say his loss was long overdue) and, at least for this basho, it’s only going to get harder. But he’s a comin’, and hell’s comin’ with him. 蒙1-5日

The next bout pales in comparison to the clash before it, featuring an off-his-best-game Tochiohzan and a Toyohibiki in a hurry to go home early. The whole thing lasted a mere 3 seconds and Oh never looked in danger of getting anything going on the inside, which led to the inevitable push-out. Both guys are 4-3.

In a similar fashion, Osunaarashi was blasted back and out when Aoiyama read his ever so slight shift to the left in order to get the uwate. The big Arab falls to 3-4 (one of those wins by no show) and is looking out of sorts. Aoiyama improves to the same mark.

Terunofuji recorded his 6th consecutive loss to as many sanyaku opponents, losing the tachi-ai badly and giving up moro-zashi to Jokoryu (2-5), who took little time to win by yori-kiri from the advantageous position. Terunofuji’s record tells you he’s not yet quite ready to hold his own against the very top, but give the guy time, he’ll eventually get there. As a little side note, the other day I was talking to Mike about the future of sumo after the trio of Mongol Yokozuna retire and he pointed to Ichinojo, Terunofuji and Osunaarashi, saying “there’s your next Triumvirate”. It’s kinda sad, really, if you’re Japanese. On the plus side, maybe things aren’t that gloomy for the Japanese, as Tatsu (born in ’94) is now 3-1 at Makushita 3, which puts him dangerously close to making his Juryo debut. Time will tell. 蒙1-6日

Takekaze was exposed for the fraud he is by none other than Takarafuji (who?). When the quick push rush failed to seal the deal (or impress his opponent, or audience, or anyone, for that matter), the fat Kaze retreated and tried fiddling around with Lottery’s upper body and face, hoping for a lucky pull, but, alas, his numbers didn’t come up and he was ultimately thrown out of the dohyo like a losing ticket. If you’re done groaning by now, take note that both cervically challenged wrestlers now share a vertical 4-3 record.

Endo lost 7 in a row, the latest one to “Ozeki” Goeido, who received his charge a little upright, but righted that ship when he inserted his left under Endo’s arm and yanked him down to the dirt by kata-sukashi. Goeido improves to 5-2, but only one look at the way he won those 5 (fusen, shitate-nage, hataki-komi, soto-gake, kata-sukashi) will tell you things are far from alright. Endo is done with the big guys, but don’t expect things to go much smoother in week 2. Expect maybe 4 wins. Maybe.

Kisenosato was patient and passive in approaching his fight with Yoshikaze (what was he gonna do, overpower him?), absorbed all the tsuppari the little guy could throw at him (and he had quite a few), then clinically finished him off by oshi-dashi. One look at Kisenosato’s list of winning kimari-te shows you how an Ozeki’s first week should really look like – oshi-dashi x2, yori-kiri x3, uwate-dashi-nage x1. Yoshikaze should consider himself an overachiever with 4-3 after the first week.

Kotoshogiku continued his freefall with the 3rd consecutive loss, getting scooped down to the clay after failing to make an impression with his yori attack against Takayasu. Both share 3-4 records.

Hakuho received a bonus in facing the injured Toyonoshima (not that he wouldn’t win against a perfectly healthy one anyway), which he brutally pushed out in two seconds with some of the most offensive sumo I’ve seen him bring to the dohyo this basho – he actually led with a left nodowa. The Khan stays perfect and par for the course, while Toyonoshima (0-7) will need tons of luck (and bad opponents) to muster any wins. 蒙2-6日

Finally, Kakuryu grabbed a solid right mawashi grip on Chiyotairyu, who had no answer to being spun around and pushed out like the 1-6 Komusubi he is. Kakuryu keeps up with Hakuho with the simple win. For now. 蒙3-6日

Things are starting to take shape and, for what it’s worth, it looks like business as usual, with two Mongol Yokozuna at 7-0 and the nearest thing remotely similar to a threat Kisenosato at 6-1. In Juryo, you have a hungry Tochinoshin leading proceedings at 7-0 (he’s gone 34-2 since missing some 4 basho with injury). All in all, it looks like there’s plenty of stuff to look forward to in the second week. I’ll be back on day 13 or 14, and Clancy’s back tomorrow.

Day 6 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Before I get into the meat of day 6, allow me to apologize for the tardiness of Clancy's day 5 comments. I mean, I'm really glad to have him back in the fold this basho, but you give the guy an inch and I swear he takes a mile. He caught us off guard when he walked unannounced into the ST headquarters a couple of days before the festivities, and so we scrambled to find him that cheap folding chair and issue him a drab navy jacket and gray slacks, but he just won't set still (as we say in Utah) on his chair and type up his reports. We were an hour away from Showtime on day 6 when I ran down to the venue and found Clancy in the back halls of the Kokugikan actually posing as a recently-retired oyakata. I had to drag him away from this colorful flock of groupies and force him to churn out his day 5, but as soon as he ripped the sheets out of his typewriter and said "here ya go boss," he was off again just like that. Who knows where he'll show up again next and in what attire, so let's turn our attention squarely to the day 6 bouts.

I had to chortle at the beginning of today's broadcast when NHK actually showed the leaderboard after just five days. What's more, they went three levels deep down to the two-loss rikishi. You had Hakuho, Kakuryu, and Ichinojo occupying the top tier at 5-0; five rikishi filled out the second tier at 4-1 led by Kisenosato; and then you had the third tier at 3-2 that read: Kotoshogiku, Goeido, Takekaze, and "9 others."  9 others? They almost had half of the division represented on their leaderboard! Sawadaishi Announcer of course singled out the three Japanese Ozeki from the mess and sought Tamanoi-oyakata's opinion, and the former Tochiazuma kept saying, "Well, it's just the jobansen," or first five days' worth of bouts. Tochiazuma actually looked a bit uncomfortable even discussing the leaderboard because it's still so early, and how can you blame him? My guess is that heading into the weekend, NHK wanted to project the image of the three Japanese Ozeki with a mathematic shot to yusho.

Despite that mess, we were treated later on to a replay of one of the top 10 bouts the last two decades. Rewind back to the 2002 Hatsu basho where Tochiazuma had just been crowned Ozeki, and on day 4 he was paired up with newly-crowned Sekiwake Asashoryu. Back then, Asashoryu was strictly a tsuppari guy, and he would literally come into the ring looking for blood as he attempted to beat the hell out of his opponents. And he drew blood on that day from Tochiazuma's nose and mouth causing the referee to actually stop it midway so they could stuff tissue in Tochiazuma's nostrils, but the Ozeki wouldn't back down as the two rikishi threw sumo basics out the door and just started slugging each other over and over in the face. In the end, Tochiazuma thankfully got a left belt grip that he used to force Asashoryu back and out with, but it was a defining moment in Tochiazuma's career. He would go on to score his first career yusho that basho, and then of course one year later, Asashoryu was knighted as the sport's first Mongolian Yokozuna.

Hopefully everyone had the chance to watch that bout because that was a legitimate Ozeki and a legitimate Sekiwake going toe to toe. And the thing was, back then you always had competitive bouts among the upper ranks. Sure, they rarely drew blood like that one, but they were hard fought and featured true rikishi. Contrast that to today's sorry crop of Ozeki and sanyaku rikishi, and you can see why everything but the sumo has to be hyped in order to get the fans' attention. On a closing note, after that basho Asashoryu changed from a tsuppari guy to a belt guy as Clancy once correctly pointed out, and it's likely that someone approached him and said something to the effect of, "Hey, you can't just kick the shit out of guys like that." That Asashoryu was able to completely redefine his style after reaching the Sekiwake rank is evidence of his true greatness as a rikishi, the likes of which we will never see again.

Now that you've indulged me on a stroll down memory lane, let's focus our attention back to the present and start with a rather compelling matchup between Tokitenku and Kyokutenho that began in the gappuri migi-yotsu position meaning both rikishi had right inside and left outside grips. After a brief stalemate in the ring, Tokitenku fished for a few suso-harai attempts before Tenho made his move forcing Tokitenku to the brink, but the Chauffeur doesn't quite have the power he once did, and so Tokitenku attempted an utchari at the edge that caused both rikishi to touch down so close you coulda called it either way. The gyoji immediately pointed to Kyokutenho and after a judges conference, they stuck with the initial ruling. I really thought this was a legit tie, but whatever as Kyokutenho stays firmly on the leaderboard at 5-1 while Tokitenku falls to 2-4.

M15 Okinoumi and M13 Sokokurai began in the hidari-yotsu position from the tachi-ai where Sokokurai was afraid to attack too closely as he'd likely give up the right outer grip, but Okinoumi slowly pressed his gut inwards and got it anyway, and from there it was curtains as Okinoumi sails to 5-1 while Sokokurai is technically still on the leaderboard at 3-3.

M16 Kagamioh looked for the left belt grip at the start but was just thrust away by M11 Chiyomaru, and as Maru gave chase, Kagamioh threatened the pull while giving it one last attempt to grab the right belt.  He was denied a second time, so when the next pull attempt came, Chiyomaru used his forward momentum to git him in the end. Chiyomaru is still just 2-4 while Kagamioh is worse at 1-5.

You gotta hand it to M15 Kyokushuho for being so proactive against the Blob getting the right to the inside and a frontal belt grip with the left, but M10 Ichinojo maintained a right of his own, which allowed him to execute his favorite tactic: just stand there for a minute and a half and wear your opponent down a bit physically and mentally. Finally, Kyokushuho attempted to make a force out charge, and when he did, Ichinojo dug in, grabbed the left outer grip, and relied on his sheer girth to break off Shuho's outer, and it was ballgame at that point. Ichinojo is a cool 6-0, and if he was a Japanese rikishi, I would emphatically point out that he was the sole leader at that moment. Kyokushuho falls to 3-3 but gave it a good effort.

M9 Tamawashi came with weak tsuppari and spinning feet as M10 Kitataiki was able to slip under his arms and grab the left belt using it to set up moro-zashi, and from there the yori-kiri was swift and decisive. Kitataiki continues to enjoy "9 others" status at 4-2 while Tamawashi falls to 2-4.

M12 Sadanofuji redefined the term slow tsuppari for nearly 30 seconds until M9 Tochinowaka was able to grab the right outer grip, and from this point the two just settled in and barely moved. After two minutes, T-Wok finally had the Sadamite on the brink with a right belt throw, but it slipped off at the last second allowing Sadanofuji to just bow T-Wok out with a backwards shove of his arm. This was similar to an ushiro-motare as both rikishi end the day at 2-4.

M8 Tochiohzan used a right kachi-age from the tachi-ai getting that right hand inside with left outer grip to boot against M12 Sadanoumi, and as Oh went for the force-out kill, Sadanoumi slipped right and countered with a brilliant left tsuki-otoshi that sent the surprised former Sekiwake out of the ring for good. They actually called a mono-ii here, but the reason wasn't clear because this one wasn't even close. It could have been that they were checking the booth to see if Tochiohzan could still be on the leader board tomorrow at 4-2 despite the loss while Sadanoumi improves to the same mark.

M11 Takanoiwa and M8 Arawashi hooked up in the migi-yotsu position after Arawashi got the right hand in deep from the tachi-ai. Hoping to capitalize on that momentum, Arawashi went for the early inside belt throw that would have worked if they were closer to the edge, but Takanoiwa simply had too much dohyo in which to land, so as the two reloaded, this time in gappuri yotsu, Takanoiwa used his belt skills to execute a great throw that sent Arawashi out and down to a 1-5 record. Takanoiwa needed the win as he moves to 2-4.

M6 Aminishiki pushed upwards into M7 Chiyootori's extended arm at the initial charge throwing Chiyootori off of his original plan to tsuppari, and although he still thought about more thrusts, he lost his patience and finally went for a pull, and when he did, Aminishiki was like "I've seen this kinda bout before" and pushed Otori back and out in no-time. Aminishiki is a comfortable 3-3 while the slump continues for the Chiyo brothers as Otori falls to 2-4.

M5 Toyohibiki and M7 Shohozan engaged in a tit for tat tsuppari affair meaning neither one really wanted to commit with the lower body, and as the bout progressed, Shohozan got close to moro-zashi where he was able to slip out right and throw Toyohibiki forward and off balance leading to an easy okuri-dashi in the end. Ho hum as Shohozan moves to 4-2 while Toyohibiki is 3-3.

M4 Osunaarashi used a moro-te from the tachi-ai against M5 Ikioi, and although the Ejyptian's thrusts were busy, they were completely ineffective. You could just tell Osunaarashi didn't have confidence in his game, and as soon as he went for a pull, Ikioi pounced and pushed his foe back and out with an extended right arm. Great stuff from Ikioi (4-2) in letting his opponent fall on the sword while Osunaarashi is even steven at 3-3.

M3 Aoiyama played his hand too early against M6 Kaisei going for a quick pull with right hand, and with Kaisei knowing that Aoiyama wasn't going to come forward, he just stayed square with his gal and got Aoiyama on the second pull attempt. This wasn't great sumo as both guys lumbered around for a few seconds before both finishing the day at 2-4.

M2 Toyonoshima decided to throw his mage back in the ring after withdrawing the morning of day 2. Ranked at M2, an 0-15 record would likely have sent him down to Juryo, so all he really needs is a handful of wins. Komusubi Jokoryu could use a handful of wins himself, and so he perked up in this one denying the quick inside position with a right kachi-age before quickly pulling back. Toyonoshima seemed a bit surprised that Jokoryu gave him an opening by retreating, but he just didn't have his feet beneath him, so by the time he got started moving forward, Jokoryu slipped out left for the cheap pulldown win. Jokoryu picks up his first win at 1-5 while Toyonoshima's bidness doesn't get any easier tomorrow against Hakuho.

M2 Takayasu shaded right against Komusubi Chiyotairyu causing the two to hook up in the immediate hidari-yotsu position whereupon the ref immediately stopped the fight so they could retie Chiyotairyu's belt. As soon as they resumed, Takayasu used his larger frame to grab the left outer grip, and he wasted no time in going for an outer belt throw that sent the Komusubi down with ease. This was a cheap tachi-ai from Takayasu, and I thought the best execution during the bout occurred when the gyoji was re-tying the Komusubi's belt. Takayasu is a paltry 2-4 while Chiyotairyu is one worse at 1-5.

One of the things I watch for in sumo is a guy getting left in his opponent's wake. What I mean by that is when a guy gets beaten so badly that he's just lying there in a heap while is opponent is already strutting back to his side of the dohyo. A good example of this came yesterday as Endoh was bullied around by Toyohibiki, and I found this picture of Toyohibiki essentially leaving Endoh in his wake. It's happening more and more where Endoh is forced to pick himself up after a guy has just kicked his ass, and I'm always amused by the clueless Japanese fans who always shriek in horror when Endoh loses. I need to remind myself not to be so harsh on Endoh because he hasn't asked for any of this attention. For whatever reason, the media decided to tout him as Japan's next, but the experiment is failing miserably.  The only thing good about that pic at right is the alert yobi-dashi.

Today, M1 Endoh looked to solve his troubles against Ozeki Kisenosato getting a firm left inside grip from the tachi-ai because Kisenosato is one guy whose tachi-ai he can take advantage of. The Ozeki complied in the migi-yotsu affair and then grabbed the right outer after 10 seconds or so. Endoh stood his ground well, but he was in no position to execute an offensive move due to the Ozeki's outer grip. After about 20 seconds of jockeying around the ring, Endoh moved in getting his own right outer grip, but in doing so, he had to snuggle in too close, and Kisenosato easily dumped him with the outer grip a second later. More head scratching for the Japanese fans as Kisenosato moves to 5-1 while EnD'oh! is the only dude to have fought six times and lost 'em all.  I actually found another pic of the Ozeki leaving Endoh in his wake, but one per report is enough.

Sekiwake Takekaze absorbed Ozeki Kotoshogiku's charge and then moved out left swiping down at his dickey do as he went, and the Ozeki bought it hook line and sinker. Kotoshogiku falls off of the imaginary leaderboard yet again at 3-3 while Takekaze is actually 4-2, and before we move on, just compare the content of this Ozeki - Sekiwake matchup to the one featured earlier in the broadcast between Asashoryu and Tochiazuma. Kotoshogiku and Takekaze could fight 100 times and never come close to equaling the sumo of yester year.

M1 Terunofuji and Ozeki Goeido clashed in what looked to become a migi-yotsu affair, but Teru pulled his right hand back and focused on sorta of a kote-nage throw of Goeido's right arm where he had both arms wrapped around the Ozeki's limb. The difference here though was that Terunofuji was attempting the throw by standing directly in front of the Ozeki instead of stepping out to the side as you'd do in a normal kote-nage, so Goeido just bodied him back leading with the left front belt grip and then tripped him with the right leg from behind soto-gake style. It was actually a nice move by the Ozeki, but if Terunofuji is just going to stand there and offer no resistance, even I could trip him over. When they showed the reverse angle replay, it was revealed that Terunofuji also pulled back form a solid left outer grip, so I'll leave it to you to decide whether these mistakes from Teru were intentional. The end result is Goeido at 5-1 while Terunofuji falls to 1-5.  Let's just hope the gyoji sitting ringside for this one saw better action as he officiated the Yokozuna bouts.

Yokozuna Kakuryu flirted with moro-zashi against M1 Takarafuji, and then moved out right going into pull mode, and Takarafuji just couldn't keep up with him. This bout was so one-sided they gave Kakuryu the tsuki-otoshi kimari-te in the end, and I thought this was probably the best-judged bout of the day as the shimpan sitting to the West of the dohyo was paying rapt attention to the action.  You also gotta love the "ooftah!" expression on Takarafuji's face just before he smacked into the clay.  With the win, Kakuryu moves to 6-0 while Takarafuji ain't too shabby himself 3-3.  Six outs in, if we review both M1 rikishi, Takarafuji is 3-3 while Endoh is 0-6.  Just sayin'.

Yokozuna Hakuho looked mean today in his bid to exact punishment against M3 Yoshikaze for sending Harumafuji packing after a sweet poke to the eye. The Yokozuna looked to secure the right inside and left kote-nage grip, but Yoshikaze attempted to slip left. He did escape the Yokozuna's hold gained from the tachi-ai, but Hakuho stayed square in front of Monster Drink and just cornered him against the edge before bodying him out in about three seconds. Hakuho was a man on a mission today, and I think he was partly battling for the pride of Harumafuji as well.

As I always say, the basho never really starts until Hakuho loses, and I don't expect him to fall over the weekend, especially against Toyonoshima tomorrow. Come day 9, we should have a more reasonable leaderboard for the start of week two, so let's just hope for some excitement over the weekend. Martin has your back tomorrow.

Day 5 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Back in the hizzouse for Day 5 of the Fall Tourney and don’t yall be fooled. While it IS true I am relegated to sitting in a folding chair wearing gray slacks and a drab navy blue jacket while watching the other writers parade past on their way to work, its really not so bad. Being a ST oyakata has its perqs (and as soon as they become apparent Mike promises to tell me what they are). In the meantime how many of you can say youll get to watch Martin strut his fine little caboose out to ringside later this week to stir up some whoopass? Or will have the chance to try and (fruitlessly) catch Alice Coopers axemans eye as he returns to his dressing room full of girls Id give my left (insert paired organ necessary for fulfilling human life) to be able to buy expensive drinks that will nine times out of ten lead to no sex later that night for? As I suspected.

Speaking of Sumotalk oyakata, word around the office particle accelerator is Dr. Mario, the Fantastic Captain Kadastik, welcomed his first child into the world yesterday (he never welcomed the other seventeen he has fathered with whores from all the great world capitals that host physics conferences), and will now find out how much more difficult (and in ways oddly similar) it is to raise a boy than a dog. Congratulations, Mario and enjoy but please, don’t let this stop you from your job discovering why we are all here (especially those smelly Japanese girls who wear winter wool knit caps in the heat of summer!) I gottsta know.

Kagamioh played tackle sled to Okinoumis Mean Joe Greene as he stood there and was slid back and out. I blame the sand. Okinoumi stands at 4-1 and Kagami? Oh, he has a mirror record (a little treat there for you JPese speaking readers).

Tokitenku, 1-3 at M16 and facing demotion in motion, abandoned his initial attempts at getting Sadanofujis belt and instead turned it into a girl fight, shoving under his foes chin and then taking a roundhouse swing at Sadas mug that mostly missed, and finally kicking at his left leg and tripping him down in a fashion that was begging for injury. I was actually rather surprised he didn’t then leap onto Sadanofujis back and start yanking his mage, all the while screaming, “Stay away from him, hes MY boyfriend, you dirty little bitch!!”

That reminds me, any of you see those news reports out of China showing gangs of women publicly beating and stripping another solitary female because she was flirting with the wrong guy? And naturally filming it for dissemination on the always lovely WWW? Arent we a wonderfully entertaining species? I hear Mr. Rogers now: “Hi there boys and girls. Can you say ‘glorified squirrel monkeys?’ I knew you could.”

Next Kyokushuho got a solid lightning quick inside left back belt and wasted no time in flinging out both himself and Sadanoumi. But since he was on top...badda BOOM, third win.

Outstanding bout between Sokokurai and Takanoiwa as both men got inside right belt grips after a “shoving, keep away from me” type start. The better belt fighter, Sokokurai took the aggressors role, but each time he tried to lift up and/or swing around Takanoiwa, the Takanohana trained brawler countered with perfectly timed lifting and shifting that DENIED his opponent. The difference in this bout, which went a full minute or so, was Sokokurais ability to repeatedly grab and let go of a second belt grip in order to work himself into a position from which he could use his left arm to pin Takanoiwas hand, preventing him from getting a second belt grip himself. With two hands lifting he was finally able to muscle his enemy out, after which both men looked ridden hard and put away wet. A bout that shows the beauty of sumo, when two fairly evenly matched men try as stalwartly as possible to win.

Chiyomaru got off the snide as he handed Kyokutenho his first loss of the tourney with a deftly timed sidestep at the edge as The Chauffer moved in for the pushing out kill. 4-1 is better than 1-4 but itll be Chiyomaru who enjoys the chanko just a little more on this evening.

Kitataiki hit hard at tachi-ai and then chased the circling away Arawashi by sort of crabwalking sideways and then backward into him as they circled the dohyo, until the both men tumbled out and Kitataiki won. One of those drunken looking fights where no drinking was involved.

I wonder how many of you out there whacked off to, or were inspired to whack off in general by, Kanes final pic on Day 3? I know I did FOR SURE!!

Chiyootori got into an inside right, outside left belt battle with Ichinojo, and despite his best efforts was worn down after a lengthy tussle by the large rookie. Ichinojo goes to 5-0 with visions of sugar plums (of which he purportedly eats 3 dozen per day) dancing in his head, while the Kokonoe star falls to 2-3.

Shohozan brought the fast and furious shoving attack to Tochinowaka, and even survived a run past that spun him around 360, and finally managed to will his way to victory in a high energy bout, the kind where you can clearly hear the attackers breath pouring out of his nostrils. Sho (and his mawashi) is golden at 3-2.

Tamawashi obliterated Aminishiki with an unrelenting barrage of slaps and forearm shoves. Go sleep it off, Shneaky. . .No! Not there in the hallway!

Tochiohzan used two hands on the back of Ikiois head to force him down between Tochis legs, and they weren’t even in the front seat of Daddys car!

Takarafuji got up in Kaiseis shit like a thong on. . .wait, I used that joke already. Actually Taka let the big Brasilian go past after holding him up, and then got around behind him and. . .you know what Im going to say, don’t you? Conga!!!

Steamrolled. Freight trained. Avalanched. Unstoppable force vs. easily moved object. All these descripts apply to what Toyohibiki did to Endo, who was unable to end, oh!, his losing streak to open the tourney. Ah, growing pains.

Takekaze played a dirty trick today by bringing an honest, straight up tachi-ai against Terunofuji. Props to the little fella, whose sumo normally makes me want to both fart and sleep.

Kotoshogiku got too excited, and that’s never a good thing when its Yoshikaze youre hunting down. With the match in his control, he pressed much too urgently forward on the scaffolding Yoshikaze had built with his arms, and fell victim to an expertly timed slap down by the veteran Bean Eater. Id have to say that for Yoshikaze, things went perfectly to Java script! Hardy har har har har har.

In a style that will surely come to define his Ozeki career (the highest rank he will ever attain, to boot), Goeido won after getting owned by, coincidentally, Chiyotairyu. Retreating and going for the cheap slapdown from the bell, he looked less like a shin-Ozeki than a withered and worn Ozeki in the death throes of his own career, namely Chiyotaikai. And like the Wolfs Pup, he somehow managed to scamper away and maintain his footing long enough to win as Chiyotairyu fell to his chest with a garoomph! of displeasure that he blew such a golden opportunity. A yawner.

Some nightmare in makeup with a Statue of Liberty hairdo blocked my view from my folding chair of the next bout, but I was told later that Kisenosato won the tachi-ai and with the inside left position thus established paired it with an outside right belt to work out a pugnacious Jokoryu in a hotly contested match.

Osunaarashi got the walkover win courtesy of Harumafuji pulling out due to some Three Stooges type mishap. Bummer for the Yokozuna.

Hakuho blasted into Aoiyama and as he was slapping one of the M3s arms down to get further inside, the big Bulgarian crashed to the clay. If you look at the kimari-te and think that Hakuho won this cheaply don’t you believe it. This wasn’t so much a hataki-komi as it was a big fat guy falling down because he had shitty balance.

Finally, Takayasu brought nothing but facial shoving to his bout with Kakuryu, and he paid the price as the Yokozuna patiently read the lean of Takayasus body as well as the pattern of the shoving attack and timed a slap that sent the M2 down.

The Yokozuna are winning thus far, it seems to me, because their opponents know they are better and are frantically trying to do whatever they can to have a chance. I see a zensho this basho for sure, and as much as it would amuse, it wont be Ichinojo.

Finally it seems as we go to press that enough Scots bought the lies and distortions and decided against independence. What a shame. Im not Scottish, Im American, and we told England to go fuck herself some years back, but I have a Scottish friend or two, and am well versed on their culture, having seen all the Shrek movies and being a regular at my local McDonalds restaurant. Pity. At any rate, Ill be back sometime in Week Two. Mike brings his needles to ink all you heroes with tomorrow.

Day 4 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The biggest headline entering the day was that the venue sold out on day 4 of a Tokyo basho for the first time in 17 years. You have to go back to the 1997 Natsu basho to find the last time that the Ryogoku Kokugikan was full for the sumos on the Wednesday in the first week. When such a feat is achieved, one must ask the question "Why?", and the answer is that the Association has done a brilliant job in creating headlines that have generated rising fan interest in the sport. The supposed rise of Endoh and the recent promotion of Goeido to Ozeki have to be the two biggest factors, but I also think others are showing up to see Hakuho as he nears the all-time yusho record; I think having an Egyptian rikishi doing so well holds some interest; and even good ole Kyokutenho racking up the wins after the age of 40 is at least something to talk about.

And the rise in attendance is a good thing, but at what cost is the Sumo Association generating such headlines? In the past few months, every single Japanese person that I've met for the first time has asked me if I've heard about Endoh. Now, that's not the first question out of their mouths, but ultimately the content of our introductions will lead to talk of sumo, and then every single one of them has perked up and said, "I really like Endoh." Who knew that nearly 200 years ago when Hans Christian Andersen published "The Emperor's New Clothes" that he was actually prophesying the rise of Endoh and the Japanese fans' inability and/or unwillingness to see the fraud behind it all?

It's kind of like the United States stock market at present. The market is at all-time records but only because the Federal Reserve is pumping money into the market to the tune of about $80 billion a month. The US gumment does not have $80 bill to pump, and so they're essentially printing money. That's all being done for political reasons, and once those reasons are no longer necessary and the "quantitative easing" stops, the economy and the stock market is going to crash like a house of cards. I can't help but to think sumo is facing a similar situation because the rikishi being pumped up by the Association are either going to collapse in the near future or the public is going to see the whole situation for what it really is. To make matters worse, you have a triumvirate of foreign rikishi in Terunofuji, Ichinojo, and Osunaarashi who are going to dominate the landscape along with the current crop of Yokozuna. I guess the Sumo Association can enjoy this inflated success for a season, but there is no substance behind it, and they are playing with serious fire.

M16 Kagamioh led off the day with an early left outer in his migi-yotsu contest against M16 Tokitenku, but he had insufficient positioning on the right for about 30 seconds. Once he finally established himself to the inside with the right hand, the yori-kiri came straightway, and there was nothing Tokitenku could do about it. Both rikishi end the day at 1-3, and while Kagamioh is used to Juryo, Tokitenku hasn't been there in awhile, so retirement could be on the horizon.

M13 Sokokurai was a hair late at the tachi-ai rendering his tsuppari meager and useless, so M15 Kyokushuho grabbed the deep right inside position forcing the bout to yotsu-zumo, and as soon as Kyokushuho used his length to grab the firm left outer grip, it was curtains. Both gentleman end the day at 2-2 and Kagamioh lost this one with his tardiness at the tachi-ai.

M15 Okinoumi offered a light left kachi-age against M12 Sadanofuji as the two hooked up in hidari-yotsu, and the superior rikishi, Okinoumi, gained the quick right outer grip and dumped Sadanofuji straightway in the center of the ring. Nothing to break down here as Okinoumi skates to 3-1 while Sadanofuji is the inverse record.

M14 Kyokutenho was a bit late at the tachi-ai in his hidari-yotsu contest against M10 Kitataiki, and even though Kitataiki had the right outer grip and the forward momentum, he stood upright allowing Kyokutenho to tsuki-otoshi him with the right hand. This looked way too easy to me especially when you consider Kyokutenho was on defense and didn't have great positioning from the start. I think this one was thrown, and after making such notes after watching the bouts, I got an email from Kane where he suspected the same thing. I almost made a similar comment on day 2 when commenting about Tenho's bout against Kagamioh, but I refrained. In that bout, Kagamioh lost despite the quick outer grip gained from the tachi-ai...the exact circumstance Kitataiki had in today's bout. I'm calling BS on Kyokutenho's 4-0 start, and while I don't know the exact reason guys are letting him win, I think it has to do with the ability for the media to create more sensational headlines. Look, the fans are coming out for some reason, and it isn't the actual sumo. Kitataiki falls to 2-2 with the loss but undoubtedly has more spending caish tucked away in his mawashi.

M9 Tamawashi's arms slipped upwards after his initial tsuppari allowing M12 Sadanoumi to slip inside using the right arm, and with his de-ashi chugging forward, he had the upright Tamawashi back and out in a flash. The two bumped foreheads at the tachi-ai which may have thrown Tamawashi (1-3) off his game, but regardless, Sadanoumi looked good in this one as he moves to 3-1.

M11 Chiyomaru used a decent tsuppari focused on M9 Tochinowaka's neck, but he used the thrusts to try and set up a surprise pull that even Tochinowaka could read, so with Chiyomaru on the attack but constantly looking for the pull, T-Wok patiently waited for an opening and finally struck with a paw lifting up at Chiyomaru's extended right arm sending Maru completely upright and giving Lee the immediate push-out win from there. Tochinowaka improves to 2-2 while Chiyomaru is circling the drain at 0-4.

M8 Tochiohzan came with a right kachi-age easily getting the left inside and right outer grip against M11 Takanoiwa, but instead of attacking straight-forward, he stepped out to his right and opted to retreat to the side as he pulled Takanoiwa down by the back of the belt. This was a fairly dangerous tactic, and we still haven't seen Oh win with forward moving sumo, even down in these ranks. He's a predictable 3-1 while Takanoiwa continues to struggle at 1-3.

M10 Ichinojo didn't threaten the sound barrier at the tachi-ai, and he was wide open again allowing M7 Shohozan to tsuppari his way into moro-zashi, but before he could even get established, Ichinojo just pivoted right and felled Shohozan with a right kote-nage as easy as you please. Ichinojo's sumo ain't pretty, but the way he is manhandling these seasoned veterans should be alarming for the rest of the field. If that pic at right was included in a Marvel comic book, the sound effect would surely read "SPLAT!!"  I don't think we've had a beast like this in the division since Baruto as Ichinojo moves to 4-0 while Shohozan is 2-2.

I think M6 Aminishiki overlooked M8 Arawashi today offering a right paw to the throat at the tachi-ai that set up the hidari-yotsu position where Aminishiki enjoyed a deep right outer grip, and despite having Arawashi straight up, he let him slip out and latch onto Aminishiki's right arm and threaten a yank down by the left limb. Ami countered with an uchi-muso attempt, but it was half-assed allowing Arawashi to slip away and slap Aminishiki down from that low uchi-muso attempt. That'll learn Aminishiki as he drops to 2-2 while Arawashi picks up his much needed first win.

M7 Chiyootori lurched low into M6 Kaisei who went for a quick push down by the back of the head as he maneuvered laterally, but Chiyootori hung on and obtained the migi-yotsu position that included the left outer grip. From there, Kaisei didn't have a pot to piss in as Otori worked him out with ease. Don't look now, but one of the Chiyo brothers actually has two wins to his credit (it ain't Maru) while Kaisei falls to 1-3.

M5 Toyohibiki attacked hard with paws to M5 Ikioi's throat, but as he he tried to attack, his left leg slipped forward of all directions causing him to fall backwards onto his widdle bum. Ikioi improves to 3-1 and has his tsuke-bito to thank for throwing that banana peel onto the dohyo with precision while Toyohibiki falls (literally) to 2-2.

M4 Osunaarashi seemed out for blood in this one firing open-palm punches and slaps into M4 Takarafuji's dome before grabbing him in the kote-nage style with the right arm and throwing the hapless Takarafuji down in mere seconds. This was a brutal display of sumo of which Takarafuji wanted no part, and how can you blame him as both rikishi fall to 2-2?

Komusubi Chiyotairyu went Takekaze on Sekiwake Takekaze greeting him with two hams to the face before swiping down at his extended left arm sending the aging Kaze down in a second flat. Such ugly sumo from both parties as the Komusubi picks up his first win while Takekaze is 2-2.

Komusubi Jokoryu got the right arm to the inside against Ozeki Goeido, but he did nothing with it unless you count slapping sheepishly at Goeido's side and grabbing and letting go the Ozeki's belt giving the appearance that he was at least trying to do something. On his attacking side, Jokoryu keep his left arm wide in no man's land and just stood there waiting for Goeido to throw him over. The inside belt throw came about three seconds in as Jokoryu flipped to the dirt showing no resistance whatsoever. Jokoryu's intentions are pretty clear when you watch the slow motion replays as he falls to 0-4 while Goeido is an ugly 2-2.

Both Komusubi this basho didn't deserve the promotion, and Chiyotairyu even admitted as much in his press conference, so I think as a way to give back to the Association, they are just standing there like dumbasses when they face opponents who are constantly being propped up.

The best bout of the day featured M1 Terunofuji vs. Ozeki Kisenosato in a bout that saw the two hook up in hidari-yotsu where the Kid enjoyed the right outer grip. Terunofuji casually let the Ozeki force him back, but dug in well with the left inside grip as if to say, "That all you got?" For two minutes the combatants grappled with Terunofuji testing the waters with inside belt throws while Kisenosato tried in vain to corner his opponent using the outer grip, and in the end, Terunofuji just couldn't overcome the Ozeki's outer grip with Kisenosato scoring the force-out win. While I don't expect every bout the last 30 minutes of the broadcast to go two minutes, I do expect both parties to give the same effort exhibited by Terunofuji and Kisenosato today. Before we go on, the strange thing about Terunofuji is that he is perfectly content to just stand there at the tachi-ai and let his opponent dictate the pace. Can you imagine this kid if he ever got a mean streak in him and came out looking for blood at the initial charge similarly to what we see from Osunaarashi? Not sure if Teru's holding back is intentional or just his nature, but even at 1-3, he's still been a huge presence among the jo'i. Kisenosato moves to 3-1 and hasn't earned a win like this in long time.

We were treated to another great bout between Ozeki Kotoshogiku and M1 Endoh where the Ozeki secured the early left and right kote-nage hold from the tachi-ai. Endoh dug in well, however, with his own deep left grip, but as has usually been the case his entire Makuuchi career, he was too casual from the tachi-ai and was forced to fight from behind as a result. The Ozeki tried three or four times to wrest Endoh out of the ring keeping him in tight with the inside grip on the left hand side and the kote-nage hold with the right. Endo was in no position to counter, and he could only hold on for so long, and so after about 15 seconds of excellent action, Kotoshogiku finally bodied Endoh down and across the edge for the yori-taoshi win. We've seen so many fake bouts that involve either one of these guys, and so it was refreshing to actually see them both go at it full bore. You can tell just by the way each exerted full power, and they way they both toppled off of the dohyo that it was real, and the contrast to a fake bout is so stark that it amazes me that more people can't figure it out. Or should I say choose to figure it out? I had hoped to find a sweet pic of these two at the edge on the wires, but I really couldn't find any. I wonder if they don't want to show Endoh getting his ass kicked like this? Regardless, Kotoshogiku sails to 3-1 while Endoh is 0-4.

In the Yokozuna ranks, Harumafuji and M3 Yoshikaze were busy as bees slapping wildly and looking for the pull. HowDo finally got Yoshikaze turned around 180 and pushed him out manlove style, but wait... a mono-ii! Replays showed that in the process of dragging Yoshikaze around, Harumafuji pulled Kaze's mage with the left hand, which is the problem with this type of ugly bout. Not only did the judges catch it and disqualify the Yokozuna, but in the course of this crazy affair, Yoshikaze jabbed Harumafuji in the right eye causing the Yokozuna to slump over in pain. Dude could barely open the eye afterwards and you could already see it swelling up before he walked back to the hana-michi, and it turns out that Harumafuji is actually going kyujo due to the eye injury! Normally I would scoff at such a withdrawal, but this move is completely political. Get Harumafuji outta the mix, and that frees up a whole helluva lotta wins for other rikishi. Both rikishi end the day at 3-1.

Yokozuna Kakuryu stood his ground well at the tachi-ai against M3 Aoiyama as he fished for the early left inside position. As Aoiyama looked to counter with a few tsuppari, Kakuryu pulled him forward and off balance with a right kote-nage that set Aoiyama up for the easy pulldown by the neck in the end. Kakuryu is a quiet 4-0, and judging by how quiet the crowd was after they announced Harumafuji's disqualification, this guy could disappear in the night and no one would notice. Aoiyama is a very respectable 2-2.

And finally, Yokozuna Hakuho got the early right inside position against M2 Takayasu and was casual on the left just testing the waters. Takayasu created some excitement with a coupla right scoop throw attempts, but Hakuho sleepwalked his way into an eventual left outer grip resulting in the yori-kiri after about 20 seconds. This bout was akin to a typical keiko bout from Hakuho where he lets his opponent hang around just to feel him out and get a little bit more practice in the ring. Hakuho probably gave it about 70% effort today and still won the bout with ease moving to 4-0 in the process. Takayasu falls to a paltry 1-3 and has that lone win over Goeido on day 1.

With Harumafuji now out of the mix, a couple of timely losses from the other two Yokozuna would really pump some life into this basho that was sputtering in my opinion early on. Clancy picks himself up offa that rickety folding chair tomorrow to give you all the business.

Day 3 Comments (Kane Roberts reporting)
First off let's give a tip of the shorts to Japan's own Kei Nishikori for being the first Asian man to make it to the finals of a Grand Slam Pro Tennis Tournament. He beat Djokovic in the semis to get there and eventually lost to Cilic, who played some of the best tennis I've ever seen. He beat Federer in the semis (thank the stars Cilic isn't Mongolian!) and finished off Kei on the final day. Nishikori is a supremely talented athlete who will be heard from again for sure.

Now there's some heavy goings on in our beloved sumo. Not only is Clancy back for another sato-imo (slimy potato) bake-off, but there's some emerging stories beyond the crowning of another Japanese Ozeki who wouldn't have cut it back in the day.

Yes, the current Mongolian Sumo Dynasty is firmly entrenched. King Hak and his generals walk and eat and smile with the swagger of the ruling class. And as they easily slash and burn through the less skilled, feckless minions of their chosen sport, they feast and merrily sing songs heralding their eternal dominance which in truth has thus far been most excellent.

But deep inside the battle torn valleys of Mongolia, somewhere far beyond their view, an ominous wind roiled the darkness as a Mongolian giant lumbered from the shadows onto the sacred dohyo…

Ichinojo has arrived (much the same way Foreman broke into the boxing scene during Ali's insane tenure as the KING OF ROCK).

And he seems to be shoving aside the rest of the competition to get at the comfortable dwellers of the sanyaku, the bloated / hyped Ozeki and dare we say it…the Mongolian triumvirate!

His Mongolian (and talented) brethren Terunofuji is also making his move…

and these are both big dudes whose frames and musculature can handle the weight (unlike Yamamotoyama who always looked as if he was about to collapse).

Their presence is changing the makeup of the banzuke…more so than enthusiastic gaijin like Osunaarashi, more than floundering pop stars like Endo or young guns like the smiling Chiyo brothers. I believe when they get their collective shite together, some great battles will ensue. And I say to thee most verily (setting aside all nippon nationalist implications)…duuuude, that is most excellent!

So as the sumo winds of change are once again upon us, lets pull on (or off) our stretch jeans, slap on some pomade, kick out those who do NOT understand, and settle in for some real genuine sumo straight from Tokyo JAPAN! AKI 2014 Grand Sumo Tournament is Game On!

Lets get things rocking with the jovial Tokitenku and the ever bored Okinoumi stepping onto center stage. At the gate, the two men stood up straight, slapped chests, grabbed at each others belts and spun around. Tokitenku got both his mitts securely on Oki's mawashi but his strength being what it is, was unable to make much of the advantage. The two men alternated between resting their heads on each other's shoulders and jerking at each others bodies for advantageous position.

Finally Okinoumi let go of Toki's belt, and started to muscle him around towards the rope. Tokitenku attempted to lift Oki off of his feet, but his strength being what it is was unable to do so and the two men spun to the dirt like synchronized rikishi. The Gyojii gave the bout to Okinoumi, but after a lengthy mono-ii, the black kimono'ed Shimpan decided we all go at it again and this time Toki tried to kick his opponent but, his strength being what it is, Oki shook off the leg blow and blasted an exhausted Tokitenku (his strength being what it is) off the dohyo in 2 seconds flat. Oki stands at 2-1 while Tokitenku (i won't say it again) stumbles to 1-2.

Iron man Kyokutenho met Sadanofuji with his customarily honest tachi-ai, plus he added a brief hari-te to Sad And No Foolin's ample cheek for good measure. When the dust settled they each had opposing one-handed belt grips but Sad wanted this affair to end sooner than later. He suddenly shoved and muscled the veteran to the rope…and we all know the edge of the cliff is Kyoku's territory. Tenho backed up and rolled Sadanofuji over like a 300 lb steamed bun…Kyokutenho rejoices at 3-0 and Sadanoumi sulks at 1-2!

Straight off the gun, 1-1 Sadanoumi straightened up 2-0 Kitataiki and shoved him oshi-dashi style outta bounds lickety-split. Sad And Lonely is feeling better at 2-1 while the same tally makes Kitataiki feel sad and lonely.

While I was stirring my natto (100 times for best results thank you very much), I heard a nervous laughter roll around the venue. I laid down my hashi and ran over to the telly just as the shadow of the Mongolian Beast, Ichinojo, was streaking across the dohyo. As Tochiohzan looked up at him from the crouch I thought, "Well Tochi seems a bit injured but this ain't a bad test for 'he who lumbers large in the night'."

At the tachi-ai, Tochiohzan was across both lines before Ichi Brutha had barely reacted and he struck the giant with a resounding slap like he'd driven his fist into a giant egg custard pie!

Ichinojo pranced to his left and tried a variety of techniques that included the oft maligned hataki-komi, but Tochi sallied forth and drove him to the edge of defeat. Unable to get a good grip anywhere on his massive opponent, Tochiohzan quickly relented his attack and opted for a belt grip allowing Ichi to shove back towards the center of the ring. The rest of the match was all brute strength as the giant Mongoru grabbed Tochi's head and twisted around and out for a 3-0 record. Tochi settles for 2-1 and ambled back to the locker room to have his head screwed back on.

Mike's comment rang true as Ichinojo was slow at the gate, but because of his semi-truck physique he feels he can allow his opponent the first shot. Once he leans into his man it's gonna require some serious leverage to roll him off and out, and it really appears that it hurts for this guy to smile.

Osunaarashi has a bit of a thang going on with his knee, but don't expect any sympathy for Mister Gauze himself - irrefutable Aminishiki. The Shki-Meister is a crafty sort who's gotten so good at gauging where he is on the banzuke, on the dohyo and on his gimpy gams that he can hammer down whenever he feels he can do some damage.

Against Sir Elbow he knew some kinda shot to the head was coming, so he paused mid tachi-ai and shifted to his right. Good thing because Osu still landed a two handed bitch slap to Shneekee's chin, but he of the overly bandaged knee threw his attackers arms offa him and fought his way towards a belt grip. Once he'd secured migi-yotsu he started swinging Osunaarashi around like he was pissed off at the young Egyptian. The affair ended with an ugly shove sending Osu flying off the clay and a yori-kiri for Aminishiki. Aminishiki feels purty good at 2-1 and Osunaarashi seems to have lost his impish smile at 1-2.

Chiyotairyu gave Kisenosato all sorts of problems, but credit the Kid for keeping his cool and pulling out the yori-kiri win. His signature sluggish tachi-ai was the prob for Kise, but he did prevail for a 2-1 tally while Chia Pet (3-0-3) can't seem to cut a whole lotta mustard in the upper ranks.

Kotoshogiku showed some good body strength to move Aoiyama's body around although Blue Mountain's strategy was to not do very much in the way of trying to win. He made no attempt to grab mawashi and then just hugged Kotoshogiku until it was over. Extremely romantic in many ways but the smell of fish ruined the whole affair. Kotoshogiku and Aoiyama are both at 2-1.

Yoshikaze may be this and he may be that, but he's always in the game to fight. Goeido, feeling the pressure of his coming out party bearing down on him, literally flew off the line looking for the quick vic. He blew Yoshikaze back with some fiery de-ashi, chucking some powerful tsuppari at his opponent, but Monster Drink treaded the line and frenetically slid away from the eager Ozeki. Goeido followed him, but Yoshi ducked and grabbed Goeido's leg and turned him around. Goeido attempted a nuclear kote-nage throw, but his strength being what it is (couldn't resist), it was a no-go and Captain Guarana grabbed Goeido's right leg and flattened him for an extremely rare komata-sukui victory. Yoshi is a sexy 2-1 while Goeido is not so erotic at 1-2.

Kakuryu (3-0) kicked Endoh's bruised ass (0-3). I think he's dealing with a lot in terms of hype and media attention (and a truckload of events). Let's hope when the smoke clears he gets his bearings.

With so much hataki-komi being spent, I was surprised to see Hakuho show how easy it can be for him when he chooses to exhibit classic forward-driving sumo. I mean, it was a beautiful thing to behold, and I know that some in the sumo association are so glad he doesn't choose to do this every bout. He sliced through Terunofuji for the yori-kiri like he wasn't there and it's no coincidence Fuji the Terrible is Mongolian. Hakuho is a scary 3-0 while Teru is finding himself at 1-2.

Finally, Harumafuji had a sweet brawl with Takayasu. The two men bounced off of each other at the tachi-ai and a brief tsuppari festival ensued before settling into a yotsu dance. Takayasu did NOT want to go down and he hung in there as the two men tried energetic uwate-nage throws. Haru (3-0), who was never in trouble, finally rocked his world and spun Taka (1-2) around and down for a sukui-nage win.

A lot of tales to be told this basho for sure, so I'm here for the long haul. I'm off the ST docket until next Tuesday, but like you, I'll be watching, looking for the perfect kimari-te, the perfect tachi-ai. And if the sumo kinda falls short of our hopes and dreams….well…we always have this:

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I have good news and bad news as we lead off day 2 of the festivities. The good news is that Clancy is back in the nest for now providing commentary on the Aki basho. As he already pointed out yesterday, the other writers kind of mooched his stuff taking his desk and assuming his female assistants, but he agreed to stay after I offered him a drab navy jacket, gray slacks, and a cheap folding chair that he can sit on in the hall as we walk to and from work. So, while Clancy is back in fine form in September, the bad news is that the Japanese rikishi aren't. It took just two days for the three Japanese Ozeki and Endoh to all suffer at least one loss while the three Mongolian Yokozuna have skated out to 2-0 starts. Now some may say that a one loss difference can easily be made up, especially with 13 days to go, and I'd agree with that if the rikishi trying to make up ground was Mongolian. Just watching the content of the sumo from the three Japanese Ozeki and Endoh the first two days is enough to set off alarm bells, and the Sumo Association will get extremely uncomfortable if the gap between the Yokozuna and everyone else gets too vast. I won't expound further at this point so as to not distract from the actual sumo in the ring, but the Aki basho is not off to a good start. Trust me on that one.

As is custom early on, let's start from the bottom and comment on every bout. M16 Tokitenku welcomed J1 Amuuru, a Russian whose been in sumo for over a decade now, but he has been plagued with injuries that have kept him from the big time. Tokitenku decided to henka to his left offering a lame hari-te attempt against the Russian, but Amuuru wasn't buying it and squared up quickly planting his right palm firmly into Tokitenku's gut and applying the pressure there as he simply drove his compromised opponent back and out before Tokitenku could even muster a counter pull. This was awful strategy from Tokitenku, and even I was embarrassed to see a seasoned veteran like this forced to do jumping jacks as he was pushed into the front row by a dude fighting in Makuuchi for the very first time. Tokitenku falls to 1-1 while Amuuru moves to 2-0 in his quest to finally reach the big dance.

M15 Kyokushuho and M15 Okinoumi hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai where Okinoumi got the right outer first, and even though his initial force-out attempt was foiled, he didn't panic and dug in even deeper as both rikishi reloaded. Kyokushuho eventually got a right outer grip of his own, but Okinoumi had the better positioning and used his length to force Kyokushuho (0-2) back and across the straw for the good win. Okinoumi (1-1) needed this one after dropping that day 1 contest to Kyokutenho.

Speaking of M14 Kyokutenho, he found himself in a migi-yotsu affair against M16 Kagamioh, who gained the early left outer grip. One reason why the outer grip can be so effective is that you can pinch inwards on your opponent's set-up hand--the inside grip--making it harder for your opponent to really counter, but Kagamioh had such a loose outer today that it was mostly useless. All Kyokutenho had on his strong side was a left tsuki position, but he used his experience and size to easily push Kagamioh over to the edge with that left hand, and by the time Tenho got the outer grip, Kagamioh had already given up the ghost beyond the straw. Kyokutenho's 2-0 start will help generate a few more headlines in lieu of anything exciting from the Ozeki ranks or Endoh while Kagamioh (0-2) wasted a chance today.

If M12 Sadanoumi has a weakness so far in the division, it's impatience. Today against M13 Sokokurai, Sadanoumi lost the bout at the tachi-ai after going for a quick maki-kae where he tried to bring the right arm inwards from the outside. I guess it technically worked, but Sokokurai's response was a left outer/frontal grip that was so good he looked like a Yokozuna as he lifted Sadanoumi upright and forced him over and out so fast Sadanoumi had to hop step on his feet to keep up with the pace. This bout was a perfect example of how you have to establish something at the tachi-ai. Sokokurai got the right inside first while Sadanoumi was half-assed on the other side, and he paid for it. I like this bout because it's a good example of how Kisenosato and Goeido are frequently unable to ever establish that inside position from the initial charge, and someone who hasn't mastered such a simple concept could only be promoted to Ozeki in today's sumo landscape.

M11 Takanoiwa latched onto the front of M12 Sadanofuji's belt early with the left hand and then burrowed his head in tight beneath Sadanofuji's jaw managing to grab the right outer on the other side. Due to the size difference between these two, Takanoiwa wasn't able to go for the kill straightway, but after gathering his wits for a few seconds, he unleashed a right tsuki into the side of Sadanofuji pushing him over and out right in front of the chief judge's seat. Both rikishi end the day at 1-1.

M10 Ichinojo, who is defining the term ugly to an extent we haven't seen since Roho, was introduced to his first tsuppari affair in the division against M11 Chiyomaru, and the Mongolian was wide open and susceptible to moro-zashi. Problem was, Chiyomaru wasn't able to take advantage (or perhaps chose not to get sucked into the machine?), and after a molasses like exchange of thrusts, the two eventually settled into yotsu-zumo. Obviously gassed from their initial flurry of tsuppari, the two settled in for nearly a minute while Ichinojo worked his way into a stifling left outer, and from there the yori-kiri was imminent as the rookie moves to 2-0. Ichinojo will continue to manhandle his opponents this low on the charts, but he has some apparent weakness that will easily be exploited by rikishi with game higher up. Namely, he's slow, he leaves himself too open, and he looks out of shape to me. Even that throw yesterday against Tochinowaka was not set up with wham bam thank you ma'am sumo. He happened to latch onto that outer grip and used sheer strength to just twist his foe down awkwardly. I'm not saying this kid can't make the sanyaku in the next year, but I think Terunofuji is more potent. Regardless, we're talking about two Mongolian behemoths who are going to be absolute bitches to fight against sooner rather than later. Chiyomaru falls to an 0-2 start with the loss.

M10 Kitataiki secured the left inside while M9 Tochinowaka looked for the pull, so you can guess how this one ended. As soon as Kitataiki got the right outer grip, which came near the front of the belt, he forced Tochinowaka back to the straw straight up where a final elbow to the chest and palm to the face sent him across for good. The feisty Kitataiki is 2-0 if you need him while Tochinowaka falls to 0-2.

M8 Tochiohzan used a thrust attack from the tachi-ai setting M9 Tamawashi upright and moving him back a step. Then, as The Mawashi leaned forward trying to get back into the bout, Tochiohzan moved to the side and sorta pulled him forward and down, but it looked like Tamawashi did most of the work on his own. I guess Tochiohzan is 2-0 at this point, but it certainly hasn't been the result of great sumo. At least the dude took care of bidness today at the tachi-ai. Tamawashi falls to his first lossa the contest.

M7 Chiyootori got the early moro-zashi against M8 Arawashi, and even though Arawashi managed a maki-kae with the right arm, it was too late as Chiyootori's right grip on the belt was so superb he was able to lift Arawashi completely upright and send him back across the straw with some oomph. This was the perfect case of a much larger rikishi getting the dominating position and making the force-out look so easy even though Arawashi has become a formidable opponent. Chiyootori looks good at 2-0 while Arawashi is winless.

M6 Aminishiki set the pace with early thrusts while M7 Shohozan's tsuppari were more defensive in nature, so Aminishiki had the luxury of pressing forward with his feet. After nudging Shohozan back a step or two near the tawara, Shohozan tried to switch gears and mount on offensive of his own, but as soon as he lurched forward, Aminishiki sprung the hiki trap to perfection pulling Shohozan down to the clay with ease. Aminishiki simply had too much dohyo to work with today, so when Shohozan did try and move forward, there was just too much real estate where Aminishiki could escape and counter. Both fellas are 1-1.

M6 Kaisei fished for and got the early left outer grip against M5 Ikioi, but he wasn't set up properly with the right inside position. Ikioi was, and he used Kasei's poor approach to step out wide and scoop the Brasilian up high forcing him over to the edge for the easy yori-kiri win not to mention 2-0 start. Kaisei looks as if he's been fighting in ski boots this basho (with skis attached!) as he falls to 0-2.

M5 Toyohibiki fired some lumbering tsuppari into M4 Takarafuji's chest, but he was hesitant with the de-ashi, so even though he looked to take advantage from the beginning, Takarafuji was under little pressure and had the entire dohyo at his disposal to counter...just like Aminishiki a few bouts before. And counter he did by drifting out to his left forcing Toyohibiki to chase, and as Ibiki did so with arms extended, he proved to be the easy pull-down fodder as Takarafuji slapped the sheepish Hutt down with aplomb leaving both gentleman at 1-1.

M3 Yoshikaze pushed M4 Osunaarashi's right kachi-age attempt away at the tachi-ai and then ducked low causing Osunaarashi to fire his high thrusts into thin air. The result was Yoshikaze's slipping out left and getting the mammoth inside position that he used to force the Ejyptian over to the edge, but it was largely an arm throw, not a throw set up with proper footwork, and so Osunaarashi was able to use his strength to counter with a right kote-nage that sent Yoshikaze down to the dirt before Osunaarashi was driven out of the ring. If you have the kind of inside grip that Yoshikaze enjoyed against anyone gained with forward moving sumo, you'll win. In Yoshikaze's case, he gained the superior position with the left but did it moving to the side--not forward, and so the larger, stronger Osunaarashi burned him in the end. Enjoyable bout as both rikishi are 1-1.

Sekiwake Takekaze displayed his usual quick two-hands-to-the-throat-and-then-evade tachi-ai against M2 Takayasu moving to his left and managing to pull Takayasu off balance as he thrust into nothing. Takayasu looked to square up near the edge, but Takekaze thrives off of unorthodox bouts such as these and knew exactly how to retool and push a compromised Takayasu over and out in mere seconds. Both dudes finish the day 1-1 while old schoolers can only dream of the day when the Sekiwake ranks were populated by guys named Akinoshima and Wakanosato.

In the Ozeki ranks, Komusubi Jokoryu was quick in getting the left arm to the inside of Ozeki Kotoshogiku, but he just kept the limb in no man's land showing no effort on the other side in obtaining a right outer grip, and so the Ozeki pushed his right arm into the side of Jokoryu up high and felled him to the clay tsuki-otoshi style in a couple of seconds. It's funny because you watch hard fought sumo the entire day with guys earnestly trying to move up the ranks, and then you get to this bout, and it's like...was that other guy even trying? The answer is a likely "no" as Jokoryu just gave up in this bout, whose flow just didn't look right from start to finish.

Instead of standing upright and offering beefy thrusts, M3 Aoiyama charged with his head low straight into Ozeki Kisenosato catching the Ozeki completely off guard. Unable to counter the move, Aoiyama threw a right paw into the side of Kisenosato's head knocking him to the dohyo in less than two seconds. I know I'm constantly beating a dead horse, but an Ozeki does not get done in like this at the hands of an M3 rikishi. I mean, look at that pic at right and show me the Ozeki.  I haven't missed a basho in two decades, and until the current crop of Ozeki came along, I had never seen Ozeki constantly get their asses kicked by the hira-maku rikishi. If you're wondering why I've always got the redass, it's because too many rikishi are being elevated to ranks that they clearly don't deserve. Kisenosato falls to 1-1 after the drubbing while Aoiyama is a hefty 2-0.

Ozeki Goeido executed some of the best sumo you'll some from him this entire basho thanks to M2 Toyonoshima's going kyujo. I thought I'd post of pic of him performing flawlessly in the ring today because we likely won't see such highlights form Goeido or the other two Ozeki the rest of the way.  The win by default moves Goeido to a much-needed 1-1.

Moving on to the Yokozuna bouts, M1 Endoh extended his arms at the tachi-ai in an attempt to keep Yokozuna Hakuho away from the belt, but Hakuho can execute plan B before his opponent can even get out of his crouch, and in this case, Plan B was a simple retreat easily pulling Endoh down by the back of the head in the process and forcing him so hard face-first into the sand that the Yokozuna drew the ire of several media outlets claiming that the finish to this bout was too rough. Too rough? What is this...pattycake? It still amazes me how worked up the crowd gets when Endoh steps onto the dohyo even though he hasn't been able to deliver jack. Hakuho broke down Endoh's sumo perfectly afterwards commenting, "I give him credit for trying to think through some things, but first off, he has no form out there. He has to create his own style. If he's going to tsuppari, then tsuppari. If he's going to push, then push." Hakuho's criticism totally hits the nail on the head. Endoh is just out there like Stevie Wonder playing the piano...looking this way and that totally oblivious to anything going on around him and then WHAM! He gets driven hard into the clay. Japan's hope (yes, they're still using that term in the media) falls to 0-2 and will likely receive some charity soon while Hakuho picks up another pull down win moving to 2-0. Remember the good old days when Hakuho would do forward-moving linear sumo getting that right arm to the inside and following up with the left outer grip?

Komusubi Chiyotairyu was never fully committed to his tsuppari attack against Yokozuna Harumafuji keeping his hands way too high, and despite not being blown back by the Yokozuna at the tachi-ai, Chiyotairyu still refused to trust in his push attack instead opting for a weak pull that the Yokozuna could read in his sleep. The easy push-out was academic as we were "treated" to another bland bout the final few minutes of the broadcast. Harumafuji snores his way to 2-0 while Chiyotairyu is a futile 0-2.

And finally, M1 Terunofuji avoided a straight up charge again today focusing on Yokozuna Kakuryu's extended right arm going for the early kote-nage. The move would have worked on most rikishi but not a Yokozuna, and so Kakuryu was able to survive the attempt and assume moro-zashi. Problem was Terunofuji is so massive he was able to lift Kakuryu's arms up high and pinch in so tightly they were rendered useless. The youngster was next able to slip his left arm to the inside forcing the bout to hidari-yotsu, but before Terunofuji could grab the right outer grip on that side, Kakuryu was able to retreat a step and drag Terunofuji down to the dirt via kubi-nage. Granted, Kakuryu was never in trouble during this bout, but his inability to beat Terunofuji by driving him back is an example of just how potent this relative newcomer is. Kakuryu completes the day at 2-0 while Terunofuji is 1-1.

As I looked over my notes for the last three bouts, I noticed that I started each of them off by commenting on the non-Yokozuna rikishi. Unless the tachi-ai is fiddy-fiddy, the first rikishi I mention in the paragraph is the one who presses the action. In the case of the Yokozuna, I mentioned their opponents first in all three cases which tells me that the Yokozuna are fighting passively so far. We've seen mostly pull wins from the three Mongolians and no linear sumo. These guys are intentionally not separating themselves from the field, and so this passive, boring sumo is the result.

If there's one guy who can find a silver lining in things, it's Kane, so there's still plenty to look forward to tomorrow.

Day 1 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Hi kids. Im Sumotalk writer Clancy Kelly. Perhaps you remember me from such classic reports as "Akebonos Babys Got A Cold Upon His Chest" and "Dejima: Ruminations From The Land Of The Purple Rhino." Im on hiatus from me job at the Iceland Tourism Board, Jamaica office (maybe "forced administrative leave pending dismissal" would better describe it) for inadvertently introducing the vacationing college-aged daughter of the King of Iceland to my counterpart at the Jamaican Tourism Board, a man who has a tattoo that I THOUGHT read simply, "Wendy!"

As such, hanging out in the wind like this, facing lifes new wrinkles, and desperately needing some cold, hard Bitcoin, I decided to contact Mixmaster Mikenstein to see if I could be thrust back in to my old gig as a writer here at ST. Far from it being a "Welcome back, mon, have a nice day!" typething, turns out Martin got my office (and my secretary, a delish little thing name of Nobuko who gives the finest handjobs [which is my clever way of saying "manicures"]), Kane got my quill and ink and my extensive backfile of sumo insider notes (which is how he comes to know that Toyohibiki adds a single drop of sweat to each and every bowl of chanko he eats), and Matt got my autographed photo of the legendary Chiyonofuji hanging backstage after a Tower of Power concert with BALCO founder Victor Conte.

So I struck a deal with El Wesemann. In exchange for hunting down and murdering with extreme prejudice the wannabe sumo wrestler foreigners who lurk outside Tokyo heya at 3 a.m., sipping from their Boss coffee cans, waiting for a backdoor nod from one of the minor rikishi that its okay to come inside and lick the toilets clean with tongue so they can call themselves "insiders," foreigners who are continually...whats the word...gunning for Mike over his claims that the Nihon Sumo Kyoukai masterminded the JFK assassination, he would allow me to write...dear I say it...one more sumo report for yall.

So close that link to the Archives, friends and lovers, cause what we have here, man, is some NEW chit! And trust me, like olden times, it AINT goan be pretty.

In the opening tussle we had Mongolian Kagamioh! Kagamioh! Kagamioh! magnifico..ja nai. His arms were too short to snatch Juryo 1 Tokushoryus belt at the tachi-ai, leaving him head down and getting slapt like a fiancée in an elevator. A desperation armbar at the edge worked about as effectively as requiring teachers carry firearms in public schools, ya know, to keep everyone safe.

With the start of Makuuchi seeming to mirror the finish, we had our second and third straight Mongolian fighters in Tokitenku and Kyokushuho. Kyokushuho seemed to have this one from jump street, with a strong outside left belt, but the veteran Tokitenku leaned in and made himself just too damned heavy to budge. After a protracted bout, Tokidoki managed to get two hands on the back of his foes belt and work him out, even with his own mawashi riding so high that he looked like a five year-old kid heading to the beach for summer fun.

Our fourth straight Mongolian Kyokutenho met our very first homegrown hero in Okinoumi. Ill admit to being surprised after my eight-month long banishment that The Chauffer is still in sumo. I wont admit to being surprised at how he drove his opponent back, forcing him to lean forward, then expertly timed an arm throw for the win. A more skilled rassler than Okinoumi (he leaned in too far and aligned his feet poorly) might make Kyokutenho pay for such sumo, but at his age, dude will take what he can get and so will we. Carry on Kyokutenho!

Our second Japanese rikishi out of the first seven was up next as Sadanofuji took on Chinese born Sokokurai. The Middle Kingdom bulldog made a bold choice in grabbing the belt and trying to will his way to victory over the much larger Sakaigawa stalwart. Props to Sokokurai as he forewent all sorts of herky jerky yanking and spinning and focused on good, clean yotsu, with a couple of halfhearted leg trip attempts thrown in. Eventually however, he lost out as The Mountain Man showed the patience of the large and worked him out glacier like. Good bout. Nobody quitting, nobody doing inexplicable sumo.

The other Sada, he of the Sea, took on yet another Mongolian in Takanoiwa and it wasn’t...even...close. Sadanoumi won the tachi-ai by a country mile, wrapped up his aite, dug in, and worked him out like a booger. Takanoiwa has lost one consecutive match and hed better start thinking about tactics.

Speaking of the country, Id like to take a moment here to set the record straight. Seems many of you figure Im some sort of city slicker cause I use big words and smell of concrete. Nothing could be further from the truth. Im not really all that fisticated. Im a country boy trying to be city. Hell, my first attempt at rap was about my goddamned horse, who loved carrots:
♪ Bitch want it ha-a-a-ard
Bitch want it sweet
Bitch want it ra-a-a-a-mmed
Right between her teeth ♪

Now that that’s cleared up, lets move on to...WTF is up with guys whose shikona end in "maru?" Why are they so often round? Anyway, in our first all Nippon bout, Chiyomaru came in with appendicitis but by the way the bout went it looked like Kitataiki had gingivitis. Chiyo was like, "Whoa, back OFF brother, dayum," slapping and driving his arms forth in a frantic effort to not allow Kitataiki in close. The blind date went badly for Chiyomaru though as Kitataiki slapped him out and whispered, "Its genetic, man, I cant help it. Leave off"

The natural order of things in Japanese Sumo 2014 was restored in the next contest as young Mongolian Ichinojo, whose hair is not even long enough to qualify as the fifth Beatle, grabbed the belt at the start and flung down Tochinowaka who fell to the elevator floor and immediately stood up and proposed marriage. Handsome and exotic Ichinojo just laughed, and flung a purikura of his three Japanese girlfriends onto the dohyo.

Following this we had two washis go at it, Tama and Ara, both from a country I wont name but which is located on the Asian steppes and has some crazy assed tents hippies like to live in (and in case youre keeping score in your divorced mothers basement, that’s 9 out of the first 15 Makuuchi rikishi who are not Japanese by birth [nice try, Kyokutenho]). A violent bout with much slapping and head butting, it was no surprise that one ended up with a bloody nose and the other an injured paw. Tama ended up victorious and will live to fight another day, while Ara is shipped off to an island to face Katniss.

I really wanted Tochiohzan to pay for his evasive sumo, but Chiyootori was unable to keep his balance long enough and was felled by Tochiohzan's pulling and pushing. If Oh Snap is, when healthy, the best Japanese wrestler on the banzuke as Mike has suggested, that’s just...sad.

Shohozan got inside Kaiseis shit like a thong on Ipanema and the Brasilian had no response other than to step off the dohyo like he was it was the Amazon delta basin and he feared some piranha had made the trip downstream to feast on some flesh. One would hope hed bring more chutzpah on Day One.

Aminishiki stepped to the side at tachi-ai, a difficult maneuver at best for a man weighed down by two futons Glad was I to see that his pulling sumo resulted in him being driven out by the Osaka shakalaka Iki...Iki...Iki...fatang...oi! After the bout Shneaky looked like the trick-or-treating kid who got an apple while his friend got a king sized Milky Way.

Am I the only one who wonders if Scotland sued YouTube for copyright infringement?

Toyohibiki must have gone to see some of the summer Marvel blockbusters, cause he blew back Osunaarashi like he had Cyclops goggles on. The Egyptian walks to a 0-1 start.

Yoshikaze lent his head to Takarafujis chest and it worked well as Double Shot blasted his enemy for the day out in no time.

Thought my TV was broken when I saw the word "Sekiwake" next to Takekaze. As they like to say in America these days, with a rising inflection, "Really?" After a hitting and shifting tachi-ai by both men, Takekaze came in and was immediately slapped down by sumos lone Bulgarian (Kotooshu is gone??) Would love to see Aoiyama make some waves from his E3 position this tourney.

Goeido fell flat today as the man with the kanji for "woman" in his shikona made the new Ozeki his bitch by somehow slipping out of a moro-zashi and tossing him down at the edge. There was some brief drama as the MIB looked to see if Takayasus heel had not touched out first, but the replay clearly showed it a tie at best, and as lame as the Ozeki looked, it was right that they did not reverse the gyojis call in favor of the Taganoura-beya man.

In the next bout Toyonoshima was owned by Kisenosato. Tugboat stepped out earlier in the bout, in fact, but the MIB did not see it so Kisenosato had to close the deal by locking down on Toyos moro-zashi and lifting him up and out by his own arms.

So, ending as we started with four Mongolians, Terunofuji made Mongolia proud by leaping to the side and humiliating Kotoshogiku, who was so fooled by the shitty maneuver that he didn’t lay single finger on the E1. Another one of those bouts that divides sumo purists, with some thinking the leaping henka is wonderful, and others, like me, thinking it exposes too much vagina.

Next off was Yokozuna Harumafuji, who stood Endo up at tachi-ai, and then slapped him down (despite the JPese announcer shouting, "Hiki-otoshi!") Not much to see here as one of Japans great hopes fared rather poorly against what is a middle of the road Yokozuna at best.

Jokoryu appeared to have Yokozuna Kakuryu on the move, but left his feet behind him and ended up as so many of Kanes groupies did back in the day, tits down and hoping what The Kak does next doesn’t hurt too much. Another hataki-komi yawner.

Chiyotairyu had much the same game plan vs. Hakuho as Jokoryu, namely to get real genki and hope the energy somehow flummoxes the Yokozuna. Didn’t work at all as Hakuho made it three straight Mongolian Yokozuna hataki-komi wins over the best Japanese sumo has to offer.

Oddly, we went an entire day with no one opening up a can of Rice (Ray Rice, that is) on their opponent. Riddle me this? Why is it called a hari-te when Hakuho does it, but an action worthy of banishment from the sport when Ray Rice does it? And Adrian Pederson? When he prays to his god after a game we ooh and ahh about how pious he is, but when he employs the dictates of his holy book to discipline his baby, we get all worked up. Im just looking for, in the words of George Carlin, a little consistency.

Which is what Im sure we will get when Mike and Kane bring the thunder on Days 2 and 3. Cheers till then.
























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